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 an igloo and pack it down hard and tight. With temps below freezing, it should last for months (if you plan to stay that long).
If the area you’re in is going to stay at extremely low temps for a few days or longer (<10 degrees), you will want to set up a space heater underneath your RV to help keep your pipes, tanks, and hoses warm. A commercial space heater is a good way to go.
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. If you notice that the stairwell inside your RV is a bit drafty, create a barrier for it that keeps the cold outside, where it belongs. The easiest way to do this is by placing a piece of plywood over the stairwell and then covering it with a large blanket or comforter. It’s easy to remove when you come and go and just as easy to put back in place.
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 a propane heater produces CO and doesn’t have a vent, so you have to keep your RV vent(s) open and make sure your CO detector is working at all times. In addition to producing a deadly, odorless gas, it also produces humidity which can build up quickly inside an RV and create a nasty mold and mildew problem. The second option of using a space heater or two offers versatile heating since you can move them around depending on where you want most of the heat. If you have a larger RV, it works well to put one space heater near the front and one near the rear so that heat is evenly distributed throughout the RV. Also, locate where your tanks, pipes, and sewer connections are in your RV and make sure you place a space heater in this area so they all stay warm. As a word of caution, when choosing a space heater, opt for one that has an anti-tip shut off feature to keep you safer! 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 properly covered so they maintain a temperature that is above freezing.
For your water hose, you can either cover it in 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. However, to avoid a frozen hose altogether, unhook it during frozen temps. When you need to fill your water tank, hook it up and fill it up, then disconnect it.
For your sewer hose, consider using a PVC pipe instead of an RV drain hose, as it is more durable and will withstand freezing temps better. You can also wrap the pipe in insulation so that gray water in the pipe doesn’t freeze while it’s sitting in there. Also, only dump your blank tank when absolutely necessary and keep it closed all the time.
Usually there is a bay that houses your tanks, water pump, filters, and more, and an easy way to warm this area is by placing a small space heater in the bay. 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!