There’s nothing quite like hitting the road for a summer adventure—visiting your favorite parks, hiking and exploring, and curling up in your RV for a comfortable sleep on those soft summer nights. But we travelers often feel the pull of the open road all year long, even when that blissful summer warmth is replaced by the chilly bite of autumn and winter. So when can we justify investing the time and money into weatherproofing an RV and heading out for some cold-weather travels? Let’s take a look!
We’ll discuss the benefits and drawbacks of weatherproofing and insulating an RV, the different methods out there along with RV insulation types, and the top considerations to think about before diving in.
Broaden Your Travel Season
By installing RV insulation, you open up the whole year for travel. All you hikers and summer sports enthusiasts out there will appreciate the added capability to visit your favorite recreation areas earlier in the spring or later in the autumn while avoiding most of the peak-season crowds. Meanwhile, winter sports lovers will enjoy the warm air that greets you when you come in off the snow to a cozy winter home.
Investing in weatherproofing your RV ensures that no event, sport, or season is out of your reach!
Improved Summer Performance
Insulating your rig doesn’t just keep you warm in winter, but it also helps keep your RV cool in the summer. Insulation combined with proper hot-weather practices will keep that hot air outside your vehicle while keeping it cool inside. Remember, coolers rely on insulation to keep your food cold, and the same principle applies here.
Condensation is the enemy of many a full-time RVer. From condensation while sleeping (hot breath collecting on cool walls) to steamy days, water can build up quickly and, over the long term, slowly cause water damage to your rig. Proper insulation can help to regulate these temperature differences and reduce condensation to protect your camper.
Primary Considerations for Insulation
One of the primary considerations before installing insulation is how much weight it will add to your RV. Depending on the materials used, the added load can be significant, impacting your tow capabilities, gas mileage, etc. That doesn’t mean you should skimp on your insulation! But be strategic and thoughtful in your implementation to strike a good balance.
R-Value is the ability of insulation material to resist heat/temperature transfer. The higher the R-value, the better the material is at insulating. When searching for the right insulation for your camper, consider the temperature extremes you want it to protect against, and then weigh potential R-values against other factors like weight and expense.
Properly insulating your RV from top to bottom is an expensive proposition no matter how you slice it – whether doing it yourself or hiring a professional. Therefore, the primary consideration you need to think about before moving forward is whether or not you’re ready to make that investment. Remember, this is not a project you want to skimp on! Half-hearted insulating and weatherproofing will only lead to chilly evenings and the potential for costly issues like burst pipes.
However, there are definitely some more budget-friendly material options for weatherproofing. Let’s take a look at some of these options.
Types of RV Insulation
Fiberglass RV Insulation
Fiberglass insulation is very common for almost any project, from homes to RVs. It typically looks like fluffy pink rolls that are installed behind your wall panels. This type of insulation is generally among the cheapest options out there and has an excellent R-value. It is also reasonably straightforward to install since it’s flexible and easy to match your RV’s shape (keep in mind that you’ll have to remove your wall paneling, install, and then reassemble your walls).
However, fiberglass insulation is less expensive for two reasons. First, it wears down faster than spray foam insulation and rigid foam (discussed next). Second, it’s very susceptible to moisture, which may lead to mold growing in your RV walls over time.
With all this in mind, fiberglass insulation is best suited to RVers who tend to adventure in one primary climate or multiple mild climates. This insulation will not perform well if you’re often jumping seasons from extreme heat to severe cold.
Spray Foam Insulation
While tricky to install correctly, spray foam offers a plethora of benefits to your RV insulation project. First off, it’s lightweight, which soothes any worries you may have about overburdening your RV with excess pounds. Second, this type of foam insulation expands and seals. The foam can access all those hard-to-reach nooks and crannies and seal them. That seal is also water-resistant.
For all these great benefits, this type of insulation has a lower R-value than other options. Therefore, it won’t offer the same level of protection against hot or cold air as the alternatives. So if you’ve got your eye on chilly winter camping for skiing, you should probably opt for a different type.
If you choose spray foam insulation, we highly recommend trying it out on some scrap plywood first so you can get the hang of it before installing it in your RV. Compensating for the foam’s expansion takes a little practice.
Rigid Foam RV Insulation
Rigid foam insulation tends to hit the sweet spot between spray foam and fiberglass. It has a mid-range R-value, is moisture-resistant, and is long-lasting. Sounds great, right? Not so fast.
Rigid foam insulation tends to be one of the toughest to install. You’ll need to cut each foam board to precisely fit the space you’re covering, and you’ll need additional tools or adhesives to secure it properly.
So, while labor-intensive, this option is ideal for insulating RV walls if you’re planning on some cold weather in the winter and seamlessly making the transition to toasty summer camping.
Those looking for a more natural solution may find it in wool insulation. Made with the less popular colors and qualities of sheep wool, wool insulation (not to be confused with rock wool, which is made from raw materials spun into fibers) has a great R-value and handles moisture well. If you choose the wool insulation provider carefully, you can avoid any types of pesticides or other chemicals in the material.
On the downside, nature wool insulation is heavy, more expensive than the other options, and can be tricky to install, especially between the roof and ceiling. You’ll want to double-check your tow capacity and gross weight ranges before committing to wool insulation.
Plumbing, Tanks, and Underbelly
If you’re simply insulating your RV for more flexibility in the shoulder seasons, rock on! But if you’re looking to camp mid-winter, don’t forget that you’ll need to insulate your rig’s plumbing, water tanks, and underbelly as well.
Water freezes quickly in winter conditions, and a ruptured water pipe or tank can spell disaster for your camping trip. So, take the time and effort to make sure you cover all your bases for complete weatherproofing.
Windows and Doors
Don’t forget to give your windows and doors some weatherproofing love. Proper seals, caulking, double or triple-paned windows, and curtains will all go a long way to keep you comfortable in all weather conditions.
It can be a tough decision to insulate or not, but we hope this article helped you decide when the investment is worth it. Think about your destinations and seasons as well as your preferred activities, and if you choose to weatherproof, make sure you’re thorough and don’t skimp!
When you’re all insulated and ready to tackle the cold, don’t forget to check out our guide to winterizing your RV.