Two weeks of winter car camping in the mountains coming up!
This is a step by step tutorial video on how to sleep in your car in the winter.
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How to winter car camp:
1.) One of the most important things to consider when winter car camping (this may seem obvious) is the weather and what you sleeping gear is rated to. If you have a -25 sleeping bag, but the forecast calls for -35, don’t risk it and just wait until you are within your limit. Better to be safe than sorry.
2.) Have a good down winter sleeping bag that is well insulated along with a winter sleeping pad (I use the ExPed Downmat HL Winter Sleeping Pad and the Malaspina -25C sleeping bag from Kluane Mountaineering). Remember to cinch you sleeping bag draw string closed as much as you can as to not loose the warmth inside the bag.
3.) Layers! Laying your clothing is extremely important! For you base layers, I highly recommend merino wool products (socks, long underwear (pants and shirt), glove liners, neck warmer and hat). They will keep you warm, but if you start to sweat, they will whisk away your moisture (and it’s not itchy!). I created a gear & product review video on merino wool specifically if want to learn a bit more about it:
In addition to your base layers, sleep in your coat and pants (preferably warm fleece pants and a great down jacket). You will want to completely cover your face if it gets quite cold. I have a long hat that pulls down all the way to my chin where my neck warmer meets and I overlap the seams.
4.) You will need to put a few things inside your sleeping bag to sleep with you. First of all is your water bottle. If you don’t put this in your bag and it’s cold enough, it will freeze overnight and you wont have water to drink. Also keep and spare empty water bottle in the bag for when nature calls and you don’t want to get out of your bag. It’s also wise to keep your next days cloths in the bottom of your bag. This will keep them warm and putting them on in the morning wont be so painful in the morning. It might also be wise to keep a flashlight in there with you too.
5.) Finding a parking spot can sometimes be tricky. You don’t usually want to be caught car camping in a residential neighbourhood. So make sure to pick a spot that isn’t directly in front of someones house. Also stay away from street lights. But if you are parking in a public space, put up black blinds over your windows. In the summer, black sheets work fine, but in the winter, invest in some reflective foam insulation and cut them to the of your windows. Paint or cover the outside of the insulation in black as to be inconspicuous to people walking past your vehicle, while keeping the silver/reflective side in the vehicle. This will bounce your heat back to you while you sleep.
Another note is if you have a car alarm, lock yourself in the vehicle. But when you wake up in the morning, make sure to UNLOCK you vehicle before you put the keys in the ignition to turn the heater on. If you don’t do this, your car alarm will go off and wake everyone up drawing unwanted attention to you (I’ve learned this the hard way;).
6.) This one is IMPORTANT! When car camping in general, there NEEDS to be a way for your Co2 to exit the vehicle and a way for new O2 to come in. So make sure that you have a window cracked open at least an inch or two.
7.) Personal safety. Make sure to have a portable stove, warm blankets, extra food, water and supplies just incase you become stranded. If you are going out of cell reception, bring along a satellite phone or emergency beacon. Running out of gas, car problems, or getting snowed in are all very real scenarios that happen everyday and if you are caught unprepared and without contact, this can turn into a deadly situation especially in the cold.
8.) Remember to carry a small ice scraper inside your vehicle. As you sleep, you are exhaling which creates a layer of condensation which freezes in the cold creating frost on the inside of the windows. You will need to scrape the inside and the outside of your windows.
These tips are just my own personal tips that I use and have found useful to me, but everyone is different. Do not go only off this advice. Do your own research and be safe… and have fun!