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Cold Temperature Overlanding

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AJ. Adventures

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Hello,
Has anyone ever done any extreme cold Overlanding trips? I like to think I’m prepared for everything but I just want to take the opportunity to learn from others experience. Any helpful suggestions will be greatly appreciated.
I already have a diesel air heater, working on insulating, sleeping bag is good to -50, survival kit, etc. Little worried about mechanical wise. If I have to shut down I’ll have to make sure I can plug in my block heater.
 

El-Dracho

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Hi Aaron,

It depends on what you mean by extreme temperatures. We've been on the road often in the European north (Norway, Sweden) in the winter and have had temperatures down to just below minus 30 degrees Celsius/ minus 20 F.

Overlanding in winter a really great thing if the overlander pays attention to a few things. I'm happy to share my experiences on this and give a few tips. There are also some good articles on this in the forum here, for example in the boot camp part. Please take a look there as well! For example the Boot Camp article for sleeping warm in camp.

Basically, traveling in winter requires a little more planning and preparation. Furthermore, a thorough inventory of equipment is self-evident and, depending on the destination, additional equipment is also advisable. In addition, there are numerous ways to prepare well for cold weather, so that you can then enjoy the beautiful winter landscapes.

One of the most important things in my experience: the weather can change quickly adversely, especially in winter. Here everyone should be prepared. This includes at least blankets, additional (warm) clothing, food and certainly enough fuel in the vehicle. When planning your route, you should take into account the shortened daylight hours. Always obtain a reliable weather forecast before traveling to less populated areas. Safety first!

Now a few tips / keywords in a nutshell:
  • Besides the weather, keep an eye on the road conditions; there are good apps for this in many countries.
  • As on any trip, the vehicle should of course be in good condition. So, check anything before, such as is the starter battery still ok, is the coolant ok (check it with a refractometer), are the lamps and bulbs ok, windshield wipers and check windshield cleaner / ill it up and carry replacements with you, Maintain door seals, hinges and locks, winter tires/ studded tires (is there any law about that in the are you travel?).
  • Many things that we should have in the vehicle in the winter are available in most overlanding vehicles anyway. Jump-start cable or jump-starter device, shovel, camping stove (small meals / hot water for a tea) warm blankets or good sleeping bags (you had already mentioned), simple, high-calorie meals as emergency rations, firewood, firestarter, hatchet and saw, thermos flask (with hot tea), towing and recovery gear, something to sweep away snow, ice scraper, de-icer for locks, etc.
  • Comms is key, always, especially in Winter if you get stuck for example.
  • Personal gear like headlamp, insulated working gloves, etc. are important.
  • Think about additional lights (shorter daytime). Good light is essential in the dark. this Especially in areas where there is a lot of game crossing
  • I also have a hot water heater in my vehicle. An independent diesel heater that preheats the coolant and a 120/230V heater.
  • Diesel or gasoline engine? In colder regions, diesel fuel can cause problems. A clogged filter leads to jerky engine running, starting difficulties and engine stalling. Change the filter beforehand (should be done regularly anyway), if necessary, carry additives with diesel. Btw, as far as I know also gasoline freezes at about minus 45 degrees Celsius/ minus 50 degrees F. Refuelling in good time is also important.
  • At extremely low temperatures, it maybe make sense to change to other engine and transmission oils (thick fluid at very low temperatures), please check the vehicle manufacturer's specifications for that.
With good preparation, such a winter trip can be a real pleasure. For enduring the cold, the overlander is compensated by breath-taking views of snow-covered landscapes or who knows, even a wonderful aurora borealis. I would love to travel to Canada in the winter.

These are just a few points from my experience and that just come to mind. We have here also some members from your are and more northern, which certainly have a lot of experience with cold in the area. Have a look at the member map, maybe you can contact someone there. There are certainly many members happy to help.

Feel free to ask if you want to know anything else.

Enjoy!

Bjoern
 

Ursa Major

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I'm really glad someone posted on this. I just started doing a gear check tonight and found out my Buddy heater isn't working and was planning a trip this weekend. Preparation is definitely key for cold weather camping. Everything else is in working order, but I'm glad I checked that out before I went!
 

MidOH

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Just make sure it's the right kind of heater. Heat exchanger or catalytic. You dont need water vapor building up indoors.

Generally, I've found dry winter air a nice treat for camping.

New Hampshire Fall, Mount Washington rain and humidity is my arch nemesis.

Will the truck start without the block heater? What's the game plan when the Dollar Store quality heater element fails?

My Ram Cummins has intake grids, no heater required. The Ford is gas and could care less. Both have spare batteries. (The Ram has 14. Work truck. lol. )
 
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El-Dracho

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I'm really glad someone posted on this. I just started doing a gear check tonight and found out my Buddy heater isn't working and was planning a trip this weekend. Preparation is definitely key for cold weather camping. Everything else is in working order, but I'm glad I checked that out before I went!
Thank you for your important advice. Yes, good preparation and regular check of equipment and rig are always important. Even more important when you need to be able to absolutely rely on it, such as on a tour in the cold. Always be prepapered.

Enjoy your trip this weekend! Where are you heading to?
 

Wranglervirus

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Hi Aaron,

It depends on what you mean by extreme temperatures. We've been on the road often in the European north (Norway, Sweden) in the winter and have had temperatures down to just below minus 30 degrees Celsius/ minus 20 F.

Overlanding in winter a really great thing if the overlander pays attention to a few things. I'm happy to share my experiences on this and give a few tips. There are also some good articles on this in the forum here, for example in the boot camp part. Please take a look there as well! For example the Boot Camp article for sleeping warm in camp.

Basically, traveling in winter requires a little more planning and preparation. Furthermore, a thorough inventory of equipment is self-evident and, depending on the destination, additional equipment is also advisable. In addition, there are numerous ways to prepare well for cold weather, so that you can then enjoy the beautiful winter landscapes.

One of the most important things in my experience: the weather can change quickly adversely, especially in winter. Here everyone should be prepared. This includes at least blankets, additional (warm) clothing, food and certainly enough fuel in the vehicle. When planning your route, you should take into account the shortened daylight hours. Always obtain a reliable weather forecast before traveling to less populated areas. Safety first!

Now a few tips / keywords in a nutshell:
  • Besides the weather, keep an eye on the road conditions; there are good apps for this in many countries.
  • As on any trip, the vehicle should of course be in good condition. So, check anything before, such as is the starter battery still ok, is the coolant ok (check it with a refractometer), are the lamps and bulbs ok, windshield wipers and check windshield cleaner / ill it up and carry replacements with you, Maintain door seals, hinges and locks, winter tires/ studded tires (is there any law about that in the are you travel?).
  • Many things that we should have in the vehicle in the winter are available in most overlanding vehicles anyway. Jump-start cable or jump-starter device, shovel, camping stove (small meals / hot water for a tea) warm blankets or good sleeping bags (you had already mentioned), simple, high-calorie meals as emergency rations, firewood, firestarter, hatchet and saw, thermos flask (with hot tea), towing and recovery gear, something to sweep away snow, ice scraper, de-icer for locks, etc.
  • Comms is key, always, especially in Winter if you get stuck for example.
  • Personal gear like headlamp, insulated working gloves, etc. are important.
  • Think about additional lights (shorter daytime). Good light is essential in the dark. this Especially in areas where there is a lot of game crossing
  • I also have a hot water heater in my vehicle. An independent diesel heater that preheats the coolant and a 120/230V heater.
  • Diesel or gasoline engine? In colder regions, diesel fuel can cause problems. A clogged filter leads to jerky engine running, starting difficulties and engine stalling. Change the filter beforehand (should be done regularly anyway), if necessary, carry additives with diesel. Btw, as far as I know also gasoline freezes at about minus 45 degrees Celsius/ minus 50 degrees F. Refuelling in good time is also important.
  • At extremely low temperatures, it maybe make sense to change to other engine and transmission oils (thick fluid at very low temperatures), please check the vehicle manufacturer's specifications for that.
With good preparation, such a winter trip can be a real pleasure. For enduring the cold, the overlander is compensated by breath-taking views of snow-covered landscapes or who knows, even a wonderful aurora borealis. I would love to travel to Canada in the winter.

These are just a few points from my experience and that just come to mind. We have here also some members from your are and more northern, which certainly have a lot of experience with cold in the area. Have a look at the member map, maybe you can contact someone there. There are certainly many members happy to help.

Feel free to ask if you want to know anything else.

Enjoy!

Bjoern

Great article here Bjorn, thanks for sharing your thoughts.
\
 

Ursa Major

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I'm really glad someone posted on this. I just started doing a gear check tonight and found out my Buddy heater isn't working and was planning a trip this weekend. Preparation is definitely key for cold weather camping. Everything else is in working order, but I'm glad I checked that out before I went!
Thank you for your important advice. Yes, good preparation and regular check of equipment and rig are always important. Even more important when you need to be able to absolutely rely on it, such as on a tour in the cold. Always be prepapered.

Enjoy your trip this weekend! Where are you heading to?
Nowhere super special. There are a few trails that are still drivable a few miles from where I live and they have a couple spots to camp out. Just taking the weekend to clear my mind and refresh myself. Vermont closes down most of the trails for the winter season, so it's a stretch to find anything, but I've been lucky to find a couple they are drivable for the winter season.
 
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El-Dracho

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Great article here Bjorn, thanks for sharing your thoughts.
\
Thank you, Tomas. You must have a lot of experience with frosty temperatures in the Baltic States, right? Do you have any further tips for trips in the cold?
 

Wranglervirus

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Great article here Bjorn, thanks for sharing your thoughts.
\
Thank you, Tomas. You must have a lot of experience with frosty temperatures in the Baltic States, right? Do you have any further tips for trips in the cold?
I don’t have experience with the overnight camping in the colder weather. But living in the environment when the winter is quite cold I would say that is having an extra clothes in case you will get to it in some time cases at least warm and dry socks and a spare boots would be nice also warm clothes in case if the car was broke let’s say that the fastest help can arrive in about one hour so if your staying in -20 I would advise not just to sit but move and do something unless it’s very harsh condition answer outside and windy or heavy snow and wind but moving while waiting to help will help to maintain warm in the body I would say most of the topics I think you covered. What I can add not sure maybe you have also mentioned but just as the winter season starts Iowa I always put a shovel in any car and window scraper for the ice extra gloves change windshield fluid do a winter with at least -25 and a small brush to clean snow from the car not speaking about proper winter tires and I would avoid driving late at night when the help can come in a longer time.
 
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El-Dracho

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I don’t have experience with the overnight camping in the colder weather. But living in the environment when the winter is quite cold I would say that is having an extra clothes in case you will get to it in some time cases at least warm and dry socks and a spare boots would be nice also warm clothes in case if the car was broke let’s say that the fastest help can arrive in about one hour so if your staying in -20 I would advise not just to sit but move and do something unless it’s very harsh condition answer outside and windy or heavy snow and wind but moving while waiting to help will help to maintain warm in the body I would say most of the topics I think you covered. What I can add not sure maybe you have also mentioned but just as the winter season starts Iowa I always put a shovel in any car and window scraper for the ice extra gloves change windshield fluid do a winter with at least -25 and a small brush to clean snow from the car not speaking about proper winter tires and I would avoid driving late at night when the help can come in a longer time.
Thank you, Tomas. The hint that especially in winter it can be critical in case of a breakdown and it takes a long time until help can come, is super good. A rescue blanket is part of the basic equipment and many of us certainly have also a warm sleeping bag in the car anyway, because they go camping. What you can also pack is an emergency biwack sack. They are small, light and can be easily stowed and who knows, in an emergency you might be grateful for it.
 
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RatAssassin

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Winter camping is more about YOU than any gear. You have to rely more on yourself than anything. YOU are the system.
Plenty of people go out in extreme conditions without any heaters or tech.

Go to bed warm, stay warm. Always hike around a bit, do some exercise and warm up just before turning in ( it takes me 18 minutes of hiking and moving to totally warm up. I have it timed to the minute). Wear a hat. Have decent gear. Use the right fabrics. Empty that bladder. A light pair of gloves works too. Bring in a hot water bottle in the bag.......you will be amazed.

I sleep in snow caves a lot. The coldest night out I ever spent was -46.

Use these tips in conjunction with what you have in case one system fails. There's a lot to be said for winter camping. It's a great time to be out with a little preparedness.
 

4x4tripping

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Hi Aaron,

It depends on what you mean by extreme temperatures. We've been on the road often in the European north (Norway, Sweden) in the winter and have had temperatures down to just below minus 30 degrees Celsius/ minus 20 F.

Overlanding in winter a really great thing if the overlander pays attention to a few things. I'm happy to share my experiences on this and give a few tips. There are also some good articles on this in the forum here, for example in the boot camp part. Please take a look there as well! For example the Boot Camp article for sleeping warm in camp.

Basically, traveling in winter requires a little more planning and preparation. Furthermore, a thorough inventory of equipment is self-evident and, depending on the destination, additional equipment is also advisable. In addition, there are numerous ways to prepare well for cold weather, so that you can then enjoy the beautiful winter landscapes.

One of the most important things in my experience: the weather can change quickly adversely, especially in winter. Here everyone should be prepared. This includes at least blankets, additional (warm) clothing, food and certainly enough fuel in the vehicle. When planning your route, you should take into account the shortened daylight hours. Always obtain a reliable weather forecast before traveling to less populated areas. Safety first!

Now a few tips / keywords in a nutshell:
  • Besides the weather, keep an eye on the road conditions; there are good apps for this in many countries.
  • As on any trip, the vehicle should of course be in good condition. So, check anything before, such as is the starter battery still ok, is the coolant ok (check it with a refractometer), are the lamps and bulbs ok, windshield wipers and check windshield cleaner / ill it up and carry replacements with you, Maintain door seals, hinges and locks, winter tires/ studded tires (is there any law about that in the are you travel?).
  • Many things that we should have in the vehicle in the winter are available in most overlanding vehicles anyway. Jump-start cable or jump-starter device, shovel, camping stove (small meals / hot water for a tea) warm blankets or good sleeping bags (you had already mentioned), simple, high-calorie meals as emergency rations, firewood, firestarter, hatchet and saw, thermos flask (with hot tea), towing and recovery gear, something to sweep away snow, ice scraper, de-icer for locks, etc.
  • Comms is key, always, especially in Winter if you get stuck for example.
  • Personal gear like headlamp, insulated working gloves, etc. are important.
  • Think about additional lights (shorter daytime). Good light is essential in the dark. this Especially in areas where there is a lot of game crossing
  • I also have a hot water heater in my vehicle. An independent diesel heater that preheats the coolant and a 120/230V heater.
  • Diesel or gasoline engine? In colder regions, diesel fuel can cause problems. A clogged filter leads to jerky engine running, starting difficulties and engine stalling. Change the filter beforehand (should be done regularly anyway), if necessary, carry additives with diesel. Btw, as far as I know also gasoline freezes at about minus 45 degrees Celsius/ minus 50 degrees F. Refuelling in good time is also important.
  • At extremely low temperatures, it maybe make sense to change to other engine and transmission oils (thick fluid at very low temperatures), please check the vehicle manufacturer's specifications for that.
With good preparation, such a winter trip can be a real pleasure. For enduring the cold, the overlander is compensated by breath-taking views of snow-covered landscapes or who knows, even a wonderful aurora borealis. I would love to travel to Canada in the winter.

These are just a few points from my experience and that just come to mind. We have here also some members from your are and more northern, which certainly have a lot of experience with cold in the area. Have a look at the member map, maybe you can contact someone there. There are certainly many members happy to help.

Feel free to ask if you want to know anything else.

Enjoy!

Bjoern
Nice write up with @Bjoern!

ski-winter-camping.jpg

I was wintercamping at last weekend, to extend my skiing time :-)

Some Points I have to mention too. There are two ways of indipendent diesel heater "park heating" devices on the market.

- Air Heating Devices (mostly aftermarket upgrades only)
- water heating devices who warms the engine, coolant and then the inside (mostly available as an bookable option duiring configuration, buying).

Air heating devices are made for let them running permanentely.

A water heating device who warmup too the coolant have usually a limited running time (mostly 30min) and uses a lot of fuel (warmup of the engine too), lot of energy (more fans and pumps are running)

You can abuse a water heating device for a night outside, program severall "warmup" times in the display or app - but you will not be happy at the end, because you cant set a temperature level. And the batterys dont let you run that setup for a night and a day with let them run any hour for 30min, even if you find a way to program that.

Those RV cars with an additional air heating device let them run permanentely. You will have to run them permanentely because your water will freeze at minus degrees celsius pretty quick. Will destroy most tanks or ways to for water storage.

There are generally two main strategys for wintercamping:

- to keep your home warm
- to wear warm clothes / good sleeping bag / use snow to get water on your campfire

I did both, both is a nice experience.

Wear warm clothes:
To wear a wool hat and use a high end polar sleeping bag is a nice experience who let you sleep very very deep. Be aware that a lot can freeze "we may like to use during overlanding": beer, wine, butter, jam, milk
Breakfast Options: Scrambled Egs, Porridge with milk powder, bread with olive oil instead of butter (you should keep the flake inside of your sleeping bag)
Important gear: portable fireplace, awning with sidewalls for wind protection (at least one side)

keep your home warm
With a permantely running heating device you can use what you like! Even if your additional heating device breaks during the day while you are skiing/hiking - your water and stuff need some time to freeze. But: you cant leave your vehicle alone for some days, without having an eye for water and other stuff who can freeze.

Sleeping inside
Those who are sleeping inside of your rig: that should help to keep the temperature above freezing level at night.

trippin

 
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El-Dracho

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Thank you for your additional information. Yes, air heater for heating the living space and coolant heater for (1) preheating the engine, (2) warming up the vehicle cabin in combination with the factory-fitted heating fan (note high current requirement) before driving off. And I also use it for (3) idle times while I am on the road, e.g. waiting for snowplows at column obligation sections in the north etc. so that the vehicle does not cool down too much. As another solution for preheating the coolant I have a 230V/115V heater on board as it is common in many Nordic countries.

Also important is your reference to the comparatively high power consumption of the coolant diesel heater. Of course, this loads the vehicle electrical system and therefore the heater should only be operated for a short time. Often you can find the rule of thumb: heating time = subsequent driving time. A coolant heater often also has a much higher heating capacity than an air heater, for example my Webasto Thermo Top Evo 5 has a heating capacity of 5KW. With that the heating time can be set in 10min steps and is set to 30min by default. I seem to remember that I can set a maximum of 120min on the panel (newer used it), I will pay attention next time I am on the road with the rig.

Winter greetings
Bjoern