It’s winter, and you’re looking to get out of the house. The problem is, you check the weather, and it’s 25 degrees out. No worries, if you’d rather be camping, there’s some good news for you. You can still get out there in your RV and camp comfortably, just like in the summertime. 

If you know what you’re doing, wintertime can be one of the best seasons for RV camping. It is a beautiful time of the year, with white landscapes perfect for photography. The air is cold and fresh, and most importantly, bug-free. The wintertime is also a little more hardcore, so you can get away from the crowds you face in the other seasons. If it’s your first time RV winter camping, or you haven’t gone out in a while, look over the advice and pre-trip preparation tips outlined in this guide for a great time outdoors this winter. 

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Image Credit: uknowgayle / Pixabay

What You Need to Know

If you plan on RV camping in the winter, before you head out on the road there are a few tips you will need to know. 

  1. Check the weather before you head to your campsite. You want to avoid getting stuck in bad weather. Winter storms are nothing to mess with. 
  2. Make sure the campsite you have in mind is open for the season. Many campgrounds close before winter begins, as well as trails. 
  3. Keep the gas tank of your RV full at all times. If you are running on low gas, ice crystals can form more readily in the empty areas of the tank. 
  4. Have flexible plans. Sometimes, bad winter weather can seem to appear out of nowhere, even if you came prepared. Be flexible with the driving routes, dates, and destinations for your camping trip.

Getting Water for Winter RV Camping

When winter camping, you’ll want to have a source of water for your water system. Of course, always keep emergency water on hand, in bottles, but for the main source of water you’ll likely hook up your system to a city water source. If you do this, remember that it’s winter, and be sure to buy a heated pipe. If not, you’ll go through the hassle of disconnecting, draining, and then reconnecting your pipe each night to avoid freezing. A regular hose will freeze at a sub-zero temperature. 

You can get away without connecting to a city water source if you have a freshwater tank. You’ll store your water here, but you still need to protect it from freezing to make sure you always have a source of running water. Add a bit of antifreeze to your holding tank, or you can also buy heated holding tank compartments to avoid freezing. 

Protecting Your Interior Plumbing

It’s important to take care of the water pipes in your RV when winter camping. Cold weather can cause cracks or burst pipes, which means wasted money, and an inconvenient camping trip. The good thing is, you can easily protect your RV pipes from the cold. A quick tip is to let the warm air in your RV circulate around the pipes. Do this by opening the cabinet door under the sink and keeping the bathroom door open. 

Aside from this, there are a couple of other things you can do to avoid freezing pipes. For one, you can check the weather to know when there will be a freeze. Have the heater running at this time. Also, put heat tape on pipes and hoses, making sure to cover valves and connections which freeze up more easily. Finally, antifreeze can be added in small amounts to holding tanks.

Keeping You (and Your RV) Warm

If you’re going to camp out in the winter, you won’t be comfortable unless you’re warm. First, you’ll want to make sure you have the gear to keep you warm. This includes a thermal sleeping bag with a thermal rating fit for the temperatures where you’ll be camping. It also helps if your sleeping bag has a hood because a lot of heat escapes from the head. Along with a good sleeping bag, pair warm clothes, and jackets, and you’ll be all set. 

Once you’ve got the right gear, be sure to prep your RV for the cold, too. One of the best ways to do this is by insulating your RV. Make sure to insulate the vents of the RV, and this can be done with vent insulators purchased online or by using an insulating material like foam board. Cover windows with insulating material as well, since a lot of heat can be lost through the windows. You can buy special curtains for this purpose or just install winter windows. Last, but not least, buy a heater. If you’ve prepped your RV properly, a heater will keep you nice and toasty through the cold nights. 

​​Protecting the Outside of Your RV

The outside of your RV can take a beating in wintertime conditions if you don’t take the proper care. You’ll want to be sure to protect the stabilizing jacks under your RV from freezing to the ground by placing blocks or pads suitable for the purpose beneath them.

 Also, if you have any exterior items, like bikes, it’s a good idea to get a skirt for your RV. This will protect your items from winter wind and cold, and also help you stay warm inside. 

Take a look at the exterior window seals on your RV, because if they are old you may be letting unwanted cold and water enter your RV. If you’re not sure if your seals are doing their job, you can always add caulk or sealant for preventative care. 

Camping in winter weather often means snow or the possibility of it. Keep your RV awning closed, as it can be damaged by the weight of accumulating snow and ice. Clearing the top of your RV of snow, but use a soft bristle brush to avoid scratching or damaging the roof. 

Winter RV Living Checklist

If you’re going out in your RV into the wild in the dead of winter, you’re going to want to go through some checks to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip. After all, the best time to problem solve is before you head out on the road, and not in below-freezing weather. Here’s a list of the most important things necessary to prepare your rig for winter RV camping. 

  1. Empty all water tanks and add a small amount of antifreeze to prevent freezing connections and valves. 
  2. Test your heater before you go and clean it as necessary. If you use propane for heat, be sure to have extra tanks on hand. Propane goes a lot more quickly in freezing weather. 
  3. Check window seals, and if old or faulty, add sealant or caulking to prevent cold and water from entering. 
  4. Prevent freezing pipes by covering them with insulating tape. 
  5. Place water storage in locations where heat reaches. Allow heat to enter the bathroom and under the sink by leaving doors and cabinets open. Place heaters in areas where water storage is located. 
  6. Cover exterior vents. This helps to keep out unwanted ice, snow, air, or pests looking for a warm home. 
  7. Guard the inside of your RV against humidity to avoid a build-up of water and potential mold. Clean areas and dry them, taking care to dry the bathroom and kitchen, and add drying agents as needed. 

Driving Tips for Winter RV Camping

Driving in winter conditions can get tricky, especially in an RV. Luckily, there are tips you can take note of to avoid a bad situation on the road and get to and from your camping destination accident-free. Here is a list of driving tips you ought to know before heading out on your next winter RV camping adventure. 

  1. Check weather conditions along the route of your destination before heading out. Driving through a mountain pass during a snowstorm is never a good idea.
  2. Make sure you are driving with all-weather tires. These are necessary for navigating snowy and icy roads. 
  3. Drive slowly and carefully when necessary, and accelerate/decelerate slower in poor weather conditions. 
  4. Avoid changing lanes, especially quickly, and keep to the right when possible. 

Closing Thoughts 

RVing in the wintertime can be an awesome experience, but it can also end up in disaster if you’re not prepared. To secure a good time, before heading out you’ll want to check and set up your water system to have running water on your trip. Protect your plumbing system from the cold, too, as well as the outside of your RV. Make yourself comfortable with warm clothes and blankets, do a few pre-trip safety checks, and you’ll be all set for your next winter camping experience. Adventure is out there. 

Government and Educational Resources for Winter Camping:

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