How To Prepare an RV for a Freezing Winter Adventure
Do you want to use your RV during the Freezing temperatures of Winter?
Got Questions: How do I keep the pipes from freezing in my RV? What can I do to stay warm inside the RV? Can I keep my walls from icing over? Will my fuel freeze? Is it even possible to RV in the Winter? Watch the two videos below on How To Prepare the Outside of Your RV for Winter, and then How to Prepare the Inside of Your RV for Winter…then read the post to get additional tips and tricks, and any updates about How to RV in the Winter.
These videos were shot while winter camping at Tiger Run Resort in Breckenridge, CO.
To be perfectly honest we’ve learned how to RV during the winter from experience….BAD EXPERIENCIES! So please learn from our mistakes and heed our warnings, they truly come from the heart in hopes to make your Winter RV adventures run much more smoothly.
The majority of RV owners do one of two things for Winter:
1. Head South to warmer weather (i.e. Quartzite, Lake Havasu City, Yuma, Gulf Shores Alabama, Florida, etc).
2. Winterize the RV and take it to storage for the season.
We RV a little different! Being slightly crazy we know there are tons of adventures waiting in the snow filled mountains. Honestly the best time to be in a ski town is January – February, there’s less crowds, the snow is better, and the town is filled with mostly locals.
To enjoy the snow and successfully endure the freezing temperatures there are a few things you need to know BEFORE you go on a winter RV adventure.
Cover Windows, Doors and Stairwell – It blows me away how much cold air seeps in from the windows, the entry door and the stairwell, by adding insulation to these drafty culprits you can keep the inside of the RV much warmer. Purchase a heavy fabric and make curtains to keep the cold from coming in. You can do fun curtains or you can install snaps/Velcro around the windows and doors to add an extra layer of insulation. Some people use bubble wrap, the bubble insulation, or the R-Max Foam boards which are all practical but do not look very good. For the stairwell have a board cut and adhere insulation to the bottom of it, at night cover the stairwell to keep out the cold air.
Skirting your RV – If you have an RV without insulated bays, or a trailer, you will need skirting in extreme weather. The majority of RV’s are not made for extreme cold so chances are if you plan to be in consistent freezing temps you should look into investing in this. In some cases if temperatures drop below 0 degrees you will need to run a space heater under your coach (inside your skirting) to keep it warm. I stay away from propane heaters and use an electric commercial heater under our RV.
We had to skirt our first RV and it worked like a champ. We called the Miller Family from RVSkirting.com and even though they couldn’t install the skirt for us they helped us get set for a last minute freeze in Breckenridge, CO and gave us the confidence that we could install it ourselves. Most manufacturers and dealers don’t understand skirting so make sure you do lots of research or give these guys a call if you have questions about winter camping.If you plan to be in an area with snow you can try the poor man’s skirt, it works pretty well: Take a shovel and pile up snow all around your coach up to the bays. Pack the snow well and it can last for months. During an extreme freeze put a space heater under your coach, don’t worry it shouldn’t melt the snow…I call this the Igloo effect!
Cheap Heat Options – We’ve seen 2 options that seem to work well for heating the RV inexpensively in the winter (when you’re staying at an RV park for a month or more you will often have to pay for electricity, so space heaters might end up costing you some extra money each month in electricity bills). Of course you have to calculate the expense of the product and the install costs:
- Propane Heater – This device sips propane compared to the furnace installed on your RV, yet it keeps the inside even warmer. Best part is this heater doesn’t use electricity like a space heater but it heats just as well. The downsides: There is no anti-tip shutoff so it’s not good if you have pets. The install can be simple but should be completed by a professional. The propane is un-vented and therefore produces deadly Carbon Monoxide so you must keep a vent open at all times and constantly check your CO detector to make sure it is functioning properly. Also as discussed propane heat produces humidity. Our friends the RV Geeks use this propane furnace and swear by it in their Winter RVing post
- Pellet Stove – This device will warm up an RV faster and more efficiently than any other heater we’ve seen. The good news is there is zero moisture produced from the heat, the built in fan uses a fraction of the electricity of a space heater and it’s a pretty eco friendly option for heating. The downsides: Install is a crazy mod to both the inside and outside of your RV. If the fan shuts down (i.e. when boondocking and you run out of battery power) you now have a smoke filled RV. Takes up a lot of space so is best for larger RV’s. You have to carry and store large, heavy wood pellets in your RV. Some models you are required to vacuum out the ashes which can be a pain make sure you look at the pellet stoves with a removable ash tray.
Heated Water Hose – You can make your own with heat tape and pipe insulation and this works pretty well, although on occasion we have seen people in the bathrooms warming up their frozen hoses during extreme cold snaps. I’d recommend just purchasing a good heated water hose. Camco has one on the market but it looks kinda cheap, from the heated hoses I’ve seen in person I’d recommend the Pirit Heated Hose as the construction and the warranty seem top notch.
Available on Amazon: http://amzn.to/295bNsL
No matter which way you decide to go, make sure you cover and insulate any exposed piping coming from the water supply and the spigot! If your water connection to the RV is on the exterior of the wall (not inside a bay/basement) you will also need to cover and insulate that connection very well. If you do have a wet bay you should consider placing a space heater in the bay just in case temps get low enough to freeze and burst the connection.
Sewer Hose – Use a PVC pipe for your sewer line instead of the standard RV drain hose, it will hold up much better in the freezing temps. If you have a constant water supply and you want to let your grey water drain the safest thing you can do is wrap the sewer pipe with additional insulation, if temps will be freezing for multiple days you may want to install heat tape around the PVC pipe. I always recommend keeping the black tank closed off and dumping only when necessary, getting a #poopcicle stuck in the drain is not a good way to start the day.
Keeping the Inside and the Bays Warm
1. Space heaters are your friend! If you’re plugged into shore power why waste your money running the propane furnace inside your RV? For sub-freezing temperatures we typically run 2 space heaters inside: 1 near the front, and one near the bedroom.
**UPDATE** – We spent the “big bucks” and splurged on the Dyson Air Blade Heater and we can honestly say it’s worth EVERY PENNY! We’ve used it in 20 degree temps and we can put it in the windshield, turn it on and it keeps the RV warm all the way in the bedroom! Amazingly efficient and safe heat for the RV.
Available on Amazon: http://amzn.to/29bHDF9
2. Mini Space Heater in bay
Typically there is one main bay that holds your black/grey/fresh tanks, your sewer connections, water pump, water filter, etc. This is the MOST important bay to keep warm. I purchased a tiny 200 watt (1.8 x 4.3 x 6.1 inches) ceramic heater and leave it running in the bay during freezing temperatures. It pulls about 5 amps and keeps all my pipes warm (exterior temp 20 degrees, inside bay 50 degrees). Some people recommend hanging a work light in the bay: I tried this and the bulb melted the plastic bay, and my water still froze so I don’t recommend this option.
Available on Amazon: http://amzn.to/298Q8QA
3. Fresh Water Hose
Your water hose WILL FREEZE! Do not leave your water hose connected during freezing temperatures. There are special water hoses you can plug in to keep warm, you can also make a heated water hose using Pipe Heating Cable (Heat Tape) and Insulating Foam Pipe Covers. During extreme freeze your ‘heated’ water hose may still freeze. Numerous times I’ve seen people in the bathroom trying to thaw their heated hoses. Save money and save hassle, just fill your fresh water tank and disconnect your hose, repeat when necessary (it’s really not a big deal and it will save you money and you won’t have to store a bulky winter water hose all year)
Available on Amazon: http://amzn.to/293vsqa
4. Insulate your pipes
It might not do much, but why not. Go to the hardware store and purchase the pipe insulation. Wrap any and every pipe you can find with the insulation. It’s easy to do, inexpensive, and maybe it’ll help keep the pipes a little warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer?
Available on Amazon: http://amzn.to/298QtD1
Invest in a heated mattress pad, it will be your friend during cold nights. We purchased a dual climate heated pad (not a heated blanket) because one of us is always colder than the other, it works like a champ. Best part is the preheat function warms the bed quickly then continues with your original setting. We chose a heated mattress pad because heat rises right? The heat is nice on our backs, then as the warmth rises its captured between the sheets and creates a nice oven effect. Love it! Although we’ve heard a heated blanket can mess up your core temps we still use one on the lowest setting when it’s sub-freezing outside. Unfortunately the new mattress in our Fleetwood Excursion is memory foam so it doesn’t work with a heated mattress pad….we’re so missing our pre-heat button this year!
Available on Amazon: http://amzn.to/29ga57l
Miscellaneous Winter Necessities:
RV Tire Chains:
Legally you must carry chains to drive many mountain passes during snow storms (especially in California). If you don’t have chains on board and you get busted it’s a hefty fine. We’ve spent winters all over the states, and fortunately we’ve never had to put our chains on. Of course we watch the weather religiously before we plan to drive anywhere. If you’re flexible like we are and you know a storm is coming you have 2 options: 1. Bust out of there ASAP before the snow or 2. welcome the snow with open arms and extend your campground reservation a couple more days.
Keep your engine from freezing
Diesel can freeze! Make sure you fill with winterized diesel which you can find at most truck stops. If you can’t find winterized diesel you need to purchase an additive that will keep your diesel from freezing (you can find this at auto part stores and truck stops). Before you depart your destination you should plug in the heating element found in your diesel engine (most diesel engines have a heated core that you can plug into a wall to keep them from getting too cold) to warm up your engine at least 4 hours before taking off.
Available on Amazon: http://amzn.to/295dpCD
Protecting the RV Engine and Generator from Freezing – From the Experts
All 3 of our RV’s have been diesel, similar rules might apply for gas RV’s so ask the Mfr for advice. Diesel fuel begins to gel around 20 degrees and can damage your engine. I have received these tips directly from Fleetwood, Cummins, and Freightliner so this information is solid!
- Fuel – Before entering freezing temps make sure to add a Diesel Anti-Gel Supplement. Both Cummins and Freightliner recommend the Power Service brand of anti-gel claiming that it works best. After adding the supplement make sure you drive and run the Generator to get the additive inside the fuel lines. If possible fuel up with a winter blend fuel which can be found at many truck stops during the winter.
- Engine Block Heater – A lot of mis-guiding information about the engine block heater, here’s what the experts say:
- Temps between 32-10 degrees Fahrenheit: Turn on block heater 4 hours before starting the engine.
- Temps below 10 degrees Fahrenheit: Turn on and leave on engine block heater until temps rise above 10.
- Always turn off block heater while engine is running.
- Oil – Recommended Generator Oil for freezing temps is 15W-40
- Departure – Before you depart the campground in cold weather turn on the engine block heater for a minimum of 4 hours and run the generator for 30 minutes with a low-medium load. This routes the fuel to the generator but not all the fuel is burned. The fuel that is not burned follows a return line back to the fuel tank, effectively warming up the fuel and giving the engine warm fuel for a better start. Make sure your engine and transmission have time to warm up before jumping directly onto the highway.
In the winter you’ll notice condensation accumulating on the windshield, on walls, etc. Condensation is your enemy. I know it sounds contradictory but you need to crack a vent or a window at all times. Condensation can build up, get in the walls, etc and cause mold. You do not want this! Simply crack a window and turn on a fan to circulate the air, if you’re already using a space heater with built in fan you don’t have to worry about running a separate fan. You can also put the dehumidifier pellets like Damp Rid or DriZair (you can purchase at most stores) in the areas that seem to draw the most condensation. We’ve found the condensation will not pose a problem as long as it’s 40% relative humidity or less inside the RV.
We’ve always installed MaxxAir vent covers on all 3 of our RV’s. During the winter a vent cover is a must as it adds an extra barrier against condensation, and when there’s a pile of snow on the roof you can still open the vents while cooking (or if you need to let some condensation escape). We installed a new MaxxFan on the Fleetwood and it combines the vent cover into the fan, it seemed to hold up pretty well to the elements however we didn’t have a more than a few inches of snow at a time. In our first RV (the Damon Avanti) we purchased the vent ‘pillows’ to help keep warm air in, and keep down condensation and they worked well, but we got tired of carrying them around all year for a few days here and there of snowy weather.
The solids must be above 55 degrees Fahrenheit in order to compost. If you have a composting toilet like us make sure the surrounding ambient temperature is at or above 55.
More on Composting toilets here: https://www.gonewiththewynns.com/all-composting-toilet
and more stuff you need
De-Icer, Snow Shovel, Ice Scraper, Jack Pads (to keep the jacks from freezing to the ground), Winter Wiper Fluid, and some warm boots and winter clothes of course!
Winter RV Campgrounds
Don’t assume a campground will be open, make sure you contact the resort before you plan a visit. Many campgrounds close during the winter, especially in areas where it snows. Surprisingly a ton of State Parks close as soon as snow hits the ground, so do your research!
As much as we love Wild Camping our general rule of thumb is: if its freezing outside you don’t want to be boondocking. Sure you can run your generator and use propane to heat the interior, but you’re gonna spend $20+ per day anyway so you might as well find a nice RV park and plug in.
For the Lazy or the Budget RV’er
Last but certainly not least there is always the option to winterize your RV before you hit the cold weather. Whether you’re lazy, cheap, or you just plain don’t want to deal with all this crap I’ve rambled on about above, this option works like a champ. Before you hit the road purchase a couple 10 gallon jugs of water for drinking. Shower & use the toilets in the facilities at the campground (they’re usually heated during the winter). Of course this means when nature calls you have to high tail it through the freezing weather to use the Jon, but at least you don’t have to worry about your pipes freezing! If you decide to go this route make sure you stay in the site located closest to shower and bathroom facilities, you’ll thank me later.
Do you RV in the Winter? Have some of your own tips? Share them with the world below in the comment box.
Please know these tips are just that: Tips. I cannot guarantee that your RV won’t freeze, or that your vacation will go perfectly. If you’re new to winter RVing make sure you read the comments, there are so many great tips from our friends! That said enjoy the cold, we sure do!
Below are continual updates as we run into new winter camping adventures. Keep checking back as we are always learn something new that must be shared:
01/2014 We Froze: Fleetwood Excursion
With all the tips and tricks we’ve shared there are so many variables that are unknown when winter camping for the first time in a new RV. Here are some of the vulnerabilities we found with the Fleetwood Excursion for Winter RVing:
Issue: Fresh Water Freezes – We realized the fresh water tank is not well protected so in sustained temperatures below 30 degrees the fresh water tank will freeze.
Solution: We purchased a $20 space heater with a variable thermostat so when the temps fall below freezing the space heater kicks on and off keeping the bay warm while using as little electricity as possible. Once we put the heater in the bay we didn’t freeze again.
Issue: Water Lines Freeze – When temps fall in the single digits our lines from the hot water tank freeze. (The cold water will still work in the kitchen because the freshwater tank is not frozen and the lines come from the bays that are heated with space heaters.) The lines sit on the floor very close to the wall behind cabinet drawers, a typical location for many RVs.
Solution: This issue happened twice in very cold weather. We decided not to bother with a fix since the temps were rising in the coming days. The issue could be fixed with multiple options but I would do one of these: 1) skirting adds an extra layer of insulation and will keep the basement compartment warmer, thus keeping the floors warmer. 2) Install pipe insulation around all lines that sit on the floor and/or touch the outside walls. If you’re planning to be in sub-zero temps for multiple days you might want to do both.
02/2013 The Perfect Solution for Not Freezing
After a month of staying in overnight freezing temperatures I’ve finally figured out the perfect solution to keeping your RV from freezing, it’s really the only guaranteed way to keep those RV pipes running: Drive to warmer temperatures. 🙂 Oh yea, there is one other way that’s a guarantee: winterize your RV!
If you’re like me and not willing to do either of these then here’s what the past month has taught me (based on the Monaco Vesta):
1. Arizona Does freeze, it may be rare in the valley but it does happen (and it happens often in the higher elevations).
2. An overnight freeze will not burst your pipes, however multiple freezes without thawing can.
3. The RV tank heating pad does not work for a full tank of water.
4. Skirting your RV is the absolute best way to protect your RV from freezing.If you can’t skirt your RV here’s the formula that has worked for me in temperatures down to 0 degrees Fahrenheit at night, and temperatures in the 30’s during the day.
1. Fill freshwater tank to 1/3
2. Disconnect water hose
3. Empty Black and Grey water to 1/3 or less (but not empty)
4. Remove sewer hose and close any openings in bays
5. Turn on RV tank heating pads (assuming you have pads on each tank)
6. Turn on mini wet bay heater
7. Set propane furnace to 55 or higher (depending on your preference)
8. Turn on the strongest, warmest space heater you can find
9. Cuddle up under a nice, thick, warm blanket and enjoy the snow. This simple formula worked for us for several nights in a row of sub-freezing nightly temperatures. Each day it warmed up in the high 20’s or low 30’s, which is still freezing but we were able to keep all our pipes from freezing using these simple steps.
If none of my tips make any sense than I suggest you read the main part of the post below, we’ve stayed in freezing temps for years now, and we absolutely love the solidarity of cold weather camping. Also if you want to learn a little more our friend Tom Conces left a very detailed comment in the comments section that you absolutely must read.
01/14/2013 Our RV Pipes FROZE – Monaco Vesta
It’s official, we froze! Well, to be more clear our freshwater tank froze. After surviving months in the Colorado Rockies without freezing, imagine our surprise when we froze solid in AZ! Well, I honestly can’t believe it. After careful consideration, and a talk with the service technicians at Monaco here’s what I’ve learned about our Vesta, and this applies to most any RV that’s not completely sealed.
Let me setup the situation:
01/11/2013 – High 22 Low -9 We did not freeze
01/12/2013 – High 22 Low -5 Tank froze till noon
01/13/2013 – High 29 Low 0 Tank froze till 2pm
01/14/2013 – High 30 Low 6 Tank froze till noon
I followed all my own directions as notated in this original post below EXCEPT for skirting. I don’t have a skirt for our Windy, and there was no snow on the ground so I couldn’t make an impromptu skirt. So today we’re a little more wise and humbly we offer a few new points on preparing your RV for Winter:1. Skirting – Anytime the temperatures will be sub 30 for more than a half day adding a skirt is the BEST way to keep your RV from freezing. If we would have skirted our Motorhome this wouldn’t have been an issue. That’s what I get for being lazy!
2. The 12 volt tank blankets will not keep a full freshwater tank from freezing. Granted they will help thaw the tanks, but when the temp drops near zero don’t expect those little heating pads to do much of anything.
3. Frozen tanks don’t unfreeze easily. If you’re not skirted then any warmth that is generated under your RV will simply blow away. Also when the sun comes out the bottom of your RV (where your tanks are likely located) is still in shade. So unless the temps go over 35 degrees for an extended period of time you’re tanks won’t unfreeze.
4. Turn off your Water Pump. If your tank freezes your water pump will burn up trying to run, so don’t risk it. When you go to bed turn off your pump.
5. Keep on your electric water heater. Don’t blow up your water heater with freezing water. Keep the electric heater on in order to keep your tank from bursting with freezing water.
6. 30 Amp Sucks! The campground we’re at only has 30A hookups. When I’m using my 2 space heaters, the electric water heater, refrigerator and the engine block heater we’re pulling 29 amps. That means we must remember to turn off the heaters when using any other appliances. If you’re RV only has 30A, I’m sorry cause that is a major pain!
7. RV’s aren’t air tight. I don’t care if you’re in a $2,000,000 bus or a $5,000 trailer your RV is not sealed like a bricks and sticks home. Cold air leaks in under the slides, permeates through the walls, and seeps through the windows. If you plan to stay in freezing weather for an extended period of time locate those drafty areas and throw a blanket over them. For our Windy it’s amazing how much cold air comes in through the entry door area, so I cover the stairwell with a piece of board and my rug at night.
8. Use the propane furnace. I don’t care how many space heaters you have going, if it’s 0 degrees outside those little heaters won’t keep the entire coach warm. We set our furnace to 55 degrees and we’ll hear it kick on throughout the night. Our philosophy: a $30 propane bill is much better than a $300 busted pipe bill!
9. Suck it up and do the walk of shame. When the pipes are frozen, don’t expect them to thaw anytime soon. Pack up your dop kit, and throw on your coat, cause you’re walkin’ to the shower facility to drop that morning constitution.
2011 – 2013 Keeping our Monaco Vesta from Freezing in Winter
I have a detailed post on How to Prepare the Monaco Vesta for Winter if you’d like to read it over. Basically it’s the same as the Damon Avanti which I’ve addressed in the previous toggle except the RV Electric/Propane fridge in the Vesta has an Ice Maker. So in extreme temps I had to drain the ice line filter and turn off the water. In addition I used a small space heater in the vent area for extremely cold nights so the pipes wouldn’t burst.
2010 – 2011 Keeping our Damon Avanti RV from Freezing in Winter
This RV was our first to take on a Winter adventure. This is where we learned most of our tips and tricks as we made the most mistakes with this RV. Really the number one thing we did was install skirting made from heavy duty vinyl fabric. We brought the skirting above the bay doors to help insulate the items in the bays. The biggest difference between the Damon Avanti and our Fleetwood Excursion is the basement. The Avanti is a Front Engine Diesel so there is no basement, so the tanks are exposed without skirting. The major benefit to this type of RV is once we skirt we simply put a space heater underneath the skirting and it kept most everything from freezing. All the basic other rules we’ve outlined apply with this RV as well.EXCEPT – we used a 60 watt light bulb inside a standard ‘hanging trouble light’ fixture to keep the wet bay warm. Over the process of 10 days the bulb eventually started to melt the plastic bay. This is why I do not use a light bulb anymore.The other difference is the RV Electric/Propane fridge – To keep cold air from seeping in we used duct tape to cover the vents located on the outside of the RV.
2014 All Electric Tips from a Fellow Winter RV Traveler
Tom Conces is a friend we’ve bumped into on the road several times over the past few years. He reached out to me a little over a year ago and asked “what do I need to do to survive in my RV during freezing temperatures?” Ya see Tom is a much crazier photographer than I am, he wanted to park his RV in subzero temps in order to photograph bald eagles as they swoop down in the snow banked rivers to catch fish. I told him you’re crazy, then I said read our post on How to Prepare an RV for a Freezing Winter Adventure. Needless to say Tom learned a few things while freezing his tail off in the Midwest during Winter, so I thought he should share his experiences (from the horse’s mouth as the saying goes).
Lorraine and I just watched your videos (01/29/2014) on staying thawed and would like to say great job!
As you may know, this year we have been through snow and ice in 4 states, well 3 and 1 twice. I have a couple of suggestions that you might want to use in supplemental videos.
We are all electric with no propane, now what? Hydronic heating (Aqua Hot) can rely upon a diesel burner for furnace instead of propane. As you correctly pointed out diesel additive is necessary to keep the fuel liquid. We have learned that even though we treat our fuel it remains very cold. Cold diesel doesn’t completely burn and the exhaust can be very smokey and very smelly.
1. Smokey: a makeshift chimney from aluminum clothes dryer vent attached to the diesel burner exhaust and raised above the coach so the smell stays on the outside. You correctly pointed out there is no such thing as a sealed RV.
2. Cold Diesel: I haven’t tried this one but it was suggested that heat tape could be wrapped around the diesel supply line to the diesel burner to pre-heat the diesel. Similar to what happens when you turn your key and the engine manifold pre-heats fuel for your engine.
Other Winter RV Tips:
3. Keep the fresh water and pipes from freezing: In my humble opinion your tips and tricks are spot on. I do have an observation and suggestion to make. Your efforts are targeting the “sewer bay” on the driver side of the RV. When we froze in Louisiana, it was the passenger side that was vulnerable. Our fresh water tank has an overflow vent on the passenger side. When the water in the tank freezes, like a pond the top of the water freezes first. In our case that prevented us from putting water into the tank and we ended up with a small crack in the tank. Fortunately, it was on the edge and was easily fixed. I think the freezing occurred because our efforts were on the “sewer bay” side and not the other. I think the answer here is another small space heater on the passenger side of the RV.
4. Skirting as you pointed out is an absolute must: I love the snow piled up, cost effective and highly efficient. What if there’s no snow? Home Depot or Lowes or ? sell the reflective bubble insulation in 15″ widths up to 5′ widths. The narrow widths can be used to skirt the sides and they can be held in place by the basement doors. You may need to make cuts to go over hardware but are very effective.
5. Insulation: We also use the reflective insulation for the front and rear over the engine vents and inside windshield. I put snaps on the insulation so we can snap it to the existing snaps on the coach with keeps it from blowing away.
Sorry, I didn’t expect this to be so long but wanted to add to what you have done from the diesel perspective. You are both awesome, glad to see your enjoying your adventures.
Yesterday, we landed in San Antonio for a month. Thursday we expect more ice, enough already.
You can see some of Tom’s photographs and read Lorraine’s blog at navigatingtheunknown.blogspot.com
We were not compensated by anyone to create this post. This is all based on our experience over the past few years, read our disclaimer for more info.
RV camping in the winter is not as easy as it may seem. Before heading out, the most important thing to do is make sure your rig will be up to the rigors of winter camping. To ensure that your winter camping is very safe and relaxing, you will need to prepare your RV both internally as well as externally to ensure that it is set for the cold weather. A coat of RV Roof Magic on the surface of the RV roof is one of the best and simplest preventative measures you can do. RV Roof Magic is the most durable and reliable weather resistant solution you could use for your RV.
Jon D. R.
“The devil is in the details”- so I’ve heard. Lol Thank U so much for sharing your experience! Please let us know often, what products work best. -parked: 24’Aspen Trail, 2013.
These are really helpful tips to protect RV systems from freezing, reduce energy costs, and stay comfortable living in a camper in cold weather. As for as RV roof is concerned, liquid RV coatings can help your RV run more efficiently. By adding a layer of insulation, they help keep in the heat during the winter.
I live in Michigan. My 26′ travel trailer is winterized and has a sheet of factory coreplas (that corrugated plastic that political signs are made of) enclosing the entire underneath (no additional insulation, just the plastic). Meaning I can’t see tanks, pipes or other stuff, but it keeps rodents and mud out. I have never been winter camping, although I can test it in my yard anytime over the next couple of months. I am tuned in to everyone’s posts about skirting, and yes I will do first. I’m not sure how that works with a slide-out out but will research. If I did any winter camping it would be with the water system winterized with RV anti-freeze as it is now parked in my yard. I probably won’t do any winter boondocking and would look for campgrounds with power. I have 2 30# propane bottles on the tongue of the trailer where my two Interstate batteries are mounted and a portable propane generator with a separate 20# tank in my truck. My questions are: do propane lines and regulators freeze? and no one has mentioned batteries. How do I protect them since they would not be under a skirt. They are mounted on the a-frame that goes out to the hitch. Would they freeze?
Just computing and came across this forum. I already saved it as a favorite, thank you
Depends on where you’re camping! A quick Google search shows the boiling point of propane is -44 degrees Fahrenheit. So if you’re above -45, the propane is vapor and shouldn’t freeze in the tank. The regulator can freeze under some conditions – do a Google search to see. As for batteries that also depends on what kind of battery you have. You need to Google the type of battery plus operating temperature range to see what problems you might have.
Your -45 temp is spot on, your premise is horribly wrong. I’ve seen propane efficiency suffer on 80 deg days due to ‘freezing’.
Using large amounts of propane easily can cause freeze ups. It works the same way as your freezer does — vapors turns to a gas —turning to a gas causes the temperature to drop… also the colder propane is the less pressure there will be in the bottle even when full… so propane performance WILL suffer as the temperature of the tank drops and is complicated by drawing off continuous high volumes of fuel that the system wasn’t designed to tolerate in frigid conditions…
From The Icebox of the Nation
Unfortunately, I discovered this article only after attempting our first winter camping excursion in our “4 Season” “Arctic Package” Grand Design trailer. Everything you described going wrong, did. I thought we would be OK given the 4 season advertising of the trailer. In reviewing your fabulous article I will be much better prepared next time. I was wondering the type of heater you use under your skirting? The article just says ” an electric commercial heater under our RV”. What electric commercial heater is it?
You mentioned using PVC pipe for the sewer. How do you connect the PVC pipe to the black tank?
So $7/square foot is the average cost to remove affected areas, apply anti-microbial sprays to stop black mold growth, remove all raw sewage, and then dry out the property.
Can anyone help me with this one. We’re new to the winter RV life and are travelling around BC, Canada skiing. We have winterized the motorhome and its going very well. The only issue we have is that the rear tyre’s do not like to spin when we first start her up. Even with idling and warming up the engine. Reversing is fine, its when we put her into drive the tyres drag and don’t spin. We have been lucky enough to get it working after some persistence and luck (being parked on big flat locations where we can reverse and eventually kick in.
Is there something we are ding wrong? Is this common? Or does it more so sound like a mechanical issue to you?
Anyone with information I’d really appreciate so advice!! [email protected]
It Sounds like your rear brakes may be freezing up. Are you setting the parking brake? If so there is probably moisture in the brakes and when you set the parking brake, (which sets the rear brakes only) the brakes then cool and the moisture turns to ice, thus freezing the brake pads to the brake drum. I am assuming this is the trouble because they seem to release when you try to reverse, which is a common reaction to this problem.
Now for the solution, simply do not set your parking brake until your brakes have already cooled or don’t use the parking brake in cold weather at all. Use wheel chocks instead.
Hope this helps
Hey there! Great videos! Thank you so much!!
Where do you plug in the small space heaters to heat the bays?
Thank you, Russell
Hi Russell. Some RVs have built-in bay heaters. If yours doesn’t, you’ll have to see if you wet bay has an outlet. If it does you can plug in either a very small electric heater or an incandescent light bulb (not LED or fluorescent) will do the trick unless you’re in really cold temps.
Barry Wayne Ellis
Thanks for all the info I live in a rv trailer and this is my 1st year and up to now had no problem, I have a heated water supply line and it works great but this weekend my water drain lines frozze but after reading you post I know what I need to do THANKS
Thank you for this info it was very helpful I live on the road working pipeline jobs & working up North can be a challenge…..
Most interesting information. Wish you could help us with ideas as we leave Edmonton, Alberta for our new residence on Vancouver Island in January. The mountains are something else and we seniors are truly concerned about this upcoming journey with our truck and 32ft travel trailer. Any suggestions would be much appreciated. Thanks.
I just saw all videos and it was educational but how do we keep our water warm when taking showers and we get window connsisaion. Should i leave the heater on and for how long
Thank you so much for your clear and concise answers to winter R.V. use. You not only answered my questions but brought up a bunch of things I had not thought of. I am taking a 33′ allegro from the Oregon Coast to Longmont Colorado area the 1st of December. Not the best time of year but got into an experimental medical trial for a catastrophic nervous system failure condition I got from an IED serving in the military while in Iraq. It is my last hope so going to go for it. Until I find housing there I will be staying in the Allegro. I feel much more confident now that I have reviewed your sight. It made the wife a lot more comfortable as well. Once again thank you for the wonderful information
Wishing you all the best for the holidays and hope you have a GREAT New Year.
Thanks for your service!
Thank you very much for posting, this is very helpfull
We’ve camped in Mammoth and Park City over the winter months. I haven’t needed chains yet but am seriously considering getting them. Have you actually ever put the chains on your rig? I have a Class A DP, 39′ and tried to find low profile chains for both the front and rear. I am not retired so I don’t necessarily have the flexibility of waiting out the storm.
On-Spot chains. Where do you camp in Mammoth and Park City in the winter?
I’m very glad I found this site.
I am downsizing from my apartment to live in my new Camper full-time.
I am realizing I won’t have a water line regardless… so it looks like the campsite bathrooms it is! I will be thankful anyway to not have to worry or deal with freezing water lines.
I will (hopefully) be staying in the local KOA.
Any tips, tricks, etc. are GREATLY appreciated as I am a single female with two pups that are taking this on.
Hi Kelsey, is my first winter and I tru to living a complete time in my RV, great with all this wonderful help.
I would like ti know how was your experience!
Have a great time
Thank you for having this advice & the all the people who had tips too!
Just wondering if someone has advice on what’s best to do.. winterize water system in your 5th wheel camper while driving down the road in 20 degrees or lower temps outside. Or just empty your lines and tanks.. what works best….
We simply run a small space heater in the RV wet bay while driving, you can get ones that will plug into a 12v outlet. Works for us, but can’t say for sure on a towable.
lived full time 3 years, in Colorado in mountains in a optimized 1989 truck camper (since upgraded to a bigfoot 4 season camper built in british columbia specifically FOR winter camping. The bigfoot should allow water in pipes not to freeze, so I am told. they also make class C rvs. the construction is the best of any RV I have ever seen. better than artic fox truck campers because its 2 pieces of boat hull fiberglass clamshelled together top and bottom, no seams, just the windows. plus extra insulation.
never stayed at RV park & I never put fresh water in my old camper in winter. I bought several 1 gallon water bottles to use. I would NEVER put water in black tank in winter, only “flush” with RV antifreeze, poured out of the bottle, (the toilet kind, not the automotive engine kind fyi). pouring out of the bottle allows for fine control of amount of liquid you are pouring in your very limited black tank as well as antifreeze. I would always seek other places to use restrooms whenever possible, but would use mine in a pinch. preferably guys, can recycle the water bottles as well, to save room in black tank for what is really important, but you still need some antifreeze else will get frozen. I find putting 1 gallon antifreeze in when empty is a good start and then add about 12 oz each time #2.
I also had no problem (using furnace) plus leaving stove on low, 1 burner, sometimes 2, on LOW overnight. yes had a CO detector that never went off. initially cracked window or vent, but found it was not needed and defeated the heat from stove.
I came up with that solution when furnace broke, and gas valve was fixed within a few days, but had to make due with the stove alone for a few days. keep in mind, my camper is MUCH less cubic feet to heat and probably better insulated than a 25-35 ft class C or class A rv.
I have looked into propane wall heaters (and used them in houses) and using in the RV, but for simplicity, the stove effectively is 100% identical. not vented, burning propane at a fairly low rate. my truck camper would use 1 bbq tank of propane per 7 days in colorado winter. thats $20 exchange for BBQ tank. (bbq tanks can hold 20 lbs, when refilled, but only 15 lbs when exchanged because the exchange companies just want to make more money and charge more and give you less, so if your trying to calculate gallons of propane used, I dont know, I only know lbs, do your own conversion.) There are 2 kind of wall heaters, infrared & blue flame. I would say infrared is better at throwing heat further distance, but they are identical as far as CO and humidity goes, because they are not vented and burning the same amount of propane for same BTUs output. Blue flame is = stove top flame.
The electric blower motor in your furnace in your RV uses MOST of the electricity usage, in your RV, BY FAR. I had 4 of the biggest deep cycle batteries walmart makes in my RV, each 29 size and each 125 amp hours, so 500 amp hours. (for my truck camper) vs class A with 500 amp hours, you are woefully underpowered for dry camping, unless you want to be running your generator a lot. I have ad a honda 1000 generator, but I found i never needed to use it, and the inconvenience of dragging it out, gassing it up, chaining it up, and then packing up and storing, was not worth it. I DID however have zero guage wire from batteries to alternator in truck to recharge them that worked great. batteries lasted 2 years before needed replacing. Id reccomend the 29DC – MAXX not the regular 29DC, as maxx has 1 year warranty (used to be 2), and slightly more amp hours and better built.
By supplementing heat from stove top, you can also further reduce your electric usage, and when running on batteries, that is very important, especially if you dont recharge them often, (or move vehicle often). If you feel more confortable buying a wall heater, and plumbing the propane line and mounting it somewhere, fine too, but stovetop is a LOT easier, cheaper, requires no installation or storage of the heater appliance and same benefit.
Propane heat is ALWAYS going to be cheaper & more efficient than electric heat.
my cost 80-100 per month in 4 x propane at exchange bbq tank prices at 20-25 each, would be 50 or so with refill by the gallon prices.
If your going to be mobile & winter camp, strongly suggest winterize your plumbing (no water or shower, but you still can use toilet using RV / toilet / plumbing anti freeze OR upgrade to 4 season RV of your choosing, if you want to avoid all the complicated and expensive and laborious freezing issues and work around.
If your going to be stationary and want to add skirting & heat tape, etc, go for it!
Also strongly suggest if mobile & winter camping and only 1 or 2 people to go with truck camper as highly efficient, and a 11.5 ft long camper can be actually quite huge, as that doesnt include the over the cab bed in sq ft, only the floor of the truck bed. so 80-90 sq ft floor + 50 sq ft bed area= 130-140 sq ft. Also a lot of privacy, as camper is up VERY high, as opposed to class B or C. For winter camping, you can not get better than a truck camper if just 1 or 2 people for ease of use and efficiency heating. Another bonus is my truck is 4×4. To pickup a 4×4 class C or other specialized RV, your going to pay a lot more. Also service on a pickup truck is a lot less at a local mechanic vs RV dealer or Diesel mechanic shop. I definately reccomend diesel pickup truck though. and I get 12-13 mpg loaded with camper and 17-18 unloaded. specifically 7.3L Ford Diesel engine (and ONLY that engine 99-2002 if you are shopping for a used truck) and yes it started down to 10 degrees farenheit, which was amazing. Yes a 250 or 2500 series truck can handle a 11.5 ft camper, but if you can afford a F350 or 3500 truck, the extra 2 wheels in the back, DO add a lot of stability and allow much easier & safer & faster driving, think no body roll around corners and winding highways at speed.
old camper black tank 10 gallons
new camper black tank 20 gallons = much better !!
also if shopping around, find whatever RV you want with biggest tanks you can get in that class RV that you can afford. bigger tanks really do make your life a lot easier.
Hope this helps – Good luck everyone
Just wanted to give you a tip on window treatments. I read that you guys have used curtains, bubble wrap, etc. We have just started on our cold weather excursion (currently in northwestern Montana) and wanted to share what we did for sealing our windows. 3M makes clear window treatments that come in multiple sizes. Normally, they are for use in a residential home, but we found them to work equally well in our 5er. Using double sided tape around the frames of the windows, they make a tight, clear seal and both keeps the air leaks from coming in and forms an air pocket between the glass and plastic film that acts as an insulator. SInce air is a poor conductor of heat, it makes a huge difference in keeping our RV warmer in the winter while still allowing full light to enter. We’ll be putting a winter post up on our blog shortly. Granted, we are from Florida, so I’m not sure who’s going to take our advice, but we both did grow up in Colorado and Pennsylvania, respectively! Hope this helps!
Eric and Jeanine Libby
I love your site and the ideas/videos, but I’m perplexed by your statement that propane RV furnaces introduce moisture into the coach. Yes, propane combustion does give off significant water vapor, however with a vented furnace (which most RVs have) all of the combustion materials including water vapor should be vented directly out by the furnace and never goes inside the coach: zero added moisture. Can you clarify? Thanks
The humidity goes up when we run our furnace, its our experience and we have confirmed the same with the furnace mfr.
so is it worth it to buy these “winterized” “polarized” rv’s (fifth wheel to be exact) or just buy a regular and do the winterizing ourselves. My significant other is very handy and good with tools. We are looking for something between 27-30ft and plan to hit up mammoth and big bear.
So many companies say “4 season’s” but it’s best to understand exactly what that means. You’ll need to contact the mfr, and NOT a salesperson, to get the specific temperature ratings.
I hoarded propak fish transport lids from petsmart to insulate my rv windows. Tape them on the inside then stretched shipping plastic wrap to create a seal. I also used these lids to line my spigot well and water entry point. Hit up your petsmart on fridays or wednsdays when they get a fish shipment in and ask the manager if you can have them they just throw them away.
ha ha, great tip and great way to recycle something that would have ended up in the trash!
Thank you for your videos! We’re finding them very helpful. We are in the early stages of trying to finding the right RV for our family. Can a “cold weather package or winter package” be added after an RV is already built and what would that include? I’ve noticed some RV’s that have a sticker that says winter package on it and we’re wondering what that means.
usually a “cold weather package’ is a joke, they put a little heating blanket on the holding tanks and that’s about it. Of course it varies based on the mfr, but no matter what if you plan to hit freezing temps you’ll want to have some of the items we’ve mentioned on board.
I am searching and searching your site for your Adventures/Advice about the Avanti. We are considering purchasing a 2010 Avanti. We are inhaling every bit of info you have on your site, and truly find it invaluable. You guys are the best!!!!!!! To buy or not buy…help!!!
We’ll made videos and soooo helpful. You guys are fantastic. My wife and I are considering an RV but wanted be able to hit the coast for beach fun/fishing and mountains for snow sports. After watching your video I’m convinced it can be done. Thanks!
My friend who used to live on a boat told me about Goldenrod heaters to remove condensation and keep mold from growing. I’m a minivan camper and have not tried them yet, but would consider them if I did winter camping. They get good reviews on amazon. Love your blog!
I will have to check them out. Thanks for sharing!
Great tips! I boondocked for an entire winter in Canada a few years ago, it reaches -45C a few times. Once you get your trailer, appliances and technique dialed in it’s very enjoyable! I wish I would have documented the entire experience. All of the points above are very useful. Another few lessons I’ve learned is to use flex to direct your exhaust from your generator to your lp tanks when it gets really cold, as well as keeping the battery bank warm helps a lot. When I did my winter adventure I was constantly searching for drafts and cold spots to remedy, and believe me, when you don’t see warmer than -20C for months it’s almost a constant challenge. Be creative, be safe! Never get discouraged!
Have you looked into custom skirting your RV?
We had skirting on our Avanti and it worked well. However, not really worth the investment for us unless we were going to spend the whole season (or multiple) and so far, that hasn’t been the case.
I boondock regularly in the winter in freezing temps. I use a Mr. Heater during waking hours and the onboard propane heater at night (for safety reasons). Water lines are winterized. I bring several 7-gallon water jugs w/ built-in faucets and use a pitcher to “flush” the toilet.
I could go to a campground with power but honestly, this is the only time of year I can camp in complete solitude. Yes, I probably use $20 per day in propane and generator gas, but the peace & quiet is worth it!
Right there with you! Wild Camping isn’t about not spending money on a campground but the opportunity to really enjoy nature, the peace and the solitude!
How do u keep everything from sweating?
We are getting ready to do our first cold weather camping and these videos and blogs have been very helpful. I’ve purchased a number of the items you’ve purchased. I have a specific question about the space heater. We purchased one of the models you recommend. It’s the one that you show using in your wet bay in the video. It just arrived and the instructions that come with it are very emphatic about not using an extension cord with it. Have you been OK doing so? Or are you lucky enough to have an outlet in your wet bay or at least accessible from it? The cord it comes with is not long enough to plug to external power unless we will be lucky enough to park our wet bay right next to the electrical hookup.
we are lucky enough that fleetwood installed outlets in some of the bays so we have not needed an extension cord. When we have used extension cords in the past, we always added a surge protector and have not had any issues.
I was considering something like this:
It seems it might help with the propane bill in cold weather while still using the existing rv ducting. Of course, that’s assuming that the electric at the rv park you’re at is either included in the cost or is billed at a lesser rate than what propane would cost.
We just came from Cloudcroft, NM with freezing temps at night and 50’s during the days. We blew through $40 worth of electricity in 8 days, and that was at a rate of $0.15kwh. Not sure how much cheaper it is vs. propane but I do know either way you’re gonna spend money camping in freezing temps.
Thanks for all the info! Have you run into any problems with tripping breakers by running multiple space heaters?
no, but each coach is wired differently (some pretty terrible) so it is possible and I would suggest using different outlets for each heater.
Consider using two different circuits, not just different outlets, since two or more electric heaters can draw more than the 15 amps allowed on any one circuit. This can be tested by shutting off circuit breakers to determine which outlet is on which circuit. If you must use the same circuit, use a 15 amp power strip that prevents overloading a circuit and plug both heaters into that. (former firefighter)
Thanks Kevin. Another thing we’ve been told is never run a space heater on an extension cord. I find this difficult to do sometimes because the space heaters have such short cords. In general wouldn’t it be ok to run a heavy gauge extension cord?
Yes, you can use a correctly rated extension cord for temporary use. A 20 amp cord minimum for a 1500 watt (12.5amp) heater. Add a surge protector for more safety. The cord could accumulate heat if coiled in closed space next to combustibles, like your plastic RV compartment. Fire from electrical overload is very real and RV’s burn very fast, which is why they all have a second exit in or near the bedroom out the window. Extension cords are prohibited because most people would not follow the safety precautions. RV’ers should! Check your smoke detector for early warning at night. (yes, this sounds like too much concern, but fires happen and RV’s burn fully in minutes)
We’ve learned to feed the extension cord through our slide to the outside box and hook up the cords there. The breakers haven’t trip since then. Just use a cord with built in gfi that’s heavy duty.
It’s already below freezingactually 19° and we have not winterized yet I do not see a break in the cold and I am wondering if we just turn the heat on in our camper if we can go ahead and winterize it in this cold weather before something does get destroyed?
Its not just the heat inside your rig, you will also need to do some skirting to keep the underneath from getting too cold. I would do whatever you can as soon as possible!
Full Time RVer
My boyfriend and I have been living full time in our 81 Lindy for two years now in Colorado. It has been challenging but a huge learning experience. We chose to live this was mainly because we want to save money to buy a house of our own one day and we don’t like renting. We have woke up to an exploded water heater due to the -30 degree weather and have learned that the wind chill is our biggest problem. We winterized it once for a week while we had a new water heater installed but we have made a habit of checking the water every half hour and when necessary; standing in the cold to blow dry our pipes until the water runs. We have heating tape on all the pipes and heating pads on all the tanks which does a pretty good job on keeping us safe but every day is another adventure in an RV and no matter what precautions you take nothing is guaranteed. We just recently learned that we can not run the space heater and cook anything (stove, oven, microwave, toaster) at the same time without our water heater freezing but if we turn the space heater off it drops several degrees and it’s a battle to get the heat back up.
We enjoy this lifestyle and the challenges that come with it.
Thanks for sharing! You are correct there are no guarantees when it comes to Winter camping, thanks for taking the time to share and we feel your pain.
Some newer RV’s have a dual water heater, propane for wild camping and electric for hook-ups. When hooked up, keep on the electric to keep the water heater warm and use the campground electricity. If winter camping, consider an upgrade for an older RV.
Good call Kevin, we have that type of water heater and it works well. The only downside is you’ll need 50a power to the RV otherwise you’ll be poppin breakers left and right.
Typical RV power pedestals have two circuits, a 30 amp and a 15 amp. Hook them together to get 45 amps with a RV Power Splitter Motorhome Park Power Source Adapter (15AMPs 30AMPs = 45AMPs). I have not used this device, but it exists.
This is very educational, I am thinking of taking my travel trailer up to the northwestern states next year, and being up there during a cold season might be a chance of a lifetime. Love all your tips and gadgets.
Loved all the info. I will be winter camping this year in my 2008 Itasca Maridian motorhome. Will be in the coach three to four days a week. I ‘m a marketing person for a company that’s in the midwest. will be in Missouri, Kansas, Iowa and Nebraska. Will try and hook up to shore poer when possible but will always have the diesel generator to fall back on when camping at Wal-Mart parking lot.. I understand the skirting around the bottom and the benifits but with the short amount of time in between locations this is not practical. I will try insulation in the wet bay along with small heaters in basement and wet bay areas. I will also try space heaters in the coach along with reflective insulation sheeting. Went camping this past weekend with family it got down to +25 degrees. I went through 3/4 tank of propane in there nights. The furnace would turn on and off about every 5 to 10 min. apart . The coach would warm up and within 2min after shut down you could feel the temp drop inside coach. Any other ideas would be great. Heat pump did great during the daytime temps in the 50s
Great videos and info…..thanks so much. Where did you purchase the floor insulation in your RV basement?
In our new article coming out tomorrow about wild camping we link to the silver bubble insulation, the product is called reflectix.
The inexpensive single bubble layer Reflectix in Home Depot is R-1.1! Doubling it will give you an added R-1.1 The high R-values one might see for the product is when it is installed with a large, enclosed air space (two layers in 8″ ceiling joist cavity are R-21). “The thermal value of the insulation system will vary depending on the size of the air spaces and the direction of heat flow.” Thus a layer on a ceiling is R-7 in summer and R-1 in winter.
Pasting it right onto RV windows or walls (like inside cabinets) will do almost zero insulation.
There are a thousands of tips about using it in RVs and thousands of RVers with Reflectix stuck all over the place. They are not increasing the insulation by any appreciable amount.
Occasionally, on a forum thread telling everyone to cover their RV in Reflectix, someone (me?) tries to tell everyone the above information and they (me?) get flamed off the thread. Or, my favorite reponse, “I know it doesn’t insulate but I’m going to do it anyway.” This from a guy who was, literally, dismantling his truck camper so he could line everythng with Reflectix.
Happy RVing to all and may the wind be at your backs.
Andreia, Azad and Sophia Tarikian
Andreia, Azad and Sophia here from Deerfield Beach, FL.
Saw your videos and already learned a lot on winter Rv’ing We are planing a trip to CO and NM from 12/20 to 01/10/15 on our 2013 Fleetwood Bounder Gas RV towing a Jeep Wrangler JKU.
Our planned route is http://goo.gl/maps/NoujD (not sure about roads conditions during this time of year in the mountains….)
Idea is to see snow (lot’s) during Xmas…
As we are not planning on staying a LONG time in one place I think with the space heaters and eventually the furnace we will be fine.
Only concerning is really the roads on the mountains. Do you know those area from Boulder to Aspen and from Aspen to Paonia and on?
Do you know the north NM area? (Los Alamos)
Any tip an suggestions will be very welcome!
Thanks a lot!!!!
How do I know if my outside holding tank heaters are turning on or working?
Also, Nikki mentions the large amount of moisture created by running the propane furnace. Unless I don’t understand the process entirely, RV furnaces are vented to the outside, and should produce very little, if any additional moisture inside the coach. They work quite similar to a gas furnace in a home. The furnace in our home is natural gas and even when it runs a lot, there is no additional moisture in the house. Now if you have a gas space heater, that’s entirely different, as all of the moisture by product from combustion stays inside the coach.
One thing we learned from camping in cold temps (and sorry if this has been mentioned already) – is that the basement bays won’t be kept above freezing unless the furnace is running, and while using space heaters up above, our furnace wouldn’t always cycle on. So, interestingly our water was more apt to freeze at 25 degrees than it was at 15 degrees, because at 15 degrees the space heater couldn’t keep up, and the furnace ran more, keeping the basement warmer. If that makes any sense. Bottom line, if the furnace isn’t running, the basement gets cold. That was the case in our coach, and I know not all coaches are the same in this respect.
I plan to be gone for one week and plan to run the propane heater on 58 degrees. Th lowes for the week are in the upper 20’s, with the highs in the 50’s. Have plenty of propane. Have you run RV fulltime for that long without difficult.
Will you be plugged in? Remember the propane furnace uses quite a bit of power so you’re batteries will run down quickly in freezing temps.
Yes, I will be plugged in the whole week.
We’re looking at both a Provan Tiger Bengal TX and a LTV Unity 24TB. We want to drive from our ABQ home to Durango CO, Molas Pass and the Million Dollar Highway. Trips to Chaco Culture NHP (13 miles of dirt road) are also on the menu.
We love the snow and the mountains. My question is, do we need the Tiger’s 4wd for winter travel with possible snow and rough road conditions, or is the Unity’s dualie 2wd and turbo V6 power enough?
We’re concerned about sliding, traction, and control in winter driving conditions.
I would say for extreme winter driving, long dirt roads and misc. other adventures I’d go with a Tiger, Sportsmobile, GT-RV, Earthroamer, or an Outside Van. I’m sure there’s other brands out there but I’ve seen all these in person and they seem like quality “off-roaders”.
Hi. I’ve been reading your blog and watching your videos and would like to consider something like this to start in a few years…soaking up your knowledge!
I live in the cold state of Maine tho, so I’m thinking winters are going to be difficult. There aren’t year-round campgrounds and temps dip easily below zero.
How well do the solar panels work in extreme conditions like that, or do they just not work at all?
During the winter solar is less effective, and the further North you are the less sun you get…If you plan to camp during the winter in Maine I would highly recommend you have a 30a or 50a plug to power your RV.
Regarding: Keeping your bed warm.
Yes on the dual sided heated mattress pad. Your friend in the winter! This winter I slept on an 8″ memory foam mattress, topped with the heated mattress pad, then a 3″ memory foam on top of that. I turned on the mattress pad about an hour before I go to bed (if it isnt already on!). I cranked it up to High and turned it down to 3 or 4 when I got in bed. It will warm up the top pad. When you get in bed the top MF is soft and as you sink into it you get the warmth rising. This winter I was in a really, really cold cinderblock house in the Midwest. Last winter I did this in my Teardrop trailer with a 4″ regular foam mattress, the heated mattress pad and the 3″ of MF.
Thanks for your highly helpful field research!
Thanks for sharing your tip on the extra padding between you and the heated mattress pad. I hadn’t thought of that!
We snow ski and like to boondock in the ski resort parking lot. I didn’t have time to read all the comments so I hope I am not repeating info. We own a Born Free class C motorhome.
Snowed in- snow is a good insulator no choice when it snows 4′ feet in a night. A pipe vent is good to keep the generator fumes away. Bubble insulation custom cut for each window and door. Velcro in place and then stick to walls and ceiling when not in use. Roll up large pieces and put in corners to store. Works great for the ceiling vent too. Battery operated car blankets are great to keep warm. We also have body warmers, hand warmers, and toe warmers for skiing and for sleeping. Check the door for snow build up often, so you can open the door in the morning after a storm. Leave some snow on the roof if you are driving in icy conditions for traction. Shovel often if snowing during camping. Carbon Monoxide will build up around the bottom of the door. Make sure you have extra batteries and an extra carbon monoxide detector in case of malfunction. If only camping for a few days, freeze is okay. The tanks will thaw when you reach warmer temps. Just keep the liquid levels down in the tanks ie.; grey, black, water. No need to use anti-freeze. If the temps warm up during the day above freezing the tanks will thaw too. If you have access to a dumpster, we use the bags and some dry chemical the toilet. When they fill up we just tie up the bag and dump. It saves room in the black tank. We skip showers for a few days of skiing. We carry 2 sets of chains for the front and back tires, for really dangerous snow and ice travel. Keep the thermostat at a min. temp of 50 degrees. Keep a dehumidifier on the kitchen counter. Put a outside windshield wrap for warmth and to keep the snow off. Four people can usually boondock for several days. Enjoy your winter adventure and don’t forget a couple of shovels.
Thanks so much for the tips, it’s always nice to have multiple people share their take on winter RV camping.
Great information! My husband and I just purchased our first motorhome, a Thor Challenger 37GT that has 3 slide outs. We will be full timers and will be living in the rv in the cold, cold (and hot in the summer) Midwest for the next couple of years until we retire and head out to see the country. My question is, how do we keep the slide areas warm in the winter? Would you skirt the bottom of the rv, then also skirt around the slides? Or is there a way to insulate around the slide when it’s out? Looking forward to comments. Thanks!
P.S. And how do you deal with snow on the slide outs? I know we’ll have to clean the snow off the top of the slide, but do you have any tips for doing that without getting up on the slippery roof?
You could just use a ladder? I haven’t found any other solutions but I will have to ask around.
Just close the slide to dump the snow and then reopen.
Great tips! I would also include an extra pair of boots stashed away in the RV. You never know when you may need an additional pair.
nice call…you never know how deep its going to get!
Hi! I could have sworn I’ve been to this website before but after reading through some of
the post I realized it’s new to me. Nonetheless, I’m definitely glad I found
it and I’ll be book-marking and checking back
Glad to have you rollin’ with us!
Shalom to all!
DH and I live year round in our RV, and, of necessity, we often winter in Canada where the outside temps can drop to 50 below Celsius.
Since I’m in a wheelchair and can’t do as many outside chores as I used to, we decided that water was too big a problem and so don’t use it in our unit – except for in the toidy, in which we use antifreeze. We drink distilled water anyway, which we purchase in handy 5-gallon plastic jugs, so it’s no big deal. While it’s easy enough to wash oneself in most RV parks, we always carry Huggies soaked in a sterilizing liquid (one part vodka to five parts water) and that keeps what needs cleaning nice and fresh. 😉 We also use One-Step hand sanitizer routinely. Where we like to park, there are excellent rec centers not too far away, so on laundry day we enjoy a good long soak in the hot tub, and then a little time in the sauna, before heading for the showers
We make extensive use of carpet in our rig. We use triple underpad nontoxic insulation and 60-ounce woolen carpeting on all floors and walls. We have a Class A 28’Bounder, but she’s a 1986 model and likes to be kept warm. (Me too! Although I’m 1956 model, but… who’s counting?)
Since we rarely move more than two or three times a year, we are huge fans of plywood skirting, most of which we can pick up for next to nothing at building sites and dumps. We tape fiberglass panels, sealed in Mylar. to the wood and it works extremely well. We haven’t found we’ve needed any additional heating under the rig, but then we don’t leave a lot of space for air to accumulate.
At night, we use double foam insulation to keep the front window warm, but we put it away in the daytime, as I like looking outdoors.
We always run a 1500 watt space heater, usually at half power, at the entrance to the bedroom, and along with our -40 below Elk sleeping bags and our double down duvet on top of them, we find that we’re often *too* warm and have to get up and turn down the heater.
We cook with an electric plate, which works well for us, as our diet is simple because we’re both diabetic. We only use propane to run the fridge when we’re traveling, and have disconnected the propane hoses from the stove and furnace – we never use either – and we stuffed the vents with loads of rags years ago. We’ve never had a problem with rodents or bugs in any season.
‘Course, we do like to wear our handy dandy 3/4-length sweaters from Nepal, and the mukluks I make, but normal thermal underwear and track pants seem to take care of our legs. We do, of course, wear tee shirts and sometimes even a hoodie – if it’s REALLY cold, but that doesn’t happen too often.
We always wrap our computers (we need to carry five of ’em) in nice, thick towels before we bed them down for the night. I use the same kind of towels to cover our boombox and TV too, and we’ve never had a problem with malfunctioning electronics.
We tow a small runabout car to get us around wherever we are, and while she’s older too (a 1990 GMC Tracker), she’s terrific in the mountains and I’m dreading having to replace her. (We store our front-window foam in her during the daytime.)
We don’t have a lot of disposable cash, so living simply works well for us, and we couldn’t be happier – thank The Lord!
I’ve enjoyed reading your tips and watching your videos – thank you!
Jesse, You should come to Vancouver area, British Columbia, Very seldom do we get snow, only inland. It is always mild on the coast.
We love BC and Vancouver!
Hi. We have a Balboa Toy Hauler, which is insulated and semi winterized. One of the furnace vents forces hot air into the tank bay under the floor. This heats the floor under the bathroom and kitchen area, but you must leave the furnace on and burn propane. Our first experience was the poopsicle at Jackson Hole, WY at -18! tried to hammer that out with a hatchet, and of course, the hose was brittle and broke! Then it thawed 2 days later. AAAGGGHHHH!!!!. Next we camped 6 weeks in Glenwood springs to ski Aspen and Snowmass all winter. A fellow camper left his sewer drain open after he left and the whole system froze so we couldn’t even use the facilities toilets. Fortunately the manager brought in the big guys with a water jet to unplug the whole system. This was extremely expensive and took a full day. Then 2 weeks later the same camper returned, (gas well inspector) and did it all again. Wow. Poor park owner ate that bill twice.
We have camped at Tiger Run also and the temps got down to -9 F. We got the extended propane tank rented from the campground. We had all the issues and made a cardboard skirt and put a ceramic space heater underneath. That worked, though we left our sewer hooked up and only drained once a week and used the built in facilities during the day. We wrapped the exterior drain pipes with heat tape and insulation. We added hot water to the grey and black water tanks before flushing. Didn’t have a problem. Also made the heated water supply hose with heat tape and insulation. That never froze either. This year we are going back (in 2 weeks! YAY!) and are having a custom skirt made. Combined with the ceramic heater underneath, this should keep the whole thing warmer as well as stop any freezing of the water bay and plumbing. There is one weak link in our trailer, the water lines run through a cabinet, then back out behind the toilet, then under the bath tub, and then into another cabinet where the pump is. This froze twice. I rerouted one of the heater vents to heat the first cabinet by removing the vent exit and setting the vent tube to blow half of it’s air into the cabinet. Ugly but effective in an emergency. This year we are going to try running an LED rope light along that pipe run. This will double as a night light. They use very little power, and don’t get as hot as incandescent bulbs. Allegedly, the skirt and ceramic heater should fix everything but you never know! We’ll follow up as things progress. We agree that winter camping allows us to enjoy snowboarding and skiing places like Breckenridge Aspen, and Jackson Hole and actually afford it! And of course you can bring your doggie or kitty too.
Rope light addendum:
These are found at Lowe’s, Home Depot, or online at Amazon. They can plug together to make one long rope if needed, the published power consumption is .4 watts per foot, therefore a 10 foot rope uses 4 watts. I haven’t tested the actual heat generated yet. I’ll let you know….
Interesting idea, but I am not sure that would generate enough heat to keep your tanks or water lines from freezing? If you do test it out, please let us know! Good luck!
So here we are again in Tiger Run. We had a few problems en-route: Heater blower motor in the truck failed, fortunately they had one in Salt Lake City and it was warranted. Yay! Then the generator began spewing gas and failed. It smelled so strong we were afraid to light the furnace or fridge. We got a room instead and dried it out in the wind while going down the road. Fixed that yesterday in Salt Lake. Also had a skirt made for us by Zack, on the spot. Awesome! Thanks for that recommendation. Last night was our first time with a skirt, so an experiment. Outside temp was not to cold, 27 degrees, and the temp under the bay inside the skirt was 30. Ceramic heater on low. Nothing froze! We have the heat taped, insulated water inlet pipe instead of filling the tank. I find the water tastes better, and didn’t want to haul an 80 gallon ice block if we had a problem…. I have extra hoses if one freezes up. I therefore have not yet tried to use the LED rope light, but allow me to clarify, I was not intending to use this for the tanks, rather just running it along our water pipes inside the trailer like a heat tape, though I believe it won’t melt the pipes. In my case, I only need to keep them above freezing in the cabinet and behind the toity, and under the tub. The new discovery is that the skirt will probably solve this as our floor was the warmest it’s ever been last night! Also, the vent for the generator was hemorrhaging heat from under the skirt, so I temporarily stuffed some cardboard in there which brought the temp up a few degrees under the skirt. If the skirt fixes my internal pipe issues, then I will never know if the LED rope light works because I won’t bother to install it. It would be a royal pain to do so. We’ll keep you posted between trips up the mountains!
Awesome tips. We are camping in Tahoe this weekend and I can’t wait. hoping for snow and no rain!
I hope you have great snow, no frozen people or pipes and lots of warm beverages while taking in the views! Have fun!
Instead of a space heater we use a heat dish. It has two different settings, one at 800W and the other at 1200W. This is less wattage than a standard space heater so it uses less energy. It also produces more heat than the space heaters we were using that were at 1500W. Can’t recommend the Heat Dish enough!
Hey Bobbi, thanks for sharing your tip! Isn’t the Heat dish is kinda big (at least the one I have seen is) and wouldn’t work in small spaces in the bays. Which heat dish are you using?
We’ve got the Optimus heat dish and yes it is kinda big. But we are in a cold wet environment so we put up with the large size because is works so well. It will not fit in a compartment. A guy I used to work with was an RV tech, who lived in his RV for two years up here in the Northwest, and he told me to get a light bulb (one with the grips on it) and put it in your compartments. I did that this winter (our first in the RV) and we withstood temps down to 15 degrees F. This friend also recommended heat tape on the fresh water line. That worked great too.
The thing is with using a light bulb to be safe with it so it doesn’t melt anything in your compartments. Have a grip on the utility allowed me to secure it so that it didn’t melt anything.
Keep in mind melting is the first step to fire. That is why portable convection heaters are best for compartments, they are safer.
Hi Jason (and Nikki),
Love your site and travels, a great inspiration!
I was reading through your post on preparing your RV for winter, and would like to share the perspective of one living in northern Europe (Norway.)
*European type all-year RV’s (like Exploryx/Bocklet/Unicats/Action Mobil//etc, as well as the winter versions of Hymers/Concorde/etc.), will have some or all of three items: a heated fuel pre-filter, a heated airbox, and a diesel engine heater (works down to -40 Celsius). This unclogs/loosens/melts any wax in the diesel lines on the way to the engine.
*Diesel is mixed with additives and processed by the fuel companies in three stages (summer goes to -11 degrees, autumn/spring goes to -24 and winterdiesel goes to -32 Celsius), so here you do not have to worry as much about wax forming in the diesel. A tip is to not fill too much at lower altitudes, as gas-stations at higher/colder parts of the country will change over to the next “level” earlier in the season. so fill up when you get there, not before…
*Most European RV’s for winter will have all tanks (water/greywater/blackwater) inside the heated RV area, this means either placed under the bed/couch/sofa, or in a “double bottom” of the RV that is heated, where the insulation below the tanks is very thick at about 40-80 mm depending on model.
*Most will also utilize a water heating system with radiators (running on propane or diesel), here there is no added humidity from heating with the propane/diesel. Air heating is also used, but the air is collected from the inside, and not the outside of the RV, so no added humidity from the condensation formed where cold air meets warm air. However you do need to ventilate in addition to using the heater, if not your own breathing will use up your oxygen and add a lot of humidity.
*All waterlines are usually led along the heater pipes/ducts, so they will not freeze, but a slight snag is that the water will usually be warm from both cold and warm taps, until the warm water in the line has cleared and water is coming from the tank.
*Bays will be heated in most winter models, where heating outlets are mounted to let warm air in from the same heat source used for the main living area.
*Heat exchangers are mounted to let excess heat from the engine warm up the RV while driving, so you do not need to run the heater while on the move. Uses the same radiators as the propane/diesel heaters.
We use our Bimobil RV down to “as cold as it gets” here in Norway, and never do anything in particular for it to be fully usable in these conditions.
The above is not for the majority of summer campers, but it’s nice to be able to buy fully “winterized” RV’s for those who use them all year round. I think you have a couple of companies producing these types of RV’s (GXV, Earthroamer, Tiger, although they seem very expensive compared to your other brands.)
Thank you so much for the “Norway” take on winter RVing. There’s a lot of things about European RV’s that make us jealous…now we just have another one to add to the list! 🙂
I can’t help but notice you keep writing “CO2”, carbon dioxide, when you mean “CO”, carbon monoxide. This comes up in your video and your old post. Science!
AHHHH! Darn Science I always get those mixed up CO2 is what you breathe out and CO is from the car’s exhaust….making the changes now!
Good tips, although we prefer the “park the RV and head to the southern hemisphere” strategy for dealing with cold weather. Especially after this winter (11 degrees in TX???). Looking forward to next winter in Thailand. 🙂
We are at a campground near Richmond, VA, and while the temps are not too extreme they do get to freezing and lower, so the campground (thankfully) required us to take precautions for the outside water system.
We bought a heated water hose, heat tape and insulation to wrap the spigot which kept the water from freezing in the sustained 16 °F temps last night.
That said, there was no mention of our motorhome plumbing, and being the noob I am to cold weather camping, I awoke this morning to frozen house lines :p
The space heater is a great idea I will use from now on. Just hoping when things thaw we have no damage to deal with.
Thanks for the great tip(s) for winter camping!
Our pleasure to help TJ, we’ll be filming a video soon when we arrive in Breckenridge, CO in a few days.
I love it in Breckenridge! One of our all time favorite places to stop along our route from CA east and back is Copper Mountain .. last time we took the wonderful bike trail from Copper to Breckenridge .. was a lovely ride (until we had the brilliant idea to ride back up .. which I’d not advise unless you’re in amazing shape and / or used to the altitude :P)
Any issue with using the mini space heaters in the bays when you are away from the rig for a few days? We will be in Salt Lake City with our daughter at Christmas, staying at her place but leaving the rig hooked up at a local RV park.
we have not had any issues and have left that little space heater running for days on end…but as always, when you leave an electrical anything plugged in, there is always a risk.
Ok y’all there are some very intelligent RV people on this forum and I am not trying to be anti RV as I live in a 26ft Monaco trek at the moment. If you are ever in Portlandia please stop bye and say hello.
BUT, I am considering building my “forever” tiny home. I feel I need a structure that will have windows, roof, and systems that will outlast me and be better insulated and designed. PS Me being 46 LOL.
IF YOU could redesign your rv or build a mobile tiny house with no restrictions what would be some of our ingenious suggestions regarding winterizing and water systems?
I am considering rain water collection from the roof and a possible 400 gallon water bladder affixed to the underside of the trailer. My tiny house will rarely move perhaps 3 times total but it will be mobile. (Tumbleweeed is the leading builder at the moment if you need to see a visual). Again, I don’t want to dispute RV’s vs tiny houses just want some awesome ideas and input from people who live the life such as I do. Thank you in advance for your time and ideas! 🙂
Jennifer, good questions! We have always thought about building our own RV/Tiny House/Trailer too! Sometimes what you really want doesn’t exist and the best way to get it is just to make it yourself! Considering you are not planning on moving the house a lot, the rain capture system will come in super handy! So, here are my top (at least that I can think of right now) suggestions.
I love awesome super functional Murphy beds because they help maximize space like no other!
If you end up with a loft area, make the steps double as storage.
If you are open to it, get a composting toilet! I don’t think I will ever have a regular toilet again, ever!
As for water, a portable water softener will do wonders for city water and when you want to turn that rain water into drinking water, you’ll want a distiller. (both are listed here: https://www.gonewiththewynns.com/2013-rv-gift-guide )
I am going to leave the winter ideas to Jason…
Using that silver bubble wrap over your windows on the exterior of the rv eliminates almost all heat loss through your windows, description online says the stuff will block ~94% of radiant heat, means it keeps heat in and cold out or vice versa, if yoy can bare to part without seeing out some of your windows. Ive been living in an rv for two years in north dakota, temps can get down to -50°F or worse, my skirting is 2×4 frame with osb sheeting, one inch foam board with reflective backing and R21 insulation behind that, heaters and heat tape and heated hoses are definitely ur friends, at such low temps every little bit helps.
Hey Sam thanks for sharing your tips!
Hi, This is our 1st year at trying wintering in our motorhome and have gotten a lot of useful ideas from this forum that we have put into use. What we have not found a solution for yet, hoping one of you would have experience or idea with is our Atwood 50,000btu tank less hot water heater that came with a winter kit on it only works until -15 below. We are getting below that now and it is freezing up. We have been able to thaw it out but afraid we are going to break something and would be nice to wake up to hot water. So if anyone could please HELP with a suggestion for this we would appreciate it. And Thank You All for the ideas we are using of yours now that are working 🙂
Joe, have you tried a small space heater or a drop light in that bay? You could also try an electric blanket or even just adding some extra insulation… those are the things that come to mind.
I plan on full-timing well into the winter if I am able to. All of this is very valuable information as I will be new at this RV adventure. I’ve been wondering about how to prevent my pipes from freezing. would it be unrealistic just to hook up a hose to the kitchen and bathroom sinks, let the water drip and run the hose back into the freshwater tank?
Lisa, I don’t think that is an option, but there is really only one way to find out. It all depends on how well insulated your RV is. Also, to run your water pump all night you would need to have ample batteries or be plugged into shore power. However, If you use skirting or create a barrier around your RV and run a heater like we talk about above, you shouldn’t have problems with your pipes freezing.
Thank you and other contributors for all of the great advice. I wish I had found this site weeks ago when the weather in Nothern Alabama got into the teens with my RV in my drive awaiting Thanksgiving guests. I was lucky and my meager attempt to keep my RV pipes warm was good enough but now I know what steps to take.
I’ve rented an RV and have been researching a purchase. That’s not as simple as it might seem. I’m looking for a smaller 3-1/2 season RV, which is one that can survive a few days below freezing (25F or lower) without emptying tanks and winterizing. Not easy to find in a smaller RV.
I do have a few comments, as a camper and an engineer.
Condensation is normal because so many of us forget that we do exhale, and that breath is laden with moisture. Condensation is a problem in tents too!
Tank heater pads aren’t of much use if the rest of the tank isn’t insulated. As was pointed out, RV skirts are a really good idea and I know of the old trick of putting light bulbs in compartments and under the skirted RV to keep spaces at temperatures above freezing. This works effectively in RV sites with electrical hookups, i.e. relatively limitless electricity at 30 Amps (3600 watts).
My greatest concern is the plumbing. Tanks can be insulated and heated. Some RVs, even smaller B+ have the fresh water tank inside. However, those small tubes for the water system will freeze very quickly if the temperature is below 32F. Heat tracing is a solution, and there are some very good industrial products. However, at present it seems I’ll have to extensively modify any RV I buy with insulation, heat tracing and heat pads. Adding those things isn’t all that difficult. Doing it in such a manner as to avoid excessive electrical energy usage – that’s the challenge!
My credentials? I’ve taught winter camping and I have camped outdoors at -25F with normal (not arctic) gear. That’s a good way to learn how to deal with cold. At temperatures below zero F even the moisture in firewood can be a problem! There are solutions, of course. However, I don’t want to deal with this as a RVer. If I did, I’d simply get a basic truck camper, improve it, and then sleep outdoors with a good fire.
Thanks for your insight Norman. We’ve camped in subzero temps in our RV and survived no problem. All it takes is some preparation, an adventurous spirit, and (preferably) a 50 Amp connection to shore power.
This post is 100% written from our experience camping in freezing temps over the past few years.
I see some manufactures starting to think about “All Season” ability to use the water systems in RV’s.
Heaters for the holding tanks. Water tanks inside. Sounds good.
The biggest problem I hear being discussed with RV’s is freezing pipes.
That thought reminded me of an old trick to keep the pipes from freezing.
Let the furthest faucet drip. That keeps the water moving a little and the pipes didn’t freeze up.
Not a good idea to let a faucet drip in an RV because you will end up with a full holding tank and an empty water tank but I still liked the idea. I looked at the plumbing in my RV and it ran from the fresh water tank to the pump, bathroom sink, across under the floor (a freeze point) to the shower and toilet, on to the kitchen sink and then into the hot water heater. A hot water pipe then went back the other way and ended up at the bathroom sink in the same compartment as the pump.
So the plan was to add a thermostat, an electric valve, some plastic pipe and two T’s to the system so that when the temp got cold the valve would open and water would circulate from the end of the hot water line back to
the outlet in the fresh water tank (input to the water pump). This would circulate hot water through the entire length of piping until the thermostat got warmed up and the valve would close. No freeze ups since I added this “Active Antifreeze System”.
A side benefit can be had by adding a push button switch across the thermostat so that pressing the switch will cause the valve to open. That way you can bring hot water to the furthest point without wasting any water waiting for it to get hot.
An “Active Antifreeze System” can be easy to do depending on the layout of the plumbing.
You’re technical abilities are likely way greater than mine…not sure if you saw my post on “how not to install a composting toilet“…enough said?
Like the idea you propose, but I’d still recommend skirting as the number one item to keep from freezing. We’re planning to do a video once we hit the freezing weather again.
I did watch the video on your installation of a composting toilet. Let us know how it works out.
I agree that skirting and all other ways to insulate should be the first consideration.
Take a look at your plumbing to see if you can easily install an “Active Antifreeze System”.. If your insulation and skirting is enough, the system will never be activated. It will give you piece of mind to know that the pipes cannot freeze as long as you have battery and the hot water heater is working.
Don, I liked your post. I like the idea of modifying an existing system to make it better. Another trick I discovered while boondocking for the past 6 months, I extended my furnace and generator exhaust to blow on my drain and tank outlets. These outlets are the first to freeze since they poke down from under the insulation. Just be sure your unit is sealed, and use a CO2 detector, as you should.
Great to hear some ideas of traveling in the cold. I will use the skirting idea for sure. This is our first year rving. Never the less traveling from the cold to a warm climate a few times during the winter. I have a smaller motorhome and my water tank is protected already so that is a start. I would like to know if anyone else goes from cold to warm temps a few times in winter and how they plan. As when I get south I would want to use everything as normal. I guess I will try heat tape. Non chemical antifreeze and I have space heaters as well as the furnace. Of course using the skirting as well. Any ideas???
Theresa, make sure you read the other comments on this page; especially from Tom Conces and Curt Miller. If you only do one thing I’d recommend skirting first! The heat tape will work, but if the temps fall too low your water will freeze anyway, so we recommend disconnecting all hoses when not in use.
I have a 38 ft motor home new to this I do not know how to keep it warm for the two or three days it takes to travel south to warmer weather any help would be appreciated Howard
When we’re driving in sub-freezing temps we do 2 things: Run the small space heater in wet bay and run a large space heater inside the RV. If you have solar it should keep your batteries charged no problem, otherwise you’ll need to run the generator. We only do this when the temps are around 25 degrees or below outside. Also we have a digital wireless thermometer in the wet bay so we can monitor when it gets too cold.
Enjoyed your posts and your site. Thank you for mentioning RV Skirting and showing a picture of our work, the info you offer is right on point, we would like to add your link to our site to help others with hints. We cannot skirt everyone so we want to give as many hints and ideas as possible.
As you mention, anything you can do to stop the wind from blowing under the RV will help keep from freezing up.
Here is the link to the full page of the picture you are showing. http://www.rvskirting.com/fleetwood-motorhome-custom-%20skirting.htm
I apologize very much for not giving you proper credit for your work. I have adjusted the post to direct people to your website for skirting. I’m sure you don’t remember but you helped my wife and I purchase the tools we needed to prepare our RV for a last minute winter storm in Breckenridge. Without your help I know our pipes would have frozen and it would have costs us hundreds in repairs.
Anyway, after 3 winters in freezing temps we understand a skirt is the best way to keep those pipes from freezing, and can’t recommend enough for people to plan ahead for the cold.
We have a new Keystone Premier 30FT. Fixing to go camping in Myrtle Beach in a week and its been rather cold here the past few weeks.I don’t want anything to freeze so we might just cancell to a later date. All this scared the life out of me. If I can’t be comfortable I don’t care to camp.
I cannot in good faith tell you that freezing camping is easy camping…but what I can tell you is: typically if you camp where it’s freezing you’ll have the entire place to yourself. Some of our favorite times to camp is in the off season, and freezing camping is always a fun challenge for us. I hope you’ll reconsider heading to the beach in cold weather, it is such a wonderful feeling walking on the beach all alone, bundled up, with the one you love 🙂
You asked so here is how we keep our 2 cats, 2 dogs and 2 peoples warm in our 45′ coach.
My bucket list included photographing eagles along the Mississippi River in winter. We arrived in Davenport, Iowa and were lucky enough to find a county park open with electric. No problem our basement was heated, so we thought. That plumbing bay has a plastic bottom with a hole for the sewer hose. Did you know plastic is a conductor of cold? We didn’t consider it util our water filter froze and the pump dumped 90 gallons of fresh water on the ground.
So I’d say the first thing to do is insulate the plumbing bay. My solution was simple; 2 layers of reflective insulation (available at local home improvement stores) with any blanket or throw folded between the 2 layers. That will keep the cold out but to keep your pipes warm a clamp on lamp with a 60 watt bulb. It worked for us to 10 degrees F.
Next step is to make certain your coolant for engine is sufficient to protect your engine and cooling system. If not, the cost could be similar to the national debt.
Our interior is heated by an Aqua Hot which burns diesel fuel to provide heat. It works overtime and burns a bunch of diesel so time to insulate the bottom side of your vehicle. Since we are in these conditions on a temporary basis another trip to the home improvement store for more reflective insulation in an 18″ x 25′ roll x 4 plus some 1″ thick styrofoam backed with reflective material to cover the tires and some duct tape to hold it all together. Wrap your RV and cover your tires. Your wrapping doesn’t need to be perfect but the more air you can keep from circulating under your living space the happier you will be.
For the interior another sheet of reflective insulation on the windshield and windows if not dual pane. By all means close the curtains. Any air space you can create between living space and cold will act as a layer of insulation.
We vent the living space with roof vents and have little or no problem with condensation.
A heated hose will allow a fresh water supply but even if the water supply is the cold weather type, if you leave it turned on without heating the above ground piping, it’ll freeze. Leave it turned off and fill your tank when necessary. Connect your sewer hose as needed and drain it when done. Be cautious with the plastic fittings as the colder they get the more brittle they become.
If additional heat is needed beneath the RV an infrared light the type used on farms for chicken coops can be put under the chassis nearest the parts you want to keep warm.
Dress warm and remember your bodies heat loss is greatest through your head, hands and feet.
Tom, I know you’re in the thick of it right now so you my friend have immediate experience with freezing temps, and this information is invaluable for us, and anyone else visiting the Freezing temps. RV’s in general are not made for 4 seasons, and preparation is key….when preparation fails then immediate action is the only savior :).
On another note we love seeing the photos on your website!
Just wondering of you add anti-freeze to your grey and black water tanks. We are currently plugged in at a campground in Benson AZ where it’s getting down to the teens at night. Last night our water pump froze over but we managed to thaw out with no damage. Went and purchased 2 of the tiny ceramic heaters (one for the inlet side and one for the water pump side) and insulated all of the lines we could find…set the gas heater a little higher (last night we had it at 47 degrees for fear of using up too much propane and the lines froze anyway). Anyway…just wondering if we should be adding the anti-freeze and if so, how much (we have 40 gal holding tanks). Thanks for the great article!
The number one thing you can do for your RV during winter is skirting! Anything you can find: snow, dirt, foam board, insulation, plywood, anything you can place around the exterior of your RV will help keep the heat inside. I cannot tell you how important this step is for keeping your RV pipes from freezing. Also if your tanks are exposed under your RV you can wrap a heated blanket around them to keep them from freezing. The small space heaters will be helpful, and keep your propane heater set to 55-60 degrees if possible (a $30 propane bill is better than a $500 water pipe/pump issue).
As for the antifreeze – make sure you use a non-toxic RV safe antifreeze. The last thing you want to do is pour toxic chemicals down your pipes, then flush them down into the sewer when you leave. I’d say 1 gallon for every 20 gallons of liquid inside your tanks (i.e. if your grey is only 10 gallons full don’t put more than a half gallon of antifreeze). Best of luck, winter RVing is great cause you’re often all by yourself, but you gotta keep those pipes protected.
“Condensation is the enemy”, so true. I was up in Scotland in freezing weather conditions and when I woke up in the morning there was condensation on everything. I even started wrapping my computer gear up in towels. I should have just, “cracked a window”. Great advice!
Good idea on keeping the electronics safe, maybe even throw in a little silica or damp rid to help keep that moisture down near those electronics.
Some roof-top A/C units have a ‘heat’ setting, which can be used when plugged in at RV parks.
Our RV is older (late 80’s), but has a ‘winter’ package for Canada which included dual pane windows (which also cuts out a lot of exterior noise year-round), insulated tank bay and a furnace duct that runs into the tank bay. Unfortunately, with this package the fresh water tank was placed inside the main cabin, which cuts down the storage space, but ensures there is little chance of freezing.
Our unit even has a rear ‘bus’ heater which runs off the engine when we’re driving to help keep everything in the back warm.
A heat pump equipped A/C is a great feature on an RV however they only work at temperatures above 45 degrees. When its freezing outside you gotta use propane furnace and space heaters.
As for a rear bus heater, that is brilliant! Why the heck haven’t I heard of that before? Might as well heat the wet bay while you’re driving down the road.
What rv is it? We are Canadians and are afraid to trust older models but have heard good things about their winter packages. Definitely going to get good skirting after this article…
our heated mattress pad operates on 12v from the house battery bank.
i installed wired inside-outside temperature gauges in the basement compartments that have the water pump, tanks, and in the aft water service compartment. i should have used wireless temp gauges.
Dan, thanks for the tips! We are looking into adding another deep cycle battery and another solar panel so that we can boondock for even longer and in colder temps!