Like most, when you consider vanlife, you probably picture warm summer days, traveling from site to site in your van, sitting around campfires in t-shirts, while drinking cold beverages…thinking about the next day of travel. But if you only take your van out when the weather is warm, you’re missing out on something BIG.
There is no better time to travel in a van than in winter when the air is cold, there’s snow on the ground, and plenty of skiing/snowboarding/snowshoeing to be done. Not to mention, wherever you go, it’ll be quiet, uncrowded, and serene. This is vanlife at its best!
And…just like a home, you’ll want your van to be warm and cozy, like a mobile forest lodge. In this article, we cover 4 ways to prepare your van for winter adventures, so that you can get out there and experience the very best that winter has to offer.
Make Sure Your Heater is Clean
Firstly, a warm van is a comfortable van. And for most of us, this means ensuring your heater – the one in your van’s living space – is up to snuff. Depending on the fuel your van uses and who built your van, most heaters are going to be Webasto or Espar. Because these systems rely on the fuel from your van’s fuel tank to operate, they need to be used every so often to ensure that any soot built up can be cleaned out (by the heater’s fan) before it gets gunked up. Some of the things you can do to ensure your heater is winter-ready are the following:
- Never run the heater for less than 20-30 minutes. This will ensure that everything in the system gets cycled out.
- When turning off the heater from a low setting, run it on high for 10 minutes before turning it off.
- Avoid leaving the heater on low for long periods of time. Instead, try running the heater in cycles on high to maintain a comfortable temperature.
- In the summertime, run the heater once a month for about 20 minutes (or longer) on high to flush the system, keep fresh fuel in the lines, and keep the heater clean. Even though it might be warm out, open your doors and turn the fan to keep the van from getting too hot inside the van.
These instructions will prevent your heater from filling full of soot which can cause your unit to fail prematurely.
Consider Having Your Heater Rebuilt
Just like any mechanical system fed, sometimes heaters need to be rebuilt, and new parts installed. This typically entails removing and dissembling the heater, cleaning out/off all of the parts, and installing new gaskets, glow pin screens, and other parts.
Because your heater is delicate and tied into your fuel system, it’s best to let Webasto/Espar certified technicians, like the awesome people at The Vansmith, do this work. A typical heater rebuild performed by The Vansmith costs about $800. It includes fully removing and disassembling your heater, completely cleaning it out, and replacing high-wear and gunked-up parts using genuine Webasto and Espar service kits.
Upgrade Your Insulation
Just like your home, your van’s insulation – which sits between the metal shell and the interior walls of your van’s living space – will help to keep your van warm even in the coldest of nights. And, while there are several different kinds of insulation, after building and sleeping in hundreds of vans, we can honestly say that the best, most sustainable, warmest insulation on the planet is Havelock Wool Insulation. This natural fiber, made from the same stuff your wool sweater is made from, retains its insulation rating (i.e., R-Value) for roughly 50 years, has self-extinguishing materials, and manages moisture unlike any other foam or fiberglass insulation on the market.
And…it’s not just about the insulation between the walls. Wrapping your walls with Landau foam batting and fabric will make your van look cozier, and these materials also ensure that the warmth inside stays inside longer.
At The Vansmith, we offer complete, easy-to-install wall sets for Sprinters, Promasters, and Transits. As a bonus, these walls can be wrapped with a Byrne high-performance fabric (that is highly woven for durability) that includes a Landau foam underneath (to aid in insulation, sound deadening, and allows for a soft touch).
Window Covers Make All the Difference
Did you know that every window or fan reduces the R-Value inside your van? That’s because these are the surfaces that offer the least insulation and become perfect areas for condensation to build up.
Just like the installation in your walls, your windows and fans should have well-made, durable insulative covers that offer more R-Value than that towel you’re taping on the window. We know you’ve done this before…because we have. Unlike towels, well-made window and fan covers will greatly improve the efficiency of your heater and will provide you with all the privacy you'll need when snuggling up together ;-).
In our minds, some of the best custom window and fan covers on the market are made by VanEssentials. And, like anything else vanlife-related, we can help you order these so that they perfectly fit your windows and fans.
As we’ve mentioned in previous articles, one of the coolest ways (pun intended) to use your van is as a winter ski lodge. And just like any other winter lodge, you’ll want to make sure that your van can get warm and stay warm while you’re out on the slopes, so when you get back you can strip down and have a beer or hot cocoa just like you would at home.
When outfitting your van for winter, The Vansmith has everything you need to keep your stoke high, no matter what adventures you plan.
Alternatively, if you’re more of a sun worshipper and would rather winterize your van for storage, The Vansmith can help you do that as well! For only $150, The Vansmith can assess your van and fully winterize your water system so that it’s ready to roll when the sun comes back out.
As always, our job is to make it easy for you to live the free life that only a van can offer. Email or call us anytime to discuss how we can help.