More RV owners are extending their camping season and even using their rigs in the winter. An RV can be a personal chalet for cross-country skiing, an elegant warming house for ice skating, or even a tricked-out icehouse for ice fishing! Note: I wouldn’t advise driving it on the lake, but I have seen it happen! (They do make RVs for ice fishing!) Winter camping can be a beautiful and rewarding experience, but it also comes with its own set of challenges and risks due to the cold weather and potential for extreme conditions. Here are five tips to help you stay safe and enjoy winter camping.
1. Prepare your rig for freezing temperatures
Most RVs have an insulation value, known as R value, of 9 for the sidewalls and up to 15 for the thicker 4” roofs. However, for the most part, they are not well-insulated and need some help. There is not much you can do for the sidewalls and roof, but additional insulation can be added to the windows, roof vents, and around slide rooms.
2. Supplement the heating system
The standard heater is great in mild and even cold temperatures but not sufficient for below-freezing winter camping. You may wish to add a second heater or get a catalytic heater such as the Olympian that is safe and can be used inside in the bedroom or living room.
3. Protect the water system
Identify where the freshwater tank, pump and all lines are located and if they are protected by the on-board heater. If not, you will want to add a heat blanket or heat tape to keep them from freezing. Otherwise, winterize your RV by either blowing out all the water with compressed air, or add RV antifreeze, the “pink stuff.” Then use bottled water and gallon jugs for the toilet and cleaning.
4. Protect your water hose, service compartment, dump valves, and sewer hose
Bringing water from a campground source during winter camping can be a challenge to keep it from freezing. However, there are several heated hoses available such as the Pirit. There are also heated sewer hoses, but they are a little expensive. I just use a heat tape wrapped around the hose. Dump a gallon of RV antifreeze in the black and gray water tank to help keep them from freezing. And don’t forget about the service center. Most are heated but some not sufficiently. Use a 60-watt incandescent light bulb in an automotive work lamp or a livestock heat lamp.
5. Block airflow from underneath your rig for winter camping
Cold air ripping through the underside of your rig can make it even colder inside and harder to heat. Use skirting, bales of hay, or inflatable AirSkirts.