Tips For Winter Camping
By Carly Eisley
Winter weather is upon us, but this doesn’t mean that camping adventures must end. Traveling by campervan is one of the easiest and most comfortable ways for camping during winter! Get started with some cold-weather clothing and packing ideas, and then read on for some additional tips, tricks, and add-ons to stay warm and cozy when the mercury drops.
Make Sure You Have Proper Insulation
The Escape campervans are not insulated, so it’s only a matter of time before the warmth in the van starts to dwindle when the engine is off. There are some steps you can take to add a bit of insulating power to the van’s interior for sleeping, which will help keep your warmth in and the chill-out! Covering the windows will be a huge help, as these are a big source of heat loss.
The simplest way to do this is to keep the curtains closed as much as possible. Add a windshield shade/cover (inexpensive and readily available in the automotive section of most stores like Walmart, Target, etc.) and you’ve got your biggest heat loss source covered! (pun intended).
Covering the windows and walls with extra blankets will also provide a layer of insulation and protection. If you are planning an extended trip in cold weather, purchasing some window coverings to bring with you may be a good investment. Some heavy-duty fabric like a thick felt can be cut to the window sizes and will block out the cold.
The Right Bedding Can Make A Big Difference
If you are a very warm sleeper, you may be comfortable with the comforter included in the basic bedding kit offered by Escape. For those who aren’t living furnaces, there are some options for a warm sleep. Escape offers a winter bedding upgrade, which includes a down Rumpl blanket and hot water bottles.
Use the down blanket as an additional top layer or you can use it underneath to add some additional warmth to the bed. Fill the hot water bottles with hot water and place them under your blankets to warm up the bed before you are ready to get in for the night. In a pinch, an un-insulated water bottle (i.e., nalgene type bottle) can be filled with hot water and used in the same way.
Bringing along a sleeping bag is a wise idea for camping during winter. If you don’t own an easily packable sleeping bag, look for an equipment rental shop near your starting point to rent a bag for your trip. REI is a great nationwide option for many different types of equipment rentals. Packing a set of flannel sheets can also make your bed nice and toasty.
A heated blanket is a great purchase for the perpetually cold traveler. There are several different options available, including battery-operated, USB, or 12 volt. A quick internet search for a “12-volt heated blanket” or “battery operated heated blanket,” should bring up several heated travel blankets of varied price ranges that can accompany you on chilly trips for years to come.
Snow Safety While Camping During Winter
In addition to staying warm, staying safe in snow and ice is an important consideration when heading out for your Escape Campervan road trip. Adding the tire snow chains to your rental could mean the difference between getting stuck on the side of the road and getting to your destination safely in a snowstorm.
If you are planning to head into any mountainous areas while camping during winter, be aware that these will likely be required -and you may be turned away if you don’t have them! Be sure to keep the exhaust area free of snow buildup if you get a snowstorm while parked at a campsite. Starting the van to warm up if this is blocked can lead to carbon monoxide buildup inside the vehicle -which is deadly. Having a small folding shovel on hand to clear out the snow from around the exhaust and tires is a good idea, especially if you are planning a route that gets a large amount of snowfall.
Don’t forget the top of the van when you are clearing off the snow! Keep your solar panel clear to keep this functioning and charging the battery system. In addition, driving with snow and ice buildup on top of the van can create a major safety hazard, so be kind to your fellow drivers and brush the snow off the top of the van and roof-top tent before hitting the road.
Pack Plenty Of Water For Your Trip
In extended below-freezing temps the water and water pipe run the risk of freezing. Avoid getting stuck without water by checking this regularly. Pouring some hot water into the sink may help with the ability to drain but won’t do much good if it’s so cold your clean water source freezes up. If you plan to stay in very cold areas, be sure to have an alternative water source.
Where To Stay While Winter Camping
Finding camping areas during winter in some areas can be hard to come by. If you are heading out for a ski trip, scope out mountains that allow overnight camper van parking and plan your route and lift tickets accordingly. There are many places around the country that allow camping without hookups, but extra fees may apply. Some mountains have a specific campground area, complete with heated bathhouses and electrical hookups.
If you get caught in unexpected winter weather, there are many options for a safe place to park for the night. Useful apps to find business parking lots that allow overnight parking include Allstays, iOverlander, and Campendium. On the West Coast, head to a Sno-Park for cleared recreation area parking lots that allow overnight sleeping inside your vehicle and access to trails, for a small fee. Be sure to check ahead to be sure the specific lot allows overnight parking.
A Couple Of Insider Extras
In addition to the above-mentioned categories, there are lots of little tips and tricks shared across forums, social media sites, and blog posts that are worth sharing. Here are some favorites that we have picked up along the way:
- Eat warm foods! This may seem totally obvious, but a piping bowl of soup or chili is easy to prepare (less time outside in the cold) and will make you feel toasty warm inside the van. Check out this post for some more winter meal ideas. The simpler the better, so bust out those ramen noodles and get that water boiling. Stay hydrated! We tend to underestimate our hydration needs when the temperatures drop, so don’t forget to stay hydrated throughout the day.
- Drink warm drinks (decaf tea, warmed up hydration mixes) to stay even toastier. Avoid lots of fluids just before bed, unless you enjoy crawling out from your nice warm bed for a bathroom break.
- Stay active! Spend your day hiking, running, skiing, biking -whatever activity you love that gets the blood pumping. Warming yourself up with exertion and spending minimal time sitting around at camp in the cold will make for a much more comfortable and fun trip. Take your coffee with you and go for a quick walk in the morning when you get out of bed to get the blood flowing and warm up faster.
- Find a warm place to spend the day. Chilly weather is a great time to track down a natural hot spring. Find somewhere with a sauna to use at the end of your day to warm up in. Enjoy some apres-ski atmosphere at the ski resort before heading back to the van for the night.
- Get that campfire going nice and early for a place to warm up next to while you cook dinner, read a book, or just relax and plan the next day’s adventures. Need to warm up in a hurry? The easiest and most obvious solution is to turn the van on and run the heat for a while.
- Always make sure you have plenty of gas in the tank when headed into the cold, this could (quite literally) be a lifesaver. Carry some instant hand/body warmer packets for a quick and easy way to warm up cold hands or toes. Warmer packets can do double duty out on the trails as well as in a pinch in the van.
- Protect your gear from the elements: Keep your gear dry by storing it in a waterproof bag or container. If your tent is covered in snow, shake it off before entering to avoid melting snow inside the tent.
- Be prepared for emergencies: Winter camping can be dangerous, so it’s important to be prepared for emergencies. Bring a first-aid kit, a map and compass, and a way to start a fire. Let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return. And always be prepared for the possibility of getting lost or injured.
Add on the electric kit for a surefire way to stay warm in the van. You will need access to an electrical hookup to plug in the extension cord and run the portable heater. I have used the heater in 10-15-degree F weather in the van and we stayed comfortable and un-frozen overnight.
Gather Your Supplies And Book A Camper Van
The best thing about renting a camper van is the flexibility to go anywhere. We have changed our plans on a trip based on our desire to get out of some very cold rainy weather and do not regret it in the least bit.
Head down out of the mountains to lower elevations for a warm-up or change your itinerary completely and head somewhere warmer if you have had enough of the chill. We won’t judge! Book an Escape Campervan and get out on your winter adventure today!