Some RV owners put their motorhomes into storage for the winter. Many others live in their RV year-round or seek to continue their off-grid adventures during the winter months.
If you enjoy the RV lifestyle year-round in a part of the country that gets freezing temperatures, you must prepare your RV for winter living.
Preparation is vital to withstand and protect you through the coldest months of the year.
Fortunately, you can prepare for a long winter with foresight and the right supplies. To enjoy RV living in winter, you have to ensure both the vehicle and you are ready to deal with the cold.
Once you prepare for the potential challenges, you’ll be ready to hit the road in virtually all sorts of weather, even in sub-zero conditions.
Preparing Your RV for Winter Weather
Whatever your reasons for RV living in winter, you need to prepare for the weather conditions you will face. You need to get your vehicle ready so that both you and the RV have protection from the elements.
Insulating Your RV
Step one for winterizing your RV is to insulate it. A non-insulated RV lets heat escape, leaving you uncomfortable and potentially unsafe. When you plan to spend time in your RV in cold climates — especially if you’re sleeping in it — you must take steps to protect yourself.
In an RV, insulation begins with the windows. These are the points where most of the heat escapes from the vehicle. Check the caulk around the edges, and replace any worn or damaged areas. Silicone caulk here will last longer and offer better protection against heat loss around your windows.
If you have the time, install window coverings or multi-pane windows. These effectively hold in more heat, lowering electricity consumption and reducing the demands on your heating system.
Next, look into RV skirting solutions to cover the edges between the RV and the ground. It protects against snow, ice, and cold temperatures on the vehicle’s underside, helping prevent parts from freezing.
Seal or cover other openings in your vehicle, including the door and roof vents. Similar to your windows, these are places where heat slips out around the edges. Covering these areas during the winter will hold heat in and help protect you and the vehicle’s interior from cold.
Finally, cover your water tanks. In the coldest temperatures, standing water can freeze if you aren’t careful. Use heating tape to wrap your water tank and pipes, and keep your tanks closed when not in use. Avoid connecting to outside water lines, as doing so makes freezing your pipes and water lines more likely.
Winterizing Your RV
Winterizing your RV can mean two different things.
For those storing an RV for winter, winterizing usually means draining the water from the vehicle and running antifreeze into the engine and the pipes. This procedure prevents the water from freezing, expanding, and bursting your pipes. It will help keep your RV in tip-top shape for spring.
RV living in winter requires a different approach. Don’t wait for the temperatures to drop below freezing. By the time it reaches 40° F (5° C) — if not before — you need to prepare for what’s to come.
You still need to use antifreeze in your vehicle engine; most manufacturers recommend a 50:50 blend of antifreeze and water to protect your engine against the cold. You’ll also want to ensure your battery has a full charge since cold temperatures can drain the battery. These steps will help keep your vehicle operational even in the most frigid weather.
Storing Your RV for Winter
If you decide to store your RV during the winter, the first step should be to drain water from the entire vehicle. Make sure you dispose of the dirty water safely, following the regulations in your area. Flush the pipes and run antifreeze through them to protect them from damage in freezing temperatures.
Get an RV cover designed for winter as well. A regular plastic tarp traps condensation and moisture against the vehicle, allowing mould and water damage to affect it while in storage. A cover made for RVs will be more effective and less likely to create problems while your RV is not in use. Similarly, specialty tire covers can help prevent cracking, erosion, and other damage to your tires.
Powering Your RV in the Winter
If you’re using your RV during winter, running out of power is one of the worst things that can happen. You need a reliable energy source to keep up with your needs and power your heaters and appliances.
You can’t rely on always being able to connect to the local grid or shore power — and often, you just won’t want to. The ability to go off-grid is one of the most attractive aspects of RV life.
Supplemental power generation is critical to actively using or living in an RV during the coldest months.
Generators and Other Power Sources for Your RV
Your RV’s battery works to power some small appliances in the vehicle. The problem is that it won’t keep up with all of your electrical needs for living off-grid. Like all vehicle batteries, the battery will recharge while the engine is running. It will drain quickly if you keep it running while the engine is off. To avoid getting stranded without power, you need to find alternative sources.
At most RV campsites, you can plug into a local power hookup. Shore power provides a convenient recharging site in these locations, so long as everything is operating correctly. In winter, many RV parks limit the number of spaces available or the use of electricity on site. Lack of shore power can leave you in a bind if you need to plug in during the winter months.
To protect yourself and keep everything running, you should have a generator available. In close quarters, you want a safe and quiet generator that still provides enough power to keep your RV going.
EcoFlow’s Power Kits are specifically designed for off-grid RV living. They’re designed to provide all the power you need — from 2kWh to 15kWh — and can recharge using four different charging methods, including household electricity, shore power, and solar panels.
It’s when you add solar panels that you achieve true energy dependence. Power Kits can utilize a combination of rigid, flexible, and portable solar panels to ensure you capture the maximum amount of solar power possible — even when you’re on the road.
There’s even a handy calculator to help you customize a Power Kit for your specific energy consumption needs.
Power Kits integrate with your RV’s existing electrical system. Installation is quick and painless, and the right Power Kit can meet all your off-grid electricity — regardless of the season.
Battery Maintenance and Storage in Cold Weather
During freezing winter days, RV batteries lose their charge faster. To help prevent this, you should check and recharge them periodically. You can do so using a generator or a battery maintainer. Keep your battery fully charged wherever possible so you’re ready to get back on the road or off the grid whenever you feel like it.
If you are storing your RV battery, keep it in a warm, dry location. Check that it has a full charge at least once a month. Don’t leave it connected to a power source unless you have a smart charger, as overcharging can damage the battery.
Staying Warm and Comfortable in Your RV
Even in a fully-insulated RV, staying warm can present a challenge. You will want to prepare with safe and effective heat sources inside the RV. Pack appropriate winter clothing and sleeping bags for protection against the elements.
If you go in ready, there’s no reason you can’t be comfortable in an RV in winter.
Heating Options for Your RV
Several different kinds of heaters are available for your RV. Electric space heaters are safe and efficient and can provide warmth through the night. You’ll need a generator to keep the power going, but you avoid many hazards of other kinds of heat.
Fossil-fuel-powered heaters should be used with extreme caution in RVs — if at all. The risks of carbon monoxide poisoning or fire in the confined space of an RV are high — and the consequences can be lethal.
Clothing and Bedding for Cold Weather
In cold weather, you should plan to dress in layers. Have hats and gloves, as these protect the parts of your body where you lose the most internal heat. In addition, having water-resistant clothing gives you the freedom to go out without trapping wet clothes against your body.
A thermal sleeping bag can be a lifesaving asset in winter RV living. In addition, a heated mattress pad or blanket provides an additional source of warmth to protect you during the night.
The more comfortably you can sleep through the night, the better you can enjoy the winter days of RV living.
Cooking in Your RV During the Winter
The simpler you can make cooking in an RV, the better for winter living. Slow cookers and instant pots can be your best friends, particularly if you couple them with simple recipes. Since campfire cooking is a little more treacherous in the cold, you want to prepare alternatives.
You also need to be careful to keep your fresh ingredients safe. Cooking and freezing meats ahead of time can protect against foodborne illnesses. Proper refrigeration and freezing for your ingredients also help keep you from harmful bacteria, helping to keep you safe and healthy throughout the winter.
Finally, water is a precious commodity. Protect your drinking water, and keep extra on hand. Avoid washing too many dishes along the way, as this can cut into your available water supply.
Don’t count on outside water supply lines for your food and drink. If you get snowbound in a blizzard, the next stop to refill could be far less accessible than you think.
Managing Potential Challenges of RV Living in the Winter
RV living presents challenges all year. Winter, though, creates unique concerns for which you need to be ready. The more effectively you prepare and maintain the RV, the better you can enjoy the experience.
Dealing With Snow and Ice
Snow and ice are part of winter reality in cold climates. You need to deal with them as you go. Allowing snow and ice to accumulate opens the door to leaks and damage to the vehicle.
Have a brush and scraper on hand, and plan to use them after any snowfall that sticks to the RV. You should also clear any accumulation around the parked RV, as it can trap you where you are.
If you have rigid or flexible solar panels installed on your RV’s exterior, make sure they’re free from snow and ice accumulation. This simple step will help ensure your off-grid solar generator system operates as efficiently as possible in extreme cold and precipitation.
Maintaining Your RV in Cold Weather
Maintenance for your RV in winter starts with antifreeze. Make sure you use at least a 50% concentration of antifreeze in your engine to prevent components from the cold. Be extremely careful to keep antifreeze out of your freshwater tank.
You also should keep an eye on your RV battery. Because winter tends to sap charge away from the engine battery, checking periodically and keeping it charged is essential to your safety and comfort.
Finally, check your seals around the windows and doors regularly. If cold air is coming in, look to block the source of drafts and, when the weather allows, re-seal around windows and doors that are letting out heat.
Finding Affordable Winter Campsites
If you’re looking for affordable campsites in winter, you should explore online and app-based camping listings. A campground in the heart of a popular winter destination — such as a skiing town — can get expensive. But locations well within driving distance can provide cost-effective options.
If you don’t require shore power because you have an alternative power source like a solar generator, your options for where to park will be far less limited.
RV life in winter might be an exciting adventure or a way of life for you. Whichever it may be, you should plan ahead.
Maintain your RV, including insulating and winterizing it, to prepare for the climate wherever you plan to go. Following the steps outlined above will keep you warm, dry, safe, and fed.
To reduce your dependence on the grid and shore power — or eliminate it completely — check out the RV and off-grid solutions available from EcoFlow.