RVing in the Winter 101: How to Conquer the Cold and Enjoy the Journey - The Roving Foley's
Can you live in an RV in the winter

RVing in the Winter 101: How to Conquer the Cold and Enjoy the Journey

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Yes you certainly can. Full time RV camping can offer a number of challenges for those who live in an area with frigid temperatures during the winter months. Unlike a well insulated home, keeping an RV comfortable takes more than turning on your furnace. However with a bit of planning and a few simple modifications, RVing in the winter can be a cozy and unique pastime.

Preparing RV For Winter Living

Recreational vehicles often have thin walls with minimal insulation, which can make it challenging to regulate the temperature inside the travel trailer. Furthermore, when the door of the camper is opened, the heat will be sucked from the camper, resulting in a chilly interior space.

Also, since the RV sits high above the ground, cold circulating winds can cause tanks and water pipes to freeze if they are not protected.  Continue reading to learn the tips and tricks to creating a cozy, warm camper on those cold, wintry nights.

rv in wintertime campground

Choosing the Right RV for Winter Camping

Setting out on a cold weather camping adventure calls for an RV that’s built to tolerate chilly weather, and freezing temperatures. A four-season RV is a perfect choice, as they are designed with superior insulation in the interior walls, ceiling, and basement storage to keep you warm and comfortable. During winter camping, proper RV insulation is key to keeping warm air in and preventing heat loss, particularly through the windows.

Utilizing your RV’s heating system is the most efficient method of maintaining warmth during winter camping. Most RV heaters run on propane, making it indispensable for maintaining warmth and comfort in chilly weather, especially if your RV has dual pane windows for better insulation.

Confirm the availability of propane in advance, whether it’s in your RV’s built-in tank or an external propane tank, to guarantee that you won’t run out.

Best RV for Winter Living

The first thing you can do to keep yourself warm on a winter camping trip, is to choose the right camper. Many manufacturers offer “4 Seasons” packages which include wall insulation and insulation of the underbelly. 

The Northwood Arctic Fox line of Fifth wheels and travel trailers are widely considered to be the best towable RV’s for winter camping. They are built in the mountains of Oregon where they know a thing or two about the cold. Their RVs have heated and insulated holding tank spaces, and 3 different kinds of insulation to keep you warm and cozy. Thermal pane windows are also available to hold in your heat and keep the chill out. 

Preparing For RVing in the Winter

Before you set off cold weather RVing, it’s important to equip your rig for the potential conditions. This includes inspecting seals and weather stripping, insulating pipes and tanks, and managing moisture inside the RV. Proper preparation will help prevent freezing and bursting of the plumbing system, maintain a safe and comfortable temperature inside the RV, and reduce or prevent moisture accumulation.

Being proactive in RV upkeep is pivotal during winter camping. Here are some tips for winter RV trips to help you keep your RV safe and protected:

  1. Push the snow off with a soft brush after each storm to ensure your RV is safe from snow and ice buildup.
  2. Use a sewer hose support to keep your sewer hose off the ground while RV living in winter.
  3. Consider skirting around the bottom of your RV, encircling it completely and giving it an extra layer of protection.
RV in snow bank

Doors and Windows

Inspecting Seals and Weather Stripping

Inspecting and maintaining seals and weather stripping is crucial to prevent cold air drafts and heat loss in your RV during winter camping. Start by examining the weather stripping on all exterior doors, including the entry, basement areas, and access panels.

Replace any weather stripping if needed to keep out cold drafts. Additionally, add caulk or sealant to your RV windows to ensure they are ready for winter camping.

To keep rodents away from your RV, try sealing off the sewer hose entry with steel wool or brass/bronze wool. It’s also a good idea to cover your RV’s air conditioning units during winter camping to keep the cold out and maintain the units in top shape.

Insulate Doors and Windows

Reducing heat loss in a camper is paramount to having a warm and comfortable RV throughout the winter months. The doors and windows in campers are one of the key areas where heat loss occurs (Makes sense!). Let’s look at how you can minimize heat loss and keep your RV warm during those cold months of the year.

Keep your heat inside and the cold outside by placing a thick bath sheet or beach towel in front of all exterior doors. Doing so will help reduce the amount of heat that is sucked outdoors and the amount of cold allowed inside.

Most RVs have single pane windows, which can unfortunately result in cold drafts. One of the best ways to prevent cold drafts is to insulate RV windows using either clear plastic sheeting or Styrofoam insulation. If you will be camping in a frigid environment, you can further reduce the risk of drafts by using both Styrofoam and plastic sheeting on every window in your RV.

Finally, using thermal curtains helps to keep the heat in and the cold out of your camper. Thermal curtains block drafts and can reduce the amount of heat lost through your RV’s windows by up to 25 percent. These curtains also provide sound insulation to block exterior noise.

Window Insulation

Window Film

Thermal Curtains

“Snow brings a special quality with it—the power to stop life as you know it dead in its tracks.”

Nancy Hatch Woodward

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RV Skirting For Winter

Skirting does more than just make your RV look good. It can help insulate your RV and protect your plumbing and tanks from freezing. Skirting reduces the amount of cold under your camper. Furthermore, it can block excess wind from getting under your RV. This will help keep your fresh water tank from freezing.

Skirting reduces heat loss through your floors and makes your camper feel toasty. There are many different types of materials that can be used to skirt your camper. You can purchase insulated vinyl RV skirting, or you can make your own using an insulating foam board covered in waterproof fabric.

For those on the go, Airskirts are a wonderful solution to skirting in the winter months. Most skirting tends to be for longer stays, but Airskirts are so easy to install, you can use them for long OR short stays. They are super durable and do not require any modification to your rig.

If you are less-permanent in your space, bales of straw sitting end to end around the perimeter of your rig can be an effective and inexpensive way to stop the wind. 

No matter the materials that are chosen, skirting is designed to add a protective layer to the underneath of your camper. It will help to retain the heat and prevent frozen pipes and holding tanks.

couple sitting at fire near airstream with airskirts

“Airskirts” Inflatable RV Skirting

  • Inflatable skirting for any RV
  • Protects RVs from extreme weather by means of insulating the RV’s undercarriage
  • Heavy-duty and reusable. Will outlast your RV.
  • Use Code “ROVINGF” to get $100 OFF!

EZ-Snap RV Skirting

  • “No-Drill” Fastener System allows the average do-it-yourselfer to install RV Skirting
  • Diamond Weave RV skirting material is able to withstand extreme summer temperatures in places like Arizona, as well handle the extreme cold.
  • Specialized “Non-Fray” material with an encapsulated yarn built right into the base fabric allowing Do-it-yourselfers to cut the fabric on-site

Keep Water Away

Water is the enemy of your RV. Winter preparations should include a complete inspection of all of your outside seals. Treat all slide and window seals and re-caulk any seams that are cracked or failing. You definitely will not want to be doing this in cold temperatures, so preparation is your best defense. 

Many people think that covering their exterior vents will make their camper feel warm; however, if the wrong type of vent insulation is used, excess moisture cannot escape, making your camper a breeding ground for mold. Using a vent cover helps keep the warmth in and allowing excess moisture to escape.

Air circulation is the number one best way to avoid moisture buildup and mold inside the rig. We ALWAYS keep windows and roof vents cracked during cold weather to ensure air movement,  especially in slides where the walls are less insulated, and bunk spaces which get a lot of hot moist air from sleeping people. 

If you notice excess moisture or mold in your camper, purchase a dehumidifier. Dehumidifiers lower humidity levels in your RV, which help decrease the risk of mold. Dehumidifiers help freshen and clean interior air for a healthier camper.

rv park in the winter

Insulate Your Plumbing

The pipes, water hose, water heater, and tanks in your RV can freeze in winter weather if they are not adequately insulated. Applying foam pipe insulation can decrease the risk of frozen pipes. Wrap your holding tanks and water heater in insulation to help protect against freezing.

Using a heated water hose to hook up your rig is also a very good idea. If not using a heated hose it is a good idea to shut off and drain your fresh water hose each evening so it will not freeze up overnight.

If your RV has insulated skirting, you can place a small space heater or 2 under the camper. The heater will help keep the temperatures underneath your RV above freezing. When placing a space heater under a camper, always make sure that the space heater is plugged into a GFCI outlet.

Using heat tape around your water lines can prevent frozen pipes. This specialized plumbing tape can be purchased at a home improvement or hardware store. The tape is wrapped around the pipe and then plugged into an electrical outlet. The tape keeps your pipes warm and helps prevent freezing.

You can protect your black water tank and keep it from freezing by adding half of a gallon of windshield cleaner to your black water tank every time you empty it. The windshield fluid not only prevents freezing but also makes purging easier.

Inspect the underside of your rig for any openings that need spray foam insulation. Close up any openings. This will not only help keep it warmer, but will deter any rodents looking for a warm winter home. 

Heated Water Hose

Foam Pipe Insulation

Check Prices

Heat Tape

Battery Maintenance and Power Conservation

Upholding your RV’s battery health and conserving power are significant considerations during winter camping. Batteries tend to lose their charge more quickly in cold weather, so it’s essential to take steps to keep them warm. A heat pad with an ambient temperature sensor can ensure your batteries stay in top condition all season long.

To optimize power usage during winter camping, use a power monitor to track usage and identify opportunities to conserve power. By maintaining your RV’s battery and conserving power, you’ll be better prepared for an enjoyable and worry-free winter camping experience.

Put a Space Heater in the Basement

Even though there is a circulation vent in the stairs that allows indoor air to circulate down to the utility “basement” I always keep a small space heater under there to keep the utility area warm on the coldest nights. There is a good bit of plumbing under there as well as the water pump, RV furnace, and loads of electrics.

I only use it if there is a threat of freezing temps, but it does really well to keep things warm down there. 

Space Heater

  • The advanced PTC ceramic heating technology combined with the ultra-efficient fan will heat up any space faster and distribute the heat more evenly.
  • Instead of wasting a fortune on central heating, you can warm just the spaces you actually use.
  • Equipped with an adjustable thermostat, our space heater will keep you comfortable at all times.

Holding Tank Heating Pads

If your RV is not already set up for 4 seasons, you can install heating pads under your water tanks. These are usually large flat pads with adhesive that will stick to the bottom of your tank. They are wired into the RV electrical system and will keep the tank warm so it does not freeze.

RV Tank Heating Pads

  • Peel and stick adhesive back attaches easily to most tanks
  • Activates when water temps drop below 45F(5C) and heats to 68F(20C)
  • Helps maintain flowing water in freezing temperatures

Position Your Camper to Increased Warmth

Many new campers are surprised to learn that the orientation of an RV can impact the warmth of your RV. Position your camper so that the majority of the sunlight hits the side of your camper that has the most windows. If you have used plastic sheeting to reduce drafts, open your curtains during the day to allow the sunlight to warm your interior spaces.

You can reduce the impact of icy winds by ensuring the majority of the wind hits the rear of the RV rather than the front or the side of your camper. Seek out a windbreak like a row of shrubs or trees or a tall fence to help your camper stay toasty warm.

Solar Panels Can Help

Solar panels work as well in the wintertime as they do in the summertime. The sun’s UV rays supply power for your space heaters. Before purchasing solar panels, think of how you will use your camper. If you will be staying in an RV park that offers full electrical hookups, you will not need solar panels. If, on the other hand, you will be boondocking in the wilderness, solar panels can slow down how fast you use your propane.

So, can you live in an RV in the winter? Yes, as long as you know how to winterize your RV to help keep your camper warm. Use the tips in this article to stay warm during the winter months in your camper.

RV Solar Kit

  • 800Wh daily output depends on the 4 hours sunlight availability; suited for applications that require a smaller footprint.
  • Corrosion-resistant aluminum frame for outdoor use, allowing the panels to last for decades as well as withstand high winds and snow loads.
  • Protection against: overcharging, overload, short-circuit, and reverse polarity

Staying Warm In the RV in Winter

Once you have the RV prepared for winter, you can sit back and enjoy the experience. As long as you keep your propane tanks filled, you should not have too many problems. However there are a few more things you can do inside to help keep you cozy in the coldest weather.

Heating Options for Winter RV Camping

For a warm and cozy experience during your winter RV camping adventures, consider a range of heating alternatives like:

  • Propane furnaces: They provide warmth throughout the RV and help keep the underbelly heated. Be sure to plan ahead and make sure you have a refill station or extra propane tanks nearby, as propane may only last a few days in really cold weather.
  • Electric heater: They are convenient and easy to use, but make sure you have access to electricity at your campsite.
  • Portable propane heater: They are a good option for heating specific areas of your RV, but be cautious of carbon monoxide buildup and always follow safety guidelines.

By exploring different heating options, you can choose the most suitable solution for your winter camping needs and ensure a comfortable and warm living space during your trip.

How to Make Your Floors Feel Warm

Your RV’s floor can feel cold during the winter months. You can help your feet feel warm and provide some insulating protection against the cold with rugs or carpeting. For maximum protection, purchase carpet remnants and cut them to the size of each room.

In addition to reducing drafts, rugs and carpet remnants will protect your RV floors. In the summer months, the carpet remnants can be removed and stored out of the way. Removing rugs and carpets in the warmer months will help your camper feeling nice and cool.

As mentioned earlier, skirting the RV and putting portable space heaters underneath can also help to keep floors warm.

“To appreciate the beauty of a snowflake, it is necessary to stand out in the cold.”

How to Keep Warm on Blustery Days

Using an infrared space heater can help conserve your propane levels and increase the warmth of your camper. Placing a space heater in your main living area can keep you toasty throughout the day. During cold weather we typically run a space heater during the day and night, only running the propane heat in the morning when we get up and as needed during the day. 

Purchase an insulating sleeping bag to keep you warm while you sleep. Choose an insulating sleeping bag that is rated for a lower temperature than is expected. For example, if the night time temperatures are expected to drop below freezing, choosing a sleeping bag that has a temperature rating of 25 degrees will ensure you stay toasty warm. Another option is to use electric blankets on your beds or sofas.

This may sound funny but baking a casserole is a great way to get warm. The heat from the stove acts as supplemental heating. Once the casserole is baked and you have turned the stove off, open the door on the oven and enjoy the residual heat that radiates into your camper. Warm meals like casseroles help heat your core, making you feel much warmer.

Many full time campers recommend lighting three wick candles during the days and evenings. The warmth from the fire can add a touch of warmth to your room. Never leave a candle unattended and ensure that it is kept away from any materials that can catch fire.

Smaller RVs are Easier to Heat

A smaller RV has less interior space, which allows the camper to heat quickly. If you plan to camp during the winter, you may want to purchase a smaller RV to help you stay warm. Furthermore, a smaller RV requires less electricity and propane to keep warm, which can save you a lot of money.

Emergency Preparedness

Equipping yourself with an emergency plan and kit is important for winter RV road trips. Your emergency kit should include:

  • Extra food
  • Water
  • Blankets
  • Communication devices

Being prepared for unexpected situations will provide peace of mind and ensure you are ready to handle any challenges that may arise while on the road.

A communication device, such as a cellphone or satellite phone, can be highly advantageous in an emergency, enabling you to stay connected with family, friends, and emergency services when needed. By preparing an emergency plan and kit, you’ll be well-equipped to handle any unforeseen circumstances during your winter RV road trip.

Frequently Asked Questions

How cold is too cold for an RV?

At -20 to -30 degrees Fahrenheit, RV trips become risky. This is the temperature where water starts to freeze, metal contracts too much, and batteries struggle to perform. RV owners must take extra precautions when temperatures drop this low. Make sure to winterize your RV, check the battery, and keep an eye on the weather

How can I make my RV livable in the winter?

Make winter RV living livable with a combination of strategies, like adding insulation, skirting, and using heat tape on pipes, as well as investing in small space heaters or a furnace/heat pump to keep the living space warm. Don’t forget to fill your tanks and use heated hoses too!

Is it hard to live in an RV during winter?

Living in an RV during winter can be tricky, but with the right emergency supplies and backup plan it can be done safely. Take time to consider all possibilities and you’ll be ready to handle any cold temperature.

What not to leave in an RV over winter?

Be sure to remove all food and liquid items from your RV before winter storage. These items are prone to spoiling or freezing and can create a mess when they melt in the spring. Additionally, hand soaps, toothpaste, and shaving cream should be cleared out since they could crack over the cold season.

What is the most effective way to keep your RV warm during winter camping?

Keep your RV warm and cozy during winter camping by using the heating system – it will help seal out the chilly air!

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Grainne Foley

Grainne Foley grew up in Ireland and spent summers caravanning around Europe with her family. Now, as a wife and mother of 2, she spent 5 years traveling the USA as a full time RVing family. She is passionate about travel, and helping others who are considering the RV lifestyle. She has created dozens of helpful RVing checklists which are available throughout the website, and has curated hundreds of simple, flavorful meals for families on the go.

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4 thoughts on “RVing in the Winter 101: How to Conquer the Cold and Enjoy the Journey”

  1. Thank you very much for the ideas. This will be my first winter living in my RV for work and have been searching the webs for any information that will make my life easier this winter. Here are some more ideas I came across in my research. (1) Another option to carpet remnants are foam interlocking floor tiles. They are easy to fit and clean. Plus if you have a spill or pets, you only have to clean the affected tile(s) with a rag and cleaner instead of a wet vacuum. (2) If you don’t want to put plastic on the outside, you can put Reflectix on the inside in between the curtain and windows. Rolls are cheap and available at your local hardware store. This may significantly darken your RV but since I use my RV for work, I spend most of my daylight hours at work. It also works great at keeping temperatures down during the summer. (3) If your master bedroom is over any external storage bins, you can coat the inside of the storage with foam board. This will also create a sacrificial space. Sacrificial spaces often insulate better than insulation itself. (4) Speaking of sacrificial spaces, I have a bunk house RV. The back room where my kids normally sleep becomes storage when I’m away at work. There is no reason to keep that room heated. Same thing goes for my bedroom during the day. Close as many doors as possible to keep your heat kept in the core of the RV. If you don’t have a door, it would be cheaper to put up a curtain than the cost of the energy wasted to heat that space for one winter. (5) Change your floor registers. My RV came with cheap plastic registers that don’t open or close. Changing out your registers for open/closing ones will give you more control of where your heat goes. (6) Keep your water heater on. Many people, including me only turn on their water heater 20 minutes before their shower. This prevents overloading the circuit with the AC running during the summer months and frankly it’s all that is really needed during the summer. Keeping your water heater on helps maintain the heat not only in your water but also in your water heater compartment and decreases the initial heat-up strain on your system. (7) Finally but maybe most important of all, Insulation. I didn’t see it mentioned in your article but foam pillows for the roof vents work great. Another addition, I plan to do is spray foaming inside my cabinets and compartments. If you don’t want the spray foam to stick to your RV, you can put plastic wrap on the surface you want to protect first and then spray over that. This will make the spray foam removeable and you’ll also be able to shave it down if needed. Please also keep in mind that while you’re sealing up your RV, you’re also keeping in moister. Moister to an RV is like rust to steel. During the summer your AC unit acts as a dehumidifier. Since you’re not going to be running your AC, a small dehumidifier unit is highly suggested. You can find small ones online for under $70. Hope these additions help and happy camping!!

  2. Thanks for the tips! Super helpful. We are expecting cold weather in Manila, UT and trying to winterize. Do you insulate your sewer pipe?

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