If you’re looking for a truck camper, trailer, fifth wheel or motorhome to go camping in extreme heat or cold, you’ll encounter the term “Four Season RV” in your research.
But be aware that this term is subjective: what constitutes “four season” construction to one manufacturer is different for another.
About the only criteria these RVs have in common are more weight and higher cost.
Since there is no industry-wide criteria that defines which construction materials and designs are guaranteed to qualify for four season RV housing, here’s a brief explanation that shows how you can pinpoint your ideal all-weather RV.
You’ll also learn about ways you can weatherize your existing RV for more comfortable hot and cold weather camping.
Determine Your RV’s Maximum Environmental Stresses
Finding the best four season RV isn’t necessarily determined by how much insulation the unit has, but by first pinpointing the highest and most demanding use of your RV.
Begin your research by considering where your RV will be used and for how long you’ll live in it.
- Is the RV only going to be used for short vacations?
- How many people will be living in the rig and for how long?
- Do you see yourself camping with hookups most of the time or is dry-camping your preferred style?
- Will you take the RV off-road and into remote, rugged areas?
- Will the RV be used for full-time living?
All of these factors have a role in determining which RVs are best for living in extreme conditions.
Take Advantage of RV Consumer Group Reports
Once you have an idea of your future RV’s maximum use conditions, you can shorten the time it takes to find a four season rig by turning to the non-profit RV Consumer Group. This organization has created a renowned RV rating system and accompanying RV ratings guides that can help determine which rigs are best for your intended use.
To arrive at these ratings, the group looks at several factors, including the quality of on-board house systems needed to create the overall durability and comfort of a rig when used in extreme hot and cold conditions.
These factors are:
- wall structure
- window size and venting
- heating and cooling systems
When examined as a whole, the quality of these systems help determine which RVs are best used in certain adverse conditions.
For example, the RV Consumer Group analyzes these systems then rates new models according to how they are best used with those existing systems, such as:
WE: Weekend Use: for short stays only in temperatures ranging from 40-80 degrees Fahrenheit (5-25 degrees Celsius).
VA: Vacationing Use: for up to 60 days each year in temperatures ranging from 30-90 degrees Fahrenheit (0-30 degrees Celsius).
RT: RV trekking: for going off-the-beaten path into remote wilderness areas, in smaller units that can keep occupants comfortable in freezing temperatures or extreme heat.
SB: Snowbird RVing: for up to 6 months a year in temperatures from 30-90 degrees Fahrenheit (0-30 degrees Celsius).
FT: Fulltiming: for permanent living situations. These RVs generally have the most durable construction but temperature tolerance of each varies greatly according to a full-timer’s travel lifestyle.
The RV Consumer Group is not affiliated with any manufacturer and offers thousands of reviews and rankings for motorhomes, towables and truck bed campers. Purchasing the appropriate RV Consumer Group report for the year and model you’re considering will shorten the time it takes to identify your all-weather RV.
RV Construction Materials Determine All-Weather Camping Capability
In addition to purchasing RV Consumer Group reports, you can also get an idea of which rigs might work for you by reviewing the standard materials used in the fabrication process of RVs billed as “four season use.”
Look at each manufacturer’s website and materials carefully while putting aside the optional “all weather” packages that many offer.
Based on discussion forum chatter throughout the RV community, you’ll find that some manufacturers are more well known than others for utilizing high quality construction materials and techniques in all of their units.
Those who include components such as quality sidewall, roof and ceiling insulation, as well as enclosed and insulated holding tanks, generally produce better four-season rigs.
PRO TIP: Manufacturers who produce quality conventional RVs will more than likely produce quality four season RVs.
A true four season RV will by default include built-in features that enable it to:
- Comfortably house occupants in temperatures lower than 20 degrees and higher than 90.
- Keep holding tanks and valves from freezing at a given temperature point
- Circulate air to reduce condensation caused by heater usage
- Keep the interior cool during hot days
- Prevent cold air from infiltrating through windows, walls and cabinets
Meeting all of these factors is a huge challenge.
Many manufacturers claim they can do it.
But the only real real way to determine which four season RV is best for you is by:
- Conducting side-by-side analysis of construction materials used in the manufacturing process
- Talking to long-time users of your potential rig via online RV discussion forums
- Carefully inspecting used units for signs of weather damage (i.e., mildew, water spots and rot)
- Taking the plunge and buying one to live inside of it!
Modify Your Current RV for All-Weather Camping
If you find that your rig is not capable of doing well in the environments where you want to go RVing, there are many things you can do to comfortably camp in cold weather and add four season capability.
Here are just a few:
- Replacing weather stripping around the entry door
- Lining your windows with foil-backed insulation sheets or other clever materials
- Applying a self-adhesive insulation film to your windows
- Using foam to cover vents and other spaces where cold air gets in
- Purchasing holding tank heaters
- Wrapping water lines and dump valves with heat tape
- Dropping RV antifreeze into your holding tanks
- Purchasing a catalytic heater
- Buying a dehumidifier to absorb condensation from heater usage
- Upgrading to a hydronic heating system
Ultimately you’ll have to experience extreme climate conditions in your own rig in order to determine which systems, modifications and RV models work best for you.
Whichever unit you find works for you, remember that no RV will ever be as well-insulated as a conventional house.
RV walls are thinner and cold has a chance to circulate around the rig.
However these design issues are a small price to pay considering the great adventures you can have in your RV. Besides, you can always turn the key and drive away to better weather if things get really uncomfortable.