Camp All Year With These Winter RV Camping Tips
RV camping is especially challenging when temperatures drop below that dreaded freezing level. Suffering from frozen plumbing is frustrating but can be easily avoided with a few simple preventive measures to keep everything flowing properly. Our Winter RV Camping Tips will help you beat the elements on your short-term winter camping trip! Psst we’re compensated…see our disclosures.
Power: Shore, Generator Or None?
When camping with your RV in the winter, we recommend staying at an RV park or campground that has electricity. Shore power provides lots of options for appliances that keep humans comfortable and your rig’s plumbing components functioning properly … but, there are options when camping in remote locations (aka boondocking) if you decide to really rough it.
If your winter RV camping trip takes you to a location without power but you want to use electric appliances, you will need a generator to power your gear. Most bigger rigs have on-board generators that can handle almost any demand. If you don’t have an on-board generator or you want to supplement one, you will need to carry a portable generator with you. Your electricity demands will determine the size of generator you need. Here are a few options.
Yamaha EF2000iSv2 Gas Powered Portable Inverter
For low-capacity needs, the Yamaha EF2000iSv2 Gas Powered Portable Inverter is quiet and easy to carry. It can be directly connected to your RV 30 AMP power cord using the Conntek RV 30 AMP 3-Prong Adapter. This unit can power a small ceramic space heater while keeping your RV battery topped off. It is rated at 2000 watt surge/1600 watt continuous. It can run up to 10 hours on a single 1-gallon tank of gas … now, that’s efficient power!
For higher capacity needs, the DuroStar DS4000S Gas Powered Portable Generator is a great option. It can power large space heaters and for summer camping it can even power a smaller air conditioner in an RV! It is quiet for its size and is rated at 4000 watt surge/3300 watt continuous. This unit can be directly connected to your RV 30 AMP power cord using the Camco 55333 RV 30 AMP 3-Prong Generator Adapter. It can run up to 8 hours on a single 4-gallon tank of gas.
Seal-Up For Winter RV Camping
RVs are notorious for not being completely sealed which can cause problems with cold air and moisture inside your rig. Sealing areas that are common to leaks will help keep you warm in your RV when it’s cold outside. Here are some things to consider:
- Seal window frames, vents, access doors etc.
- Cover windows
- Insert thermal vent insulators
- Cover air conditioning units
Routine maintenance is always important. When camping with your RV in the winter check your window seals, frames, vents, access doors etc. to keep moisture out and warm air in. This Geocel 28100V Pro Flex Crystal Clear RV Flexible Sealant is flexible, clear, UV resistant and especially created for RVs. This sealant is also available in other colors.
Covering the inside of RV windows is a way to add a layer of thermal protection. Reflectix BP48010 Bubble Pack Insulation comes in rolls that you cut to fit your various RV window sizes. This seven-layer insulation reflects up to 97% of radiant heat and has an R-value of up to 14.3 depending on the specific application. It is durable enough to be stored and reused … plus, it can be used in the summer to keep you cool inside!
Inserting a vent insulator into overhead crank-open vents helps to reduce heat loss through the vent opening. The Camco 45192 Sunshield Vent Insulator is almost 3″ thick and snugly fits standard 14″ RV vents. Just as most of these insulating accessories, this insulator can be used in the summer as well as the winter.
Covering your RV A/C unit does a few of things … It protects your air conditioner from dirt, drafts, weather and harmful UV rays. This Camco 45392 Vinyl Air Conditioner Cover fits Dometic Brisk Air Models but there are various sizes available so make sure to choose the one that fits your A/C model.
Wear Warm Clothing & Use Heaters
Wear warm clothing and heat your interior. Check out our Winter Camping Clothes Keep You Toasty post for winter clothing tips. Moisture-filled air inside your RV can condense on interior surfaces and lead to mold and mildew. Ceramic heaters don’t produce moisture but they require electricity. Combustion heaters don’t need electricity but they do produce moisture inside your RV. You’ll probably need more propane than you expect so bring extra. Here are some things to consider:
- Do you have access to electricity?
- Do you have access to propane gas?
- Do you want a portable temporary type of heater solution?
- Are you willing to consider an RV modification to plumb a more permanent type of solution?
If you have access to AC power, ceramic heaters are great because they can keep a small area warm and cozy. They are also a preferred type of heater because they don’t produce moisture as a byproduct like portable propane heaters. The Lasko 754200 Ceramic Heater has an adjustable thermostat with 3 settings: High Heat (1500-watt), Low Heat (900-watt) and Fan Only (900-watt) and this heater has automatic overheat safety protection.
The Dyson AM05 Hot + Cool Fan Heater produces dry heat that can fill an entire room with its long-range high velocity projection using ‘Air Multiplier’ technology. It comes with a remote control so you can adjust oscillation, airflow and temperature from up to 30-feet away. It is surprisingly quiet. Because it emits dry heat, it won’t produce condensation inside your RV.
Don’t have access to power for a heater? No problem … Use a propane heater! When using combustion/propane heaters, you need to have proper ventilation to restore oxygen and release moisture from the air inside your RV. You should also have a properly functioning Carbon Monoxide Alarm. Moisture is a byproduct of propane heaters so be prepared to dry your RV interior (we have tips later in this post.)
Camco 57351 Olympian Wave-8 8000 BTU LP Gas Catalytic Heater
This Camco Olympian Wave-8 8000 BTU LP Gas Catalytic Heater is designed to be wall-mounted or can stand alone with the optional Camco Wave Heater Leg Stands. There are two ways to supply gas to this heater: (1) Connect to a portable propane tank with this Camco Low Pressure Gas Regulator with 12′ Hose, or (2) Splice directly into your RV’s existing LP gas line (this modification should be performed by a qualified professional).
The 6,000-12,000 BTU Mr. Heater MH12B Hunting Buddy Portable Space Heater utilizes 1-pound propane tanks (like the kind you use with your camp stove) or can be used with a 20-pound cylinder remote gas supply by connecting it using the Mr. Heater Buddy Series Hose Assembly and Mr. Heater Fuel Filter. This heater has a safety shut-off in case the unit is accidentally tipped over or the oxygen depletion sensor detects low levels of oxygen in the air.
Refilling 1-pound propane tanks is easy, cheap and environmentally friendly too! Just connect your 1-pound empty tank to a larger propane tank using this Mr. Heater Propane One Pound Tank Refill Adapter and allow the propane to transfer into the smaller tank.
Anytime you are using propane, you should verify your RV’s carbon monoxide alarm is in proper working order. If your RV does not have an alarm installed, you should get one that you can mount or use on a tabletop surface. This Kidde C3010 Worry-Free Carbon Monoxide Alarm has a 10-year lithium battery sealed within the unit.
Keep Your RV Dry Inside
Cooking, showers and propane heaters are just a few things that produce moisture in an RV. Unfortunately, in cooler conditions, this moisture will condense more easily resulting in wet interior surfaces. This is not only an uncomfortable condition, if left unchecked, it can lead to mold and mildew. Here are several ways to remedy this:
Some things to consider:
- Do you have access to electricity?
- Do you have the ability to monitor your temperature and moisture levels?
Eva-Dry Edv-1100 Electric Petite Dehumidifier
This Eva-Dry Edv-1100 Electric Petite Dehumidifier is perfect for RVs. It is quiet, requires small amounts of electricity, is a compact size and automatically turns off when the water tank is full. This dehumidifier protects up to 1100 cubic feet so you may need multiple units depending on the size of your RV.
DampRid FG50T Hi-Capacity Moisture Absorber is a no-electric-required option to combat moisture inside your RV. You place the container on a flat surface; the natural crystals will harden and dissolve as they absorb moisture. Depending on the temperature and conditions, one container can last up to 60 days in areas up to 1000-square feet, and up to 6 months in a 250-square foot area.
For a more aesthetically appealing no-electric-required option to fight moisture in your RV, consider using DZA160 DRI-Z-AIR Crystals with the Dri-Z-Air DZA-U Pot. You place the crystals in the tray and the water collects in the pot below. You empty the pot and refill the crystal tray as necessary. The size of your RV and humidity level will determine the number of pots you need placed throughout your RV and how frequently you need to empty them.
Knowing temperature and humidity levels in your RV allows you to take preventive measures to avoid mold, mildew and freezing. We recommend monitoring the heated ares inside your RV as well as exterior storage areas … especially those that house plumbing components.
Ambient Weather Wireless Thermo-Hygrometer With Remote Sensors
Thermo-Hygrometers measure temperature and humidity in the air. This Ambient Weather Wireless Indoor/Outdoor Thermo-Hygrometer has the ability to monitor four areas using the console unit along with 3 wireless remote sensors. All of the readings are displayed on the main console. You can pre-set minimum and maximum measurements and if they are exceeded, audible and visual alarms will be triggered. Additional sensors can be purchased to monitor up to 8 locations with one console. The components are battery operated.
Protect RV Plumbing In Freezing Conditions
Below freezing temperatures require extra precautions so your RV plumbing systems do not freeze and/or rupture. CAUTION: If you are going to use your RV’s holding tanks (with a fresh water supply or bottled water), make sure you use an RV Holding Tank Heater or have the appropriate amount of RV Antifreeze in the grey and black tanks to prevent freezing.
If you are hooked up to city water at your campsite, the hose that connects your RV to the water supply is exposed to the outside air temperature and it is likely to freeze. Here are tips to remedy those situations:
Pirit PWL-03-25 25-Feet Heated Hose
If you have a constant supply of AC power and are connected to city water, a heated hose will be your best friend! This Pirit Heated Hose is electric, thermostatically controlled and prevents water from freezing inside the hose down to -42°F. The heater automatically turns on when the temperature is below 45°F and turns off above 50°F; make sure you set the thermostat part of the hose outside (not in a protected compartment) so it’s getting a true reading. It is made with a safe-drinking PVC material.
If you want to use your regular fresh water hose in freezing conditions, you will need to heat and insulate it to prevent freezing. Wrapping electrically powered Pipe Heating Cable around the hose, then placing it inside an Insulating Foam Pipe Cover will usually prevent the water inside the hose from freezing. The heating cable is designed to prevent freezing to -50°F and the foam covers are safe up to 212°F; both come in various lengths. You should also protect pipes and water lines located in the non-heated compartments of your RV … don’t forget the ice maker line if you have one.
You should protect your fresh, grey and black tanks as well as all associated plumbing components from freezing. The JR Products RV Holding Tank Heater has elements that are thermostatically controlled and automatically turn on at approximately 34°F. This heater can run on AC (1 Amp) or DC (10 Amps) power. The size of the heater is designed to be used with a 15-gallon tank; additional heaters should be added depending on tank sizes as well as other exposed plumbing components.
Winterized RV & Bottled Water
If you have already winterized your RV but still want to use the toilets and sinks, you can use bottled water from jugs then follow that down the drain with additional RV Antifreeze. Grey and black tanks are typically located below the rig, exposed to outside temperatures and prone to freezing in the winter.
Aqua-Tainer 7-Gallon Rigid Water Container
We use our Aqua-Tainer 7-Gallon Rigid Water Container jugs on all of our RV camping trips. In the summer we haul extra water when we are boondocking off-the-grid and these jugs make the perfect outdoor hand-washing station to avoid running in and out of the RV throughout the day. It has a screw-on vent as well as a hideaway spigot for on-demand water dispensing.
As you use bottled water in your winterized RV, the antifreeze in the system will be diluted and tanks will be prone to freezing … so, pour additional antifreeze into the grey water tank (through the tub or shower drain) and the black waste tank (through the toilet) after using bottled water. This Camco 30611 RV Antifreeze Concentrate is 100% biodegradable and non-toxic. 36 ounces of concentrate makes 1 gallon of antifreeze and provides protection down to -50°F when it is properly diluted.
If you want to winterize your RV yourself, the Camco 36190 RV Winter Readiness Kit comes in handy. It contains Premium Ban Frost 2000 Antifreeze Concentrate, Blow Out Plug, Hand Pump Kit, Mini Dehumidifier, Odor Eliminating Bag, Fridge Door Stay and a step-by-step RV winterizing guide … all neatly organized in a convenient bucket. Be sure to follow your RV manufacturer’s instructions for winterizing your specific rig.
RV Winter Camping Engine Aids
Whether you tow an RV or drive a Motorhome, during the winter months you need to ensure that your engine is ready to go when you are! You may want to install an engine heater and add a fuel supplement for easy starting in cold temperatures.
Getting vehicle engines to start in cold weather does not have to be challenging. Installing an engine block heater will heat the engine fluids for faster and easier starts (which also means less wear and tear on your battery and engine). The Zerostart 310-0072 Engine Block Heater operates on standard AC power and works on gas or diesel engines. Plug it in least 3-4 hours before you start your engine. This engine block heater comes in different sizes to fit specific vehicle models. If you are not mechanically inclined, you will want to hire a mechanic to install it for you.
The Kat’s 24150 150 Watt 4″x 5″ Universal Hot Pad Heater is a peel and stick thermostatically controlled device that is applied to the bottom of your oil pan. It heats engine oil for quicker and easier starts in cold conditions. Plug it in 4-5 hours before you start your engine; it operates on standard AC power. The heater is easy to install and requires minimal mechanical ability.
This Power Service 1080-06 +Cetane Boost Diesel Fuel Supplement Anti-Freezer anti-gelling diesel fuel additive works by ensuring fuel continually flows smoothly through your diesel engine fuel lines and filters. It is designed for cold winter operations when temperatures drop below 30°F.
Bedding For Winter RV Camping
It is impossible to get a solid night of sleep when you are shivering from being cold. Heat rises so it’s a good idea to add a layer of warmth under your body. If you have access to electricity on your winter RV camping trip, a heated mattress pad is a great solution for a warm and comfortable bed. The Biddeford Heated Mattress Pad has dual auto-off analog controllers on the queen and king size pads; the 100% polyester material is machine washable. The Electrowarmth Heated Non-Fitted Mattress Pad is great for bunks and other non-standard RV beds because of its non-fitted design. The pad is hand washable and comes in twin, full, queen and king sizes.
If you don’t have access to electricity on your winter RV camping trip, it is easy to stay warm at night with cold weather sleeping bags. The TETON Mammoth Queen Size Sleeping Bag is designed to accommodate two people and traps double body heat making for a cozy night of sleep. The TETON Ultralight Mummy Sleeping Bag is a really popular bag for a single person and has a 0°F survival rating and a 15°F/20°F comfort rating.
Be Aware Of The Weather
Check the forecast for your intended destination and if all looks good … Go … Then monitor throughout your trip. On short-term winter RV camping trips it is important to monitor weather because you can’t hunker down and wait for bad weather to clear; using an emergency weather alert radio will keep you informed.
Kaito 5-Way Powered Emergency AM/FM/SW Weather Alert Radio
The Kaito 5-Way Powered Emergency AM/FM/SW Weather Alert Radio features 7 standard bands for all stations and the weather alert allows you to receive the alert signal. The solar panel powers the radio and charges the built-in batteries. There is also an LED reading lamp which can be used as a flashlight or flashing emergency signal. The USB jack allows you to charge small electronics too!
One more thing … These winter RV tips won’t guarantee to keep components from freezing (RVs, camping locations and weather conditions are unique) but they will give you an advantage to beat the elements on short-term winter RV camping trips.
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Just starting? Get our RVing Tips For Beginners: Enjoying The Maiden Journey!
Food And Drinks For Staying Warm On Winter RV Camping Trips
Eat and drink warm, calorie-rich food and drinks so your body has lots of energy and stays warm. Here are some of our favorite warm camp recipes!
- Cast Iron Skillet Camp Chicken Recipe
- Campfire White Chili Recipe
- Campfire Chill-Fighter Chili Recipe
- Hobo Stew Recipe For A Campfire (That Cooks In Foil Packets)
- Lasagna In A Dutch Oven Camp Recipe
- Dutch Oven Pizza Camp Recipe
- Camp Dutch Oven Coffee Cake
- Dutch Oven Tomato and Avocado Frittata
- Campfire Hot Cocoa
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I love sharing my recipes and tips for enjoying the great outdoors while camping, RV adventuring and relaxing in your own backyard. I’d love to hear what you think and if you’d like to share some of your secrets, I’d love to hear them too! Please leave a comment below and let’s chat.
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