RV Camping in Winter or Cold Weather opens up incredible experiences like winter wonderlands, snow sports, and mountain adventures. But to fully enjoy the magic of winter RV camping, you need to properly prepare for the cold temperatures, snow, ice, and other challenges.
This article provides tips and advice for having successful and safe RV camping trips during the winter. We’ll cover choosing the right RV, winterizing and preparing your rig, essential gear to pack, winter driving safety, and maintaining your RV in cold weather conditions. Follow these tips to make winter RV camping comfortable, fun and filled with lifelong memories. Now let’s get ready to embrace the beauty and adventure of RV Camping in Winter or Cold Weather!
- Choose an RV designed for cold weather with adequate insulation, heating, and winter packages.
- Prepare your RV by insulating vulnerable areas, winterizing the water system, and having proper heating solutions.
- Pack essential cold weather gear like warm layers, snow boots, and emergency supplies.
- Drive slowly and cautiously, watch for ice, and be prepared with recovery gear in case you get stuck.
- Regularly check and maintain your RV systems to prevent issues in frigid conditions.
Understanding the Basics of RV Camping in Winter
RVing in winter conditions is very different than camping in warm weather. It’s important to understand the additional challenges presented by cold temperatures, snow, ice, and fewer daylight hours.
Cold temperatures – Overnight lows routinely drop below freezing, requiring well-insulated RVs designed for cold weather use. You’ll need robust heating systems and ample propane supplies.
Snow and ice – Slippery roads and walkways plus heavy snowfall require tire chains, shovels, and vigilance to avoid getting stuck. Prepare for travel delays from winter storms.
Shorter days – Less daylight means you need to conserve battery power and maximize solar recharging opportunities. Plan activities to end before dark.
Amenities – Many campgrounds close for winter. Those still open have limited facilities. Come prepared for self-sufficiency and limited hookups.
Isolation – Camping spots are less crowded, cell service can be spotty, and snow can isolate you from help. Let others know your plans and exercise extra caution.
Planning ahead and bringing proper gear for winter RVing will allow you to safely enjoy incredible experiences. Adjust your expectations but embrace the magic of RV Camping in Winter or Cold Weather!
Choosing the Right RV for Winter Camping
Not all RVs are well-suited to winter camping. It’s important to choose a rig designed to withstand freezing temps, snow, high winds, and icy conditions. Key factors to consider include:
Check the R-value of your RV’s insulation. Higher numbers indicate better ability to retain heat. Well-insulated floors, walls and ceilings are critical.
Look for rigs with enclosed and insulated underbellies. Unprotected tanks and pipes exposed to freezing temps spell disaster.
Opt for dual-pane, thermopane windows which insulate much better than single pane. Triple pane windows provide maximum insulation.
Look for RVs with 30,000 BTU furnaces for adequate heating power. Multiple heat vents distribute warmth better.
Maximum propane tank capacity provides ample fuel for furnaces and appliances. Upgrade if needed.
Install portable space heaters as backup. Look for auto shut-off safety features.
Many RVs offer optional “winter” or “arctic” packages with add-ons ideal for cold weather:
- Tank heating pads to prevent freezing pipes and valves
- Heat ducts to circulate warm air into tanks and storage bays
- Tank insulation wraps for added protection
- Insulated exterior utility hatch covers
- Heated holding tanks to avoid frozen waste systems
Choosing an RV designed and equipped for winter camping will maximize comfort and safety on your trips. Consult with dealers to pick the right model based on your needs.
Preparing Your RV for Winter Camping
The right RV is essential, but you also need to thoroughly prepare it before embarking on winter adventures. Take steps to winterize vulnerable systems, beef up heating capacity, and keep interiors dry.
Insulating Your RV
- Add removable insulation to windows using plastic sheets, bubble wrap, or plexiglass panels. Secure tightly to minimize air gaps.
- Apply reflective insulation or radiant barrier to underside and wheel wells to protect tanks and pipes.
- Caulk cracks and openings around doors, windows, vents, and wiring/plumbing penetrations to reduce drafts.
- Inflate tire pressure to max recommended rating to avoid flat spots from parking on snow and ice.
- Have furnace inspected and serviced to maximize efficiency. Replace filter and sanitize ducts.
- Confirm adequate propane supply. Consider adding second tank for extended trips off grid. Bring extra propane as backup.
- Test and service all secondary heating sources – fireplace, space heater, heated mattress pads.
- Prepare emergency plan to stay warm in case main heating system fails. Have a repair kit, tools, and backup heaters.
Dealing with Condensation
The temperature extremes between RV interior and exterior in winter leads to condensation buildup.
- Ventilate regularly by opening windows/roof vents when cooking or showering. Use exhaust fans to remove moist air.
- Avoid hanging wet gear inside which adds moisture. Store in exterior compartments or use detachable drying rack.
- Absorb condensation quickly with vented portable dehumidifier, moisture absorbing crystals, or damp-rid bags.
- Frequently wipe down cold surfaces where condensation collects like windows, walls, and cabinet exteriors.
Water System Winterization
Preparing your water system for freezing temperatures is crucial:
- Drain all water lines, tanks, pumps, and hot water heaters. Flush toilet and add RV antifreeze.
- Drain and bypass external water tanks. Shut off water pump and water heater.
- Disconnect and drain external hoses and inlet lines. Cover exterior outlets and inlets.
- Flush waste systems with antifreeze. Drain black, grey and freshwater tanks.
- Pour RV antifreeze in P traps under sinks and showers to prevent freeze damage.
Take these proactive winterization steps before camping and your water systems will stay intact.
Essential Winter RV Camping Gear
RVs provide shelter, but you still need personal gear and supplies suited to frigid conditions to stay safe and comfortable outside in the elements. Be sure to pack these winter RV camping essentials:
Cold Weather Clothing
Having the right clothing is crucial when RV camping in winter. Focus on layering pieces that trap heat and block moisture and wind. Thermal underwear and mid-layer fleeces or wool shirts retain body heat close to the skin. Then add bulky insulated outer layers like heavy winter coats, snowboarding pants, and thick waterproof boots. The extra insulation helps hold in warmth even in freezing temperatures and wind.
For extremities, wool socks provide insulation even when wet. Look for gloves designed for winter sports with inner liners and waterproof outer shells. Hats, scarves, neck gaiters, and face masks protect your head, neck and face from biting winds and keep you toasty. Don’t forget hand and toe warmer packets which provide up to 10 hours of extra warmth when needed. Lastly, snowshoes or slip-on ice cleats greatly improve mobility and safety when hiking or walking outside in snow and icy conditions. The right winter clothing prepares you for the coldest temperatures so you can play in the snow without getting frostbite.
Even with the best preparation, emergencies can happen during winter RV camping. Pack a kit with essential supplies in case you get stranded by a storm or lose power and heat. Start with warm wool blankets and mummy sleeping bags rated for subzero use to prevent hypothermia. Bring chemical hot packs that activate when needed to quickly warm hands and feet. Since RVs can have elevated carbon monoxide levels from propane furnaces, include a battery operated CO detector too.
Make sure you have light with headlamps, flashlights and battery powered lanterns, plus extra batteries. Stock non-perishable foods like protein bars, canned goods, and freeze-dried meals along with several 5-gallon jugs of fresh water. A comprehensive first aid kit prepared specifically for winter is important to have close at hand in case of injuries like hypothermia, frostbite, or falls on ice. Check any medications for proper dosages and expiration dates before each trip. These emergency supplies could be life-savers if you find yourself stuck in a winter storm.
Snow Removal Tools
When RV camping in winter, expect to deal with plenty of snow. Bring tools to help clear off your rig and vehicle, dig out of drifts, and maintain safe access. Telescoping snow brushes with soft bristles and sturdy ice scrapers quickly clear snow off roofs, hoods, and windows without scratching. Use a collapsible shovel to scoop snow away from wheels, jacks, and steps to avoid getting bogged down. And bring a roof rake to clear heavy accumulations before driving which can overload and damage RVs.
To drive safely in snow, snow chains provide traction when stuck, while portable traction mats can get you unstuck from icy ruts. Keep windshield de-icer fluid on hand to spray on ice and have a windshield de-icing heating pad as a backup. The right gear for clearing snow quickly and safely makes winter RV living much smoother.
Packing the proper essential clothing, emergency items, and snow tools will allow you to take on winter RV camping in comfort and confidence. Make sure your supplies are tailored to expected weather conditions and planned activities.
Safe Driving Tips for Winter RV Camping
RVing in winter requires extra precautions and planning while driving to prevent accidents or getting stranded. Follow these tips to drive safely in cold conditions:
Checking Weather Conditions
Keep a very close eye on weather forecasts leading up to and during your trip. Monitor predictions along your intended route and at planned camp locations. Heed any winter weather advisories, watches or warnings. Give yourself flexibility in your schedule in case major snow storms or high winds are expected which can significantly impede travel. If severe conditions are forecasted, consider delaying your departure to avoid driving in blizzards or on icy roads.
Have backup plans ready in case the weather shifts suddenly. Identify alternate travel routes you can take to reach your destination safely by avoiding closed roads or unsafe areas. And if conditions deteriorate when on the road, know ahead of time where the nearest safe pullover spots are to ride out the storm. Checking weather religiously and being prepared to adjust plans will help you avoid dangerous winter driving.
Winter Driving Techniques
Driving an RV in snowy and icy conditions requires adjusting your normal driving habits to prevent skids or loss of control. Go slow and give yourself ample additional distance for braking – at least 8-10 seconds following distance. Apply brakes gently to avoid skidding on slippery roads. Avoid any abrupt acceleration or turns which can cause your rig to spin out.
Watch road surfaces closely and be extra cautious when approaching zones prone to icing like shaded areas, bridges, and highway overpasses. Shift into lower gears for improved traction and carefully apply throttle when starting from a full stop to avoid losing grip. The key is slow and smooth driving inputs to maintain control in winter conditions.
Make sure you are prepared in case you do get stuck or stranded by a winter storm while RVing. Assemble a winter driving emergency kit to keep in your rig. Include essentials like bags of salt or sand for traction, a folding shovel, flashlight, warm blankets, non-perishable food and several gallons of water. Let family or friends know your anticipated route and expected check-in times at planned stops so your whereabouts are known. Keep your cell phone charged in case you need to call for assistance.
If you do become stuck in snow or ice, wait safely in your RV for snow plows to clear the way rather than trying to shovel yourself out. Put out indicators like flares or LED strobes to alert other motorists. Only run your engine about 10 minutes per hour for heat to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Following smart winter driving precautions will help you steer clear of hazardous situations.
Using these specialized winter driving techniques and safety preparedness tips will get you and your RV to your planned camping destinations without incident. Just take it slow and be flexible when adventure awaits amidst winter wonderlands.
Maintaining Your RV in Winter Conditions
Freezing temperatures and snow put extra strain on RV systems. Stay vigilant with preventative maintenance to avoid being left out in the cold:
- Check tire tread depth and pressure frequently. Inflate to maximize winter traction.
- Confirm propane lines are free of leaks and tanks have adequate fuel supplies.
- Inspect seals around doors, hatches, windows and vents. Reapply sealant if any cracks appear.
- Monitor holding tank levels closely to avoid freezing if camping off-grid. Use RV-safe antifreeze.
- Frequently remove snow loads from your roof with a snow rake to avoid dangerous collapses.
Repair and Maintenance
- Touch up any exterior paint chips to prevent moisture penetration.
- Lubricate hinges, locks, stabilizers and slide-outs to prevent freezing shut.
- Check and flush all drains to keep water flowing freely and avoid freezing solid.
- Winterize and service generator. Carry extra fluids and parts like belts, hoses, spark plugs.
Vigilance and preparation will help you identify and resolve problems before they ruin your winter camping trips. Embrace the cold weather confidently with a well-maintained RV.
Conclusion for RV Camping in Winter or Cold Weather
RV Camping in Winter or Cold Weather lets you experience incredible snow-covered landscapes and partake in awesome cold-weather activities. But to fully enjoy winter RV adventures, you need to ready your rig and equip yourself for freezing temperatures, snow, ice, and other cold weather challenges.
Choose an adequately insulated and heated RV suited for winter camping. Thoroughly winterize vulnerable systems and components before trips. Outfit yourself with heavy-duty winter clothing and gear designed for frigid conditions. Drive slowly and cautiously, watching for slick conditions that require special care behind the wheel. And proactively maintain systems most at risk in harsh winter environments.
Preparing your RV rig and yourself using these tips will have you camping comfortably through winter. You’ll be ready to take on snowy adventures and make lifelong memories enjoying the beauty and serenity of nature in winter. Just be sure to exercise caution and adjust expectations as needed to account for the increased risks and challenges of RVing in cold weather.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are some warm winter RV destinations?
Some popular warm locales for winter RV camping include southern Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Florida, southern California, and desert areas like Quartzsite, Arizona. Heading south is a common way to enjoy camping in milder conditions.
What are some tips for preparing my RV for cold weather?
Tips for winterizing an RV include draining water lines, adding RV antifreeze, disconnecting exterior hoses, insulating vulnerable components, installing heat pads on tanks, servicing the furnace, testing heaters, having adequate fuel, and checking your generator.
How can I make my RV livable in the winter?
To make an RV more livable in winter, add insulating window coverings, use portable space heaters, minimize drafts, manage condensation, keep fresh water and propane tanks full, stock up on warm clothing and bedding, prepare food for cooking without water, and consider installing solar power.
What are some challenges of RV camping in cold weather?
Challenges of winter RV camping include keeping systems from freezing, limited sunlight reducing solar power, needing extra propane for heating, winterizing plumbing, driving safely on icy roads, dealing with snow removal, and fewer open campgrounds.
Are campgrounds typically open in the winter for RV camping?
Many RV campgrounds are closed for winter and only a subset remain open. These are typically in warmer climates or offer winter amenities like snow removal. Reservations need to be made well in advance since capacity is lower. Alternative options include RV parks, boondocking on public lands, or private sites.
How cold is too cold for RV camping?
RV camping can generally be comfortable to around 0°F or -15°C before becoming unsuitable without specialized winter RVs. With proper preparation such as insulation, sufficient heating, and cold weather systems, RVs can handle below freezing temps. But camping in extreme cold below 0°F for long periods will require extensive winterizing.