Forum Index > Trail Talk > Is sleeping in your vehicle in cold weather worse than sleeping outside?
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Bob2005
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PostThu Feb 27, 2020 8:53 pm 
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I heard (I know; that means nothing and that's why I'm posting here) that sleeping in your vehicle in cold weather may actually be colder than sleeping outside, due to the cold penetrating the vehicle's metal and transmitting that inside the vehicle.

Of course there are many variables: how cold; what is the temperature variation overnight; maybe humidity; is it windy outside; do you have a tent; do you have an insulating pad and sleeping bag, etc.
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Cyclopath
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PostThu Feb 27, 2020 9:20 pm 
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If you prefer the engine running for heat, that will definitely be warmer.   wink.gif
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texasbb
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PostThu Feb 27, 2020 9:34 pm 
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Would you be lying there touching all that metal?  If not, you'll probably be warmer in the vehicle.  No wind, protection from direct radiative losses to the sky, etc.  You need a little ventilation, of course.  On the other hand, if you're built like me you won't fit in your car in any sleepable position, so ugh.
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christensent
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PostThu Feb 27, 2020 9:42 pm 
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I've never experienced a car being colder than what I'd imagine outside being like.

The physics there don't really make sense, this would only hold up if the tent alternative were insulated (in which case, yes the car would be colder). In reality, the walls of a tent prevent air-flow which helps build up some heat, but I don't think they're really insulators. I bet a car's wall is actually a better insulator than a tent wall. Overall I'd classify what you heard as most-likely-a-myth.

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Randito
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PostThu Feb 27, 2020 10:36 pm 
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Sleeping inside the vehicle is way better than sleeping outside.

There are some challenges,  the main one being build up of condensation from breathing.  Cracking a window near your head helps with that.  So does having a squeegee and a microfiber rag for wiping off the window from the inside.  When it is really cold, you get frost on the inside.  In a modern vehicle, this is most easily dealt with by running the engine and defroster.   In my old '69 VW bus, a propane fueled catalytic heater was much more effective at defrosting the windows than waiting the eternity required for heat from the engine to defrost anything.  I never drove the bus with the cat heater running, but it sure speeded up getting going on winter mornings.
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MyFootHurts
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PostThu Feb 27, 2020 10:43 pm 
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I think most of the heat escapes through the window glass.
I notice that using one of those foil sunscreen things over the windshield really keeps the car warmer longer.
I was also colder using an inflatable air mattress. You'll just have cold air underneath you as opposed to upholstery and plastic.
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blendergasket
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PostThu Feb 27, 2020 10:53 pm 
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I've spent many, many nights in n my van and it is definitely warmer than outside.

I'm 98 degrees and it's a small space, so I warm it up.

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Jeff
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PostFri Feb 28, 2020 3:48 am 
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A lot of people seem to like making things up when it comes to heat transfer and thermodynamics. Sleep in your car. You will be warmer.
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Sky Hiker
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PostFri Feb 28, 2020 6:23 am 
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answer is no
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treeswarper
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PostFri Feb 28, 2020 8:40 am 
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Take a dog along, preferably a large one.  Retrievers put out a lot of heat.  Just make sure you are feeding them food that doesn't cause farting.  I've slept comfortably in a teardrop trailer with my Used Dog in December.

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blendergasket
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PostFri Feb 28, 2020 8:42 am 
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treeswarper wrote:
Take a dog along, preferably a large one.  Retrievers put out a lot of heat.  Just make sure you are feeding them food that doesn't cause farting.

Wouldn't the farting add warmth?

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flatsqwerl
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PostFri Feb 28, 2020 8:49 am 
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but is the dog losing a bit of core heat when he farts...?
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blendergasket
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PostFri Feb 28, 2020 8:52 am 
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The dog is transferring the heat into the car so both of you can partake of it. Dogs are such giving creatures.

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Sculpin
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PostFri Feb 28, 2020 9:06 am 
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Hey, I took Heat Transfer in college!   redface.gif  frown.gif  dizzy.gif

In cold weather, the car cannot get colder than the surrounding air.

Your body can lose heat in three ways:

1.  Conduction:  this is what texasbb meant.  Metal has high thermal conductivity, so any body part in contact will cool more rapidly.  But just having cold metal near you won't do anything.

2.  Convection:  moving air can carry more heat away by enhanced conduction.  But that only happens outside your car, if there is air moving through your tent.

3.  Radiation:  your body radiates heat because it is warmer than the surroundings.  A sleeping bag slows conduction and prevents much convection, but modern bags and some sleeping pads also have a flash layer of aluminized polymer to reflect your radiant heat back to you.  Radiant heat loss is not a function of whether you are inside or outside of your car.

The one thing I can think of that might matter is the moisture increase mentioned by others.  If your breath increases the humidity in the car, and the moisture cools (which it would), then you are breathing in cold moist air.  The moisture increases the mass (substantially!) of the air you are breathing, which increases conduction in your lungs, so you would breathe out more heat with every breath.  Your exposed skin would also conduct more heat into the moist air.  The problem is that cold air cannot hold much moisture so it condenses out.

On the other hand, your warm breath will warm the car a few degrees just like inside a tent.  Add it all up and I think the car is warmer.

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timberghost
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PostFri Feb 28, 2020 10:04 am 
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So the dogs fart falls under moving air?
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Forum Index > Trail Talk > Is sleeping in your vehicle in cold weather worse than sleeping outside?
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