What does winter vanlife mean to you? The exciting part of camper van adventuring year-round means you get to decide where and how you live.

For Colby and Eric, the couple behind Engineers Who Vanlife DIY van build blog, winter van life is about "chasing powder and cozy evenings." They packed their van with the best winter gear and focused on what they loved: alpine adventures, skiing from the first snow through the spring ski season.

Can you camper van during winter? If you build your van with winter as a focus! Colby and Eric's van design has made it possible to go wherever the snow is and live comfortably in extremely cold and difficult climates.

Colby explains:

While this season of van life is definitely harsher and harder, we love having a few months of the year where we can stop thinking about boon-docking and all that comes along with it, and instead focus on utilizing our camper van solely as a means to stay warm and ski as much as possible.

Some of the best moments of winter van life for us include long days on the mountain and coming back to the van, collapsing into our cozy bed in the parking lot with a hot cup of coffee. When asked this question, I always think back to the days of watching the snow forecast and immediately driving to wherever the storm was. Having the freedom to chase powder, have everything you need to survive, work your job, and then live for free in expensive ski towns is crazy!

Lessons Learned from Two Seasons of Harsh Winter Vanlife

Colby and Eric's biggest change from their first van build to second was upgrading their heater to one capable of working in high altitudes. Note: if you're starting your van build or upgrading your van, dig in deep with product research and ask all the big product questions prior to purchasing. 

We DIYed our camper van with winter van life as first priority: hydronic heater, extra insulation with no gaps, a spray-on sound deadener, 2 fans, and the ability to use our complete plumbing system in the winter. The biggest change that we made in the second camper van was a heater rated for use above 10,000 feet. 

Hydronic heaters such as Aqua-Hot 125D heat by circulating a propylene glycol-based antifreeze and water heating fluid through its system to offer air heating, water heating and floor heating with a custom built heated flooring system such as the Columbia Heated Floor System.

Check out Colby and Eric's heater suggestions on their blog for more heater recommendations. 

Winter Van life Tips from Engineers Who Vanlife

  1. Be prepared. Always have a shovel, traction boards, and a large snow brush. Winter vanlife is often unpredictable.  
  2. Stick to parking lots, city streets, and rest stops for overnight spots. I know van life is all about epic boondocking spots, but winter van life (at least for us) is about winter activities. Easy, safe spots are the way to go! Plus, you will most likely be in your van a majority of the day, so who cares what the view is like!
  3. Keep your solar panels clear. Keeping your batteries charged up is key to comfort in the winter!
  4. Keep your gas tank above ½, always! Most heaters stop working around ⅓ level of fuel. We recommend keeping a safe buffer so that your heater doesn’t stop working in the middle of the night.
  5. Stay positive! There will be lots of cold nights, tough situations, and challenges during winter vanlife. Take them day by day, and step by step, and you will get through. The sun will come out! Winter van life is absolutely amazing.
  6. Keep the air flowing in your camper van and avoid van condensation build up during winter! It is very tempting to close your fans and keep the warm air from your heater in. However, as you live in your camper van, breathe, and cook, you produce moisture. This condensation will freeze against the inside of your windshield and your walls. Keeping airflow in and out via your rooftop fans, you will reduce the time needed in the morning to thaw everything out.


Big Takeaways

Winter camper van adventures can be diverse depending on where you travel. For Colby and Eric, winter van life is all about chasing powder and using their van as a sort of mobile ski lodge. 

But, as Colby says, "Winter van life does not have to be an 'all or nothing'. A great way to start is by going to Colorado where you could do a week or so of winter van life and then escape down to Denver or Utah to thaw out."

See more from Colby and Eric over at Engineers Who Vanlife.

Shop the Best Winter Vanlife Gear:

  1. Air Heaters
  2. Water Heaters
  3. Heated Floors
  4. Portable Heaters
  5. Sound Deadening
  6. Thermal Insulation
  7. Thinsulate Kits
  8. Power Kits
  9. Generators
  10. Portable Power Banks
  11. Solar Kits
  12. ProMaster Window Covers
  13. Sprinter Window Covers
  14. Transit Window Covers
  15. Ford E-Series Window Covers
  16. Metris Window Covers
  17. Collapsible Shovels
  18. Rooftop Camper van Fans 

Read our Better Winter RV Living article for more winter van life tips!

Build a campervanCamper vansDiy
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