Preparing for vanlife in winter

To steal a Game of Thrones phrase, “Winter is Coming” and as such I’m preparing both myself and the van for the upcoming cold weather as I brave my first winter living full time in the van.

Much to the annoyance of Olivia, we don’t have any form of heating in our van. We considered a wood burning stove but decided that our medium wheelbase van was just too small for one. We looked at diesel heaters but these seemed too expensive and as such we don’t have any type of heating available to us on cold nights and mornings.

We are therefore doing all that we can to make sure we have everything we need to stay warm this winter and make living in the van as comfortable an experience as possible. Our van is, of course, insulated. We used 50mm Celotex on all of the walls, covered with 2 layers of reflective bubble wrap and a thin layer of underfloor foam. All of this has meant that we have so far been cool enough on sunny days and warm enough when it has been colder (including sleeping on top of snow covered mountains in Norway, albeit still in the summer time). However to ensure we continue to be able to cope we have added the following things to our setup to keep warm:

Sleeping Bags

We have been sleeping with a normal double duvet up until this point and when it feels cold we throw over a blanket on top which has stood us in good stead so far. However, we have invested in some warm 4 season sleeping bags so that if the worst comes to the worst we can get inside these and survive the night. They pack away small enough due to the included compression sacks and we always have the duvet to add to them so I have no doubt that we will be warm enough.

Hot Water Bottles

Heating those extremities is a real issue, especially for Olivia and so we invested in some hot water bottles. In order to save water, of which we have a limited supply, we opted for small hot water bottles seen as all we need them to do is initially heat our toes as we settle into bed. Add to that the fact that we can simply reboil the same water a number of times means that they aren’t the drain on our supply I had initially thought they would be.


The sleeping bag and the duvet are great for times when you want to curl up in bed however it’s not just the nights that have been getting cold, the evenings are getting darker and colder and so we have a myriad of blankets we can use to keep warm. We have special down blankets which pack away small but keep us warm, our adventure blanket (which is one of Matt’s favourite van items) which is waterproof and comes with a detachable hood so we can wear it outside when it’s damp, as well as normal woollen blankets. Having options and layers is key for us for maintaining a comfortable temperature.

Window Covers

Other than the things we have bought for ourselves we have also been preparing our van for the winter. One of the most effective things we have made have been window covers for all of the windows. We used two layers of reflective bubble wrap which we cut to the exact size of each window. We stuck them together with Duct tape around each edge and affixed magnets around the edge so that they stay in the windows better. By adding these simple covers we have found that we lose far less heat from our van than we were before. We were surprised at home much impact it had and can’t recommend doing this enough.

Draft excluders

We have established that we have a lot of blankets in our van, we use them as blankets, as seat covers and now we use them as draft excluders. As anyone who has slept near the back doors of a van can attest, there is a massive amount of draft which comes in. The same is true of the side door. We now use our excess blankets strategically tucked into the cracks of the doors and no longer have to worry about the incoming draft and cold from the outside.


We’re lucky enough to be able to sleep in the great outdoors often and be in some wonderfully remote places and one of the benefits of that is that we get to have fires outside to heat us up before we head into the van. We have a small back packing wood burning stove which we use to keep the fire contained and leave as little impact on our surroundings as possible. The stove is super efficient and is virtually smoke free because it has a secondary burn which essentially burns the excess carbon in the smoke. It runs on twigs only so is perfect for us because it means we don’t have to bring lots of logs with us.

Hot drinks

The final thing we’re doing to prep ourselves and the van for winter is to stock up and diversify our hot drink selection because nothing warms us up more than a hot chocolate, mulled cider or any of the countless teas we have in the van at all times. This has to be our favourite way to stay warm and our cups are never dry as we get through all of our winter favourites.

What ways do you stay warm over winter, let us know!