If the recent polar vortex that hit the U.S. left you uneasy for your next camping adventure, it might be time to consider a 4-season camper. As more people are extending their camping seasons, with that comes a higher risk of extreme climate. But how do you know your RV will tolerate the intense temperatures?
Read on to learn what a 4-season camper is, what it’s not, and if you need one.
What Is A 4-Season Camper?
For starters, there are no standards in the RV industry to define what makes a camper adequate for all four seasons. As such, you might have heard the phrase thrown around without knowing what it means.
A 4-season RV features weather upgrades to better withstand harsh climates and keep the inside of your RV comfortable. We use this term most often when talking about upgrades to help the RV in frigid weather conditions, but it also applies to the summer heat.
What Does It Truly Mean on an RV?
Having a 4-season camper is not a free pass to face all that nature throws at you. To say an RV can take on all seasons in all parts of the U.S. is not likely. That said, an all-weather camper gives you a good starting point to handle excessive temperatures by reducing damage to your RV and keeping you comfortable inside.
How to Tell If an RV Is Really “4-Season”
It’s not enough to think your RV is rated for four seasons because of a weather sticker or a climate package listed on a manufacturer’s brochure. Instead, you need to carefully review its features via the manufacturer’s brochures and website. You can even call them directly to inquire about the RV’s weather upgrades.
Some weather features to look for include: tank heaters on all holding tanks; a heated, fully enclosed underbelly with dedicated heat duct; insulated walls, floors, ceilings, and slide-outs to increase the R-value of your space; high output BTU furnace and air conditioner(s), and even a fireplace; and double pane windows to reduce heat loss, heat gain, and to reduce condensation.
A “4-season camper” label may mean just one or all of these features to varying degrees. It’s up to you to find out which ones your RV has and to what extent. This way when cold weather strikes, you know what to be most careful about.
What Kind of Weather Can a 4-Season Camper Handle?
Even RVs with the best-equipped weather packages will need modifications to perform in extreme climates. Some companies market their 4-season campers as 0-degree and 100-degree tested, but these are often placed in controlled environments for short periods.
To find out what temperatures your specific camper can handle, factor in other variables, like wind, elevation, sun exposure, and the amount of time it faces intense weather.
While our RV has stood up well in single-digit weather, we’ve heard from others that their 0-degree-rated RVs have had water lines freeze at 15 degrees Fahrenheit. While they were still pleased with how it performs in extreme cold, it didn’t match the marketing claims.
When Do You Need a 4-Season RV?
You might be asking yourself: who would be crazy enough to use an RV in the harshest of climates?
You may be surprised to learn that there are plenty of people, like those living full-time in their RV in a spot with extreme weather or those traveling for work to various climates. Or even those who will brave the cold for winter activities like skiing, ice fishing, and hiking.
If you don’t fall in these categories and think you’re out of the woods, remember that weather is unpredictable. It’s not enough to plan for moderate temperatures.
If your RV can’t handle harsh weather, your camping getaway could get very uncomfortable. Think frozen lines, sludgy poopsicles, dead RV batteries, and condensation galore. Ouch.
Worst case scenario, you might have permanent damage to your RV like bursting pipes, cracked holding tanks, and mold.
Do You Have to Winterize a 4-Season Camper?
RVers must winterize their rigs to protect them from freezing temperatures and lack of use. This also includes a 4-season camper.
Without your propane furnace running or some other heat source, you run the risk of freezing your pipes, holding tanks, and any appliances with water in them. Your RV manual is a good resource on how to winterize your RV when it’s time.
You’ll also need to de-winterize your RV when the weather starts to warm up.
Can You Make Any Camper Into A 4-Season Camper?
Although a 4-season camper makes it easier to face extreme temperatures, you can help any RV withstand intense weather with some work.
To find out what solutions are best for your RV set-up, read our guide to Cold Weather Camping: How To RV in Winter. We share the best tips, tricks, and gear to outfit your RV to take on the winter temperatures and reduce the chances of freezing up.
Some common upgrades for winter camping include heated water hoses to prevent water hoses and connections from freezing, RV skirting to add insulation under the RV, and electric blankets to keep you warm without having to heat the entire RV.
Many RVers also invest in some small space heaters to assist in warming certain areas of the RV.
You can also review RV online forums and social media groups, and talk to experienced winter campers. Even with these upgrades, know that your RV may not be as comfortable or perform as well as another true 4-season RV.
And a reminder: Be very careful when using space heaters, heat lamps, and work lights as a way to heat your RV. There are several safety measures you can take to reduce the risk of fire and gas poisoning.
Research and Prepare for Your Specific Climate
If you travel to extreme temperatures or want an RV that can stand up to unpredictable and harsh climates, a 4-season camper might be ideal for you. But don’t forget to research your specific weather package and make sure it fits your needs.
Finally, make additional preparations for your specific climate, then enjoy peace of mind knowing you’re ready to enjoy your next getaway.
Become A Mortons On The Move Insider
Join 10,000+ other adventurers to receive educating, entertaining, and inspiring articles about RV Travel Destinations, RV Gear, and Off-Grid Living to jump-start your adventures today!