Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Winter Living in the Van

So its been getting pretty cold out recently, especially at night, so no bare feet for a while. I've actually been looking forward to it, since the whole thing is a real adventure to me, but when it gets down to below freezing every night, it does become a real matter of survival. I have a diesel heater in the van, but it has turned out to be pretty useless - it uses up the house battery far too quickly and I'm not driving far enough to charge it, nor is there enough solar power in the winter to keep it charged up. As you know - I am opting not to charge from mains electricity, nor do I often have access to it. I do have enough power for all my other needs though.

Instead I have gone for a small propane heater. I've linked it up to my cooking 6kg propane cylinder using a small 3 way valve, and a quick release coupling, with rubber tubing. The 3 way valve has a control knob, allowing me to reduce the flow of gas to the heater, and also to shut off the gas flow to that hose completely. If I pop the quick release the heater can be removed and stored away in the summer months. I have used enough rubber hose to enable me to position the heater in a few useful locations in the van. So far, one 6kg bottle of propane is lasting me 1 month in the winter weather - One bottle lasted me 5 months over the summer.

I've also now purchased a good 4 season sleeping bag. A Mountain Hardware Lamina 0, which is good down to -15 deg C (0 deg F). I found it to be very warm, roomy and comfortable, and I've been using it with a liner so it won't have to be washed so often, important with a bag that will be used every night. For extremely cold nights (below 0), or when I have a head cold I don't want to be breathing freezing air, so I do need heat to be on in the van throughout the night in order to stay healthy. I have installed a carbon monoxide detector so I can leave the heater on safely all night if needed. With good ventilation from the sky light, there is a good flow of fresh air, without the van getting cold inside. I only intend to do this when the outside temp drops below zero, in order to save fuel.

Another addition for winter is an Indoor/Outdoor temp gauge which I have fitted alongside my electrical sockets, plainly visible form my sofa/bed. I routed the outside sensor though an existing hole in the floor and attached it to the van's chassis. I can now keep an eye on the actual temp where I am parked and see the difference inside and outside. It is actually very cosy sitting in the van on a winter evening by the heater, watching TV on the laptop, reading or listening to music, and its not draughty - I've even found that some friends houses are colder!
I made this video in which I show you some of the things I've talked about here and show my heater running, enjoy, and keep warm and safe this winter:

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