IN THE WINTER WITH THE VAN TO THE NORTH CAPE
THE PRE-PLANNING FOR OUR TRIP TO THE NORTH CAPE BY VAN
In the summer to Sweden, Finland and Norway must be an absolute highlight on any trip. Unfortunately, I have never been to the northern countries. But since there are no northern lights to see in the summer and I would like to see a lot of snow, we have spontaneously decided to travel by van to the North Cape in winter. We want to go via Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Norway to the northernmost point on the European mainland. For this we plan in advance what we need for the trip.
People think we are crazy! And by “people” I mean our families in particular. Kathy’s grandmother has lived in Siberia for several years and is sure that the cold will kill us. No one thinks the trip in our Opel Vivaro is feasible. The wildest conjectures about the far north and two people in a van frozen to ice make the rounds.
Yes, it will certainly be a borderline experience. We have to expect temperatures down to -30°C and icy roads, but always with the peace of mind, it’s called “The journey by van to the North Cape” and not to Antarctica. In fact, we have only a rough idea of what to expect. In order not to be completely unprepared, we make a small planning with the most important things that must not be missing in any case.
PARKING HEATER AND THICK BLANKETS, THAT’S ALL WE NEED
I have already experienced here in Germany at -5° how quickly the van can cool down despite retrofitted insulation. The parking heater switches off after 120 minutes and both the non-insulated spars inside, but also the large windows accelerate the cooling. I have no experience with extreme minus temperatures below -10°C and it is also the first time for the van in such extreme cold. Nevertheless, I hope that our thick wool blankets and the auxiliary heating will be enough in an emergency to survive the nights well even at these temperatures.
In addition to concerns about the nighttime temperatures inside the van, our planning for the trip with the van to the North Cape is concerned with the question of whether the engine and technology will function without problems in this cold. Are the winter tires good enough for the road conditions in Finland and Norway? Is this Opel Vivaro even built for such temperatures?
In fact, many of our questions can only be clarified when we are on the road and experience it live. The fact that we will be freestanding makes it a bit more exciting.
The plan is to stay on simple places and not to go to a campsite or similar. However, the visit to a campsite will be necessary when we need a shower on the way. With shower bag it will not work in winter.
WHY DON’T WE INFORM OURSELVES IN ADVANCE ABOUT ALL EVENTUALITIES
A habit that could be described as typically German is to want to make provisions for all eventualities. Clearly, a trip by van to the North Cape in winter is a bit more demanding and also requires some preparation. However, I have found on my previous trips that you can never be prepared for everything anyway. So many unexpected things happen, but for every problem there is always a solution. Or there are nice people who know the perfect solution.
The worst thing that could happen would be that we stop somewhere in the middle of nowhere on the road. If the car really did go on strike and we had no way of heating up because the electronics failed, that would be the worst case scenario. But how do you prepare for such a case? We still take a small fan heater with us, which can be operated via the additional batteries in case of emergency. More is not possible.
If we assume that this worst-case scenario will not occur on the way to the North Cape, basically nothing out of the ordinary can happen according to our planning for the trip by van to the North Cape. Basically, there are no incidents that would not also be possible in Germany or on other trips. So at least the status now, two weeks before the trip.
BUT OF COURSE IT IS NOT POSSIBLE WITHOUT PREPARATION AND PLANNING
The rough idea we have is that it will be cold and food is quite expensive in the northern countries. There is nothing more to consider from our point of view.
THE RIGHT CLOTHES FOR THE NORTH CAPE
We don’t want to buy extra special winter clothes for the van trip to the North Cape. We will fight the cold with what we have. For the German winter, we have thick sweaters that definitely go in the luggage. Something like thermal pants we both do not have. That’s why we use the onion technique and put on several layers on top of each other besides thermal underwear (I’ll actually get that). I think even at -20 ° should somehow be enough. Whether longer walks are possible with it, remains to be seen.
When it comes to footwear, I have 2 variants for our trip by van to the North Cape to choose from. One is ankle-high, winter hiking boots from Jack Wolfskin and the other is my new hiking boots from Hanwag. While Jack Wolfskin’s shoes are made of synthetic material and are fairly well padded, Hanwag’s hiking boots are made of genuine leather. They do not have any additional thermal insulation besides being impregnated with wax against wetness. But I will take both shoes and just look with thick wool socks, which is better in the high snow, cold and wet.
Since Kathy has a ton of shoes, I can not say at the moment in the planning for the trip with the van to the North Cape, for which she chooses. But I think in her closet will be something suitable to find.
THE PARKING HEATER IN THE VAN SHOULD WORK
I already said something about the auxiliary heating in the car at the beginning. As far as I can see, we even have the advantage that the auxiliary heating does not suck in fresh air from the outside. Especially at extreme sub-zero temperatures in the snow, a significant advantage in terms of temperature. The parking heater does not have to keep reheating the cold air, but can use the preheated air from inside the van. Thus, the Webasto Air Top 2000 ST with its 2 kw power should be perfectly sufficient for the size of the van and make it cozy warm inside.
A disadvantage, however, is probably that the moisture brought in by shoes and floor mats in the vehicle can cause the windows to mist up and is not so well exchanged. The practical test will finally show while we drive with the van to the North Cape, whether this assessment was correct when planning the trip and how the parking heater will hold up in the climate in Northern Europe.
WHAT WE ADDITIONALLY PREPARE AT THE VAN FOR OUR TRIP INTO THE COLD
I have just ordered a test spindle for coolants. You should definitely make sure that the coolant and windshield wiper water have sufficient antifreeze. As an additional helper, there is also an OBD interface, in case an error occurs and I want to know immediately what the problem is. The ordered module works via Bluetooth with the cell phone and can simply be stuck on the OBD II port and read out the error memory of the van in an emergency.
The tires are quite normal and still in good condition winter wheels on steel rims, which I also drive at the moment in Germany. Snow chains I will not get for the trip with the van to the North Cape, although I first had it in mind. I will put a tow rope in the car instead. Should we ever get stuck, someone will surely be kind enough to pull us out. If necessary, I also have a small folding spade with me to dig myself free. In addition I am in the ADAC and can fall back with larger breakdowns still on this variant. New wipers come but also still on it, because it is pretty much the most important thing especially in the dark to have a good view. Here I have me for the trip with the van to the North Cape just ordered a Bosch Aerotwin retrofit kit. I’m curious how it holds up in practice.
THE FOOD THAT LASTS AS LONG AS POSSIBLE
From various travel reports I know that food in Northern Europe is much more expensive than here in Germany. Surely we come when we go with the van to the North Cape not avoid buying fresh food on the road, but certain things we will already pack here in Germany.
In our pre-planning, we have a few very specific things in mind that we definitely don’t want to do without during our trip. Coffee is in the first place. Of course, the appropriate equipment such as a gas stove (important to check beforehand whether you still have enough gas in your luggage) or a kettle are necessary. We will take both with us, because just heating water with a gas stove at low temperatures can take quite a long time and I have an appropriate power supply in the van for the operation of the kettle.
In addition to the staple coffee, which makes for a successful start to the day, you should of course think of other foods. We will go shopping just before the trip by van to the North Cape and get various soups and stews. In addition to toast, toppings and spreads that will keep for a long time, we will probably also pack garlic, onions and some fresh vegetables and fruit.
FROM OUR POINT OF VIEW, MORE PLANNING IS NOT NEEDED
At the end of the trip with the van to the North Cape, we will know whether our rather small pre-planning was sufficient or we should rather have planned something more detailed. Important for us personally, as described at the beginning, was that we do not spend too much money on things that are specifically intended for the trip. We also have to eat at home and when it comes to clothing, we fall back on our winter clothes, which we have anyway. Only the van gets a little winter backup and is prepared a bit for colder temperatures. That’s it. We prefer to save the other money for the trip itself.