Last Update: 7/22/2016

Acclimatize for Comfort in All Weather

Wim Hof submerged in icy weather of a frozen pond.
"Ice Man" Wim Hof demonstrates human adaptability
Again and again, folks ask us, who live in a van down by the river: How do you deal with the heat? How do you handle the cold? HOW!? Simple: We acclimatize.

Human Body Is Adaptable

Now I ain’t denying the value for vandwellers of an A/C, fans, insulation, Little Buddy heaters, or the rest. There’s a place for all that shit, and maybe I’ll post about Vanholio’s weathertech in future. But for now I’m talking about how the human body adapts – when you let it.

See, we inherited us an amazing piece of biological machinery. Humans have lived in the Arctic without freezing and in Australia without catching fire. We’ve had pearl harvesters freedive their livings off Korea and settled Tibet at nosebleed altitudes. We’re a pretty damned adaptable species. And it ain’t all about throwing money, energy, and tech at the problem.

Vanholio Wears Shorts, Sandals at All Temps

This here last year, Vanholio’s been driving all over the country. I’ve been in the Rocky Mountain blizzards, Texas and the Southwest heat waves, and up and down from sea level to 10,000 feet.

Through it all, I’ve been wearing shorts and sandals. Seriously. Well, a light jacket and knit cap, too, when it’s below 40 F. Even when the van was 35 F inside on a winter morning, I’ve been toasty under a couple regular blankets, plus a hat and socks.

How could I do this? Hell, I don’t know. I just got used to it, I acclimatized.

Acclimatization Takes About Two Weeks

I started looking up online about human acclimatization. I read about how runners adapt to doing marathons in the heat, how climbers get used to high altitudes, and how soldiers handle extreme cold. Lots of good info with shit tons of detail. But it all comes down to letting yourself get used to it, usually for about two weeks.

A little lightheaded at altitude? Camp up high for about two weeks. Getting seriously cold? Spend about at least an hour outdoors while a bit underdressed for two weeks. Summer roasting you? Do some mild exercise outside for a bit every day for two weeks.

Let Yourself Adapt to the World

Sure, there are real fucking limits to the heat and cold a body can stand. I ain’t advocating goin' nekked all the time and sleeping atop a stone slab. Plus, it’s a fact that old folks have more trouble acclimatizing.

But we’re so goddamn used to living in 75 F houses, we’ve forgotten what we’re capable of. Vanlife comfort ain’t always about HVAC. Sometimes it’s just about letting ourselves acclimatize to the world as it is, outside four walls.

Hey, Beer Vanholio! He works hard on this blog.

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  1. I'm not a shorts and sandals all the time kind of guy. Yet. But I've gotten used to colder temperatures. It's refreshing, invigorating. It used to be that my feet were always cold. I went on the great quest for thick wool socks. Now I go sockless all year while wearing semi-sandals. Outerwear has become annoying. I feel a little smug when I'm in a t-shirt around other campers who are in parkas. Excessive heat—particularly coupled with humidity—is no fun, so I avoid that when I can. Way back when, I lived in central Canada for two years. It was dangerously fucking cold in the winter. -30° to -70°. But I acclimated a bit. When it got up to 0° I'd go without a parka, because it was so much warmer.

    1. Al, what you said is exactly what I've heard from buddies stationed in Alaska when in the Armed Forces. .. Right now, I'm on the Texas Gulf Coast. I'm not enjoying acclimatizing to hot and humid. I know it can be done; I used to live here. But I'm hating it! :-)