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It's that time of year again. Time to wake up with frost on my sleeping bag. I've learned a few things by now. My conclusions are as follows:

Lot's of ways to stay warm, but a viable option is the Lil' Buddy heater. They make it in two sizes, small for $80 and big for $130. I tried both. The small one will keep you warm with some van insulation, but it's at it's limit. The big one will make more heat than you can stand! The small one runs on a single 1lb propane bottle ($3.47 Wally World) and runs 6 hours on low and 3 hours on high. The big Buddy heater uses two bottles, so 12 hours on low and 6 on medium, 3 on high I assume. The Big Buddy also has a built in fan that runs on 4 D cells or a wall wart. I assume you could run it off the van's battery if you felt like it.

The fan is a big deal, because no matter what you do it will be toasty by the roof but colder by the floor. Even the cheapie Wally world $10 2D cell desk fan does the job, and the batteries last forever.

So here's the trick with propane bottles: you can keep buying them if you like, or you can can plumb the heaters to an external 20lb barbeque tank ($16 to refill at Walmart, $44 to buy). Theoretically, you aren't supposed to run a 20lb tank inside the van for fear of blowing up, but I know a guy who does. But there is a BETTER WAY!! Buy the big tank, and refill the 1lb bottles with it. Turns out with an $8 coupler you can do this, and you can actually put in slightly more than 1lb. Search youtube for how-tos. Easy.

Insulation: You can get as fancy as you want, but literally ANYTHING on the ceiling and walls makes a huge difference. I have styrofoam panels (Lowe's) on the ceilings, and nothing on the walls, but I have discovered a way to use old sleeping bags as curtains that make a huge difference. The smaller the space you are in, the easier it is to keep warm. I hang one junker sleeping bag from the ceiling about midship, and I hang a blanket off the attic shelf as a curtain. I plan to upgrade the front one, because having a wall would make the dash heat more effective on super cold drives.

What else? Use a cot to sleep off the floor. Use a $30 walmart mummy bag and pjs and you'll be fine. Mummy bags are cumbersome but they work. The trick isn't sleeping in the cold, it's waking up in ambient temps. Nothing, NOTHING is worse than getting out of a warm sleeping bag in 5 degrees and fumbling to start the van, then waiting for it to get warm. The Buddy Heaters sit on the floor, and you just reach over and fire them up. I suppose you could cook breakfast on them too if you like. A coffee pot adapter would be nice.
 
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Yep been there! I have a thin closed cell mat I put on my cot to insulate me from below as the sleeping bag gets compressed under you. Your good description of waking up makes me happy to have installed the Espar. At $800-900 its a lot of “Lill buddies" and Propane cylinders though!
 

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Tractor Supply is a good place for propane in my part of the world (NH). I just filled a 20 # tank for $7.30! They charge you for the actual weight they put in not a flat fee which is a real rip off. Most empty tanks take about 4.3 gallons fwiw. Don't ask why they sell tanks rated in pounds and fill them with gallons of propane but they do.
 

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Buy the big tank, and refill the 1lb bottles with it.
DOT regulations prohibit transporting one of the disposable bottles that has been refilled. In the (admittedly unlikely) event you are stopped and they find this you will be heavily fined.

There is a reason for this: the propane placed into the disposables is carefully dried. Bulk propane is stored over water, and has quite a bit of moisture in it. Bulk bottles are thicker and designed to handle this, the disposable bottles are just thick enough to last one use, and can rust out when refilled.

Obviously people are going to do this, but at least know what the regulation are and what the penalties and risks are.
 

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Don't know why, but the cost of 1lb propane bottles has risen steeply in the last year or so. That $3.47 at WallyWorld was $2 just last year. Thanks to KOV and RD, we don't even cook with them any more.

I made a quilt for the van with Climashield, the best insulation there is short of down. We have never gotten cold under it. Lounging at night and getting up in the morning are why we want a Webasto.
 

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Ok just wanted to post this hear since people are complaining about refilling bottles which I do for ice fishing. but here is a refillable 1 lb kit with bottle. the bottles are pricey but can be refilled forever. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01FLN2ND...TF8&colid=1EPHXHOIG8OPQ&coliid=I27IBSV8M8WABF.


you can also plumb the van and put a quick connect fitting at the rear of the van to hook up a 20lb bottle. heres the quick connect. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B007HG7TF...TF8&colid=1EPHXHOIG8OPQ&coliid=I38M5AWP7IVLBP


me personally I have this sleeping bag and just use my buddy heater before bed to heat the van and in the morning when I get up.
https://www.amazon.com/Coleman-Big-...sr=8-1&keywords=coleman+big+game+sleeping+bag


I have been outside in a tent down to 10 degrees with a -7 wind chill with this bag and slept like a baby. the bag is huge inside and I have tons of room for a big guy 5'11 240lbs


this summer I plan to install a parking heater than runs off the vans fuel source be it gas or diesel, I'm going to get the cheap one from china cause I'm just that, cheap! lol I figure even if it sucks ill at least be able to report it to everyone here that it does in fact suck! So here is the heater I will be getting before next winter. https://www.aliexpress.com/item/Air.../721825155.html?spm=2114.40010208.4.56.UU7mGp


Best of luck everyone and stay warm!
 

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Don't know why, but the cost of 1lb propane bottles has risen steeply in the last year or so. That $3.47 at WallyWorld was $2 just last year. Thanks to KOV and RD, we don't even cook with them any more.

I made a quilt for the van with Climashield, the best insulation there is short of down. We have never gotten cold under it. Lounging at night and getting up in the morning are why we want a Webasto.
Hi!

Which Webasto product would you purchase for your rig?

Thanks
 

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We use shorthand here which unfortunately works against newbes Welcome into the circle of PMforum vaners. We are an inclusive bunch really. There is a MrNomer who is not a member, Steve who is, Gary who is GaryBIS, Ed who is proeddie, and many others. Welcome vlouish.
 

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Just bought a big buddy heater for an insulated 118"wb. Should be plenty to heat the lil van. My question is has anyone Fabn one on low all night are is the o2 sensor not to be trusted. Planned on a battery powered C02 alarm as well for sure. Just looking for someone's experience with these heaters. I am in the NW not as if it that cold but i am not looking to not be comfortable or more off my wife be uncomfortable
 

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It's that time of year again. Time to wake up with frost on my sleeping bag. I've learned a few things by now. My conclusions are as follows:

Lot's of ways to stay warm, but a viable option is the Lil' Buddy heater. They make it in two sizes, small for $80 and big for $130. I tried both. The small one will keep you warm with some van insulation, but it's at it's limit. The big one will make more heat than you can stand! The small one runs on a single 1lb propane bottle ($3.47 Wally World) and runs 6 hours on low and 3 hours on high. The big Buddy heater uses two bottles, so 12 hours on low and 6 on medium, 3 on high I assume. The Big Buddy also has a built in fan that runs on 4 D cells or a wall wart. I assume you could run it off the van's battery if you felt like it.

The fan is a big deal, because no matter what you do it will be toasty by the roof but colder by the floor. Even the cheapie Wally world $10 2D cell desk fan does the job, and the batteries last forever.

So here's the trick with propane bottles: you can keep buying them if you like, or you can can plumb the heaters to an external 20lb barbeque tank ($16 to refill at Walmart, $44 to buy). Theoretically, you aren't supposed to run a 20lb tank inside the van for fear of blowing up, but I know a guy who does. But there is a BETTER WAY!! Buy the big tank, and refill the 1lb bottles with it. Turns out with an $8 coupler you can do this, and you can actually put in slightly more than 1lb. Search youtube for how-tos. Easy.

Insulation: You can get as fancy as you want, but literally ANYTHING on the ceiling and walls makes a huge difference. I have styrofoam panels (Lowe's) on the ceilings, and nothing on the walls, but I have discovered a way to use old sleeping bags as curtains that make a huge difference. The smaller the space you are in, the easier it is to keep warm. I hang one junker sleeping bag from the ceiling about midship, and I hang a blanket off the attic shelf as a curtain. I plan to upgrade the front one, because having a wall would make the dash heat more effective on super cold drives.

What else? Use a cot to sleep off the floor. Use a $30 walmart mummy bag and pjs and you'll be fine. Mummy bags are cumbersome but they work. The trick isn't sleeping in the cold, it's waking up in ambient temps. Nothing, NOTHING is worse than getting out of a warm sleeping bag in 5 degrees and fumbling to start the van, then waiting for it to get warm. The Buddy Heaters sit on the floor, and you just reach over and fire them up. I suppose you could cook breakfast on them too if you like. A coffee pot adapter would be nice.
I got the small one in mine and refill my bottles off the 20 pounder.
No insulation yet, but the futon is comfy.
 

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There is no second chance.

If you choose to go that way you will need 2 appropriately sized vent holes, one low and one high.

If you already know this then disregard.

Safer way, 12v heating mat fed from aux battery while you sleep.
 

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Even with our $900 Espar we rarely sleep with it on. Evenings reading, videos, internet, with heat is a wonderful thing even here in S Arizona. When we get into bed to sleep we are on 5” of IKEA foam, plush and a very good insulator, and under our 10 year old Kelty double sleeping bag opened to cover two and rated for 10º which means good down to 20º. When we wake we reach over and start the Espar and wait until it is about 70º which takes 10 or 15 minutes, then we get up. If it is too cold for that we let the heater run (on its lowest setting) and open an awning window at our heads a bit, check the CO and smoke detectors and sleep at about 55º Because we are in a (insulated) tin can I have great fear of not waking up due to CO. I would not sleep with one of those propane heaters on as they rely on an O2 shutdown circuit and I just can’t bring myself to do it. They should work well to have evening and morning heat IF you follow phil and MsNomer's advice. Notice Kip-on-truckin the OP uses his this way.
 

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What ever heat you use look in the mirror first that will be the reason it is safe or fails. Forty % of house fires stated by heating systems were portable. They have been using gas heaters in the autos and trucks since the buggy years. Only VW and Corvair made the big news way back when and no one forgets. So go to bed dreaming of Three French Hens and maybe the 4 Colly birds won't come a calling.
 

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I don't use my van for winter camping, but I keep looking at one of these!

http://www.go2marine.com/product/20010F/dickinson-marine-newport-solid-fuel-heater-00-newsf.html

I think a few pieces of wood and you would get plenty of heat, no moisture issues, and the warm glow of a real fireplace!

The 'ol wood burner looks pretty nice. It needs an intake vent, and has just a 3", 4 foot long chimney. They make a propane version that has a nice window to view the flames through. Tricky part is to find a spot with 8" of space on each side of the unit!

For me, so far an electric heater and shore power has worked well on our trips where the temps get a bit cool overnight. (like in PA in April and October)
 

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Hi,

As another alternative to the portable, non-vented propane heaters, Suburban and Atwood make compact propane furnaces for RV that are very popular.

They vent combustion products to the outside and pull combustion air in from the outside. They have all the lightoff detection, airflow sail switches, ... that home furnaces do. The smaller ones don't need ducting and take up about the same space as the portable propane heaters. They do require an about 3 inch hole in the side of the van. Probably a million RVs out there using them for decades.
We have a 12K BTU input (9KBTU output) Atwood that we got for $400 new, but looks like Atwood does not make it anymore -- the 16K BTU units appear to be about $480.

http://www.americanrvcompany.com/Su...e-Quiet-Furnace-16000-BTU-H-Trailer-Camper-RV

I can remember camping up at Banff in the winter in our old van with only a kerosene heater (which is another option) at 0F and with 10 inches of new snow in the morning -- that was fun!

Gary
 

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Yes they are very good and we have had them too. That sort of heater seems very safe and great for its full venting, and like the Espar uses just outside air. Propex is another product that uses Propane and is priced between the Atwwod/Suburban and the Espar/Wabasto. http://www.ebay.com/itm/12v-Propex-...958352?hash=item2cb1683810:g:-i4AAOSwgZ1XwIUD
We found our Atwood loud and needed to cycle on and off in our truck camper of about the same size as our van. It was the 16,000 btu (input) model. Our Espar is much quieter even in startup mode and when it is about freezing it can run on low W/O restart which is very quiet.
 
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