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How To Stay Warm During Winter Vanlife Without A Heater

When living in a van full-time, you may have to face the harsh cold reality of winter vanlife.\While it’s easy to think you will just travel South where it’s warm, you might be surprised by the temperatures at night. Or you may even encounter a random snowstorm in the middle of summer in some mountainous areas (true story).

Vanlife van in the snow

If you plan to spend winters in colder climates then we highly suggest investing in a heater. I promise it will be worth the money! But for my fellow vanlifers who try and avoid the cold as much as possible and just power through those especially cold days, we have some vanlife tips and tricks for you!

This guide will uncover some brilliant ways how to stay warm during winter vanlife without a heater.

This post may contain affiliate links. Disclosure policy.

Blankets, Blankets, Blankets:

When we first started vanlife we thought we might have brought too many blankets in the van. So we almost got rid of one of our thickest blankets, but right before donating it, we thought maybe we should hold onto it through one winter season before donating it. And boy are we glad we kept it! Our thick faux-fur blanket basically lives on our bed all winter long. 

Blankets are cheap and an easy thing to have to keep you warm during those colder months. They can sometimes take up a lot of room, but maybe invest in a space bag for those summer months when you want the blanket packed away. Although if you often change elevation, we found space saver bags to lose their suction easily. Or we have seen other’s stuff pillow cases to turn their blankets into extra pillows when they aren’t in use (works with jackets and sweatshirts too).

We also have a down comforter and it is absolutely magical. Our bed sleeps so warm in the van (even in temperatures below 30 degrees).

It honestly created a separate problem because I would sweat in my sleep and that moisture caused mold to grow under our mattress. If you have my same problem, check out our post on How To Prevent Mold Under Your Mattress | DIY Hypervent.

We have slept in temperatures as low as 15 degrees (F) and kept warm enough throughout the night using our down comforter and faux-fur blanket. 

And if we are hanging inside the van for the day we often sit in bed because it is much warmer than sitting on our bench.

We have since upgraded to a heated blanket. It shockingly doesn’t use as much battery as we would have thought. So if you have a healthy battery power station, consider getting a heated blanket.

Reflectix On The Windows:

Just like keeping the heat out during the day, reflectix on the windows help keep the heat in at night. We also paired ours with sheeps wool to make sure we wouldn’t lose too much heat through the windows during the winter (which we highly suggest if you use sheeps wool or other soft batt insulation in your van build.) 

I just traced the window frames with reflectix, then cut sheeps wool to the same shape and then sewed fabric around the edge of the reflectix material. We then added CMS magnets so the reflectix would snap around the windows securely to the vans metal frame.

We also found that if we keep the sun shade and side window reflectixs up in the front windows and windshield, it helps keep the van warmer at night.

Wear The Proper Layers:

Dressing appropriately is key when trying to win the battle against the cold in winter. Dress in base layers, they are designed to keep your body warm. Top your baselayer with wool, fleece or down (or a combination of all). Wear a hat, scarf and mittens to keep your extremities warm. And ultimately, dress in layers!

Some of our favorite baselayers are:

Icebreaker’s Merino Wool Zone Crew: Men’s | Women’s

Melanzana Hoodies: Men’s | Women’s 

Patagonia Nano Puff: Men’s | Women’s 

REI Fleece Pants: Men’s | Women’s

A new personal favorite item to keep me warm in winter is this Venustas Heated Vest. It has been a game-changer, basically all-year long!

Check out our review above for an exclusive discount code!

Cook With Your Stove:

A surefire method to boost the warmth inside your van is by cooking on your stove indoors. The only drawback to this strategy is the necessity for adequate air ventilation when using gas, which may result in some heat loss.

However, once you’ve finished using the propane and ensured sufficient fresh air circulation, you can then seal all the windows and vents to retain as much warmth as possible inside the van.

Hang In Bed

When we decide to spend a chilly day inside the van, our go-to spot is usually the bed. The combination of memory foam and our down comforter makes our bed exceptionally cozy, effectively trapping heat.

Typically, the only parts that might feel a bit cold are our noses and fingers. In those moments, we simply grab our laptops and shift positions to ensure constant comfort.

Warm Water Bottle:

An arm holding a nalgene with nature in the background
Photo by averie woodard on Unsplash

For those extremely cold nights where you just can’t keep your body temperature up, you can boil some water to place in a water bottle. Then keep the water bottle close to your body in bed and it will help raise your body temperature. 

Warm Beverage:

Just how you stay warm inside on those cold winter vanlife days, making a nice hot cup of coffee, tea or hot chocolate will help raise your body temperature. Plus it’s delicious!

Blast Your Van’s Heat While You Drive:

While this approach isn’t sustainable for extended durations, it proves effective during late-night travels to a new campsite. We open the curtains that separate the front cab from the back, allowing the heat to blast into the rear of the van.

To prevent heat loss, we make sure to shut the air vent on our MaxxFan. This method has proven remarkably efficient in warming up the van, providing comfort for a few hours—long enough to settle in and drift off to sleep.

Down Booties:

Down booties are an absolute must-have for van life, especially in the colder winter months. They’re a lifesaver because they’re super warm without being heavy. The down insulation keeps the heat in while still letting your feet breathe. They might not be the best in wet conditions, but overall, they’re comfy, warm, and easy to take with you, perfect for staying cozy in the cold.


Your van floor will be almost always be cold, no matter how much insulation you add to it. Therefore, adding a rug will help make the place feel a little cozier and keep your feet a tad warmer than standing on the bare floor. 

Hangout Elsewhere:

One easy way to stay warm in your van without a heater during winter vanlife is to avoid the van during the day. Maybe go hit up a coffee shop or library with your laptop, or free activities in the area you are traveling in. 

Get A Job/Volunteer:

Honestly, we decided to get some jobs to not only make money, but it also gives you a warm place to hang out during the day. It’s a bonus if you work at a restaurant, so you can score a free hot meal too! 

Or if you are retired, money isn’t an issue or don’t want to be tied down to one place, then find a place you can volunteer at. This option is basically a win/win, you get a warm place to hang out and you are helping out an organization that is in need of help!

Check out some fun seasonal job opportunities to work in vanlife!

Final Thoughts For How To Stay Warm During Winter Vanlife Without A Heater:

We would love for our van to maintain a comfortable temperature year-round, but installing a heater and air conditioner for constant climate control comes at a significant cost.

While there are affordable options like the Mr. Buddy heater available, we’ve discovered that it isn’t entirely effective. Proper ventilation is necessary, and it tends to introduce excessive moisture into our van, which is less than ideal.

Therefore, we’ve adapted to endure colder temperatures, employing a combination of the methods mentioned. Wishing you the best of luck in navigating Winter Vanlife!

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