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How To Stay Warm In A Car Overnight

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This article will explain exactly how to stay warm in a car overnight. If you’ve been caught by surprise and need to spend a night in your vehicle.

Whether you know you need to sleep overnight in your car, or it’s in circumstances beyond your control, you’ll find out how to stay warm in your car at night wherever you are.

Use your car heater, but don’t leave it on while you sleep!

Your first thought when wanting to keep warm in your car overnight is to use the car heater, and you’d be right! BUT, this is so important, DO NOT KEEP IT ON OVERNIGHT. You don’t want harmful carbon monoxide coming into the car and poisoning you, and there’s a possibility of that happening if you keep it on throughout the night.

But you might think, oh well, I’m going to risk it. If you’re going to do that YOU MUST make sure the tailpipe is clear from all obstructions as a blocked tailpipe is a surefire way of sending carbon monoxide streaming into your vehicle!

If your car has no heating, then my post titled How To Stay Warm In A Car With No Heat will be helpful for you to read!

Insulate your car

As your car hasn’t been made to keep you warm while you sleep in it, insulating your car is a must and one of the best car camping hacks to know! Once you’ve heated it up from the car heater, the insulation will help keep all that lovely heat inside your vehicle. It’ll also keep the sunlight out in the morning which is a plus if you want to sleep in!

You can buy insulation foam in large pieces or rolls, but they are more expensive. Measure each window’s correct width and draw it out on some aluminium foil, then make a mold by holding it against the window and folding the edges. Using this mold, then cut the foam to size using some scissors or a box cutter. Stick it on with duct tape and voila!

A good thing to also do is to spray paint the insulation black and cover it with fabric, as it will catch the light and it’ll be more noticeable that someone is sleeping in the car.

Think about where you park

Before parking for the night, think cleverly about where you’re parking. If you park out in the open, you’re going to be more likely to feel the effects of wind, rain, or snow, and you will feel colder because of it.

So, if you can find a covered area, park there and get a little protection from the elements. Another option is to get a car cover that will go over the top of the car and do a similar job. It won’t stop all frost but will stop snow from falling on the top, and it’ll mean you won’t have to scrape off (as much) ice the following day.

Check out our guides on places to sleep in your car to learn more on this topic.

Wrap up warm

Even with heating up your car and insulating it, if you’re sleeping in your car in the middle of winter, you need to wrap up warm in the warmest clothes you can find.

Put on lots of layers, and keep some extra just in case. If you’ve got wet from rain or snow, or become sweaty, it’s best to put on fresh clothes, as the sweat could cool down and make you cold while sleeping in the car.

Wool and thermals

Woolen clothes and blankets will be some of the warmest things you can find, so find all your wooly sweaters or stock up. Wooly socks (or double up on socks), warm gloves, a scarf, balaclava or beanie hat.

Thermal underwear is a great idea as it’s thin, keeps you warm, and can go under other clothes, so you’re putting on more layers, but not feeling like a marshmallow.

Another great option is hand and feet warmers, little pouches that only start to warm up when you open them, which can be slipped into your gloves, or into your sleeping bag to keep you nice and toasty warm.

Warm bedding

The last thing before you turn in for the night is warm bedding. It might be obvious, but some people might be so quick to settle down the night’s sleep that you don’t think about it! A sleeping bag that will cover the top of your head is a good idea, as your head is where the heat escapes from.

Space blankets are a good shout also, as they are created purely to keep body heat in, so you won’t wake up shivering in the night. As well as this though, add on the wooly blankets, and don’t just sleep straight on the back seats, but on a camping mattress which will give you support and more comfort when sleeping in your car.

Food and drink

Before you go to bed, don’t just quickly eat something in a wrapper – cook a hot meal, as it will warm you up and make you feel better mentally too. Get hold of a portable food heater so you can make your favorite meal before you turn in for the night.

Make sure you have some water with you so you can keep hydrated throughout the night. If you’ve cooked some food and been using a pan to boil water, keep some for the night in a thermos flask so if you wake up cold, you’ll have some warm water to make you feel a bit hotter.

For more essentials, look at my article titled 50 Car Camping Essentials For Your Packing List to give you some more great ideas.

Image of Iain The Founder Of The Road Trip Expert

Iain Salter

Founder & Editor of The Road Trip Expert

Iain founded The Road Trip Expert in 2019 and continues to manage the website to this day. The inspiration to start the blog came during an extensive road trip around Europe with two friends that spanned several months and involved over 25,000km of driving. He first developed a passion for backpacking in 2014 and has had the pleasure of exploring over 60 countries.