Surviving a snowy winter in a self built camper van

Living in a van isn’t for everyone, let alone living in a van in winter, high in an alpine region where temperatures will reach -20 some nights. Its not for everyone and it defiantly has its struggles. It took us a few weeks to realise we had to change a few things so we could live more comfortably in our van during this freezing winter.

Being from Australia, we knew we wanted to spend our winter chasing the snow and enjoying the beautiful scenery, but we are also used to 20+ degrees and sunshine year round.

When you set out to build your van, a plan of where you want to go is essential. Do you want to spend your time in the mountains chasing snow or is it souly a summer, surf, beach van. We planned our build around the fact that europe is cold and we want to go to the coldest places in Europe. We built the van accordingly, it was more expensive but worth every cent.

Insulation, in my opinion, is the most important part of a van build, it doesn’t just keep warmth inside the van, it makes everything feel more comfortable and cozy. We used a mixture of Armaflex, insulation spray and earth wool. There has defiantly been times where i’ve thought to myself, that I should have used insulation spray all over the van as it is a much higher quality, but we are still very much comfortable.

The armaflex has a self adhesive back on it so applying it is really easy, peel the film off and stick it on, its as easy as that. We applied this to the bare steel all over the van, between the armaflex and the wall lining we used earth wool, we didn’t have to use this but we choose to after consulting a van builder in Europe. The insulation spray we used inside the metal supports, that run across the roof to fill them full of insulation, there was parts of the beams that didn’t have insulation inside them and condensation ended up dripping from these areas onto our ceiling and causing rot (it has since been fixed). We also had wood cladding on the back doors which offered no insulation at all and the back door were really becoming cold, the back of the van would have been 10 degrees colder than the front, so we removed all the wood cladding and covered the doors in 10mm Armaflex. You could tell almost immediately how much warmer it was, around the doors was the coldest spot in our van and finding a way to warm these areas up was essential.

A heater in a van in winter in essential, theres no two ways about it. We have a Planar 4kw heater that is perfect for our van. We have changed the outlet vents positioning a few times, to try and get the air flowing in the best postion. When we first got to Austria, our heater outlet came from beside the kitchen, which blew hot air on a 45 degree angle and eventually it would spread through out the van, except right at the front and the rear of the van. We decided to try a change, so we downsized our pipe size to 70mm from 90mm and put a vent in a postion that would blow straight down the van. We also put a T piece so we could have hot air blowing underneath our bed so it could keep the batteries at a warmer temperature and get the back of the van warmer. All in all, we haven’t had any problems with out Planar heater and highly recommend it to anyone looking for a good quality heater. Bed sheets and covers are very important, normally in winter we go to sleep wearing a jumper (sweater) and some sort of long pyjama pants, with a thick donar and a throw over the top of that. The heater doesn’t normally run all night, normally we will have the heater on from when we get home till we go to bed then turn it off. On a normal cold night we set it to turn on at 12am for one hour and 4am for one hour and then when we wake up we will turn it on as well. Inside the van it warms up really quickly, roughly it takes between 10 minutes to 20 minutes to warm the van up to a comfortable temperature.

Doors and windows are the cold points in every van, so we discovered how to get the doors under control. Next was the windows, we chose to go to amazon and bought a DIY insulation kit especially for camper van windows. Its really simple and easy to use, it has reflective silver which keeps the sun and light out in summer as well! Just like the doors, when we added the window insulation, we couldn’t believe the difference it made. it also adds a level of privacy as well, highly recommend. Shop Now

If you are planning on living a winter van life, then these tips will be a big help to you. Good luck on your adventures!

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