Camping out in a $120,000 Audi RS 6 Avant wagon in winter

“Remind me why we are doing this again?” my boyfriend, the real hero of this story, asks.

“Because blogs!” I scream while pulling on a pair of thick, wool socks. “We’re doing it for the blogs! We live and die by the blogs!”

It’s just past 11 p.m., but instead of tucking into a bed with a nice feather mattress and a down comforter, we are suiting up. Suiting up in long underwear, synthetic thermal layers, wool caps, and sweaters.

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Ominous or FILLED WITH POTENTIAL? You decide.

Kristen Lee

There is a red 2021 Audi RS 6 Avant station wagon parked in the driveway — a light dusting of snow already accumulating on top of it — just waiting to be camped out in. Ordinarily, my job involves cars when they are moving. But tonight? The stationary station wagon suits my needs just fine.

See, I’m out to prove a point, and that point is that wagons are just as utilitarian as big SUVs. North American buyers can’t seem to get enough to the sport-utility-thingies. Automakers have gladly encouraged the behavior by offering more and more SUVs of all shapes and sizes while phasing out smaller cars.

Wagons reached peak popularity in the US in 1976, accounting for 10% of all vehicles sold here, according to Investopedia. Sales declined after that — in part due to the oil crisis but also because the minivan was introduced, as reported by this lovely piece in The Atlantic. Eventually, the minivan gave way to the SUV and the rest is history.

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Super-duper sleeper wagon.

Kristen Lee

I’ve never felt the desire to camp out in an SUV, unless you count that one time in the Kia Telluride — though I’d argue that stunt was performed on an SUV rather than in an SUV. We all know SUVs are big and roomy, so spending the night in one proves exactly nothing. Roominess is their whole selling point. Sleeping in one would be like saying I slept in a house. Anyone and their mother could do it. Big deal.

But this wagon? This wrongfully unloved and underappreciated body style? Hell yeah I’ll sleep in that!

11:19 p.m.

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Seats up.

Kristen Lee

When opting to sleep in a car for fun — or blogs — in the middle of winter, the first and most important thing to do is position it right up against the front door of the house. This decision is rooted purely in practical reasons. You can have that bit of advice for free.

First, it’s snowing. You want to be as close to the indoor bathroom as possible. Second, if you park close enough to the house, you can still pick up the WiFi. And third, if a bear comes in the night, there’s a fast and easy escape route. (There were no bears; they were all hibernating.) (I’m just dramatic.)

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Seats down.

Kristen Lee

The rear seats collapse easily enough. Look at all that room! It’s like a New York City studio apartment in there!

11:32 p.m.

Now, we could have just thrown some blankets down and called it a night. But I’m not an animal and I do expect some kind of cushioning whenever I rest my fancy hide, so my lovely boyfriend drags a small foam mattress from a daybed out into the car. It fits perfectly.

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Like it was designed to fit.

Kristen Lee

On top of this mattress, we throw:

A fluffy pink fleece blanket.

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I’m dating him for his eyes.

Kristen Lee

A white down comforter.

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I’m also dating him for his smile.

Kristen Lee

Another white fleece blanket.

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For warmth. For Frodo.

Kristen Lee

Another (flowered) down comforter.

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Many don’t know this, but flowered print is the warmest of all prints.

Kristen Lee

Some pillows.

Somewhere in there, we shall go.

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The privacy shades are a nice touch.

Kristen Lee

For good measure, I also put up the Audi’s rear window privacy shades. With the snow is settled so thickly on the glass, this hardly makes a difference.

12:00 a.m.

It’s Friday night, I’m about to do something either very brilliant or very dumb (or both), and I need to psyche myself up for it.

First, I go and play several rounds of ping pong with my boyfriend. I lose spectacularly.

12:45 a.m.

I sit in front of the fire with a whiskey and pray the heat soaks into my bones. I contemplate quitting while I’m ahead but my mother’s words growing up echo in my mind: “Quitting is for losers, children, and smokers.” (She didn’t actually say this.)

Regardless, momma didn’t raise no quitter.

1:20 a.m.

I’m procrastinating and I’m so aware of it. The other inhabitants of the house have long since retired to their (warm, indoor) beds. I debate pouring myself another whiskey.

1:35 a.m.

I hem-haw through brushing my teeth and pulling on my winter coat at the same time.

1:45 a.m.

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The space, it is smaller.

Kristen Lee

With so much padding and blankets, the space inside the RS 6 Avant has decreased significantly. We open the rear doors, sit on the folded-down seats, and remove our snow boots before swinging into the car.

If you’re familiar with my writing, you’ll know that I’m obsessed with a car’s interior packaging. I love dedicated nooks and crannies for your stuff. A revelation strikes me.

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Footwell? More like SHOEwell.

Kristen Lee

The inside of the RS 6 Avant is the perfect bedroom!

I hang my coat on the back of the front seat. I store my camera battery in the rear door cubby. I leave my camera and my boots in the footwell. My water bottle finds a flat tabletop on the center console armrest. My face mask is looped around the rear coat hook. I can hang my glasses in the seat-back pocket. There are so many dedicated places for stuff and things!

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Here is a nightstand.

Kristen Lee

Consider this my official letter of praise to Audi AG: You might not have set out to do this, but you can design a damn fine bedroom.

With all my items settled, it’s much easier for me to focus on getting comfortable. And it’s pretty cold inside the car. The thermometer reads 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

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A casual 20 degrees.

Kristen Lee

I’m not worried, though. I took the time to read “Frozen Alive” by Peter Stark on Outside, a chilling (holla!) tale of what it’s like to freeze to death. I know the signs. I know what not to do. We will not freeze.

Once we’re snuggled under the mountain of layers, it immediately begins to feel warmer.

And it’s so quiet.

There’s a lot of noise pollution where I live in New York City — sirens, traffic, hoarse screams. These are all part of the wall of white noise you experience when living in a city. I don’t complain, of course. I knew this was part of the deal.

But the sudden absence of all that noise is, in a way, even noisier than the noise itself. I’ve heard people say they have trouble falling asleep in the country because it’s “too quiet.” The quietness isn’t unsettling to me, nor is the stillness.

I’m wrapped up in a billion blankets, the snow falling silently on the car, and there’s nothing but the sound of my own heartbeat in my ears. Not even the bears or the coyotes are stirring.

4 a.m. to 6 a.m. (?)

You know how old-timey people are always depicted in pajamas with nightcaps? I never understood that until now. Everything is super warm and cozy except the top of my head! The top of my head is cold, and so are the tips of my ears. Foiled!

And breathing in the cold, dry air has woken me up. I glance to my left. My boyfriend is fast asleep in his wool beanie with his COVID-19 mask securely over his face, the clever chicken. I burrow further beneath the blankets.

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Should have just put this on smh.

Kristen Lee

An interesting thing happens where, after a while beneath the blankets, the warm air somehow feels too sticky to breathe and I have to “surface” in order to catch my breath. And after some time above the covers, the cold air scrapes at my windpipe and I duck beneath the blankets to repeat the process. It’s a cycle from hell.

I should say here — and to reassure my parents, who will inevitably read this blog — that we are in no immediate danger. Our bodies are toasty-warm beneath the covers, and, indeed, I don’t feel like I need to curl up to preserve heat. I am perfectly comfortable stretching out.

The only thing that’s bothersome is the breathing issue, but I soon fashion myself a solution. By placing my face just under the blanket, rather than submerging my whole head, I discover a pocket of perfect-temperature air to breathe.

Finally satisfied, this Goldilocks returns to slumber and only awakens once at 7:15 a.m. to snooze a forgotten-about alarm.

10:09 a.m.

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Can’t see out.

Kristen Lee

I can’t ignore the morning sunlight streaming in any longer. It’s diffused light, gold tinged with chilly blue, as the windows are completely curtained by snow. It’s better privacy than I could ever have imagined.

My phone is frigid to the touch when I check the local weather. It’s 14 degrees Fahrenheit.

“It’s 14 degrees Fahrenheit!” I announce with the air of someone declaring that they’ve just won the lottery.

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Feels like “victory,” more like.

Kristen Lee

My boyfriend stirs beside me. “Not bad!” he reports, blinking. He says he was fairly comfortable, save for the fact that he couldn’t stretch out fully. I, too, like to remind others that I am tall.

But with his role in the activity now officially complete, he’s smart and doesn’t linger. He flips around to put his boots on. They take a couple of tugs to separate from the floor of the car, as they are frozen to the floor mats. This causes me to look around the inside of the car more closely.

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Felt cute, might delete later.

Kristen Lee

There’s ice on the inside of the windows. Ice running along the window sills. Ice on the inside of the moonroof. The water inside my insulated bottle is still liquid, though!

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Kristen Lee

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Kristen Lee

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Kristen Lee

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Kristen Lee

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Kristen Lee

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Everything is cold to the touch.

Kristen Lee

My boyfriend leaves to go inside and make himself a cup of coffee, but I stay behind for a bit longer. For one, it’s very cozy still beneath the covers. Two, I’m extraordinarily lazy and I’d like to see you leap feet-first into sub-freezing temperatures right after waking up.

Yeah, that’s what I thought. You’re not better than me.

If it were just me by myself, the back of the RS 6 Avant would be a very comfortable place indeed. The foam daybed mattress kept things padded and I obviously wasn’t cold at all in the night. I had room to stretch out. It was very doable!

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My bedroom for one night.

Kristen Lee

The photos look chaotic because of all the layers of blankets, but if it were fall instead of winter, only one blanket would be necessary. And, of course, there would be no ice or freezing cold air to worry about.

10:38 a.m.

It’s time to get out.

I push the door open and a dusting of snow immediately falls into the car, coating my arm like powdered sugar. The cold hits me in the back of the throat like a dart.

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Kristen Lee

Luckily I, the brain genius, had the foresight to park close to the house. Scuttling indoors only takes four steps.

We won, this Audi and I! We beat the cold and, most importantly, we proved that you can, too, sleep in a station wagon if you dream it.

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Bringing a whole new meaning to “sleeper wagon.”

Kristen Lee

The next time someone starts yapping about the utilitarian merits of an SUV over a wagon, you whip out this little blog and show them that two silly people spent the night in one in sub-freezing temperatures and lived to tell the tale.

If you’re brave enough, maybe you’ll even try it yourself.


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Wagons: good?

Kristen Lee

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Wagons: good!

Kristen Lee

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