a Blog About Adventure Travel for Kite-Surfing and Cycling with a Custom Built Van
Van Camping in the Cold
Van Camping in the Cold

Van Camping in the Cold

Now that spring has come to the Mitten, we are excited to get outside more. This winter, we didn’t do as much camping and exploring as we hoped. On the few weekends away that we did squeeze in, these are the things that help keep us warm while van camping in the cold.


JoVanna is all set for warm weather camping with a MaxAir ceiling fan, a Coleman Mach airconditioning unit, and additonal USB fans. However, JoVanna is not really set up for winter camping. Althgouh she is well insulated, she doesn’t have a heating system.

From our tenting days, we have a couple of portable propane heaters. These are great and produce a lot of heat. On a single liter tank of propane, we can run it for about three hours. We are reluctant however to run propane heaters in the van for extended period of time, even with the windows cracked for ventilation. The risk of carbon monoxide poisoning is too great.

When we are are camping with an electric hook up, we bring along a small space heater and a heater blanket. The space heater draws a lot of power, but our 12 volt heater blanket works great when resorting to battery power for the night.

Along with the heater blanket, we have down comforter and Honey to keep us warm while we sleep. If you have one, a hot-water bottle tucked in around your feet is hard to beat.

Dog snuggles for van camping in the cold
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Honey Snuggles

Layers are super important for winter camping. Living in Michigan, long underwear is a part of our daily outfit from October through April. We prefer wool base layers. They keep us warm, while wicking moisture away from the skin keeping us dry as well. Don’t forget wool socks to keep your feet toasty and dry too.

For a mid-layer, jeans and a sweatshirt are great. We generally prefer quarter zip fleece pullovers.

When heading out for adventures, water/ wind resistant pants and jackets are a must. Whether you are going for a hike or just hanging out, it is super important to stay dry and warm. We usually layer our Burton snowpants and jackets on top whenever we go outdoors in the winter.

Finally, don’t forget a warm hat, mittens (not gloves), a neck gator and waterproof boots. These are essential for keeping your extremities comfortable. When dressed correctly, a long day outdoors in the winter can be just as fun as a summer day.

Warm Food and Drinks

Waking up to a cold van in the morning or returning from a long day outdoors, it is important to remember to have lots of easy warm food and drinks on hand. Usually, we do most of our cooking outside the van, but on execeptionally cold, windy, or wet days cooking gets moved indoors.

Van Camping in the Cold - Making a warm dinner
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Cooking in the Cold

When we are camping with electricy, we bring our electric kettle along, espcially in the winter. If we have minimal or no power source, we use either our Coleman propane stove or our MSR PocketRocket. Just like with the heaters, we crack our side windows and try to cook items that take minimal time to heat up.

When winter camping, we always have lots of tea, coffee (regular and decaf), and hot chocolate. A warm drink helps a lot when you just can shake a chill.

Our favorite cold weather camping food include:
  • instant oatmeal
  • soup
  • instant mashed potatoes
  • instant ramen
  • freeze dried backpacker meals
  • grilled cheese

How do you stay warm camping in the winter? What are your must haves? Please share in the comments and follow for more JoVanna adventures.

Thanks for reading! ~KiteBikeVan

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