By Dave Helgeson
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!