Plenty of gas in the tank. A road-worthy partner with an adventurous spirit and impeccable DJ skills. The road outstretched before you. There’s beauty, purity, and simplicity in a winter vanlife.
But, it’s not always smooth sailing. Especially in winter when that bone-chilling cold settles into large parts of the U.S. Thanks to a bevy of modern innovations, though, it’s possible to stay on the road, in almost any climate, indefinitely. This gear will help you quickly establish a solid basecamp for vanlifing.
BioLite CampStove 2 Bundle
The most critical issue to consider — the one that will dictate many of your decisions on the road — is how and where to find power. Power in the form of electricity for charging your gear, heat for sleeping comfortably, or fire for cooking. BioLite’s CampStove 2 Bundle is the simplest, most ingenious solution to all your power needs. It will be the Swiss Army knife of your car camping needs. It can light your kitchen, boil water, grill a pizza, and power your gadgets. The only thing it asks of you is a steady supply of crispy tinder. The entire setup collapses into the included Kettle pot which is nary larger than a two-liter soda bottle.
Pelican Elite Cooler
It’s easy to think a cooler is a cooler is a cooler. Just dust off your pappy’s dusty metal Coleman and be on your way, right? If you’re serious about vanlifing, a proper cooler is a must. Remember this will be your refrigerator — the storehouse for your campfire beer, bacon, and bratwurst — so, invest wisely. Pelican’s line of coolers is thick, heavy duty, and designed for maximum ice retention. The Elite 30QT is a solid all-around size for car camping. With efficient cooler management (trust us, this is a critical skill to master), we’ve managed six-day ice retention. That’s nearly a full week off-grid.
The Perfect Sleep Space
Setting up the perfect winter vanlife bedroom isn’t about a single piece of gear. You need equipment to keep warm, dry, and comfortable. The Rumpl Original Puffy Blanket is a good place to start. It has all the tech of a sleeping bag — it’s lightweight, made of ripstop nylon, and packs down small. But, the open-sided design means it easily doubles as a campfire/ground blanket. Their upgraded Down Puffy Blanket is only $50 more, but good down to 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
For the right mattress, you can’t go wrong with anything from Thermarest. But, if you’d prefer something a little closer to the feel of a traditional mattress, check out the folding foam varieties from LUCID. Their 3-inch Folding Mattress-Sofa is super-lightweight, comfortable, and versatile. It opens into a decent-sized mattress that fits in the back of even a medium-sized SUV (with the seats down, of course). But, it can also fold up into a sofa-like setup for relaxing by the campfire.
If you’re after a bit of luxury in your vanlife, the Euro Blackcan Heat Camping Mat can keep you warm at night in extreme conditions. It uses an automatic hot water heating system to keep the attached sleep pad toasty all night long. It weighs around six pounds, packs down small, and runs off standard butane canisters for up to 24 hours.