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Winter camping – even without a parking heater.

A black Mercedes-Benz van drives through a snowy valley

The feeling of sunshine on your skin, the smell of sunscreen and the sound of waves in the background: memories that burst like a soap bubble the moment you look out the window. Outside, the world is a dismal scene shrouded beneath a cold grey-white veil. The last summer trip in the van feels like it was an eternity ago. That is why we have put together a few tips for camping in the cold for those eager for adventure before the warmer weather comes. Don’t let the lack of a parking heater keep you from your next van adventure!

The coldest place in the van: the driver’s cab.

The driver’s cab is generally the place where the most cold enters your van. Large window surfaces, vents and even pedal openings in the footwell can transform every gust of wind into an icy trial. Properly insulating this area helps you enjoy the outdoors beyond the first freezing night. Here are a few affordable and easy tips:

  • Switch the ventilation over to recirculation: This quick and easy tip prevents the cold air outside from entering the interior via the ventilation.
  • Insulate the front windscreen from the outside while standing: aluminium-coated windscreen covers secured with elastic straps are one alternative. This affordable variant is available from almost every hardware store. In addition, more expensive, weather-proof thermal mats are available from specialist stores.
  • Insulate the windows from the inside while standing: the same window covers also work inside the vehicle. All you need is a little manual dexterity. Use a pair of scissors to cut the mats to fit the smaller side windows. Attaching them is a little trickier. Suction cups fitted onto the covers are one simple option. Self-adhesive hook-and-loop tape is another quick solution.
  • Insulate the pedal openings in the footwell: It is best to use specially shaped, nonslip footwell insulation pieces that cover both the floor and the pedal openings.
The silhouette of a driver behind the wheel in a Mercedes-Benz camper van

Would you rather have your own house on four wheels than a run-of-the-mill hotel?

The living and sleeping area.

Separating the driver’s cab from the van’s living area with a curtain helps to keep the living area warm. Fans of natural products can use curtains made of thick sheep’s wool. Special thermal curtains made of aluminium-impregnated polyester film are a less attractive but functional means of keeping out the cold. Curtains also have the convenient advantage of darkening the sleeping area.

  • Insulate the windows in the living area: You can prepare the windows in the living area the same way as the windows in the driver’s cab. Additionally, thick curtains also help to keep out the cold.
  • Insulate the floor: Insulated camping mats underneath the carpets help to keep out the cold. Ensure that the undersides of the insulated mats are coated to prevent them from slipping.
A hiker looks out toward snow-covered mountains

Winter landscapes have their own magic.

The alternative to integrated heating.

Portable air heaters are a good option for keeping the interior warm. You just need a power source. So make your stop at a camping ground that provides electricity. A vast range of heaters is available: from affordable to expensive. You need to bear a few things in mind to ensure that the air heaters can keep you warm without becoming a safety risk.

  • Air heaters with automatic switch-off: because the wires in regular air heaters become extremely hot, it is important to use devices with automatic deactivation. This means that they switch off when they fall over, when they overheat or if a towel, etc. falls onto the heater. Never leave the heater on unobserved. For example, warm up the van with the air heater before you go to bed and then switch it off.
  • Power usage: select a heater that does not use more than 500 W or features an eco-mode in this range. If the heater uses too much power, your energy costs increase and the heater may even trip a fuse at the camping ground.
  • Another option: ceramic air heaters. Ceramic air heaters are a good alternative to the cheaper conventional models. The heating elements are made of ceramic and can neither burn out nor smoulder.

Catch the heat, wet and dirt.

If you plan to spend a longer time in one place, setting up an awning is a good idea. This prevents the warmth from escaping when entering the van. It also provides a place for you to store your wet clothing and equipment – Keeping moisture and dirt out of the vehicle. We have a few tips to help you select the right awning.

  • Cold-resistant material: ensure that the outer skin of the awning is made of cold-resistant material. Alternatively, you can buy water, snow and cold resistant tent canopies.
  • The design: the roof should have a declining gradient to ensure that rain and snow run off or slide off rather than accumulating. Ensure a sturdy construction capable of withstanding heavy loads in the event of heavy snowfall. The awning should also be insulated against drafts where it is in contact with the vehicle.

We hope that our tips help motivate you to set out on your own winter van adventure! Camping in winter is a little more difficult than in summer. But remember: the best experiences are often had when you leave your comfort zone.

The wheel of a Mercedes-Benz van equipped with snow chains

Better safe than sorry – In winter you should always have snow chains on board.

Photos: Felix Schwarz,


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