Winter camping in Scandinavia by van - experiences and tips

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We'll tell you the nine most important basics for a successful winter camping road trip in Norway and tell you what to watch out for when you're in the van at extreme temperatures in winter.

Snow, ice, cold and dancing northern lights

From the van with the skis directly into the next trail, with the snowmobile from the campsite in the endless winter landscape and see the northern lights dancing out of bed in the evening ... Who would not like to experience it once - a real winter in northern Europe? Often we are therefore asked what to pay attention to, whether this is easy to realize and what we have gained experience. To make it easier for you to plan your own tour, we have compiled the most important nine points for you.

Of course, we can not give a reliable weather forecast for your trip here. In addition, in Scandinavia extreme weather conditions can be expected at any time and in all regions. However, there are some basic climatic conditions that can be considered when planning your tour. So it is generally milder on the coast than inland, as the climate at the sea is heavily influenced by the Gulf Stream active there. In the interior, in the east of the country, however, there is generally a continental climate with sometimes extremely low temperatures.

The winter landscape is endless

From November to April there is a lot of snow to be expected there and, above all, on the mountain passes. During the massive snowfall with the often associated drifts, it is common to lock some roads for a short time. The vehicles then often have to wait and line up for a few hours before these routes are cleared for passage in column. Led by a leader vehicle - the "Ledebil" - you will then be guided safely over the pass or through the snowy landscape. To prepare for these waiting times and closures, you should always have enough fuel in the tank, blankets and warm drinks. The ADAC has published a vivid video and further information in this article Winter Holidays in Scandinavia on his blog about the rides and conditions in the "Winter Columns".

Other routes are partially closed seasonally in the winter months. Please inform yourself at an early stage about possible closures on the well and clearly arranged site of Norway's Road Authority : Overview Statens Vegvesen .

The roads in the north are often icy

In general, the roads are not cleared as we know it from Germany. As a rule, only the snow is pushed and scattered regional different something. Especially in the north of the country, north of Trondheim, therefore, is often expected in the winter with icy roads, as here very changeable weather conditions (freezing rain, snowfall, cold) prevail. In the eastern parts of Norway, on the other hand, you usually have to prepare yourself for a frozen snowpack. It is generally slow and should plan accordingly much time for his route.

Extra tip:

From our experience, you can get along the well-developed roads in Sweden often faster, as these are usually well cleared. Therefore, we often travel through the longer routes for arrival and departure to our destinations in Norway in the winter through Sweden. Depending on the route and the destination, this also avoids some mountain passes in Norway, which often offer unpleasant surprises in winter. The journey can then be well connected with the cheap ferry Kiel - Gothenburg (Stenaline). More information about the optimal and inexpensive journey to Norway can be found in this special article on this topic.

Domestically, massive snowfall is expected at any time

We are traveling with a converted van based on the Mercedes Sprinter 4 × 4. Its four-wheel drive in combination with our year-round tires BF Goodrich AT has proven well on the previous tours. In the snow and also on frozen snow cover we are even in some extreme situations (snow drifts) got along well. In the winter, we also have auxiliary equipment such as snow chains, blankets and spades in the winter, which we have not had to use yet.

The BF Goodrich AT have so far mostly surprised us positively. Only in the slush and with small amounts of snow on a wet road, they reach their limits relatively quickly. In the east of Norway, in the border area with Sweden, we were now several hundred kilometers with these tires and without any problems on the most diverse road conditions. But we've also read a lot about how these tires just get to hard after three to four years to continue to deliver such a good impression in the winter. We will keep an eye on this and would like to publish an update on this in the near future.

It's a dream to drive through this winter wonderland.

North of Trondheim you should try to use spikes tires. The often mirror-smooth roads in the north of the country make this necessary. For the locals it is therefore also common practice to drive in the winter with spikes tires. As a tourist you can either use special snow chains with spikes (available in Germany) or make it like some experienced "Nordland drivers": You buy the corresponding spikes tires in Norway or Sweden, store them there at a tire service of your choice and this can be raised on every tour to the north of Scandinavia. On the return trip to Germany will then be "exchanged". A variant that only makes sense on regular and longer winter tours through Scandinavia.

We try to use campsites in winter. Thus, we are largely independent of the systems in the vehicle and in the case of extreme weather situations, not on us. There are a surprising number of campsites in Norway that are open in winter. Many local permanent campers are also in their caravans and living tents at this time. From there it is often on skis or the snowmobile in the trail.

On a winter evening at the campsite Stugudalen

Generally, you should register at the campsite, so that the operator can clear the way and the parking space. A short mail to the operator is usually sufficient. Even if you are not sure if the campsite is open, you can clarify this via a mail to the campsite quickly. In this way, we have always successfully planned our previous tours and then registered on the course about two days before arrival.

Regardless of your own, irreplaceable research, there is a great overview of the campsites that are open in the winter on the Norwegian website "Camping Portals" at this link . However, this is not quite complete - because typically Norwegian, sometimes a campsite owner is willing to open the place due to your nice request for you 🙂

The isolation of the vehicle is almost existent at temperatures of minus twenty degrees and more. Especially panel vans are usually designed only conditionally for these extreme conditions. Nevertheless, you can achieve a lot with a few simple steps. Basically, we insulate the windows in the cab with thermal pads, which we attach from the inside. So far, we have renounced (additional) insulation from the outside, but soon want to test a variant.

After a freezing cold and clear night you can almost see the cold the next morning ...

The windows in the living area we have insulated in extreme temperatures with trapped Styrofoam plates between the plastic discs and the roller blind. In addition, we have made curtains made of insulating microfibre fabric, which can easily be attached to the sliding door in winter instead of the fly screen curtains. With additional, subsequently installed curtains made of the same material, we can separate the living space from the cab. We have the experience that there are the most cold spots and want to reduce the air exchange between the two areas with this curtain.

After the experience of our first winter tour, we have made in the seating area a well insulated carpet, as it was often very cold. Another cold bridge is the outlet for the brake cable of the handbrake and the front seats, for which we have not yet found a suitable solution.

Furthermore, we put in the winter between the slatted frame and the mattress a warm blanket to protect us from the cold air from the rear garage. In the end, we weathered it well at minus 28 degrees - our cold record.

In the middle of the winter wonderland at the border Sweden / Norway

Snow? No problem. Freezing cold? Can be clarified. The biggest challenge for us has always been condensation. Although we only boiled water for tea or coffee and otherwise did all the other activities on the campgrounds in this regard, we were extremely concerned with the humidity in the vehicle. In spite of icy temperatures, we had to ventilate well and intensively in order to then heat everything up again properly. At least you should keep this cost factor in mind. Various aids, such as room dehumidifiers, unfortunately proved to be ineffective and did not help.

The danger is simply that you turn your RV into a stalactite cave. If the condensation on the ice-cold inside of the metal roof precipitates and freezes there, it can happen that it suddenly starts to drip in warmer temperatures in the car ... Therefore, as little as possible in the vehicle to cook, ventilate intensively and also properly heat.

An ice cold winter night north of the Arctic Circle in Finland

In a nutshell: on our winter tours, we only use the toilet flush. There we add a commercially available antifreeze concentrate to the rinse water in the tank, as it is also used for the windscreen washer system. So nothing can freeze there.

All other water-bearing systems are emptied during our winter tours, as if the vehicle had been completely winterized. Instead, we use the kitchen and bathroom on the campsites. It would be too risky for us to leave the vehicle during the day and not know if the heater will start in any case when the indoor temperatures drop below zero. The consequential damage would be extreme if the water pipes freeze and therefore we will not allow it to arrive.

In order to be able to fall back on a small water supply, we have a canister with drinking water on board. We have done well so far and thus had no problems with frost damage.

An incredible experience: camping under the Northern Lights

We regularly use the diesel heating system Truma Combo D 6 on board, which has hitherto served us reliably. Nevertheless, we have on the winter tours with an additional electric ceramic fan on board. On the one hand, we are double-protected in case a heating system should fail. On the other hand, the combination of both heaters creates a cozy atmosphere, as the heat is distributed differently and better in this way.

In addition, it is also a very inexpensive option to heat in Norway, since the electricity is usually charged on the campsites flat rate. Therefore, with our electric radiator ECOMAT we can also heat relatively cheaply. In addition, this small part is extremely quiet and can therefore run at night as frost protection inside. Even if he is slightly more expensive to buy, he was worth every euro for us and we can recommend him as an additional, second source of heat without restriction.

ECOMAT 2000 - the perfect solution for electric heating in a panel van

For the winter tours, basically everything is cleared out, which you will almost certainly not need, such as the camping furniture, the gas grill and all similar utensils. Of course, many other pieces of equipment have to be on board during the winter. We have listed these from our experience once for you:

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Prepared accordingly makes a winter tour really fun

We are used to refueling in Germany or Denmark before we translate to Norway or Sweden. Purely economically, this makes sense and in any case cheaper. But we do NOT do that on our winter tours. In winter, people in Sweden and Norway usually refuel the so-called Polardiesel. This is due to various additives better suited for extreme degrees of cold than the Central European fuels. In this respect, you should also consider whether you fill the tank properly (again) in the north to be better prepared for extreme temperatures.

In the meantime, we were traveling through Norway on two road trips during the winter. In January 2018 we traveled through extreme low temperatures and lots of snow through eastern Norway and from September to November of the same year we went to the north of the country . So prepared, these tours were unforgettable in the indescribably beautiful winter landscape. When you see the northern lights dancing through the skylight in the van, you almost lose your breath. In this respect, we hope to help with our shared experiences and tips in preparing your own tour and wish you a great trip already.

Do you have any further questions or suggestions? Did we forget something? Then we look forward to your comments under this post.

Conny and Sirko

"Yes, we love this country ..." - that's the beginning of the Norwegian national anthem, and yes, we too - Conny Sirko - love this country, its inhabitants, the magnificent scenery, the peace and tranquility that we enjoy there and throughout Scandinavia Find. We've been touring the North more than 20 times - at different times, in many regions and in all variations. The idea for this homepage came to us last year, because then we have the opportunity to write the permanent wanderlust to the north of the soul and hopefully inspire you for it. So: heading north!

20 comments

  • Thanks for your review, and generally for your great site! Your tips here on the page helped a lot with my own 9-week tour with the camper through Northern Norway. I have now just 6 weeks and 5,000 km over the Arctic Circle behind me and have been able to experience quite a deep winter here (to almost -30 degrees). I'm traveling with a not specifically winter-resistant Ford Nugget and 90-95% self-sufficient on the road - so I am usually free and cook exclusively in the camper. Everything works wonderfully and with sufficient driving, the batteries are always full. With condensation I have little problems - rather the opposite, usually the humidity is even too low and it is a bit on the nasal mucous membranes.
    One important thing I would like to add here, however: Before the tour, you should check the coolant and the oil for frost ability in addition to the windscreen wiper water and change. I had designed both to -35 degrees - otherwise it could have been quite bad for the engine.

    Have fun on your travels and best regards, currently from the Arctic Circle at -15 degrees 🙂
    Katja

    • Hei Katya,

      Thank you for your great comment and the valuable additions as well as sharing your experiences with our readers. We admire (and envy) you for your tour with the many great impressions and experiences. On Facebook we could follow you on this trip and admire many highlights already. Thank you very much for that.
      As far as your hints are concerned, we agree with you and in fact you must / should assume that your own vehicle is not necessarily prepared for extreme winter use. A check or appropriate preparations for extreme temperatures should therefore be self-evident in advance.
      As far as condensation water is concerned, we are really surprised, because this problem is familiar to most vans and can hardly be avoided. So it can only be that your vehicle from the outset less isolated and thus more ventilated. The cold air up there is very dry anyway and so that could possibly be an explanation ...?
      In any case, we wish you continued such a beautiful and eventful journey and then a good drive home. We love to read from each other again and can also link to thematically matching content 🙂

      Best regards,
      Conny and Sirko

  • Moin and thank you for such a detailed report.
    we had the same tires once a winter. Yes, in the deep snow it is great, on icy roads but almost a disaster.
    The Scandinavians swear, apart from spikes, on the Finnish Nokia or Conti. With the latter we get along perfectly in Norway.
    Without knowing anything about you, I also wrote a winter-need-I-article, but with a completely different approach. As much space as you have, that is a temptation, we are traveling with a Bulli. Has both for and again. Be sure to link to where we have common goals or topics.

    best regards

    quay

    • Hello Kai,

      Thank you for your comment and the nice feedback. In the meantime, we have also looked around your website and can only say: Respect !!! A great site with a lot of background information and exciting contributions. We like to link in the same way, as soon as it fits content.
      As far as the tires are concerned, you are quite right and we would also like to be spiked. However, we have so far spared the effort and with 4 × 4 and our BF Goodrich AT just got along well. Let's see how we handle it in the future. Now, let's change our tires after 60,000 kilometers and then be on the road again with the new BF Goodrich.
      We wish you great travel and always a good trip.

      Best regards,
      Conny and Sirko

  • Super great report and you can learn a lot from you (experience 🙂) I was only in September on the road and I'm just going to plan without anything but now I'm driving with my muddi and sister and I have to pay attention to a lot that is why it is of course very important to inform yourself in advance. I'm from malmö to oslo then up to the north cap was totally beholdened polarcirkel geiranger trollstiegen was super exciting and on the way back then about finland sweden back and since I was at Santa Claus and no snow was, I said the same as I have to again if there is snow and that will be the last big trip with muddi so everything has to run. Do you still have a tip where in Sweden good camp. I can always start at night on the stream (because of mutti) on further tips I would be very happy and I will have to buy some more shackles which unfortunately are not in the womo it is a live Traveler 650 dg I'll probably on your page at amazon order so thank you for your help lg pedi

    • Hei Pedi,

      Thank you for your great comment and the nice feedback. We were very happy, but unfortunately only now to respond to your entry. As far as your next trip is concerned, this is hardly a problem in Scandinavia, as a great many campsites are open in winter. The Scandinavians are often permanent campers and drive in the winter on the courts and then make then from there ski touring. Therefore, you will find in most places open campsites and then there can also be on the stream. Maybe you should and should, if you go anyway on the campgrounds, even take a small electric heater. Since you pay the electricity in general flat rate, which is usually cheap (he).
      Snow chains should and you have to actually take, because up there is still winter.
      If you have any further questions, feel free to contact me. Otherwise, we wish you a great journey and above all, for your mom unforgettable experiences.
      Best wishes and greetings,
      Conny and Sirko

  • Hei.Habe your contribution
    sucked up.Wanted in January 2020 towards Kiruna.
    Take a few tips.

    Thank you

    • Hei Bernd,

      Thank you very much for your great feedback. We are very happy and keep your fingers crossed for your trip, which is sure to be terrific.

      Best regards,

      Conny and Sirko

  • Hello you two,
    Very cool article!
    We are especially pleased that you are satisfied with the BF Goodrich AT.
    Have thought back and forth, but then come on us too.
    In any case, the journey will take us to the far north in our sabbatical month of November.

    Kind regards
    Bibo Tanja

    • Hey you two,

      Thank you for your great feedback and the nice comment. We are happy for you, that you can fulfill the dream of your own van soon. It is a great experience to be traveling in the north and in combination with the BF Goodrich there are almost no obstacles ... 🙂
      We continue to pursue your project with interest and interest. In any case, we keep our fingers crossed that it is soon time and the first trip is pending. Maybe you'll see yourself on the streets of Northern Europe. We are back on the road again from March - maybe it should fit ...

      Greetings and see you soon,
      Conny and Sirko

  • Hello you 2,

    we are currently planning our winter Scandinavian tour.

    Thank you very much for your great tips on your side.

    We have a motorhome with a Mercedes Sprinter as base vehicle. For this we ask ourselves the following question: Are the headlamps in winter or should we add additional headlamps or use other bulbs?

    What are your experiences with snowdrift etc.?

    Look forward to your answer
    Birgit

    • Hei Birgit,

      Thank you for your great feedback and the nice comment. The question about the headlamps is good and justified, especially since the locals - also due to the moose danger - use whole batteries on headlamps. In our view, this hardly makes a difference in winter, especially since we have done well with our headlamps (LED + cornering light). With massive snow flurries, we believe that other headlamps are not really helpful and, moreover, the bright white snow always provides a pleasant brightness anyway.
      We hope that this information will help you and send best wishes from Norway,
      Conny and Sirko

  • Hello you two,
    We have been following your posts on Facebook for quite a while. Now we have finally visited your website. Very, very nice photos you have published here.

    We can only confirm your experience with winter camping. We were already traveling by van at extreme temperatures in Finland, Sweden and Norway. For 9 years, we have a larger motorhome, which we have from the years of experience properly winterized and self-sufficient equipped, including Einschraubspikes. So we travel since the beginning of November 2018 through Sweden and Norway and are very often also free.

    With some initiative, we have managed to stop working and can now travel as much as we want. It was great to spend the first winter in Scandinavia.

    You continue to enjoy your travels,
    many greetings from Uwe Bianka

    • Hey you two,

      Thank you so much for your kind comment and the great feedback. It is indeed sensational to be traveling in Scandinavia in winter. We have always had the impression that there is at least one "real" winter there. If you then glide over the frozen lakes with a snowmobile and the twilight of the north makes the landscape so magical - then there are hardly any wishes left.

      The switch from a van to a larger motorhome is certainly an exciting and especially for the winter camping comprehensible step. Especially in terms of isolation there is certainly a lot more. However, we can not imagine at the moment to give up our 4 × 4 Sprinter. Especially in preparation for the Iceland tour, we are happy to have the ground clearance. However, we do not want to exclude in the long term ... 😉 🙂

      We think it's great that you can live or live your dream and understand that well ... Because we have radically changed our lives in a similar way and now also travel and travel, we know about the added value that makes you feel so personal arises. However, one must also accept and explain to many people around that there is a huge difference between a vacation and a trip. But that's almost worth a contribution ...

      Maybe you see and meet on the tours in Northern Europe. We would be happy in any case and wish you also regardless of any time good trip, great experiences and unforgettable moments in the north.

      Greetings, Conny and Sirko

  • Thank's for the Tipps!

    A question about your car, do you know where to get the window, which is installed between you roof and side wall?

    Thanks a lot!

    • Hello Martin,
      Thank you for your comment and your nice feedback. To the window we can unfortunately only say that our expander (CS motorhomes) has installed at the time of production of our "Independent" window of SEITZ. But which is exactly, can not be recognized by our documents. Maybe this statement will help you ...? If not, then feel free to ask for CS motorhomes that obstruct these windows very often. Greetings, Conny and Sirko

  • thanks for the great tips and suggestions 🙂
    since we only have our bobil since May 2018, there are some things that I need to wrap up or prepare 🙂
    we want to make our first winter tour over nyttår and also see if we swap the current winter tires in piggdekks 🙂
    If you come the next time you'll like to come over a coffee, live about 75 km from oslo direction trondheim 🙂
    ønsker dere en riktig god jul 🙂
    hilsen fra norge
    Mady

    • Hei Mady, we appreciate your comment and the nice feedback. It is nice that we could give you some tips and ideas on the way. Since you are sitting at the source, you can and should really bet on Piggdekks. We would be interested in your experiences - especially in comparison to regular winter tires. The invitation is noted and we would like to combine one of our tours in 2019 with a coffee with you. Since you emigrated to Norge ...? In any case, we are curious to meet you. But now we wish you a great tour. Vi ønkser dere riktig god jul i like måte. Med vennlig hilsen fra Tyskland, Connie og Sirko

  • Thanks for the great tips. We are also Norway fans so far only in the summer, but the first winter tour will come up there. Greetings from the neighborhood and a Merry Christmas!

    • Hei Mario, thank you for the nice comment and kind regards. We are happy to have some inspiration for your first winter tour to the north. If there should be any questions during the preparation - feel free to contact me. Until then greetings and also a happy and contemplative Christmas, Conny and Sirko

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