Adventures with Debra and Robert

Nomad Tips, Tools, and DIY

How to Stay Warm in Cold Weather

Frost covers a vehicle

A fall frost in Flagstaff, Arizona

One of the great things about being a full-time vandweller or RVer is the ability to move with the seasons. As a general rule, this makes it possible to avoid the worst weather of summer and winter.

Still, there are times when it is too hot or cold for comfort. Even as a snowbird, I sometimes encounter winter temperatures in the desert that are below freezing. These are some things that I have found useful for staying warm in cold weather, whether in the desert or in a colder climate.

Stay Dry

Staying dry is critical in cold weather. Moisture allows heat to be lost much faster than if you are dry.

This applies to taking care to stay dry during rain or snow, but also to avoid sweating while exercising. The best way to prevent sweating is to dress in layers.

Dress in Layers

Dressing in layers is more effective than just wearing one heavy layer. Air is trapped between each layer of clothing, which helps to keep you warm.

Layers also make it easy to adjust throughout the day as the temperature or your activity level changes. An outer layer that is waterproof or windproof is also essential if it is raining or windy.

Plan for the Sun

Parking your vehicle with large windows facing the sun allows the sun to heat the vehicle during the day. Opening curtains or taking down sun screens either before bed or first thing in the morning can make a big difference once the sun starts shining.

Warm Sleeping Bag

A warm sleeping bag or blanket is essential for staying warm during cold weather. Since night is the coldest time and many people do not run a heater at night, it is important to be able to stay warm both for comfort and for safety.

Blankets can work well if you sleep with someone or if you have a larger bed. A sleeping bag may be a better choice if you sleep alone or have a narrow bed that may feel drafty with a blanket.

Many people find it preferable to use a sleeping bag that is rated for colder weather than they expect to encounter. Adding layers of clothing before bed, wearing a hat while sleeping, and using some type of sleeping bag liner can also help you stay warm at night.

Insulate Your Vehicle

Insulation on exterior walls and the ceiling makes a big difference when it comes to staying warm during cold weather. There are several approaches to insulating vehicles, and which one is best for your vehicle will depend on a number of factors, including your budget. A search of any vandwelling forum or Facebook group will reveal plenty of ideas for insulation.

It is also a good idea to seal any gaps and possibly replace any worn or damaged door seals. Even a small gap or tear in a door seal can lower the temperature inside a small vehicle.

Supplemental Heat

Depending on where you travel and your tolerance for cold, it may be possible to stay warm enough without a heater. Many people, however, find it necessary to have some type of heat source.

The most popular option for heating vans, trailers, and small RVs is the Mr. Heater line of propane heaters. These heaters are designed to be safe for indoor use without an outside vent.

The Mr. Heater Portable Buddy unit puts out between 4,000 and 9,000 BTU which is more than enough to heat a van or small vehicle. I have this unit in my 6×10 trailer and can only run it for a short time before it is too hot.

NB: These heaters are designed for indoor operation, and are equipped with an oxygen sensor for safety. It is still necessary though to open a window or roof vent slightly when using the heater. It is also a good idea to not use the heater while sleeping.

Staying Warm

These are some of the techniques that I use to stay warm in a car or trailer during cold weather. I know many other nomads who use the same tricks to stay warm as well. Good luck in your travels – and stay warm!


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