Staying Slightly Warm in Your Van
This post is a focus and share about our experiences keeping warm. Some are tips or advice, and some kept us alive even with temperatures that sunk below 0 Celsius sometimes (seriously). So this is a short checklist on surviving in a van, during the cold.
We are a little ‘travel smart,’ so we try to spend our summers in northern locations (in 2014, for example, the Baltics and Scandinavia) and in the winters in warmer and sunnier places (like 2015/16 in Portugal, Morocco and Spain).
It’s a brilliant way for avoiding low temperatures and not to freeze your balls off. Ha. Anyway, if you like spending your winters skiing or doing winter sports, here are a few ways to do your fun stuff and stay warm.
Our Heating System
If you’re a Westy owner, you’re already half-way to being independent. You’ve probably already installed an ‘Esherbacker’ or a ‘Websasto’ to take care of your own comfort. It’s pretty easy to use, and in just 5 minutes: you’ve got a lovely nice and warm van.
The systems can also be adapted to other types of vans (though yes, it’s a bit expensive) but it will ensure you the extra freedom of parking where you want. Even on Everest, if that’s your thing. Grin.
It works in a super easy way: it’s a fan that pushes air created by a small flame. The flame is powered by the van fuel, which is really not that expensive. It burns one liter of diesel per 4 hours. And believe us- in just 5 minutes, you really notice the difference.
The Bedding We Rely On
Of course, it’s a good idea to be prepared with good bedding stuffs. A duvet, for example isn’t a bad idea for keeping yourself warm in the cold (we actually have 2, just in case, and because we actually have suffered having none at all).
Back at the beginning of our journey, in a really cold January, we had to stop in the middle of Greece in the mountains. The thermometer registered -9 Celsius in the morning, and it was beyond freezing.
Unfortunately, at that time, we only had a couple of regular sleeping bags (not even close to ‘good quality’ ones, and one small blanket). We ended up running outside as soon the sun was up and concentrated on shaking too much from the cold. Oh, another fun moment from that brisk and frisky weather moment: we also covered our sleeping bags with any/all clothes we had, just for warmth.
Lesson learned- and we now have a really comfy and warm duvet, plus a nice pile blanket. For snuggles. We also have inherited a brilliant duvet from auntie Lidia, which we keep in the side, just to guarantee we’re covered in the extra cold places we want to visit. We keep it in plastic covering to avoid mold or damp, and perhaps it’s more a psychological comfort (family and blankie), since we’ve avoided the cold for years. However, in our experience, it’s important to choose your duvet or sleeping bags more carefully than you would for a weekend camping trip.
You never know where you’ll stop with your van or the temperature outside, so it’s much better to be over, not under, prepared.
Other Heating Systems or Ways to Keep Heat in
During our journeys. we’ve meet vanlifers and people with a different types of heating systems. For example, if you have a bigger van than ours, you can think of installing a wooden stove. It’s pretty straightforward to use and it definitely depends on the stove: heating, or for cooking/warming foodstuffs.
Some vans have a gas heating system (usually vans that use bigger gas bottles). It’s pretty much a simple system, using the same gas from the kitchen gas bottle, for creating heat: it is super-fast and warm.
Insulation in and Out of Your Van
Another great accessory that you should have for your van is simply insulation.
We actually got our initial insulation from the previous owner of our Westy, which was for the windshield and for the pop up roof, and we got a new one from our sponsor Gowesty.
The first ones are pretty useful, especially the windshield one. It’s very easy to put it outside the van, in probably less than 5 seconds. It maintains a steady temperature inside the van, hot or cold outside. It also avoids the formation of condensation on the windows in the morning.
The one for the ‘pop-up’ is also useful. We usually sleep on the bottom fold-out, but we do pop-up (for some guests, or Armando’s summer nap room 😉 ) and we’ve used the insulation to keep a regular temperature on top and bottom. We’re speaking about a thin piece of textile between the inside and outside.
The insulation is in 4 pieces: front, back and the two sides. With Velcro connections, it’s really easy to put them in position and join them together. The outside insulation is for the windshield, and is actually quite useful. We’ve used it a lot for two reasons: to give us a bit of privacy when we’re in the van, and in the morning, so we don’t wake up with condensation surrounding us.
Not so bad, eh?
Check out this page we found (with Mork before he actually to became ours) with lots of nice pics about the insulation here.