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 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.
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:
- The Ultimate Guide to Cold Weather Camping
- The Ultimate Guide to Winterizing Your RV
- Winter is Here: What to Do with Your RV?
- RV Winterizing Tips: 11 Common Mistakes to Avoid
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.
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 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.
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
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!
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.
And finally Winter, with its bitin’, whinin’ wind, and all the land will be mantled with snow.