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The Survival Guide to Winter Car Camping in 2024

The Survival Guide to Winter Car Camping in 2024!

Living out of your car, truck or van can be uncomfortable in even the best of weather conditions. But with the extremities of the cold winter months, keeping warm could be essential to your survival for winter car camping.

With the life threating risk of hypothermia starting to occur when the human body temperature drops below 95F (35 degrees Celsius) it is critical to be prepared for cold weather at all times.

In the sections below we will outline some helpful ideas to help keep you warm in the harsh, cold winter months.

Winter Car camping
Winter Car Camping

Winter Car Camping Electric Blankets

Electric blankets are a great way to keep warm when winter car camping or living out of your vehicle. Electric blankets are especially helpful for extreme cold climates where snow and sub zero temperatures are prevalent. A down side of electric blankets are that they are power hungry and require a steady source of electricity.

There are plenty of 12v electric blanket options that can plug directly into your cars power socket. Keep in mind that this can drain your cars battery if you are using them without your cars alternator running to keep your battery charged. An additional battery set-up or electric generators are a great way to run electric blankets without running the risk of flat batteries.

Sleeping bags For Winter Car Camping

Just like camping in any other situation a good quality sleeping bag can be a life saver when it comes to comfort for winter car camping. Sleeping bags are a cheap, energy efficient alternative to other items on this list like electric blankets and are often the most accessible choice for beginners.

Sleeping Bag - Winter car camping

When choosing a sleeping bag make sure to choose one that is rated to the climate you are often exposed to. For snowy/ extreme cold climates ensure you buy a sub zero rated bag.

Sleeping bags are most effective when used in connection with other vehicle warming techniques like insulation & heaters.

Winter Car Camping Heaters

Electric and diesel heaters are another great way for keeping your vehicle warm over nights for winter car camping. With many devices allowing you to set your desired temperature this is perfect for snowy conditions. Unfortunately these heaters can be pricey to initially purchase and have on going operating & maintenance costs.

Be mindful when installing diesel heaters that they are installed correctly to ensure exhaust will not leak into your vehicles cabin. Even when installed correctly it is best to have a portable carbon monoxide detector to help avoid deadly mistakes.

Insulation For Car Camping

Insulating your vehicle is a great way to retain heat overnight or increase the effectiveness of other vehicle warming techniques on this list. The extent of insulation can vary greatly from using privacy screens over windows to installing permanent solutions inside your cabin.

Reflectix window covers are a great, cheap way to slow heat loss from your vehicles windows whilst also increasing your vehicles privacy. This type of insulation is the most popular amongst car campers for it’s ease of installation and budget friendliness. For more information on installing Reflectix Covers checkout this guide.

Vehicle Air-Conditioning

Your vehicles air-conditioning system is a great way to keep you warm in an emergency situation. Although this is not a practical long term solution with most vehicles required to be running to power the AC unit.

This option is not cost effective for consistent use with your vehicle required to run all night, thus burning expense gas. In extreme cold or life threatening situations this is the best & fastest way to heat up the cabin of your vehicle.

Extra Winter Clothing

Ensuring to pack extra clothing can make an extreme difference when it comes to staying warm when winter car camping. Gloves, beanies, socks, scarfs & jackets can all help you retain more body heat by reducing the amount of skin you have exposed.

An extra layer of clothing allows additional air to be trapped close to the body which heated by the body, slowing down the loss of body heat. Key areas to keep warm in extreme cold are your neck, face & extremities which will help prevent hypothermia.

winter car camping

High Calorie Foods

Just like fuel in an engine or wood on a fire your body works the same by using food to generate energy and subsequently keep it warm. Making sure you are meeting the recommended caloric intake each day you are in cold weather is important for both physical and mental health.

Whether you are cooking up a storm in your vehicle kitchen set-up or opting for a freeze dried ready made meal the process of cooking can also help heat up your vehicle for the night. Excess heat from using a gas stove top or boiling a kettle will help your give night a warm head start that with insulation can help reduce heating costs.

Emergency/ Space Blankets

Space/ emergency blankets are made with mylar to retain around 90% of your bodies heat. Commonly used by emergency services for quickly raising victims body temperatures, these are a great safe keep to have for peace of mind.

Cheap, compact and easy to use, space blankets can be used in conjunction with other items on this list and are great to have in your emergency/ first aid kits. Layering a space blanket within a sleeping bag close to your body will greatly increase the amount of heat your bag retains for the night.

A downside of mylar in space blankets is the reduction of air flow around your skin which makes it prone to trapping moisture & sweat. This makes it unsuitable as a long term solution but a great way to survive a night or two.

Things to consider

Camping in your vehicle in the extreme cold can be a dangerous activity if you are ill prepared. Make sure you always have a back up plan in case temperatures drop more than previously forecast. Notifying a friend or family member of when & where you plan to stay is a great way to increase the safety of your next winter car camping trip.


  • Zaara

    Zaara, a kindred spirit of the open road, has nurtured a deep-seated love for RV travel since her childhood. Journeying with her parents, she learned early on to cherish the little things that make life rich and fulfilling. This emotional depth and appreciation for simplicity have become the cornerstone of her life philosophy. A firm believer in the idea that true happiness is found in nature's embrace, Zaara continues this legacy of exploration alongside her husband, Augustus. Her passion extends beyond landscapes to the joy of connecting with life's purest forms - the unconditional love of dogs and the innocence of babies. These connections reflect her nurturing soul and emotional acuity. Zaara is also a culinary enthusiast, delighting in creating meals that blend flavors from their travels, infusing each dish with memories and love. Her expertise lies in living fully, finding joy in every moment, and inspiring others to seek happiness in life's simple, natural wonders.

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