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  1. Default 12v plug in car heater, or other?

    Hi, I'm traveling in a Grand Caravan with the sto-n-go seats which make a nice area for sleeping. In cold weather I'd like to find a way to stay warm all night without having the car running for heat. I've looked at 12v plug in heaters but they aren't very big and may run the battery down overnight. There are also 12v plug in fleece blankets, but I'm not sure how effective they would be. Has anyone tried any of these?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default non-electric

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    I guess there are a variety of options to look at, although I haven't used any of them myself.

    I would probably advise against a heater. Not only could it drain your battery, but I would also question the safety and effectiveness of such a devise while you sleep.

    An electric blanket might be an option worth looking at, but keep in mind that any electric devise with a heating element is going to draw a fairly significant amount of power and could drain your battery.

    Running your car heater is a bad idea, simply because of the Carbon Monoxide risk.

    Honestly, I would recommend finding a really good cold weather sleeping bag. Subzero rated bags do a great job of reflecting your own body heat to keep you comfortably warm while you sleep, even in cold conditions.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default A good source for products

    A brand new member
    recommended this place for finding discount equipment and supplies. Carl tends to find the best & cheapest places for such equipment and I recommend his choices.


  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default unimpressed

    I've got to say the site Carl recommended isn't all that impressive to me. The prices look decent and the quality appears to be ok, but there is very little selection for camping basics. They've only got 2 sleeping bags and maybe a half dozen tents.

    I will say that I have used Sportsman's Guide to buy a handful of camping items, and their prices are excellent and they have some products that I haven't seen elsewhere.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula

    Default Some good stuff there, Michael

    I'm a CampMor fan myself. Here's their sleeping bag page. However, I have to say your place seems to have some great prices. I'm bookmarking it.

    I wouldn't trust my battery with a 12v heater or blanket. I think those things are made for the big rigs with far more battery power. I take a cheap Army-Navy surplus wool blanket when it's cold. Wow, over a sleeping bag, that really keeps you toasty!

  6. Default Get a good sleeping bag....

    I have to echo the sentiment of just getting a good sleeping bag. I work with a local scout troop and the standard advice we give is

    - Get a mummy bag (keeps you warmer than the retangular bags)
    - Synthetic insulation (down doesn't insulate if it gets wet...)
    - Get a bag rated for 0 degrees, at least (lower is better).
    - Get one with a stuff sack (easier to repack and store)

    The reason for the 0 degrees rating is that they're fairly easy to find, and if you don't quite need that level of insulation, you can unzip it.

    You can push the comfort temperature rating of a bag down farther by doing some simple things: The first is change all of your clothes from the skin out before going to bed. Clothes and underwear get damp from body perspiration during the day -- so if you change clothes you'll be warmer. As a rule of thumb, sleeping in clean underwear and a t-shirt is warmer than sleeping in your clothes from the day... Next, if you add on some dry, clean clothes (like a pair of sweat pants and sweat shirt) you can increase the temperature rating of the bag by another 10-20 degrees. Don't forget a big pair of wool socks if you do this, and a wool stocking-type cap... Then put a layer of insulation under the bag (cardboard works OK -- a sleeping pad better), and drape a thick military surplus wool or synthetic fiber blanket over the bag. Lastly, have a little something sweet and fatty to eat before you go to bed. The sugar and fats will burn to provide energy to keep you warmer at night.

  7. #7

    Default Too much amperage

    There is every liklihood that a 12v heater would completely kill your battery. You can do it by repeated use of the cigarette lighter alone (ask me how I know). I would suppose a heater capable of warming a minivan interior, even a little, would put out something like 1,000 watts (a hair dryer is normally at about 1,500 watts. The draw-down on a vehicle battery with a brand new capacity of 1,000 CCA (cold cranking amps) would be quick and complete, long before you wake up.

    I wholeheartedly agree with Larrison in terms of a zero-degree bag and clothing. Ditto the pad. A thin pad of proper insulating material works wonders, and the nice layer of comfy air within an inflatable air mattress is even better, and more comfortable. I have a 12v inflation pump that blows up a double-bed size air mattress in just a few minutes.

    I'm a long-term member of the Recreational Equipment, Inc Co-operative. REI has its own store brand of many products and I find them, in general, to be of fine quality and fairly priced. It's my first stop for outdoor gear of any sort, including the last batch of sleeping bags for my wife and I and our sons.


  8. Default Just a note on air matresses...

    Don't use an air mattress in cold weather as a sleeping pad. (By air mattress I am talking about a blow-up mattress which has a single, or several long cells inflated with air.). The reason is that air will circulate within the air cells -- the heat of your body (or sleeping bag) on top of the air mattress and the cold will cause the air to move via convection. This wicks the heat away from you, and you'll be colder with the air mattress than without.

    However, there are other types of inflatable mattresses which work well. Basically these use an open cell foam inside an air mattress. You can roll up the air mattress and compress the foam inside to store this type of inflatable mattress pretty compactly. And once they are opened up, and the air added back in, the open cell foam keeps the air from freely circulating so they insulate, as well as pad. There are several brands of these type mattresses -- Thermarest being the first, and probably the most popular (I have one of these..).

    The Scout Troop I support does at least one campout per year in the snow - temperatures at night typically run down to about 15-20F, or below freezing. Now, this is camping in a tent, in the snow, on the ground (or snow). Our recommended "stack" to keep the boys warm is - ground cloth under the tent, then floor of the tent. Inside the tent, we put in a layer or two of cardboard (an opened cardboard box), then a closed cell foam pad (minimum), or thermarest-type mattress, then the 0 Degree sleeping bag. If necessary we then add over this thick military surplus wool blankets. We also try to add 3-4 boys per tent (they're 4 person tents), instead of the usual 2-3 boys to put a little more body warmth inside, in case someone is more on the cold side. We also feed the boys before they go to bed -- something hot, sweet and loaded with butter (fats). This stokes their body's metabolism so its producing heat before they go to bed. And of course, we tell them to change totally into dry clothes before getting into their sleeping bags.

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