Is It Safe To Sleep in Your Car in the Winter?


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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? 

Is It Safe To Sleep in Your Car in the Winter?

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

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
  • Aluminized Mylar
  • Lightweight and durable
  • Designed to retain up to 90% of your body heat
  • 100% money-back guarantee
If you make a purchase, you support Hi-van.com by allowing me to earn an affiliate commission (no added cost for you).
  • 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.

Electric Blankets

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 Electric Throw

Bedsure heated blanket includes a reliable temperature monitoring system for overheating protection, automatically turning off when exceeding a certain temperature.

If you make a purchase, you support Hi-van.com by allowing me to earn an affiliate commission (no added cost for you).
  • 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.
Westinghouse Electric Blanket Queen Size

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.

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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. 

Reflective White Foam Insulation Heat Shield

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.

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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 Propane Heater
  • 4, 000, 9, 000, or 18, 000 BTU per hour
  • Heats up to 450 sq. ft.
  • Hi-Med-Low heat settings
If you make a purchase, you support Hi-van.com by allowing me to earn an affiliate commission (no added cost for you).
  • 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.
Related Articles:
Is Sleeping in Your Car Bad for You?
Should You Turn Your Car Off While Sleeping?

Conclusion

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.


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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.
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Martin

As an independent traveler, I try to share my positive and negative observations about van life as well as tips and tricks to make your life on the road easier. I travel and work in my old RV and would greatly appreciate a coffee from you if you find my content useful.

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