Winter. Van. Alaska.

People keep asking what I’m gonna do in my van when it’s forty below. The truth is, I’m a plan-as-I-go sort of person.

In other words: I dunno.

This is what I do know: I’ve been in the van down to twenty below before, but just for a couple weeks, and been fine. Also, when I was sixteen I lived in the cab of my little Dodge 50 all winter with no insulation or special things and I came out fine. I’ve definitely got more now than I did then (I mean, just in terms of being able to take care of myself and stuff), so I think I’ll be fine.

If not, I’ll wimp out and drive south.

Here are some of my possible strategies:

My bed is very close to the ceiling. There’s velcro all around it, and last winter I made curtains with space blankets inside and hung them all around the bed, making a little heat reflective cocoon. When the defroster’s on, it blows heat right into my little tunnel, and when I go to bed I put up the curtain at the foot of the bed and it holds it all in. Problems are that Bro inevitably gets up and down and the foot curtain comes off. Also, if I roll over and bump the curtain it billows out from the bed and cold air comes up. I think I may use reflectix this winter, as it’s a lot stiffer and I could velcro it to the side of the bed, maybe.

There’s a very smart guy named Laren who’s wintered in cold places in his van. He uses water for heat storage, by running his heating vent through an insulated crate filled with bottles of water. When the water’s hot and he goes to bed, he just takes the top off the crate, which is under his bed. He says it stays warm for eight hours, but I think his van is better insulated than mine and he might not be in places that are as cold. I was really thinking about this tho.

It’s always best to just be warm yourself. Nothing warms you up like a morning jog and some ginger tea. I have been wearing long underwear, sweatpants, a long sleeved shirt, and a sweater to bed, and I’ve been toasty warm. I am, however, too cold and lazy to take the warm clothes off and change in the morning. I think I will wear skirts over my sweatpants and change my top layers all winter. I’ll try not to stink. 😆

But. If my van is going to start in the morning, it’s gonna hafta be plugged in at night. If it’s gonna be plugged in, I might as well just plug in a little electric heater too, which makes everything else rather unnecessary.

But. For plug in’s I’m gonna have to stay in cities. Hotels and employee parking lots and friends’ driveways. And that will suck, so maybe I should just drive south. Except that I have a reason to be here through the end of November, and if I’m gonna stay that long I might as well stay another month and do holidays with the family. I can always go south after that. After all, that’s when the money goes to hell here and picks up in Florida. Except that once your through December March is just around the corner, and I love that part of winter where it warms up to ten below and everyone’s running around in shorts.

So, that is the current state of things, as close to a plan as I get.


  1. What are you going to when it gets cold? You’re going to get your sweet ass down to Texas is what you’re going to do. You can park at my house.

  2. You know why I love your blog? Becuase you are a relic of America’s mythos, a Tall Tale or a Wild Wilderness Hero … and yet you are a woman and a sex worker and a feminist. I just kept thinking about how archetypal this post was when I was reading it, you know, Little House on the Prairie and Johnny Appleseed and that stuff.

    I am baffled as to your dilemma, because I am a Southern Girl living in New York City who freaks out when it gets below 30. But if anyone can manage a solution, I’ve doubt it’ll be you!

  3. hey I like your stories. they remind me both of “On the Road” which I’m reading now and also of my younger days when I lived out of my van for a while — got cold plenty but never went to Alaska. quite admirable! do you have a laptop with an evdo card or what? somehow you are posting… sorry if you explained this elsewhere, my attention span is limited y’know 🙂

  4. well tara i have two thoghts to share on the heat subject. one is refletix that you know about . try this it worked in my motorhome in utah when i lived there . make a template of all windows on the van by placing the material up to the window ( a spare set of hands may be nice) after cutting it to a few inches larger than the window get a black sharpie leaving the cap on and trace the window seal it will show on the fabric then draw with the shrpie if ya want and cut it . from an upholstery store buy some one inch black binding cloth and sew it after you fold it in half over both sides. the whole van will stay much warmer. i did this to my 26 foot motorhome and it worked great . secondly for a heater you can buy power inverters that connect to your battery that ghanged it from 12 volts to 110 volts . that way you could run a small 6 x6 x8 inch CERAMIC heater these are smal but very warm the inverter is about $ 150.00 for a good one . dont waste money on one any less. the other thing about the relectix is it works in summer to keep the heat out and would provide darkness for a night worker lol. or do like grace said and come to texas . when ya make the patterns ( if ya do ) look at each window to see how to make them stay put the winshield is easy the dash and your visors hold it in place the side windows on mine had a well all around so only had to be sized correctly and then pushed in place with the binding between the window and the window trim. have a great day sweety. oh by the way i found you by the car site have a great day sweety ……..wyatt

  5. Warms up to ten below. I can’t even imagine. It gets in the 60s here and I need a cardigan.

    On the flipside, I can run a half-mile in the mid-90s and just *begin* to perspire. Thems the trade-offs, I suppose!

    If you wend your way to Florida, come visit my bungalow by the sea 🙂


  6. You may want to think about insulating your van. These guys

    have a product that would work for you, but their smallest kit is $350. It would be some work but would be worth it in the long run. If your van has fancy walls/roof you would have to pull it all off and spray the foam on the inside of the exterior walls. Which might be worthwhile as after time the plastic pieces that hold car interiors together get brittle and break and don’t do their job anymore. So you could replace all those little things while you’re at it. You could do this with cans of great stuff, too. If it was my van I’d look at the possiblity of using the low expansion stuff and maybe shooting behind the wall panels without removing them. Then I’d decide to remove them and do it the hard way.

  7. Proper layering is all it takes.

    I suspect I’m going to sound like I’m bragging, but I did sleep out in wintertime in a tent frequently when I was younger, and it often got to -40F, not counting the wind. Three sleeping bags, one doubled on the ground, the second stuffed inside the third with me inside it all with normal clothing on, worked just fine. No heater in the tent, just me, though I and my friends did take the precaution of piling snow all around the tent, to keep the wind away.

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