How to keep warm in your vehicle

With the topic of gas still fresh and the colder camping season just around the corner, let’s talk a bit about keeping you and your van warm this Autumn and Winter. Those who are brave enough will “carry on camping” through the winter, here are some handy tips to keep you and your van safe and warm this winter.

Insulation

An important step to keeping your camper warm is to stop the heat escaping from the inside. This can be done by insulating the van as best you can.
The windows are one of the first areas to look at when insulating as they will lose a substantial amount of heat and will also create condensation when sleeping and cooking inside the van.
To insulate the windows, there are ready made thermo-screens that can be purchased as a set for most variants of the VW Camper. These are very effective and not too much hassle to fit and remove.
The other (cheaper) option is to make your own thermo-screens, although these may not be as effective, depending on how far you go with them. I had planned to trial this using radiator foil insulation between the glass and curtains on the side windows, but unfortunately haven’t had a chance yet. If a member has successfully managed to make their own window insulation and wants to share this, please let us know!
Other vital areas to insulate are the side panels, floor and roof. These are best done at anytime you may have the interior removed. There are several forms of insulation on the market and some can be used as sound deadening too, helping to stop panels from resonating and reducing road noise.
If you have a pop top roof, there are now pop top wraps available that insulate the material on the outside to stop heat escaping from this obvious weak spot.
If you are able to, an easy way to keep the heat in is to keep your roof closed overnight!

Heating

Now you have insulated the van to keep the heat inside it, what ways are there to heat your van?
VW campers are small spaces to heat so do not require systems such as those in larger motorhomes.
When camping, most people will have at least one fuel supply available to them, whether mains 230v from campsite hookups, or a gas supply for cooking.
The gas can be used to supply a heater called a Propex HeatSource. These can be fitted to all variants of T2, as long as you have a 12v supply. It is recommended that they are fitted by a professional.
The Propex is very popular, offering high efficiency and flexibility with fitment location.
The Propex HeatSource tends to retail between £450-£800 depending on the vehicle and the model.
Cheaper alternatives are available, but these will require a 230v mains supply.
Heating appliances such as fan heaters, halogen heaters, convector heaters and oil filled radiators are very good for heating the small space inside your camper and are readily available at very competitive prices.
Personally we have observed that fan heaters are good for a quick blast of heat, but the heat inside the camper tends to drop very quickly once turned off and we wouldn’t recommend using them overnight whilst asleep as they are noisy (and we wouldn’t trust it!).

Halogen heaters are good for heating awnings as they don’t physically get hot, but you need to be directly in front of these heaters to benefit from them, they don’t actually heat the space around you, therefore again not recommended for overnight use.

Convector heaters are very efficient and cheap to buy. They will heat a small space effectively and can be set up with a thermostat, making these good for overnight use. However, if anything is placed on them, there is a risk that the item will get incredibly hot, causing a fire risk.

Oil filled radiators are essentially a convector heater, but they store heat in the oil making them very efficient and can also be used with a thermostat. They can be used safely overnight and the other advantage of these heaters is that items of clothing such as socks can be left on them to warm up! The disadvantage of these heaters is that they are standalone and will take up additional space.

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About Nick Gillott

Website Manager and General Committee member of the Owners Club. Owner of Eric the Viking (converted panel van with Viking roof) undergoing complete restoration. Tinkerer to Poppy the camper van (1972 Crossover dormobile).