How to prepare your truck (and yourself) for freezing temperatures
Winter is classically inhospitable. If you live in an area where temperatures are freezing or snowing (most of North America), you know how important it is to prepare your home for winter. The same goes for setting up your truck; Whether you’re a full-time or part-time truck driver, there are many ways to enjoy life on the road when the mercury drops.
Camping near ski resorts or near trails is a great way to reduce traffic, make the most of your ski day, and even save money. It’s a trick I use all the time.
But to do this, you need your truck to be warm.
Preparing your truck for winter starts with construction, but if you didn’t know you wanted to winter camp when you first started your trip with your truck, we have plenty of other solutions to help you stay warm and comfortable (post-construction). These tips are geared toward all budgets and sizes of pickup trucks.
As you read, use what you love and don’t bother with the rest, or pass it along to a friend who’s been wanting to spend more time in the snow, but isn’t quite sure how to get out there.
Winter Construction 101: Analyzing Your Needs
Planning your build is a fun, stressful, and shockingly time-consuming part of owning a campervan. You can spend hours searching YouTube and building your own, or work with an outfitter if the above idea scares you. Truck builds range from Cheap and reasonable (Like my house!) Into a luxurious little house on wheels.
The first step is to be completely honest about how often you will be in your truck, what you will use it for, what you need, and what you can live without. then, Make a budget. Not everyone needs fancy construction, a shower, or even electricity(!).
Really understanding your wants versus your needs—and what you can live without—will help you find what’s a true priority in your design. Talk about it with friends, ask other people who have pickup trucks, Look at other builds. I advise you to ease into your construction because you can come in later and add, change or delete things. Your construction is not always what it seems.
For example, I knew I had a limited budget, and my primary focus was to build a truck that wouldn’t require extensive work, but would last at least a few years until I had a better idea of exactly what I wanted. I knew I would be in my truck all year for up to 7-10 days at a time.
I knew I could do without running water and electricity, which kept my costs down, but I had to make adjustments to make sure I would feel warm, like prioritizing insulation. I own a 2013 Transit Connect with a few quirks I had to consider in my build.
Ways to stay warm in the truck
This is probably the number one way you will keep warm in the truck in the winter. Choosing the insulation in your truck is a vital step in your construction process. Sheep’s wool or spray foam are the most common types of insulation, but other options exist and can work well. Each type of insulation has its pros and cons.
We recommend doing in-depth research before committing to a specific type of insulation. You may also need different insulation for the floor or ceiling than the walls. Keep in mind that some trucks also have ribbed or curved walls or ceilings. When I disassembled my truck, I learned that it had slatted roofs and curved walls, which changed my insulation plan.
In my design, I used a combination of spray foam and foam boards with Reflectix in certain areas. Cons of foam include that some spray foam can tear sheet metal while expanding, so it should be used with caution. It’s also messy. It got a little stuck in my hair while I was building it.
Overall, foam board is easy to cut and install, and it has excellent durability R value (aka insulating properties) for the money spent. If you’re building yourself, you’ll over- or under-estimate your materials at some point and need to go to the hardware store, so purchasing locally available materials can be a lifesaver if you’re on schedule.
Electricity and heaters
If you choose to install the electricity yourself, or work with an outfitter who will do it for you, you have many heating options available. You can use a heated blanket at night or an electric heater. However, many electric heaters consume a lot of energy; We do not recommend it if you are using solar panels.
If you have a diesel truck, these heaters can be installed and integrated into your truck and will draw diesel from your fuel tank. You can leave this on overnight. Butane and propane heaters are also an option.
Mr. Heater Buddy is a popular choice, as there are many other models, but be sure to look for auto-shut-off and anti-tip features. Both propane and butane heaters come with carbon monoxide or tipping hazards. Please make sure you have proper ventilation, such as a fan, in your vehicle.
Additionally, having a carbon monoxide monitor and smoke alarm in your truck is vital.
One of the easiest ways to add electricity to your truck without dealing with wiring is to purchase a portable generator such as Jakiri or GoalZero. There are also many other brands available in the market. They can be powered via separately purchased solar panels, charged by your car, or plugged into a wall socket.
They come in all different sizes, or charging capacities. Some smaller models are great for charging a phone or laptop, while others can power small kitchen appliances. Models like the Jackery Explorer 1000 can run an electric blanket for up to 14 hours, which can keep you warm throughout the night and leave you without the need for a heater.
Portable generators can also recharge hand warmers and are generally very easy to use whether your truck has electricity or not.
Other heating tools
The value of plenty of warm blankets or a warm sleeping bag cannot be overestimated. A large, warm and cozy comforter can be your best friend on a cold night. I like to have extra blankets on hand on especially cold or snowy nights. I also like to keep blankets out Rumble And Nomadex On hand for campfire days, but works great as extra layers on cold nights.
Another option for warmth is hot Water bottles; You can heat water on the stove, fill it, and put it in your sleeping bag or under the covers for extra warmth.
Hand warmers, whether disposable or rechargeable, can add a little warmth to cold nights, but this is usually marginal because they only serve the extremities.
Considerations for trucks without propellers
If you choose not to have a fan in your truck, like mine, and rely on the insulation alone and the heating system in your truck that you will use while driving or operating the vehicle, you will need some way to ensure that you don’t do that. Your small space is overwhelmed with carbon monoxide.
A carbon monoxide monitor is a very important tool. If you have excellent insulation, your truck can retain the heat from your heater throughout most of the night, which means you should stay warm through most, if not all, of the night.
In addition, another ventilation tool is rain masks. Rain visors are inexpensive and easy to install, and allow you to keep your windows partially open at night and keep air flowing in your car.
Because I don’t use a blanket or electric heater, I turn on my truck’s heater before bed, with my windows rolled up, and turn the heater off before I go to sleep. I leave the windows cracked while I sleep. Rain visors help reduce the moisture entering my car and keep some air circulating.
Whether you choose to use a heater, or not use heat and rely on insulation and other tools, it is possible to stay warm even in single-digit temperatures.
We hope you can benefit from some of these ideas whether you’re just starting to plan your build or are on your journey with your camper. Go out and play in the snow by day, then enjoy a warm night inside the four walls of your winter truck.