Tips for Using Your RV in Winter

Many people who own a seasonal vehicle like a boat, motorcycle or an RV put it in storage for the winter season. Yet a recreational vehicle has the potential for mileage during the colder months, as long as you outfit it properly and bring along the right supplies.

If you’re planning to take a road trip in the snow-covered scenery or want to visit the ski slopes without staying in a hotel, here’s how you can safely use your RV during winter.

Issues to Consider

First and foremost, cold weather is the most significant issue. Without the right preparation, you could experience burst pipes, a dead battery or get stranded in sub-zero temperatures.

To anticipate these issues, think about insulating your RV. You can further enhance existing insultation with foam boards, bubble insulation, solar blankets, thermal curtains and an RV skirt. Additionally, you should caulk around windows and doors, then add weather stripping to prevent cold air from coming inside the RV.

Along with the interior, you’ll need to address the plumbing. Ideally, you can use heat tape and replace the standard water hose with a heated option. Failing to take these steps can lead to cracked plumbing, leaking and a significant mess underneath your RV.

Keep the RV Warm

To keep your recreational vehicle warm, you should understand how its HVAC system works. Most RVs use a heat pump added to the rooftop unit and have a propane-fueled furnace.

However, you won’t use both at the same time. The furnace is more appropriate when temperatures are above freezing. As it can burn out quickly when placed under greater demand, switch to the heat pump once the outdoor temperature drops below 40 degrees.

In considering these scenarios, make sure you:

  • Have sufficient propane for your journey.
  • Keep the vehicle temperature high enough to prevent the interior from freezing.
  • Add a skirt and insulation to the inside, so it can better retain heat.
  • Install foam between the frame and ground.
  • Supplement the HVAC system with small indoor space heaters.
  • Keep the cabinet doors open, which can reduce the risk of the RV’s pipes freezing.
  • Block cold air by adding weather stripping to all exterior doors and panels, and installing heavy thermal drapes.
  • Caulk around all windows and doors.
  • Install window coverings made of film or reflective foil.
  • Add heavy insulating rugs or foam board flooring.
  • Protect the AC unit with an insulating cover.

Pack the Right Supplies

When using an RV in the winter, stock the vehicle with the following:

  • Winter clothing, including heavy coats and boots
  • A heated water hose
  • Ice scraper
  • RV and engine antifreeze
  • Extra warm blankets
  • Tire chains
  • A radio for listening to the weather forecast
  • Sleeping bags with a zero-degree temperature rating
  • At least five gallons of drinking water, kept in a heated container
  • A white gas camping stove
  • Gas-powered generator
  • Extra propane
  • Backup GPS system
  • Extra supply of food
  • Solar panels for recharging batteries

Watch for Freezing Components

Recreational vehicles contain several plastic components, all of which can freeze and crack in cold weather. The less water that is stored in these places, the better. To prevent this issue, be sure to:

  • Fully drain the freshwater tank and keep it empty during the trip. Instead, use bottled water, stored inside the vehicle.
  • Consider using compressed air to fully clear the water lines of any moisture.
  • Add RV antifreeze to the plumbing and black and gray water tanks, pouring about a quart down the drain or toilet, but avoiding the freshwater tank.
  • Add heat tape to the plumbing, in the event you want to use a water hookup.
  • Use a PVC pipe for the sewer pipe or add a layer of insulation around this connection point to prevent ice dams.
  • Regularly empty the holding tank to prevent its contents from freezing.
  • Keep all water outlet ports closed.

Have Clear Travel Plans

A winter RV trip should have a defined itinerary. Check the weather and be ready to respond to the forecast. As you prepare for your trip:

  • Check the weather conditions ahead of time and stay updated during your trip.
  • Be prepared to reschedule, particularly if a major snowstorm is predicted.
  • Research campgrounds in advance to make sure certain locations are open.
  • If you’re planning to explore a national park or another destination, make sure the location will be open in winter and that you have the right supplies to use the trails.
  • Keep alert to all road conditions, particularly black ice, and know how to respond.
  • Make sure your gas tank is always at least half full as you’re traveling around.
  • In the event of closures, consider scheduling a backup itinerary or having entertainment options inside the RV.

Ensure your RV has adequate insurance coverage for winter. To discuss or adjust your policy, contact us today.