Car camping in the winter deserves a metal of honor. I went into it fully expecting to only use a 10 degree top quilt, turned out, I needed a lot more than that.
Reflectix is your new best friend, not only is it cheap, it works. Available at any home improvement place. I attached mine with double-sided Velcro to cover all the windows. Tip: also cover your floor with it. In the truck bed, cold air seeped up from underneath the truck. Great for keeping beers on the floor cold, terrible for clothes freezing (among everything else, frozen saline solution anyone?).
Being a hiker, I have a down-filled top-quilt rated for 20 degrees. I quickly noticed cuddling with crinkly nylon doesn’t bring as much comfort as it should. Walmart wins at this one with a basic fleece blanket as cheap as $2.50. I lucked out on those prices around Christmas time, but you can snag one for as little as $6. Fleece is my favorite fabric. Its water-repellant, odor repellant, and cuddle approved. Or maybe you’ll get as lucky as I did. When I was car camping in KY, it got to sub-zero temperatures. Other RVers were worried about me, so they gave me a large fleece blanket, thinking I was freezing to death. Thanks, Gypsys!
I know this sounds odd, why do I need a Yeti when its below 20 degrees where I’m going? Well my friend, because the cooler will prevent your goods from freezing!
Example: I am an apple lover; it is my favorite food. It got to 0 degrees where I was camping, and if you have apples in 0 degrees, they pocket and get mushy as soon as they thaw. Cold car camping is excellent for keeping food – but when you go colder than 20, it gets dicey. So yes, a cooler is a fabulous thing to have. For cold, or warm weather! An excellent investment. Keep it stocked with ice, and your stuff will stay cold for over a week (another shout of to Starbucks for all the cups of ice).
A ridiculously big warm coat
Meet the ‘Green Monster.’ This beauty cost me twenty-five cents at a flea market. When I wear it, I can’t feel the outside air, which is perfect. Even better, it reminds me of the early 90s with the magic of shoulder pads and buttons that don’t button anything.
This thing saved my life, but just like our friend Goldilocks, it took effort to find the heater that was just right.
Ceramic heaters will kick off when the temperature gets too high, and since a vehicle is a small space with a lot of cold air continually creeping in, it couldn’t and wouldn’t keep up. It was nice to know it’s safety kick-off feature worked, but it left me in the cold. Ceramic heaters are not up to snuff. After a few different sizes of those, I met the little heater that could.
The oil-filled electric radiators. It takes longer to heat up (10-20 minutes), but you get this tremendous constant heat, no matter how small the space. It still has safety features, for instance, if it tips over it will turn off. The radiator also doubles as a clothes dryer / warmer / food re-heater (as seen in the above photo). When car camping, being subjected to humidity / damp conditions is a real thing. Being able to dry your stuff is huge. Affordable, durable, even has wheels to move it across the truck bed with ease. Its 100% worth the investment.
You’re going to need a source of power for the heat, and it is nice to be able to charge your electronics as well (don’t worry Starbucks, you’re still my number one). Some people even go as far as using the cord for a cooktop, but I gave up on that idea after the first month. Long story short, 25 ft is all you will need. Make sure it is outdoor friendly. Get value the cord with the end that lights up when connected to power. It might seem kind of luxury, but it makes a huge difference. There are a lot of bum outlets out there (and maybe you don’t exactly have permission to plug into if you know what I’m saying). So having the lighted end settles that question right away (plug-in wherever, ask forgiveness later). I didn’t have the lighted end cord (rookie) but instead had gone with a plug-in surge protector that gave me two 110v outlets and two USB ports. It had a light on the top that let me know when power was connected. I can’t find my model, but have linked a similar one here.
If you wake up freezing and see the power indicator light is off, it helps you make moves quickly.
Hot Water Kettle
Another flea market find. Boiling water is a great asset to all sorts of nom-nom creations. A double-walled tumbler becomes your cook pot. Ramen anyone?
You may be thinking, um, hi, so isn’t car camping done boondock style? You usually don’t have power, right?
True! You can absolutely car camp in the winter sans power, but it won’t be comfortable. A lot of people will get an extra battery, hook it up to their car battery, so they have enough power. But that battery won’t keep a heater going all night. Same with solar, you won’t get enough of a charge.
Finding a power source is a lot easier than you think if you get creative on where you look.
But if not, have plenty of blankets, and NEVER sleep in wet clothes.
Rule of thumb, stay safe and never put yourself in any unnecessarily difficult situations.
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