10 essential things to pack for a UK winter road trip - your camper packing list
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So it’s getting to that time of the year again, the nights are drawing in, the mercury is beginning to drop, condensation has started forming on windows in the mornings and we’re all locked in bitter feuds about when we can turn on the heating. Very few of us are arguing about winter camper packing lists at this time of the year.
For many people this signifies time to hang up the keys to their van for a few months and to bed in for the winter. Steaming cups of coffee, biscuits, fluffy blankets and cosy slippers are being pulled out from cupboards up and down the country.
We all know that winter in the UK is going to be wet, windy and cold, but this brings with it an opportunity for the hardened weekend warriors among us. However, the truth of the matter is that actually, the winter weekend warriors aren’t hardened at all, just prepared and ready to go explore at any given moment, confident in the knowledge that winter need not be a barrier to our favourite pastime.
Winter actually provides many opportunities unavailable in the summer, think quieter roads, warm and cosy pubs stops and a real sense of adventure and excitement heading off into the elements that you just don’t get in the summer.
We’ve decided to chronicle the key things required for making winter touring not only possible, but enjoyable in a whole different way to those long, heady days of summer that seemed to fly by so quickly and seem so far off in the distance by now. Let’s look forward to winter together and embrace the changing of the seasons.
Alternatively check out our advice for keeping warm whilst touring in the winter.
For those of you who already enjoy the delights of winter touring, read on and hopefully you will still learn something, or at the very least enjoy reading the article.
Camper packing list #1: Traction Mats
The first rule of winter road trip club is don’t talk about winter roadtrip club-… No, let’s not go there. The first rule of winter road trip club is don’t get stuck! This is going to put a sinkhole (…), probably quite an expensive sinkhole, on your weekend.
Now some people swear by these little devices, others don’t believe they work. We think you should always carry them regardless of your opinion. They are so van packing friendly because they are totally flat that they take up no room at all, even in the tiniest of vans. Stuff them in the boot if you have one, or under the passengers feet if you don’t, or on a ceiling net or under a chair. There is no reason not to take them as let’s face it, they’re not going to do any harm.
camper packing list #2: Ankle wellies & torches
Big wellies are useless in a van. They take up a whole lotta precious space, they’re uncomfortable to walk any distance in and will more than likely get knocked over every 5 minutes when you’re cooking dinner or playing musical chairs.
However every time you hop out of the van to let the dog go to the loo, run across to the toilet block or go around to access the boot or whatever, you want something waterproof to quickly slip on and off again.
Ankle length boots to the rescue – make sure these are on your winter camper packing list. I used to use my crocs (shock horror from the croc haters) – but, y’know what, shoes with holes in make you get wet feet and socks!
Torches are an absolute must as well, we always carry a variety of torches with us to address different needs. A head torch for searching out dog poop or for fixing/finding stuff when we need our hands free. A maglite is the perfect lightweight torch and a lantern is great for lighting up a whole area
camper packing list #3: Double up on clothing
If you’re just away for the weekend don’t bother trying to dry stuff out if it gets wet. You’ve then got to deal with stuff hanging up and dripping water everywhere, smelling out the van and taking up valuable space.
We used to hang everything up in the toilet on a tension rod to dry. But every time we needed to use the bathroom we had to push damp, smelly clothes around – it was gross!
Just shove your wets in a waterproof carrier bag and stuff out of sight, out of mind. Much easier to dry things off when you get home.
For tips on dealing with wet gear on a longer trip keep an eye out and subscribe as we are going to be writing about that shortly.
camper packing list #4: Dog coat & jumper
So this one obviously only applies if you have a furry friend to bring along for the ride – and that furry friend should be a dog, not your strange Uncle Greg. If you don’t have a dog then just scoot (no pun intended) along to the next point as you don’t need to worry about this.
When we first had our dog I scoffed at the idea of dog coats and jumpers. I thought they were a con and served no real purpose. However after Una almost got hypothermia on a hike around Exmoor on a wet November afternoon, I caved and agreed to buy her a raincoat, to keep off the worst of the water.
I think at this point it’s important to say that not all raincoats for dogs are made equal. We chose the coat below as it’s waterproof, comes with a fleece inner for those colder days and crucially, wraps all the way around under her belly. And y’know what, unless we’re out for more than 3 or so hours in torrential rain, her body remains warm and dry!
Another critical bit of kit is a jumper to warm her up after a particularly long and wet or cold walk, we use an equafleece. Not only does an equafleece turn a cold dog into a hotdog (sorry) but they are also pretty good when actually used as coats to hold off the rain for a short while.
However we mainly use ours to warm and dry her and, if you’re stopping mid hike at a pub or restaurant, pop on the equafleece (on the dog!) and then they can’t shake mud all over every patreon and surface in the pub!
For a more in depth look at what you need to for a winter trip with your pal check out our post about what to consider when road tripping with your dog
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camper packing list #5: Pyjamas & Blankets
There’s something quite special about cosying up in some pyjamas and watching a movie before dinner whilst the wind and rain rattles against the windows. Especially after a day exploring out braving the elements.
Additionally it can get chilly in bed overnight if like me you normally just wear boxers to sleep. Pyjamas add an extra layer of insulation and really do add comfort for overnight on those chilly nights. Plus, get some funky ones and you’ll no doubt never want to take them off!
Weighted blankets are great insulators that require no power and, according to many experts, help with stress, a fatigued body and are generally awesome – and whilst we’re not sure about the healing properties of them – we certainly enjoy ours.
camper packing list #6: Entertainment
This is easily overlooked if you’re used to summer trips. Normally you don’t need to worry about entertainment as you sit out under the stars with a campfire toasting marshmallows until you flop, exhausted and quite possibly a bit drunk into your bed.
However in the winter you’re far more likely to cut your day shorter and end up sat in the van earlier than you might expect. Make sure you and to your winter camper packing list some books, a tablet for Netflix (other streaming services exist…) a pack of cards or boardgame to keep you entertained. Try and pack something that you wouldn’t normally do of an evening at home as I find this a great time to break away from the norm.
For instance, Lyd has recently taken up crochet and we now have woollen items appearing all over the place. However we do understand that sometimes your latest boxset binges simply cannot wait for Monday evening.
camper packing list #7: Sunglasses
Bear with us on this one. You might think we’re playing a mean trick on you but rest assured that’s not the case.
During the winter the sun is far lower in the sky so if you happen to be lucky enough to be out exploring on a clear day the sun is far more likely to be down low, shining directly into your eyes. But no matter, you’re prepared after reading this blog post and you can just pop your sunglasses on, and continue enjoying your walk, drive or whatever you happen to be doing.
Take a selfie and send it to everyone you know, and that includes us, we love seeing you guys out and about doing your thing.
camper packing list #8: Candles and backup lighting
Another easy one to overlook, long dark evenings and cold weather create additional power requirements for even the frugal user of power. But having candles and other backup lighting (we stuck these string lights up around the top of our van) avoids for long miserable evenings sat in the dark wondering what the hell happened to all the power.
Also, it feels extra cosy! As soon as we have finished cooking we switch over to these light sources regardless of the power situation. Our favourite is the fuzzy feeling provided by the crackling scented candle below.
camper packing list #9: Contingency plans
Even the best laid plans can go awry in the winter. The campsite/parkup is flooded or 50mph winds are forecast at the last minute in the area you intended visiting.
This could be enough to deter some people, but not us! If you ensure you just have a loose plan for your intended destination, including alternative options for activities and parkups, and a backup for another area just in case then you should be absolutely fine.
Check out this post for more detail on how we think planning for weekends away should best be done!
camper packing list #10: BritStops
Yeah we bang on about Britstops non stop – but we really do believe that it is gold for the intrepid winter warrior.
Lots of campsites are closed over the winter, the ones that are open might be flooded or bogged out and it’s harder to find wild spots when it gets dark so early.
The beauty of pub stopovers really stands out during the darker months of the year and those tarmac carparks and roaring fires have never seemed so appealing. You can also arrive later than you would be able to at a site and they are found in convenient places all across the country!
So make sure that a BritStops catalog is at the top (or bottom, or just somewhere in the middle) of your winter camper packing list.
Last but far from least, as always, Go Explore.
It’s not always going to go as planned but be ready for that, embrace it, and you’ll enjoy it, so head off into that blustery unknown full of confidence and excitement. Armed with the winter camper packing list above you should be ready to become a fully winterised weekend warrior!