New VanLifer #VanLifeSummit

Hey everyone. I’m Madigan.
I’m new to the van life, though I’ve been living in a tiny house that I built for the last 5 or so years, so I have some experience with living in small spaces. I’m living in Minnesota and just getting started on planning my build – trying to winterize it as much as possible. Very grateful for the Van Life Summit, which is already helping me in the planning process. I do already have a van – a very old Ford Econoline (that was previously converted with a pop-up).


Hey Madigan!

Welcome to the van life community! That’s quite the transition from a tiny house to a van, but with your experience in maximizing small spaces, you’re already steps ahead. Minnesota winters are no joke, so winterizing your van is a smart move. It sounds like you’ve got a classic with that Ford Econoline – there’s a lot of charm in those older vans.

The Van Life Summit is a treasure trove of information, especially for those in the planning phase. Don’t hesitate to ask any questions or seek advice; we’re all here to help each other out.

Excited to hear more about your build and journey. Stay warm and best of luck with the conversion!

Greetings & Welcome!

I’ve spent many winters in the frozen North, down to -60°F.

I have come to the conclusion that proper climate control is much more important than insulation.

We are in a unique situation where we need constant ventilation even during the winter to prevent moisture build up & mold etc. Proper ventilation totally defeats insulation, so what we really need is enough heating and cooling power to compensate for that ventilation.

Cold kills, batteries die, and solar can suck big time in the winter. For this reason, I don’t want my heat, or any other essentials to require power, only fuel, which is much more within our immediate control than power. I have a wick type multi-fuel heater/cooker for this exact reason. It will run on kerosene, diesel, or cooking oil available at any grocery store. It might run on alcohol too, although I have never tried it. This requires now power.

Now I want a fan to distribute the heat throughout the vehicle, but I have no power. NO PROBLEM!!! A woodstove fan is powered by the heat, and doesn’t require any additional power source, just the heat. So now I have fan forced heat that requires zero power. A single gallon of cooking oil (~$8.00) will last me over a month, and I can re-use my used cooking oil if I choose to.

My heater/cooker cost $5.00 to DIY from dollar store components, and my fan cost $5.00 at a garage sale. A neat commercial version is available at:

The fuel cans can be refilled, or purchased at the dollar store.

If we think outside the box, we can have the best of all choices, and be prepared for almost anything…


"Count your blesssings, for they are many." ~ Unknown