Winter RVing isn’t reserved only for snowbirds and people in the South. Winter RVing is not just for snowbirds or people who live in the south.
It is possible to camp in an RV during cold weather. This camping does require more planning and preparation and certainly presents some challenges. Along with these challenges, there are also wonderful opportunities not available during warmer seasons. You can live the RV lifestyle for 12 months of the year. We’ll talk about the possibilities.
Winter RV Camping Tips
Do your routine checks before you set out on your winter trip (or for any other trip) to ensure that your vehicle is roadworthy. Check the tire pressure. Tires can lose as much as 2 PSI (pounds/square inch) for every 10degF temperature drop. This is a significant amount of pressure loss, especially when dealing with winter temperatures.
Block the Cold
You are trying to block out as much air as you can when you prepare your RV for winter camping. This begins with the RV’s underbelly, the part that is most exposed to the elements.
You’ll find all kinds of exposed pipes, connections and floor openings when you crawl underneath your RV. Skirting is a great way to protect your RV. You can buy a skirt made to fit your RV model, or if you want to save money, you can make it yourself with foam board. Foam board is easy to use and much cheaper than custom skirting. You can use straw bales to create a windbreak for your RV if it is permanently parked. Just stack them around the RV. Straw can also attract mice looking for a warm place to hide from the winter.
As they look for warmth and shelter, your RV may seem quite inviting to mice. Brass wool can be used to seal small holes and keep rodents away.
Insulation and Weather Stripping
The majority of RVs are shipped with very little insulation. In June it may not be a big deal, but in January it is. If you want to block out winter drafts, spray foam insulation can also be applied to walls. Weatherstripping on windows and doors can also be used to block out cold air. Also, keeping curtains closed can help.
Sealing up your RV to keep out the cold can have a downside. It means it cannot “breathe”. You may be able to seal out the cold but you’re also sealing in excessive moisture. If you are cooking or showering, this will add moisture to the air. If it can’t be expelled, the humid air will absorb into the walls and cause mold. This problem can be solved by using a dehumidifier or absorbing moisture products such as DampRid.
Protect your Plumbing!
Protecting the plumbing system against the cold is essential. When water freezes, it expands and can cause pipes to burst. Wrap heat tape around all waterlines in your RV to avoid this nightmare scenario. Open the cabinets to allow warm air to circulate.
You’ll need a heated freshwater pipe if you have city water when camping. This will ensure that the water flows. The spigot can be damaged if the hose freezes. The campground may hold you responsible if this happens.
If you plan to use your freshwater tank, consider adding a heating source. There are a number of products that can be purchased to keep the space warm. This is a good idea regardless of the water source, since this is your plumbing hub.
Some RVers opt for a DIY solution and use a standard incandescent light bulb (not an LED) to heat the compartment of the water tank. The bulb’s heat is sufficient to keep the space warm, as it’s a small enclosed area. You can use this method, but make sure that the bulb does not touch anything. This includes wood, fabric, plastic or other materials. Don’t let your cheap hack become a fire hazard.
Add RV antifreeze in the grey and black tanks (not freshwater!). Close the tanks’ gates until you are ready for emptying them. Also, make sure that the sewer hose and the hoses are angled down and elevated.
How to stay warm in winter in an RV
After you have done all your winter maintenance, we will discuss how to keep warm at the campsite.
Your RV furnace can drain your wallet with its high propane consumption. Instead, consider using an electric heater. Set your furnace’s thermostat to 45-50degF, and let the electric heat do the bulk of the work.
Ensure that all of your carbon monoxide and smoke detectors are working properly and have new batteries. Make sure you have enough propane in your tanks.
In order to boondock, you should have an inverter and several full gas cans. You should only use battery power if you can. Make sure that your batteries are in good condition and fully charged. Do not attempt winter boondocking with a single battery. Even small RVs need multiple batteries.
A generator is still an excellent idea if you plan to connect to shore-power. Everyone will sweat if the power goes off in the summer. If the power goes off in the winter it could be dangerous. The RV is safer with a backup generator.
Other small things can help keep your RV cabin warm. Plan to bake, for example. Cookies or cinnamon rolls are perfect for a cold winter day. The oven can also heat your RV. The heat that comes from using the oven is a bonus. Never use an oven or range to heat your home.
Electric blankets and extra blankets will help you to combat the chill at night. A floor rug is also a great addition for when your feet first hit the ground in the morning.
Cold Weather RVing: Benefits
Cold-weather RVing has some distinct advantages if you make sure your rig is properly prepared.
- Winter is a much less busy time for RV parks and campgrounds. Many will also offer discounted rates during the off-season.
- Camping in cold weather can keep you away from mosquitoes and other insects. Leave the bug spray behind.
- Winter camping could become your favorite camping if you suffer from seasonal allergies. Far less sneezing!
- There are many winter sports and outdoor activities available depending on where you live. These include skiing, sledding or snowshoeing. You can also do something simple like a snowball battle or build a snowman.
You will love your campfire even more when you are camping in cold weather. It’s a peaceful pleasure to enjoy a warm cup of coffee next to a campfire in the cold winter morning. Be sure to have plenty of firewood, and a place where you can keep it dry. Keep multiple lighters and other firestarters in your arsenal.
Consider buying a few rechargeable handheld warmers. These hand warmers are a lifesaver on a cold winter morning. Lip balm and body lotion will be a great addition to your winter wardrobe, as the cold air can quickly dry out skin.
Winter RV trips are fun and safe, but they require some extra planning. You will make memories you would not have made in the summer.
Let’s get on the road and bundle up!