Let me start by saying it’s an absolute essential to Winterize your Van when you live in the heart of Winter during 6 months of the year. Here’s a little side story, it took me up until November about 6 months to notice my Batteries needed help (partly due to lack of power management & the below mentions)… they were charging but weren’t able to hold a charge and I wasn’t able to go away off Grid for a weekend as things kept dying. I ended up driving 4 hours to Calgary to an amazing Van Build Company (check them out here) to have them take a look at my Electrical I had done in the Summer and unfortunately their words stated this wasn’t exactly done efficiently to support me living in it full time. Fortunately, they were incredibly knowledgeable and knew exactly what they needed to do! Was it a cost I was wanting to pay? – no but driving home that day, I felt like I was in a brand new home.
As the temperatures in Alberta started to drop, I had already started filtering and draining my water pump/lines, emptied out my water jugs x 2 (if you have a clean/dirty setup like mine) PS. It’s important to remember to keep the water lines, along with your faucet open to avoid freezing / bursting anything. I knew I wanted to get away in the Van for the Holidays and try to go somewhere that was warmer than Alberta, so the next best was British Columbia.
So myself, Steve and the pups planned a two week haul starting in Jasper, to Banff with the final destination being a Wooden Cabin in Golden BC for New Years Eve. December 17th began two weeks on the road and we had planned to be in Jasper for a week, but after two days we found ourselves heading towards Banff into the Mountains, where there was a little more to do for Winter Activities. We spent a night along Abraham Lake before heading into the town of Banff where we found ourselves at their opened, fully serviced CampGround once we heard Alberta was going into an Extreme Cold Weather Advisory.
This was my mental entry into writing this blog titled; VanLife in Alberta’s Extreme Winter. Although we woke up in the Alberta Mountains in – 42 Temperatures, we spent a lot of time in Banff – We spent a week total touring British Columbia’s National Parks –
Yoho National Park
Glacier National Park
Revelstoke National Park
Each one offering a different yet breathtaking view, I then decided this would be the start of my 2022 Plans; to Visit as many of our Canadian National Parks that are reachable via Wheels.
Getting to the point, below is not only what I’ve learnt when it comes to living in a Van Full Time in Alberta’s Extreme Winter & British Columbia but also what I recommend as MUST HAVEs (each is linked for you to purchase).
Having Steve along with me during the Holidays means getting very comfortable with being in each other’s space with having to do things like… going to the bathroom. Doing so on purpose, we made sure to be near some form of a toilet for the option of needing to sit (if you know what I mean 💩). However, for the nights which was every night, or having to stop every hour to pee, this has been the best recommendation my friend Kathy ever gave me! There are many different brands but I highly recommend this Female Urinal off Amazon because when you get it, you can register it online to receive one FREE in the mail! BONUS!
Let me Continue –
Canada Parks Annual Pass – When we began our trip, knowing we would be in & out of the parks we asked what the best way to go about it would be and they said entering and reentering the Park 7 x would be the same price for a year pass! So that was a money saving no brainer!
Cost – $150
Reusable Water Jug – I didn’t want to hook up my water system again in such cold temperatures so instead we bought a reusable 4L jug and refilled it at a grocery store for $2!! It fit perfectly in my sink so it never spilt during transportation or feels like an inconvenience.
Loads of Blankets – Not a surprise of course but my first thought was to buy an electric blanket however, the downfall would be the power usage and I never want to experience what I did again. So instead we brought Steve’s Duvet blanket and IT WAS A GAME CHANGER! This is absolutely something I will now have with him throughout ALL my travels!
Insulated Window Covers – You can buy these at well known VanLife/Build companies however, with Youtube nowadays, Momma G helped me make my own and having the Reflectix Insulation this kept the cold from coming into the windows!
Winter Tires & Track Pads – My Track Pads were one of those must have recommendations that I bought knowing many other VanLife people had, so I clearly needed it too. But one that I hope I never have to use – Well, we used these one simple to severe occasions and I can confidently say YES they work! I did endless amounts of research and review reading because this was an important buy, aka I highly recommend mine. And buy Winter Tires, period.
Butane CookTop – If you’ve read other blogs on my Website you will know, I was against butane, propane… anything that could blow up in my Van. However, when I experienced so much power issue, I knew I had to make the switch and I’m so glad I did! THIS Butane, single burner or you can buy double is super affordable, very quick to use (setup/heat/cook/clean up) and one can of butane is only $4 and lasts two people over a week. Get This.
Winter Camping Spots – This of course is optional but being in Alberta/BC where you have 3 – 4 hours of Sun most days in the Winter, I wanted somewhere to plug in the Van AND a clean, warm place to use the washroom. After having that option one night in Banff, I knew it was something I needed for the rest of the trip. [list of all my favorite sleep spots coming soon].
Fire Starter / Wood – Self Explanatory but if the weather is manageable and the wind isn’t going 90km an hour like it was for us… a fire is always a luxury.
And to close out, two things that I do recommend but I don’t have.. Yet. is Automatic Start for the Van as every morning we got out of bed to start it up, to warm the place before leaving the covers. AND just a little note for you to never expect to not get rocks thrown at your Windshield… it happened too many times to count in one day during our travels and something I had to very quickly accept.
Overall, living in a Converted Van in Winter is absolutely possible. I know a lot of people do it, however next year I will likely try to not be in Alberta as it’s way too cold during these months.. & for way too long.
If you’ve read to the end, thank you!