The nights are long, days are short, leaves have fallen, and Holiday music is starting to play which can only mean one thing… winter is fast approaching. Simply because it is cold out and white stuff is falling does not mean the end of RV travel. RVs are surprisingly resilient and functional in cold weather as long as you follow some simple steps to prepare and operate your RV in cold weather.
Tip 1. Plan Your Travels Accordingly
The first thing you want to purchase and the last thing you ever want to use is a set of snow chains for your trailer or RV. Required for travel in icy or snowy conditions snow chains allow your RV or trailer to gain some level of traction over hazardous roadways.
The keyword here is “hazardous” and it should have you thinking “no way am I driving with our rig when chains are required!”
Hence our Rule 1 is plan your travels accordingly. Winter travel requires flexibility for departure and arrival plans to allow you to travel when the weather permits. Leave a buffer around your days and understand the short and long term weather forecasts for your travel destinations. The last place you want to be when traveling in the winter is driving on a snow covered road with chains on your rig.
Tip 2. Cold Plus Water Does Not Mix
If the temperatures are or will be dropping below 32 degrees Fahrenheit water will freeze. Any exposed plumbing will develop ice and allowed to freeze too long could cause damage due to the expansion of frozen water within the confined area. There are steps you can take now to minimize the risk of freezing pipes by following the simple process of insulating and applying warmth.
When traveling completely drain and flush all water lines before hitting the road. By running dry you will not needlessly worry about lines freezing and cracking.
In camp you can use heat tape on the fresh water line along with insulation to keep it warm OR you can fill your onboard tank and use your water pump for water.
Do not leave your dump valves open. Instead only open them to drain. Leaving the valve open can result in a ice dam that, unknowingly to you, backs up your sewer into your rig.
Tip 3. Stock Up on Heat
When winter camping in an RV you will learn first hand what all those “R” values meant in the marketing brochures at the RV dealership. Unless (and even if) you have the highest-end four season units RVs are not as efficient at keeping the heat in and the cold out. Add into the equation any slides and the amount of open space inside your RV and suddenly it makes complete sense to buy every space heater on the shelf at Walmart.
First a warning: never use a fuel based heater inside the RV. These units release exhaust fumes that can easily overwhelm and poison any living creature inside.
Strategically placed electric heaters in combination with your built in furnace can keep the interior sufficiently warm. When in very cold climates look to insulate and cover any exposed areas to reduce thermal inefficiencies.
Finally, for sleeping it is a good idea to have warm comforters or electric heat blankets to be able to bundle up while conserving propane usage during the cold overnight hours.
Tip 4. Keep the Shower in the Shower
Winter camping presents unique challenges when cooking and/ or staying inside your RV. The moisture produced by YOU when breathing and by cooking condenses on the windows and walls due to the cold outside (kind of like the water on the outside of a cold bottle of soda in the summer). The humidity buildup can be severe if not corrected and maintained. A cheap method is to leave a window open to allow the moisture (and heat) out while a more efficient strategy is to purchase and use a dehumidifier. The result will be a more comfortable and less damp experience.
Tip 5. Enjoy the Adventure
Winter camping does add additional challenges to the mix but can be very rewarding when done properly. There are a number of locations across the United States in cold climates that remain open to RV campers. Staying in your RV in these area can become a very memorable and enjoyable experience that not many people even consider.
Proper preparation, planning, and mindset can make all the difference in your winter RV adventure. If after all of the above you still question the logic of camping in cold winter climates then bonus tip 6 may be right for you! Tip 6 is to follow the birds and head south until you no longer need to wear a jacket! A word of caution with this strategy: you may not want to return to your home for a while.
CampgroundViews.com makes it easy for you to find and see campgrounds and RV Parks in the United States. With the most accurate directory and 1000’s of user provided videos you can see a location before making plans.
The above information is intended for entertainment purposes only. Proper care, planning, and understanding is required for safe winter RV travels; do your homework before hitting the road. Safe and happy travels this winter season!