There are plenty of tips and tricks out there to help make winter camping possible, we’ve even shared some of our favourites! While these can be helpful, if you’re looking to make a real go of year-round van adventuring, what you’re really looking for is the right van for the job. Well, look no further, because some vans are more than up to the task, they’re made for it. Unsurprisingly, we’re talking about our own.
Our vans are just as Canadian as we are, and it shows in our builds. Here are some key features of our winter-ready adventure vans and a bit about why we choose them so you can learn from our extensive R&D.
One of the reasons our cold Canadian hearts beat only for the Mercedes Sprinter is because they run on diesel, and diesel is where it’s at—especially when temperatures are bound to dip. The diesel heater we opt for at Yama draw from the van’s primary fuel tank, so there’s a single source for both the engine and the heater. Diesel heaters are happiest when working hard and they burn off any excess soot themselves and use it to keep themselves running efficiently. They’re like a self-cleaning oven, but for your van. And, unlike your oven, you can keep your diesel heater running at night..
NOTE: The fuel tank needs to be at least ¼ full, but since we’re talking about winter, it’s fair to assume you’re keeping it full, right?
TIP: Bring extra fuel in a Rotopax when adventuring off-grid, regardless of the season.
If you want to keep your heater running, you want to keep your batteries happy. Best start by getting to know their likes and dislikes. All lithium batteries have temperature parameters, and most high-quality ones (the only ones we’d ever use) can put out power down to -25C and receive charge down to 5C. So, if you’re using your batteries to power your heater, you can use your heater to keep temps high enough to charge your battery.
NOTE: A fail-safe to ensure your batteries stay at or above a set temperature is a battery heater kit. Not a 12V heat pad from an online retailer named after a large forest, but one designed to work with higher voltages and to fit the specific surface you’re dealing with so it doesn’t melt any of the important things surrounding it.
TIP: We offer a four-season battery solution with an integrated temperature sensor. It’s rad.
Water is important, and it’s important that it not become ice. Whether your fresh water tank is inside or outside, the most vulnerable point is the water outlet that runs from your tank to your pump, more so if your tank is exterior-mounted. Because this water line is likely only 0.5”, it could use a little extra protection from the elements. Wrapping it with 12V electrical heat tape is a great option, greater still if you connect it to a temperature sensor. Otherwise, if your van uses a hydronic heating system (ours do), you can make your coolant do double duty, keeping the entire fresh water system above freezing all winter long.
NOTE: Don’t try this at home, folks! Adjusting your hydronic heating system is high-risk and calls for professionals (like the journeyman techs at Yama HQ!).
TIP: A Culligan jug with a pump lid is a great way to bring drinking water with you without running it through your lines and risking it freezing your pipes.
Don’t hesitate, insulate! Cover your windows as soon as you get to camp. Days are short in the winter, so you’re not likely to miss anything.
TIP: Invest in good covers that you can partially open at night—a little airflow is all you need to avoid condensation accumulation.
Let's talk about another feature that's got us feeling all warm and fuzzy inside: our hydronic heating system! With radiant in-floor heat, you can enjoy the luxury of toasty tootsies all year long. Plus, it's energy-efficient, so you can stay cozy without worrying about draining your batteries. Let's raise a cup of mulled wine (or whatever your beverage of choice may be) to our favourite feature - the hydronic heating system.
TIP: This feature is very, and we mean VERY, nice to have but not essential. A great pair of van slippers will also do the job!
Let's cut to the chase - winter camping is not for the faint-hearted. But, with Yama Vans, you can have your cake and eat it too (figuratively speaking, of course). Our vans are optimized for cold weather with features like diesel heaters, battery heaters, heated freshwater tanks, insulated window coverings and radiant in-floor heat. So, instead of hibernating all winter, why not embrace the cold and hit the road?