RVing in the wintertime can be a wonderful experience – especially if you’re prepared for it. Imagine exploring the road, filled with majestic winter scenes, with the comfort of knowing you’re ready for it. While enjoying the first snowfall, the sights of snow-capped mountains, and the sounds of a crackling fire at night, nothing beats being prepared and enjoying the warmth of your RV with peace of night knowing you’ve prepared well for this situation.
Many who do live in RVs usually go to warmer places in the winter like Arizona, New Mexico, Florida, but there are others who enjoy some cold, snowy weather. I spend my winters usually in the desert with friends; at times, we go to Baja, Mexico. I have a little propane wave heater for cooler winter evenings, and to be honest, I hardly use a heater during the night. My blankets keep me warm.
The best part of RVing is that you can travel where the weather is nice. But some choose to be in the snow. Most RVs are not well-insulated. If you plan to be in the snow in the winter often, you better get a well-insulated RV to start with. It is not fun to be freezing cold.
Winter RVing comes with a few challenges if you’re not prepared for it. The cold weather can make everyday tasks more difficult and strenuous, especially when it comes to breaking camp or routine maintenance on the road. It’s important that you take necessary precautions to ensure your safety and that of your family. If you decide to go somewhere cooler, the cold winter nights shouldn’t stop you! Instead, prepare and get ready with these tips I’m about to share with you.
Before You Go
When packing for your winter RV adventure, make sure you have the following:
- Dehumidifier – Humidity is a real problem in the winter, and a dehumidifier can help reduce mold inside the RV.
- Insulation tape – Insulate your pipes with insulation tape to prevent cracks and crusts.
- Ice scraper – You need to keep windows clear of ice and other surfaces like tables and steps.
- Portable heater – Your RV will most likely have a propane heater, but additional electric ones come in handy as they can keep you warm if you have electricity.
- Skirting – Skirting protects the pipes and lines from cold weather.
- Heavy blankets – Invest in fleece or wool blankets to keep warm at night.
- Jump-starts – Even with a built-in engine block heater, you should have a backup plan in case your battery dies.
- Tools – Having tools like an ice pick, sandbags, and a broom will help you with tasks around camp.
- Snow shovel – To help clear away snow around the RV.
- Warm clothes – Pack layers so that you can stay warm and comfortable both inside and outside the RV. Scarves, hats, gloves, and earmuffs can help protect you against the cold while also providing comfort.
- Heated blankets – Even though these require electricity, they don’t have high electric needs. Many use 12 V heated blankets for cooler nights.
- Hot water bottles – It is really nice to put some hot water bottles under the blanket before you plan to go to sleep. It will warm up your bed and keep it toasty till the morning. I am always using one on cooler nights.
- Wiper fluid – Make sure you have winter wiper fluid to help dissolve and remove ice.
Get The RV Winter-Ready
Once you have the right supplies, you need to get your RV prepped for winter weather. You want to do this before you go on the road.
Insulation – Before starting your RV engine, make sure to check all vents and openings for air leaks. When driving, cracked windows can result in significant heat loss, so it’s essential to keep the rubber seals of doors and hood tight. You also want to insulate any bare metal or uninsulated places around lights with aluminum foil, vinyl tape, or other insulation. Insulate your pipes as these are expensive to repair if they burst, and you don’t want to worry about a faulty water system when out on an adventure. Insulate your windows too, especially at night. When insulated during the day, sunlight that comes in will be trapped, keeping the inside warm. You also want to insulate your vent hatch, because cold air can easily sneak in from here.
Tire chains – Tire chains don’t need to be on the vehicle but make sure you have them. Tire chains are mandatory during winter in several areas. Some places have tire chains available to rent locally if you don’t want to buy them, but this is much easier than stopping every few hours just to put chains on your tires. Even if you never use them, having them on hand brings peace of mind. Remember, traveling in winter can end up being unpredictable most of the time – it is safer to have tire chains than to not.
Diesel additive – If you have a diesel additive, use that to keep your engine from freezing. Diesel additives work by holding ice crystals at bay to prevent your fuel from turning into a block of solid ice. You can also buy winterized diesel to keep the engine running no matter what winter weather comes your way.
Check the weather forecast – The best way to avoid potential problems is to check ahead and be prepared. If it looks like snow in the forecast, you want to try your best to reschedule or reroute. The last thing you want is to get stuck in the middle of nowhere without heat or power. Winter storms are unpredictable, but you can still check ahead for any potential problems that may occur.
Keep an eye on condensation – With the cold air outside and you inside the RV, condensation can be a real problem and can cause mold. This is where your humidifier comes in handy. You also want to check under the RV for any dampness or moisture. Don’t forget to keep your windows cracked a little bit if the seal of the RV has any moisture. Condensation can also be a problem if you are driving with the vents open, so check the airflow on the way too.
Along with packing and wearing the right clothes, there are a few extra things you can do to help keep warm during your winter RV travels.
Shrinkwrap – Putting shrink wrap around the screen door will let light in but not the cold air. Most recreational stores sell screen door kits to help maintain RV indoor temperatures.
Space heaters – If you have a generator, or you have electric hook-ups, don’t forget about space heaters. They are safe to use indoors and can provide much-needed warmth when camping in winter. You should never plug a portable heater into an extension cord though because this could cause a fire hazard. I have two different kinds of a space heaters. One is a small electric one, the other one is a propane Wave Heater. I like to have options for times when I don’t have electricity.
Firewood – Don’t forget to bring some firewood with you on your adventure. A good stockpile of firewood can be helpful if you want to light up a fire outside.
Cozy blankets – Getting a nice, warm blanket will help keep your bed and family members warm at night. Remember to pack a few extra blankets in case you need to layer them. Keeping your body nice and warm will help combat the cold outside during sleep, but if it is too hot indoors, you want to crack a window. It might be tough to get out of bed in the morning though. It’s nice to have a remote-controlled heater which you can turn on before getting out of bed.
Park facing the sun – park in a way that lets windows face the sun, so it can heat up the RV naturally.
Winter RV Propane Tanks
Propane tanks are essential on the road, so you need to take special care of them when traveling in cold weather. When the temperatures drop, so does the pressure in these tanks, and you’ll end up having to fill them more often. Keeping a propane tank full is the best way to keep it warm. As it empties, it will cool and lose more pressure. If you have a large propane tank, it is worth having a gas delivery system in place to keep the tank full and to optimize how much propane is being used.
RVing is more challenging during cold winter weather. With these tips you and your RV can be ready for winter so cold weather doesn’t slow down any of your fun.
Winter Driving Tips
Driving an RV during winter can be tricky. Because you are moving slower, you need to make sure your wheels don’t slide off the road or get stuck. Here’s how to stay safe while driving in wintry conditions:
Reduce Your Speed – You should travel at half of the speed limit if there is snow, ice, and freezing rain. Reduce your speed in case you need to slam on the brakes and avoid skidding or getting stuck in a rut.
Be Aware of Roof Overhang – Remember that drivers behind you won’t be able to see you as well. Be aware of your roof overhang and turn on your signals to alert other drivers. If you need to hook up tow chains, avoid doing it while your RV is hooked to the car in front of it.
Buckle Up – Just like in a car, buckle up in the RV and have all your passengers buckled up. This will increase your safety and reduce any injuries that might occur in a crash.
Take It Slower Around Curves – You need to take curves slower than normal. Slow down and remember your RV’s lower center of gravity. Make sure the RV is going in the right direction before you start a curve because it might not handle as well as you expect it to if you change directions suddenly.
Windshield Wipers – Wiper blades should be of good quality and high pressure with plenty of fluid. If it’s snowing, make sure they are switched to a low setting to prevent them from icing up over the windshield.
Keep Your Distance – Keep about six seconds of distance between you and the car in front of you, especially if there is snow or ice on the road. Having some space reduces your chances of getting into an accident.
Anticipate Poor Visibility – If it is snowing, don’t expect to see well out of your windows or headlights. Try not to drive at night because dirt on the road will be harder to see, and it could be icy.
Don’t Brake in Slippery Conditions – This increases your chance of skidding or sliding off the road. If you need to stop, press down on the brake slowly and turn your wheel in the direction of where you want to go (if you’re going in a circle, turn the wheel in the opposite direction). Slowly reduce your speed to get off the road.