How to Stay Warm in your Van

Updated: Nov 10, 2020

9 Tips on how to stay warm and cozy during colder, winter months

Photo credit: @alain.boris

If you live in the USA, especially along the north-eastern or north-western seaboard, you are all too familiar with snow, sleet, chilling temperatures, and dark winter days. And with temperatures slowly dipping, staying warm and cozy this winter season is a growing concern.

Growing up in the DMV (DC, Maryland, Virginia), I have experienced a lifetime of winter storms and freezing rain. So when I decided to live full-time in the van, staying warm was a major topic for me. Our first winter in the van, we traveled to the Midwest to enjoy the warmer days and nights under the desert sky. But this second winter I will be riding out the inclement weather back in our home states and am preparing for a cold, beautiful, snowy van life adventure.

And I am not the only one trying to figure out the winter plans. Below is a short-list of how you and your family can stay warm during this upcoming winter!


There is no point in generating heat if all of it is just seeping out of tiny cracks and gaps throughout your van. Your vehicle will quickly match the temperature of the outside without anything to keep the heat in and the cold out.

Insulate your floors and inner walls with at least the silver Reflectixe insulation. For thicker insulation, try cork insulation or spray insulation that can easily be found at any home improvement store. From the well-known pink insulation to simpler silver reflective rolls, anything beats shivering inside of a cold metal tin. Ensure that any cracks, holes of gaps in the metal frame of your vehicle are sealed up tightly. Even placing your reflective windshield cover that you use to protect your van form the sun works to keep at least somewhat insulate the van too!

2. Tightly cover windows

Your windows are the most vulnerable spots for cold to seep in. You can use heavy clothes like mud cloth or old, heavy blankets to cover windows and add an extra barrier between you and cold exposure. To test to see where cold is creeping in, run your hand along the corners to determine just how your windows are keeping up.

3. Wear appropriate clothing

The truth is, you may never reach that perfect 76 degrees as you would in a wall-to-wall house without an electric heater. So you may want to hang onto those fluffy socks and that thick sweater. Wearing appropriately warm clothing, especially when going to bed can be actually quite cozy and avoid chilly toes. Long-johns, long socks and warm sweatpants are a must if van-living during cold weather. Your head is where most of our body heat is lost, so a warm beanie or thick cloth hat is a great way to keep your body heat up.

4. Use a large, heavy rug on the floor

Waking up and stepping on an ice-cold floor is not a good way to start any morning. Keep a thick rug on your floor adds an extra layer of insulation to your van. Trust me - it works.

5. Drink hot teas - Ginger tea is great!

Insulating your van is the first step to keeping you warm. Keep your body hot by drinking warming teas like ginger tea or spiced hot chocolate. You will be surprised how you will find yourself sweating under all those layers as you enjoy a nice, hot, spicy beverage. I try to drink a cup of spicy ginger tea when I wake up and before I go to bed to keep me warm and cozy from the inside-out!

6. Cut the wind-chill

Position your van or bus against a wall or in a parking garage (urban vanlife) to cut the wind-chill that is making it even colder than it already is. Try to avoid open spaces like parking lots as they provide ZERO protection from the wind.

7. Buy a propane or electric heater

If you are able, try to get your hands on an electric or propane heater. I use this heater from Wal-Mart that works to cut some of the chill. Mr. Heater propane heater is also a good heater for nomads.

*do not leave the heater on while you sleep. Turn the heater off before going to bed.

8. Pillows and blankets

Bundle up with tons of blankets and pillows. It may seem like a lot, but I use about 5-7 fleece blankets on the bed on cold nights. And I keep 2 regular pillows and 1 large body body. Conserving the body heat will be your friend!

9. Move to a warmer climate

The easiest way to stay warm this winter is to not experience it at all! Moving to warmer states like Florida (for us on the east coast) and the Midwest (for those on the west coast) is a way to dodge the sinking temperatures.

How do you stay warm in the van? Comment below the things you do to stay toasty in your tiny home!

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