Car Road Trip

How to Sleep in a Car During Winter (5 Things To Know)

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Last Updated on May 29, 2023 by Rose Morah

For whatever reason, if you end up sleeping in a car in winter, this article has helpful tips for:

  • Staying warm when sleeping in a car in winter
  • Staying warm in a car with no heat
  • Improving heat in the car
  • Insulating a car for winter camping

But before that…

Sleeping in a car has its own risks.

A good rule of thumb, before you sleep in your car, is to switch off the car to avoid the risk of CO poisoning. But if you have to, be sure to take the appropriate precautions (as we’ll discuss later in this article).

How cold is too cold to sleep in your car? 

This depends on the number of blankets and winter accessories you have carried to keep you warm. In other words, do you have the right gear for the right temperature? 

In case it gets too cold while sleeping in the car, you can switch on the engine for a few minutes to help warm up the car then switch it off and go back to sleep.

See also: How To Sleep In A Small Car (Best Tips & Hacks).

How to stay warm sleeping in a car in winter

1. Make sure your car is well ventilated

Ventilation helps control the humidity in the car.

Normally when it gets colder, the water vapor from your breath condenses on your body, clothes, and your blankets. To avoid this, you will need to find a way to relieve some of the moisture. 

This can be as easy as;

  • Venting the car windows.
  • Or using a small fan.

See also:

How To Keep Car Windows From Fogging Up Without Heat. 

How To Keep Car Windows From Fogging Up While Driving & Overnight.

2. Have the right accessories to keep you warm

If you plan to sleep in your car during the cold seasons, carrying warm accessories made of wool is important.

NB: Wool does not retain moisture that easily.

That said, the following is a list of must-have winter car camping accessories that will help keep you warm when sleeping in the car in winter:

Winter car camping essentials

Accessory Benefits
1.Fleece hat with ear flaps and chin ties.It provides all-around warmth and stays in place.
2.Scarf, gloves, and socks.They help keep you warm throughout the night, especially if they are made of wool.
3.Air mattress/ Memory foam/ Foam padThis gives you a layer of insulation to help keep you warm while sleeping.
4.Sleeping bagEnsure your sleeping bag is designed for winter cold weather to help keep you warm, and for a good night’s sleep. 
Their designed temperature mostly ranges from 5F (-15°C) to 32F(0°C).
5.Flannel blanketA flannel blanket is comfortable and warm to the touch, especially if you are sleeping inside a sleeping bag
6. BlanketsYou will definitely need some blankets when sleeping in the car during winter.
7.Thermal bottle with hot waterYou can use a thermal bottle to warm up your sleeping bag. 
It will keep you warm during the cold night. You might even end up kicking off the covers because of the warmth. 
8.Insulated window coverings or blackout curtainsThey help keep the interior of the car warm and provide you with some privacy.
9. Layers of sheets or merino wool sweaters.Layers of sheets or Merino wool sweaters.
Winter car camping essentials
If you will be sleeping in the car for days in winter, you can visit military surplus stores for cold-weather gear, which should keep you warm - no matter how cold it gets.

See also:

How To Quickly Fall Asleep In The Car.

Can You Sleep In Your Car In A Parking Lot?

28 Best and Must-have Road Trip Car Accessories.

3. Switch on the engine to warm up your sleeping accessories

At times it gets really cold, making it hard to sleep.

If it is too cold to catch some sleep, you could spread your blankets and sheets in front of the heater. Then run the car for about 10 minutes to warm up the sheet and blankets. 

Additionally, it can be uncomfortable when you are freezing inside the sleeping bag. Be sure you are not freezing before you go to sleep, which takes us to the next point.

See also:

15 Wilderness Survival Gear and Equipment (Best Survival Gear).

How To Quickly Get Bed Bugs Out Of Your Vehicle in Winter.

How To Permanently Get Rid Of Roaches In The Car (Fast & Effectively).

4. Eat food, snacks, or drinks that keep you warm

To keep your body warm, what you choose to consume matters. What you eat can help fuel your body, raise its temperature and keep you warm during the cold nights in your car.

In other words, it can help increase your body heat naturally. The battle begins from the inside.

The following are examples of foods that help you generate more heat from within during winter:

  1. Bananas
  2. Oats
  3. Butternut squash
  4. Eggs
  5. Lean meat

See also:

Emergency Kit For Your Car In Winter.

5 Healthy Non-refrigerated Road Trip Snacks To Keep You Awake.

What to drink to keep you warm

Ginger tea and coffee are some of the best drinks that help keep you warm during winter.

5. Preparing for the next day

To prepare for the following day:

  • Put the clothes that you’re going to wear the following day in the sleeping bag or under your blanket. This help prevents them from freezing by the time you’ll be wearing them.
  • To prevent your boots/shoes from getting wet from moisture that comes from condensation, you can stuff in some newspapers.

How to stay warm in a car with no heat

As earlier mentioned, there are many reasons why people sleep in the car during the winter or rainy season. 

If you are traveling or live in places where it’s easy to be stranded in the car due to a bad snowstorm, knowing how to stay warm in a car with no heat is essential.

So, how do you stay warm in case your car dies in the middle of nowhere while driving during winter?

First of all, if you do not have layers of blankets with you, you need to brace yourself for a long cold night.

Here are two hacks to help you stay warm:

  1. Use a candle

A candle has reportedly saved many lives of people stranded in their cars during winter.

A good rule of thumb is to always have a candle (a survival candle) and a lighter before you leave.

But here are a few precautionary notes: If you light the candle in the car, ensure that:

  • One of your windows is slightly cracked to ensure that it doesn’t burn and suck all the oxygen up (Leading to CO Poisoning) – CO2 needs to escape.
  • You have a piece of foil to place the candle or a large coffee can to put in the candle to prevent it from falling.
  • You don’t put the candle on the dash or under the windshield. Otherwise, it may end up cracking it.

A candle will definitely help you stay warm in a car with no heat.

Below is a survival candle that burns for up to 36 hours.

Check out this one on Amazon.

  1. Use reflectix

A reflectix is a thick foil-lined bubble wrap that helps reflect your body’s heat and the heat inside the car back to you. If you have never used it before, you will be surprised by how much it is capable of keeping the car warm.

Check out its current price on Amazon.

Other than keeping your car warm, it helps you relax, sleep and feels more secure. 

 So, how do you install the reflectix on your car windows? 

Setting it up is not complicated.

You only need to cut it to fit all the windows and then cover them.

How to keep your car from freezing overnight

The following are a few tips to help keep your car from freezing overnight:

  1. Know your car

You can start by checking the manufacturer’s recommendations. Most car manufacturers have guidelines for preventing a car from freezing overnight.

For instance, Tesla has its own recommendations.

Related: Best Tesla Winter Road trips Tips (According to Tesla Owners).

  1. Pay attention to the weather reports and your car

Don’t just park your car and sleep. Study the weather reports. This will help you decide whether or not to park in a certain location.

Additionally, constantly check the amount of snow accumulating around the car.

  1. Choose the best place to park your car

Where you park matters. Where possible, avoid parking your car outside. You can park in a garage or somewhere inside to help prevent the car from freezing.

How to insulate a car for winter camping

Insulate the car windows. One of the best ways to insulate the car windows is by using the reflectix as mentioned earlier.

See also: What To Look For When Buying A Used Travel Trailer (Red Signs).

Risks of sleeping in a car during winter 

  1. Risk of getting your foot amputated

If you plan to sleep in your car, then you’ve got to have a proper plan of how you are going to get enough heat in the car.

For instance, if you are only relying on your car’s heater to keep you warm while you sleep, in case it runs out in the middle of the night you might fail to realize the drop in temperature while sleeping.

This could lead to poor blood circulation, which means less blood is reaching your feet. The drop in temperature may then result in severe frostbite, which can lead to amputation. 

  1. Risk of getting stranded in your car

You might wake up one day and find your locks frozen and the exterior of the car coated with ice, making it difficult to get out.

I would hence highly recommend that you buy Personal Locator Beacons (PBLs) to help send out distress signals to alert and send potential rescuers to your location in the event of an emergency.

Hello there! My name is Rose. I’m passionate about electric cars and clean energy. My adventurous spirit and journalistic pursuits make each day fascinating and far greater. I consider traveling not just about the grandeur moments, but the little elements that transform the whole experience.