Vanlife Heating: Be Comfortable During the Cold Days

Van lifers are mostly in touch with the outdoors, and most Americans of all ages have started their van life as well. During this winter season, people who are new to van life living wonder how they can stay warm. Using butanes, propane, wood stoves, electric blankets, and getting the right clothes to wear is the key to your cheap heating options during the winter. Make sure to consider the different factors you need to know to choose the right heating options and know everything before tackling the cold during the winter season.

1. Keep Your Van Insulated

When preparing your van, make sure that it is insulated. You can use a combination of foam board, reflectix, spray foam, and fiberglass batting. All these materials can help insulate the nooks and crannies of your van. It will ensure that there will be no heat loss in your van. Make sure that you cover your ceilings and walls.

Use foam boards with spray foam to make sure that the boards stay in place. Once you have done that, use reflectix to cover the boards you have placed. On the floor of your van, use ¾ inches OSB (oriented standard board) to conserve headspace.

When it comes to your windows, they are a huge source of heat loss. So you need to make sure that they are adequately insulated. You can create custom window covers out of reflectix that are wrapped in fabric. Make sure to use dark colors when it comes to your fabric, which is also perfect for stealthing.

You can use strong magnets to keep them in place with the bigger windows. If you have a smaller window in your van that doesn’t have a metal window frame, you can use velcro instead. 

2. Clothes That Will Keep You Warm

Make sure to get your must-have winter items during your shopping trip. Purchase blankets or clothes that are made out of wool. Wool can retain heat, even when it is wet. Also, wool fibers are made to last and are durable. When it comes to wool, there are small air pockets within the fibers, which increases the insulation level significantly, making it better than cotton.

Always make sure that you keep a pair of socks or slippers nearby. Keep your head covered against cool drafts since the head loses more heat than the rest of the person’s body. It would be best if you stored a lot of blankets and duvet covers in your van. Make sure to sleep in a high-quality sleeping bag that is rated for zero-degree weather.

Remember not to get sleeping bags that are rated for survival since they are not rated based on the comfort level. Also, layers are the key to staying warm in your van during the cold season. One blanket is not enough, so combine it with an extra comforter and a sleeping bag.

3. Using Electricity For Your Warmth

Now that you got your van ready and your shopping in place, it is time to get the equipment you need to keep you warm. There are different electric heaters out there that you can choose from. In the following, I will talk about the electric heaters that you can get for your van.

Electric blankets can provide you with comfort, but they can use a lot of power. With this said, it is not advisable to keep on all night. Electric blankets are the answer if you need a quick warm-up before heading to sleep. There are different blankets that come with timers so that you can avoid eating up the battery.

When it comes to buying your electric blankets, make sure to get ones that are powered with 12 volts.

Sojoy 12V Heated Travel Electric Blanket. The Sojoy 12V Heated Travel Electric Blanket is one of the low price blankets that you can buy on the market. The electric blanket is 60 by 40 inches and can be enough for two persons. It is made from polyester fleece and will keep you warm even when it is not switched on.


This electric blanket is perfect for an extra layer of insulation and has improved energy efficiency. It comes with a thermostat and has three levels of control. The heat can reach up to 110 degrees Fahrenheit. 3amps on the lowest setting and 3.7 on high. It also comes with a timer that can be set to 30, 45, and 60 minutes. This setting is best so that it wouldn’t drain your van’s battery. 

It also has a 73-inch cord, making it a decent length for use in your van. The Sojo 12V Heated Travel Electric Blanket also uses standard conversion leads with deep cycle batteries or generator power. It is easy and quick to set up and weighs 1.8 pounds. The cost of this electric blanket is $24.99.

4. Get Those Electric Heaters for the Cold Weather

Electric heaters are great when you are parked somewhere, such as campsites where they hookups. Almost all of the electric heaters are lightweight, don’t emit sound or smell, and are safe to use in tight spaces. There are three types of electric heaters: ceramic, infrared, and oil radiators.

The best type of electric heater is ceramic because it has a suitable power source. Now, you can’t expect your van to start in the morning if your electric heaters are on all night. Having said this, make sure that you keep your electric heater on for only a short period of time. 

Electric heaters expel hot air in one direction, which produces consistent heat output. The range of electric heaters is between 500 to 1500 watts. Keep in mind that the lower the wattage, the longer it will heat a particular area. This would all depend on how big or small your van will be.

These types of heating equipment are pretty cheap and can be a good investment in your van life. There are, of course, some precautions when it comes to using electric heaters in your van. Always be careful when they are on because they can be easily tipped over, which can cause fire hazards.

Also, avoid overheating and make sure to be aware of your surroundings so you can avoid burns. Now, not all electric heaters are quiet, and some have a soft hum to them. If you want an electric heater that is quiet, make sure to check the place where you are buying it from.

Lasko Ceramic Portable Heater. One of the most popular electric heaters in the market is the Lasko Ceramic Portable Heater. It is available in four colors, which are silver, black, dark gray, and silver 5409. It is measured as 6 x 3.7 x 9.2 inches, which is perfect for tight spaces. It comes with three quiet settings, which are high heat, low heat, and fan.

Great for warming up areas in your van and has an adjustable thermostat so you can pick the perfect temperature for you where you are comfortable. It is a 1500-watt ceramic heating element, and you have 11 different temperature settings. With all of the temperature settings available, you can rest assured you will find the best one for you.

It has a convenient carry handle, making it easy to move around in your van. It is also compact, so when storing it, there’s no need to worry about it taking too much space in your van. The total heating coverage is 300 square feet.

The Lasko Ceramic Portable Heater has an overheat protection where it doesn’t overheat when left on for an extended amount of time. It also has a cool-to-touch exterior where the body stays cool even when it is on the highest setting. This electric heater is easy to use because all you need to do is plug and use it.

It is 110V, and the cost of the Lasko Ceramic Portable Heater is $27.15.

5. Wood Stoves: The Game Changer

When you want a wood stove in your van, you need to consider where to place it. It should be ethically sourced and well placed in your van. It can be work when it comes to using wood stoves because you would need to collect firewood. Now, when collecting your firewood, you need to be mindful and take only what you need.

Also, with wood stoves, temperatures are uncontrollable. You can get from way too cold to too hot real quick because there is no thermostat. It can be challenging to control the heat to something comfortable for you. With wood stoves, it would take about a good hour to feel warm in very low temperatures.

When using wood stoves, smoke enters the van when you are adding more fuel. This means the smell can be ingrained in your hair and clothes. You need to release the vents before opening your stove door to whisk any smoke away from the grate. Also, keep the glass clean to benefit from the infrared heat. To clean it, you can mix a little ash and water, then rub it over the glass with some newspaper.

Now, if the additional effort of taking care of wood stoves is okay with you, it can be a great addition to your van. Wood stoves can transform the atmosphere of your van into a cozy home. This is a more traditional way of keeping warm during cold days.

Precautions When it Comes to Wood Stoves. Wood stoves can be a huge hazard when you are not careful. You don’t want your van to catch on fire while you sleep! Now, with wood stoves, you need to prepare for dust and wood bits around the area. It can get pretty messy, but all you need to do is clean it when it is not used.

Wood stoves can get hot to touch, which can cause burns since it uses fire. So when you move around in your van, you have to be very careful. Make sure to not leave your heat on when you are away from the van. Also, do not place wet, damp, or flammable items near the stove.

Always keep a fire extinguisher nearby, just in case. Remember to keep your van ventilated with fresh air intake, and you can do this by cracking a window open. Also, when installing your wood stoves, you need to have a carbon monoxide detector installed as well. Carbon monoxide has no smell, no color, or taste, so you can’t know if you have a leak without a proper monitoring system.

6. Easy Accessible Propane Heaters

Propane is often used as fuel when it comes to camping and cooking. When it comes to propane heaters, you need to buy disposable canisters or refillable propane tanks. If you have an existing propane tank in your van, tapping into it can also be an option. With this type of heating, it can be a constant source of airflow throughout your van.

It can limit the moisture buildup and reduces the amount of carbon monoxide within your van. There are two types of propane heaters that are available, which I would talk about more in the following section.

Stand-alone propane heaters are compact and can be packed away easily when it is not in use, and ideal for van living since you have limited space. It can also warm up space in a short period of time. Some heaters come with built-in fans that can circulate the air, while others will just blast hot air straight out. 

These types of heaters require a constant supply of propane. You can find propane at many outdoor gear shops, grocery stores, and online. The smaller heaters can run on one-pound canisters. Many propane furnaces can not take the smaller cans that must be attached to a separate propane source.

Propane heaters need fuel regulators, which are often included in the product that you buy. It would be best if you also had filters with your propane heater.

Externally Ventilated Air Heater. Externally ventilated air heaters are perfect if you already have a large propane tank installed in your van. This is one of the most efficient ways to stay warm during cold weather. These are usually built under your van during the conversion and installed under the front passenger seat. This air heater is connected to both the propane tank and the outside air.

It will draw fresh outside air in, heat it, and then blow the warm air into your van. The most significant advantage of this type of air heater is it has external ventilation. When there’s an advantage, there’s also a disadvantage. Since it is a floor-mounted unit, you can move it around in your van. However, since it is floor-mounted, you don’t need to worry about tipping it over.

It is also more expensive than the portable ones and requires a bit of construction to install. However, it can take up less space and is more efficient. It also works well with the coldest weather possible.

7. Be Comfortable with Butane Heaters

Butane heaters are inexpensive and work the same way as propane heaters. However, it’s not as popular among van lifers because butane fuel is a bit more expensive than propane ones. Also, the canisters can’t be refilled and may be hard to find. There are fuels that are available in larger retailers and box stores.

You can get your portable butane heaters online. Butane heaters burn cleaner than propane heaters. It is compact and easy to move around. You can also store it away without taking up too much space in your van. These types of heaters need a constant source of fuel. The butane that you use for cooking works well in portable butane heaters as well.

The fuel canisters consist of eight ounces of fuel. Butane heaters don’t push hot air in one direction but circulate through the vehicle. This is if you have a multi-directional fan installed in your van. It can burn about three to four ounces per hour. So, if you have an eight ounces can, it can burn for two hours at high heat and four hours during low heat.

Precautions When it Comes to Butane Heaters. Just like the propane heaters, butane heaters can be tipped over easily. There is also a huge chance of burns and can have carbon monoxide poisoning. When using butane heaters, make sure to have proper ventilation and don’t run the heater all night. You also need to watch out for the canisters.

The butane canisters are pressurized even when the cap is off. There’s a chance that it can leak fuel, which can be dangerous. Make sure to keep canisters capped, and don’t pack the heater away when the canister is still inside.


Finding the right heating solution for your van is crucial, and there are different factors that you need to take note of, such as the size of your van, where you would place your heating, and what type of heater you need. Propane and butane heaters are always the cheapest options that you can go. If you want an alternative to your heating needs, you can always purchase an electric blanket to keep you warm. Nonetheless, whatever you choose, always consider the different precautions that come with your heating equipment for safe and warm travel. 

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