The winter RV traveler can find cold weather camping a respite from crowded camps and busy roads, plus there’s just something special about waking up to the hush of falling snow. But there are, of course, extra precautions to be taken to keep yourself safe on the road, prepared for the challenges of ice and snow, and equipped for comfort in colder climes. Here are some tips that are likely to make your next winter RV outing more enjoyable.
Before You Leave
- Plan your route and call ahead: Some campgrounds close in winter so you should check before you leave to ensure your camp of choice will be available. You may also need to check roads to be sure they are open if severe weather is predicted.
- To winterize or not: If you are not willing to invest in equipment to heat the equipment of your RV (holding tanks, pipes, hoses, etc.) then you will want to winterize the vehicle if you’ll be travelling in sub-freezing areas. This means emptying tanks, draining lines, and disabling plumbing that could result in bursts or damages under freezing conditions. Some rentals in areas of severe cold will already be winterized by the company.
- Purchase an engine block heater: For frequent cold-weather campers, an engine heater can save you from mornings of not being able to start up and get on the road.
- Carry an emergency kit: Be prepared for the possibility of being stuck, of being unable to start, or of running out of a heat source like propane or electricity. A kit should include things like extra food and water, zero-degree rated sleeping bags, a camp stove (white gas) and fuel, hand warmers, extra winter clothing, batteries and flashlights, solar chargers, a blow dryer for defrosting things, and even a gas-powered generator.
On the Road
- Carry snow chains and be sure you know how to use them. Be aware that some rental companies explicitly prohibit the use of chains because of the potential damage they can do.
- Have a road emergency kit prepared with a snow shovel, ice scrapers, waterproof clothing for working in the snow, traction aids (e.g., ice melt, cat litter, or sand), road flares, etc.
- Use your low-beams in snowy condition: decreased visibility during heavier snowfall may tempt you to cut on those high beams, but the reflection of the light off the snow only makes visibility worse.
- Give yourself time and space: The weight of an RV requires greater stopping distances particularly in snowy or icy conditions. Take things slowly and leave yourself ample stopping distances in winter conditions.
While You’re There
- Protect your equipment: If your vehicle isn’t winterized, you will need to protect tanks, valves, and hoses from freezing. You can purchase heated tape to wrap around pipes and hoses or better yet use heated hoses. You can also buy heated pads that will keep holding tanks warm.
- Insulate: a good first step is to install a skirt around the base of your RV to prevent cold winds from supercooling the equipment beneath your RV. You should also keep curtains closed to retain heat and place insulators in roof vents. You can even buy plastic shrink wrap covers for your windows that will help insulate them better.
- Consider your heating: RV heaters can be very inefficient in extreme weather and will quickly deplete propane sources. If you are going to use your system, then be sure your propane tanks are full. A good alternative is to use a small alternate heater that runs off of electricity. There are some very efficient ceramic heaters available that are quite safe to use in the cabin of your RV.
- Outthink the boredom: It is almost inevitable in winter weather that you may be spending long stretches of time with your campmates. Be prepared with activities, games, videos, and good food that will make the time spent together more enjoyable.
Ivan Young is a writer in partnership with Marv Golden Pilot Supplies.