Winter is here, and while many people might shy away from a road trip or dread the drop in temperatures that come along with the season, RV-ing in those frosty conditions doesn’t have to be dreadful at all. Whether you’re in the market for an RV or you’re already an owner, you might be wondering how to go about winterizing your vehicle for the inevitable chill.
In this article we’ll be looking at some of the best ways to keep Jack Frost from nipping at your toes, keeping you comfortable while you’re on the road, or living in your RV. From buying tips for those in the market, to easy fixes like no-drill RV Skirts we’ll have you covered.
How to Live in Your RV or Travel Trailer During Cold Winter Days
Living in your RV or Travel Trailer in cold to freezing weather might have some owners shivering just at the thought, but there’s one simple key to keeping yourself and your loved ones warm and cozy this winter and that is preparation.
In terms of actively preparing for winter it might sound silly, but one of the first keys to comfortable RV or Travel Trailer living (and camping) in the winter months is determining how winter ready your RV already is. Many modern RVs are insulated and designed to take the cold temperatures on.
Determining what your rig is equipped with will save you time and money, don’t just assume you need everything in this article. Whether or not you have the latest model, there are still many steps you can take to make everyone in your RV as comfortable as possible.
If you are in the market for a new winter-ready RV or Travel Trailer here are some things to watch out for.
Image Credit: Richard Mayer, CC BY 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
What to Look for When Buying an RV for Winter Living
One of the first things to consider when you’re in the market for a winter-ready RV or Travel Trailer, is where the manufacturer operates or markets it. For instance, Canadian companies and manufacturers often design their RVs and Travel Trailers with cold weather in mind. While this isn’t an exhaustive buying guide, some manufacturers to look out for are,
- Jayco (Redhawk 26XD, 327CKTS Eagle)
- Lance (4 Seasons Travel Trailer)
- Forest River (Arctic Wolf)
- Keystone (Raptor, Montana)
This short list is meant to be a jumping off point for those in the market for new, winter-ready RVs. Take note of the terms in the descriptions to inform yourself about what to look for when making your decision to buy.
Note: the truth is you can expect to pay a premium price for winter-ready RVs and Travel Trailers. Extra insulation, pre-installed heaters, extra gas tanks, all come at a price, but if you’re living in your RV or Travel Trailer in the winter, these features will pay for themselves. One extra thing to consider is the future cost of maintaining the extra storage tanks and insulation throughout the life of the vehicle.
When buying a winter-ready RV in North America, consider where you’ll be parking.
Image Credit: By Icy98 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Key terms to look for when buying a Winter RV include:
Arctic Package (or similar language regarding winter-ready packages)
Large fuel tanks (55 Gallon and up for RVs)
- Durable hatch and vent covers
- Dual-pane windows
- Heated and enclosed tanks and underbellies
- Heat resistant (PEX) tubing
- Upgraded furnaces
- Improved heating ducts
Ensuring your desired purchase has all or at least some of these features will make winter living not only bearable, but comfortable. Allowing you to take in the beauty of a season most shy away from when it comes to RV living and camping.
Image Credit: EZSnapDirect.com
How to Winterize an RV for Winter Living:
Whether you’ve bought your new winter-ready RV or you’re looking to ensure your rig is a cozy sanctuary from the cold, cold world out there these tips and tricks will make things even comfier and will also ensure your family’s safety in cold to extreme-cold conditions.
There are several key areas to look out for when winterizing your RV:
- An RV Skirt is one of the easiest ways to insulate your rig from the cold. EZ Snap skirts offer effective and quick protection from the elements and the EZ Snap system requires no drilling which avoids the possibility of damaging your rig, and actually allowing significant heat loss if the holes aren’t properly insulated themselves.
- Check your window seals and make sure to re-apply caulk where needed.
- Check your weather-stripping especially on all heavy traffic areas like entry-basement areas. Replace where needed to keep drafts to a minimum. This is where you’ll lose a LOT of heat.
- Installing dual-pane windows, and if that’s out of your budget, insulated curtains are a price-conscious, effective alternative.
- Add a quart of special pink RV antifreeze to holding tanks to keep dump valves from freezing.
- Insulate pipes draining into the tanks to keep them from freezing.
- Look into electric pipe heaters especially for those living in cold to freezing temperatures for extended periods.
- Tank heaters are another option to keep holding tanks from freezing and are available in 12V DC and 120V AC models.
- Insulate your sewer hose. Veteran cold-temp RV campers and residents have probably experienced a sewer hose or two splitting upon disconnection when the hose is frozen.
Fresh Water Hose/Water Pump
- Look into a heated water hose. This will prevent freezing and bursting, AC power is required but if you have a fresh-water hook-up you don’t want either of those things to happen so especially if you’re living in cold-weather conditions this is a highly recommended step to take.
- A space heater can help keep water pumps in exterior storage areas from freezing.
- Skylights and ceiling vents are one of the places your RV or Travel Trailer will lose the most heat. Heat does rise after all, so ensure your vents are well-insulated by installing vent cushions or custom-fit insulation for the best results.
- Propane or electric refrigerators have a combination of fluids in them that act as the refrigerants. When temperatures drop below 20 degrees Fahrenheit the liquid can turn into a gel, permanently plugin the coils of the refrigerator. Avoid this by closing any outdoor refrigerator access and applying insulation to some, but not all, of the vent slots on the unit. In extremely cold weather, use a space heater to keep your refrigerator safe.
- Make sure to test your furnace before winter arrives. Clean the furnace to ensure it’s operating at its full potential.
- Propane won’t last very long in extreme cold. So, if your RV or Travel Trailer uses it, make sure you’re close to a refilling station or bring extra tanks.
Engine Block Heater
- In extreme cold regions an engine block heater is highly advisable.
- It’s always best to plan for the worst. Make sure you have these essentials when planning for winter camping or living.
- Low temperature rated Sleeping bags
- Extra drinking water (at least 5 gallons)
- Extra propane tanks
- Emergency GPS System
- Extra food
- Tire chains
- Extra warm clothing and blankets
Living in your Camper in the Winter
Once you’ve checked off your winterizing list items, you should be ready to live in your camper safely and comfortably, however when it comes to your extended stay in cold to extreme cold conditions, there are some important things to remember.
We’ve spent a fair amount of time talking about warnings and what to avoid, but now let’s talk about some of the benefits of winter RV living.
With a winterized RV your living space will be comfortable, and this provides a great opportunity to explore the world at a time when most people are home hibernating. The natural spaces of the world take on a new and mysterious quality when things become quiet and the snow begins to fall.
You’ll be able to explore national parks and wilderness without hundreds of other tourists and RV campers taking up all the space in campgrounds and RV Parks. Your family will be able to enjoy amazing views and a different side of nature that will leave a lasting impact on them.
It might be the harshest season, but some argue it’s the most beautiful to behold. You can be so close to that natural glory, and then escape into a wonderful, comfortable, and perhaps above all else…warm world in your camper. So don’t be afraid of the cold anymore and get out there!
Winter RV Living Checklist:
Prepare with our handy Winter Living Checklist…
- RV Skirt Installed
- Window Seals
- Weather Stripping
- Add a quart of special pink RV antifreeze to waste tanks
- Insulate pipes
- Insulate sewer hose
Fresh Water Hose/Water Pump
- Heated water hose installed
- Install vent cushions or custom-fit insulation
- Close off/insulate outside refrigerator access
- Space heater for extreme cold
- Test and clean furnace as winter approaches
- Check proximity to refill stations
- Bring extra tanks
Emergency Provisions/Comfort Items
- 0-degree rated sleeping bags
- Extra drinking water
- Tire chains
- Weather band radio
- Extra blankets
- Extra warm clothing
- “White Gas” camping stove
- Gasoline-powered generator
- Extra propane tanks
- Blow dryer to defrost pipes and tanks
- Emergency GPS system
- Extra food
- Ice scrapers
- Ice melt
Image Credit: Vicki Watkins / flickr
Things to Avoid When Living in an RV in the Winter
Be Vigilant! This is maybe the most important thing to remember. You might have winterized your camper with the utmost care, but harsh elements are, well…harsh on your living space. Check your pipes, insulation, and RV Skirt often, making sure water hasn’t accumulated anywhere which could freeze and expand, destroying your best efforts to keep your space warm and comfortable.
Remember, you’re still vulnerable out there even if you don’t feel like it. You’re close to the elements and therefore you’re just one major system failure away from dangerously cold temperatures, even if you have a modern RV or Travel Trailer with all the trappings.
The best way to stay safe is to check things often, to get ahead of problems before they accumulate into something bigger.
Protect your water systems. This is also very important. Water is obviously the most likely thing to freeze in cold weather, and when water freezes it expands and breaks things. The best way to ensure your water systems’ integrity is to check, check, and check again all the insulation you’ve installed on pipes and pumps.
Being close to the elements means you’ll need to keep yourself warm too. Just because it’s nice and toasty in the camper, doesn’t mean that you won’t need heavy coats, boots, and gloves. You might have to do work on your rig in the freezing cold, and you’ll probably want to spend time outside even if it is frigid. So being prepared with cold weather gear for yourself is a very important part of having a good experience living in your camper in the winter.
You’re going to go through a lot of propane. So, make sure you’re close to a refill station, or bring a lot of extra tanks with you. Space heaters are also your friend and give your furnace a break.
Make sure you have the right tools. Ice scrapers and antifreeze, shovels, and ice-melt, are all going to keep you safe and make your living arrangement safe and comfortable for everyone.
Winter living in your RV or Travel Trailer is often something people do their best to avoid. Seeing all the things one must do in order to winterize their RV you might understand why. The good news is once you put the initial time in to install everything, it’s just a matter of maintenance after that.
It’s a time-consuming process to ensure your safety and comfort but in the end it’s worth it. Being able to explore the natural world in quiet and peace is an experience everyone should have in their lives and doing that exploring out of the comfort of your winterized camper is probably the most comfortable, and satisfying way to do it. It’s your space, you’ve conquered the elements, and now you get to enjoy some peace and quiet. All in all, that sounds pretty good to us.
So don’t fear Jack Frost this winter! Get out there and see a different side of the world and avoid all those tourists that can’t hack it in the winter like you can.
What Are Some Fast and Cheap Ways to Winterize Your RV or Travel Trailer?
By far the easiest and fastest way to winterize your RV is to install a no-drill RV Skirt, like the one available from EZ Snap. These no-drilling skirt solutions are the best option because drilling into your RV’s body obviously damages it, but if those holes aren’t carefully insulated themselves, they are essentially just a way to invite even more cold into your RV’s underbelly, thus lowering temperatures inside as well.
EZ Snap’s system is the clear and obvious way to go for RV Skirting, and it’s the easiest way to insulate your RV or Travel Trailer, hands down.
How Cold is too Cold?
Even with all the precautions and winterizing in the world, there are places in the world, and temperatures you should avoid. You’ll want to avoid being in temperatures below -19 to -25 degrees Fahrenheit.
How Much does Winterizing Cost?
For basic winterizing (generally not including major insulation installs) you’ll likely spend less than $200 doing it yourself. If you have a lot of appliances including washers and dryers no more than $300. That’ll cover your major water system.
If you’re spending more than that just know you can go to a professional RV service center and expect to spend around that much ($200-300) getting it winterized.
Obviously more exhaustive winterizing will cost more, and prices will rise commensurately with the level of winterization you are looking for.
How Long does Winterization Take?
This is a somewhat hard question to answer. Depending on your level of DIY skill and know-how, winterizing your camper could take a few hours. But keep in mind that the time you put in is going to determine how well your camper will respond to the cold once you’re out there.
When Should I Start Winterization?
You should begin checking certain systems before it gets cold. Especially your furnace. Turn your furnace on and check to make sure it’s still functioning well. Clean it before turning it on to ensure you are getting the best representation of how it’s operating.
That way if anything is wrong with your major systems you can get them repaired before it’s cold outside rather than suffering through it after.
Is Winterization Worth it?
If you live somewhere that gets cold in the winter, even if you aren’t living in your RV full time, winterization is worth it, especially if you, you know…care about your sizable investment in your camper. Protecting vital systems from the cold will keep your RV running better, longer. So, take the time to do it even if you’re not living in it full time.