Give winter RV camping a try!

11

By Dave Helgeson

Winter RV camping with friends

With the pandemic many RVers have resigned themselves to winterizing their RV and staying home this winter rather than going south. While going south may not be in the cards for you this winter, you can still spend some quality time enjoying your RV via winter RV camping.

“When it comes to winter RV camping, it’s really all about preparation. So long as you’ve made the right plans and taken the right precautions, you can easily camp in the snow,” says RV blogger Megan Buemi.

Beginner tips for winter RV camping

  • Seek out a campsite with electrical service. Having electricity available allows you to freely use auxiliary heat sources like electric space heaters, heat strips in roof air conditioners, tank heaters, electric blankets, etc. Auxiliary heat sources can be used to stay comfortable and / or used to save precious resources like propane and house batteries. Note: The factory installed forced air furnace(s) should typically be the primary heat source during freezing weather, as the heat ducts are routed to protect the plumbing.
  • Employ the use of heat tape where freshwater lines are exposed or poorly insulated.
  • Use a small electric heater or drop light with an incandescent bulb in bays or other areas that contain plumbing components that aren’t well heated. Some may want to install a smoke detector in interior bays for added safety.
  • Open bathroom and kitchen cabinets to allow warm air to circulate under counters to protect pipes and fixtures.
  • If your freshwater tank is not enclosed in a heated portion of the RV, consider a tank heater or leave it empty and use city water and a heated water hose. If your freshwater tank is enclosed, many RVers choose to draw freshwater from their water tank rather than dealing with keeping a city water connection and potable hose from freezing. Note: Make sure your freshwater hose is completely drained after filling your water tank in freezing weather.
  • Windows are a big source of heat loss in RVs. If you aren’t fortunate enough to have dual pane windows in your RV, you will need to find a way to slow down heat transfer. Possible solutions include: storm windows, insulated curtains, bubble wrap, insulation board or heat shrink film.
  • Utilize area rugs or carpet runners for extra insulation on the floor to keep your feet warm when winter RV camping.
  • Roof vents are just a thin shell of plastic separating the indoor of your RV from the bitter cold on the other side. Consider using RV vent cushions or insulated covers to slow heat transfer.
  • If your holding tanks aren’t enclosed in a heated space, pour RV antifreeze into the tanks or install holding tank heaters to keep them from freezing solid.
  • Keep the dump valves closed and dump the tanks when they are approximately 3/4 full. Never let water stand in the sewer hose as it will freeze.
  • Check the batteries in your carbon monoxide detector and smoke detector(s) before each trip as cold weather can zap battery strength.
  • Understand that the chemical solution inside the cooling unit of your RV’s absorption refrigerator can start turning into a gel below 20° F, potentially impacting operation and possibly damaging the cooling unit. To keep your refrigerator operating trouble-free, block the upper 2/3 of the lower vent to retain heat or use an incandescent drop light (25- to 40-watt bulb) or other small heat source to keep the area above 20° F.
  • Assure a supply of fresh air. Don’t seal up your RV so tight there is no ventilation or air exchange.
  • Minimize the amount of moisture that is released into the interior of your RV via showering and use of the propane stove / oven, as condensation problems are amplified during winter RV camping.

Here’s a short video with additional guidance on how to make winter RV camping comfortable and fun. As one of the hosts states, “Winter camping is where it is at!”

Don’t let the pandemic or freezing weather keep you from enjoying your RV this winter. Employ the above tips and you might discover winter RV camping is your new favorite!

Related:

Some basic tips for winter RVing

##RVT979

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Donn
1 month ago

OH, yeah…..these kinds of experiences are just about wonderful but you do have
to prepare the RV against frozen pipes, etc. In Scouts, we used to call this Klondike Camping. The boys stayed in the tents while I stayed in the camper. lol Those were just about the best days I ever spent in the camping life.

Steve
1 month ago

In normal winters (not 2020-21!), we RV during December and January on our trips from Colorado to snowbirding locations south of I-10. We inevitably encounter temps in the teens, so have to be equipped for winter weather. In addition to the thermopane windows, heated tanks, furnace-vented storage bay, vent pads, rug runners, electric space heaters, and using tank, not city, water, mentioned above, we add two other “necessities”.

We always take our queen-bed electric blanket to pre-warm the sheets before bedtime and keep us warm during the night, so we can turn the furnace down to minimize propane use. Our first trailer had a heated mattress, but I hated it because it made me sweat too much. The blanket is much better.

The second is mylar space blankets. They insulate big windows like bubble wrap, but also reflect heat back into the room. They take up far less storage space when not in use and are less susceptible to kids popping bubbles! They also cling/seal to glass.

Dave Helgeson
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve

Steve, Great additions – thank you for sharing!

Scott R. Ellis
1 month ago

You’re kidding: an article on winter camping from “veteran boondocker” Helgeson literally begins with “seek out a campsite with electrical service”? What?

You can boondock in the winter, even if you think that the very first thing that defines that term is “no electrical service.” It probably involves a lot of solar, a generator, or both (because furnace fans use a lot of power and winter sun is in short supply), and it’s WAY more easily done if your RV is a “four season” model. “Four season” (like “boondock”) is a term with no actual particular definition, but in general, if the tanks and valves are in spaces heated by the furnace, and if you have the electrical power to keep the (propane) furnace running, well there you go.

Admin
RV Staff (@rvstaff)
1 month ago
Reply to  Scott R. Ellis

Yep, being a long-time boondocker Dave knows how to winter camp without electricity. But maybe he’s just trying to get the newbies started with electricity until they learn more tricks like Dave knows. If I hadn’t put in the term “veteran boondocker” before his name, you probably wouldn’t have pounced on this, huh? So, that was my mistake — sorry, Scott. —Diane at RVtravel.com

Dave Helgeson
1 month ago
Reply to  RV Staff

Diane,

Yes, those new to winter camping should start with an electrical hookup until they learn the “tricks”. While I am set up to do without, I even appreciate an electrical hook up now and then!

Scott R. Ellis
1 month ago
Reply to  RV Staff

Oh, Diane, if I’d just been in a better mood–had I just finished another cup of coffee–I probably wouldn’t have pounced on it.

I do grow weary of people thinking that spending a single night out without a fifty-amp plug-in requires some Daniel-Boonian skill set, but I also wouldn’t really argue (where’s my coffee?) that people new to it could probably find it less stressful with an umbilical cord.

Admin
RV Staff (@rvstaff)
1 month ago
Reply to  Scott R. Ellis

Hey, Scott. It reminds me of when I took my then-young sons (they’re now 41 and 44!) tent camping in the snow off an old logging road in the Cascade Mountains on New Year’s Eve many years ago. Yeah, wet and soggy and very cold, but an adventure, for sure, especially in a tent. Well, at midnight, not having seen anyone since we got off the highway miles prior, and seeing no one around us seemingly for miles, we decided to celebrate the New Year by setting off a road flare. Before it had burned even a couple of minutes, good Samaritans in three vehicles came from “nowhere” (two different directions) to see if we were in distress. As soon as I saw the first vehicle slowly coming up the snowy road, I quickly snuffed out the flare in the deep snow. I learned two important lessons that night: (1) There are good Samaritans out there, even in the deep and snowy wilderness in the middle of winter, and (2) Don’t light a flare unless in distress or as a warning for a broken-down vehicle, for example. But I digress. Did you also see that Dave responded? Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year to you and yours, Scott. 🙂 —Diane at RVtravel.com aka Mountain Mama (P.S. I now own 18+ acres of semi-remote, totally undeveloped, absolutely gorgeous mountain property on Index Creek in the Cascades, very near where we snow-camped decades ago! And my two “little boys” are now each 6’8″ “Mountain Men” [I call them]. 😆 )

Scott R. Ellis
1 month ago
Reply to  RV Staff

Same to you and yours, Diane. 😀

Admin
RV Staff (@rvstaff)
1 month ago
Reply to  Scott R. Ellis

Thanks, Scott! 🙂 —Diane at RVtravel.com

Ed D.
1 month ago

As I write this, I am looking out the window of our Cameo 5th Wheel. The view is of Lake Chatuge and the Mountains of Hayesville, NC. I build a 12′ X 39′ wooden Deck and we had an Aluminum roofover installed to protect the RV from the elements. We lease this spot annually and have had a large Propane tank installed so we don’t ever have to run to a store to fill tanks. This year, we have decided to spend Christmas here in the mountains. If we want to travel and see other States, we have our Coachmen Leprechaun 319DS Class “C”. The best of both worlds!

MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ONE AND ALL!