What NOT to do when RVing in the Winter
Written by Lisa McQuaid on December 21, 2017
Before you head out RVing this winter, ensure your recreational vehicle can withstand the harshness of winter camping. The good news is that many, if not all, of the modern RVs today are built and insulated for the winter weather. But, if your RV is a bit older and you don't have the most current RV technology, a little prepping can keep it — and you, warm, cozy, and safe.
While you should know how to protect your RV in sub-zero temperatures, it’s also important you know what exactly NOT to do.
1. Don't Forget Your Holding Tanks
Empty your gray and black water tanks before you leave for your trip. Pour in around a quarter of a gallon of RV antifreeze into each. This is the pink antifreeze, not the green you use for your car. There's less chance of the dump valves freezing by doing this.
Use foam pipe insulation to insulate the pipes that drain into the tanks and you may even consider using electric pipe heaters if you plan on camping in an area with below freezing temperatures. You will require a generator or electric hook-up, however.
2. Don't Neglect to Protect Your RV Plumbing
One of the most common issues cold weather campers experience is damaged RV plumbing. When it freezes, water expands and causes the valves and pipes to burst or crack. To reduce this risk, try these tips:
- Heat Strips: Use tape or heat strips on the fresh water hose of your RV and cover it with foam insulation
- Internal Piping: Open your access panels and cupboards to allow the RV's interior heat to warm the plumbing pipes inside
- Waste Valves: When you're not using your waste valves, keep them closed. If any of them are exposed to the cold weather or elements, wrap them up with insulation
3. Don't Skip Taking Care of Your Fresh Water Hose
Consider purchasing a heated water hose if your RV has a freshwater hook-up to prevent bursting or freeze-ups. The AC power and thermostat control these. Keep all cables and hoses out of snow and off the ground. You may even wish to fill up your fresh water tank and simply detach and drain out water from the hose connected to the campground faucet.
4. Don't Neglect to Have Emergency Road Service for Your RV
Emergency road service for your motorhome or trailer supplies you with things like towing service, battery boost service and flat tire service for your fifth wheel, motorhome or trailer. Towing will bring your RV to the closest repair shop within 160 km. These services are important any time of the year — but especially in the wintertime.
5. Don't Fail to Skirt Your RV Exterior
Add a layer of skirting material around the exterior of your RV. This blocks cold winds from blowing around your RV and possibly sucking the heat out. Whether you buy the material or use DIY insulated panels, you'll keep the interior warmer, the more you can keep the cold air from blowing under the rig.
6. Don't Overlook the Other Parts of Your RV Exterior
Along with skirting, you'll also want to check the RVs window seals and if needed, re-caulk them. Look on exterior doors to see what the weather stripping looks like and replace if needed to keep out cold drafts. Consider cutting insulating foam boards that will fit snugly between the ground and RV frame all the way around your RV's base. Building a barrier like this will also help to insulate and protect water lines, tanks and the floor since it blocks out cold air.
7. Don't Dismiss the Ceiling Vents
Most RVs have skylights or vents. These are the biggest culprits of letting heat leak out. Install RV vent cushions to seal off these spots. These securely fit into most vents that are standard in size. All you do is push them into position. If you need a custom size, you can also make DIY vent cushions if you're handy. Use thick foam padding you'll find at fabric or home improvement stores.
8. Don’t Be Without RV Insurance
Last, but not least, ensure that you have quality RV insurance coverage that’s current. Winter weather doesn’t discriminate. So, whether you have motorhome, fifth-wheel, travel trailer, tent trailer, truck camper, or park model, be sure you're protected by whatever ole’ man winter throws your way.
Just remember, by not prepping and protecting your RV against the cold, hard winter temperatures, it can cause you big problems. Although may newer RVs come with thermal packages, including extra insulation, this sometimes isn't enough to tackle the sub-zero temperatures.