High-Elevation RVing: How to Beat the Heat and Camp in Perfect Weather

As another camping season approaches I want to share how you can beat the heat and camp in perfect weather all year. The solution is high-elevation RVing.

Let’s face it, summer camping is great but it also brings 90-degree temperatures and 90 percent humidity.

Even in northern climates, it gets very hot during the dog days of summer. 

But by moving about in your RV and using high altitude camping to regulate the heat you experience, your summer locations can be much more agreeable—and scenic.

Let me show you some examples of how to do this when the temperature rises and some peculiarities of high-altitude RV operation.

The goal is to camp in perfect weather, to experience daytime temperatures in the low to mid-70s which we have found to generally be the most comfortable camping climate there is.

High elevation camping at Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Here are a few great articles to help you do just that:

The formula to camp in perfect weather: Keep it around 70 degrees

New Mexico is a great state to begin a summer’s travels and by April you can pretty much always find those sweet seventies.

That will last close to Memorial Day if you move around a bit. A good place to be in late May is around Farmington, New Mexico waiting for the snow to melt and the mountains to open up.

Eventually, when you see the snow line climbing higher on those peaks, you’re starting to sweat at lower altitudes and experience those 80 degree days.

Head up the Million Dollar Highway (US 550) into the Colorado high country when the weather is so warm you need the A/C on.

Try Haviland Lake in Colorado at 8,100 feet assuming the snow has melted. Daytime highs in early June will probably be upper 60s to low 70s. Once the holiday crowds dispersed, you should have lots of places to boondock. It’s a National Forest campground with electricity and water and online reservations for maybe half the spots.

High elevation camping at Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Take it slow when high-altitude RVing

I recommend spending about a week and a half getting acclimated to the altitude. Watch the snowline on the mountains. The elevations will undergo a remarkable transformation. Feet of snow will quickly start melting away and in rapid order those low 70s at Haviland Lake will start to hit the 80s and you’ll know it’s time to start climbing again.

You can follow the hummingbirds also looking for perfect weather. A good place to stay in the 70s in mid-June is around Silverton, Colorado.

Mineral Creek has great high-altitude RVing spots to camp in perfect weather.

There are numerous boondocking locations here. Mineral Creek dispersed camping in the San Juan National Forest is a favorite for many of those chasing perfect weather.

High elevation camping at Dillon, Montana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Up there, you’ll now be at 9,600 feet and the weather for what will not be full-on summer should be ideal. High temperatures that high will seldom get above 70. At night you may need the heater as it will regularly dip into the 40s.

Since the Forest Service will allow you stay a maximum of 14 days, it’s a simple matter of moving over to the other side of Silverton which is BLM land (Bureau of Land Management, another Federal agency) to Maggie Gulch at 9,800 feet.

It’s time to reset the 14-day clock in another spectacularly beautiful place with near-perfect camping weather.

There are some quirks to being up where the air pressure is 70 percent of normal—if you make biscuits they’ll be things of beauty. 

But your potato chip bags may have popped those air seals as you climbed up to this altitude. Fortunately, the low humidity will keep them from going stale. The downside is that water boils 20 degrees cooler so potatoes will take forever to cook. 

Forget about cooking rice. Plus you’ll need to add more coffee and boil it longer if you prefer it strong.

High elevation camping at Fish Lake, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Your camper appliances may be affected when you are high-altitude RVing

RV appliance operation can also be affected by altitude. If you have a generator you may find it has a hard time warming up and running smoothly.

The key is to get out the manual and make an attitude adjustment on it. Pull the generator access cover and look for a black plastic set screw cap with a line on it pointing to a 0-10,000 foot scale.  Rotating the set screw clockwise until the line in the black plastic cap corresponds to your altitude will make your generator a lot happier.

A propane hot water heater could develop the mechanical equivalent of emphysema at 9,800 feet with the flame popping and going out requiting much relighting and lean-burn smells.

Alas, this is something that you probably need to leave alone and turn off. You can heat water on the propane stovetop just fine in a pot. 

When it really gets hot down below, head to the Beartooth Pass

There’s one more climb you may want to take if the weather gets really hot in late July and August; head north toward Montana and the Beartooth Plateau at 10,164 feet. Up that high, 70 is about the highest temperature you can expect even when it’s 90 a few thousand feet lower.

High elevation camping at Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Again, get acclimated to the higher elevations

All that altitude does require acclimation.

Ascend gradually and stop for a week or so on your way up through successively higher altitudes. If you climb slowly you won’t suffer any adverse altitude sickness consequences other than shortness of breath with sustained exertion. Everyone notices that.

You aren’t the only species looking for perfect weather

One other possible downside of high-altitude camping is that you aren’t the only species up there.

Bears will almost always be found at altitude in the summer. Practice keeping a clean camp and secure your vehicle, especially at night. 

To be extra cautious, I suggest you never take any food outside the vehicle when you’re in bear country and be sure to read Hiking and Camping in Bear Country: What You Need to Know.

Whether you’re fulltiming or just hot, head for the mountains and enjoy a break from the oppressive summer weather. 

Worth Pondering…

We shall not cease from exploration 

And the end of all our exploring 

Will be to arrive where we started

And know that place for the first time.

— T. S. Eliot, Little Gidding

RVing through the Seasons: Tips and Considerations

Traveling in an RV is an unparalleled experience. There’s almost no bad time of year to travel.

Some consider RVing to be a seasonal activity. Many part-time RVers de-winterize their RV as things warm up in preparation for the summer vacation season. After a fun season of RVing, they winterize and store the RV again when the weather turns cooler.

But RVing can continue throughout the year. Each season has its beauty and unique draws. There are special things to see and do in each season that can only be experienced during that time of year. But along with those fun experiences also come some considerations to keep in mind. Various tips and tricks can enable you to get the most out of RVing through all the seasons.

Whether you are a full-timer or take your RV out on a part-time basis for fun adventures, I hope the information below helps you enjoy RVing throughout the year.

Spring wildflowers in Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Spring

Ah, springtime. When the warmer weather comes, the travel itch isn’t far behind.

Spring is an amazing time to hit the road in your RV. The bugs aren’t in full force yet. The days are warm and the evenings cool—which is perfect for campfires. The waterfalls are at their most powerful. And the campgrounds aren’t packed yet. 

Springtime is a time of growth and renewal with a lot of exciting things to see and experience. As many RVers leave their winter destinations or bring their RVs out of storage if not full-time, it’s an excellent time to do some inspection and care of your RV and continue to hit the road for more adventures.

Spring wildflowers in Mississippi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Spring tips & tricks

Spring is a time to de-winterize your RV if applicable and check for any new leaks that have potentially formed over the winter. Even if not, it is an opportunity to do some spring cleaning inside and out and take time for routine or annual maintenance.

Watch out and be prepared for the severe weather that occurs in some areas in the spring. With winter thawing and springtime rains encountering mud or flooding is more common.

Mexican poppies © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Road trips & destinations for spring travel

View Mexican poppies and other wildflowers in southern California and Arizona, bluebonnets in central Texas, tulips in the Skagit Valley of northwestern Washington, and cherry blossoms in Washington, DC.

It was 1947 when the Cleveland Indians and New York Giants first decamped to Arizona for pre-season warm-ups in spring, kicking off a tradition that now brings 15 MLB teams to take up temporary residence in the Phoenix area.

After Washington, DC’s famed cherry blossoms have peaked, you can still get your flower fix with a trip to Virginia’s stunning Shenandoah National Park with its 850 species of wildflowers.

Prairie dogs, white-tailed and mule deer, pronghorn antelope, mountain goats, elk, and bighorn sheep roam free in South Dakota’s Custer State Park. Come spring, you may even cross paths with the newest additions to the park—baby wildlife.

>> Read more on RV travel in spring:

The Breakers, Newport, Rhode Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Summer

Summertime means summer travel, especially among the RV-loving set. These three bright, beautiful months offer some of the very best motorhome and travel trailer adventures possible.

Summer is all about hitting the road with your friends or family to explore somewhere new.

If you’re planning an RV getaway with family, summertime may be the best option. After all, the kids are on vacation and the warm weather gives you and your family more opportunities to have fun. How does a water-themed RV vacation sound? 

Taking an RV vacation during the summer months also gives you and your family a great chance to visit fun amusement parks during the journey. Also, if you plan well, you can prepare a travel route that also includes stops at concerts, music festivals, or sports events that the entire family can enjoy.

If you do plan to camp in your RV during the summer be prepared for crowded campgrounds and RV parks. Be sure to plan your trips early and make reservations before the campgrounds become full.

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Summer tips & tricks

It’s always a good idea to make certain preparations ahead of time including a basic itinerary, securing camping sites, and ensuring you’re up to date with your regular maintenance schedule.

Once you’ve got the maintenance out of the way, move on to your packing list. What do you need to bring aboard? Summer heat means fun activities like paddling, cycling, or hiking. Be sure to add whatever gear you need to make it happen to your packing list whether that means big equipment like a kayak or bicycle, or just your best pair of lightweight trail shoes and a wide-brimmed hat. And don’t forget the sunscreen.

A consideration for summer is that humidity can be very high during this season depending on where you recreate.

Don’t underestimate the power of a fan which helps to move the air around. This can make you feel cooler as can a cold drink. Keep the ice cubes stocked in your freezer or buy a countertop ice maker. A cool beverage can do wonders.

To maximize your outdoor shade space you can add an awning screen or room. This helps when you want to be outside at a time when the sun may be shining at an angle that your awning doesn’t block.

Kemah Boardwalk, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Road trips & destinations for summer travel

Take your family for a swim at a beach and play in the sand or get in a kayak or on a paddleboard.

Summers in Texas can be hot and humid but the cool waters of the Gulf of Mexico are inviting all year long. Galveston Island features 32 miles of beaches for those looking to relax in the sun. But the barrier island is also home to historic architecture, a vibrant art scene, excellent seafood restaurants, and fun, quirky shops.

Pigeon Forge is a family-friendly destination with something to offer visitors of all ages. Options include off-road trail rides, whitewater rafting, zip-lining, and go-karting. And when you’re ready to stretch your legs and take in some scenic views, head over to Great Smoky Mountain National Park where you’ll find hundreds of miles of hiking trails and endless roads to explore.

West Virginia is an underrated summer RV destination. The town of Fayetteville is a great place for RVers looking for outdoor adventures. One of the biggest attractions in the area is one of America’s newest national park, New River Gorge.

Banff and Jasper National Parks in Western Canada offer some of the most breathtaking scenery and impressive hiking in the world.

>> Read more on RV travel in summer:

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fall

While summer is the peak season for most campers and RVers, fall might be a better time to hit the road. From mid-September through early November, temperatures are milder, humidity is lower, campgrounds and RV parks are less crowded, fall foliage is ablaze, and pesky bugs like mosquitos and black flies are not as prevalent.

Additionally, water temperatures are still warm and fishing conditions improve. The weeks after Labor Day (the unofficial end of summer) are an excellent time to travel in your RV. Also, Halloween presents some very attractive options during this season. 

For many RVers, autumn is considered the perfect season for RVing. During this well-loved season, the leaves change colors and fall to the ground as the air becomes crisper with cooler temperatures that are just right for traveling in an RV. It’s also typically less busy than the summer travel season allowing many to avoid crowds and long lines. If you’re looking for a great time to take your family on vacation, fall is definitely it!

Stowe Community Church, Vermont © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fall tips & tricks

Fall can best be enjoyed by just making a few adjustments to maximize your enjoyment of RVing during cooler weather. Get out your cooler weather clothes as the season changes.

A couple chairs, a cozy blanket, and a campfire are all you need to sit outside for hours.

Some may say it’s not a campfire if it’s not a wood fire but a propane fire pit can be a game changer. A propane campfire can be turned on or off at a moment’s notice and campfire smoke is never a problem.

Slow cookers are useful for RVers year-round but are especially handy in cooler weather when we have the urge for warm soups and other hearty meals. After a full day of exploring the fall foliage come back to your campsite and an RV already smelling amazing from an almost ready slow-cooked meal.

Be sure to check ahead on any campgrounds you plan to stay in as fall progresses. Make sure they remain open and haven’t turned off the water if you are planning on needing that.

Whitehall, New York © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Road trips & destinations for fall travel

The northeast is an easy answer for where to RV in the fall with its vibrant fall leaves in all colors. Not only does the northeast do fall colors right but the covered bridges and maple syrup farms and products feel quintessentially fall.

Head to Acadia National Park in Maine but leave enough time to sufficiently explore Vermont and New Hampshire as well. Visit a sugar house such as Sugarbush Farm to try their maple syrup. Come back in the spring to see the full maple season production but the sugar house is open all year. Read exhibits and take a walking path through the woods. Here you will see how the trees are tapped and the sap lines are run.

Colorful falls are certainly not exclusive to the northeast. You could follow the colors south along the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Great Smoky Mountains for more fall colors.

Whereas the above mentioned areas showcase leaves of all colors, there is just something about the bright yellow aspen leaves of Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah. You will be treated to a sea of gold as the hillsides are blanketed in golden leaves.

Wherever you travel, there are apple or pumpkin orchards, farms, and farmers markets with fall’s harvest bounty, corn mazes, and other fall festivities to be enjoyed.

>> Read more on RV travel in fall:

Winter camping © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Winter

Snowflakes falling, blanketing the landscape in white, puffy coats, warm hats, and hot chocolate all come to mind when thinking of winter. There is a reason for the term winter wonderland. Winter can be beautiful but in an RV it can often present the most challenges.

Winter tips & tricks

In winter, all things are made easier if you can avoid the extremes and have an RV that is at least somewhat capable of cold-weather camping.

If you camp in the cold, you’ll need to prepare for it. If you’re hooking up to city water, you’ll need a heated hose that plugs into an AC outlet at your campsite. A heated hose keeps water from freezing at the source while it’s flowing into your RV. 

Because hot air rises and cold air sinks, floors often feel extra chilly, especially in the morning. Fortunately, there are several ways to insulate under your feet such as interior rugs and runners, carpet tiles, and floor mats.

Your propane furnace is the most efficient way to heat the inside and underbelly of your RV. Another option is a portable electric space heater. Electric heaters can supplement your RV furnace if you’re plugged into AC power. They can conserve propane and lower your energy bill depending on the electric costs in your location. 

And many RVers escape the cold like a snowbird and have some fun in the sun.

Snowbirds head south for winter. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Road trips & destinations for winter travel

Winter favorites for RVers include Florida, Arizona, California, and Texas. Each snowbird destination has pros and cons. For example, during winter the Southeast enjoys a humid, warm tropical climate but in return for that shorts and sandals weather you will get to deal with humidity and fire ants. On the other hand, Western snowbirds will pay for sunny afternoons with prickly plants, wind storms, dust, and chilly nighttime temperatures.

Before choosing a destination, consider the type of climate and landscapes you enjoy as well as the environmental conditions you are most and least willing to tolerate.

>> Read more on RV travel in winter:

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

 General tips for all seasons

There are a couple of additional tips for RVing throughout the year that apply to all seasons and not already mentioned above.

A weather app that you can have access to on your phone is useful year-round to be aware of weather and be notified of storms and any severe weather. This can help you decide whether to travel to an area if it is time to leave or even immediately seek safe shelter.

Make sure that your RV and other vehicles are up to date on their maintenance and care ready for the season and safe traveling. You don’t want your home-on-wheels or mode of transportation to break down on the way or present safety issues to you or your family.

Check out the seasonal and regional food in the areas you travel. Each time of year brings in-season fruits and vegetables that are fresh and flavorful and special dishes and treats are often available to enjoy local and seasonal specialties.

Look for season-specific and themed festivals and events as you travel. This may help to determine which time of year to visit a place so that we are there in time to enjoy a certain experience.

Conclusion

I could go on and on about the benefits of RVing in each of the seasons, ways to maximize your RVing throughout the year, and list out wonderful places to visit. Hopefully, this post has given you some ideas for your RV trips or maybe made you want to see a part of the country in a season you hadn’t previously considered.

Worth Pondering…

Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.

—Henry David Thoreau, Walden