With summer coming to an end, we’ve been thinking pretty hard about figuring out winter RV living to extend our camping season. It’s no joke that it’s a bit harder, and we wonder if it’s worth it with our two youngest still struggling to walk in the snow, but I DO know that many of you might be interested, so I did some digging!
My mother in law has quite a long commute that is fine during summer, however during winter things like avalanches can cause closures so she tends to camp in her RV close to work during the cold season. She is hooked up to power, however manages all the other things on her own.
Here are some tips she told me on how to winterize a camper to get it freeze resist ready!
P.S. While you can boondock during winter, if it’s below freezing, your best bet may be to find a nice campground and just plug in. You will use up a TON of propane and gas for your generator each day with all the items you need to make your stay more comfortable. Most of the items I recommend are with the thought in mind that you will be staying at a campground with power!
Also keep in mind that using all these heating elements will pull alot of amps, so while a 30 amp hookup is manageable, stay on the lookout for a 50 amp if possible so you don’t have to coordinate turning off the space heaters to use the microwave!
Before we start – a word on “All Season” rv insulation
There are very few campers that are considered “all season”, and even if they are, they are usually only rated to 32 degrees F. Some characteristics of these include enclosed underbellies, extra insulation, dual pane windows and hatch covers (hatches that cover openings such as vents in your RV).
So even if you did buy an all season camper, it’s still good to make it even warmer so that you can save on propane costs! The insulation in the walls is still pretty minimal, so you definitely have work to do to make up for this.
Here is some more information on four season rvs and some recommended brands!
Good skirting for your RV is a MUST (DIY or Buy)
This is key to winterizing your camper and making it WAY easier to keep your pipes and tanks from freezing!
If the temps will be under 30 for more than half a day, then you’ll likely want to make some sort of investment in RV skirting.
Pro Tip: No matter your skirting choice, if you have snow where you’re winter camping, pile it around your skirting! This will help insulate even more!
The amount you plan to move during the cold months will help in figuring out the skirting set up you need – a cheap DIY or a more expensive one you buy online.
DIY RV Skirtings (Foamboards and vinyls)
If you are going to be stationary then you can make a pretty darn efficient skirting yourself using insulating foam boards (1″ R Tech Styrofoam you can buy at home depot” and some good tape. There’s a great DIY skirting tutorial here from doityourselfrv.
If you intend on moving quite a bit you may want to look into creating a vinyl skirt like this so that it’s easier to set up and break down (this one uses hooks on the RV and the skirting has grommets so that it just hooks on!)
And lastly, if you want the DIY aspect but don’t want to do the WHOLE thing yourself, you should check out this option below!
Purchasing an RV Skirt
Lastly, if you don’t want to deal with all the DIY you can buy skirtings from Amazon like this, or get one custom made locally or from specialty RV stores on the internet (be warned, while the quality is AMAZING, they do tend to cost over 1k!).
I feel like time is money, so we may just go this route. I love how easy this is to put up and store away when we don’t need it!
Insulate RV windows the best you can (3 different options!)
Just like at home, windows really do let alot of heat out (especially if they are typical camper quality windows!)
If you have single pane windows, this is even more important to winterizing your RV – luckily there are quite a few solutions that can help keep cold out.
Let’s focus on the windows themselves first and the options to increase their insulating abilities. If you’re like me and admire the snowy landscapes of winter, then you’ll probably like clear insulating options with additional removable aspects to it.
Insulate all RV windows with clear insulator kit
This is a cheap, effective way to increase the R value (the insulating power) by up to 90%! 3M is pretty much king in this area, so to get clear windows while also insulating this is your best bet!
The one I’m recommending is marketed as a “heat shrink” type, however I love this tip from a reviewer on how to apply it with no wrinkles and so be able to use it again next year (no wrinkles = no need to heat shrink)
Pro Tip – ” Here is the trick. Don’t unfold the plastic sheet; just figure out which side is the edge. Then tape the windows and peel the tape so the tape is all exposed. While still folded, cut a piece long enough to have a couple extra inches of the plastic sheet on both sides of the window. Take the whole thing and stick the side that is the edge of the sheet to the tape across the top of the window. Now all you have to do is pull it down to the bottom of the window. Pull the sheet down tight and stick the bottom and sides. It takes me less then five minutes to do a window and I don’t even need to shrink the film because there are no wrinkles in it. Make sure you stick it to the top of the window straight, or make sure you have enough extra that if your crooked it will still land on the tape at the bottom on the sides.
At the end of winter I will take them down, fold and store them for reuse next year. If you don’t shrink them or at least if you cut them a bit large you can use them several times. You just need to buy a roll of the tape. “
Recommendation: 3M Indoor Window Insulator Kit
- Goes on clear with no tinting
- Has an option to heatshrink, but can be applied without doing so (see tip above) meaning you can REUSE this next year!
- Increases R value by 90%!
Mount Secondary plexiglass “windows” to create an even thicker barrier
Since I live in a trailer in Wyoming, every winter we seal in our porch to store wood and other items we need to keep dry. While we use cheap plastic material, I’ve always dreamt of getting custom plexiglass panes that go across our entire porch (our neighbor has them on theirs!).
Let me tell you – it is toasty warm in that porch, even in 10 degree temps!
This solution isn’t necessary unless you intend to be camping in some pretty cold places, but it’s certainly easier to use this long lasting solution compared to the window film!
Purchase some 0.06″ thickness plexiglass like this (you may have to go to your local Home Depot for bigger sheets), cut it to the right size, then mount it to your windows with some acrylic mounting tape (it’s clear and strong!). Voila, you now have SUPER insulating windows! Click here for more tips on how to fit your travel trailer windows with plexiglass!
Get foamboards for extra window insulation
In addition to the window treatment above, you can increase the window insulation of your RV by using foamboard or bubble wrap.
You can create your own DIY custom foamboards for your windows here – this is a tutorial for blackout coverings, however just sub the foam I used for a heavier duty one.
It’s best to only use these at night or snowy days as the letting in some sun can do wonders for heating up your camper (and the sunlight is nice to see too!)\
Get a safe space heater to use in addition to your furnace
There’s no way your tiny little furnace will be able to keep up with a real winter camp experience (I’m talking below freezing temperatures) so you’ll likely have to supplement with a indoor safe heater.
Mr. Heater is a great brand, and most of their heaters have many safety features that will cause the unit to shut off should any dangerous situation occur such as tipping or low oxygen levels.
There is a smaller size heater here, however, I am recommending this one because it is more appropriate for the majority of people’s situations!
Recommendation: Mr. Heater Indoor-Safe Portable RV Radiant Heater
- 4,000 -9,000 BTU for spaces up to 225 square feet
- Auto shutoff if tipped or detects low oxygen levels
- Easily connects to the propane tank
Insulate any vents in your trailer
Vents with fans are obviously great during summer, however during winter they tend to allow a TON of cool air or even snow in if they are open! The thing is, they do need to remain open – ventilation is super important to reduce humidity and moisture in your trailer.
To solve this, get a vent cover! They can be open through snow, rain and even travel allowing you to get fresh air all year long (this is really helpful when cooking, cleaning and bathing in your RV, which all create a ton of moisture!)
This helps create an extra pocket of air between your camper and the environment as well as having a good way to let humidity escape without being worried about the weather.
To really create a powerful insulating effect, you gotta get the “vent pillow” to keep lodged inside the vent on the inside of the camper for even more insulation! Best of all, you can use this all year long as well – summer to keep the heat out, and winter to keep the heat in!
Pro tip – if you buy the vent pillow, make sure to point the reflective side down into your camper to “reflect” the heat back down into your camper!
Recommendation: Camco RV Roof Vent Cover
- Allows vent to be open all year long to let moisture out from common activities such as cooking, cleaning and bathing.
- Aerodynamic design allow you to keep it open even during travel!
- Easy to clean screen that doesn’t require you to dismount the whole vent cover
Recommendation: Camco RV Vent Insulator (Pillow)
- Multi use – point the reflective side up during summer to help keep your RV cooler
- 2.75″ of insulating foam
- Fits most standard 14″ RV vents
Winter prep your AC Unit
This is another thing you probably know about if you have year round window mounted AC units (my mom’s house in Idaho has three of them!) – they can let in a TON of cold air.
This means it’s important to stop that airflow (and increase the longevity of the AC unit by protecting it from the elements) as well as insulate the inside too!
There’s a mix of top mounted and side mounted AC units in RVs / trailers, so I will be mentioning the best solution for both.
While you don’t need both (and the inside solution only works for side mounted units, as that’s what I have experience with), if you have the means, it can’t hurt to make it extra insulated!
Recommendation: Veranda Window AC Cover (for side mounted AC units)
- Interior bound seams for strength and durability
- Includes strap for use in high wind areas
- Designed specifically to cover an a/c unit in the off season!
- Variety of styles and shape options available
- Draw cord for better fit
- Two color choices
Prevent your black tank from freezing
If you plan on using your bathroom, then you’ll need to make sure you include ALOT of antifreeze both right when you start as well as with each flush (no water!)
This may be overkill for some areas that don’t get cold winters, but better be safe than sorry and just “flush” with a bit of antifreeze.
Pro tip #1: Make sure to start off with 1 gallon of antifreeze and about 12 oz with each “#2”.
Pro Tip #2: Do not leave your sewer line hooked up if at all possible, and instead only use it when you are dumping. While you can insulate it, it is just another possible freezing point!
Pro tip #3: Wrap your dump tank valves close and wrapped in insulation when not using them if they are exposed to the elements
Full disclosure, you can get this product cheaper at Walmart or maybe your local hardware store. Usually, Amazon has the best prices, but not always!
I am only linking to it in case you don’t have a walmart and your hardware store is pricey (I live in a touristy town so we don’t have a walmart, and our hardware store tends to jack up the prices quite a bit due to the dynamics of a tourist town) so the price difference would be worth the convenience.
Recommendation: Camco RV Antifreeze Concentrate
- The concentrate is helpful for easier transporting and carrying – just add water to create the 1 gallon of antifreeze!
- Non toxic and non hazardous, so you don’t have to worry about kids or pets getting sick from this
- -50 burst protection (this means that your pipes or tank will not BURST, however, may still turn to a “slushie” consistency that wouldn’t be good for pumping… making it perfect for the black tank!)
Help prevent RV water tanks and lines from freezing (but please read the info below this!)
MANY people choose to “dry camp” except for use of the restroom (which isn’t difficult to keep from freezing because, as mentioned above, you can add in antifreeze every time you use it to flush) due to the difficulty of keeping tanks and lines from freezing.
Most winter RVers will instead bring a ton of bottled water for drinking and dishes, but opt to use a facility such as a campground shower instead of their own.
Factors such as how low the temps get, power availability (being hooked up to shore power obviously makes it easier to use more heaters on the underside of the camper) and overall design (some all season campers do have an enclosed underbelly and tank heaters) will drastically change the difficulty of RV water usage in winter.
Pro tip: Put a small ceramic heater such as this under your camper (if it’s enclosed) to help keep things a bit warmer!
With all that being said, I will show you guys the highest recommended products in regards to heated hoses and tank heaters, but just remember a burst tank or line can be pretty frustrating and may not be worth the convenience!
Get a heated water hose
Some RV parks will not allow any “homemade” looking hoses (heat tape and pipe insulation) , so it’s better to just go with something that’s easy to use and pack around.
If you choose to buy a heated water hose, the one I’m recommending must be used correctly to function and not freeze. You’ll need to make sure that the temperature gauge is in the open air (I know this can be hard with snow) to help it get an accurate reading so it turns on at the right time. Also, don’t use an extension cord as this will void the warranty on it.
Recommendation: Pirit PWL-03-25 25-Feet Heated Hose
- Has an auto switch on/off depending on the temperatures (turns on when below 45 F, turns off when above 50 F)
- The manufacturer states it’s good to -42 degrees
- 5/8″ diameter
Recommendation: Facon 12″ x 18″ Holding Tank Heater Pad for RV Camper Trailer with Automatic Thermostat Control
- Self adhesive so easy installation onto tanks
- Built in thermostat turs on at 45 F and turns off at 68 F
- The manufacturer states it works up to 50 gallon holding tanks
Prevent mold and moisture with a dehumidifier
Cooking, cleaning and even just breathing can create humidity which will lead to mold in your RV or trailer. This is why a dehumidifier is pretty standard in most RVs, even during summer!
The difference is that during winter, it’s less likely you’ll have as much airflow (well, hopefully you won’t!) so you will need a different way to remove the moisture.
Recommendation: Pro Breeze Electric Mini Dehumidifier, 1200 Cubic Feet (150 sq ft)
- Optimal for 150 sq ft and collects around 9 ounces of water a day
- 16 ounce water tank
- Auto shut off when full
- No compressor = much less noise!
Put up some pretty winter camp themed wall art, especially if it’s near the holidays (hey if you’re going to be in there all winter, make it look pretty!)
I ALWAYS decorate for the season in our camper – it makes it feel more like “home” and camping in a pretty environment makes all the other stuff (like freezing pipes.. bleh!) more enjoyable!
Use rugs and draft guards as much as possible for more insulation
There are tons of options for rugs, so I can’t recommend anything specific there, however it’s a great idea to add a good felt rug pad underneath it to really create a great insulating layer.
I recommend the thickest (1/2″) and then you can trim it to size to fit inside your camper. I’d also suggest buying this rug tape to really make sure the felt rug pad stays where you need it to.
Recommendation: RUGPADUSA, 8’x10′, 1/2″ Thick, Basics 100% Felt Rug Pad,
- 3 options for thickness as well as option rubber bottom for non slip qualities
- Adds extra insulation over the entire floor of your camper
- Can be cut to size for a perfect fit
Reduce the need to keep the thermostat too high by getting a heated mattress pad!
You should always bring a sleeping bag or a ton of extra blankets when winter camping, but a heated mattress pad can really bring the comfort level up without a need for a ton of extra stuff.
I love this pad because it’s waterproof (so I don’t have to worry about it so much) and it has a sweet wiring system to adjust the temperature of the blanket through out the night!
Recommendation: Sunbeam Heated Mattress Pad
- Water resistant backing made from 100% cotton
- 10 Setting controller with a 10 hour auto off (this can be disabled of course)
- Each side can control their own heat levels!
What are your best tips for RV camping in the winter?
It feels like this was a pretty long list, but there’s always more to know and we all learn more by sharing the knowledge! I’d love it if you could leave any comments with your best ideas on winter trailer camping in the comments below!
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