Ultimate Guide to Winter RV Living
Written by Carolyn Jackson
You might think RVing is reserved for the warmer summer months, but we’re here to remind you that just because the temps drop and the leaves fall doesn’t mean you need to close up shop on RVing for the year.
Especially if you live in a warmer climate or want to travel to an area with warmer weather, RVing can be an amazing vacation plan all year round. If you are considering traveling in your RV during the winter months, there are some best practices to know and ideas we have to make it the absolutse best trip possible.
If you are interested in making the most out of your RV and enjoying some fun winter activities, keep reading!
- RVing is a fun and accessible way to travel even in the winter months
- To travel safely, you need to do some prep work
- Think outside the box for fun winter activities that you could experience with an RV
Table of Contents
Full-Time Winter RV Living
The first piece of advice any seasoned RVer will tell you about winter RV living is to check the forecast. Be aware of where you are going ahead of time and prepare for the weather in that area. If you travel to a warmer climate, like Flagstaff, AZ, you can still expect warm weather during the day in months like December and January; however, those warm days turn into very chilly nights very quickly.
If you and your RV are not prepared for the colder weather, you might be shivering all night. Some things you can do to prepare include:
- Buy a heated RV water hose
- Without a heated hose, your water intake could freeze, leaving you without any running water and a long, tedious process to unfreeze the hoses
- Monitor how much propane you go through and how quickly so you can plan ahead
- These lines can easily crack, and then when you turn the water back on, you could have a leak on your hands
Full-time winter RV living can be beautiful, peaceful, warm, and joyous. Just as you do in the summer months to prepare your RV and to keep it in top shape, you will need to do similar but different steps in the winter months.
Best RV for Winter Living
Some RVs are actually designed with the cold in mind. For example, the Forest River Arctic Fox has an optional “Extreme Weather Package,” which includes extra insulation, a large furnace, and a heated undercarriage. Other winter RVs include:
Forest River Arctic Wolf
Type: Lightweight Fifth Wheel
- Best in Class Size, High-Efficiency Furnace (35,000 BTU’s)
- Enclosed Underbelly with Forced Air Heat to All Holding Tanks
- High Capacity Electric Fireplace (5200 BTU’s) with Multiple Heat and Fan Settings (Comes with Remote)
- High Circulation Interior Ceiling Fan
- Insulator Series (Non-Conductive Material) Wood Roof and Floor Superstructure
Lance 4 Seasons Travel Trailer
Type: Travel Trailer
- Ducted Heating System
- Water Heater Bypass
- Insulated Bed Mat
- Insulated Hatch Covers
- Insulated Battery & LP
Jayco Redhawk 26XD
Type: Class C Motorhome
- 31,000 BTU Furnace
- 42 lb propane tank
- 12V heating pads on the holding tanks
Northwood Arctic Fox
Type: Fifth Wheel
- High-Density Block Foam Insulation
- All-Conditions/Four Seasons Insulation With R-18 Ceiling
- R-15 Reflective Foil Insulation in Roof / Slide
- Heated Holding Tanks / Cathedral Arched Ceiling
- Semi-Automatic Winterization/By-Pass System
- 10 Gal DSI Gas/Elect Quick Recovery Water Heater
- Frameless Thermal Pane Windows
- Holding Tank Heat Pads (All Tanks)
Other RVs are more suited to year-round travel, but with some added benefits to enhance your winter trips.
Type: Toy Hauler
- 15,000 BTU Furnace
- Lots of windows to keep the sunlight inside with blinds to keep cold out at night
- 5,500-watt gas generator
- Frameless dual-pane windows
- Reclining furniture with heat, light, and massage
- Ducted heat into garage
- 12-gal. gas/electric DSI water heater
Type: Fifth Wheel
- Digitally controlled and monitored dual thermostat
- Ducted secondary A/C
- Powerful free-flow 15,000 BTU air conditioning
- Heated water drains
- Electrically heated tanks
- Built-in water lines
- Insulated holding tanks and dump valves
- Insulated heated undercarriage
- Attic system with full venting
- Insulated heated ducting system
- A 35k BTU heating furnace with an auto-igniting feature
- Insulated roofing, flooring, walls, and windows
Type: Fifth Wheel
- An inbuilt A/C System with insulation
- 42,000 BTU furnace
- Floor heating ducts that move heat equally around the RV
- Insulated floors, walls, roofing, and windows
- A heated undercarriage
- Fiberglass walls, laminated flooring, and tinted windows
Best RV Resorts for the Winter
Some RV campsites are only open in the summer, so if you are planning on traveling a familiar route from the summer, be sure to check on the open times for your destination. There are some RV parks that are renowned for their beauty and accessibility for RVs in the winter. Check out our favorite finds:
Cold Weather RV Parks
- Dakota Ridge RV Park in Golden, Colorado
- Taos RV Park in Taos, New Mexico
- Jackson Hole Campground in Jackson, Wyoming
- Tiger Run RV Park in Breckenridge, Colorado
- The Meadows RV Park in Sun Valley, Idaho
Warm Weather RV Parks
- Sunshine Key RV Resort & Marina in Big Pine Key, Florida
- Wilderness Oaks RV Resort in Corpus Christi, Texas
- Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida
- Hilton Head Island Motorcoach Resort in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
- Napa Valley Expo RV Park in Napa, California
- Lazy L & L Campground in New Braunfels, Texas
- River’s End Campground in Tybee Island, Savannah, Georgia
- Crooked River State Park in St. Marys, Georgia
- Point of Rocks RV Campground in Prescott, Arizona
How to Insulate an RV for the Winter Living
Add insulation to the following areas to protect against cold air, wind, and drafts:
- Install Lexan or thick plastic films on the outside of the windows and add plastic or heat-shrink films on the inside can reduce heat loss and cold air.
- Consider installing curtains that will provide insulation as well as style. Quilted fabrics or polar fleece work well and can be purchased at fabric stores or larger retail stores. Sealing the curtains to the wall with Velcro or other fasteners will reduce air drafts as well.
- Cover windows that are not used for light, but leave the windows with light pouring in with the blinds open to increase heat during the day.
- Add weather-stripping around the door frame.
- Try using a blanket or piece of insulating fabric to create a full-length curtain for the door.
- Ceiling Vents
- You may need ventilation to replace humid inside air with drier outside air. Plugging and insulating ceiling vents with something that seals the vent and can be removed easily will help increase heat retention. To insulate ceiling vents, purchase factory-made vent plugs or use rigid insulation cut to the opening’s size and wrapped with duct tape to strengthen it.
- Plumbing and Electrical Openings
- Seal the areas around plumbing and electrical openings to the outside. If possible, use caulk for small gaps and expanding-foam insulation for larger areas.
- Consider adding skirting to the RV to reduce heat loss. You can buy skirting made commercially or from a variety of materials such as plywood or rigid insulation. Insulating the skirting with rigid insulation helps keep the area under the RV warmer, which will keep the floor warm and the area under the RV from freezing. If the ground has not frozen and the area allows it, burying the skirting in the ground a few inches will add stability and reduce airflow.
- Be sure to always remove snow from slide-outs to ensure it does not melt and leak inside the RV.
The number one rule for winter RV living (when you are in a cold climate) is to keep everything dry and warm. If water freezes, it will expand and crack pipes, faucets, showerheads, tanks, etc. Then when it warms again, you can have a leak on your hands and no running water.
To alleviate the risk of freezing pipes/water, you can drain any unused external pipes or wrap lines in heat tape or heated hoses to keep the water running and not frozen. Anything you can keep inside the RV to keep it warm is in your best interest.
For your gray and black water systems, see if the tanks are insulated. Electric holding-tank heaters are available and will reduce the chances of tanks freezing. The black tank should never be allowed to get close to freezing temperatures. To help prevent this, use a PVC pipe as a drain instead of a more traditional summer flexible pipe. If you want to leave the black tank hooked up, be sure to insulate it or add heating to keep it above freezing temperatures. We also recommend keeping your tank closed until it needs to be dumped. If you use any water hookups, make sure you insulate the pipes with heat tape. You’ll also need to insulate any connections and exposed piping. Finally, do not dump your holding tanks until they are full. This will help you avoid letting them freeze.
As mentioned, cold and wet is bad! For this reason, consider investing in a dehumidifier for the RV. This will keep the air dry and moisture out so you can enjoy your beautiful vistas and cozy fireplace without worrying about freezing water.
RV Camping in the Winter
RV camping in the winter is enjoyable and worth the trip! Like mentioned, our number one piece of advice is to prepare in advance by looking at the weather, the campsite amenities, pricing, and operating hours, preparing your RV for the temps and preparing yourself to deal with the unpredictable.
Camping in the winter can take you places you have never seen before; snow-capped mountains, beautiful sweeping vistas, skiing, a quiet beach town in the offseason, frozen lakes, and much more. There is a lot of beauty out there worth exploring, and trust us, it is a lot more fun from the inside of a warm RV!
In conclusion, our best and most essential tips for successful winter RV living are these:
- Protect yourself
- Protect your RV
- Warm and dry is best
- Prepare your RV for the anticipated temperatures
- Do your research
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