RV Winter Camping Trip Prep
Winter RVing in British Columbia is something that all RVers and campers should experience. Imagine waking to a wonderland of snow outside while being warm and cozy inside. After breakfast strap on the snowshoes, hit that favourite ski hill or cross-country trail, head to a beach for a magical shoreline hike or catch dinner while you ice fish on a frozen lake.
Indeed, winter camping comes with its own unique challenges and safety considerations, so you’ll need to prepare the RV for various conditions before embarking on a trip. Many manufacturers are building RVs that are for all-season use. These units are designed and constructed to handle inclement elements and boast features such as heated underbellies, better insulated walls and roofs and below-floor heating ducts. Read the RV manual for manufacturer’s tips and info on the unit’s cold weather functions before going anywhere.
All revved up and don’t know where to go in winter? The Camping and RVing BC Coalition has a Web page which lists over 150 campgrounds and RV parks in the province that are open for business in the winter.
Here is some helpful advice to make your winter RV trip a more carefree one:
One of the biggest mistakes that newbie RVers make in winter is connecting the regular water hose to the campground supply and having it freeze overnight. Consider buying a heated water hose to prevent freeze-ups or bursting. These are controlled with a thermostat and AC power is required to operate them. Always keep all hoses and cables off the ground or out of the snow.
Another option is to fill your fresh water tank and then disconnect your hose from the campground faucet and let the water drain out. Often the water tank is located inside the RV and, as long as the unit is heated, the water in the tank should not freeze.
Do not assume that because your RV is heated that water lines running through it will not freeze. Any semi-exposed line can freeze! (Examples are in compartments behind hatches that are not insulated.) Verify the temperature the water heater is rated to operate down to.
Tip: Use a hairdryer to thaw frozen pipes.
Always empty your black and grey water tanks before your trip. Add one litre of RV potable antifreeze to each tank to protect the dump valves from freezing. Insulate the pipes draining into the tanks with foam pipe insulation. Consider adding electric pipe heaters if you plan to camp in below-freezing temperatures for an extended time (an electric hook-up or generator is required for this).
Always keep your black water valve closed and only dump when full. If left open the liquids will drain off leaving only the solids (they become very solid after a short period of time). Don’t empty your tanks until you’re ready to leave. This will help prevent ice from forming.
If you must keep your sewer hose connected at all times, be sure it is placed and supported at a steep angle so all residue runs down. Some seasoned RVers recommend not using the flexible sewer pipes as they can split, although others maintain heat tape can often solve this.
Tip: Wrap the sewer hose in insulation or heat tape to prevent ice from forming inside the pipe.
WARMTH, INSULATION & CONDENSATION
Feel for any drafts and, where possible, insulate and/or seal the areas. Check window seals and re-caulk where needed. Look to retrofit single pane windows with insulated RV windows or add window insulating film. For drafty walls and floors add foam insulation panels or foam board flooring.
Examine the weather stripping on all exterior doors, slide-outs and access hatches and cover the AC unit. Insulate and re-seal accordingly. Most RVs have roof vents or skylights, which are ideal places for heat to leak out (these usually have exterior covers to prevent rain and snow from getting in). Seal these off by inserting an RV vent cushion or make your own with insulation and a moisture-proof fabric.
Saying this, one consequence of a well-sealed RV is condensation which builds up from internal heat and moisture, therefore keeping at least one vent about 2.5 cm open will allow for some ventilation.
Tip: Change any indoor curtains to a heavier or insulating fabric to block cold air. Add a moisture-resistant rug or carpet to the floor for the winter trip.
Tip: Insulate the gap behind light fixtures and electrical outlets.
Test the furnace before you hit the road and use compressed air or a brush to remove dust, debris, insects or spider webs. For those not using a furnace a portable ceramic or electric space heater is another option to stay warm, but make sure to open a window or vent, especially when heating with propane. For milder nights a heated blanket may suffice, just make sure it has the automatic switch-off function.
If you use propane to heat your rig it’s likely to last only a few days in really cold weather. For longer stays consider getting a 100 lb propane tank to supplement the regular tanks. Insulate the outside propane regulator from freezing conditions such as excessive wind chills. Also, change and test batteries in all devices and safety alarms (smoke alarm, carbon monoxide and propane leak detectors) and pack and store spare batteries in a warm place.
If you plan to be situated for a while place wooden blocks underneath any stabilizing jacks to prevent ice formation and invest in an RV skirting (they generally snap on) to avoid cold air and wind from getting up and into the underbelly of the unit. You can also add insulating boards to fit between the framing and the ground which will help insulate tanks, water lines and the floor and prevent heat loss from the unit.
Tip: Use an electric dehumidifier; alternatively, a container of moisture absorbent will help to remove dampness from the air and help prevent corrosion, mold and mildew.
GO RVING TIPS
Park your RV in the sun whenever possible. You’ll be amazed at how much a good winter sun can heat up your RV.
Park your RV on support boards. These boards will prevent your RV tires from ‘sinking’ if the ground thaws.
Pack winter bed quilts/sleeping bags and enough winter clothing to last a few days in the event of furnace or electrical failure.
Make sure that the heat tape you buy can be crossed over itself, as this will provide the most efficient seal.
Periodically start the engine to keep everything in good running order.
To keep your RV battery charged, consider getting a solar panel system or an inverter.