RVs provide year-round access to the great outdoors but the only way you’ll enjoy winter RV camping is by being prepared for Mother Nature’s sense of humor. These common-sense cold-weather RVing tips can help you stay comfortable and safe wherever your travels take you.
Winter RV Camping Tip #1: Watch the Weather
Even if the weather looks good, don’t get complacent about following the forecast at websites like Weather.com and Wunderground.com. They both offer smartphone applications if needed. Through the years I’ve observed that Weather.com tends to provide worst-case scenario forecasts while Wunderground.com is more optimistic in their weather predictions; actual events happen somewhere in the middle. Forecasting seems to be an art form more than a science, it is often said there are two types of forecasts … lucky or wrong!
Winter RV Camping Tip #2: Avoid Black Ice
Black ice turns roads into ice rinks when air temperatures hit the freezing point; if a highway has accumulated any moisture and the asphalt freezes before the moisture dries, black ice develops. When winter RV camping always use extreme caution when driving through shady areas, over bridges or in low-lying areas. Carefully observe how your headlights reflect off the road; if light doesn’t bounce off the surface, chances are you’re about to begin sliding. If this happens, don’t exit the highway since descending an off-ramp will create acceleration. Instead, keep your RV pointed in a straight line and only use your brakes if necessary (RVers with an anti-lock braking system must keep gentle contact with the pedal to keep it activated). Campers with towables can avoid jack-knifing by turning down trailer brakes enough so that wheels keep spinning when coming to a stop.
Winter RV Camping Tip #3: Get a Catalytic Heater
Investing in a catalytic heater is insurance against bitter cold temperatures. Catalytic heaters are perfect for winter RV camping and especially when boondocking, since these devices require no battery power and don’t use an open flame to create heat. They utilize your on-board propane system but use far less fuel than a typical forced-air system. Keeping a vent or two cracked and carrying a small dehumidifier will reduce interior condensation that forms as a result of warm interior air. Mr Heater brand is a popular one among RV’ers. Alternatively, you could permanently mount a heater made by Camco.
Winter RV Camping Tip #4: Protect Your Utilities
Winter RV camping often results in familiarity with the term “hard freeze.” If weather forecasters predict a hard freeze, detach your water and sewer lines, close your holding tank vents, crack interior cabinet doors and utilize a small computer fan where your interior water lines reside to keep circulation flowing and help prevent frozen lines. More great tips for protecting your RV systems during winter are found in this RV winterization article. If snowfall occurs, RV manufacturers recommend removing snow that reaches higher than 24″. Keeping a ladder or small step stool on board makes the job easier.
Winter RV Camping Tip #5: Observe Campground Closing Dates
As a West Coast native, it never occurred to me that many campgrounds around the U.S. close during winter. But when I started full-timing, that’s exactly what I discovered. Many campgrounds east of the Mississippi close as early as October 1st, so always call your destination to ensure availability before arriving.
When summer ends there’s no need to stop RVing. With thoughtful preparation and active observance of changing winter weather patterns, you can enjoy your home on wheels to its maximum potential any time of the year.