How to Stay Warm Sleeping in a Car?  [Detailed Guide & Tips]

Sleeping in your car can be a great way to experience nature and save money. Whatever your reasons are for sleeping in your vehicle, the bottom line is that you have to be prepared. However, sometimes emergencies happen, and we don't get the chance to prepare.

Some hazards come with sleeping in a car. Safety is the first thing that comes to mind- if possible, research on the crime rates of an area and the presence of wild animals before deciding to spend the night there. 

The ideal room temperature for sleep is around 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures lower than this disrupt sleep and have the ability to affect your health. Your heart and internal body organs may go into shock as a result of the excessive cold. 

If the temperatures are shallow, you may experience cardiac arrest, breathing failure, and maybe death.

Read on to get a detailed guide on how to stay warm sleeping in a car.

Tips for Staying Warm When Sleeping in a Car

Tips for Staying Warm When Sleeping in a Car

Bad weather could leave you stranded in your automobile for the night. Whatever the reason, knowing how to remain warm in a car overnight is essential.

Choose Where to Sleep Wisely

Consider both the annual change in climate and the day-to-day changes in weather reports for the location you intend to visit (for campers). 

Weather is described as simple changes in precipitation and temperature, whereas climate is defined as long-term weather patterns seen in a certain place. 

Each of these notions should be considered while selecting your next camping area for your safety and comfort. The eastern parts of the country tend to get very cold, so be cautious.

If some unforeseen circumstance forces you to sleep in your car, camp in rest areas such as:

  • Campsites 
  • Rest stops   
  • WI-FI hotspots
  • Truckstops
  • Walmart
  • Hospitals

Rest areas are relatively plentiful, so you shouldn't have any trouble finding one. On a map of the area, they're easy to find. It is illegal to camp near some places in some states, so please familiarize yourself with the local laws.

Wear Layers

When it comes to layering, it's all about the base. The base clothing layer is key to preventing loss of heat. Synthetic textiles that can dissipate sweat, such as polypropylene, polyester, rayon, or nylon, are suitable for layering.

Your hands and feet will need to be covered depending on how cold it is. Wear gloves that allow you to use your fingers and protect your hands at the same time. 

Wool socks are an excellent way to keep your toes warm and protected from frostbite. After all, it will be a long night, and you might want to play a game or surf the internet.

Carry additional layers of blankets for extra insulation.

Insulate the Car

To keep whatever heat you generate inside the car, insulate it using a reflective foam that reflects the heat energy to you. Purchase a large roll of your preferred reflective foam and apply it to your windows and windshield. 

Ensure the windows are covered from the inside, not from the outside, as you would when the sun is blocking your car. As a result, the heat will stay in the car's interior.

You can also put insets made from Reflectix wrap into the windows before sleeping.

Alternatively, you can use a space blanket to insulate the vehicle. Cover your windows and windshield with the space blanket, then wrap yourself in it.

sleeping in car on road trip

Use an Electric Blanket

An electric blanket is a type of blanket that has electrical heating wires built into it. They work the same way heating pads do, with an insulated wire woven into the fabric that heats up when powered. 

Most electric blankets will feature a temperature control device that allows you to control the amount of current entering the heating components and thus the quantity of heat emitted.

The blanket can be used as a duvet, coverlet, or throw blanket. The ideal approach to utilize an electric blanket is to warm up the area where you'll be sleeping and then turn it off or unplug it before going to sleep.

Turn The Engine Off

Before going to sleep, make sure the engine and air conditioning are turned off. Leaving the engine on will expose you to poor air quality and put you at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning

Moreover, you will not be happy in the morning when you realize your fuel is exhausted.

If you want to utilize your car's heating system, make sure it's working correctly. Only run the engine for brief periods. You can also invest in a carbon monoxide detector that monitors gas levels and alerts you if they go too high.

Eat and Hydrate

Keeping yourself hydrated and fed will help you stay warm. You want to stick with non-perishables whether you're preparing for a camping vacation or storing food for an emergency. Spicy foods are great at building body heat.

Drinking hot liquids in the winter helps prevent dehydration and helps to warm up the body against the cold. The most crucial thing is to prepare ahead of time by drinking a cup of hot beverage (avoid caffeinated drinks) and remembering to bring some with you on the trip. 

Keeping the beverage warm is best accomplished by using a travel mug. For extended automobile travels, all you need is an inexpensive, leak-proof thermal cup.

Get a Small Aftermarket Car Heater

If your car heater fails, an excellent way to supply heat is by using a small car heater. Small car heaters function by distributing heat throughout the cabin of your vehicle. It's also fantastic for defrosting windows. Good car heaters are generally inexpensive, and the cost is justified by the comfort they will bring in the future.

Huddle with Your Traveling Companion or a Pet (If You Have One)

Avoiding hypothermia by sharing body heat is a proven and proper strategy for staying warm. Huddle close together in the car if you have a travel buddy. Wrap yourself up in blankets if you have them to distribute as much heat as possible.

If you're going camping, sleep close together with people so that you can share your body heat at night.

camping in nature at car

Things to Keep in Your Car That Can Help in Case of an Emergency ( and for Camping in the Cold)

All of these items are incredibly useful to have in your car at all times of the year to be prepared for any circumstance that may come. These essentials are:

  • Cotton/wool blankets - They offer insulation and provide comfort that car seats cannot.
    • Source of light, preferably a headlamp and a flashlight - Invest in a few attractive solar lights if you want something that offers more light.
    • A toolset - It's a good idea to keep a small mechanic's tool kit in your car at all times. You can find a loaded toolkit with essentials such as a hammer, screwdrivers, pliers, ratchets, and a tape measure for less than one hundred dollars. 
    • This gear will come in handy when the need arises, but it also serves as a safety net for the automobile. Include a tire repair kit and a 2-volt portable air compressor for further peace of mind.
    • Extra food - It's critical to have a supply of carb-rich meals on hand to keep your heat and energy levels up during the long, chilly nights you can encounter while sleeping in your car. 
    • Your body is doing its best to conserve energy. Give yourself a fighting chance by having some additional snacks around.
    • Extra clothes - Your clothes will be your first line of defense against the cold. Make sure you have a synthetic jacket, hat, gloves, and socks in the car.
    • Navigation kit - They will help you find your way if you are lost. They can also help you find a safe space to park and spend the night. Today, a GPS device, personal locator beacon, compass, altimeter watch, and map are essential navigation tools for travel.
camping in car overnight

Sleeping in a Car FAQs        

1. Is It Illegal to Sleep in Your Car?

No. This is, however, dependent on whether you are trespassing or intoxicated. Hawaii is the exception to this rule. It is not legal to sleep in your car in Hawaii between 6 pm and 6 am.

2. Can It Get Too Cold to Sleep in Your Car?

Yes. It is not advisable to sleep in your vehicle if the temperature is below thirty degrees.

3. Can Wild Animals Break Into My Car as I Sleep?

Animals generally do not attack cars. However, bears can break car windows, so be cautious in bear country.

Wrap Up

Sleeping in a car can be exciting. However, if unprepared, it can be an unpleasant experience. If you follow this guide, you will be comfortable and safe now that you know how to stay warm sleeping in a car.

The essentials to staying warm while sleeping in your car are:

- Ensure your car has a working heating mechanism, or you have an aftermarket heater.

- Stay hydrated and eat up.

- Have access to heavy clothing and beddings.

Andrew Mullen

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