How I Stay Warm in My Small Van Without Using Heat

2018-0676-Page, AZ Studley

This is a question I get asked a lot, and naturally, there are a lot of ways I can stay warm in my rig which is an AWD Astro Van, one of the smaller vans out there that is still just big enough to live in comfortably full-time (at least for a small person like me).

To warm up this small space I could run the engine, but that’s only a quick, temporary solution, and not recommended for long periods because it’s not good for the engine, or I could use a propane heater, such as a Little Buddy, which is a heater that connects to a Coleman fuel canister, or I could even run my propane stove for heat (but that’s not very safe when I’m moving around in a small space).

I do own a Little Buddy heater and I have used it in rare circumstances. By that, I mean when it gets cold, like below 40 F down to freezing or below, or below zero. However, propane comes with its own problems; Using propane causes condensation inside your rig almost immediately, which can drip down the walls or freeze up on the inside of the window causing a thick layer of frost, which drips down once it defrosts again. When it gets really cold, it can be difficult to keep the heater running because the canister can get too cold so the propane gets too cold, and then the heather won’t be able to function properly. Sometimes the canister itself has to be heated before the stove will work properly. Also, there is a risk of carbon monoxide building up in your rig, so it’s necessary to keep a window cracked no matter how cold it is outside. Another issue I have with using heaters is that heat rises and cold drops, so with this being such a tiny space my head with be hot, and my feet will be cold. Additionally, my van is small, therefore the inside space is small, and unless the temperatures outside are super cold and dropping, I can get cooked out of my van very quickly, and anything bigger than a Little Buddy would just be too much. The canisters are also rather costly, so unless you have a big propane tank and the tools to fill your green Coleman tank yourself, it can get very expensive

2018-0010-New Years Day Cooking in Studley

One option for heat would be my cooking stove which is hooked up to a 1-gallon propane tank.

If I’m sitting at my computer working, and I turn the Little Buddy heater on, I’ll be too hot within minutes, so I’ll get up and turn it off, then I’ll be too cold within minutes, and on it goes. The only time a Little Buddy heater works well in this small rig (at least for me), is when it’s well below freezing outside, then with a window cracked I can stay comfortable.

So I actually prefer to not use a heat source if I can avoid it, and over the years I’ve figured out a very simple way of staying warm and comfortable when it gets chilly in my van all the way down to about 40 F or so, and then still using this trick along with heat when it actually comes times to turn the heat on. I find that doing this will keep my feet, legs, and body toasty while I watch movies, read, cook, work on my laptop or whatever, and in this manner I don’t have to turn on another heat source until I reach the point where my fingers start to turn numb, and it gets too cold for comfort.

For those of you who find it easier to watch a video than to read I’m going to direct you to a video on my YouTube Channel by clicking here: HOW TO STAY WARM IN YOUR RIG WITHOUT USING A HEATER.

If you enjoy my video please consider subscribing AND ringing my bell (its next to the subscribe button on my YouTube Channel, and it ensures you will get notifications of new videos).

For those of you who are unable to watch the video, here is how I stay warm; I wear down clothing.

My feet are usually the first thing to get cold, and sometimes even on sunny warm days my feet may be cold and the rest of me warm. Down booties will keep my feet warm, and if you buy the kind that have hard soles you can hop in and out of your rig even on snowy days. I also wear a down sock inside my down booties, for additional warmth. When my legs start to get cold, I pull on a lightweight pair of down pants over my leggings, which are loose-fitting. They don’t have to be great big bulky heavy pants like you would wear if you were skiing or mountaineering, they just need to be comfortable and a little bit oversized. And then, of course, I have a loose-fitting down jacket for the upper part.

One person on my YouTube channel commented that they would feel claustrophobic with all those layers on, perhaps so, but surprisingly I don’t (and I do get that way with heavy, stiff layers). But the wonderful thing about down clothing is that it’s as light as feathers (well almost) and if the pants and jacket are oversized they are very comfortable. Additionally,  you will find that down works better when it is not tight-fitting because the feathers can fluff up more, and therefore keep you warmer (imagine a bird fluffing up its feathers on a cold winter morning), that is how down works best. When the clothing is tight, the feathers get flattened, and they don’t insulate your body as well.

I learned these tips from a friend who used to winter camp out of his vehicle, and once he was encased in down, he found he could hang out in camp, cook, read, relax, or whatever, very comfortably in quite cold temperatures. Since I adopted this practice, I too can relax in my van, work on my computer, cook, watch a movie or whatever, until it gets really, really cold, and save on heating costs. Additionally, if you do decide to still use heat, having down pants and booties, will at least keep your lower half warm, while the upper half sweats.

3084c Studley

I hope you find this article and/or the video helpful, and I hope this blog post answers some of your questions about why I put off using a heater for as long as I can.

Roxy ~ A Nomad for Nature

Here are some links to look at for ideas on down clothing:

Western Mountaineering Unisex Down Booties – Down Socks – More down booties – A variety of down pants in different price ranges:,, Little Buddy Heater – I’d also recommend Sierra Trading Post and other Outdoor Closeout Sites. I got my jacket on STP for about 1/8 of its normal price because it was an older style.


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4 responses to “How I Stay Warm in My Small Van Without Using Heat

  1. Your blog post title indicated I would find out how you stay warm without using heat. Unfortunately, I’m in reading mode, and not in a position to watch a video with sound. Alas, I must move on, none the wiser. A written description, with an image or two, would have been appreciated.


    • A written description has been added for you and anyone else who doesn’t have the ability to watch a video. Unfortunately, I am unable to get my tripod out and take pictures of myself or my stuff at this time, but I have added some links to suggestions for you. I will add some pictures another day when I have the time. Thank you once again for setting me straight, I hope you will accept my apology for creating such a disappointing post. 🙂 Roxy


  2. Video vs print. It’s why there are hundreds of stations, channels, and web sites, while our local paper dies a slow death.


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