Hi-van is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on my site, I may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more
Winters in northern climates are bitterly cold, and spending time inside your car can be a bit of a challenge with temperatures going way below freezing point. Even though sleeping inside your car can be inexpensive and sometimes better than putting up a tent, is it safe to do so?
It can be safe to sleep in your car in the winter if it isn’t too cold. However, you have to take necessary precautions before you can safely sleep for four to six hours. These precautions include carrying lots of blankets, using warmers, and using the car heater or a portable one.
Winter is here and, in this article, I will tell you how you can safely sleep inside your car while taking a break from traveling.
Use Blankets To Keep Yourself Warm
Blankets are known to be one of the most convenient ways to keep yourself warm during winters. They provide comfort and warmth, and you don’t need to regulate the thermostat.
While traveling for long distances during winter, pack plenty of warm blankets.
You can also use them to warm the floor of your van so that you’re not spending time warming the van. Space and electric blankets are best suited for long journeys during winters.
Related Articles: How to Sleep Comfortably in the Front Seat of a Car Can You Sleep in Your Car in National Parks?
Space blankets are also called Mylar Thermal Blankets and are made of thin, flexible, and heat-reflecting material, which makes them light and warm. It is effortless to carry space blankets and use them inside the car.
These blankets increase the humidity near the skin, thus preventing your body from feeling cold because of the evaporation of sweat. It is recommended that you keep your body dry while using them. They also act as a barrier to cold winds entering your car, retaining 90% of body heat.
Here are two blankets that I recommend using:
- FalconTac Emergency Thermal Blanket: This is an excellent option if you are looking to buy blankets in bulk quantity. This pack of 10 is aluminized on either side and helps retain up to 90% of body heat and it’s available on Amazon.com.
- Swiss Safe Emergency Mylar Thermal Blankets: Another great option is the Swiss Safe Thermal Blankets which are also available on Amazon.com. This pack of four uses a military-grade aluminum coating on both sides. Every pack also contains one gold-colored space blanket.
An electric blanket is a type of blanket that gets heated when charged. However, the blanket does not get overheated, which makes it safe to use, even when it is plugged in.
For best results, you can heat the sleeping area in your car with it and then fully charge it before you use it as a blanket. It takes minimal time to charge, ensuring that it does not drain your car battery.
Here are a couple of great options for you that are both available on Amazon.com:
Bedsure heated blanket includes a reliable temperature monitoring system for overheating protection, automatically turning off when exceeding a certain temperature.
- Bedsure Heated Blanket Electric Throw: This blanket has a temperature monitoring option to ensure the blanket does not get overheated. Also, it shuts off after 3 hours of use, so you need to keep that in mind when buying this.
SOFT AND COZY – Double layers 220GSM flannel brings an optimal sense of softness and comfort. It is ideal for using on couch, sofa, and bed, or to wrap up in while watching television, reading a book or just relaxing and soothe aching muscles, also makes it a good choice for office, bring you a warm and comfortable living experience.
- Westinghouse Electric Blanket: The Westinghouse has 12 temperature settings and shuts off after 12 hours of use. Also, it has two user controls.
Keep Your Car Warm With Reflective Foam Insulation
Reflective foam insulation is made of foam to prevent heat transfer from the car to the outside by reflecting the heat inside the vehicle. It can save up to 97% of heat in cars, which ensures a good night’s sleep even in extreme colds.
Since it comes in a roll, you can cut it in the size of your windows and use them accordingly.
One layer of closed-cell foam bonded between two layers (1 layer of highly reflective metalized aluminum polyester film and 1 layer of durable textured white vinyl facing). Industrialized strength, lightweight yet durable insulation designed to hold staples without tearing.
The Reflective Foam by AES (available on Amazon.com), for example, is a 48” x 5” x 5” (122 x 13 x 13 cm) foam roll sandwiched between one aluminum layer and one vinyl layer for maximum heat retention.
It is neither affected by moisture nor humidity and does not gather fungus or other microbes.
Use a Portable Heater
Most cars come with built-in heaters. However, people still buy and use portable heaters when sleeping in the car because of the following reasons:
- Any blockage in exhaust pipes could release carbon monoxide, resulting in poisoning or even death.
- Frequent switching on and off car heaters could freeze the engine.
Looking at the above disadvantages of using car heaters, I recommend using portable heaters. They are simple, efficient, and easy to carry. In addition to heating the car, portable heaters quickly defrost windows, which will also save the maintenance and repair costs of car heaters.
Most people use catalytic heaters that convert propane into heat. Some portable heaters may convert oil to heat, and some may use fans to circulate the existing heat.
There are many other types of portable heaters available in the market, and some of the best ones are as follows, and are both found on Amazon.com:
- Mr. Heater MH18B. This little propane-fueled heater won’t require any electrical outlets or voltage-matching, which makes it superbly simple to use. It also has an auto-shutoff, which is crucial when it comes to camper heaters. This great heater has lasted me well over three years without any issues, and it always keeps my pop-up toasty in temps below 20 ºF (-6.7 ºC).
- 12V Car Heater by FILBAKE: This heater connects to the cigarette lighter socket and quickly heats the car.
Related Article: How Cold Is Too Cold for a Pop-Up Camper?
Use Your Car Heater Safely
Car heaters are beneficial, but it is recommended to take certain precautions when using them for long hours, especially if you are sleeping inside the car. Some of these precautions are as follows:
- Use the car heater for small intervals to quickly warm the car.
- Keep in mind how the heater operates and use safety instructions accordingly.
- The heating capacity of a car heater is sometimes different from portable car heaters, so try to use it wisely.
It is potentially safe to sleep in the car during winters, provided you know the pros and cons of various methods to keep you warm. It is essential to consider the car size, type of blanket used, and type of portable heaters used to avoid unnecessary and avoidable accidents.
You should not rely on car heaters as they are potentially risky and require alertness while in use. Use reflective foam insulation and space blankets while sleeping in a car during winters.
A combination of all three is the best way to keep yourself warm inside your car during winters.
Find this content useful 🙂 ?
Subscribe to our Newsletter and get a free electric diagram + shopping list.
Here are some of my favorite van life essentials:
Thank you for reading this article. I hope you found it helpful as you’re experiencing your life on the road. Here are some tools and gadgets I use on a daily basis that made my van life a lot easier. I hope you’ll also find them as useful as me. These are affiliate links, so if you do decide to purchase any of them, I’ll earn a commission.
But in all honesty, these are the exact tools that I use and recommend to everyone, even my closest friends and family.
Kitchen: I’m cooking a lot and I’ve finally found my perfect cookware set: The Magma Cookware 10 Pcs that you can nests and store in less than 1/2 cubic foot of cabinet space is really handy. Since I’m also spending a lot of time working at my desk, I use my favorite coffee mug from Yeti. For more, check my list of kitchen accessories I can’t live without.
Outdoor: Even though I’m spending a lot of time in my van working, I do enjoy getting out and explore my ever-changing neighborhood. This sometimes requires me to take my portable solar battery with me. And when I just want to chill outside and take a nap, I use the Winner Outfitters Hammock.
Clean/Tidy: Space is precious and therefore I used these heavy-duty storage bins from Homs to store my material. They’re robust and you can stack them together. Regarding showering, I like to use this portable solar shower from Advanced Elements when it’s hot outside.
To see all of my most up-to-date recommendations about van life, check out this resource that I made for you!