How To Heat A Camper Van With No Power – 9 Tips For Staying Warm
Starting to get organised with heating your caravan without power while you’re camping off-grid is an excellent way of ensuring that the cold weather doesn’t make any impact on what should be one of life’s greatest experiences.
In the winter, heating a caravan off-grid might make the difference between a pleasant journey and one you’d rather forget. If you’re considering camping off-grid, then you’ll want to make sure that the cold is kept outside and the warmth inside your caravan is retained.
Although Australians love beautiful summers, don’t be fooled: winter can still be cold! Especially if you go to the more rural and outback regions where nighttime temperatures may drop dramatically or any of the southern states.
Heating your caravan during winter is an important decision that you will need to make before winter arrives. There are many different options available, including Diesel heaters, Gas stoves and combination models with both fuel types combined in one device – but how do they work? Let’s explore these further!
Heating Your Caravan
These days, the Diesel Heater is perhaps the most popular way to heat your camper van.
The diesel-powered heater comes with a fuel tank, exhaust and intake systems that are all positioned externally on your camper van. The heater will have one or two air vents inside the vehicle. A 12-volt electricity supply will also be required.
Some people, especially those who live in colder climates, choose to tap into the diesel camper van’s fuel line instead of adding a second tank for the Diesel Heater. This method only works when the van runs on diesel.
In order to get the most from your diesel heater, you should position these vents near where you will place your seating area. The air supply should then direct heat into this area while exhausting somewhere else in the van. It’s a good idea to put the heater as far from your sleeping area as possible.
The Gas Heater is an excellent option for those who want to stay off-grid while camping. It connects easily to your existing gas bottle. That’s one less thing you need to worry about.
In a nutshell, they work similarly to diesel heaters in that combustion gases are kept distinct from the air in your van.
Just keep in mind that LPG supply and cost might vary considerably depending on where you live, while diesel is more readily available and stable in price.
Gas heaters do require a tiny amount of power. However, if you have a decent-sized battery in your van, this shouldn’t be an issue. Also, gas heaters must be installed by a qualified gasfitter in Australia, so don’t try to install them yourself.
Keep in mind that the colder the outside temperature is, the more gas you will go through with heating your caravan. Although it is possible to buy LPG in rural areas, the price and availability of LPG may differ significantly. On the other hand, Diesel is more readily available and stable in terms of price.
Another thing to consider is that gas heaters can produce a ‘wet heat,’ which equals humidity and condensation in the air. When you have condensation, you will have a higher chance of mould inside your van.
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Combination Air & Hot Water Heater
A Combination Air and Hot Water Heater is an excellent way to heat your camper van without using electricity.
The unit has three abilities:
- Heat just the water,
- Heat just the air in the van,
- Heat the air and the water at the same time.
Truma provides gas and diesel options for its air heater & hot water heater pair.
These heaters, on the other hand, are not inexpensive. The Truma gas heater combo costs around $2,800, while the Truma diesel heater combo runs upwards of $3,200.
Remember, if you have gas, you’ll need to hire a gas fitter to install the equipment or at least do the gas lines and sign off on it.
As we live in Australia, We don’t deal with sub-zero temps in a camper van, so here are 10 Tips for Living in a Camper in the Winter & Living to Tell the Tale
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Generator and 240v Heater & Generator
Generators have many uses, and one of the most popular is running electrical devices like air conditioners or heaters in a camper van. However, depending on what type you get, it can vary greatly as well!
For example, if your generator only has two hours worth of power, then any large device will drain more energy, which will drain the generator faster.
Another thing to consider is that generators that run on petrol produce more toxic fumes than diesel. There’s a greater chance of accidentally spilling fuel, so you should be careful if using one in your van.
With a generator, you will be able to run electrical devices, such as the camper van air conditioner or some 240-volt heaters. This depends mainly on the size of your generator and how much power the heater drawers – some of them can be extremely power-hungry!
I wouldn’t take the generator as a first choice. Generators can be inconvenient and extremely noisy, to name a few.
Keep in mind that most parks have a ‘Generator Off’ period for the benefit of all the campers. Even if you’re free camping at a park without specific generator regulations, as a polite gesture to your neighbours, you shouldn’t run it operate it 24 hours a day.
Running a generator so you can use a heater earlier in the day or at night is an option for warming up your caravan, but it’s not a smart choice when it’s really chilly outside, and you need to keep warm throughout the night.
If you are looking for a heating solution that doesn’t require power, a wood fireplace is a great option. Wood fireplaces are not as common in Australia as they are in some other parts of the world, but they can be a great way to heat your home.
Wood-burning stoves can be a very elegant way to heat your van. However, they require a lot of work to make sure you stay warm. You need to find wood, chop it into small pieces, and then light the fire.
This might not be too much of an inconvenience if you live in a rural area, but this can be quite a difficult task if you’re in the city.
Another thing to consider is that having so much wood around eventually means ants and other bugs will come inside your van.
Wood heaters also typically pump out a thick cloud of smoke, which is the last thing you want if there’s a bushfire alert in your area.
Finally, wood heaters do not provide instant warmth, and it can take a while for the fire to warm up the inside of your van. This means that you’ll have to give them quite a bit of time to cook.
Insulation helps keep the inside of your camper van warm in the winter and cool in the summer. It is important to insulate areas that are exposed to the weather, like the walls and roof.
Some people think it is a good idea to insulate the walls, doors, floors and roof of their van when living in a colder climate year-round. Others think this is not necessary.
You can buy products at hardware stores like Bunnings to buy your van insulation
Wherever you put it will depend on how comfortable or warm your van is, whether or not you live in a colder climate and what sort of insulation effect you are seeking.
12-volt Electric Blanket
Even on cold days, you can keep warm in your camper van. An electric blanket will help keep your body warm and comfortable. It’s not the same as other methods of heating the whole van.
Electric blankets usually have remote control wired in. You can use this to change the temperature. If you feel uncomfortable running them all night, you can turn it on before getting in. This is a safer option than leaving them on all night.
New electric blankets are pretty safe these days thou. Same are designed to automatically shut off after 45 minutes to prevent your battery from draining.
Hot Water Bottles
A great way to pre-heat your bed is by using hot water bottles. They are a low-cost and easy option to use.
You’ll need to heat up the water with a jug or pot. But once the water is ready, its a great way to keep yourself warm by using it throughout the night!
Be careful with hot water bottles. Some people have been burned when their bottles bursting and they get hot water everywhere.
This happens when people put too much in their bottles. This can damage the bottle and make it hard to work. You can avoid this by only putting in a small amount and by replacing the bottle regularly.
To use a hot water bottle, boil water and let it cool for a few minutes. Fill the water bottle to the capacity marked on the hot water bottle. You are ready to go.
Additional tips when using a hot water bottle
- Make sure to inspect the bottle for any cracks or leaks before using it.
- Wait for the water too cool before you put it in the bottle.
- However, the water still needs to be little hot in order to give you some good heat durning the night.
- You can use a bottle cover if it’s too hot for you.
- You should not fill the bottle all the way to the top
Cooking in the Caravan
Another approach to add warmth to a camper van is to cook inside it. On cold days, cooking within your camper van is fantastic since you can get a delicious hot meal as well as warm shelter.
Cooking within your van is a simple method since you’ll be cooking every day no matter where you go. This option does not need you to buy any additional gear.
Just be careful that you will need to keep ventilation to help the build up of condensation. That can course other issues such as mould.
Living in a camper van all year can be difficult, also if you don’t have a lot of electricity. You might not be able to use standard electric heaters. But there are a lot of other ways to keep warm.
You can use a variety of different methods to keep yourself warm, whether it is using an electric blanket or cooking inside the van. Just be sure to stay safe and comfortable while doing so!
Wade & Dani
Hi! We’re Wade and Dani, We’re currently travelling around Australia in our 2017 Mercedes Sprinter Camper van and sharing our best experiences, stories, reviews and adventures as we go along. Make sure you follow long on our Instagram