Top 20+ amazing Tips for Car Camping in Winter

Car camping in winter, this is a great way to stay warm through the night. In wintertime, sleeping in a car can be enjoyable or unpleasant, depending on how well you plan ahead.

You see, car camping has different obstacles to overcome in winter months than in the summer months. The main one is the extreme cold and preparing for every possible contingency that could occur ahead of time.

Cold-weather camping is a great way to savor those quiet moments and surroundings that only winter can provide — pristine snow-covered fields, early evenings and early mornings, a warm fire — yet even some seasoned campers are balking at the prospect.

It’s easier than you might think to live at ease when camping in winter. If you are not prepared, you’ll be in trouble, So check weather reports to make sure that you can accommodate the conditions in your tent, sleeping bag and clothing. It’s best to keep it easy on your first trip — stick to widely followed winter routes, and save that week-long excursion for when you’ve got more experience.

The 20 + tips for car camping in winter are below. We all don’t need to make a successful winter car camping trip in winter months. Alternatively, choose the ones that fit your budget and needs best. The ultimate goal is to stay safe and warm so you can get a good night’s sleep and enjoy your entire trip, no matter what tips you end up using.

Now let’s get into the list without further ado (which isn’t in any particular order of importance)!

Car Camping In Winter

How to Stay Warm during Car Camping In Winter Season

1. Isolating the car using reflective foam insulation :

When it comes to keeping your car warm, there are two main issues: producing enough heat, and maintaining the heat inside as long as possible. The second problem is solved enormously by using foam insulation and adding it to your car windows.

You can cut them out to suit your car windows by using transparent foam insulation (which you can get at any home improvement store) and conveniently store them until it’s time to go camping. This is both a fairly cheap way of insulating your car for winter as well as a way of having some protection and secrecy.

There are 5 simple steps to follow to do that right:

  • Purchase some reflective foam insulation that is 1-2 inches thick in a nearby home improvement store
  • Cut them out to match each of your car windows (it’s important to cut them right so they fit perfectly in your windows when you’re ready to use them)
  • Tap the edges to keep them nice and clean
  • Paint the outer side black and mirror the inside (this keeps you quiet when reflecting heat back into the car)
  • Store them up until ready to use. They should fit nice and snugly in your windows without any further modifications

2. Invest in a sleeping bag and foam mattress for good winter :

If you really want to stay warm in your car in winter, this tip to get a really good sleeping bag is probably a top priority. Besides having a really good winter sleeping bag designed for the temperatures you’re going to be up against, getting a foam mattress will give you great insulation underneath.

There are many sleeping bags and camping mattress choices out there, so it’s best to find out what’s right for you. In the case of very cold temperature, the best tip for a sleeping mattress is to avoid any air mattress, it will take more heat from you than a foam one needs.

3. Use a car heater which is portable :

Bringing a portable camping-car heater along can be an easy way to take off the pressure of the cold temperature. You can go with a few different types of heaters, those running from your lighter cigarette to those running on propane.

Because cars are so limited in space, making sure you have some precautions set up to make sure you don’t get co2 poisoning while you are sleeping is very important.

For example, it’s important to have a window open for ventilation when running a heater inside your car which outputs co2. On top of that, a portable carbon monoxide detector can go a long way to ensuring you are always in safe conditions. If you don’t want to go out and purchase a completely separate carbon monoxide detector, some heaters have low oxygen sensors which will automatically turn the heater off.

Besides all these precautions, I personally wouldn’t recommend running this sort of heater while sleeping all night in a car–the risk really isn’t worth it. Instead, it’s perfect for right before bed and to get the car warm easily as soon as you wake up.

4. Layers layers layers!

A great line of defense will begin with what you wear on going to bed. I know stripping down might be nice, but it may not be a clever thing to do when it is 10 degrees negative outside. Layering up on both your upper and lower body possibly is in your best interest. Besides, if you want to maintain as much heat as possible, caps, gloves, and socks are a must.

5. Bring some extra wool blankets :

When things end up getting colder than expected, having extra blankets around is always a great idea. Such extra blankets are great not only to place over you but also to work in combination with a strong foam mattress pad as a perfect insulator underneath you.

6. Run your car heater correct before sleeping :

While we sleep, we have the luxury of being able to take advantage of all the facilities that the car itself provides. It means the car has a heating system. It’s a smart idea to keep the car warm for longer in combination with other heating ideas to blast the car’s heating system just before you hit the sack. Use it until you can hardly bear it to retain warmth for as long as you can.

7.  Don’t miss a window scraper :

Sleeping in a car all night can allow a certain amount of moisture to build up inside your vehicle. The build-up will really depend on how much ventilation you’ve had with your windows open overnight. In the event of condensation on your glass, expect them to freeze over. It will take too long for your car to heat up and melt all your windows to be able to see out safely, so speed up the process and make sure you’ve got a window scraper (or even a towel) to get the ice off your windows in the morning!

And of course, the outside might build up some that will need to take care of too (especially if it snowed).

8. Heat up rocks or bricks, before going to bed, with a fire outside :

Alternatively, you can always make a fire if you don’t have a heater, heat up some rocks or bricks and place them inside the car. But, if you end up doing this, make sure that the rocks or bricks don’t hit your car’s surface. Place rocks below them, instead, and restrict the surface area they reach so that more heat is transmitted to the air. This is a perfect and virtually free way to get some heat that will last for a couple of hours in your car.

9. The higher you are inside your car, the better :

Unfortunately, heat will not stay on your car’s floor -it’s rising! Building a platform or bringing a cot to sleep on will bring you that much closer to your car’s ceiling, where the most heat goes to.

10. Take enough ways to charge your electronics :

Not only does the cold affect our body, it can also affect your batteries and make them lose their charging faster. A decent portable solar charger can be the perfect solution for charging your whole electronics while you’re sleeping without exhausting your car battery.

Tip: Take your devices with you into your sleeping bag to keep them warm so they won’t get affected by the cold and frost they’d be exposed to outside your sleeping bag.

11. Choosing the right place to park :

If you have a preference, try to be careful where you’re parking. Since it’s best to have the windows slightly open to let air in, a really windy area will suck the heat right out of your vehicle. Try to park in a wind-protected area, like the side of a building, or next to a hill, or trees if you’re in the wild.

It’s also smart to park in a position that gets the earliest exposure to the sun so you’re the car starts heating up as soon as possible in the morning.

12. In your sleeping bag, make your hand warmers :

Hand and foot warmers aren’t a very reliable and adequate source of heat for extremely cold temperatures, but if your trip is only for a few nights then having a few warmers to put your sleeping bag inside at night will be an easy way to keep your feet from freezing.

13. Inside your sleeping bag, add boiling water to bottles :

Let’s say you’ve got no hand warmers, then what? Okay, if you can start a fire and have extra bottles: boil some water, put it in the bottles, and drop it under your blankets.

Tip: Bring a good insulated bottle with you to get some hot water as soon as you wake up too!

14. Have a sufficient way to dry your clothes :

It’s pretty nice to say wet clothing is no fun. And since we’re camping in the winter while it’s cold out, it’s going to take a long time for things to dry out. Use things like boot heaters to dry out your shoes can be an effective way to dry up overnight wet shoes.

But, if you do not have any other way to dry out your clothes and shoes, if you have nothing else, using a hot car engine to dry your clothes can be the next best option.

15.  Keep your car window cracked :

Listen to me first for knowing the reason!

Holding your car window cracked open will prevent too much moisture from building up, even in the winter. Not only will this moisture build-up on your skin, but if there is enough–it will start building up on all the rest. The last thing you want when you wake up is to cover your sleeping bag in cold.

Tip: We also have portable car dehumidifiers (the times we live in are great), which will help seriously avoid the build-up of moisture (which will freeze and will not be fun to get off).

16. Save money during the summer season, and buy winter gear :

Plan ahead and try buying your summer winter gear to get some better deals. The savings you’ll get are not crazy good, but if you’re smart enough to think about your potential camping-car trips ahead of time, they can be worth buying before winter comes!

17. Make the use of a car electric blanket :

It’s up to debate whether or not it’s recommended to fall asleep with an electric car blanket on or not, but it’s certainly an effective way to heat up your entire body with an even source of heat.

Staying on the safe side is a safe bet, using it up until you sleep. And if you end up waking up in the middle of the night, it is always a viable option to turn it on until you get warmed back up.

18. If in your setup something has failed then wake up every few hours to reheat cabin :

Let’s just say all of your heat sources failed. You can’t make a spark, you don’t have a car heater, you don’t have any hand heaters, nothing.

Your next best bet is to wake up every few hours (or whenever your body wakes you from being so cold), fire up your car and blast the heat as described in tip 7 above. Sure, you’re not going to get a full night of sleep, but at least that will help you to enjoy a couple of hours of sleep that’s a lot better than none.

19. Get your car ready for the cold temperatures :

Making sure your car is fit to drive after a cold night is at the top of the priorities. The worst thing that can happen is when it’s freezing out you get stuck in the middle of nowhere and have only 2 days worth of supplies.

Start thinking of having extras of each element that are more likely to fail in the cold. Think about things like an additional car battery and spark plugs.

Additionally, in case of a failure, having extra gas, jumper cables, and a spare tire can be a lifesaver. Winter grade oil, windshield washer formulated for the cold and winter tires will help keep your car on the road even more.

Tip: I personally never used one, but if your car doesn’t do well in the cold or it’s expected to be very cold when you go on your camping trip, it might be a good idea to have an engine cover. It is the only practical way of keeping your car warm overnight.

20. Check your setup :

Please test your system before going to the middle of nowhere and living in a car during the winter, please. It’s only a bad idea not to test your camping winter car system without first checking it close to home, where you can quickly go inside and be safe if things go wrong. One night is meant to be enough to discover the holes in your system which you can then go back and fix before going on an official outing.

21. Be ready for the amazing morning :

On your winter car camping trip it is a high possibility for snowfall and so we have to plan ahead for that. Get ready to deal with the possibility of getting stuck in the snow, which will require a proper shovel and kitty litter in order to gain traction. Not only that, but it could get your door locks frozen, the car might not start, etc. Hopefully though if you intend on all of this, you’ll know what to do to get out of it safely in any possible scenario.

Few more tips :

  • Hang water bottles upside down so the bottom freezes first
  • Use wooden utensils in the morning, they don’t get as cold as metal ones do and help keep your food cooler
  • Never sleep in your sleeping bag entirely. Condensation can build up, serve as a sealant, and can prevent fresh air coming inside
  • Carry a bottle of pee! Having your body keep your pee warm just steals the ability to keep you warm (plus, not to pee is uncomfortable!)


A combination of all these tips will really ensure that during cold temperatures you have a much smoother and safer journey by camping vehicle. And it can’t really get enough focus on how important it is to check the setup before heading out far away from home.

But we must skip some of those tips with all of them! Maybe you’ve come up with a unique little hack for winter car camping or have seen some other trick that we haven’t mentioned; we’d love to hear of it. Vote on your favorite winter car camping idea below and stay warm in your car while it’s cold.

Thank you for reading our post. You can also read our post on Top 10-Convenient Ways To Sleep In A Tent to know about the quickfire & comfortable ways to sleep in a tent.

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