Lots of people embrace RV living for the fun and exciting adventures the lifestyle can make possible. However, winter RV living becomes a reality when the seasons change and temperatures drop. Despite what you may have seen on Instagram, you’ll need much more to survive in an RV during the winter.
Today, we’re diving into the truth about winter RV living. Grab a cup of coffee or hot cocoa, and let’s start.
Is It Possible to Live in an RV in the Winter?
Many people live in or camp in an RV in the winter throughout the country. However, some places make it easier than others to spend winter in an RV. Most of the southern states have mild to warm winters.
However, the northern states, especially the northeast, can experience some tenacious weather. Living or camping in an RV in many northern states can pose a challenge, but you can do it.
The key is preparation. Those who live in areas with intense winter weather will often start preparing a month or so before they expect the temperatures to drop. They do everything possible to gather the necessary supplies and equipment to protect themselves and their RV.
If not, they’ll have a long and frustrating time.
How Cold Is Too Cold for Winter RV Living?
If you take the proper precaution, some RVs can withstand single-digit and even negative temperatures for extended periods. Will you survive? More than likely.
However, in these situations, it doesn’t matter how expensive of an RV you have; you likely won’t find it overly comfortable.
Typically when temperatures drop below freezing for more than 24 hours on consecutive days, RVs will begin to struggle. You can experience frozen water lines, condensation, and a propane furnace that runs almost nonstop. Thus, you may see why so many RVers head south for the winter.
How Do You Stay Warm During Winter RV Living?
Staying warm during winter will require some effort on your part. You will need to do everything you can to insulate your rig and have a reliable and continual heat source. Most RVers rely on their propane furnace to do the heating and electric heaters as a supplement. Staying warm during extreme winter isn’t easy, but the more you prepare, the easier it can be.
Even if you do everything possible, an RV may stay somewhat chilly during winter. You’ll likely need to wear layers of warm clothing, invest in some comfy wool socks, and maybe consider an electric blanket for those cold winter nights.
Pro Tip: Use these tips on How to Use RV Antifreeze to Winterize Your Rig to ensure you are prepared for the cold weather!
The Truth About Winter RV Living
If you want to know the truth about winter RV living, keep reading. We’ll tell you what life is really like in an RV and some tips for making the most out of it. Let’s dive in.
You’ll Want a Four-Season RV
While an RV dealer may have told you while shopping for a rig that you can easily camp in any weather, take the advice with a grain of salt. If you want the best chances of withstanding Old Man Winter, you want a four-season RV. These come with beefed-up insulation, tank heaters, and heating ducts that protect sensitive components. They’ll put up much more of a fight against cold weather to keep you warm.
A Heated Water Hose Is a Must
For many RV parks and campgrounds, a heated water hose is non-negotiable when the temperatures dip below freezing. They’ll post reminders at the spigots reminding campers to disconnect their water unless they use a heated water hose. This helps protect the campground’s water system and your RV against freezing temperatures.
A heated water hose warms the water enough to avoid damage to the sensitive components in your system. It also keeps the water warm enough that you won’t have to battle frozen water lines nearly as much. Having your water lines freeze while living in your RV can be extremely frustrating.
Pro Tip: We found the Best Heated Water Hoses for Your RV to help make the selection process easier.
RV Skirting Is a Huge Help
One major reason RVs get so cold is because of how high they sit off the ground. Their increased height means the cold wind can blow completely around them. This can accelerate the freezing process for an RV’s plumbing system, cause icy floors inside the RV, and ultimately result in a colder interior. However, using RV skirting can help combat many of these issues.
RV skirting surrounds the base of an RV and serves as a wind block for the rig. They come in various materials, but they all function similarly. Keeping the cold air out from under your RV can provide tremendous protection. You can spend a couple of hundred dollars on a DIY setup or thousands of dollars on custom-made skirting.
When living in your RV in the winter, we recommend getting good skirting to stay warm and protect your rig. The price may pay off if it avoids expensive plumbing repairs from burst pipes.
Your Water Lines Will Likely Freeze at Some Point
If you spend time in frigid temperatures, your water lines will eventually freeze. This typically requires 24 hours below freezing, but low temperatures can freeze water lines in a matter of hours. If your pipes freeze, you’ll have to wait for them to thaw to do anything about it in most cases.
Using RV skirting and running your propane furnace can help reduce the chances of experiencing frozen water lines. If you have a heating system with vents into the underbelly, ensure you run your furnace regularly to keep pumping warm air into that area.
→ Pro Tip: Find out everything you need to know about your RV propane furnace before you need to use it.
You’ll Use So Much Propane
The 20 or 30-pound propane tank that came with your rig may last for several months under normal camping circumstances. However, don’t expect longevity when running your propane furnace in the extreme winter weather.
These tanks may only last a few days before you’ll need to refill them if you camp in single-digit temps. Ensure you set up camp near a propane refill station so you don’t run out of fuel for your primary heating source.
Tips for Winter RV Living
Here are some of our best tips for winter RV living. We can’t guarantee you’ll be as warm as if you were in a residential home, but these tips can help you make the most of your winter adventures.
Rent a Larger Propane Tank
You’ll use a ton of propane when trying to stay warm. Some RVers spend hundreds of dollars in a single month on propane to keep their rig warm. Instead of constantly refilling tanks, you can rent 100+ gallon tanks from a propane supplier. Sometimes you can set up a fill schedule so they’ll automatically stop by and fill up your tank and send you a bill.
This can be extremely useful to help you avoid running out of propane at night. You may need to purchase a few attachments or hoses to connect the tank to your system, but many RVers find the convenience worth it. It only takes running out of propane in the middle of a cold night once before you’ll learn your lesson.
Use Space Heaters Wisely
Space heaters can be a very effective source of heat when living in your RV in the winter. However, they use a tremendous amount of power. RV and campground electrical systems can be temperamental. Many seasonal campsites require RVers to use a metered system for their electrical usage. It might surprise you how much power an RV will use in a month when running a space heater or two frequently.
You could find yourself easily tripping the breaker at the power pedestal. The last thing you’ll want to do is keep heading out to the pedestal to flip it back on. You’ll likely let in cold air when you come and go in your rig, defeating the purpose of running the space heater in the first place.
Have a Plan for Entertainment
During the coldest and most severe weather, you’ll likely be stuck inside for quite some time. Have a plan for how you’ll spend your time. Invest in games, movies, or books to occupy your time until spring arrives. If you thought cabin fever in a house was rough, cabin fever in a couple of hundred square feet could drive you mad.
Many RVers take the opportunity to pick up a hobby or learn something new. Is there an instrument you’ve always wanted to play? There’s no better time to pick it up than when wintering in an RV.
Watch for Condensation
Condensation often results from increased usage of propane appliances, especially the furnace. When propane burns, it releases moisture into the air. It looks to settle in any place with limited amounts of air circulation. It will collect on walls, under mattresses, and behind drawers. Failing to eliminate condensation in an RV can lead to dangerous levels of mold growing on surfaces and fabrics.
You can combat moisture using a large enough RV dehumidifier for your entire rig. Or, for a more cost-effective option, purchase smaller units that you can put in the various rooms. During the most extreme circumstances, you may have to empty these every few days, but they do a fantastic job of keeping moisture out of your rig.
Pro Tip: Use Damprids in the backs of closets and cabinets to absorb unwanted moisture.
Winter RV Living Isn’t Always Easy
Winter RV living isn’t always easy, but it can still be rewarding. Many RVers will set up their RV in areas normally packed with tourists during the peak travel season. On nicer days, they can venture out and explore these areas without the many tourists that flock to the area.
Getting to experience an area during winter can be an entirely new experience. Take the time to prepare yourself and your rig for winter RV living, and you can have an incredible adventure.
Is winter RV living for you or would you prefer to wait until the snow melts before heading out on an RV adventure? Tell us your thoughts in the comments!
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