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)

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

Don’t get stuck in the cold in your RV. Here are ESSENTIAL RV winter driving tips and other helpful information including the link to all the road condition maps for each state.

Winter RVing can be a unique and exciting experience but it also comes with its own set of challenges. Cold temperatures, snowy roads, and limited daylight can all make for a more difficult and dangerous road trip.

However, with proper preparation and knowledge, you can safely navigate the winter roads and enjoy all the beauty and serenity of winter camping.

In this blog post, I share tips on how to prepare your RV for winter months, plan your winter RV trip, and drive safely in cold weather conditions. I also provide tips on staying warm and comfortable in your RV during your winter road trip.

Winter camping © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Winter camping tips

Make your winter campout a lot more enjoyable with these quick five tips. It’s all about staying cozy so you can focus on enjoying the beauty of winter around you. 

  • Cover your windshield to keep heat in and cold out
  • Invest in a battery heater (batteries work less efficiently in the cold)
  • Have a backup heater (i.e., space heater)
  • Put Reflectix on windows
  • Bring your fresh water in jugs and flush your toilet with antifreeze

Preparing your RV for winter

Before hitting the road for a winter RV trip, it’s essential to properly prepare your RV for the colder temperatures and inclement weather. Here are some tips to help you winterize your RV and prepare it to drive and camp in winter conditions.

Winter camping © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Insulate your RV

Another important step in preparing your RV for winter is to insulate it against colder temperatures. This can be done by adding insulation to the walls, floor, and ceiling of your RV as well as around windows and doors. You can also use insulated window coverings or thermal curtains to keep the warm air inside and the cold air out.

Winterizing your RV plumbing and water systems

One of the most important steps in preparing your RV for winter is to winterize the plumbing and water systems. This process usually involves draining the water tanks, adding RV-specific antifreeze to the plumbing lines, and protecting any exposed pipes from freezing.

If you’re unsure how to winterize your RV plumbing and water systems, it’s best to consult your RV’s owner’s manual or have a professional do it for you. But, the following articles will help:

Winter camping © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Maintain and inspect your RV tires, brakes, and batteries

It’s also crucial to maintain and inspect your RV tires, brakes, and battery before heading out on a winter RV trip. Make sure your tires are properly inflated and have enough tread to handle snowy and icy roads. Check your brakes to ensure they’re in good working condition and consider investing in winter tires or tire chains. Also, make sure your RV battery is fully charged and in good condition as it will have to work harder in the colder temperatures.

Planning your winter RV trip

Once your RV is prepared for winter, it’s time to start planning your trip. Here are some tips to help you plan a safe and enjoyable winter RV adventure.

Winter camping © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Check weather forecasts and road conditions

Before hitting the road, it’s essential to check the weather forecasts and road conditions for your destination and the route you plan to travel. This will help you prepare for any potential winter weather such as snow, ice, or freezing temperatures.

Know the winter driving restrictions by state

Some states restrict RV driving in certain weather conditions. For instance, Pennsylvania DOT puts motorhomes in Tier 1 (the most restrictive tier) when it comes to “winter weather events.” It’s always a good idea to google “winter driving restrictions in (state)” before you leave. This might spare you from getting stopped at a state border with different restrictions. Also, check out the link to ALL the State Driving road conditions below.

Choose the right route for winter driving

When planning your winter RV trip, it’s best to choose a route that is well-maintained and has lower elevations. This will help you avoid steep and winding roads that can be dangerous in snowy or icy conditions.

Avoid mountain passes and remote areas if possible as they can be more difficult to navigate in the winter. Also, be aware some roads close for the winter.

Many state Department of Transportation have interactive road maps that will show you which ones have ice and snow like this one from the Iowa DOT. The blue lines are roads that are partially covered.

Winter camping © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Winter road conditions for every state

And here is the website link (and phone number) for the latest road conditions for each state.

Always carry an emergency kit for winter travel

It’s also essential to prepare an emergency roadside kit for your winter RV trip. This should include items such as blankets, warm clothing, a first aid kit, a flashlight, and a portable charging device for your phone.

It’s also a good idea to include a small shovel, a bag of sand or kitty litter (for traction), and a bag of salt or de-icer.

Additionally, make sure to have a fully charged cell phone and a way to charge it while on the road.

Know how to properly use snow chains and tire chains

If you’re planning to travel on snowy or icy roads, it’s important to know how to properly use snow chains or tire chains. These devices can be a lifesaver in snowy conditions but they must be used correctly. Make sure to read the instructions carefully and practice putting them on before you hit the road.

If you’re going to be traveling entirely in snowy weather, consider putting snow tires on your motorhome or tow vehicle and travel trailer.

Winter camping © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RV winter driving tips

Once you’re on the road, it’s important to know how to safely navigate snowy and icy roads. Here are some tips to help you stay safe while winter RVing.

How to safely navigate snowy and icy roads

When driving on snowy or icy roads, patience is the key. Following the 330 Rule will help set a good pace for your trip and the following tips will help keep you safe:

  • Slow down and increase your following distance (it’ll give you extra time to stop)
  • Use your headlights and turn signals (rule of thumb: If your wipers are on, your headlights should be on)
  • Avoid sudden braking or accelerating so you don’t lose traction
  • Steer in the direction of a skid
  • If your RV has anti-lock brakes, press the pedal firmly and consistently
  • If your RV doesn’t have anti-lock brakes, pump the brake pedal gently to help gain traction while slowing down
  • Familiarize yourself with your RV heating and defrosting systems before you drive to keep your RV windows clear
Winter camping © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How to handle skidding and sliding on winter roads

Never take black ice for granted! Just because you can’t see ice on the road doesn’t mean it’s not there. Mentally prepare yourself by imagining what you will do if you start to slide.

If your RV starts to skid or slide on a snowy or icy road the most important thing to do is to stay calm. Steer in the direction of the skid and avoid braking or accelerating.

If your RV has anti-lock brakes, make sure to use them correctly by pressing them consistently and firmly. If your RV does not have anti-lock brakes, pump the brake pedal gently to slow down. (Pumping the brakes helps give you traction.)

What to do if your RV is stranded in winter

If an emergency arises while winter RVing, it’s important to stay calm so you can think clearly. Call for help immediately and stay with your RV if possible. If you must leave your RV make sure to take your phone, emergency kit, warm clothing, water, and a snack with you.

Here are some tips to help keep you safe:

  • Stay with your RV as it provides shelter and protection from the elements: It’s also much easier to spot an RV from the air than a person on foot.
  • Stay warm: Dress in warm layers, use a good-quality insulated mattress pad or sleeping bag and keep extra blankets in the RV for added warmth. Use a space heater to supplement your RV heating system and make sure to keep your RV furnace or heating system serviced and maintained.
  • Create a signal for help: Place a brightly colored cloth or flag on the roof of your RV or on a nearby tree to signal for help. Keep a small light or lantern on at night (preferably one that is battery-operated and will not drain your battery).
  • Conserve fuel and power: To conserve fuel and power only run essential systems such as the heating system and refrigerator. Turn off all lights and appliances when not in use.
  • Keep yourself hydrated and nourished: ration your food and water to last for at least a few days in case you are stranded for an extended period of time.
  • Keep your phone on but preserve its battery as much as possible. Turn on “battery saver mode” and only use it when trying to contact help.
  • Know How to Avoid Carbon Monoxide Poisoning in Your RV to ensure your heating appliances don’t poison you!
Winter camping © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How to stay warm while camping

When you’re not on the road, it’s important to stay warm and comfortable inside your RV. Here are some more tips to help you do just that.

  • Keep windows and doors closed and use insulated window coverings or thermal curtains to keep the warm air inside
  • Use a space heater or portable electric heater to supplement your RV heating system
  • Add weather stripping or door sweeps to your RV doors and windows to prevent drafts
  • Use a generator to power your RV heating system
  • Insulate your RV’s underbelly, pipes, and tanks with heat tape or foam
  • Use an RV skirt to reduce heat loss from under your RV
  • Keep the windows clean to allow maximum sunlight in during the day
  • Use a good-quality insulated mattress pad or sleeping bag to keep you warm during the night
  • Dress in layers and keep extra blankets in the RV for added warmth
  • In severe cold, confine yourself to one room and focus on heating that small space.

Worth Pondering…

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

—Roy Bean

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

The Ultimate Guide for Winter Camping

How to RV in the winter without freezing to death

‘Tis the season for snowbirding in your RV. For winter RVing. For RV hibernation. All these are true, depending on individual RV owners’ circumstances.

Whether you are actively RVing—in warm or cold climates—or just dreaming about or planning for trips you want to take in 2022, read on.

Winter camping © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Winter RV camping

While most RVers prefer camping in the warmer months, it is still possible to venture out when the temperatures plummet. RV winter living is all about one thing: preparation.

Make sure you have a checklist before you head out in the cold and read Handling Cold Weather in your RV. Even if your RV was built for the four seasons, it needs additional tweaks to be ready for cold-weather camping. 
A spare-filled propane tank, heated RV water hose, electric space heaters, and extra insulation are your RV’s best friends while cold-weather camping.

Winter camping © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Consider skirting for your RV to keep battery bays, plumbing, and other important components warm while parked in the cold. If you don’t have a skirt, you can even pack snow around the RV bays. Just be sure not to cover generator or hydronic heating exhaust outlets.

Don’t be afraid to embrace the cold this winter season!

Winter camping © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What you need to know

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. 

Related: Winter is Here: What to Do with Your RV?

If you camp in the cold, you’ll need to prepare for it. Here’s what you need to know to keep your RV and yourself, healthy and happy.

Connected to city water © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Connecting to City Water

Maintaining the health of your RV water system is a key factor in winter RV camping. When outside temperatures drop below freezing, water can freeze in your pipes and in your freshwater hose. Repairing your RV plumbing system comes with a hefty bill. Avoid the expense by being prepared. 

Heated water hose © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

To connect to city water, you’ll need a heated hose that plugs into an AC outlet at your RV pedestal electric box. A heated RV water hose will give you safe drinking water even when temperatures dip below freezing. It keeps water from freezing at the source and while it’s flowing into your RV. 

Winter camping © 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. There are many designs out there and some will come with insulated sleeves that slide over the hose fittings at the inlet and outlet. Some brands are rated to keep water flowing at minus 20 degrees or colder. These hoses can cost $100 or more depending on length.

For extra protection, you can add additional insulation to the heated hose. This can be done by wrapping the entire length of the hose in foil wrap insulation tape. 

Winter camping © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Using your freshwater tank

You can fill your freshwater tank instead of being permanently connected to city water. Most modern RVs designed for winter camping feature heated holding tank compartments to prevent water from freezing in the tanks. Check your owner’s manual to determine if there’s a switch to activate this feature.

Heated water hose © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Connect your water hose when you need to fill your fresh water 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.

For older RVs, you can add insulation to the holding tank compartments or place a drop light in the compartment. The heat produced by the light will keep the water in your tank from freezing unless you encounter extremely cold temperatures. 

Winter camping © 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. Fortunately, there are numerous options to consider that will help to keep your living space warm and cozy throughout the winter. 

Winter camping © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Insulating the Floor

The laws of thermodynamics state that hot air rises and cold air sinks, which means your floor will often feel extra chilly especially in the early mornings.  

Related: Methods of Heating Your RV

To insulate under your feet use area rugs, runners, and even self-adhesive carpet tiles. You may also want to add an indoor doormat with a raised lip to avoid tracking moisture into your RV. 

Heated water hose © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Heated floors

When you wake up on a frosty morning, wouldn’t it be great if the RV floor was nice and toasty, making it easier to get out of bed and start the day? The development of low-voltage electric radiant floor under-floor heating mats means that RVs can have the comfort and efficiency of radiant floor heating in small spaces.

Winter camping © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Windows and Doors

Working our way up, the next two obvious places for heat loss are your RV windows and doors. An RV with dual-pane windows is 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. You don’t want to cover ALL of your 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. 

Winter camping © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Roof Vents

You can also lose a lot of heat through RV roof vents. Because you won’t necessarily need these vents for air circulation during the winter, you can install vent cushions to further reduce heat loss.  

Related: Handling Cold Weather While RVing

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. 

Heated water hose © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Heat Sources

When there’s a chill in the air, it’s great to be able to crank up the heat inside your RV. Sometimes just a few degrees are all it takes to go from misery to comfort. As for an actual heat source, there are three main heater options to consider.

A heat pump is one option for heating an RV. It’s not a perfect solution in every situation but it is good to have on board. A heat pump uses electricity to warm up the interior of the RV. As the name suggests, it uses a pump to move warmth from one place to another. In this case, it absorbs heat from outside the RV and pushes it inside through the ventilation system.

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There are limits to what a heat pump can do. They’re great when it’s chilly but not when it’s freezing cold. This is because they draw warmth from the outside air. The critical point varies from manufacturer to manufacturer but from our experience about 34 degrees Fahrenheit is the point at which an RV heat pump stops working. There’s just not enough heat in the outside air for it to extract.

A furnace generally heats from the floor up while vents from a heat pump are typically in the ceiling. Because heat rises, furnace heat may be more efficient from this perspective as well. And, if you have basement storage, the furnace heat can be routed there to keep your plumbing and tanks from freezing.

With a furnace, however, once the propane is gone, so is the heat!

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A third option is a portable electric space heater. If you’re plugged into a reliable power source electric heaters are a great supplement to your RV furnace. They help to save propane and lower your energy bill depending on the electric costs in your location. 

Related: What’s in Your RV Emergency Kit?

Cold and wet is bad. Not just for you, but for your RV, too. All that heat in one confined space can lead to humidity and condensation which can cause mold in your walls.

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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).

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

Winter camping

Protecting the Outside of Your RV

Winter camping also takes a toll on your RV exterior. 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. 

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Since we just mentioned stabilizing jacks, let’s start there. To keep them from freezing to the ground, use stabilizing jack pads beneath them. I recommend plastic pads rather than wood since the latter is a conductor of electricity. 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. 

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What was once a very convenient RV step can quickly turn into a slippery hazard when you encounter snow and freezing conditions. One way to add grip to your RV steps is to install a wrap-around step rug. You can also consider installing an external step with a handrail for a greater level of safety and stability for winter RV camping. 

Related: There Is No Winter like a Desert Winter in the Valley of the Sun

It is best to leave your main 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 especially high in winter. 

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Driving Tips for Winter RV Camping

If you plan to winter camp in several locations, you may encounter wet, icy, and snowy road conditions when traveling between destinations. So here are a few quick tips for safe RV driving in the winter: 

  • Check the weather early and often, especially when navigating mountain passes
  • Accelerate and decelerate slower than normal
  • Avoid quick lane changes and turns which are frankly always bad ideas in an RV
  • If chain restrictions are in place, don’t go
  • Consider investing in traction boards to help you self-rescue if you get stuck
  • If you feel uncomfortable with the weather conditions–stay put
  • Slow and steady wins the race

Note: Some states and provinces require the use of winter tires and/or carry chains during certain winter months.

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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 rig should have no trouble weathering those frosty winter storms.

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