Robert Witham

Travel videographer, writer, minimalist, and perpetual traveler

Staying Warm in Cold Weather

One of the great things about being a full-time vandweller or RVer is the ability to move with the seasons. As a general rule, this makes it possible to avoid the worst weather of summer and winter. Still, there are times when it is too hot or cold for comfort. These are some things that I have found useful for staying warm in cold weather.

Stay Dry

Staying dry is critical in cold weather. Moisture allows heat to be lost much faster than if you are dry.

This applies to taking care to stay dry during rain or snow, but also to avoid sweating while exercising. The best way to prevent sweating is to dress in layers.

Dress in Layers

Dressing in layers is more effective than just wearing one heavy layer. Air is trapped between each layer of clothing, which helps to keep you warm.

Layers also make it easy to adjust throughout the day as the temperature or your activity level changes. An outer layer that is waterproof or windproof is also essential if it is raining or windy.

Plan for the Sun

Parking your vehicle with large windows facing the sun allows the sun to heat the vehicle during the day. Opening curtains or taking down sun screens either before bed or first thing in the morning can make a big difference once the sun starts shining.

Warm Sleeping Bag

A warm sleeping bag or blanket is essential for staying warm during cold weather. Since night is the coldest time and many people do not run a heater at night, it is important to be able to stay warm both for comfort and for safety.

Blankets can work well if you sleep with someone or if you have a larger bed. A sleeping bag may be a better choice if you sleep alone or have a narrow bed that may feel drafty with a blanket.

Many people find it preferable to use a sleeping bag that is rated for colder weather than they expect to encounter. Adding layers of clothing before bed, wearing a hat while sleeping, and using some type of sleeping bag liner can also help you stay warm at night.

Insulate Your Vehicle

Insulation on exterior walls and the ceiling makes a big difference when it comes to staying warm during cold weather. There are several approaches to insulating vehicles, and which one is best for your vehicle will depend on a number of factors, including your budget. A search of any vandwelling forum or Facebook group will reveal plenty of ideas for insulation.

It is also a good idea to seal any gaps and possibly replace any worn or damaged door seals. Even a small gap or tear in a door seal can lower the temperature inside a small vehicle.

Supplemental Heat

Photo of Mr. Heater Portable Buddy

Warming my feet by a Mr. Heater Portable Buddy on a cool evening

Depending on where you travel and your tolerance for cold, it may be possible to stay warm enough without a heater. Many people, however, find it necessary to have some type of heat source.

The most popular option for heating vans, trailers, and small RVs is the Mr. Heater line of propane heaters. These heaters are designed to be safe for indoor use without an outside vent.

The Mr. Heater Portable Buddy unit puts out between 4,000 and 9,000 BTU which is more than enough to heat a van or small vehicle. I have this unit in my 6×10 trailer and can only run it for a short time before it is too hot.

NB: These heaters are designed for indoor operation, and are equipped with an oxygen sensor for safety. It is still necessary though to open a window or roof vent slightly when using the heater. It is also a good idea to not use the heater while sleeping.

Staying Warm

These are some of the techniques that I use to stay warm in a car or trailer during cold weather. What things do you find helpful for staying warm on the road?

DIY Drip Coffee Maker

Coffee is a simple joy that many of us start with each day. It is also one of the things that I am not willing to sacrifice just because I travel frequently while living out of a vehicle. This is why I ended up making my own drip coffee maker.

After spending months looking for a single-cup brew basket in a number of stores, I finally abandoned hope of finding one without ordering it on the Internet. Of course, it would have been easier to just order online and have a functional drip coffee maker shipped to me, but it took me a while to set up a mailing address. That also would not have been as satisfying (and occasionally frustrating) as making my own.

How to Make Your Own Drip Coffee Maker

Making a drip coffee maker basket seemed like a simple project. After all, how difficult could it be? As it turns out, it was more difficult than I expected. Still, it is a simple project that anyone can do.

My current drip coffee maker (pictured) is my third attempt. The earlier attempts failed because the filter would stick to the sides of the basket while the coffee grounds quickly formed into a cake. This prevented water from draining through and into the cup.

The current version of my coffee maker is constructed from an empty can. After removing the lid with a safety can opener, I drilled a series of holes in the bottom of the can to allow the coffee to drain into a cup. I also fashioned two support brackets from wire to keep the filter from sticking to the sides and bottom of the can. This design seems to work well, and it literally took only minutes and cost nothing to make.

Making coffee is as simple as placing a filter and scoop of coffee in the basket, setting the basket on top of a cup, and pouring hot water into the filter. It takes only a few minutes to brew a fresh cup of hot coffee.

I am considering trying a French press for coffee now that I have a sink in my trailer. The thought of cleaning a French press kept me from trying it in the past. Meanwhile, my trusty DIY drip coffee maker easily provides me with several good cups of coffee each morning.

DIY Gear

This drip coffee maker is one of several pieces of DIY gear that I have used since being on the road. I find it enjoyable to make my own gear. It saves money, allows me to make exactly what I want, and is a fun pastime.

Have you made any of your own gear on the road?

Things You Find: Chair in a Wash

After a few days of listening to a distant mountain calling to me from base camp, I struck off across the desert to experience the mountain. Cunningham Mountain was located about three miles to the east across the Arizona desert. While crossing through a large wash that was several hundred yards wide and about 20 feet deep, I noticed something that did not look natural.

Upon closer inspection, the unnatural object turned out to be a rusted metal folding chair. I left the chair where I found it, thinking that it would be a bit of bother to haul it to the mountain and then back to camp. Afterward, it occurred to me that maybe I should have taken the chair since mine broke the week before.

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