Six tips for surviving your first #vanlife winter

Six tips for surviving your first #vanlife winter


Hailing from wherever her van takes her, Icelantic athlete Anna Tedesco has spent the last year calling the road home. After surviving her first winter in her mobile abode, she’s got a few tips on how you, too, can comfortably live the #vanlife next ski season. For more motor-home hacks head to

Alas! My pipes have thawed, I can sleep without a puffy jacket and my diesel heater has not kicked on in days. Although I am reluctant to throw in the powder day towel, I cannot help but savor the warm temps and earthy scents that accompany spring. Not to toot my own horn, but I can confidently say that I have survived, no, THRIVED through my first #vanlife winter, without a dog nor dude to keep me warm.

If you are planning on living out of your vehicle next winter, these tips will help keep you comfortable enough to rest easy in your own space, rather than spend the season couch surfing your way around ski towns.


Take the time and effort to properly insulate your space! I found great success with my cedar walls and wool insulation. The cedar siding soaks up excess moisture and contains a thick layer of moisture wicking wool insulation to completely eliminate the common issue of overnight condensation. Havelock Wool is also stuffed tight in every nook and cranny of my van, especially the doors. My mom and I crafted up insulation for my side door window from a sheet of reflectix, cute fabric, neodymium magnets and a lot of spray adhesive. A wool fire curtain hangs between my living space and cab for both heat containment and privacy.


Maybe you believe your body heat and a -40 degree sleeping bag will keep you comfy all winter long, but that system just would not cut it for me and my sanity. After weighing all heat options including propane, wood stove, diesel and electric, I went full send on an Espar D2 heater that taps into my diesel fuel tank and combusts an impressive amount of hot, dry air into the van. The high altitude kit keeps it running efficiently at different oxygen concentrations, and the “easy start timer” lets me program specific times of the day for the heater to kick on. If you are running on diesel, 10/10 recommend a diesel heater for dry, reliable heat.


Easier said than done, right? Us skier folk can talk about the hottest/coldest/driest/trendiest gear all day long, but even with next year’s 1000L Gore-Tex tri-zip technology, your gear will eventually lose its waterproofing integrity. Let’s be honest, if you’re living out of your van odds are you don’t have the latest and greatest gear anyways. Once I return back home after a day of skiing pow, I immediately hang my wet gear from a daisy chain that is rigged up across my sliding side door. My heater is installed under the passenger seat, so that it cranks air up towards my wet gear when I turn it on. (Don’t forget to pull the footbeds from your liners and the liners from your boots and hang those, too!) If my boot liners and mittens are still soaked in the morning, I resort to the ol’ gear-in-dashboard trick with defrosters blasting heat while driving to the mountain. Also a great place to heat up your breakfast burrito when you are in a pinch for time.


If you are spending multiple days in sub-freezing temperatures like all skiers do, chances are at some point your pipes or water supply are going to freeze solid. Prepare for this moment by keeping a tea kettle filled with water at all times, so you can toss it onto a flame and thaw the ice when you need it. The easier way around this is to sleep with a full Nalgene in bed with you. If you somehow prevent your water supply and pipes from freezing all together, well, congrats, you have that system much more dialed than I do.

PHOTO: Marcus Catlett


If you don’t sleep in the confinements of your sleeping bag in the comfort of your own home, why would you do so in the comfort of your own van? The homier your mobile abode feels, the more inclined you are to sleep there than your buddy’s couch. So go ahead, treat yo’self to the thickest, heaviest down on the market. Don’t forget to spend the extra dollar on a duvet to easily wash your dirtbag stench away.


If all else fails and you just need a freakin’ break from the cold, just find a homie’s couch to crash on. Better yet, find a cozy looking mountain man at the local bar and you are guaranteed a warm nights rest.

Remember to ALWAYS clean up after yourself, bring beer and bake cookies to ensure you will be welcomed back.