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How to Care for Your RV in Ice and Snow

So you’re not just a fair-weather camper? You don’t let Mother Nature determine when you can and can’t go RVing? A little snow and ice never hurt anyone, you think. It’s not going to stop me from packing my bags and hitching up my RV for a little cold-weather getaway. While you already have one foot out the door and the other on your truck’s accelerator, there are a few things you should consider before heading out with your RV in tow if you’re going to encounter icy or snowy conditions. Let’s look at how to care for your RV in ice and snow so you stay safe and warm when the temperatures drop.

Many RVers love the adventure of winter camping! People with toy haulers load up their snowmobiles for fun on the trails. Other RVers head out to go ice fishing, skiing, or snowshoeing. And you can’t overlook the awesome hiking that camping in the mountains offers. Even though temps are below freezing and warmth from sunshine is a distant memory from months before, you can still work up a sweat in the great outdoors. When you return to your RV from your fun but frosty expedition and peel off your wet, moisture-wicking layers, you’ll want to hunker down in an RV that offers dry warmth.

Skirts Are Always in Style

The best way to keep your RV warm when it’s parked in one spot for a length of time is to skirt it. This can be done in one of two ways. Let’s take a look at the easiest and quickest way to skirt your RV. You can purchase either a pre-made or custom vinyl skirt that you install around your RV. If you buy a pre-made one, you will fashion together sections so that it fits your RV as snugly as possible. Most come in lengths that take into consideration uneven ground that you may have your RV parked on. If you buy a custom-fitted skirt, it will come in sections that most likely zip together to perfectly seal the underbelly of your RV. Most custom skirts are made with openings around the basement of your RV, steps, storage compartments, and more. While a custom skirt is the more expensive option of the two, it ensures a tight fit, is available in multiple colors, and uses high-grade materials. Vinyl skirts are perfect for RVers who aren’t planning to stay parked in one place for a lengthy period of time.

If you’re planning to set up camp and stay for a while in a snowy destination, you can consider making a homemade skirt out of the snow that surrounds your campsite! While this DIY snow skirt is definitely labor intensive, it’s the more economical way to go and still works to trap heat under your RV. Just get out your shovel and start piling snow around your RV up to the bays. Pretend like you’re making a snow fort and pack it down hard and tight. With temps below freezing, it should last for months (if you plan to stay that long).

Dodge Those Drafts

Another great way to trap heat inside your RV is by covering your rig’s windows with a material that insulates. If you’re crafty, make some DIY curtains out of a heavy fabric that will keep drafts at bay. If you’re not handy with a sewing machine, you’re not out of luck. You can use Velcro strips or snaps to attach some fabric over the windows and your “rustic” curtains will be just as functional as fancy sewn ones. You can also purchase a window insulation kit that is inexpensive and easy to install. The clear film that you shrink wrap over your windows using a hairdryer doesn’t impede your view and you can leave it up all winter. I used this in an older home with ancient windows one winter and I was shocked at how well it insulated! Definitely worth the time and money (especially since it's easy to install and cheap!)

Tangible Warmth

For warmth that you can see and feel, there are a few options that’ll melt your chilly tootsies. You can install a propane heater in your RV or place a space heater or two (depending on the size of your rig) inside. The first option is economical compared to using your furnace non-stop and it heats a small space very well. However be very cautious of the CO that's produced by propane! If you're planning to use a propane heater, ensure that your CO detectors are in good working order and you are able to vent your living space (to not only release CO gasses but to also let out humidity that it emits). If you go for the second option of using a space heater or two, you'll enjoy the freedom of moving them around with you in the RV (which will come in handy if your RV is large!) You can also place them in a spot in your RV near your tanks if you're worried that they'll freeze. And check out these tips for sleeping warmer during chillier months in your RV!

Don't Let Those Hoses & Tanks Freeze!

Now that you’re toasty warm inside your RV, let’s make sure your hoses and tanks are too! All pipes, sewer connections, tanks, and hoses need to be warm-ish to work properly, so don't leave them out in the cold! Here's some advice we've seen on how to care for them in freezing temps!

For your water hose, you can either cover it with heat tape and pipe insulation or you can buy a heated water hose. For peace of mind, the heated water hose works best. It turns on when temps drop below about 45 degrees and then turns off when temps rise again. This way you have a constant source of water. Or you can just use your hose when necessary and then store it away when you're not using it. No reason to subject it to freezing temps when it's not being used!

For your sewer hose, there are a couple options we've seen for keeping them thawed out. Consider using a PVC pipe instead of an RV drain hose, as it is more durable and will withstand freezing temps better. Or you can wrap it in insulation so that gray water in the pipe doesn’t freeze while it’s sitting in there. During the winter, don't dump the black tank as often as you do in warmer temps. Letting cold air in when dumping and removing most (but not all) of the moisture when dumping will inevitably lead to frozen you-know-what lurking inside the dark recesses of the tank. Unless you're really filling it up fast and dumping it is a necessity, refrain from overdumping.

If your RV has a bay that houses your tanks, water pump, filters, and more, purchase an inexpensive space heater to keep temps moderate in there. Simply turn it on once temps get dangerously low and then turn it off when it’s no longer needed. Available for around $20, this small investment is definitely a great idea!

Put a pot of Hobo Stew on the stove and watch the snow fly from the inside of your toasty RV with these great tips.

Do you camp in chilly temps? Do you have any tried-and-true tips on how to keep our RVs safe and warm when the temps drop? Let us know in the comments below!

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