8 Tips For Sleeping In Your Car During Cold Winter Nights

Planning on doing some winter road trips? Sure, you could pull into a hotel, but why not camp in your car?
With proper planning you can have a cozy experience and be back in the road in no time.

1. Warm Sleeping Bag + Sleeping Pad + Comfy Pillow

Sure, your car will protect you from things like snow and wind, but it will also become a freezer in the middle of the night if the temperatures are low enough. Having a good quality sleeping bag with you can make all the difference. The good thing of being in your car is that you don’t have to worry too much about the size or weight of your sleeping bag. Just have something that will keep you as warm and toasty as possible. If you have an SUV or something larger, you can pretty much turn your car into something just as comfortable as your bed at home.


For the pad or mattress, it will be preferable to use something like a Therm-a-rest pad rather than just any air mattress, or you’ll loose most of the heat through them.


Avoid using a backpacker’s pillow. It doesn’t make much sense to worry about extra weight when you’re sleeping in your Car. Sure, take your ultralight pillow for the outdoors, but why not have your comfiest pillow in the car.

[Photo of Bear cozied up on comfy pillow with eye mask]


2. Wool, not Cotton. I’m Down With That

Did you know that cotton freezes? It traps moisture and can be potentially dangerous during freezing environments if you wear it or sleep under it. Wool however, insulates heat. You can sleep on top of wool so the cold from the floor won’t affect you, and wearing wool will go a long way.

But Bear, isn’t wool itchy? That’s where ‘merino wool’ comes in! If you’ve never worn merino in the winter, you will wonder where it’s been hiding all your life.

3. Crack a window or two.

You might be thinking that cracking a window open is one of the worst ideas you’ve ever heard of, specially when it’s really cold out there, but if you don’t, moisture will build up inside your car and might wake up feeling like you’ve been turned into an ice cube.

4. Reflectix

Most experienced road trippers and those pursing the #vanlife will tell you all about how amazing Reflectix is. Not only is it insulating, but when cut it to the size of your window it will also help keep the bright sunlight from waking you up too early. I hope to have a “How to video” Sometime in 2018.

5. Lighten Up

You car cabin lights won’t really do the job when you’re scrambling to find your phone ( which you just had in your hand a few seconds ago) or other things. Have a lantern or a headlamp with you and avoid killing your car battery. If you become a regular car camper, you can even add a few string lights for that perfect instagram shot.

6. Turn the engine off

If you are planning on sleeping through the night, don’t use your car’s heater to keep you warm. Even if you leave your windows slightly cracked, something like snow can drift up against your tailpipe, plugging it, which will get CO entering the cabin. There have been a large number of reported fatal accidents because of this so it’s just better avoid it.

7. Hot Stones

If you have a campfire grill with you, and happen to have a few double-fisted sized rocks available, heat them up wrap each one in newspaper* and then in a small towel and tuck them in your sleeping bag. These will keep you toasty warm all night and still be warm in the morning.

*The newspaper is used to prevent getting soot on your towels from the rocks

8. Parking Spot Research + Keep someone informed of where you’ll be.

If you can, research where you’ll stop for the night. You may want to make sure you’re sleeping somewhere you won’t be harassed by authorities.

Rest Areas and truck stops (TA Travel Centers, Loves, etc.) are always permissible sleeping areas, as are most Walmart parking lots (check Walmartlocator.com). However, these options are often crowded and noisy. For a quieter, more scenic night’s sleep, look for public land in Google Maps, which is always free and legal to camp on.You can also use the US Public Lands app.

If you can, let someone you know where you are resting your head. It’s a good precaution to take anytime you’re out there.

Happy Adventures!