Winter Camping – be prepared


Camping in the Winter in your RV

as published in RVWest – RV Living column

Yes, the weather has changed and it feels like snow might be arriving at any time but that doesn’t mean RVers have to quit living in their RV or head south to a warmer climate. Probably the main concerns during the winter are staying warm and being able to use the water and sewer hook-ups and not have everything freeze up solid including yourself.

Having a secondary heat source is important. By only using the furnace your propane supply will quickly be used up and when the tank is empty and your furnace is no longer working it can get particularly uncomfortable. Your teeth will soon be chattering. It seems as if that only happens in the middle of the night when you can’t do anything about it and no amount of blankets will keep you warm. There are many different types of safe and economical heaters on the market that will do the job quite well so visit your favourite hardware store or ask your friends what they recommend.

RVing in the winter

Moisture or condensation is really hard to avoid so a dehumidifier is a good idea. Check for drafts or problem areas and use insulation or tape where possible and keep a window or vent slightly open for ventilation which helps reduce the moisture.

Skirting around the RV will help reduce drafts and keep you warmer. If you’re parked in one spot and the park owners will let you, put a skirting around your unit, whether it is vinyl or made of lumber. Not all parks will allow this but not having skirting increases the chances that the holding tanks are going to freeze and may do permanent damage that could cost you a lot of money.

Once you have the skirting in place you could conceivably put insulation in the space below the RV and a must is a heat lamp placed near your tanks for added protection. Two reasons not to use an electric heater under your RV is the chance of starting a fire and the cost of the electricity will be extremely high.

Close the valves on your gray and black water tanks until you’re ready to dump them. This was a lesson I had to be taught many years ago when the ice started building up in the hose until it became one solid piece that was not fun to thaw. Have the drainage hose placed on a very steep angle so water doesn’t sit in it.

Insulate all pipes, both interior and exterior ones and strategically placing light bulbs in cupboards or closets will really help keep the threat of freezing away. A heat tape wrapped around the exterior water hose is an absolute must and make sure it covers both the outside water tap and the inlet into your RV. Cover this with insulation and wrap it up nice and tight.  Don’t insulate the sensor though because you want it exposed to the cold so it will run all the time.

When possible don’t use your fresh water tank and use the park’s water system – this is just one more thing that could go wrong and it’s easier to prevent problems than trying to fix them. By keeping cupboard and closet doors open the heat will also assist with keeping the interior pipes warm. Plus you won’t get a cold draft hit you every time you reach for something inside your cupboard. When you go around your RV to plug up any problems areas don’t forget to put insulation in the roof vents.

Heavy socks or slippers will help keep your feet warm and I find a fleece jacket gives me just that bit of added protection when the air inside the RV is cool. Although we are not currently living in an RV during the winter I have spent many winters warm and snugly in an RV and by learning from our mistakes each year got easier.

Curled up on the chesterfield or chair in a nice warm blanket and watching out the window as the snow is falling can be a relaxing and cozy way to spend an afternoon.

This article is posted on RVWest’s website at: Visit this wonderful newsletter for RVers and read my column RV Living and other informative and helpful columns by other contributors.


Happy travels,

Carol Ann Quibell

5 thoughts on “Winter Camping – be prepared”

  1. Tony

    Hi Jane,

    Very informative. What kind of heat lamps to put under the RV for tanks? Like chicken lights or reptile lights or are there specific red heat lamps for RV use? Thank you

  2. Jane

    Here in South Dakota we leave the gray tank open and only close the black and dump on warmer sunny days. There is usually 2-3 weeks of continuous below freezing temps which makes the pressure drop in the propane tank and not light the furnace. We do skirt our camper here. We have an electrical thermostat controlled heated hose to hook up water, and have one of those heated dog house floor panels strapped to the black tank to keep it thawed. We have an electric heater inside the camper to save on propane, but have to pay for electricity in the winter here. Our hookup is metered. We also have an electric heater under the camper…I know it is not advised, but it is set low so only kicks on when very cold. Oh, and we bought a heated blanket for the bed. We need to buy a dehumidifier this winter. Oh, and our fridge also quits working as the propane doesn’t flow through the coils. We were told to put a light bulb in the outside door behind the refrigerator to prevent that from happening. Our propane tanks are outside (2-100lb) as we don’t have a 5th wheel camper with a storage place for them. Those only hold 20lb tanks anyways from what I’ve seen. We were wondering if we built a wooden box, insulated it, and put a light bulb in it if that would keep the propane flowing? Any comments or suggestions?

    1. Hi Jane – wow you have done your homework! Very impressed. I had a 100 lb propane tank as well when I was parked permanently. It makes it much simpler. I would speak with a propane dealer and ask their advice. I’m not an expert on this and it comes down to safety. Let us know how you make out please.

  3. Hi, I’m so glad to find this website and aiecrlts discussing working on the road and internet access while on the road. I’m currently buying a small camper, 14ft total, and will be living and working in it for the next couple of years. I’ll be on the road for a while, then stationary for the most part. I’m building clientele as a remote bookkeeper, and will be able to work anywhere there is internet, and be able to take clients from anywhere in the US. Email, remote login, scanning, and faxing will be the tools I need while working on the road. I can’t wait to get on the road and camp with my my new home and my dog.As a shameless plug, I’m still starting out going virtual, so feel free to contact me if you are needing a bookkeeper

    1. Great idea! I really wish you well and have no problem with passing on your information. I love it when others come up with ways to support themselves and travel as well. Good luck Greg!
      Carol Ann

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