Winter van life isn’t as challenging as you might think, especially if you’re willing to do your research first. The key to enjoying van life during the colder months is preparation. With the right measures in place, you can have an enjoyable, safe experience no matter what mother nature throws at you.
Most new motorhomes are built to withstand the colder months as well as the warm, but there are plenty of alterations and additions that you can make for yourself to ensure that you stay as warm and cosy as you can in your motorhome in winter.
Even though winter is the harshest season, it also brings a sense of peace and calm that’s unique to this time of year. This makes winter van life an incredibly exciting opportunity for those who want to embrace it.
Tourist attractions are quieter, campsites and park-ups are less busy, and destinations can be less expensive when it’s not high season.
Motorhome living or travel doesn’t just have to be a summer thing and we’re here to tell you our hints and tips for staying in your motorhome in winter. Let’s take a look at some essential tips for a successful winter van life!
1. Check Your Van’s Tyres and Battery
One of the most crucial things to do before embarking on your winter van life is to make sure your tyres are up to the challenge. If you’re heading to a region with heavy snow, you’ll need the right tyres to get through it safely. Check the tread and make sure there’s enough to get you through the winter months. If you’re unsure whether your tyres are up to the challenge, consider purchasing winter tyres.
TIP – We have these tyres on our van, and they are fantastic – https://www.atseuromaster.co.uk/consumer/tyres/brands/bfgoodrich-tyres/lt22575sr16bfgatko2lrdrwlg1000154520 – They are all-terrain winter tyres that are great in snow, ice, rain and on dirt tracks etc.
Also, as winter comes with longer periods of darkness, you may want to consider your battery set up. You won’t be able to rely on solar power as much as you would in the summer, so do you have other means of ensuring your batteries will have enough power?
Consider purchasing a portable power station as these are one of the best ways of not always relying on or using up your batter power. We have this power bank –
If you would like to know more information about power stations, then you can check out our blog post where we discuss the best portable power stations –
You’ll also want to get your battery tested to ensure it’s in good condition and capable of powering your electrical appliances.
2. Check Your Heating System is Good Enough
What sort of heating system do you have in your van? Do you have a central heating system that runs off gas or do you have a diesel heater? Either way, your heating system is going to be your saviour in the winter so you need to make sure that it is good enough and that it is also working properly, and you will need to do this before the winter season comes.
If you have a gas system, do you use has bottles or do you have a refillable LPG system? If you’re going to be travelling Europe in the winter then you may want to consider switching to a refillable LPG system as this type of gas is much easier to access than replacing gas bottles, especially in Europe. Many fuel stations in Europe have LPG readily available, so when you stop to fill up with petrol or diesel, you can also fill up with LPG just as easily.
We switched our system to a refillable LPG system, and it has been a great decision as we do a lot of travelling in Europe. It is easy to find, and it is much more cost-effective. If you would like to know more about the refillable LPG gas system, then please check out our blog post –
3. Install Window Covers
If you’re planning on taking on winter van life, you will need insulated window covers. This will help to keep the heat inside your van, especially if you’re using a gas or electric heater.
We use thermal window covers on the windows in the cab, all of our other windows have blinds which helps to keep out the cold and these covers can also help with condensation. We also have a large windscreen cover for when it is particularly cold to prevent the windscreen freezing over. These can also be purchased on Amazon. These are also great for keeping the heat out in the summer, so having these for your van will benefit you all year round.
We use these thermal window covers in our van –
Milenco 2110 Motor Home Internal Cab Thermal Blind and Window
You’ll also want to make sure to close your curtains or blinds at night, to keep the warmth inside.
You may also want to consider getting a windscreen cover. This is a great purchase that not only keeps the heat in in the winter and protects the windscreen from freezing, it’s also great for keeping heat out in the summer.
We use this windscreen cover on our motorhome –
UK Custom Covers Luxury Front Windscreen Wrap Cover Black – To Fit Fiat Ducato Motorhome
TIP – If you’re parked in a public space, be mindful of the noise you make. It’s not always appropriate to use a heater that makes loud noises at night, as it may disturb your neighbours.
4. Bring Blankets and Warm Clothing
You’ll also want to make sure you have the right blankets to stay warm during the winter months. This is obviously a great way to keep warm without using up gas or diesel all the time for your heater.
You can also use blankets to keep your van clean and tidy and to protect the soft furnishings and avoid the build-up of dirt and mud.
Also make sure to pack plenty of warm clothing – coats, thermals, hats, scarfs, gloves, fleeces, jumpers, hoodies, thick socks etc. These types of clothing can take up a lot of space in your van but are absolutely essential to keeping warm and cosy in the winter.
A hot water bottle is always a fantastic thing to have in your motorhome or camper in the winter also.
We have these oversized hoodies to keep us warm in our van in the Winter and we love them! They are so cosy and perfect for snuggling up in the van after being outside in the cold.
Hot Water Bottle
Hot water bottles are one of the quickest and easiest ways of keeping warm in the van in the winter. We love using our hot water bottles in the van. They are also a cheap and efficient way of keeping warm, and they can keep you warm all through the night without using lots of heating.
Warm Fleece Winter Blanket
Warm fleece blankets are a winter van life essential, and we love this super cosy one from Amazon. Not only is it soft, thick and good quality, but it also looks great too.
5. Make Sure You Have Enough Gas
Whether you have a gas bottle system or a refillable LPG system you will always want to make sure you have enough gas. You won’t want to leave it to run empty and run the risk of struggling to find a gas bottle or a fuel station that provides LPG and not being able to use your heating in freezing cold weather.
Motorhomes and campervans don’t have the same insulation as houses so when it’s cold, it’s really cold.
Keep an eye on your gas levels and always keep them topped up.
If you would like to know more about refillable LPG gas systems, then we have a blog post with lots more information for you –
TIP – If you would like to search for LPG stations wherever you are in Europe, then this website can help you – myLPG.eu – Save money save Earth
We also have heated water tanks in our motorhome which is amazing for making sure that the water pipes don’t freeze and cause damage. If you don’t have heated water tanks, this might be something you may want to consider for your motorhome or campervan as it could save a lot of time, money and stress in the winter.
6. Check Your Insulation Is Up to Scratch
Speaking of insulation, it’s important to make sure you have good enough insulation in your motorhome or campervan ready for winter van life.
If you’re doing a self-build campervan and you know you’re going to be travelling through the winter and facing the cold temperatures, then you can plan ahead and make sure that you install good quality insulation from the start to protect you in the winter.
A lot of people who do self-build campervans focus more on the aesthetics of the van and making it look nice, forgetting about the practical and more important things like insulation, so it’s really important to consider this.
If you have a motorhome and you feel that the insulation is not good enough, you can remove panels etc in your motorhome and add more of your own insulation also.
7. Plug Any Vents / Gaps Where Cold Air May Creep In
Before the Winter arrives, it’s a good idea to check your van for any gaps, vents or broken seals that could be letting in cold air and fix/replace these before the cold weather arrives.
You will want to keep your van as warm as you can, and if you have any issues with cold air coming in then you’re probably going to be spending more money on heating, so it’s going to be more cost effective for you to ensure that you resolve these problems before the winter arrives.
Not resolving these sorts of issues could also result in you getting mould in your van in the winter from it being cold and damp.
8. Be Prepared to Stay Inside More
In the Winter, it’s likely that you may not be getting out and about as much as you would in the Summer, so you need to be prepared to be inside your van a bit more. For us this is one of the big downsides of winter van life as we love to get out and explore – in good weather!
When you’re living in a confined space, this can lead to feelings of anxiety and claustrophobia, so it’s important to remember to prepare for this and make sure you have what you need to make your life inside the van just as enjoyable as it is getting out and exploring.
Do you have books, games, a TV, an exercise mat or whatever you like to keep yourself entertained?
You can also try to open your window a crack each day to get a bit of fresh air flowing through your van or if this isn’t possible then try to get out even just for a short walk where you can, as fresh air can help with the claustrophobic / cabin fever feelings that some people can get when they have been in the van for too long.
An exercise mat is a great thing to take away with you when you travel in your van. Doing exercise always makes you feel better, and we love the fact that we can still exercise when we’re travelling, even when we can’t get to the gym. If you have some floor space in your van, it’s even better as you can still exercise even when the weather isn’t good.
Card games and board games are a great way to ensure that you keep entertained in the van in the Winter. You may be inside the van more than you would be in the summer so you need to make sure you can still have some fun. These are also great for times when you may not have very good internet signal.
9. Make Sure You Have Window Scrapers, Anti-Freeze, Something to Remove Condensation Etc
There are a few essential items that you will want to make sure that you carry with you during winter van life. These include:
- Windscreen Scrapers – to scrape snow / ice from your windscreen (You probably won’t need this if you have the outside windscreen cover that we discussed previously)
- Anti – Freeze
- Condensation is a problem in the colder months. It builds up on the inside of the windscreen and your windows. You can do as much as you can by putting the window covers up and closing the blinds etc at night but unfortunately, it’s something that you can’t always prevent, no matter what you do. So, it’s important to have something that you can use to remove it. A window vac is absolutely perfect for this. Or even just a cloth or towel to wipe down the windscreen and windows when condensation builds up. Also, moisture catchers can help to reduce condensation too.
Pets – If like us, you’re travelling with pets, you’ll know that they obviously get dirtier than usual in the winter, even just going outside of the van for a couple of minutes to go to the toilet can result in muddy paw prints around your tiny home on wheels. We use a terrain suit for Lottie when we’re going out for walks in the winter which helps to keep her much more clean –
Below are some links to other products that we use to help keep our dog clean in winter. We keep these close to the door of our motorhome so that we can easily access these after going out for a walk to keep our home as clean as possible.
Winter van life can be a truly rewarding experience. By taking the time to prepare your van for the colder months, you can ensure a safe and enjoyable experience. So, take the time to make sure that you and your van are fully prepared before Winter arrives, and above all, enjoy the season!
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You can take a look at some of our other van life posts which include lots and lots of hints and tips on all things van life here – Van Life – Travel Information, Hints, Tips and Advice (threeasabird.com)
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I have always wanted to travel and luckily I always got to travel to some amazing countries while I was growing up with my family and this really encouraged me to continue this and get out into the world on my own when I was older.
My goal growing up was really to see as much of the world as I could, but then I started going to work and really concentrating on my career and travel took a back seat. I still tried to get away a few times a year but I always knew there was an end goal which was to travel as much as possible.
So I got my head down and worked as hard as I could as an e-commerce manager. I have always been techy, I love computers and websites, so that’s where it gave me the idea to start this blog and also have my own web design agency. If you want to check it out or need any help then please take a look rrwebdesign.co.uk (shameless plug there)
But after covid, we both knew this was now the right time to take the leap and go and see the world after being trapped inside our house and working from home for a couple of years. We realised more than ever that you only get one life and you really need to make the most of it and do what you love!