Winter camping attracts RVers for many different reasons. For many RVers, they find the almost-empty campgrounds in the winter months hard to resist. And for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts, winter camping offers an abundance of outdoor-related activities, including hunting, cross-country skiing, ice fishing, snowmobiling, and more. It’s no wonder so many people enjoy using their RVs year round. But before heading out, make sure your RV can handle the intense cold temperatures of winter. Most newer RVs are designed and built to withstand the freezing temperatures and keep you warm, but here are some tips to keep you comfortable and your RV safe when you’re enjoying the beautiful winter scenery at your favorite destination. So when you ask yourself, “Can I RV in the winter?”, the answer is a resounding YES!
Before you head out for your winter getaway, check your RV’s window seals to see if re-caulking is needed anywhere to keep out cold drafts. Also look at the weather stripping on all the exterior doors and replace it if it’s not working properly or if it looks worn out.
As an added measure of precaution, you can outfit the bottom of your RV with insulating foam boards (available at home improvement stores) that are cut to fit snugly between the RV frame and the ground all the way around the base of the RV. This helps insulate the tanks, water lines, and the floor by blocking out cold air. RV skirts can help too, but they’re not as effective as foam boards.
Before your trip, empty your black and gray water tanks. Add about a quart of pink RV antifreeze (not the green kind used in cars) to each tank to protect the dump valves from freezing. Using foam pipe insulation, insulate the pipes that drain into the tanks. Also, if you’ll be camping in an area where temperatures fall below freezing for an extended period of time, consider adding electric pipe heaters to keep them from freezing.
Did you know that there are heated water hoses? These work really well for preventing bursting and freezing problems in the winter months. These ingenious hoses are controlled with a thermostat and AC power is required to operate them. Keep all hoses and cables off the ground or out of the snow as another precaution when camping in the winter.
If your RV isn’t outfitted with dual pane windows, there are some steps you can take to make your windows more energy efficient. Installing insulating curtains on your windows is really effective at keeping the cold air and cool drafts from making their way into your cozy RV. Keep them closed at night and whenever it’s especially windy to help keep it warm inside. If you have a Class A or Class C motorhome, consider hanging an insulated curtain between the cockpit and the living area to help keep the warm air back in the living space where you need it. Why waste electricity or propane on heating the cockpit?
Since heat rises, you want to make sure that your RV roof vents or skylights are thoroughly insulated. Purchase RV vent cushions that can be easily installed to keep warm air from leaking out of them.
To keep your stabilizing jacks from freezing to the ground, place blocks of wood beneath them. The wooden blocks may freeze to the ground, but they can be easily unstuck by using a hammer or a freeze-away compound. If your stabilizer jacks are directly on the frozen ground and have to be unstuck, you could damage them when trying to free them. So just avoid this altogether by using wood that you can even leave behind if it’s frozen solid to the ground.
The refrigerant in a propane or electric refrigerator consists of hydrogen gas, ammonia, distilled water, and sodium carbonate (all under 200 PSI pressure). When temperatures drop too low outside (below 20°F), this solution can become gel-like and plug the refrigeration system’s coils permanently. To avoid this, remove the outside refrigerator access cover and apply duct tape over the top two out of three vent slots. And for more duct tape uses, click here!
Test your RV’s furnace before you hit the road. Using compressed air or a soft brush, remove all dust, debris, and insects from the furnace area. If your RV has only a heat pump or heat fins, consider investing in another heat source since these systems don’t work well when the temperature drops below 40°F. If you don’t want to run the furnace, portable electric space heaters and catalytic heaters work well to heat small areas. Just be sure that a window or vent is cracked open for ventilation and that you turn off a space heater when it’s unattended.
To avoid fogged-up windows and moisture building up inside your RV, invest in a dehumidifier. One of the biggest problems of winter RVing is that we spend a lot of time inside a small space that is tightly closed up for warmth. Condensation starts to build up pretty quickly from people and pets simply breathing inside the unit. Since holding your breath isn’t an option for avoiding condensation buildup (because then you’ll have a bigger problem on your hands!), you can run a dehumidifier to pull the moisture out of the air. This will also help to keep the environment healthier by removing moisture that can lead to mold and mildew growth.
Propane lasts only a few days in really cold weather. So if you use propane in your RV, you need to be prepared with extra propane tanks or you should choose destinations that aren’t too far from a propane refill station.
Regularly clean ice and snow off your awnings so that they don’t build up and cause problems. If snow or ice builds up on an awning when it’s rolled out, it could be very hard to retract it when you need to without damaging it. Also, ice and snow can accumulate on slide gaskets and prevent the slide from retracting too. Spray RV antifreeze on the gaskets to help prevent this problem.
When RVing during winter months, you should expect the best (but be prepared for the worst!). Pack the following items to ensure your safety while RVing in the cold:
• Tire chains
• Weather band radio
• Extra blankets
• Extra warm clothing
• Sleeping bags rated for 0°F temperatures
• 5 gallons of drinking water in heated storage space
• A “white gas” camping stove (does not require propane)
• Gasoline-powered generator
• Extra propane tanks
• Blow dryer to defrost pipes and tanks
• Emergency GPS system
• Extra food
• Solar charging panels are good for re-charging house batteries