Colder weather van camping options?

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Paul_B

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Jul 14, 2008
4,823
777
Lancashire
A bit cool last night in the van. My bag is supposedly zero rated, well 30F, but I read cold last night in the van parked up near Keswick. It's a down inner fill with primaloft outer insulation layer, American brand. My son's bag is a 3 or 4 C rated and he seriously doesn't feel cold but did last night.

I'm of the opinion that down bags aren't really as durable as their reputation claims. Our son's bag was bought 2 or three years ago and he crawled out of it too hot not long after getting it when the temperature inside a tent reached enough to freeze condensation on the flysheet!! Last night was inside the van so warmer by a few degrees possibly +8C.

My golite quilt is -7C rated but that's a little generous, more like -4C. It's certainly lost some very small and fine down as I'm wearing them in the morning. It's not warm enough even +7C now I reckon.

So what's the best options? Being in a van means weight isn't an issue but bulky bags aren't that practical? Cheap synthetics I've had even supposedly -20C rated ones. They soon drop to being almost 1 or 2 season summer bags. Expensive synthetics? Never tried them. The lamina range from the former down specialists ME I heard are good.

Are there good down options, not too expensive, bulky , etc?

What about camping mats in vans? Do you use them? Our van has padded beds where you sleep on the back of the seat part. It's padded enough to sleep comfortably on but I felt it wasn't insulated enough. I felt like heat was being sucked out of me from below. The pop top beds need mats because the board isn't padded. I think the rock and roll beds need them because they're not be very well insulated. Is that your experiences of you've got a campervan? What mats are good? Most modern, insulated mats use slippy fabrics so you slip off them too easily. Also, since they're more catering for backpacking they n tend to use uber light and be crisp packet like fabrics. Anything better for vans but still compact for storage?
 

TLM

Native
Nov 16, 2019
1,340
567
Vantaa, Finland
Down does not wear very well, I have seen a few bags with synthetic fiber at the bottom and down on top. In theory that should work, never had one though.
 

Woody girl

Full Member
Mar 31, 2018
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Exmoor
Just a suggestion re mats. How about getting a couple of cheap single memory foam mattress toppers. I've had a double one on my bed in the past but found it too hot for indoors.they usualy have some sort of cotton cover so won't be slippery like a camping mat. Too bulky for backpacking but as you have the van shouldn't be a problem.
Took a single one to my friends unheated and uninsulated caravan last autumn and put it on top of the mattress. it was much warmer than just the normal matress I usualy slept on.
Down bag and a woolen blanket and I was fine. I'm a cold sleeper , so if I keep warm it must work!
 

Robson Valley

Full Member
Nov 24, 2014
8,706
1,651
McBride, BC
My best bag is Hollofill II on the bottom and down on the top.
Barrel-shape, wider in the middle makes enough room to avoid cramping.
Down tube behind the zipper.

I sleep very cold. If weight was no issue, a second bag over this one will keep me undisturbed for the night.
Even a blanket works well enough above 0C.
 
I use a Rab silk liner in my bags. It weighs nothing and is less than the size of your fist when packed. As I understand it silk is thermally inefficient (sic) so the warmth stays where it is rather than being readily conducted away by the 3 Cs. Also minimises the need to wash the bags. If I'm off the ground, e.g. camp bed, I have a Thermarest covered with a blanket between me and the bed.
 

Broch

Full Member
Jan 18, 2009
4,107
3,277
Mid Wales
I haven't joined the camper van brigade yet but I have slept in sub-zero conditions in back of the 110. I learnt very quickly that I had to use insulation under me or it was a very cold night - I've never had to use more than a 2-3 season sleeping bag however.
 

Van-Wild

Full Member
Feb 17, 2018
704
509
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UK
Pop top mattress = ikea mattress topper. Fits like a glove and very comfy. We also use a mattress topper on the RnR bed. Me and the wife snuggle under a good duvet.

For 100% guaranteed night time warmth in the minus temps, get a diesel heater by Eberspacher or Planar.

If im only out in the van by myself or with the lad, we use sleeping bags. Never been cold. Even without the diesel heater on. I've got a 3 season Ajunglak bag thats years old but still great condition. Also got an old 3 season Vango bag thats tip top and has served me for over a decade. Both are synthetic.



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Paul_B

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Jul 14, 2008
4,823
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Lancashire
Down does not wear very well, I have seen a few bags with synthetic fiber at the bottom and down on top. In theory that should work, never had one though.
Mine has down inside the synthetic layer. Synthetic copes with moisture in bivvies well and the down conforms to my body better than synthetic does and effectively makes it warmer than the thickness implies. In some ways there's good logic in it but perhaps less so with the advent of hydrophobic treated down and much better synthetic options.

My experience is good overall. I got it for £150 IIRC which was a real bargain when it cost over £200 full price. Compared to my existing n sleeping bag it was warm, light and packed small. Not hard when my sleeping bag was a synthetic weighing possibly 3+kg and would barely fit in the bottom compartment of my old backpack (65 litres, half at the bottom I think). When you're used to that anything half decent is good.

Then I got a 690g, fully down quilt rated-7°C that packed into half a nalgene. Much better. Not great van camping though.
 

Paul_B

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Jul 14, 2008
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Lancashire
Got a diesel heater, noisy to me have on when sleeping I think. You do hear VW vans with their heaters roaring away all night though.

Mattress topper sounds a good call. Duvaley sounds a good make but cheaper Dunelm mill or IKEA might be better option. Are they thin enough to leave in the pop top roof do you think? I can't think if there's much of a gap there when the roof is fully down.

My sleeping bag is an XL one which being American brand means XL in length and especially width. Possibly why I'm a bit by cold in it. There's simply too much airspace to warm up and keep warm. Perhaps a lightweight summer bag inside. Something like an Alpkit pipedream in a lightweight but still longer length. It's a narrow type of bag so should fit inside my large bag without compressing the down insulation of both bags. I know from experience that wearing too much inside a bag such that the insulation compresses leaves you colder.

Silk liners are great for keeping the bag clean. On a cycle tour I always use one. They don't IME add much if anything to heat retention. I did read about that being proven in experiments using the type of sensor laden dummies sleeping bag manufacturers use to measure temperature rating. Can't remember where though.
 

Van-Wild

Full Member
Feb 17, 2018
704
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UK
Got a diesel heater, noisy to me have on when sleeping I think. You do hear VW vans with their heaters roaring away all night though.

Mattress topper sounds a good call. Duvaley sounds a good make but cheaper Dunelm mill or IKEA might be better option. Are they thin enough to leave in the pop top roof do you think? I can't think if there's much of a gap there when the roof is fully down.

My sleeping bag is an XL one which being American brand means XL in length and especially width. Possibly why I'm a bit by cold in it. There's simply too much airspace to warm up and keep warm. Perhaps a lightweight summer bag inside. Something like an Alpkit pipedream in a lightweight but still longer length. It's a narrow type of bag so should fit inside my large bag without compressing the down insulation of both bags. I know from experience that wearing too much inside a bag such that the insulation compresses leaves you colder.

Silk liners are great for keeping the bag clean. On a cycle tour I always use one. They don't IME add much if anything to heat retention. I did read about that being proven in experiments using the type of sensor laden dummies sleeping bag manufacturers use to measure temperature rating. Can't remember where though.
I can hardly hear my heater (eberspacher) once its gone through its warm up cycle. The first 5 min is a bit noisy but after that it just whispers. The noise you can probably hear from other vans is just the exhaust from the heater, if a muffler ain't fitted (mine has one fitted and you can't hear it from 10ft away). You don't need it blasting away all night either, I just put mine on an eco cycle.

The ikea mattress topper is about an inch and a half thick, with the washable cover. It stays in the pop top as we travel. Doesn't interfere at all with the closing of the roof.

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punkrockcaveman

Full Member
Jan 28, 2017
634
451
yorks
I love my snugpak softie elite 4. Great bag had it for years, used it for a handful of (just) below zero temps. I personally don't find it that bulky. Foam mats are great for R rating and cheap as an extra warmth item.
 

Paul_B

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Jul 14, 2008
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Lancashire
It's an insulated van downstairs but canvas in the pop top lid. That's the coldest part but shouldn't be colder than a tent.

I think you can get silvered insulation pads for the outside of those canvas pop tops. I intend to get them for the windscreen and front side windows for attachment to the outside. Anyone use those pads for the tent part of the roof??
 
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Silverclaws2

Tenderfoot
Dec 30, 2019
99
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Devon
Aw gawd , to have memories of winter camping in an unimproved '77 air cooled camper van ( Devon '76 conversion), to at least learn the dreaded condensation problem wasn't a problem as it had frozen, to have more ice on the inside windows that there was on the outside and the usual ceiling drips had been stopped in their tracks to start to form icicles. But waking in such conditions it was always was tentatively expose an arm to learn across and turn the cooker on to get a brew going before even thinking of getting out from under the duvet, yes duvet as I used duvets in the van, two of them of which are more useful than sleeping bags.

Oh and don't forget if you're winter camping switch to propane as butane really doesn't like to gasify at temperatures lower than four degrees Celsius - been there on that too.

And the bed of course was the old 'rock and roll ' affair with four inch of mattress of which I was impressed with, to also know if one has just parked up, the heat from the engine bay makes for a cosy bed, to start with.
 
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Paul_B

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Jul 14, 2008
4,823
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Lancashire
Thank goodness for diesel heaters! Got up in the morning Sunday thinking about turning the heater on then remembered we hadn't read the instructions.

Cue 20 minutes of half wrapped in sleeping bag, half in buffalo s6 shirt leaning off the bed upside down trying to see the temporary control position under the bed.

After 20 minutes of random button pressing I got the fan working. Oh bliss, cold air! A few minutes later there was an asthmatic cough of off cold air and the van slowly started to warm up.

Lesson 1 of van use, read the instructions and take them with you at least on the first few trips. I've not even thought of working the timer. Would be nice to wake up in the morning to a warm van to go to work in. Never happen! It's the other half's during the week to keep it clean and away from the dirty industrial estate that I work at. A lot of building or rather demolition going on so very dusty.
 
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Van-Wild

Full Member
Feb 17, 2018
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It's an insulated van downstairs but canvas in the pop top lid. That's the coldest part but shouldn't be colder than a tent.

I think you can get silvered insulation pads for the outside of those canvas pop tops. I intend to get them for the windscreen and front side windows for attachment to the outside. Anyone use those pads for the tent part of the roof??
I made my own thermal cover for the poptop using a roll of thermal sheeting from screwfix and some gorilla tape. Same thing and for less than half the price of a manufactured one. Worked awesome during a winter trip at Glencoe last year. Was so good that it got too hot in the van.

IMHO thermal sheeting or windscreen covers on the outside of the van are more of a nuisance than they're worth. Once they get wet (very likely in the UK) OR frozen, storing them wet inside the van brings moisture inside and thats exactly what you dont want! I cut thermal sheeting to size for the windscreen and the door windows, attaching suckers so they stick to the glass. Again from screwfix. Works a treat!



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Broch

Full Member
Jan 18, 2009
4,107
3,277
Mid Wales
I made my own thermal cover for the poptop using a roll of thermal sheeting from screwfix and some gorilla tape. Same thing and for less than half the price of a manufactured one. Worked awesome during a winter trip at Glencoe last year. Was so good that it got too hot in the van.

Is this the stuff you mean?

 

Van-Wild

Full Member
Feb 17, 2018
704
509
41
UK
Is this the stuff you mean?

Kinda, but my bad (just spoke to the wife ).... ours was from Wickes!


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marcoruhland

Full Member
Apr 23, 2020
41
17
Germany
what is your budget?
isolate is a cheap option but it is passive you need energy to heat the van (your bodies are not enough).
a orig. parking heater will be best solution (may be in combination with a larger tank) but this is very expensive
or you pimp the sleeping bag with a gz-bag feater-the-feet-heater works great you need two larger powerbanks (20.000 mah) that is it

mr
 

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