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

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

RV Winterizing Tips: 11 Common Mistakes to Avoid

Winterizing your RV? Keep your rig protected all winter long by avoiding these common mistakes.

Along with the beautiful colors of fall comes the closure of a wonderful camping season and the need to prep your RV for storage. While it may not be a fun task, winterizing your rig is imperative to keeping it maintained and preventing damage from freezing temps.

There are a few ways to approach winterizing your RV: You can do it yourself, use a mobile RV maintenance company, or take your rig to a service center. This can cost anywhere from $75 to $200 depending on location and what services are included.

Whether this will be your first year prepping your RV for winter or you’re a seasoned pro, it’s useful to go over the most common mistakes. This way, you won’t be the one making them.

Winterizing your RV © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Winterizing mistake #1: Not removing your house batteries

When preparing your RV for winter, don’t forget to pay attention to your house batteries. A dead battery consists mostly of water which can freeze and cause broken connections, bent plates, and shorten the battery’s lifespan. Remove the batteries from your RV and store them in a temperature-controlled area through the winter but be sure not to store them on a concrete floor.

It’s also recommended that you use a battery charger so they’re ready to go when you are.

If you store them in a heated garage or basement be sure to put them up on something appropriate. Flooded lead-acid and AGM batteries CAN freeze when they aren’t being charged, so plan accordingly.

Winterizing your RV © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Winterizing mistake #2: Not draining and flushing all water lines

It’s important to always double- and triple-check that you haven’t forgotten any of your water lines including your ice maker and washing machine lines.

One common mistake in blowing out the lines is not dialing down the air pressure before starting—you don’t want to put more than 100 psi into your water system. Remember, it’s the volume of air, not the pressure that will push the remaining water out. Read your owner’s manual to verify what the maximum pressure can be before you start. Most city water lines are in the 40 to 50 psi range. Always pull your water filters off and install the filter bypass kits before flushing your lines. 

Check your owner’s manuals for specific instructions on winterizing your dishwasher, ice maker, and washing machine. These are all important to protect but will require a different procedure for each.

Winterizing your outdoor shower © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Winterizing mistake #3: Forgetting about your outdoor shower 

This can be one of those out-of-sight out-of-mind mistakes. Every time you’re hooked up to city water the outside shower is ready for use—even if you don’t use it.

A common mistake that many people make is to forget to winterize their outside shower. This is an important RV winterizing tip because the outside shower is easy to forget. However, if you fail to winterize your outside shower plastic fittings and valves will almost certainly crack and the pipes that route out to the outside shower could burst.

So, if you have your winterizing steps recorded somewhere, be sure to add a note saying, “Don’t forget the outside shower!” You’ll simply need to run the shower until the water turns pink (as with your sinks and your inside shower) or if you winterize by blowing out your plumbing lines with an air compressor, make sure to blow out your outside shower… both the cold and hot water lines!

Winterizing your RV © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Winterizing mistake #4: Not closing low point drains 

After draining your low-point drains ensure they are completely closed before filling the water system with RV antifreeze. 

Winterizing mistake #5: Skipping important steps with your water heater  

Bypass and completely drain your water heater before adding antifreeze to the water system. If you have an electric water heater always turn off the switch or breaker before starting this task to prevent damage to the heating element. It’s important not to forget the drain plugs or anode rods if these are features that are a part of your unit. 

Not all RVs are equipped with a water heater bypass kit. Make sure your RV has one installed and you understand how to use it. Aftermarket kits can be purchased and installed if your RV does not have one.

Winterizing mistake #6 – Forgetting to winterize the sinks

Many RV owners forget to pour antifreeze down their kitchen and bathroom sinks which means any water remaining in the p-traps (the curved section of piping underneath the sinks) can freeze and cause problems.

Winterizing mistake #7: Waiting too long to purchase antifreeze and ‘trusting the weather’ 

Don’t let early winter storms or freezing temperatures catch you off guard. Buy your antifreeze early and be prepared if the temperature takes a sudden drop. 

Several factors play into how fast a problem can occur in freezing temperatures. It’s best to take precautions anytime the temps will get below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. If the temps are dipping down to freezing and you haven’t been able to winterize—don’t panic, just run the heater on low that night. Yes, it will cost you money in propane but you will save your pipes and tanks.

Winterize your RV before the start of winter © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Winterizing mistake #8: Leaving items in your cabinets 

Open all of the cabinets and outside storage compartments to remove maintenance supplies, food items, soaps, toiletries, and anything else with liquid in it. It’s easy to forget about those items in the back of the cabinets and if you do you’ll come back to some sticky situations.

Winterizing mistake #9: Leaving fluids in your RV

Change your diesel fuel (summer blend) to winter diesel (winter blend) or get a winter additive before you store your RV. If forgotten, you could end up with gelled fuel. Also, change your windshield fluid to a winter blend to avoid a cracked reservoir or pump. 

Winterizing mistake #10: Mouse-proof your RV

This is part of the mouse patrol preparation but worth mentioning as a separate RV winterizing tip. Use steel, brass, or copper wool to fill any openings that could allow the little devils into your rig. This is important even if you use your RV in the winter.

Mice, squirrels, and other little critters are looking for warmth and food all winter long. If you’ve got either to offer you can bet they’ll find their way to your winter palace and then tell all their friends where the party is. Do everything possible to keep them out.

Winterizing your RV © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Winterizing mistake #11: Not embracing cold weather camping 

Some RVers re-winterize multiple times over the winter so they can enjoy winter camping. Make a quick checklist from your owner’s manual and keep it handy. It makes running through all the steps easier without worrying about skipping anything. If you don’t feel like winterizing your fresh lines multiple times you can go on camping trips using only your black tank and bringing water with you. 

You can camp in a winterized unit and just not use water. A Thetford Porta Potti is a great bathroom alternative in a winterized RV.

Whatever you do, don’t let winterization and freezing temps hinder your traveling experience.

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

RV Parking and Storage Tips

In the blink of an eye, summer ends. Then just as quickly autumn disappears. What will you do with your RV at that point? Will you be storing your RV for the winter? A lucky few live in climates that permit them to drive their RVs year-round. As for everyone else, we don’t have that luxury. Having a plan for where you’re going to store your RV until spring returns is crucial. Many RV owners elect to store theirs on a campground or storage facility. You might be interested in storing your RV at home over the winter.

Falling leaves and temperatures mean it’s time to pack your RV away for the off-season—unless you’re a four-season camper. While it’s never fun parking your rig for winter hibernation these RV storage tips will ensure that your rig is ready to go when spring returns once again. 

Covered storage © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When should you start lining up your RV storage options? 

Arrange your RV storage options as early as possible. If you need offsite storage options may be limited or full by late summer. The recent surge in RV sales means there’s more competition for existing facilities. 

Winterize your RV before storing for winter © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What should I consider when storing my RV?

Consider these six elements when selecting a storage spot:

Security: If storing away from home does the facility provide a gated entrance, guards or attendants, and security cameras?

Protection from the elements: Will your rig be indoors or outdoors? If outdoors, will it have a covered roof? If indoors, are the temperature and humidity controlled?

Location: How far is the location from your house? Is it easy to access if you need to check your RV? If you store it at home, do you have a large, protected space?

Access: If you wish to take your rig out for a winter trip are you able to remove your RV from the facility? Note that some locations park rigs for months at a time without the ability to remove them. 

Amenities: Some storage facilities offer onsite electric and water hookups and sewer dumps which may be useful as you prepare for and return from trips.

Budget: How much can you spend on monthly storage fees?

Don’t wait for the first snowfall before making winter storage plans © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What’s the best way to store an RV?

There’s no single best way to store an RV. Instead, you need to consider the pros and cons of each option and decide which choice works best for your situation and budget.

Storing your RV at home

Pros

  • You’ll have easy access and can keep an eye on your rig. Plus, it’s free.

Cons

  • You’ll need to find a good location to park your RV. It may be in your way through the winter.

Storing your RV at an indoor self-storage facility

Pros

  • Parking your RV indoors is the best protection from winter temperatures and precipitation. Indoor self-storage also offers good security.

Cons

  • This is the priciest option. Also, you may have limited locations near you and it may not be convenient to check on your rig.
Don’t wait for the first snowfall before making winter storage © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Storing your RV at an outdoor storage facility

Pros

  • You may find extra layers of security. Also, some outdoor facilities have covered parking which keeps snow and ice from accumulating on your roof.

Cons

  • Outdoor storage offers little to no protection from the elements.
Covered storage © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Additional storage options

If none of the options above work for you, don’t despair. You may have friends or family with farmland, a convenient parking spot, or a lot in town. These options may not offer security or protection from the weather but they can be less pricey—possibly free. Finally, research other nearby options like fairgrounds, campgrounds, or marinas which may offer storage in their offseason. 

Don’t wait for the first snowfall before making winter storage plans © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Long-term versus short-term storage

Short-term options provide parking for 3 to 6 months spanning the winter season. Long-term storage may cost slightly less per month than short-term storage but you’re paying for more months out of the year. 

Cost of RV storage

The cost of storing an RV varies greatly. The price depends on these factors:

  • Location: The cost varies depending on your location including rural vs. urban.
  • Size of space: How big is your RV? You will pay more to store a 40-foot Class A motorhome than a small travel trailer. 
Covered storage © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How do you store an RV outside?

If you’re storing your RV outside, decide if you want to use a cover. Covers can cost a considerable amount and take time to properly apply. However, they help protect your RV from the elements. 

If you decide to purchase a cover, buy the proper size for your rig and follow the directions for securely fastening it. Tarps are not recommended since they don’t allow for proper air flow and can trap in moisture. 

Don’t wait for the first snowfall before making winter storage plans © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tips for storing your RV for the winter

Before locking up your rig for the off-season, follow these tips:

  • Winterize your water lines and tanks.
  • Thoroughly clean out anything that could attract bugs and rodents as well as anything that could be damaged by freezing temperatures. 
  • Be sure to check the fridge and freezer to ensure no food is left stored inside. Prop doors open to prevent mold.
  • Check your roof and window seals to prevent leaks and ensure all windows and vents are closed.
  • Remove the batteries from your RV and store them in a temperature-controlled area through the winter but be sure not to store them on a concrete floor. It’s also recommended that you use a battery charger so they’re ready to go when you are.
  • Cover the tires to reduce exposure to direct sunlight.

Whether you’re parking your rig at home or offsite utilize multiple layers of security including wheel locks and/or hitch locks to prevent theft.

Covered storage © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With your RV securely tucked away for winter, spend the winter months making plans for next spring and summer. Just remember to check in on your rig every few weeks.

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 is Here: What to Do with Your RV?

If you haven’t already, now is the time to figure out what to do with your RV this winter

Summertime is a great time for being outdoors with clear, sunny skies and warm temps that provide fun RV outings. Trips to the lake, the Grand Canyon, and state parks resonate heavily with RVers during this season.

Now that the days of summer sunny skies and warm temps have been replaced with fallen leaves and falling temps, you might be wondering what that means for the open-road trips in your RV.

Winter is here and may put a damper on outdoor fun. But don’t pack away the sunscreen just yet! Winter months don’t automatically mean the fun under the sun has to end.

Wintering at Texas Lakeside RV Resort, Port Lavaca, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Many people believe there is really only one option when it comes to RVs and wintertime, but that isn’t actually the case. Yes, the most common option of storing the rig is one choice, and it’s the right choice for many. That said, there are a few other options to consider and there might be a better one for you.

Below I’ve outlined four ways RV owners handle their rigs in the winter months, as well as some tips for each option. Each choice has its pros and cons and in this article, I’ll help you sort out the issues and answer the question: Winter is here; now what?

Some RV parks offer covered parking/storage © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Store Your RV

As mentioned above, the first and most obvious option is to store your RV for winter. This is a great option if you’re happy with your current RV set up, plan to RV next summer, and/or have access to a place to store the rig. That said, there is some work involved, and for some, storing for the winter can be a relatively large financial investment.

Some RV parks offer covered parking/storage © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

To store your RV for the winter, you will need to winterize the unit. This involves draining the water out of the holding tanks and draining and flushing the water heater and then bypassing it before introducing RV antifreeze, which are a few requirements to winterize your RV.

Some RV parks offer covered parking/storage © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Investing the time and work into prepping your RV will offset challenges caused by cold temps. If you are unsure of how to winterize, a local RV dealership likely offers a winterization service.

Storage options include storing on your land, a friend’s land, or paying for an indoor or outdoor storage spot. There are pros and cons to each and all should be considered.

If storing outdoors, using an RV cover is recommended. Some even choose to build an RV shelter.

Some RV parks offer covered parking/storage © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It’s always best to store your rig as close to home as possible. Unexpected circumstances can always arrive. That’s why it’s a good practice to regularly check up on your RV throughout the winter. It’s best to check on your RV on a weekly basis but if you can’t manage check-ups that frequently, a once-a-month check-in is an absolute must!

Wintering at Canyon Vista RV Resort, Gold Canyon, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Take Your RV South

The next option is to take your rig south to keep on camping and avoid the cold weather altogether. Obviously, this is a great option if you are retired or able to work remotely. That said, if you are in a position to head south for the winter, it can be an awesome option, especially if you aren’t a fan of cold weather.

Some RV owners live in their RV year-round discovering America, one destination at a time.

Related: The Best States for Snowbird Camping

Winter in Florida (Myakka River State Park) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While most think of Florida as the ultimate snowbird location, numerous other warm, sunny destinations await this winter season. Keep that summer fun alive during the colder months by traveling to the U.S. Sunbelt.

Wintering in Yuma © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Consider spending a winter month in sunny Arizona and taking in the warm desert scene. With the sun shining 360 days a year, Yuma is known to be the sunniest place on Earth, averaging more than 4,000 hours of sun per year (out of 4,456 possible).

Winter in Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

One of the most popular snowbird destinations is Quartzsite. Not far from the Colorado River, this dusty Arizona outpost expands to hundreds of thousands as RV folks arrive every winter for the largest rock hound exposition in the United States and free camping.

Wintering in Laughlin © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You don’t have to be lucky to find great RV parks during snowbird season in Nevada. While Las Vegas attracts legions of travelers every winter, the surrounding region deserves just as much attention. Pick a spot in Laughlin, Pahrump, or Boulder and ride out the winter in style.

White Sands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RV snowbirds who visit New Mexico can marvel at historic pueblos and centuries-old buildings that date back to the Spanish Colonial era. After visiting the cities, explore spectacular landscapes at places like White Sands National Park.

South Padre Island Birding Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

During the winter, the seasonal warmth visitors enjoy from both the sun and the southern hospitality makes Texas the place to be when looking to escape the cold. With the Texas winter temperatures averaging in the mid-70s, visitors enjoy the sandy beaches of South Padre Island which is also the longest stretch of an undeveloped barrier island in the world.

The Alamo © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Of course, when thinking of Texas, one can’t forget The Alamo. The 300-year-old Spanish Mission is located in San Antonio where the Battle of San Jacinto took place on April 21, 1836. Visitors also enjoy the miles of dining, shopping, and museums along San Antonio’s well-known Riverwalk.

Mobile © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RV snowbirds will feel welcome in ‘Bama. Cheer a classic college football game or take a stroll on sugar sands on the Gulf of Mexico. The cities of Mobile and Montgomery will show you new aspects of Southern cuisine and culture.

Bay St. Louis © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From Waveland to Pascagoula, the Mississippi Gulf Coast offers up winter fun for snowbirds. Enjoy the sunshine, surf, and turf at Bay St. Louis, where charming Old Town is filled with upscale restaurants, galleries, and boutiques. Pass Christian’s quiet beaches will entice you to stay for a while.

Avery Island, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Spicy gumbo and sizzling jambalaya aren’t the only things keeping RV snowbirds warm during winters in the Pelican State. Take a spin through festive towns like New Orleans and Baton Rouge, then venture in the bayous and lakes for sightseeing, angling, and hunting.

Sonoran Desert RV Park, Gila Bend, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Plenty of RV resorts, ranging from southern Cali to Florida, offer a variety of activities, attractions, and beautiful scenery spaced throughout the southern border.

Related: A Dozen Spectacular RV Parks for Winter Camping

Smoky Mountains, Tennessee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For the non-snowbirds, plenty of colder-weather locales beckon. Take in a tender Tennessee Christmas, a snow-filled Vermont vacation, or spend some time in the Pacific Northwest.

Heated water hose © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

These trips will be just as much fun as the sunny-sky trips, but your RV will require a bit more work for these destinations prior to arrival. Prepping your rig for colder temps is an important process to prevent damage. One of the best things you can invest in for winter camping adventures is a heated RV water hose. A heated RV water hose will give you safe drinking water even when temperatures dip below freezing. Some brands are rated to keep water flowing at minus 40 degrees.

RVing in a northern winter © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Embrace the Winter Weather and Go RVing

Cold weather doesn’t mean you can’t use your RV, it just means you’ll have to be more prepared than you’d usually be. If you love camping and don’t want to stop for the winter, then don’t! Instead, make the proper preparations and get out there and enjoy the RV life.

RVing in a northern winter © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Depending on how cold your area gets, you may need to winterize the water system and camp without running water for the coldest months.

Make sure you always have full propane tanks when you head out.

Related: Handling Cold Weather in Your RV

Using space heaters can save on propane.

RVing in a northern winter © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Sell your RV © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sell Your RV

There may never have been a hotter time to sell an RV, as so many people are still looking to buy. One option is to sell while there is a large market and buy a newer model in the spring.

There are plenty of buyers looking for used RVs.

Before you sell your RV, you can prepare your RV to ensure you get top dollar for the sale.

Now your RV sparkles © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A bucket of household cleaning supplies and a little elbow grease can transform your RV’s appearance from “worn down” to “like-new” in less than a day’s time. A coach that sparkles and shines both inside and out can have a significant positive impact on its trade-in or resale value.

Related: A Dozen Amazing Spots to Visit with your RV during Winter

Ensure all important documents and paperwork is available, including the deed, transferable warranty, mileage and year, service and maintenance records, purchase receipts (tires, wiper blades, batteries, aftermarket items), documented changes that you’ve made to the RV over time, and any other documents you’ve accrued during the ownership of the RV.

Now your RV sparkles © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Other key documents include your RV owner’s manual; paperwork or instruction booklets associated with appliances, electronics, and aftermarket items; and current registration.

Selling your RV might feel like the end of something, but it is also the beginning of your search for a new RV!

Now that you know your options for dealing with upcoming winter weather, you can begin making spring travel 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