Winter RV camping offers a break from the bustling season and a chance to relax in the beautiful snowy outdoors. It can also be an affordable way to explore a popular ski destination or enjoy other outdoor winter recreation.
With that said, one of the biggest concerns RVers have when it comes to winter camping is keeping their home on wheels warm and avoiding frozen tanks. Thankfully, there are tricks you can use to keep the heat in and the cold out. Here are five winter RV camping tips to help ensure a successful cold weather camping experience.
1. Put skirting around your RV
Let’s face it, most RVs don’t come ready to camp in the dead of winter, unless you purchase one with an arctic package which can help prevent frozen tanks. It’s awesome if your rig has this feature, but I still recommend contacting the manufacturer to find out what it can handle. If you find yourself in a unit that doesn’t have the arctic package, one of the first steps you should take is to block off the undercarriage.
When you look underneath your RV, you won’t see the tanks because they’re sealed off to prevent damage while you’re driving down the road. Unfortunately, this doesn’t protect the tanks from cold temperatures that often accompany the winter months, resulting in frozen tanks. However, by installing skirting around the exterior of your rig, you can block some of the cold air and wind that would otherwise affect your tanks.
RV skirting is available in a wide variety of styles, installation methods, and price points, including DIY options made of foam board or vinyl. Some RVers forgo traditional skirting and pack snow around the outside of their RV instead. I suggest doing a bit of research to find the best option for you when it comes to keeping your undercarriage protected.
2. Get a small, detachable propane tank
Bringing along a small, detachable propane tank won’t keep your RV any warmer during the winter, but it will make it easier to fill when necessary. As temperatures dip, you’ll likely crank up the heat inside your RV, and this extra propane tank will come in handy if you find yourself filling your propane tank more frequently.
We have an onboard tank that’s 24 gallons—it works really well and generally lasts a long time. However, once you find yourself in colder temperatures, you’ll see how fast 24 gallons can go. To combat this, we purchased two grill-sized propane tanks (5 gallons or 20 pounds). The two extra tanks allow us to easily keep propane on hand without removing all the winter preparations first to get our larger tank filled.
In our experience, when the temperature is between zero and 30 degrees Fahrenheit, the small propane tank will last three to four days, which works well for us when a fill-up station is nearby. However, if your propane fill-up location is far away, you may want to consider a larger propane tank you can still transport. Ultimately, you’ll want to look at your situation and figure out which tanks work best for you and your traveling situation.
3. Incorporate space heaters
Space heaters can be your best friend during winter RV camping. By using space heaters in conjunction with propane, you’ll be able to heat the space quicker. You can also target specific areas within your RV, depending on where you’re hanging out and need it most. Depending on the size of your rig, you may even be able to heat your entire space. My parents, for example, can keep their entire travel trailer heated using only a single space heater.
With that said, it’s important to be aware of the safety guidelines for your specific heater. There is some controversy on whether or not it’s safe to keep a space heater on while you sleep. We always err on the side of caution and choose to turn it off while we sleep or are away. Instead, we keep extra blankets nearby and set our gas heater to kick on at a certain point.
Be sure to read the owner’s manual to understand how your specific space heater operates so you are better equipped to use it in the safest possible way. I also recommend purchasing one with a safety tip-over feature for added peace of mind.
4. Fill your fresh water tank
There’s nothing worse than waking up in the morning to find you don’t have any water because it froze the night before. We’ve found the best way to combat this is by filling our fresh water tank and unhooking it from city water before bed. If you’re connected to city water, your hose will likely be exposed to the elements which can lead to freezing. Some RV parks may even require you to disconnect from city water at night or for a specific amount of time, depending on how extreme the temperature change will be. By using your fresh water tank (which is likely being protected by skirting), your water can last longer in much colder temperatures.
If you’d rather stay connected to city water, you may want to consider purchasing a heated hose, or heat tape you can place around your hose to keep it from freezing. It’s entirely up to you to decide which option is best for you.
5. Use a dehumidifier
During the winter, you’re likely to run the heater more often to stay nice and toasty inside your RV, which often results in condensation.
Almost immediately after the temperatures drop, our windows become foggy, and water can begin to puddle at the base of the windows. Sometimes condensation begins to build up on the walls as well.
This is when having a dehumidifier on hand can come in handy. Dehumidifiers are designed to remove excess moisture from the air, an issue RVs are known to battle even outside of winter. You can find a wide variety of sizes and price points to fit your travel needs, and also additional ways to combat moisture in an RV, including moisture absorbers.
I hope this information helps point you in the right direction before embarking on your next winter RV camping adventure. For additional tips, you may also want to check out the Winter RVing Facebook group.