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8 Van Heating Options to Keep Your Camper Van Warm This Winter

As temperatures drop for the winter, it’s important for van lifers to know what their van heating options are. While many van lifers like to escape south to warmer weather, others might want to stay in cold climates to hit the slopes or just enjoy the snowy season.

For those in colder climates, heating your van is a necessity for your health and safety. It can also ensure that none of your pipes freeze and cause you any issues!

Here are a few van heating options to keep you warm this winter. 

Propane Furnace

Propane furnaces are likely the most common heating option for camper vans. These are seen as easier options since many van lifers already have and are familiar with propane for their kitchen appliances.

One of the biggest issues with propane furnaces is that they can increase the amount of carbon monoxide in your van. Therefore, it’s extremely important that you have a good ventilation system and carbon monoxide detector. It’s also helpful to turn the heater off when you go to sleep to avoid any health risks while you’re sleeping.

You can have either fixed or portable propane furnaces.

Fixed Furnace

Fixed propane furnaces are installed as a part of your camper van. These can be directly attached to a propane tank that you might already have for your camper. Propane furnaces pull in fresh outside air, heat it, and blow warm air into your van.

Since fixed furnaces have an exhaust that leads outside, you don’t need to worry as much about carbon monoxide buildup. The ventilation also helps with avoiding condensation buildup. They can also run longer than portable furnaces and are super easy to use since all you have to do is turn it on!

On the downside, fixed propane furnaces can be pretty expensive. They are also much more difficult to install; you have to connect the propane lines and ensure there is a proper exhaust.

Portable Furnace

Portable propane furnaces are very popular since they are affordable and easy to use. These can be packed away when you don’t need to use them, creating more space in your van. They can also heat up your space very quickly, so you don’t need to run them all night.

The downside of portable furnaces is that the price of small propane tanks can rack up. You also need to set it up for each use and ensure that it is out of reach so you don’t burn yourself (or start a fire!). Additionally, these require very good ventilation since there is no exhaust to the outside air.

Space Heater

Space heaters are another great van heating option. These are especially great for people who have access to electricity hookups. Space heaters are safe to use in small spaces, don’t have any smell, and are super easy to use. While prices vary, you can usually buy one for pretty cheap.

Unfortunately, having a power source is better for this option since heaters pull a ton of power. If you’re trying to run a heater all night on your solar or car battery, you should be prepared for them to be dead in the morning!

Wood Stove

Wood stoves are another popular way to heat camper vans. They are fairly affordable, basically free to maintain, and can make your van feel really cozy. After all, who doesn’t want to sit by a warm fire on a cold winter night?

There are a lot of different parts to wood stoves that require installation for safety purposes. These parts include a chimney, flue, heatproof base, fire sealant, rain cap, and more, so it might be valuable to have a professional help you. You will also need to stay stocked up on firewood to use, which can cost a lot if you buy the wood or take a lot of work if you find it yourself.

In addition, wood stoves are not stealthy. If you’re planning on traveling through cities, these might not be the best option for you. They can also take up a good amount of space in your camper and bring in some ash.

DIY Methods for Heating Your Camper Van

If you don’t have the time or resources to buy and possibly install a heater, there are plenty of DIY methods that can still keep you and your van warm.

Insulation

The interior of a bare camper van with a girl stuffing fiberglass insulation into the frame.

Insulation is usually the first thing that van lifers cover when building out their vans. This is extremely important in order to maintain temperatures within your van. Insulated window covers can also help keep the cold air out.

There are many different types of insulation, ranging from very affordable to pretty expensive. While some insulation is better than others, any insulation that you use can go a long way in keeping your van temperature comfortable!

Boiling Water

Another tried and true van heating option is to simply boil water. The heat coming from both your stove and your pot can warm your van up pretty fast. Once you boil the water, you can keep the hot pot out to let it continue heating your space.

You might also choose to pour this hot water into a heatproof bottle to take into bed with you. This can keep you warm for a few hours! You just want to make sure that it is sealed tightly, not overfilled, and not around any electricity for safety purposes.

Electric Blanket

Electric blankets can help keep you very warm if you don’t have a heater. These blankets have insulated wire inside the fabric that heats up when connected to a power source.

Since these require electricity, it’s better for you to have access to a power source to use them. If you want to use a power bank or car battery, you might want to use it for a limited period of time since they pull a lot of power to stay heated.

Bundling Up

Wearing the proper clothing is a basic but important way to keep warm. Your hands, feet, and head all lose heat quickly, so having gloves, warm socks, and a beanie can be vital to maintaining your body temperature. Wool and fleece are two of the warmest materials, so buying clothing made out of those can keep you nice and cozy.

You might also choose to invest in a good sleeping bag that can keep you warm from freezing temperatures. Stacking your bed with a few layers of blankets can also help keep the warm air trapped around you while you sleep.

From full heater installations to simply boiling a pot of water, there are tons of van heating options out there. You can find and choose what is affordable and most comfortable for you in order to keep you nice and cozy through your winter van camping.

Remember, it is extremely important that you do all necessary research to ensure your health and safety. Having a fire extinguisher and CO detector are two main precautions that you can take to avoid any dangerous situation with your heaters. We care about your safety first and foremost!

How are you heating your van this winter? Let us know!

  • Jamie Leo is a fairly new vanlifer, traveling the country with her boyfriend in their self-converted van. She recently graduated college with a bachelor's degree in theatre arts and she loves to spend all of her free time hiking, camping, and practicing yoga. Her favorite part of vanlife is exploring new places and new cultures! You catch her and her partner's latest adventure on Instagram @andwhatliesahead.

This post may contain affiliate links or mention our own products, please check out our disclosure policy here.

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1 thought on “8 Van Heating Options to Keep Your Camper Van Warm This Winter”

  1. Hey Jamie, You’ve got to check out Heater Bloc’s Copper Coil Alcohol Heater. It’s a .pdf download with complete plans for building a DIY tent/van heater. Totally safe, clean burning and costs less than $10 for materials to build it. Considerably more stealth than anything else out there and no risk from poisonous gases.
    Brilliant!
    https://www.trendhunter.com/trends/heater-bloc

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