I’m sure everyone can understand the attraction of living in a campervan during the summer months and many would agree in saying it sounds ideal and lovely but few people consider what it entails to live like this through the winter. This is our guide on how we survived last winter (2016) and what we have learnt from it, hopefully giving you a head start.
1. Van preparation and insulation
Hopefully your campervan will be insulated already, but if you have a more basic van like us there are a few extra steps you can do to help. Window insulation panels can significantly increase the temperature inside the van by helping you keep that precious heat in rather than conducting straight out through the glass. It is easy to buy custom made blinds/panels for the front windows of the cab but for the rest we bought foil bubble wrap style insulation and custom made them to fit the rest of the windows.
We have also found the floor can suck the heat from your feet and give them frostbite in seconds! So if you have a spare section of carpet to put down or even some cardboard it will make a massive difference, combine that with a good pair of slippers and your toes will survive the winter.
Seal off all the gaps you can, we masking tape insulation over all the unimportant vents to try and stop the heat loss and those cold winds coming in.
Last year we naively started winter with no heating other than a fan heater which could only be used on campsites, so the rest of the time we were having to wear 10 layers of clothing just to prevent hypothermia setting in. When we realised this was no way to live, which took surprisingly longer than you would think (inside temperature 0.4ºc) we bought a small gas heater. This year however, we are making our life much more comfortable and cosier with a log burner.
Good warm layers are a real basic need, a good down jacket and merino wool baselayers are ideal. Inside the van its not very comfortable to wear lots of layers and one purchase we did not expect to make was a onesie. As ridicules as you may look in it, they really do keep you warm. Gloves are another important investment, we favour the ‘magic gloves’ you can buy, the wool gloves with the little rubber grips on them, and as mentioned earlier, slippers are a must if you are going to keep frostbite away from your toes.
4. Sleeping preparations
We started our trip in two, four season sleeping bags but found that a feather duvet and snuggling together did a much better job when there’s two of you. As intimate as this might sound, sadly the onesie, beenie and big woolly socks take all the sexiness out of the situation. We also have an extra fleece blanket to go on top, and our summer duvet to go underneath us for those really cold nights.
You will also need to make room for one more in your bed at night, and that sexy extra is a hot water bottle. I can not over exaggerate the importance of this item.
5. Cup of tea and a good winter meal
Not to sound too British about the whole thing but there’s nothing quite like a cup of tea to warm the cockles of your heart. Join that up with a good winter meal like sausage and mash and the world becomes a brighter place again. Failing this, there is always a good old pub to go to, with there real ales and wood fires.
6. Stay dry!
The importance of this can not be stressed enough, if you get wet then the cold will get in. Get out of your wet clothes as soon as you can and get into dry, warm (if possible) ones. Then you might need to call upon your new found friend the hot water bottle to get the chill out of your bones.
Once your clothes are wet they will not dry until April or you get onto a campsite, by which time you will be putting on the same wet pair of socks to go in your wet pair of shoes! Bad weather in England is like diarrhoea in Egypt, an absolute guarantee, so if you have to go out in it we would strongly recommend you take a good umbrella with you.
7. Use campsite days to the fullest
When you do get on a campsite where you can crank up the fan heater and get the place cooking. Be aware that living in these conditions can produce a lot of condensation and you want to try and dry everywhere whilst you have the opportunity to otherwise things can become moldy.
Once the hard work is done it allows you to throw the onesie off and rediscover those curves which are normally lost under all the layers.
8. Follow the good weather
Although not possible for everyone, but if you can follow the good weather and move south then you should. For us we made it down to the south coast of England but if you have the funds I believe Spain is a good option for winter.