Winter guide to car camping
Updated: Jun 19
Sleeping your car in winter is about as exciting as it sounds
Yeah. However, it will save you money and once you've done it once it's nice to
know you've unlocked that life skill. Here's my comprehensive guide to making
sleeping in your car comfortable and safe.
1. Black out your windows.
You can buy sheets of insulation from any hardware store
just measure and cut them to the size of your windows, use duck tape for the edges
so bits of foam dont go everywhere then tape or use sticky putty to adhere to the
inside of your windows. This will not only make it look like no one is even in the car
but will provide that little bit of extra insulation; every little bit helps!
If your like me and waiting till the last minute (when all the hardware stores
were closed) to decide to camp for the night you can go to any Walmart or
target and pick up large black poster-boards. You know the kind you get in the
stationary/craft section that kids use for school projects. This wont help with
keeping the heat in but it will provide privacy. Alternatively, you can string
some bungee cords around the inside of the car to
hang a privacy sheet while you sleep. Which ever you decide, I highly recommend that
you put up something, nothing worse than getting that 4am knock on the window
from a Police officer asking you to move your car.
*Pro-tip, black out all the windows with your DIY insulation and use a yoga
mat for the front dashboard so you dont have to get a giant insulation sheet for
that you wont be able to store easily come daytime.
Most roadtrippers, #vanlifers, or overlanders already have a lot of gear
and don't want to add a mass of bedding to that. Pretty much the minimum amount
of bedding you can get away with is using your clothes...rolling up a jacket for
a pillow, wearing layers, and some large sweatshirt for a blanket, but this is more
of a summer option. In winter, this just won't be enough. You have the option to buy one "cold-weather" sleeping bag or two neutral weather sleeping bags which doubled-up may in fact provide you with more warmth than the more expensive one-but will take up more space. You can find both at Walmart, the more expensive will run around $20-24 and the cheaper ones are about $10. I got the more insulated $24 option then
added a bed comforter on top and was pretty toasty.
Unfortunately there are no battery powered heaters on the market currently, you could invest in a propane portable heater which is great for vans or trucks but I wouldn't suggest using that in a car and you should NEVER sleep with it on. It's technically "safe,"
But it's still a propane appliance, and it's just not good practice to sleep with
an open flame in any room or small space.
*Protip: Right before you're ready to go to sleep you can turn on your car heater
and crank it on full blast for a few minutes then turn it off right before you go
to sleep. Also, One benefit of waking up in your car is that you can do the same
thing right when you wake up!
3. Rug up!
Now for what to wear. You need to wear a lot of layers so that you're warm but not
too many that you sweat in your sleep and your sweat freezes. A tank top, thermal
long sleeve top, and a puffer jacket work well for me. For the bottoms I wear
fleece-lined leggings and sweat pants on top of that combined with fuzzy socks
and a beanie.
*Protip: keep your water bottle in your sleeping bag so it wont freeze overnight
and once it warms up it will keep you warm too!
Rest stops are the easiest place to sleep overnight, for a slightly
quieter slumber, park on the side away from the bathrooms closer to the highway. there
will be more highway noise but less slamming car doors and beeps from cars locking
and unlocking. There are always 24 hr bathrooms and some have showers and
even wifi! For a hot shower you can cheekily ask for a day trial at a gym and use theirs
and most travel gas stations have showers you can pay to use. They can run
anywhere from $5-15 per person. If you ask me that's a bit steep for running hot
water in a dingy overused bathroom. Depending where you are travelling, You can find
some cafes for travellers (Usually close to state or national parks) that offer showers, sauna, hottubs and have espresso! They run about the same cost but are a much nicer and cleaner environment.
5. How to get the best sleep possible in a vehicle not made for sleeping.
Actually sleeping is the easy part, its all the other stuff that makes this tricky
and annoying: changing in your car, arranging all of your luggage and trying to keep everything organized, etc. Sleep with your head elevated. Doing so keeps you from getting sick and helps you get an overall better quality of sleep. If you are sleeping in your car on a hill, turn your head to the highest part of the vehicle
Crack the windows a tiny bit. When going to sleep, roll down a window enough to
breathe but high enough to keep hands out of your car. If you’re trying to
keep bugs out, you can drape a piece of clothing over the opening or bring a
piece of mesh to block the passageway. If it starts to rain or snow you can put
a the top lid of a large Tupperware container on top of the window crack,
provided your car has a rack on its hood, otherwise you can drape a piece of
plastic over the crack.
Wear a sleeping mask and ear plugs. If you’re in the city, you may have streetlights shining in your window all night, if you're by the highway, the in and out of cars
(especially trucks) and doors slamming will be annoying. The morning sun can also
be a nuisance, especially if you want to sleep in! A sleeping mask can help block
out that unwanted light.