Vanlife may look glamorous on Instagram, but it may not be so glamorous when you realize you need to sleep in three layers of long underwear.

Broderick is an influencer who shares the truth about vanlife in winter

Photo: Georgia Broderick

Vanlifer and semi-influencer Georgia Broderick just shared on her Instagram a series of behind-the-scenes videos on what vanlife in winter is really like. Broderick, who lives around the Toronto area, is a route-setter at her local climbing gym. She and fiancé Alejandro have been living the vanlife full-time for the last two years in the Great White North, and if her videos are any indication, it’s not all the carefree lifestyle you may see on Instagram. Since Broderick lives near Toronto, she’s no stranger to cold temperatures. “The coldest night we’ve spent in the van so far was -35 degrees Celsius,” she told Matador — about -31 degrees Fahrenheit.

If you’re thinking about buying that sweet Sprinter van you’ve seen on Craigslist and traveling through North America, you may first want to check out her videos on vanlife in winter and make sure you have the will (and the thick sweaters) to make it work.

On staying warm in winter

While Broderick has a diesel-powered heater in her van, that’s not all you need to stay warm. She advises making sure your van is well-insulated as you build it, and also suggests double-pane windows to avoid drafts. And to keep their feet warm, they have extra foam panels they put on the floor during winter to keep their toes off the cold laminate floor.

“The first step for staying warm is insulation,” she told Matador. “The first winter we spent in the van we didn’t have a heater, but our insulation was a life saver. My tips for staying warm when you don’t have a heater are to get a really warm sleeping bag, sleep with a hot water bottle, if you can have a hot shower before bed do that, and wear really good thermal layers.”

On showering in winter

Broderick’s van doesn’t have a shower (they use an outdoor solar shower in the summer), but her job at a climbing gym comes with a helpful perk: access to showers in the locker rooms. If you’re planning on vanlifing through the winter, you’ll definitely need some kind of membership to ensure you have access to a hot shower nearby. Don’t forget your college-style shower caddy!

On the pros and cons of vanlife in winter

While parts of being a vanlifer in winter are tough, like sweeping snow out of your van and having your plumbing freeze, other parts are simply wonderful, like having a beautiful winter wonderland outside your front door.

And by the way, Broderick doesn’t have Wi-Fi in the van, but says that their unlimited phone plans are enough to work. Just remember that you’ll need to stay in an area with good cell service if your vanlife plan includes tethering internet from your phone.

On the extra steps you have to take in the morning

Mornings when you’re a vanlifer in winter include a few extra steps you may not have to take if you stayed in a hotel. That includes having to remove your window insulation and possibly having to unfreeze all your water bottles and jugs. When it’s -20 degrees Celsius (about -4 Fahrenheit), Broderick has to run the van for about 20 minutes to warm it up enough to drive it somewhere to use the restroom. From there, she boils her (hopefully unfrozen) water to make coffee, bundles up in gloves and an insulated jacket, and heads out to wherever the day takes her.

On getting ready for bed in the winter

Broderick’s bedtime routine isn’t drastically different between winter and summer, though they do have to make sure to fill their diesel tank before going to bed to power their heater.

If you’re wondering why Broderick doesn’t just drive south, there’s an easy answer (aside from the fact that her fiancé’s job is in Toronto). “We are both climbers and skiers so it’s really important for us to be able to travel to destinations where we can do those activities,” she says. “Also, we’ve been able to save enough money to buy a house living this lifestyle and not having to pay rent. We will travel to climb and ski every weekend and anytime he [Alejandro] can get time off!”

Want more winter vanlife tips? Broderick has even more videos and tips about the pros and cons of vanlife on her TikTok account.