For most of us, camping reminds us of sunny or fair weather when we can enjoy different outdoor sports or just bask in the warmth of the sun.
But there’s a certain allure to RV camping in the winter. Everything is still and covered with snow giving it a magical glow. It is beautiful in a different kind of way. You can enjoy a hot cup of chocolate while cuddling with the love of your life. You can go hiking in the wilderness that’s blanketed with snow. It is also a more affordable way of taking a vacation in famous ski resorts where you can have fun skiing, snowmobiling, or tubing.
But before all that, you’ve got to make sure that your rig is winter ready and that’s what this article is all about. We’re here to guide you in having the perfect winter camping adventure because the fun doesn’t stop when summer is over.
Read on to find out the things that you have to prepare and look out for when RVing during winter so that you can stay warm and cozy in your camper despite the cold weather.
Preparing Your RV for a Cold Weather Trip
If you haven’t tried camping during winter, now is the perfect time to try it! Let us guide you through it so that you’ll have a memorable winter RV camping.
We do understand that not all RVs are built for the cold weather. But there are ways to equip your rig for cold weather RVing.
Here are our tips for winter RV camping:
Install and Upgrade RV insulation
The cold shouldn’t bother you when your rig is properly insulated. You should install insulation inside your camper and on your RV underbelly. With this, you can keep warm and snug inside your camper. You can enjoy a cozy living space even when it’s cold outside.
Aside from this, your RV parts and appliances will be protected from the cold too. Your RV pipes and other components will be sheltered from extreme temperature and cold winter winds so you can count on them to work properly even during winter.
Here is a checklist of the things you should do to ensure that your rig is insulated properly.
- Seal your RV windows and doors. Make sure that there are no holes or crevices around them by sealing them tightly. Put high quality weather stripping around your exterior door to ensure that no amount of cold air or moisture can pass through.
- Insulate your RV windows. Cold can permeate through the windows. There are affordable ways for you to keep them insulated. You can use a window film or reflective foil to insulate your windows. These can be cut to fit the size of your RV windows. The reflective foil is effective in reflecting the heat back into the camper which helps in maintaining a warm and cozy atmosphere inside the rig.
- Use heavy drapes. The thick fabric of these drapes will block off cold drafts in the windows. They also help ensure that warm air doesn’t escape from your rig. You can also use heavy drapes to separate different areas of your camper so that you only have a smaller area to heat at a time and the heat will stay enclosed within that particular area.
- Insulate your RV floors. You can use foam board flooring, carpets, or heavy rugs to insulate the floors of your rig. These will help block cold air coming from underneath the camper.
- Put some RV skirting or windskirting. This is a material that you put all around the bottom portion of your rig. The skirt provides a barrier from the cold. The main idea here is to protect the components in your camper’s underbelly from the wind and colder temperatures of winter.
Don’t worry about having to take down everything when winter is over. You can keep most of these for the rest of the year. Or in the case of window foil insulation, you can just roll them up during the summer. As for the heavy drapes and RV skirting, you can remove them easily and store them inside your rig.
Protect Your RV Plumbing
Your RV plumbing is vulnerable to freezing during the winter which could lead to bursting pipes and damaged plumbing system. This happens because water flows through the pipes. However, if they turn to ice because of the freezing weather, water won’t be able to flow continuously. They will expand and solidify which would cause the pipes and hoses to crack. You won’t have access to drinking water nor water used for the shower and sink.
Therefore, it is important to keep the water flowing smoothly in your RV’s plumbing system during cold weather. Here are some tips for you to protect your pipes and hoses:
- Add RV antifreeze to your holding tanks. An RV antifreeze is a mixture that you add to water-based liquids in your rig during cold weather. It lowers the liquid’s freezing point and helps you achieve freezing-point depression for cold temperatures. Put a small amount of the RV antifreeze in your holding tanks to protect your valves from freezing.
- Pour RV antifreeze down your toilet, sink drain, and shower drain. About 1 to 2 quarts initially will do but you have to continuously add more of this solution as you use water during your camping trip.
- Use heat tapes and foam insulation on your RV pipes and hoses. You can wrap your fresh water hose, sewer hose, valves, and connections with heat tape. These are the parts of your RV which are most vulnerable to freezing. If you want extra protection, you can also add foam insulation. These will help keep your pipes and hoses warm. Water can flow continuously because it won’t freeze.
- Use your internal fresh water tank. This is a wise move when winter RV camping. Fill your internal fresh water tank with water so that you can use this as your main water source. You won’t have to connect to an external water source. This means you don’t have to expose your water hose to the cold environment and you can just store it safely inside your rig.
- Warm your internal plumbing. You can open your kitchen and bathroom cabinets so that the heat from your camper can reach your pipes. It is also recommended that you turn on your faucet slightly so that there’s a continuous drip which will keep the water moving constantly and avoid freezing.
- Consider using a space heater or heating pads. A space heater is a device that you use to heat a small area. If there’s no heat source for your RV water lines and water pump, then it is recommended that you use a space heater to combat freezing. However, be careful where you position your space heater. Make sure that it is kept at a safe distance from your RV vents and other components. Alternatively, you can use heating pads on your holding tanks.
- Dump your waste water tanks wisely. Always keep the valves of your tanks closed when you’re not using them. Dump the waste from your holding tanks when the tanks are almost full. It takes a longer time for a full tank to freeze. This will reduce the risk of freezing and exposure to cold weather.
Taking Care of your RV Engine During Cold Weather
There are certain precautionary measures that you can do to protect your RV engine when winter comes. Your RV engine is prone to breaking down during cold weather so they need extra help to be able to endure the extreme cold of winter.
The freezing temperature affects the chemical processes inside your RV batteries. When this happens, it is extra difficult for your battery to hold a charge. This is why you should always check your batteries before you go on your winter camping trip. Look for any signs of damage or corrosion. Ensure that they are securely connected to your RV engine. Always make sure that your batteries are fully charged because if they are only partly charged, they could die due to freezing temperatures.
Use the proper mixture of water and antifreeze for your engine. It is recommended that your liquid solution should contain at least 50% antifreeze agent. When you only use water, it could freeze under the extreme cold which could damage your engine.
You can also use an engine block heater especially if you’re traveling to a place where the weather is really cold. This will give your engine extra protection from the freezing cold. To use engine block heaters, you should have them running at least 3 to 4 hours before starting the engine of your rig. This will help warm up your RV engine before you use it so you can be sure that it’ll start up.
Use antifreeze for your RV’s engine fluids also so that they won’t freeze up. It is important to use an antifreeze diesel fluid and antifreeze wiper fluid to ensure that your rig will work properly. You don’t want a frozen diesel. It will clog your tank and fuel filters and will prevent your engine from starting. You will also need your windshield wipers when traveling so that you can maintain clear road visibility for a safer travel.
Prepare your RV Furnace
An RV furnace is essential in keeping you warm and cozy inside your rig. This heating unit can take the chill off your living area. This is why it is important to have one installed in your camper and before you embark on your winter RV camping, you have to check if it’s working properly. Seasoned RVers recommend that you have your RV furnace and other appliances checked by a professional also as part of their maintenance.
To ensure that your furnace is in good condition, you can clean it regularly using a soft brush or compressed air to remove any dust or debris that have accumulated there over time. Inspect the vents for any sign of damages and make sure there aren’t any obstructions that would hinder the free flow of the air inside your rig. Make sure that nothing’s blocking the furnace air return.
You can also use space heaters and catalytic heaters as additional heat sources for your camper. This will make a huge difference when the weather gets really cold.
But keep in mind that using these heating methods can cause condensation and moisture buildup inside your rig. They can damage your RV engine as well as other parts and appliances. They can cause corrosion on your RV engine and pipes. The formation of molds can damage your interiors. This is why it is important to use dehumidifiers in your camper which will absorb excess moisture and ensure that everything is dry.
Other Tips for Winterizing your RV
Here are some more helpful tips and practices so that you can enjoy a warm and cozy winter holiday in your camper.
- Install vent covers. Whatever the weather is, it is important to keep the air circulating inside your rig to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning especially if you’re using portable heaters. Having RV vent covers will allow you to do that without letting the snow or rain get into the camper. The vent covers are also essential in releasing humidity so that you can keep your rig dry and moisture-free.
- Cover your AC unit. Since you don’t need to use your AC when cold weather RVing, it is best that you cover it using an insulated material to protect the unit. This will also prevent cold drafts or allowing heat to escape from your rig during the winter.
- Protect your stabilizing jacks from freezing up. You can’t help it. Your stabilizing jacks will be exposed to icy conditions because you need them to keep your rig steady when you’re parked in the campsite. To prevent them from freezing, you can put wooden blocks beneath the jacks so that they won’t be touching the ice directly and they won’t stick to the ground.
- Take extra care when handling the plastic components of your RV. The cold weather can cause some plastic parts of your RV to become brittle. This includes the hoses and levers. Handle them with care to avoid breaking them.
- Make sure that your safety devices have new or working batteries. Check your safety devices before your winter camping trip so you can change the batteries as needed. This includes your fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.
- Store your RV hoses in a warm compartment. Your hoses are essential for getting water into your tanks and flushing wastes from your rig so you have to take care of them really well. When not in use, you can keep your RV fresh water hose and sewer hose sealed tightly in a heated compartment so that they won’t break.
- Put chains on your tires. Tire chains will help improve the traction of your rig and they are a safety feature that will protect you when traversing icy roads. Remember safety is always our priority especially when traveling during winter weather.
- Make sure you have your emergency equipment with you at all times. There are survival kits which are available in the market. They already have everything you need to survive in case you’re caught in an emergency. This includes a first aid kit, radio, flashlight, Magnesium allow fire starter, thermal survival tent, thermal space blanket, snow shovel, tow strap, portable jump starter, USB charger, goggles, water, and food.
- Make it a habit to clear the snow and ice around your RV. Winter RV camping comes with lots of snow and ice. They tend to accumulate over time which will leave you stuck if you don’t clear them regularly. You should also clear the snow and ice from your roof, side awnings and gaskets, windshield, and tires.
- Avoid camping near hillsides and anywhere that has minimal sunlight. Even though sunlight won’t do much in keeping you warm during the winter, it can definitely help in preventing ice from forming on your rig. It can also help prevent your pipes and water supply from freezing up. When the winter weather gets bad, there is a risk of an avalanche so it’s best not to camp near hillsides for your own safety.
Winter RV camping can be an exciting and enjoyable adventure. Just make sure that before you embark on a winter camping trip, you prepare your RV for the cold weather. Do the necessary precautionary measures to help prevent freeze ups so you’ll stay safe, warm and cozy inside your rig while enjoying the wonders of cold weather RVing.
Frequently Asked Questions
How cold does it have to be for RV pipes to freeze?
There’s no exact answer to this question. The important thing is for you be prepared especially when the weather forecast says that it’s going to be less than 32 degrees Fahrenheit outside.
Can you sleep in a camper in winter?
As long as you’ve taken the recommended precautionary measures to prepare your RV for winter camping, then yes, you can sleep inside your trailer in the winter and stay warm and toasty.