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7 Things You Need to Know to Take A Winter RV Camping Trip

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RV camping
RV camping

Preparing for a thrilling winter RV camping adventure requires a different approach unlike when you’re only planning for a sizzling-hot summer trip. The temperatures keep lowering, and the campgrounds are almost empty, but that won’t stop anyone from enjoying the peaceful atmosphere of wintertime.

What to Prepare Before you Go on a Winter RV Adventure

Winter RV adventures give you the opportunity to explore various winter destinations while offering you a breathing space away from the rushing summertime. But don’t let the snowy outdoors ruin the excitement if you’re planning to take your beautiful RV out for a winter break. Here’s a simple-to-follow guide to keeping your RV and everyone onboard warm during the trip:

1. Securing the RV Plumbing System 

Since you will embark on a winter RV camping adventure, make sure your precious motorhome is ready to face the harsh effects of freezing temperatures. The extreme cold condition often leads to plumbing damages as utility pipes become exposed. It is important to keep the pipes insulated with heat tapes or foam insulation since ice build-up on hoses and pipes may cause severe cracks and leaks. You need to wrap the freshwater and sewer hose to prevent the lines from bursting.

Leave your faucet slowly dripping to keep the water flowing or allow your internal heater to warm the concealed pipelines. Utilize your internal freshwater tank instead of filling it with external water sources. This will enable you to protect your freshwater hose from having it freeze. Electronic heaters may also help to keep your water lines and water pump protected against freezing.

Don’t forget to empty your grey and black water tanks before you leave for the trip. Put one quart of antifreeze to each tank to prevent the dump valves from getting stuck. Before dumping waste, make sure that the tank is full to avoid the risk of freezing.

A heated water hose, which requires an AC power supply to run, may prevent bursting or freeze-up if your RV has a freshwater hook-up. Be sure to keep the cables and hoses off the road, thick snow, and stagnant water.

2. Upgrading the RV Insulation

To fight against extreme cold weather, put your best efforts to insulate your RV. RV insulation will protect different vehicle components, such as engine parts, tires, and flooring. Some insulators are beautifully designed, creating a warm and cozy atmosphere for your RV interiors. Base insulation may also block the cold wind that may damage your plumbing system, referring to water supply and waste discharge holding tanks. Here’s what you can do to insulate your RV.

  • Examining the seals

Closely examine the window seals and, if necessary, apply to caulk on damaged sealants because Sealants are prone to wear and tear over time. You may use window coverings like reflective foil, which can be cut to fit the window frame, to insulate the interiors. Also, damaged door strippers should be replaced to prevent heavy moisture and strong wind from going in.

  • Insulating the floor

Foam floorboards are also beneficial to keep the floors warm, but if you don’t like the material finish, just put some floor rugs in your preferred locations. As an alternative to foam floorboards, you may use skirting to block the cold wind that may come in or may damage the holding tanks. Insulated floorboards are easy to customize, which may fit perfectly between the RV frame and the ground surface.

3. Reinforcing the Windows

Use insulated curtains to trap warm air. Depending on the cabin size of your RV that you need to heat, an insulated curtain may also come in handy to separate the cockpit and other living areas. This allows you to save more electricity and propane consumption.

Foam insulation with foil backing is another low-cost heat-trapping solution that you may purchase from any home improvement shop. This lightweight foam insulation can be cut to fit and installed on the windows using hook fasteners. Reflective films are also helpful in reducing heat loss while providing enough protection against moisture.

If you prefer not to use window films, you may opt to install draperies instead. These allow you to feel warm and comfortable during sleep time.

4. Covering the RV Vents

RV vent covers let you keep the air vents open without rain, snow, or debris getting inside your motorhome. Keeping the air vents open may reduce the risks of carbon monoxide poisoning particularly if you’re operating a portable heater. It also releases humidity, preventing molds and moisture build-up while keeping the interiors dry.

Since RVs are designed to have roof vents, skylights, or sun roofing, trapped interior heat tends to leak out. So the best way to counteract this is to install a roof vent cushion available in standard vent sizes. But if you prefer to make custom-fit vent cushions, you may use foam padding or foam boards.

5. Protecting the RV Engine

Securing your RV engine components also requires some effort at your end. Before embarking on a long, much-awaited RV journey, make sure that your RV batteries are working well and free from any signs of corrosion. Batteries should be properly connected and fully charged since partially charged units are prone to early loss of power. Also, check the engine antifreeze level and refill it if necessary.

An engine block heater will add the needed protection, designed to warm up the engine before igniting it. However, if the temperature is way below freezing, leave the engine block heater running for at least 3 hours or even longer before starting the engine.

6. Examining the Built-in Furnace

Has your RV furnace been inspected by a certified repair technician to ensure that the heating machine will work properly before your scheduled camping trip? Inspect the furnace vents for any obstruction to ensure that the air return is clear. Use cleaning tools, such as a brush, soft cloth, or compressed air to remove insects, debris, dust, and grimes.

Aside from RV furnace, you may also use catalytic heaters or space heaters to warm up your living areas. But remember that these alternative heat sources will add moisture, which may cause problems to the engine, utility lines, and other equipment. Consider bringing a humidifier to keep your RV dry and to prevent moisture or condensation build-up that often leads to mildew and corrosion. Moreover, don’t forget to test the furnace before you leave home.

7. Remembering the Basics

When traveling in an RV during wintertime, there are several camping accessories you need to bring along as well as safety precautions you need to check. Here are a few more suggestions in preparing your RV for an ultimate winter joyride:

Propane

If you use propane to heat up some equipment and rig, it may only last for a certain extent. Locate the nearest propane refilling station within the campground or bring at least two extra propane tanks.

Stabilizing jack

Prevent stabilizing jacks from freezing by putting some wooden blocks underneath since they get stuck to the concrete pavement.

AC unit protection

You will not operate your air conditioning system when camping out during winter, so keep it covered using an insulated covering sheet.

RVing essentials

Warm clothing, emergency kits, hand tools, and communication devices should be included in your list of camping essentials. Always anticipate the worst scenarios when planning for a winter RV camping adventure, so make sure to have the following items on board:

  • Camping stove
  • Weather band radio
  • Tire chains
  • Road maps and emergency GPS system
  • Extra blankets and warm clothing (base, middle and outer layer)
  • Waterproof gloves and snow boots for any outdoor activity
  • Sleeping bags rated and intended for zero degree temperatures
  • Portable generator (for non-restricted campgrounds)
  • Drinking water and extra food
  • Electric blow dryer (to defrost tanks and pipes)
  • Solar charging panels (for recharging purposes or alternative to a generator)
  • Shovel
  • Battery-powered flashlight, headlamp, or lantern
  • First aid kit

Considering how important is to be ready for any kind of emergency, you might want to consider taking a course and getting a First Aid certification. That way you will have a better understanding of the First Aid kit usage. Not to mention that in case of a road accident, you can help the injured and save lives.

The Do’s and Dont’s

After enjoying the breathtaking views of the winter sky, you would want to get home to a comfortable trailer. Staying relaxed and warm in your RV is more important, especially if temperatures drop as the night gets late. However, try to remember this list of Do’s and Don’ts when driving on the road or camping out in addition to the above-mentioned recommendations:

  • Keep the roof clear from snow to avoid additional weight.
  • Park your RV in the sun to increase room temperature and avoid snow build-up over the roof.
  • If the RV surface isn’t sufficient enough, use other heating equipment to reinforce it.
  • Consider using heating pads, body warmers, gloves, electric blankets, and hot water bottles in very cold locations.
  • Check the weather forecast before you leave as winter climate changes unexpectedly.
  • Postpone your RV trip or set another date if there’s a winter storm coming up or if the road condition to the site is not good.
  • Carefully watch out for black ice when travelling to avoid accidents.
  • Keep gas tank full or at least half-filled to preserve engine performance and to avoid freezing within the tank.
  • Verify if your target campground is open by checking the schedules on the web or calling the camp site office.

Tips for Short-term Winter Camping

Winter RV camping is absolutely fun. You can enjoy the natural beauty of your winter destination if you do prior research before heading to the campground. If you only plan for short-term winter camping, you may follow these tips to keep it memorable for everyone:

  • Whether you want to stay for a while or just for a short time, always check the weather forecast to determine the degree of preparation you will need.
  • Prepare the utility systems, including water supply, discharge, electrical, backup power, communication, charging, and heaters.
  • Keep the water pipes warm by leaving the cabinets open.
  • Prepare all backup heaters in case you run out of propane or no electrical hook-up available.
  • Bring extra gallons of water and avoid using your water system altogether.

Planning for a winter RV camping adventure might seem overwhelming, but it’s better to be prepared than to get disappointed for missing out on some valuable camping essentials. But more than this, keeping your cruising itinerary diverse can help you make the most of your exciting camp RV adventure.

Read more: Best Outdoor RV Setup

Steve Olenski

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