Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Canadian Winter Vandwelling

This has been a topic that I touch on every now and again, and it's one that I have not really been able to get the information that I am looking for on. You see, most the blogs out there are about American Vandwellers, and not only that, but usually retired snowbirds. No matter where they are, they move on down to warmer climates when the mercury starts to dip.

As much as I love these blogs, and the information I read on them, they do not quite apply to someone like me. Someone who is a young professional, with a fantastic, well paying job that he doesn't really want to leave. At least not for a while. That's who this blog is for. The guy or gal who chooses to live in an unconventional dwelling like a van, when they can afford to live in a stick built with ease.

I am locked into my location here in Calgary, Alberta, Canada year round. The summers are hot, the winters are cold. Recently, a forum post that I started and never got a response on (for good reason, no full timing Canadians on the board in a climate like mine), recently got a response from a new member who happens to live in Ontario (Their winters may be "milder", but are brutally cold because of the humidity there, I'm blessed with dry cold). Wealth of information so far from this gentleman. It appears that he's done it. He has lived in a vehicle in the Canadian Winter, and was fine. This brings me hope!

I still need to update the insulation, but finances have been less than ideal trying to get debt down while living in this awful stickbuilt. All in All, I'm paying close to $1000 a month to live in my place, including utilities, but not food. Then, I have food, internet, car/home insurance, life insurance, savings, etc eating up most the rest. I miss living in the van, and rent WAS my car insurance (and gas).

Looks like there could be hope for me yet!

30 comments:

  1. Wish I had something to offer, but am still looking forward to learning how you cope in the winters.

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  2. Thanks Steve. I'll be sure to blog about it when they start to show up come December! Although the fall comes about August/September, December through February are the coldest months. Especially end of January into February.

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  3. Currently vandwelling in Michigan, weary about the coming winter. 2000 Caravand it in Maine until mid December couple years ago. Brutal. 89 Econoline Class B now though, fiberglass insulation. Stays fair inside there down to about 42 degrees F. Wont help me from December till March, though. An infrared heat map of the van in winter would be excellent. As would a truckload of space heaters.

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  4. espar air heater. im getting one!

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    1. Hi Arathi:

      Hubby and I are not van dwellers but have a Eurovan. Just a thought about Calgary- very cold in the van (but a dry cold thank goodness). What about the idea of offering to be "on-site secrity"..? Not sure if this is a fit, and perhaps one needs to be careful for sure, but there is a vacant doctors office that is for lease, and 2 truck and campers were staying there. They were able to plug in, and seemed ok there for 2 - 4 months. Perhaps they were just friends of the building owners, or snowbirds who had permission. But, they may have been on-site security, as well. All the best, and yes renting is soooo expensive. Be safe and all the best to you ! :)

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    2. @Ray, great idea! Thanks! We got the furnace up and running finally. Had to pull it out, and wire brush the connections to clean them.

      @Anon, I work in IT, (still), and make pretty darn good money, so that wouldn't be practical for me. However, being able to plug in and use electric heat is great. We're currently working on getting the van insulated.

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  5. Yeah!! Canadian. Yes, it's a rarity to find any info about Canadians vandwelling. In the forums it's mostly geared to Americans. I've seen a few but the percentage is low. It's doable just have to have the right equipment.

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    1. That is why I wanted to start this blog! I found there was just about nothing, and what was there, were Canadians with the lifestyle to go south in the winter. Makes it difficult for the regular Joe who needs to keep working!

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  6. Hi great to find your blog. My friend had a small propane heater under the hood. This kept the motor warm so it would start. There are diesel cooktops with blower lid for sailboats. There is one that has an iPhone app . So u could turn the heat up or down remotely. Plugging in is great maybe a hotel with car plug. Make a deal . For sure extra insulation there are remote starts that can be set for certain temps. This would fire up heaters. Good luck . I am here in Okanagan
    Valley . Much milder winters. And several full timers around.
    Cheers

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  7. as a seasoned candian van/rv dweller, 20+ days/nights per month since 2009 I say espar bunk heater is the way to go. I have found used one at big trick (junkers) for under $500. I just hook up a separate tank for the fuel and a couple of rv batteries for the power and life is good.

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  8. Thank you so much for posting this Canadian winter vandwelling. This will gave me a lot of information. So keep on sharing! Looking for more Dwelling Insurance Pompano Beach? Check us here.

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  9. thank you 4 this post-I 2 am looking 4 a better,faster way 2 save money.ontario taxes are killing me.i have a full time job in London.even at 17.25 an hour,you pay for your car,and insurance, rent and utilities, theres nothing left.im sick of it.at 54 yrs I have 2 bank money quickly.time 2 get a van-but also worried bout the winter.

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  10. Edmontonian here. I work for forestry in the summer and get a free cabin to live in(sweet, eh?). Looking into van dwelling for the winter. Ran into a van dweller last winter and he had just thrown up some foam insulation (maybe a quarter inch thick) on the insides of his van walls. He ran an electric space heater off an extension cord that he plugged into his buddy's mechanic shop. It was a pretty rough set up but I'm hoping to try it out if I can find the right van

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  11. My husband & I live in southern Ontario in a van. I find it useless to try to heat the van (insulation only keeps us warm for about 20 minutes, then all the heat is gone & we have to heat it up again)

    Fuzzy thick blanket + goose down duvet is great for keeping us warm during the nights

    The biggest issue you'll encounter is that all your food is going to freeze. No one talks about this, but I've learned it's a crippling issue (we're actually currently trying to find somewhere to spend the winter until we can manage in the van again, because I don't want to eat fast food every day, which is another thing that vandwellers seem to do judging by the message boards)

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  12. I have been doing this off and on for 3 years after a breakup,mostly around Edmonton winter and summer in a astro mini van,I love the mini van can park most place and not be bothered,I had a lunch box cooker and bq,Winter is great for froozen foods,Too keep warm lots of blankets and engine heat a remote starter would work great also,caution make sure exhaust is in perfect condition,i mostly work camp jobs in the winter so works great for me,Met a lot of working people and non working people living in cars vans suvs pickup trucks.In Alberta and Bc will post more lately

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  13. Wow a van dwelling Canadian! I am excited. I have been contemplating becoming a van dweller as travel does not seem possible in my current life style as money never seems to stay in my bank account due to living expenses. The winter has deterred me as I am not a huge fan of freezing to death! I have not taken the step yet but it sure is looking appealing. If things in my life change soon I will be giving it a try!

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    1. I know exactly what you mean Carol. Due to changes in my life, I'm not currently in the van, but I have plans to get my family rolling again. It's just finding the right method. My wife (married in Dec 2013!) is a city girl, and still likes the idea of stick built homes and before me, had never even been inside a campervan. She's warming up to the idea though.

      The most important part when it comes to vandwelling in the winter (if you're choosing to stay in one place) is insulation. There are fantastic options for insulating a van. I highly recommend making sure you have a couple house batteries, and solar unless you can go the shore power route. A thermostat will eat up your power pretty fast in the winter running the furnace.

      I'm still updating the van (as time and money permit) so that it's fully capable of going off-grid for a long time. Once I can start the process up again, I'll post more!

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    2. Hey all im outta the astro van,in a old camper van gas pig,cold in the winter bigger isnt always better

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  14. There was one guy at work talking about this very problem and I live in Calgary as well. He had a friend who couldn't afford the security deposit so he lived out of his car during the colder months. What he did was take out the back seat of his car and laid down foam and blankets to make a bed. Then he would park his car at C-Train parking which has plug-ins and would plug a heater through his car window to keep warm. Every once in a while he would have to move but overall he kept going until he had money for a place.

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  15. I live in a van most of the time until my ball sack freezes to my leg because I havnt showered in seven days then I move it on to the bus with the wood stove here in Saskatoon area

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  16. YouTube 403vandweller is my channel. I lived 7 years in a cargo van I converted from scratch. Got totalled in a nasty 3 car wreck in NW Calgary back in April. Still haven't settled with the injury claim and purchased an older class C motorhome. Few of my recent videos show how I'm preparing and renovating it for Alberta's climate.

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  17. It's not easy but doable I've been living in my van in Fort McMurray for three years now.I took pink insulation and vapor barrier and did all the windows and doors even the roof of my camper van. For power I have 4 agm batteries and a 130 watt solar system and it works great. In the winter months I plug in when I'm working and have one of those cdn tire smart chargers plugged in.

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  18. JUST WONDERING HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE VAN DWELLING HERE IN CANADA WITH THINGS THE WAY THEY ARE

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  19. JUST WONDERING HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE VAN DWELLING HERE IN CANADA WITH THINGS THE WAY THEY ARE

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  20. I am considering this option. I am recently divorced. Let the ex have the home. I've been renting for the past year and have had to switch places several times. I'm sick of moving around and paying first and last and having problems with landlords and other tenants. I keep to myself and am quite and clean and yet always run into trouble with people I live with being nosey. The divorce messed up my savings and the plans I had have now all changed. I'm liking the idea of this very much.

    My biggest concern is keeping my dog comfortable in the van during the hot months...cold months I'm actually not too worried about since I am a winter camper and have a number of tricks to stay warm and keep the pooch comfortable. But the heat in the van when I am working and the pooch is alone is concerning......The parking for when I work is secure so I can leave the windows open for him...

    What do you folks do for dogs in this situation?

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  21. As someone who also has a dog, you have two options. First off, it seems that most people are part of a group that says find a new home for your cat or dog. And I'd say that I'd be part of that same group if your job is not a "work from home/your camper" sort of scenario.

    However, you can also go with the other camp of peeps that will spend the extra $$$ to buy an RV or modified camper that has a very thorough temperature control system, such as a propane powered AC unit

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  22. As someone who also has a dog, you have two options. First off, it seems that most people are part of a group that says find a new home for your cat or dog. And I'd say that I'd be part of that same group if your job is not a "work from home/your camper" sort of scenario.

    However, you can also go with the other camp of peeps that will spend the extra $$$ to buy an RV or modified camper that has a very thorough temperature control system, such as a propane powered AC unit

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  23. Hi folks.
    I've been Van Dwelling in south eastern Ontario now for almost Two Months. October and November. I have a full time job so Im location bound. My Wife and I full times in our Trailer from April to October this year. She is staying with family in another city while she attends school and works part time. I opted to stay in an old conversion van (also my daily driver) for the winter until the campground opens again in April.
    I will be blogging about it on my Blogger account (Parttimeretirement) as this is the first step for us to be able to winter in warmer climes.

    Here is what I've learned so far. I painted the van black, blacked out all the rear windows and sealed them with "Reflectix" bubble wrap from the inside. As this was an already completed conversion van I did not remove any of the walls or ceiling to add additional insulation. lets face it, without a continuous heat source, that vents itself outside, that extra work/cost/insulation will not do much.
    my bead is a camp cot, Reflectix base, Thermorest 1", wool blanket, -20degC synthetic sleeping bag, second wool blanket. This system combined with the appropriate base layer and clothing (HAT HAT HAT) and hot water bottle has worked beyond well down to -10 degC. In fact, I have removed clothing every night.
    for supplemental (not full time) heat I have a proppane buddy heater that I will run for no longer than 30 minutes at a time. It does fantastic to heat up the space, but it does steam the inside of the windshield and door windows. My main source of heat is "Candle Lanterns". I have 3 that are hung safely. Each candle lantern produces approximately 13-1500btu's of heat. most nights I only have 1 going, but I have run all three a couple times. 1 keeps the inside 7-10 degC warmer than the outside, and all three had the inside +5degC while the outside was -10. this is of course combined with body heat. These readings were at 5am when I woke for work, 7-8hours after the buddy heater was run last.
    I cook on a small "Trangia" alcohol stove. Food does freeze and I use more fuel to cook frozen ingredients, but that fuel also aids in heating the space so it does double duty.
    I do have a place available to park and plug in (hello space heater), but have not needed it yet. So far I have used box store parking lots in the region as my go to. there are also a couple Casinos local. I'm sure that snow removal equipment will be something that will be a challenge, but those nights may be when I stay where I have shore power.
    2 months so far and its been great. I learn something new every week.

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  24. Hello, just starting the process of transitioning into my van. I just turned 50 and am undertaking an off grid lifestyle that includes never again paying hydro or gas bills to these monopolies that exist in Southern Ontario. Rent is quite high here and after paying that and utilities, insurance and the increasingly high cost of food I am searching for a smarter way to live. I have a full size passenger van that I ripped the seats out of, added insulation in the form of reflectix and bat insulation followed with vapour barrier. Add a big buddy, elevated bed and plenty of blankets, girlfriend and dog and crossing my fingers that things will be fine. Canadians in general are hardy and a little cold should not deter a dream of self sufficiency. Windows are poor insulators and must be addressed in order to combat cold. First I will create an air space barrier using a home depot winter kit that heat shrinks plastic around windows to stop leaks and create an air pocket that resembles a double pain window. I will then spray paint it black for privacy. Alternatively use reflictix and sand-which insulation between hard cardboard and with the use of velcro attach and detach from windows as needed. I am thinking a cooler,porta-potti and a combination crockpot-stove should address eating and bathroom necessities. I start this transition in a weeks time where I will move into a double car garage temporarily or until I get kicked out then into the van. Heating the garage with a big buddy heater and an oil filled heater hopefully will keep us warm. I intend to outfit a cargo hitch carrier for the back of the van and attach propane tanks there for heating and cooking. The upside to insulating the van is that I could go snowboarding at a resort and stay in the van to avoid hotel bills. eventually as money permits I intend to acquire a boat and live on that while travelling around in the van. Boondocking will be an adventure in itself,hopefully providing spectacular views and vistas while providing freedom to move about independant of our rent and utility overlords. It is always good to have a backup plan, or a backup place to live. I will report back on the progress of enduring a Canadian winter living off alternatively.Cheers!

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  25. I worked as a rv tech for 10 years in Calgary and yes you can do it ,but you better be ready for it. the R rating in a Rv is three seasons unless you get a four season unit and they do make them

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