RV in Winter Weather and Snow

An RV Owner's Guide to RVing in the Winter

Planning to hit the road in your RV this winter? Winter RVing can be an exhilarating experience, but it calls for some additional planning and precautions. In this blog post, we'll walk you through essential tips to make your winter RV trip safe, comfortable and enjoyable.

Getting Your RV Ready for Winter

Winter camping is indeed a thrilling adventure, but it is crucial to ensure that your RV is adequately prepared to brave the cold weather. Here are some fundamental steps to winterize your RV: 

Insulate Your RV

Start by checking for any gaps or cracks in the windows, doors, and vents that could let in the cold. Use weatherstripping or caulking to seal any openings. Adding insulation to the walls, floors and ceiling of your RV will also enhance its thermal efficiency, keeping the interiors warm and cozy. 

Install an RV Skirt

Adding skirting around the base of the RV can help prevent cold air from circulating underneath, which can be especially important in extremely cold conditions. Skirting goes around the entire bottom of the RV, keeping wind out and ambient heat in. There are many choices, from ready-made kits to DIY solutions. Materials include plywood, inflatable plastic, thermal reflective materials, faux brick, PVC and more.

Furrion Water Heater Thermostat being SetFurrion Water Heater Thermostat being Set

Maintain Your RVs Heating System

Your RV's heating system is your lifeline during winter camping. Ensure it's in good working condition before setting off on your trip. Clean or replace air filters as needed and test the thermostat. If you have a propane heater, check the propane levels and refill if necessary. 

If your RV has a propane heater, check the propane levels and refill if necessary. Keep in mind that most RV heaters use propane pretty quickly. If you want to conserve your propane, you can use a smaller 20lb. tanks instead of the larger propane tanks on your RV. These smaller tanks are easier to get refilled or exchanged for new, full tanks.

Another option is to bring smaller, standalone propane heaters. These heaters use less propane and can be moved around when needed. You can also use electric heaters if your camping spot has an electric hookup. Just be sure to use them safely and follow all manufacturer's instructions.

Protect Your RVs Plumbing

Freezing temperatures can wreak havoc on your RV's plumbing system. To prevent frozen pipes, drain all the water from your fresh water tank, water lines and waste tanks, and use RV antifreeze to flush out the plumbing system. However, this means you won't be able to use your RV's water system as you normally would in the summer months.

If you want to keep the water running, literally, only use antifreeze in your grey and black water tanks to prevent wastewater from freezing. Then, you'll need to take some extra steps for your freshwater. You will need to use tank heaters and possibly a space heater to protect your water pump, and invest in a heated water hose to fill your fresh water tank when necessary. You can also use insulated pipe sleeves or heat tape to provide extra protection to exposed pipes.

You'll find more tips on maintaining your RV water systems in winter below.

Woman relaxing with a tablet in her RV during winterWoman relaxing with a tablet in her RV during winter

Staying Warm Inside Your RV

Keeping your living space warm is essential when RVing in the winter. Here are some tips: 

Use Space Heaters

Space heaters can supplement your RV's heating system. Choose a space heater with built-in safety features and place it in a central location in your RV to distribute heat evenly. 

Insulate RV Windows and Doors

To prevent heat from escaping, consider investing in thermal curtains or window insulation film. You can also use weatherstripping or door sweeps to seal any gaps around doors. Some RV manufacturers even offer dual pane windows as an option, which deliver improved insulation and help keep your rig warmer without fogging up.

Manage Humidity Levels

Moisture build-up can make your RV feel colder than it actually is. Use a dehumidifier or moisture absorbers to control humidity levels inside your RV. Proper ventilation is also crucial to prevent condensation. 

Heated Bedding, Thermal Blankets and Rugs

If you really want to stay warm and cozy in your RV during the colder months, consider investing in heated bedding, thermal blankets and thick rugs. Not only are they easy to obtain, but they can also make a significant difference in keeping you and your loved ones comfortable.

Water faucet and sink in an RV kitchenWater faucet and sink in an RV kitchen

Maintaining Your RV Water Systems in Winter

Winter RVing calls for extra care of your water systems to prevent freezing and ensure a smooth camping experience. Here are some tips: 

Prevent Freezing of Water Pipes and Holding Tanks

Insulate exposed pipes and tanks using insulation sleeves or heat tape. You can also wrap them with fiberglass or foam insulation for extra protection against the cold. 

Use RV Antifreeze

Pour RV antifreeze into the drains, toilet, and any other water outlets. This will help protect your pipes from freezing and potentially bursting. Only use RV antifreeze not automotive antifreeze. RV antifreeze is pink, and the fumes are non-toxic. If you’re wondering how much antifreeze to place in your gray and black water tanks, the answer is, it depends on the size of your tanks.

Maintain Water Flow During Winter

Insulate the hoses and connections to maintain a steady water flow in your RV. Keeping the interior of your RV well-heated will ensure the water stays above freezing temperature. 

5th-wheel RV being pulled on a snowy road5th-wheel RV being pulled on a snowy road

Winter RV Driving and Safety Tips

Understanding road conditions and taking necessary driving precautions is crucial when RVing in the winter. Here are some important tips: 

Understand Winter Road Conditions

Winter weather can bring challenging road conditions. Stay updated on weather forecasts and road condition reports before heading out. 

Take Driving Precautions

Adjust your driving habits when navigating winter roads. Reduce your speed, maintain a safe following distance, use your headlights, avoid sudden braking or turning, and stay in cleared lanes. 

Be Prepared for Emergencies

Prepare an emergency kit for your RV with a fully stocked first aid kit, extra warm clothing, blankets, non-perishable food items, drinking water, flashlights, extra batteries, an emergency radio, and a fully charged cell phone. Having these essentials readily available will provide peace of mind and ensure you're prepared for any unforeseen circumstances.

Winter RV Camping Destinations and Campground Option

Choosing the right campground is crucial when RVing in the winter. Fortunately, there are plenty of year-round campgrounds that cater to winter camping enthusiasts. Look for RV-friendly campsites that offer winter amenities such as heated restrooms, electrical hookups and water hookups that can withstand cold temperatures. 

Woman washing an RV with a power washerWoman washing an RV with a power washer

Winter RV Maintenance and Care

Proper maintenance and care are essential for a smooth and enjoyable winter RVing experience. Here are some important tasks for winterizing your RV, protecting its exterior from the harsh winter elements and performing regular maintenance checks. 

  • Protecting the exterior of your RV from winter elements starts by thoroughly cleaning and drying the exterior, including the roof, and applying a protective wax or sealant.
  • Regular maintenance checks throughout the winter season are crucial to address any potential issues before they escalate.
  • Inspect the RV's roof for any signs of leaks or damage, and promptly repair or replace any damaged seals or caulking.
  • Check the battery regularly and keep it charged to avoid any power-related issues.
  • It's also a good idea to periodically check the tire pressure and tread depth to ensure safe and optimal performance. Lippert's Tire Linc is an electric tire monitoring safety system that alerts you of potential tire problems based on pressure and temperature changes.

By taking these precautions and properly preparing your RV for winter, you can enjoy a comfortable and worry-free camping experience, even in the coldest weather. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How cold is too cold for an RV?

There is no specific universal temperature that makes it “too cold” for all RVs, but extremely low temperatures, especially below 0 degrees Fahrenheit, can pose challenges such as the risk of water freezing in pipes and tanks despite any precautions you may have taken.

RVs with heated holding tanks, good insulation and efficient heating systems are better equipped for colder conditions. It’s advisable to check your RV’s specifications, utilize any winter packages it may have and be aware of wind chill factors. In very cold weather, RVers often choose to completely winterize their RV water system or head to warmer climates.

Always follow the manufacturer's recommendations and consult your RV's user manual for specific guidelines in cold weather.

Outdoor thermometer in snow and freezing conditionsOutdoor thermometer in snow and freezing conditions

Is it safe to travel by RV in the winter?

Traveling by RV during winter can be safe if you plan carefully.

  • Start by checking road conditions and weather forecasts
  • Make sure your RV is equipped for winter driving with proper tires and maintenance
  • Verify that campgrounds or RV parks along your route are open if you plan to use them
  • Be prepared for shorter driving days due to potentially challenging road conditions
  • Keep your propane levels sufficient for heating
  • Insulate your water systems to prevent freezing
  • Carry emergency supplies in case of unexpected challenges
  • Stay informed, adapt your plans as needed, and prioritize safety during winter RV travel

Can you live in an RV full time in the winter?

Living in an RV full-time during winter can be challenging, but with thorough preparation, it is doable. To start, follow the advice in our post, which includes ensuring that your RV is well-insulated and planning for heat, fresh water and other necessities. Personal comfort is vital, so make sure you have appropriate clothing and supplies to stay warm. Additionally, it's important to follow manufacturer recommendations for your rig and seek advice from experienced RVers for additional insights.

Is it hard to keep an RV warm in winter?

When it comes to keeping an RV warm during winter, proper insulation and heating play an essential role. We have covered these topics in detail in our post. Here is a brief rundown of some factors that can help you create a warm and cozy living space in your RV during the cold winter months:

  • Make sure your RV is well-insulated by sealing drafts around windows and doors
  • Consider adding skirting to minimize heat loss
  • Use an efficient heating system or additional heating options
  • Dress in layers to stay warm
  • You can also use heated bedding, thermal blankets and rugs to add extra insulation
  • When choosing campgrounds, look for those with winter amenities
  • Pay attention to ventilation to prevent condensation
  • Make sure to maintain regular RV maintenance

Will RV holding tanks freeze?

Yes, RV holding tanks are vulnerable to freezing during winter camping, particularly when temperatures drop below freezing. To prevent this, it is key to follow the guidelines we have outlined in our post. These include ensuring that your RV is properly insulated, installing heated holding tanks, skirting the RV, and using heat tape for exposed pipes. If you choose not to winterize your water system, then it is essential to keep the interior of the RV adequately heated to help prevent freezing. Additionally, it is important to carefully monitor weather conditions and adhere to manufacturer recommendations to safeguard your rig during winter camping.

How long does it take pipes to freeze at 30 degrees?

When the temperature drops to 30 degrees Fahrenheit, pipes have a high chance of freezing, especially if they are not well-insulated or exposed to wind. In an RV, the time it takes for pipes to freeze at 30 degrees Fahrenheit can be even faster, depending on the insulation, heating system and overall condition of the RV. If the insulation is insufficient and there is no heating, the risk of freezing increases.

To prevent frozen pipes in an RV, it is necessary to follow the guidelines we have outlined in our post, such as ensuring proper insulation, using heating features like heated holding tanks, adding skirting for extra protection and maintaining a warm interior.

The freezing time can vary, so it is important to take proactive measures and assess your RV’s specific conditions to avoid problems in cold weather.