During the winter of 2012 - 2013 we have made a conscious effort to continue with our camping trips as often as possible. Winter camping in a small van has some challenges and it is clear is not something everyone does. We have been pleased that a number of people have been in touch through our contact button asking for advice on winter camping, so we thought we would put some of our top tips on the blog.
Snug as a bug in a rug
We have found that a night-time combination of sleeping bags and duvets works to keep us warm in bed even in temperatures below freezing. We use Snugpak sleeping bags that pack up small. If it really cold, we also always have spare blankets and have used these in the side-door foot well to cut down drafts. We have never left the heating on all night.
Concerns about water
Our fresh water tank is under the van and is not insulated or heated. We always check the forecast and take no risks; if the forecast is for a frost, we don't fill the water tank and instead use a 10 litre water tank in the van. This does mean we don't have running water and a flushing toilet but it is better than burst pipes. The down-side of this is constant filling, when we think the frosts have finally finished and then draining when we see the forecast of more frosts.
In Cardigan in March, the forecast was for above freezing and so we filled up the fresh water tank. However, we woke up to a very heavy frost, with ice on the inside of the van windows. I leapt out of bed to check the tap, the water was sluggish, indicating they pipes had frozen slightly but no leaks have appeared, so we seem to have got away with it.
We also never use the waste water tank when it is freezing.
Light my fire
During winter we prefer to have a hook-up, we then use a 2kw fan heater which quickly warms up the small space in our van. When we don't have a hook-up, our diesel heating keeps the van very warm, although it does sound like we are on a count-down to launch to the moon. Having the two heaters means we feel confident that we will always be warm.
The sky at night
Living in Greater Manchester, the light pollution means we don't get much chance for star-gazing at home and one of the marvellous things about winter camping is being able to see the stars from a dark camp site. We use the Google Sky Map to check what we can see; it can be downloaded to your mobile phone at no cost and is lots of fun to use.