One of the biggest challenges facing van dwellers in the UK is surviving the wet and cold winters. Whilst many choose to migrate to warmer climates for the winter months, a growing number of us are sticking it out in our vans right here in the UK. While it’s more of a challenge than the summer months, living in a van in winter in the UK doesn’t have to be uncomfortable if you make some preparations now and have your van ready. Here’s the things you need to consider:
Perhaps the most important thing to have when living in a van in winter in the UK is heating. In my first van I didn’t install any heating and whilst I lived in it through a snowy winter in the UK it wasn’t until I installed this diesel heater in my second van conversion that I realised how much harder I had been making my life. Living in your van in winter shouldn’t be about surviving, it should be about living comfortably and adding a heater is a must.
It doesn’t have to be a diesel heater, there are a number of options for your van; be it a propane heater, diesel heater or wood burning stove. You can read about the pros and cons of each here.
Heating is not just for keeping your toes warm on the cold nights however. It plays a vital role in the eco system of your van in winter, whether that’s drying your wet clothes and shoes after a day in the rain or helping to deal with the next consideration for living in a van in a UK winter, condensation.
As the cold days and nights roll in you’ll be faced with the prospect of condensation throughout your van. Surfaces, windows and onto your bed, clothes and curtains, will all start to feel damp as your hot wet breath starts to settle on all the cold places in your van.
Thankfully there’s a bunch of ways to fight the on set of condensation in your van, via heat, airflow and tools you can use. We went over a bunch of those in our article on dealing with condensation in a van. Keeping on top of it from the start of winter will make life not only easier for you in the van but will help you to maintain comfort in the winter months.
In my first van winter I struggled with condensation forming on the painted interior of the van, adding all of the items mentioned in that article meant that my second winter was dry, comfortable and safe, I’ll never go back to getting by with condensation now that I know don’t have to.
A combination of shorter days, lower sun, running a heater and more time spent inside watching Netflix (I’ll go over this a bit later) means that having to consider your power consumption is something that you’ll have to start if you’re going to be living in a van in winter UK.
I initially bought this solar kit when I converted my first van, while 100W was more than enough solar power for me to run everything I needed in the summer I soon realised that it wasn’t going to enough now that I wanted to run my heater at night, my laptop and projector in the evenings and charge my various gadgets keeping me safe and sane during the days. I added an additional 100W panel to the van which helped a lot on days where there was sun. However the most important thing I added to my van for power was a split charge relay (you can read about what they are and why they are important here) which meant that I was able to keep my batteries charged regardless of whether there was any sun. It really was a life saver and something you should consider if you are serious about living in your van in the winter.
In the summer months I often feel like I’ve only in my van to sleep; I work outside on a table, I cook outside, I go for walks and go to the pub with friends. As soon as winter weather hits that all changes and so making sure that you have a lifestyle that is compatible with winter van living in the UK is vital. Anyone who’s spent any time in the UK in the winter knows that people and places tend to hibernate and things are no different just because you live in a van.
Make sure that you have things you are happy to do in your van when the dark nights come rolling in or the bad weather keeps you shut inside. For us that means enjoying films and Netflix on our campervan projector, catching up with reading our van life books and playing far too many van life approved board games. Whatever your hobbies just make sure you have plenty of them that you can do shut up in your van or you’ll begin to feel bored and claustrophobic.
While the heating, condensation management and power considerations all come together to make living in a van in winter in the UK possible here’s a little list of the added extras I use to make things that little bit easier:
Hot water bottle – a life saver for a low power way to go to bed warm
Insulated flask – I go through a lot of hot chocolate in the winter and this baby keeps them warm
Insulated blanket – for the nights dry enough that I want to sit outside
Camp fire stove – I love being outside even in the winter so this camp fire stove keeps me warm while I’m out there in my blanker
Slippers with outdoor sole – these are a must especially with an outdoor sole when you’re hopping in and out of your van