Life Threatening Winter Blast: Dumb Winter RVing Mistakes to Avoid

Even the best home on wheels can only give limited protection from cold weather. The rest is up to you. Don’t learn winter RVing mistakes the hard way. If severe weather is approaching, it’s time to get serious about keeping warm, safe, and enjoying this year-round lifestyle.

RVing is now a year-round activity. Many RV owners are bypassing the RV storage lot to take part in winter camping.

According to the RV Industry Association (RVIA), “RV ownership has increased over 62 percent in the last twenty years with a record 11.2 million RV owning households.” A University of Utah study reflects these findings by revealing that more visitors are exploring the state’s national parks in winter than ever before.

Here are some helpful resources:

Can you be comfortable RVing in winter? And safe?

Winter RV camping doesn’t have to be brutal. But even snowbirds that travel south for winter can get caught in unexpected snow storms. You can be warm, safe, and comfortable in cold temperatures if that happens to you. Just don’t wait to learn how to do it the right way. If you’re planning an RV trip during the winter but are unprepared for winter weather you may never want to do it again.

12 dumb winter RVing mistakes you want to avoid

Wherever you travel in your RV, make it your goal to avoid these common cold weather blunders. Don’t learn them the hard way so that you can enjoy four seasons of fun.

Clean snow off slide toppers before retracting © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

1. Not clearing snow off the slide-out roof (before retracting it)

In winter, carry a ladder and something that easily removes snow from RV rooftops. This lesson will hit home if a sudden snowstorm catches you by surprise. Don’t forget to look up before retracting your slideout. A massive pile of heavy snow accumulated on the slide-out will cause the motor to stall, sometimes with disastrous results.

2. Delaying RV generator maintenance

Is your RV generator prepped for winter weather? Make sure it operates efficiently before your comfort depends on it. Even starting a well-maintained generator can be tough in freezing weather. Generator starting is especially rough if you have an external model.

Understand your RV maintenance needs. A well-running machine may be the only thing between you and freezing temperatures inside the RV.

Heated water hose © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

3. Keeping the fresh water hose connected

Don’t wait for the first hard freeze to teach you the agony of thawing your drinking water hose with a hair dryer. When the weather starts to go bad, fill your RV fresh water tank with water and disconnect and stow your RV drinking water hose. You’ll be glad you did when you can still use water from your water tank and not the campground bathroom.

Alternately use a heated water hose available at most RV dealers and stores selling RV supplies.

Read more: Winter RV Camping Must-Have: Heated Water Hose

4. Forgetting to check propane levels before departure

Use a propane safety tool like the GasStop to alert you when your RV propane supply runs low. Always carry two full tanks especially if you’ll be cold weather boondocking in remote areas. If not, you could end up getting stranded in a remote campsite without fuel to keep you warm.

Electric space heater © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

5. Not carrying an alternative heat source

If your RV’s propane furnace isn’t keeping your RV comfortable enough (or if you’re running low on propane), it’s time to purchase another heat source. Just be sure to choose a space heater that is safe and practical for your situation. Some can be dangerous if knocked over and will require electric power. Be sure to review the safety risks of using electric heaters before making your purchase.

Check this out to learn more: How to Prevent and Detect Carbon Monoxide in Your RV

7. Skipping extra insulation

You aren’t throwing money down the drain by purchasing extra insulation. Add it to your rig and you’re already better off. The RV insulation most commonly used to retain indoor warmth during cold temperatures is Reflectix insulation material.

This lightweight stuff can be cut to the size of your RV windows and ceiling van vents. Lay it over them and you have one more way to keep cold out. Many RVers also use Reflectix in summer to keep the heat out.

8. Plugging an electric space heater into a 20-amp circuit

Using electric space heaters inside an RV is not inherently dangerous. But not being smart about how you use supplemental heat sources can sometimes end in an RV fire. Don’t leave a space heater turned on when you’re away from your RV or overnight. A pet could easily knock it over and burn your RV down. Or an electric cord can overheat and start a fire. That’s why we never use the high setting on our space heater.

Read more:

Winter camping © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

9. Not opening cabinet doors on freezing cold nights

Keeping RV cabinet doors open at night is one of the best tricks to prevent frozen water lines.

Leaving your cabinet doors open allows for warm air from within your RV to circulate exposed pipes under sinks and vanities. When you keep your cabinets closed, you prevent air from warming them, essentially keeping them isolated in cooler air.

By keeping cabinets that contain pipes open whenever possible and maintaining adequate heat levels throughout your RV, you’re taking crucial steps towards ensuring that your plumbing system remains intact even during winter’s worst conditions.

10. Check your seals and furnace vents

One of the easiest and least expensive ways to help prevent a cold RV is to keep up with your maintenance! Make sure there are no cracks or gaps in the seals around your windows to avoid unnecessary drafts in your RV. You can repair the seals with some caulking or completely replace the seals if needed. 

11. Blindly following Google trip directions without checking road conditions

We’ve all read about drivers who don’t invest in an RV trip planner and end up paying the price by getting lost, or worse. Don’t tempt fate by blindly following your GPS as it can lead to deadly consequences. Always verify that road conditions are safe for us before heading out.

Here are some articles to help:

Winter camping © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

12. Don’t learn RV lessons the hard way

Create enough camping checklists and soon the list of summer and winter RVing mistakes grows shorter. The positive side of learning from common mistakes is that you will have plenty of great campfire stories to share with friends and family.

Cold climate winter camping is not the best time to attend the RV school of hard knocks. It pays to talk to more experienced RVers about winter camping. Learn from everyone else’s mistakes, so you can avoid them in your awesome RV travels.

Worth Pondering…

No winter lasts forever, no spring skips its turn.

—Hal Borland (1900-1978)

How to Keep Your RV Pipes from Freezing While Camping

Going on a winter camping trip? Here are some easy, affordable ways to keep your RV pipes from freezing while camping.

Camping in the snow is an entirely different experience and a great way to enjoy typical summer destinations in a whole new way.

However, RV owners must take the necessary precautions to protect their RV from the cold weather. One of the most critical issues to be aware of is the risk of frozen pipes which can cause serious damage to your RV’s plumbing system. And don’t forget about your RV holding tanks. In severe cold, these can freeze, too.

In this article, I’ll discuss the steps you can take to keep your RV pipes from freezing while camping in cold weather.

Cold weather camping © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ultimate RV winter camping tips

One trip to the hardware store can get you most of the things on this list.

These tips should help protect your motorhome or trailer through the winter months. That way, you can enjoy your winter camping trip to the fullest.

1. Insulate your RV pipes

Properly insulating your RV pipes is the first step in preventing them from freezing. Insulation materials such as pipe sleeves or foam insulation can add an extra layer of protection. Or, try pipe insulation tape. These materials can be cut to fit any size pipe and can be applied to the exterior of the pipes.

Be sure to pay attention to all the pipes including those under the sinks and in the bathroom and kitchen.

2. Consider using heat tape

Another effective way to prevent your RV pipes from freezing is to use heat tape or heat cable. Heat tape is an electrical heating element that can be wrapped around pipes and plugged in to provide heat.

Make sure to choose a heat tape specifically designed for use on RV pipes and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for installation and use.

3. Skirt your RV

Skirting your RV is another way to protect your pipes from freezing because it increases the ambient heat beneath your RV. Skirting is a material that surrounds the bottom or underbelly of your RV to block cold winds.

This can be a DIY project with various materials such as insulated foam, vinyl, or heavy-duty plastic. Or you can purchase pre-made skirting kits.

EZSnap Skirting and Fabricover skirting are very popular in the RVing community.

Winter camping © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Insulate your RV storage bays

Your RV storage bays are also vulnerable to freezing temperatures. To protect the pipes in these areas, be sure to insulate them as well. This can be done with foam insulation, foam boards, or fiberglass insulation.

5. Heat your RV storage bays

In addition to insulating the storage bays, you can also heat them to keep the pipes from freezing. Electric heating pads can be placed on the bottom of the storage bay and plugged in to provide heat.

Or, you can use a portable heater like a propane or electric space heater. Just keep in mind that these portable heaters can be dangerous if not used properly. So carefully read their manuals and check them often when in use.

6. Open your cabinet doors

One simple way to keep the pipes in your RV from freezing is to open the cabinet doors under the sinks. This allows warm air to circulate around the pipes and keeps them from freezing.

Electric space heater © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. Strategically place electric space heaters

Another way to keep the pipes in your RV from freezing is to strategically place electric heaters around the RV. This can be done by placing a small electric heater under the sink or in the bathroom to keep the pipes warm.

8. Use your tanks instead of hookups

If possible, use your freshwater tank instead of using a freshwater hookup. Your fresh water tank is insulated and protected from cold temperatures (or at least it should be). Your water hose on the other hand has a higher risk of freezing.

If you need to use fresh water hookups, buy a heated water hose. This heated hose connects to your water source and RV just like other drinking hoses. It’s easy to use and is one of the best ways to keep fresh water flowing to your RV.

On that same note, do not keep your sewer hose open. You shouldn’t leave your gray water tank and black water tank valves open while camping (common newbie RV mistakes) but it’s especially bad to do it in the cold. You certainly don’t want THAT liquid freezing in your sewer hose (aka stinky slinky).

Heated water hose © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. Choose a sunny campsite

When choosing a campsite, look for one that’s in a sunny location. This will help to keep your RV warm and can also help to prevent your pipes from freezing. It’s a simple tip, yet very effective.

If you don’t think it will make a big enough difference, think about when you’re driving up the mountains. You’ll start seeing snow patches beneath trees much sooner than on open ground. So, try to park in a campsite where you’ll have as much direct sunlight as possible.

10. Install RV holding tank heaters

Finally, consider installing RV holding tank heaters. These heaters are specially designed to keep the water in your holding tanks from freezing and can be a lifesaver in extremely cold temperatures.

Bonus tip: Keep a heat gun or compact hair dryer on hand just in case you end up with a frozen pipe. You can defrost it and add pipe insulation or one of the other above tips to prevent it from happening again.

Winter camping © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Know the signs of frozen pipes

Even if you take all the necessary precautions, there’s still a risk that your pipes may freeze. It’s important to know the signs of frozen pipes so you can take action before they burst. Some common signs of frozen pipes include a lack of water flow, strange noises coming from the pipes, and frost on the pipes.

If you suspect that your pipes have frozen, you should first turn off the water supply to your RV. Then, open the faucets and turn on the hot water to allow any remaining water to flow through the pipes.

If the pipes are still frozen, you may need to use a hair dryer or heat lamp to thaw them. Never use an open flame such as a propane torch, to thaw pipes.

Where to find more support…

The Ultimate Guide to Cold Weather Camping

Whether you do winter RV camping by choice or by necessity, there are steps you’ll want to take to stay warm in your rig. That’s why I put together this Ultimate Guide for Cold Weather Camping. 

I want you to know exactly how to use your RV in the winter—how to shield it from Mother Nature, how to winterize and store it if you want to, and even how you can make money renting your rig to others in warmer parts of the country.

Keep reading…

Worth Pondering…

And finally Winter, with its bitin’, whinin’ wind, and all the land will be mantled with snow.

—Roy Bean

13 Tips for Winter RV Living

Your RV need not be in storage during the cold months. Get out there! Here are 13 winter camping tips for RVers.

Most RVers in northern states and provinces leave their RV in storage from the first frost until spring. Some, like us, are snowbirds who head out for warmer temps in the southern Sun Belt states. But many others winterize their RVs and leave them sitting there all winter.

Other RVers love camping in the snow.

First, decide whether your RV needs to be winterized and learn what that means. Winterizing your RV means you’ve taken steps such as:

  • Emptying water tanks
  • Draining the water heater and water lines
  • Disabling plumbing to prevent the pipes (which run along the undercarriage of the RV) from bursting or being destroyed
Winter RV living © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But winterizing your RV is not always a must-do especially if you plan to spend considerable time in your rig or temperatures at your cold destination won’t get below freezing. If a vehicle has been winterized you won’t be able to use the sink or bathroom inside the RV as usual (unless you take extra steps like using antifreeze).

Bur, you can absolutely use your RV for camping in the winter provided you prepare adequately to keep yourself and your RV safe from harm.

It’s not easy to camp in winter but many people do it with joy and very little stress and that’s because they’ve learned how to prepare their RVs for winter RV living. They know how to keep the plumbing system from freezing and bursting, keep the temperature inside the RV at a safe and comfortable level, reduce or prevent moisture accumulation, seal out intruders with little paws and big whiskers, and many other important winter camping preparations.

Anyone who’s lived in an RV for any duration of time in cold and snowy climates is likely to have a list of things to do—and a list of things to NOT do—to stay safe and warm while keeping the RV from winter damage.

Here are 15 of my top tips for winter RV living.

Heated water hose © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tip # 1: Fill your fresh water tank and/or use a heated water hose

Water is very important for a multitude of reasons but when the temperature falls below freezing, water turns to ice. And when it does this, it expands—potentially bursting/damaging hoses and plumbing. For this reason, if you plan to winter camp you need to put water on the top of your list of things to prioritize.

If you’re winter camping for a short duration (say a week or less) you can simply fill your fresh water tank and plan to use that water for washing, cooking, and drinking. If you’re parked near a city water source of any kind, you can connect your fresh water hose and refill your fresh water tank as needed. This technique avoids the issue of your fresh water hose freezing.

However, if you’re planning to be winter camping in an area where ambient temps are likely to hit freezing or below regularly, you may wish to invest in a heated water hose.

Check this out to learn more: Winter RV Camping Must-Have: Heated Water Hose

And while you’re at it, be sure to always use a water pressure regulator when connected to any city water source including in the winter in which case you may want to wrap it in some type of insulation.

Heated water hose © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tip # 2: Fill Propane or connect to an external propane tank

Before heading out on a winter camping trip (or before settling into a long-term winter campsite), be sure to fill your propane tank/tanks or obtain the necessary materials to connect to an external propane tank.

If you’re going to need propane for heating your rig and water and for cooking you’ll need to prepare ahead of time so that you don’t run out (I recommend having a couple of different options for heating your rig if you’ll be camping in sub-freezing temperatures because you can’t risk losing a single heat source).

If you are boondocking, bring a snow shovel and clear off the area.

Tip # 3: Keep sewer hose off the ground and flowing downward

If you connect to a sewer outlet during your winter RV living, you’ll want to keep your sewer hose off the ground and running on a downward slope. An easy way to achieve both of these goals is to use a Slunky sewer hose support.

The Slunky elevates and supports your sewer hose (off the frozen ground) and provides the slope you need for proper drainage. The Slunky is a 20-foot support that’s 7 inches tall at the RV end sloping to 4.5 inches in height at the sewer end.

Keep valves closed when not dumping © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tip # 4: Keep gate valves closed during winter RV living

Along with using a sloping sewer hose support, you’ll want to keep your gray water and black water gate valves closed (you should ALWAYS leave your black valve closed) opening them only when you want to dump your holding tanks.

When left open, only small amounts of gray water will drain out through the hose at a time; that small flow could freeze as it flows through slowly building up (like the layers of a pearl) until the hose is blocked.

Here are some articles to help:

Tip # 5: Seal off sewer hose entry

Another way to tend to the warmth of the basement or water compartment during winter RV living is to seal off the sewer hose entry. If you’ve got your sewer hose connected then you’re probably running it through a hole provided in the bottom of the bay. That hole allows cold (and potentially rodents) into the water compartment.

You can use steel wool to seal around your sewer hose opening when camping in the cold. This serves two purposes—to keep the cold from entering the bay and to keep mice from entering as well! If staying in a damp climate or for the longer term, consider brass/bronze wool instead since it won’t rust.

Tip # 6: Use steel or brass wool to seal small openings

To keep mice from seeking warmth inside your RV seal all small openings using steel wool. Brass wool also works. Also, use mouse traps and glue sticks in the basement and interior just in case they foil your attempts to seal them out. We’re not mean-spirited and we do love animals. We just don’t like stowaways that reproduce at warp speed and love to gnaw on everything in sight (and lots that ISN’T in sight) ending an otherwise wonderful winter RV living experience!

That’s why I wrote this article: The Ultimate Guide to Keeping Mice Out of an RV

Dehumidifier for moisture control © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tip # 7: Moisture control for winter RV living

Moisture control is essential in an RV to prevent mold and mildew from causing potentially serious issues. In winter, it’s especially important to keep moisture at bay. The three greatest producers of moisture in an RV are showering, cooking, and breathing. Since we generally need to do all three, I suggest keeping moisture at bay using a few simple methods, especially during periods of winter RV living.

Even though you’re probably inclined to want to seal everything up airtight to keep heat in and cold out, DON’T! You’d just be trapping in all of the moisture you’re creating in your RV. First, run your vent fans—yes, even in winter. You need to be able to run your roof vent fans in any kind of weather. This is why I recommend the installation of RV roof vent covers. They allow vents to be open without letting rain or snow enter the RV.

Vent covers aren’t expensive and are well worth the minimal effort to install.

Second, I recommend using a squeegee to pull the water off of your shower walls and toward the drain after each shower. If you don’t do this, your RV absorbs a significant amount of moisture while the shower is drying on its own because the water is evaporating.

A shower squeegee is also inexpensive but is an important tool in keeping moisture at bay. We use it all year long—not only when winter camping.

Finally, you can opt to use a small electric dehumidifier (if you’re connected to shore power) or a dehumidifying product like DampRid or something similar positioned throughout the interior of the RV.

Here’s a helpful guide to avoiding moisture damage in your RV: How to Reduce Moisture and Condensation in Your RV

Dehumidifier for moisture control © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tip # 8: Use holding tank heating pads

If you’re winter camping in sub-freezing temperatures for an extended period, you may need to warm your holding tanks by using holding tank heating pads. Some RVs come from the factory with tank heating pads (we opted for them when we bought our Newmar Dutch Star and ultimately we’re glad we did).

Tip # 9: Insulate RV windows

You may also want to consider insulating your RV windows depending on how long you plan to winter camp in very cold temperatures.

You can insulate windows with heavy curtains or you can create DIY storm windows using ⅛-inch plexiglass or PETG panels which you’ll custom cut to fit your windows. You can adhere them to your windows using clear double-sided mounting tape.

Many RVers choose to use Reflectix, heavy-duty foam board, or even bubble wrap to insulate windows. The problem with these products is twofold. First, they seal out the light and need to be removed and installed daily to allow the sun in (unless you like living in a dungeon). Also, they tend to allow moisture to accumulate on the windows.

You can also use a combination of choices to cover your windows such as your choice of window covering combined with heavy-duty curtains. Although we often think of them as insulation from the sun, high-quality windshield covers can also be helpful in cold weather.

Winter RV living © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tip # 10: Insulate your skylight

You may also want to insulate your skylights using a pre-made skylight cover. These are inexpensive and serve to insulate your RV from the cold that can come through the relatively thin plastic of the skylight. You’ll need to measure the inside of your skylight frame to obtain the proper dimensions for your insulator.

Some RVers use these in their roof vents as well but if you do this remember not to cover them all as it’s very important to run a roof vent fan to prevent moisture from accumulating in the RV.

These skylight/vent insulators are also good to keep the heat out in summer.

Tip # 11: Cover AC unit/units

Cover your roof air conditioning units. This is important from the perspective of keeping the cold from entering your RV in winter and also as a means of protection from the elements.

Of course, you don’t want to do this if your RV air conditioners are also heat pumps and you plan to use them as a source of heat while you’re camping. Just be aware that they’ll only work in outside temperatures above freezing so they won’t be of much use when the temps begin to drop.

Be careful where you park your car and RV © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tip # 12: Dress in layers

Dressing in multiple layers including base layers, mid-layers, hoodies, and shell jackets gives you greater control over regulating your body temperature. As you move through the activities of the day, you’ll work up body heat. As you do so, it’s important to avoid sweating because as it dries, sweat cools, wrapping you in a cold cocoon. Managing your body heat by constantly adding and subtracting layers helps you prevent sweating as much as possible—a key component of staying warm on winter adventures.

Tip # 13: Snow shovel and ice scraper

You might need to dig out your RV and scrape ice from your windows when it’s time to drive. Driving an RV in winter requires the same common sense you need to drive an RV any other day: Slow down and avoid being on the road when it’s dark.

Driving an RV in winter presents its own set of unique challenges: You’ll need to make sure your RV is set to handle winter conditions and you’ll have to track down additional winter gear and take extra precautions when driving and camping that a warmer destination wouldn’t necessarily require.

Read more: Don’t Get Stuck in the Cold: RV Winter Driving and Survival Tips

Worth Pondering…

The blizzard doesn’t last forever; it just seems so.

—Ray Bradbury

Top 3 Winter RV Camping Must-Haves

Staying comfy starts with these three winter RV camping must-haves

After a long, hot summer, the first cold front of the season recently arrived. These three winter RV camping must-haves will help you be ready for the drop in temperature.

Heated RV water hose © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Heated RV water hose

A heated RV water hose will give you safe drinking water even when temperatures dip below freezing. These hoses cost over $100 depending mostly on length but will save you a lot in frozen pipes and related issues.

A heated water hose has a heat strip along the side of the hose that heats up when plugged into a 110-volt electrical connection. Made with food-grade materials, a heated RV water hose comes in several lengths. Rated for use in temperatures down to -40 degrees Fahrenheit just plug it into a 110-volt outlet at the utility pedestal. It stays on to prevent a frozen water hose.

Heated RV water hose © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The material remains flexible down to -20 degrees which makes it easy to coil and store. A 25-foot hose typically uses about 2.5 kWh of electricity a day and will cost about 25¢ a day to keep water flowing to your RV in the coldest of temperatures.

Heated water hoses have long heat strips that run along their length. These prevent water from freezing when it travels through the tube. These hoses need to be plugged into electrical outlets to function and they have a variety of sizes and energy requirements.

Heated RV water hose © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Heated water hoses are an essential piece of gear for anyone who plans to use their RV in cold areas. You always need to be sure that your sinks, showers, and toilets are working when you’re living in an RV.

Electric space heater © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Electric space heater

Ceramic convection heaters are the most popular type of portable space heaters for good reason. Not only are they affordable (you can get a good one for under $50) but they are also efficient and quickly take the chill out of the air. Ceramic heaters work by heating the air and circulating it around the room.

When shopping for a portable electric space heater for an RV, consider the safety features of each model. When using high heat to warm small spaces it is paramount to use a heater that has safety features. Also, be aware of the amount of space the heater will cover. There is no use buying a heater that does not have enough power to warm your rig. 

Electric space heater © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

These little units are powerful and can easily warm up a small room. However, they’re also a fire hazard because they produce heat. Therefore, it’s important for every RVer to know some small space heater safety tips.

Never leave a space heater unattended. If things unexpectedly malfunction you won’t be there to deal with the situation. It may be tempting to turn on the heater and do some chores while it warms up. This is a dangerous thing to do.

In addition, you are wasting electricity if you run a space heater in an empty room. When you plan to leave the room, turn off the heater, unplug it, and store it somewhere where it will be out of the way. 

Dehumidifier © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Dehumidifier

Cold and wet is bad. Not just for you, but for your RV, too. Insulated RVs can quickly fill with moisture and humidity especially when frequently showering and cooking inside. The moisture and condensation can cause damage and promote mold and mildew growth.

When winter camping it’s advisable to use several dehumidifiers in the RV (bathroom and kitchen are particular problem areas). Moisture absorbers such as DampRid will help reduce damaging condensation. Applications for RVs include disposable absorbers (10.5-ounce tub), refillable absorbers (10.5-ounce tub), hi-capacity absorbers (4-pound tub), and hanging absorbers (14-ounce hanging bag).

Dehumidifier © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

DampRid’s crystals absorb excess moisture in the air to create and maintain the optimal humidity level in your RV.

Other articles you may want to read:

Worth Pondering…

My parents live in the part of the United States that is Canada. It is so far north that Minnesota lies in the same direction as Miami. They have four distinct seasons: Winter, More Winter, Still More Winter, and That One Day of Summer.

—W. Bruce Cameron

The Ultimate Guide to Cold Weather Camping

Looking to go winter camping, but don’t know where to start? Don’t worry, you’re in the right place.

 ‘Tis the season where the mercury starts dropping and RVers the world over begin to hunt for warmer pastures. After all, one of the best parts of owning or renting an RV is the fact that you can chase 70 degrees as it gets colder up north.

But what if cold weather camping is your jam? Or suppose you want to be close to a ski hill or other place that’s great for winter RV camping? Or do you live in your RV full-time but work still requires you to be in a cold-weather spot?

Whether you do winter RV camping by choice or by necessity, there are steps you’ll want to take to stay warm in your rig. That’s why I put together this Ultimate Guide for Cold Weather Camping. 

I want you to know exactly how to use your RV in the winter—how to shield it from Mother Nature, how to winterize and store it if you want to, and even how you can make money renting your rig to others in warmer parts of the country.

Winter camping © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What is cold weather camping?

Cold weather camping can be defined as any time you camp in your RV in the winter when the temperature is consistently below freezing. That’s because temps above freezing don’t usually bring with them the same problems and considerations that winter camping brings with it.

When temps dip below 32 degrees, that’s when you have to worry about freezing pipes, increasing heat needs, and cold—and complaining—family members. 

Another consideration with cold weather camping in an RV is wind. Even if the temps are above freezing, winter weather can still bring cold winds. Cold winds can make RV camping in winter a tough proposition because the winds more easily penetrate RV windows and doors than in a house. 

Winter camping © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Why cold weather camp?

Cold-weather camping can get you into some of the best places to hang out in your RV. You could stay close to a ski hill for a fraction of the cost of a condo, you could hang right by certain national parks and have them nearly all to yourself, or you could just stay in an area you want to stay in despite the wrath of Mother Nature

None of this means that RV camping in the winter has to be uncomfortable. There are ways to explore the outdoors in a place you enjoy and still come home to a home-on-wheels. 

Heated water hose for winter camping © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How to keep an RV warm in the winter 

Each RV is unique and some are better equipped for cold weather. Despite the marketing sticker on the outside of your RV saying something like “Extreme Weather Package”, very few RVs are ready for freezing temperatures without some modifications.

It is important for you to know specifically what is installed on your RV such as a heated and enclosed underbelly, holding tank warmers, or insulated pipes.

You can take the following steps to make sure you’re ready for cold-weather RV camping:

  • Add to your insulation
  • Use clear marine vinyl or Reflectix to create an additional insulation barrier on your RV windows
  • Cover your RV with area rugs for an extra layer of floor insulation
  • Insulate your RV roof vents
  • Install heavy drapes that insulate your windows against the cold
  • Check to ensure all doors and windows are well sealed and replace old seals/weather stripping as needed
  • Purchasing or fabricating an RV skirt to seal your RV’s underside
  • Use multiple forms of heat—furnace, heat pumps, electric space heaters
  • Blankets, thermal undergarments, and thick socks go a long way in keeping the family happy while cold weather camping.
Electric space heaters help to keep the interior warm © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RV camping in winter: Maintain your furnace BEFORE it gets cold

RV propane furnaces haven’t changed much since the early days of RVing but they can still be a pesky appliance to keep running efficiently. And you can be pretty much certain that it won’t be on a 60-degree day in the middle of the week that it dies. It will be on a cold holiday weekend when you’re hundreds of miles away from civilization. As part of preventive maintenance have your furnace tested and serviced by a certified tech before the winter season.

Keep water flowing with a heated water hose © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How to keep RV pipes from freezing while camping

Keeping water flowing—and unfrozen—is your most important winter camping mission, apart from staying warm yourself. 

You should take these precautions to keep RV pipes from freezing:

  • Use a heated water hose: This will keep water flowing through your city water connection
  • Use the RV fresh water tank: If you don’t want to use a heated hose or aren’t connected to city water, your fresh water tank is a viable option
  • Practice strategic dumping: Leaving your black and grey tanks open is never a good idea; instead, dump only when your tanks are about 70-75 percent full
  • Use low-temp heat tape on hoses: Heat tape can be easily wrapped around external hoses to keep them thawed while using your RV in the winter
  • Let your water drip: I don’t particularly like this one because it wastes water but if you’re in a pinch this will keep your water hose from freezing because sitting water freezes before running water
  • How to pack for cold weather camping
Faucet protector and heated water hose © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Now that your RV is ready for winter camping, it’s time to prepare your family for the adventure. Here is what you want to pack in your RV for cold-weather camping: 

  • Sleeping bags and thick blankets
  • Breathable underlayers such as thermal underwear that wick away moisture
  • Thicker mid-layers like fleece or wool sweatshirts
  • Toque, warm socks, and waterproof boots/shoes
  • Gloves
  • Waterproof outer layer
  • Headlamp and lantern 
  • Snow brush/ice scraper
  • Shovel
Vista del Sol RV Resort, Bullhead City, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Where to go

Many RVers opt for winter camping in southern destinations because their winters are far less harsh. While you may still need to take certain precautions to keep your RV warm, most snowbirds find southern California, Arizona, Texas, and Florida comfortable during the winter months. Other states that attract snowbirds include Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, New Mexico, and Nevada.

On the flip side, if you plan to chase the snow, consider Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and even northern New Mexico. If you’ve decked out your RV to be the ultimate cold-weather camper, ski resorts can be a great place to winter camp.

To experience the snow in less harsh conditions consider Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, northern Georgia, and western North Carolina. Since winters here are relatively mild, you’ll get snow without the extreme cold (usually). Explore Smoky Mountain National Park when few people are there and enjoy southern hospitality as you cold weather camp.

The Pacific Northwest is known for mild winters, light snow and rain, and ocean fun. Even during the winter, the Oregon coast is a fun spot for cold-weather camping. And north of Washington State in the Fraser Valley of British Columbia, you’ll experience Seattle-like weather.

The Springs at Borrego Golf & RV Resort, Borrego Springs, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How to stay safe while cold weather camping

Cold weather camping brings with it a few extra precautions.

First, keep an eye out for icy conditions—especially black ice. Ice is a sticky situation for any vehicle but it can be especially problematic when driving an RV. Second, be sure to have an emergency RV kit with you at all times in case you get stuck on the side of the road. Finally, be sure you always have extra water, food, and blankets on board at all times in case you get stuck in cold weather. 

How to winterize your RV

While cold-weather camping is appealing to many RVers, it’s not for everyone. Sometimes you just want to tuck your RV away for the winter until spring arrives. Storing your RV for the winter can be a great option. If you choose to do this, you should take the following steps to prep your RV for cold-weather storage: 

  • Drain your water lines via your low point drain: Consult your owner’s manual to find the location of your low point drain. Once you find it, open it to drain all the water from your lines.
  • Drain your water heater and bypass it. Your owner’s manual will tell you how to do this. It’s very important that you allow the water in your water heater to cool before you do this so you don’t get burned.
  • Pump non-toxic RV antifreeze through your water lines.
  • Store your RV batteries in a climate-controlled location: You can extend the life of RV-deep-cycle batteries by storing them in a temperature-regulated place.
  • Pour a bit of non-toxic RV antifreeze down your sink drains: This helps to protect the P-traps. Also leave some in your toilet bowl to protect those parts.
  • De-winterize your RV in spring before you head back out. 
Sea Breeze RV Resort, Portland, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Want to rent out your RV this winter?

Winter RV camping can be a fun journey if it’s your jam. But what if you’d rather make money with your camper during the winter? Many parts of the U.S. still experience high demand for RVs during the winter and there are many ways you can connect with individuals who want to rent RVs in these climates. Moving your RV south for the winter could be a great option for you if you were otherwise planning to store your camper for the winter.

While it might seem intimidating to have your RV rented out to strangers in a faraway place, there are many ways you can have peace of mind while your RV makes money as a winter camping rig. 

Hit the winter roads

Cold-weather camping is a tried and true path that many have trod. While it’s not necessarily for everyone, the bottom line is that you have many options for your RV in the winter from storing it to camping in it to making money with it. No matter which way you choose to use your RV in the winter it’s good to know that cold weather doesn’t need to stop your camping plans.

Worth Pondering…

My parents live in the part of the United States that is Canada. It is so far north that Minnesota lies in the same direction as Miami. They have four distinct seasons: Winter, More Winter, Still More Winter, and That One Day of Summer.

—W. Bruce Cameron

What Is the Difference Between a Garden Hose and an RV Drinking Water Hose?

Read this before buying an RV water hose

A hose is a hose … or is it? Before you’re tempted to save a buck by connecting a garden hose to your RV freshwater tank, stop and read this article. There are good reasons why RV supply stores want to sell you a real RV freshwater hose instead.

On the surface you might think that all water hoses are the same. And RV drinking water hoses cost at least twice as much as a garden hose. If you’ve ever wondered if putting an RV water hose label onto a hose is just a marketing ploy, you’re not alone. The truth is, RV drinking water hoses are not just a gimmick.

The important differences between a garden hose and an RV water hose can mean the difference between putting poison into your body and staying healthy.

An RV water hose may seem like a pretty simple thing: it’s just the tube connecting you to the city water hookup and ensuring fresh water comes flowing out of your taps, shower head, and toilet.

And in many ways, an RV water hose is pretty simple. But there are also a few things to know about these important pieces of equipment before you set out on a camping trip.

For example, an RV water hose is different from a standard garden hose and you will also need a water pressure regulator to ensure the city water pressure isn’t too strong for your RV’s sensitive systems.

In this post, I’ll walk you through everything you need to know about RV water hoses—so let’s get started.

Water hose and pressure regulator attached to city water connection © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What is the best RV water hose?

You will find an RV water hose on every RV accessory and camping checklist. After all, since we all need water to survive it’s a pretty important piece of equipment. If you have visited a local RV supply store you know there are different types of water hoses for your RV. The two main types of RV freshwater hoses are:

  • RV drinking (or potable) water hoses
  • RV heated water hoses

The best water hose will vary for each RVer depending on their needs (or even just their current destination and season).

But there’s one rule of thumb I want to ensure you have locked down before you even think about buying an RV water hose and that’s this: No, your normal green garden hose will not cut it!

Garden hoses are not rated for potable water in the same way RV drinking water hoses are and they can leech chemicals into your water supply that taste and smell bad and can even be toxic.

So when you’re in the market for a water hose for your RV make sure that first and foremost you find one that’s specifically made for drinking, or potable, water.

Different types of RV water hoses

Let’s take a more detailed look at the types of RV drinking water hoses.

RV potable water hose

I’ve already mentioned potable and drinking water hoses as the terms are interchangeable. Often, these hoses are bright white or blue to distinguish them from typical green garden hoses.

Heated RV water hose © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Heated RV water hose

If you’ll be traveling somewhere where the temperatures dip below freezing a heated water hose is essential to ensure your water source doesn’t freeze up. If you keep using a regular hose at sub-freezing temperatures the hose is apt to split when the water inside it freezes leading to a mess that’s no fun to clean up in chilly temperatures—not to mention a lack of water coming out of your taps.

Heated RV water hoses are well-insulated and come with electric elements to physically heat the hose itself and keep the water inside from freezing. They are also rated for drinking water and thus are safe to use for RVers. The heated hose usually has a heat strip along the side of the hose. That strip is plugged into a standard 110 volt electrical connection to heat it up. Since the hose stays above freezing the water in the hose will not freeze and continues to flow freely into your RV. They are sometimes also called no-freeze water hoses.

Heated water hose attached to city water connection © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Benefits and features of RV water hoses

Of these various types of RV hoses many also advertise additional perks such as no-kink, no-twist, or no-tangle.

RV water hoses come in various lengths but the most common are 6-, 12-, 25- and 50-foot lengths. If you have camped much at all you know the distance from the campground water source to your RV can vary greatly. Having different hoses with different lengths can come in handy. Ideally, you want just enough length to get you connected without putting a strain on the hose. You also do not want a curled up hose as they tend to kink and restrict water flow (even when they’re advertised as no-kink hoses. If you have more hose than you need its best to stretch it out to create a smooth water flow inside.

That said, it makes sense to carry multiple drinking water hoses in your RV. The best RV water hose is the one that’s long enough to cover all your bases without being unwieldy. That is why I recommend two 25-foot hoses rather than one 50-foot hose.

RV water hose and reel © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RV water hose pricing

RV water hose pricing does depend on the brand and type you get and heated RV water hoses are, not surprisingly, considerably pricier than those that don’t come with insulation and heating elements. A heated RV water hose might set you back about $100 whereas an uninsulated (but potable-water-safe) RV drinking hose will cost about $10-$30.

What to look for when buying an RV water hose

When shopping for an RV water hose, be sure to look for one that specifically states its drinking water safe. After that, you’ll want to buy your hose based on whether or not you need a heated hose for winter camping and then you can think about extra additions like kink-free or tangle-free hoses. Some RVs come with built-in storage devices like a hose reel; hose bags are also available to keep your coiled-up hose stored neatly and securely.

Another accessory you need for your RV water setup is a water pressure regulator which helps ensure the city water pressure isn’t too strong for your RV’s sensitive system. Water pressure regulators are relatively inexpensive with prices starting at about $10-$15 and it’s certainly a whole lot less expensive than dealing with a plumbing system fiasco.

Psst: Your RV water hose and its various accompaniments are only one of the many RV parts and accessories that can make or break your camping trip! Click here to read my post on must-have RV accessories which will get you up to speed on everything from sewer hoses to electoral adapters.

This is why you need to attach a pressure regulator to your city water connection © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Garden hose

  • Often made from unregulated e-waste materials
  • Usually contain unregulated amounts of lead, BPA, and phthalates
  • Another toxic plasticizer used to make garden hoses includes polyvinyl chloride, a substance connected to various cancers and health problems
  • Other harmful substances include organotin and antimony
  • Water tastes terrible when taken from a garden hose

RV drinking water hose

  • Must meet a set of federal standards
  • Drinking water hoses must comply with the 2014 Federal Safe Drinking Water Act
  • Materials can withstand UV breakdown and chemical leakage into water
  • RV drinking water hose materials don’t have BPA or phthalate toxins
  • A DWS Drinking Water Safe hose is NSF certified and FDA approved
  • Water tastes better

Connecting a garden hose for RV drinking water purposes puts you at great risk of health issues now and in the future. Is your life worth saving a few pennies? What about your loved ones?

Buy an RV water hose and use it to prevent health problems. Add a high quality RV water filter system for a higher level of protection.

Water filter © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RV water hose: FAQs

I’ll finish out this article about RV water hoses by answering some of the most frequently asked questions about them.

Can I use a garden hose for my RV?

Remember my first rule of thumb above: NO! Your general green garden hose is not safe to drink from. They release heavy metals and other toxic substances into the water that can make us humans sick.

Can I use a drinking hose as a garden hose?

Now, in the other direction, exchanging your garden hose for a drinking hose would work just fine but a drinking hose is more expensive than a garden hose so it would be a waste of money.

What are RV water hoses made of?

Potable water hoses are made of various food-safe ingredients such as UV-stabilized polyether-based polyurethane.

Happy camping—and stay hydrated out there!

Now that you know all about the RV water hose and pressure regulator accessories you need you’re almost ready to hit the open road. Plan your route with one of the many online tools available today and don’t forget to take photos of your experiences. Happy travels!

Worth Pondering…

I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.

—Stephen Covey

15 Things to Buy After Getting a New RV

RVing is so much easier when you have the right gear

Congratulations! You just purchased your first RV. That sense of accomplishment, excitement, and joy is mixed in with “What the heck did I just do?” Now it’s time to get those 15 things you have to buy after getting a new trailer or motorhome.

The call of the road is stronger than ever and you’re ready to hit the gas pedal. You bought a camper, now you need to prepare for the road.

Your wallet may feel like it’s smoking from the large amount of money you just spent on your RV, but now you have some essential gear you’ll need to purchase. The good part is the amount of money you need to complete your travel trailer supply checklist is like adding a few sticks to the fire, not another gas can.

To make this as painless as possible, I’ve put together an organized list for first-time RV owners on what you should keep in your recreational vehicle of choice. You don’t need to wait until you have your RV this is what you need to know before buying an RV concerning essential gear.

Sewer hose and attachment © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What comes with a new RV

If your sales representative was good at their job, they did a complete walkthrough of your new RV. We hope you came prepared with your own version of an RV checklist to make sure everything is in proper working order. You may be asking yourself, “Do new RVs come with sewer hoses?” or other questions about essential gear.

RV dealerships may have a “new owner’s kit” or some other goodies they give to their customers but there’s no such requirement. If they do offer basic hoses, they may be too short or poorly made.

You’ll either want to walk into their parts department, take a ride over to a camping supply store, or go home and jump on Amazon to find the best RV gadgets.

Electric, water, and sewer connections © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Essential supplies checklists

1. Hoses

There are a few different hoses you’ll need. If you’ve seen that movie with Robin Williams, we promise the real versions are a lot more sanitary.

Sewer hose: A high-quality sewer hose is essential to avoid any unpleasant leaks or malfunctions. I prefer the Camco RhinoFLEX kit that includes a 15-foot hose, a fitting that connects to your RV sewer outlet, an adapter that fits any sewer connection, and storage caps for each end. The durable hose is reinforced with steel wire so you can shape it as needed. Also, carry a 10-foot extension—you’ll be glad you did.

See-through sewer hose attachment © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sewer hose attachments: There are various attachments that make the draining process easier. One type connects to the end of the hose to create a good seal to the dump station. Another is a clear plastic elbow that lets you monitor the flow.

Disposable protective gloves © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Protective gloves: There are two schools of thought to keep your hands clean. Some like to use rubber gloves that can be washed while others prefer disposable latex gloves they can throw out after each use.

Water hose: RV potable water hoses are lead and BPA-free. I recommend traveling with two hoses since you never know how far your RV will be parked from a city water connection. This hose looks like a garden hose but it’s white in color instead of green. The interior of the hose is lined to keep it sanitary for drinking.

Heated water hose © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Heated water hose: A heated RV water hose is required for winter camping. This product will give you safe drinking water even when temperatures dip below freezing. These hoses cost $100 or more depending mostly on length but will save you a lot in frozen pipes. A heated hose has a heat strip along the side of the hose that heats up when plugged into a 110-volt electrical connection. Some brands are rated to keep water flowing at minus 40 degrees.

Water pressure gauge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Water pressure guage: This brass attachment connects between the campground’s shore connection and your water hose. It protects your RV’s plumbing system from receiving too much water pressure. It only takes one situation for your water lines to blow.

Water filter © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Water filters: RV water filters probably aren’t the first thing to leap to mind when you’re contemplating everything you need before you hit the road in an RV. But water flavor and quality can be variable when you’re camping. The goal of an RV water filter is to remove sediment (like dirt and sand) and other unwanted contaminants from your RV’s water supply.

Campground water quality is all over the map and that goes double if you’re getting your water elsewhere like an unknown water tap at a truck stop. There are two main categories of RV water filters you can use. One is an exterior RV water filter that goes between the spigot and the RV’s fresh water tank. The other is an interior drinking water filter that goes between the fresh water tank and the faucet used for drinking water.

Progressive electric management system © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Electric

Most RVs come with electric cords that plug directly into shore power. There are additional things you’ll need to hook in correctly.

Electrical protectors: There are four electrical issues an RVer can encounter while traveling: surges, miswired pedestals, high/low voltage, and wiring issues inside the RV.

What exactly are you protecting your RV from when you use an electrical protection device? It’s much more than power surges which we typically associate surge protectors with. Surges are actually the least common problem with RV electricity. An RV typically has a lot of sensitive electronic circuitry in it and having steady power is crucial to keeping these components from having an early funeral. Failure of components like AC units, refrigerators, washer/dryer, and computers plugged into a wall outlet can be very expensive to replace. You can use one of the Progressive Electric Management Systems or Surge Guard portable or hardwired units.

Extention cord: Sometimes you may have to park your RV further away from the utility box than your cord can reach. You’ll want the same amp extension cord that your unit comes with (30 or 50 amp).

Power adapters: Every RVer needs to carry a few power adapters often referred to as dogbones to make sure that they can connect to whatever power is available to them. These power adapters will have a smaller, lower amperage plug (male blades) on one end and a larger/higher-amperage receptacle (female terminals). Look for UL-listed versions of these adapters preferably with rigid grab handles. They do not change the power output.

Recommended electric adapters include:

  • 50-amp RV plugged into the 30-amp source
  • 50-amp RV plugged into the 15-amp source
  • 30-amp RV plugged into the 15-amp source

Fuse kit: Pickup a set of fuses that handle different amperages. Each color represents a different level of current. They’ll work for your automotive and coach systems.

Stabiiizer jack pad © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. RV jacks

Using your jacks on grass or dirt can be problematic. You may start out level but as you move around in your RV they may start to sink into the ground.

Stablilizer jack pads: Prevent hydraulic or electric jacks from sinking into the ground by using RV stabilizer jack pads. Available in sets of four they are solidly constructed of durable polypropylene with UV inhibitors.

Jack blocks: Jack blocks work like Lego to give your jacks a higher surface to sit on. They are useful if your jacks can’t reach the ground. Interlocking for convenient storage they are available with a handy strap.

Tire chocks: If you’re on an incline, tire chocks prevent your RV from rolling. Use these first, and of course make sure your brakes are set. Always use with travel and fifth-wheel trailers.

Bubble levels: Putting bubble levels on your trailer will help you with the leveling process. Higher-end travel trailers and motorhomes use auto-leveling systems that won’t require the use of bubble levels.

4. Toilet

Your RV’s bathroom doesn’t need to smell like a state fair’s port-a-john. Using the proper tools can keep your RV bathroom smelling fresh and toilet clog-free. Preventive maintenance isn’t that difficult but you do want to keep up with it.

Black tank chemical: This chemical comes in your choice of liquid, powder, and packets. A weekly treatment poured down your toilet is all you need to prevent odors and proper breakdown of waste. An an alternative to commercial products you can use Dawn dish soap.

RV toilet paper: Toilet paper designed for RVs are designed to breakdown in black holding tanks. Most residential toilet papers are too thick and will create clogs.

5. Emergency kit

Nobody wants to think about it, but emergency kits are one of those items you want stocked and ready to go. There are still places take hours or days for emergency services to reach. Making sure you’re safe if a disaster strikes is essential.

Road Side Kit: A good quality kit will have hazard signs, flares, jumper cables, and tow cables. You may not find an all-in-one kit with everything you need, so you’ll probably have to piece it together yourself.

First Aid and Survival Kit: You’ll want more than just band-aids and gauze. Good quality first aid kits have everything you need for almost any situation. You’ll also want survival items like matches (waterproof matches if possible) and freeze-dried food for a couple of days. Your freshwater tank will be your source of water, so use it sparingly.

6. Tool kit

Every RVer should have a basic knowledge of D.I.Y. repair. A couple of quick YouTube videos will show you travel trailer dos and don’ts in basic RV repair. Your tool kit should have the following items:

  • Hammer
  • Set of screwdrivers with flat and Phillips heads
  • Set of Allen wrenches
  • Adjustable wrench
  • Drill (if it’s cordless, have at least two batteries where one is fully charged)
  • Drill bits, screwdriver bits, and bits that fit your jacks
  • Heavy duty tire gauge
  • Two (or more) flashlights (preferably one wearable one to keep your hands free)
  • Small tube of silicone caulk
  • Work gloves
  • Rhino, duct, electrical, and masking tape (If you don’t know why, watch a couple of episodes of the Original Macgyver)

7. Generator

If your RV doesn’t have a factory-installed generator, it’s always a good idea to invest in a good one. There are many affordable options that are relatively quiet. This way you’ll have a power source when you’re dry camping or in a power outage.

Pack supplies for your pets © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. Pet supplies

If you’re one of the over 65 percent of RVers that bring your pet with you having separate pet supplies just for the RV is a great way to avoid forgetting something. Outside safety equipment like leashes, latching devices, and outside toys will make their RV adventure a fun time. If your coach doesn’t have a built-in dog station I recommend a dog dish with a collar to prevent messes.

9. Back up camera

If you have a motorhome, you’ll already have a backup camera. Most towables now come prepped and wired with backup camera brackets. This camera makes traveling and parking easier.

10. Kitchen supplies

RV kitchen must-haves are essential. Having cookware, dishware, cutlery, and other kitchen items separate from your home make it less complicated when you’re getting ready to leave for your camping trip. Camping accessory manufacturers make these items specifically for camping to hold up to the conditions of camping.

RV mattresses come in different sizes © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

11. Linens

RV mattress sizes can be different than residential sizes. Queen mattresses come in short, three-quarters, and other near residential measurements. Sheets, towels, and a portable laundry basket designated for your RV will keep your home linens from degrading too quickly.

12. Outdoor furniture

Picnic tables are good to use but they aren’t that relaxing. Having a mat at your entry will help you keep the dirt outside. Folding tables, folding lounge chairs, and other outdoor furniture will help you make the most of the outdoor camping experience.

Dawn dish soap © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

13. Cleaning supplies

Camping and dirt go hand-in-hand. Vacuums, laundry detergent, and cleaning wipes should always be in a cabinet. Many veteran RVers like to use Dawn dish soap because of its many uses to clean other items besides dishes.

14. Internet service

Pretty much everything we do these days, we do online—so if you’re going to be spending significant time in an RV, internet is an essential. The bad news is, there’s no one easy answer to this question. Staying connected will depend on where and how you camp and what kind of surfer you are. But that bad news is also good news because it means there are plenty of ways to secure internet for your RV, which means you’re bound to find an option that will work for you. Here are the basic options for RV internet:

  • Public WiFi
  • DSL or Cable
  • Cellular data 
  • Satellite
  • Starlink

15. RV insurance

The last and most important thing is RV Insurance. RV insurance is different than car insurance. That’s why motorhomes, travel trailers, and campers need custom coverage. RV insurance gives you many of the same benefits you get with car insurance coverage but includes more protection based on the unique risks that RVs face.

Worth Pondering…

Learn from yesterday, live for today, look to tomorrow, rest this afternoon.

—Charlie Brown, from Peanuts

Winter RV Camping: What You Need to Know

The winter camping season is upon us and it’s time to get prepared for the freezing cold temperatures

Winter RV camping is more accessible than ever with improvements in RV technology. That’s why more people are seeking out winter destinations for RV getaways and living in RVs full-time during all four seasons. 

If you camp in the cold you’ll need to prepare for it. If you plan on camping in cold temperatures this winter here’s what you need to know to keep your RV and yourself healthy and happy.

Heated water hose © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Getting water for winter RV camping

Maintaining the health of your RV’s water system is arguably the most important factor of winter RV camping. When outside temperatures drop below freezing, water can freeze in your pipes and your freshwater hose. Frozen water expands and that alone can cause your pipes to burst. Even if your pipes don’t freeze over a frozen section of pipe can increase water pressure enough to stress pipes joints to the point of bursting.

Heated water hose © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hooking up to city water

If you’re hooking up to city water you’ll need a heated hose that plugs into an AC outlet at your campsite pedestal. A heated hose keeps water from freezing at the source and while it’s flowing into your RV. Some people add additional insulation to their heated hoses if they expect extreme temperatures. This can be done by wrapping the entire length of the hose in foil wrap insulation tape. Be sure to check the recommendations and read through the entire manual that came with your heated hose before attempting to add additional insulation. 

Heated water hose © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Filling your freshwater tank

If you don’t have a heated hose you can also fill your freshwater tank instead of connecting to city water. Most modern RVs designed for winter camping feature heated holding tank compartments to prevent water from freezing in the tanks. As a rule of thumb only connect your water hose when you need to fill your freshwater tank. Disconnect it when you’re finished and drain all water out of the hose before storing it. This will prolong the life of the hose while preventing potential freezing.

Heated water hose and faucet protector© Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Keeping you (and your RV) warm

Winter RV camping should be enjoyable but we all know that’s tough if you are perpetually cold. The following tips will help you keep your living space warm and cozy throughout the winter. 

Insulating the Floor

The laws of thermodynamics state that warm air rises and cold air sinks which means that your floor will often feel extra chilly, especially first thing in the morning. There are several ways to insulate under your feet including area rugs and runners.

Winter camping © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Windows and doors

The next two obvious places for heat loss are your RV windows and doors. An RV with dual-pane windows is the best for winter camping but there are numerous ways you can insulate single-pane windows. Whether your RV has single or dual-pane windows you can add foil insulation to select windows and doors to reduce heat loss. If you don’t like the appearance of foil insulation, you can also upgrade to thicker window shades. 

If you’re unable to find window and door covers and a front window reflective sunshade that fit the exact dimensions you may need to cut an insulation roll to the desired dimensions for each application. You don’t want to cover ALL of the RV windows so that you can still get some natural light and heat from the sun throughout the winter. 

In addition to adding insulation check the weather stripping around your RV doors. If it’s partially detached or missing altogether, replace it to keep cold and moisture out of your rig. 

Roof vents

You can also lose considerable heat through the RV roof vents. You can insulate your roof vent openings with vent cushions to reduce heat loss. Vent cushions can also be used during the warmer months to trap the cool air from your AC inside your RV. The good news about these cushions is that they can be installed or removed in seconds. 

Electric space heater © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Heat sources

As for an actual heat source, there are five heater options to consider.

Furnace: The first is your RV propane furnace. Before your winter camping trip take the time to make sure your furnace is in good working order and check to see if it’s time to replace your furnace filter (if applicable). Use compressed air and a soft brush to remove any dirt, dust, and debris from the furnace. Make sure all vents are clean and unblocked.

Electric space heater © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hydronic heat: As an alternative to the propane furnace, hydronic heat comes standard in many luxury coaches and is offered as an upgrade in several others. These systems use a boiler to circulate hot antifreeze through a series of heat exchangers found throughout the motorhome. The advanced technology nearly eliminates the fumes normally associated with propane or diesel use and is quiet, as well. The system evenly heats your coach’s interior with multiple heat zones. As the temperature of a zone drops below your thermostat setting, a heat exchanger begins circulating heat not only from the floor to the ceiling, but also side to side. Plus, it acts as the hot water heater as well. In fact, water pumped through the boiler is instantly heated meaning that you won’t run out of hot water until you actually run out of water.

Electric space heater © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Electric space heater: Your second option is a portable electric space heater. Ceramic convection heaters are the most popular type of portable space heaters for good reason. Not only are they affordable (you can get a good one for under $50) but they are also efficient and quickly take the chill out of the air. Ceramic heaters work by heating the air and circulating it around the room.

Infrared radiant heater: Infrared radiant heaters produce mild consistent heat to maintain the temperature of a room. They are designed to heat the objects around them (including you) rather than heating the air. Infrared radiant heaters are optimal in areas where you are sitting close to them rather than moving around the room. They are also best used to maintain the temperature of a room rather than providing a quick blast of heat.

Propane space heaters: Portable space heaters that run on propane are great for those situations when you don’t have access to electric power. If you enjoy boondocking or dry camping but still want a source of heat this is the perfect solution. Just check to make sure the unit is safe for indoor use and stock up on extra propane tanks if you want this to be a reliable heat source for winter camping. 

Winter camping © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Protect your RV exterior

Winter camping also takes a toll on the exterior of your RV. From getting snow off the roof to ensuring your stabilizing jacks don’t freeze to the ground there are some important steps you’ll need to take to protect your RV’s exterior on winter adventures. 

Underneath your RV

Since I just mentioned stabilizing jacks, let’s start there. To keep them from freezing to the ground use stabilizing jack pads beneath them. If you store any recreation items underneath your RV place them on a tarp or in a sealed bin to avoid water damage. 

Using an RV skirt is another way to keep cold air from getting underneath your RV. An added benefit of skirting around the base of your RV is protected exterior storage. If you have kayaks or bikes that don’t have anywhere else to go you can slide them under your RV before skirting to keep them out of the elements and protected from critters seeking a warm winter home. 

Exterior steps © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Exterior steps

Exterior steps can quickly turn into a slippery hazard when you encounter freezing and snowy conditions. You can add grip to your RV steps by installing a wrap-around step rug. You can also consider installing an external step with a handrail if you’re looking for something with a little more safety and stability for winter RV camping. 

Winter camping © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Roof, AC, slideouts, and awnings

If you have slides, you may need to clear snow and ice regularly. Avoid snow and ice accumulation on top of your RV. If possible push the snow off after each storm. Use care not to damage your roof or awnings. Climbing up your RV ladder can be the most dangerous part of this effort. Shoes with soft rubber soles are best for handling slippery surfaces. It’s also a good idea to apply sprayable antifreeze to slide components if you plan on moving them in and out throughout the winter.

It is best to leave your RV awning closed when winter RV camping. Weight from snow and ice as well as the potential for high winds makes the risk for awning damage high in the winter. 

Winter camping © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Conclusion

Camping in the winter can be an exciting adventure and allow you the chance to enjoy all the fun that snowy destinations have to offer. If you take the time to prepare as you should, you and your RV should have no trouble weathering those frosty winter storms.

Other articles you may want to read:

Worth Pondering…

My parents live in the part of the United States that is Canada. It is so far north that Minnesota lies in the same direction as Miami. They have four distinct seasons: Winter, More Winter, Still More Winter, and That One Day of Summer.

—W. Bruce Cameron

Winter RV Camping Must-Have: Heated Water Hose

The winter camping season is upon us and it’s time to get prepared for the freezing cold temperatures. One of the best things you can invest in for winter camping adventures is a heated RV water hose.

I hate that first hard freeze of winter. If I’m lucky enough to get a warning, I fill my freshwater tank and disconnect from the RV park water connection. It’s such a hassle! But I can avoid it and stay warm inside with a heated RV water hose. This is a winter RV camping must-have for any RVer.

A heated RV water hose will give you safe drinking water even when temperatures dip below freezing. These hoses cost over $100 depending mostly on length but will save you a lot in frozen pipes and related issues.

Heated water hose © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A heated water hose has a heat strip along the side of the hose that heats up when plugged into a 110-volt electrical connection. Made with food-grade materials, a heated RV water hose comes in several lengths. Rated for use in temperatures down to -40 degrees Fahrenheit, plug it into a 110-volt outlet at the utility pedestal. It stays on to prevent a frozen water hose. The material remains flexible down to -20 degrees, making it easy to coil and store. A 25-foot hose typically uses about 2.5 kWh of electricity daily and will cost about 25¢ daily to keep water flowing to your RV in the coldest of temperatures.

Heated water hose © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How heated RV water hoses work

Heated water hoses have long heat strips that run along their length. These prevent water from freezing when it travels through the tube. These hoses need to be plugged into electrical outlets to function and they have a variety of sizes and energy requirements.

Heated water hoses are an essential piece of gear for anyone who plans to use their RV in cold areas. You always need to be sure that your sinks, showers, and toilets are working when you’re living in an RV.

Heated water hose © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Important things to know about heated water hoses

When you’re looking at buying a heated hose for your RV there are a few things you should know. Overall these hoses are pretty simple pieces of equipment but there are a couple of little quirks and tips you should know before you look into getting one for yourself.

Before I get to anything else, it’s important to recognize that these hoses aren’t an unnecessary product or something that only luxury rigs need. Frozen hoses and pipes can cause serious damage to RVs that can affect them in the long and short term.

Heated water hose © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Certainly, it’s won’t be fun if your water supply freezes. You won’t be able to use water for the kitchen or bathroom and you can forget about having a hot shower. But much worse damage can happen if you don’t have the right equipment and properly maintain it.

If the pipes, holding tanks, or hoses in your RV freeze with water inside them, the ice can expand and cause permanent damage to the infrastructure of your RV. Burst pipes, flooding, and leaking are nothing to take lightly and they are not easy to fix.

But if you’re careful and choose a quality heated water hose you can prevent these problems before they start. Let’s look at some of the requirements for heated hoses and what you can do to keep them in good shape.

Heated water hose © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Make outlets available

First of all, you will need an electrical outlet to use a heated water hose. They run on electricity after all, so they won’t be able to do their jobs if they’re not connected to a power source. There is a range of different heated water hoses but they require access to a standard-issue 110-volt electrical connection.

Heated water hose © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Choose the appropriate hose length

I mentioned earlier that heated hoses come in a variety of lengths. This range of options can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on the camping areas you visit. A hose that’s too long can be awkward to set up and maneuver. They’re also more likely to get tangled in knots or get in the way at your campsite.

On the other hand, hoses that are too short can be dangerous to mess with. If you have to stretch your hose out to reach the water outlet, you’ll be putting a strain on it that can damage the hose material and heat strips. Leaks are much more likely to pop up if you’re using a hose that’s too short. Further, your water hose may not reach the utility box, period.

Heated water hose © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

To resolve this, it’s sometimes best to buy more than one length of heated hose. Having a couple of options will help you choose the best one for your situation plus you’ll have a backup if one of them becomes non-functional. If you are winter camping in one site for the entire season it may be best to delay the purchase of a heated hose until you arrive at your camping site. This way you will be certain of the hose length you require.

Be aware that having a heated hose does not ensure that the rest of your water system will be safe from subzero temperatures. You may need to take additional precautions to prevent freezing and damage in the other parts of your water system.

Heated water hose © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The water tap and metal connections on either end of the water hose are often vulnerable as are the holding tanks for your freshwater and wastewater. If the RV has an enclosed underbelly with a heating system, that will prevent freezing in most cases. You can also apply heat tape to the vulnerable areas to keep them protected and warm.

Your entire water system has to stay in a liquid form to do its job. Heated hoses are great but they still can’t do everything. Help them out by adding protection to all the pieces of your winter waterworks.

Heated water hose © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Store your heated hose when not in use

Heated hoses are vital parts of the winter kit in your RV. As such, you need to keep them in good condition and maintain them throughout the year. So when the weather starts to warm up, don’t just pitch the hose into a storage bay.

Most heated hoses come with packaging and storage cases for when they’re not in use. Carefully coil the hose when spring arrives and store it in its case. If you take good care of your heated water hose you’ll be able to use it for many more winters.

Heated water hose © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Other articles you may want to read:

Worth Pondering…

My parents live in the part of the United States that is Canada. It is so far north that Minnesota lies in the same direction as Miami. They have four distinct seasons: Winter, More Winter, Still More Winter, and That One Day of Summer.

—W. Bruce Cameron

16 Must-Have RV Accessories

These camping essentials are the key to a smooth journey

You just stood there, clueless and more than a little terrified, staring blankly at your new mobile living space. It was yours now. It was new. It was perfect. And obviously, you were also excited on top of everything else.

But what you slowly realized as the newness of the moment wore off was this: This thing is also very incomplete. This shiny new travel trailer needed help. It needed partners. It needed supporting characters to become the “adventure capsule” you dreamed of.

Class A motorhome on parking pad © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But you could not find a resource that covered all of the items you needed in one spot. And you didn’t have the time or energy to try and pull together recommendations from over a dozen different sources.

How do you know what you really need to buy for your new RV? This is the million-dollar question, right? Because we are all willing to buy what we know we will need and use, but nobody wants to buy stuff they will never use.

And, that my friends, is the motivation for this article.

Fifth wheel trailer on parking pad © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. RV First Aid Kit

A first aid kit readily available in an emergency isn’t just a good idea—it’s a necessity for every RVer. A well-stocked first-aid kit and manual can help you respond effectively to common injuries and emergencies. You can purchase first aid kits and refills at the Red Cross store, most drugstores, online, or assemble your own.

Contents of a first-aid kit should include adhesive tape, antibiotic ointment, antiseptic solution or towelettes, bandages, calamine lotion, cotton balls and cotton-tipped swabs, gauze pads and roller gauze in assorted sizes, first aid manual, petroleum jelly or other lubricant, safety pins in assorted sizes, scissors and tweezers, and sterile eyewash.

Related Article: Road Trip Ahead! What Do I Pack?

Familiarize yourself with the items in the first aid kit and know how to properly use them. Check your first-aid kits regularly, at least every three months, to replace supplies that have expired.

If you travel with pets, pet first aid manuals are also available.

Travel trailer on parking pad © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. RV Tool Box

A basic tool kit could quickly become your best friend. You never know when you’re going to need a screwdriver to tighten/loosen something or a hammer to pound something in place.

Just about anything in your RV that can snap, crack, rip loose, tear, bend, leak, spark, or fall off will do exactly that at the most inconvenient time. Something will need to be tightened, loosened, pounded flat, pried, or cut. To help you deal with everyday problems and annoyances, maintain a well-equipped tool box in the RV (always store on curb side).

Contents should include Phillips and Robertson head and flat bladed screwdrivers (large, medium, small), standard and needle-nose pliers, channel-lock pliers (medium and large), 10-inch Crescent wrench, claw hammer, hobby knife with blade protector, wire cutters, tape measure, silicone sealant, electrical tape, battery jumper cables, open and box-end wrenches, silicone spray, WD-40 lubricant, bungee cords, road flares/warning reflectors, fold-down shovel, stepladder, and heavy-duty tire pressure gauge.

Many RVers also carry a socket wrench set, small drill bit set and cordless drill with a spare battery, and digital voltmeter.

Tear drop trailer on parking pad © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Gorilla Tape 

Gorilla Tape is a brand of adhesive tape sold by the makers of Gorilla Glue and available in several sizes and colors, including camouflage, white, and clear. Gorilla Tape can solve many problems while on the road—and you can do most anything with this stuff. RVers have used it to temporarily repair a sewer hose, keep a driver’s side window from continually falling, and even affix the coffee maker to the counter so that it doesn’t move during travel.

4. LED Flashlight

Flashlights are a must-have on any road trip. 

5. Assorted Fuses

Vehicle fuses can blow at any time so it’s a good idea to keep extras around. We like to travel in a variety of sizes. But remember—something caused it to blow in the first place. Address the original issue as soon as you can. 

Water hose connection with pressure regulator © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Potable Drinking Water Hose

RV potable water hoses are lead and BPA-free. I recommend traveling with two hoses since you never know how far your RV will be parked from a city water connection.

Related Article: The Safety Checklist for When Your RV is Parked

Sewer hose © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. RV Sewer Hose

A high-quality sewer hose is essential to avoid any unpleasant leaks or malfunctions. I prefer the Camco RhinoFLEX kit that includes a 15-foot hose, a fitting that connects to your RV sewer outlet, an adapter that fits any sewer connection, and storage caps for each end. The durable hose is reinforced with steel wire so you can shape it as needed. Also, carry a 10-foot extension—you’ll be glad you did.

8. Disposable Vinyl Gloves

Emptying the RV black water tank is probably the most common reason to have disposable vinyl gloves around. But, they can also be used for a variety of other things like cleaning and handling food. Yes, you should absolutely use disposable gloves for sewer tasks.

Sewer hose hookup with translucent elbow fitting © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. Translucent Sewer Hose Elbow Fitting

If your sewer hose kit doesn’t come with a transparent connector, we recommend adding this accessory to your list. Clear connectors will give you a good idea of when the tank has been fully emptied. That way you won’t be stuck guessing when a good time is to close the connection.

Sewer hose hookup with sewer hose support © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

10. RV Sewer Hose Support

This product helps to hold the sewer hose in place and prevent a failed connection between the RV and dump station. It’s a recommended accessory if you’re camping at a site for long periods and want to avoid other travelers from tripping or moving your sewer hose connection. Also, some areas require sewer hoses to be elevated off the ground.

Class A motorhome on parking pad © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

11. Heavy Duty RV Dogbone Electrical Adapter

Every RVer needs to carry a few power adapters often referred to as dogbones to make sure that they can connect to whatever power is available to them. These power adapters will have a smaller, lower amperage plug (male blades) on one end and a larger/higher-amperage receptacle (female terminals). Look for UL-listed versions of these adapters preferably with rigid grab handles. They do not change the power output.

Recommended electric adapters include:

  • 50-amp RV plugged into 30-amp source
  • 50-amp RV plugged into 15-amp source
  • 30-amp RV plugged into 15-amp source

12. RV Stabilizer Jack Pads

Prevent hydraulic or electric jacks from sinking into the ground by using RV stabilizer jack pads. Available in sets of four they are solidly constructed of durable polypropylene with UV inhibitors. Interlocking for convenient storage they are available with a handy strap.

Heated water hose © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

13. Heated water hose

A heated RV water hose is required for winter camping. This product will give you safe drinking water even when temperatures dip below freezing. These hoses cost $100 or more depending mostly on length but will save you a lot in frozen pipes. A heated hose has a heat strip along the side of the hose that heats up when plugged into a 110-volt electrical connection. Some brands are rated to keep water flowing at minus 40 degrees.

Related Article: What’s in Your RV Emergency Kit?

Progressive Electric Management System © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

14. Electric Management System

There are four electrical issues an RVer can encounter while traveling: surges, miswired pedestals, high/low voltage, and wiring issues inside the RV. We’ve had a power surge, situations where pedestals were miswired, and both high and low voltage situations. Fortunately, our Progressive Electric Management System has protected us from all of these situations.

Check out the units available from Progressive Electric Management Systems or Surge Guard. Both portable units and hardwired units are available.

15. Toilet chemicals

The black water tank works more efficiently with what is commonly called “toilet chemicals.” Toilet chemicals are bacteria and enzymes designed to break down solids and control odor.

Commercial RV products are sold in liquid, crystal, and tab (drop-in packet) form. They are sold under numerous brand names. All seem to work pretty well and the major real difference is convenience—it’s easier to drop the tab in than to pour in the liquid plus there is no splash. These products are readily available at RV outlets.

Class C motorhome on parking pad © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

16. Other considerations

Other considerations, supplies, and equipment include fire extinguishers (one in the galley, one in the bedroom, and one outside of the RV in a basement compartment, plus one in the toad/tow vehicle), NOAA weather radio, heavy-duty whistles, emergency waterproof matches, jumper cables, ice/snow window scrapers, work gloves, and blue tarp.

Related Article: RV Emergency Kit Essentials

Now that you know the 16 must-have RV accessories, are you ready to hit the open road? Plan your route with one of the many online tools available today and don’t forget to take photos of your experiences. Happy travels!

Worth Pondering…

I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.

—Stephen Covey