How to Get Your Rig Winter Ready
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You’re really doing it. You’ve decided to stay the course (in a manner of speaking) and spend the winter in your RV. We, who also love the open road and the chill in the air, salute you, but we know there are a number of checklists to tick off before you and your ride are ready for the snowy season. We’ve gathered the research and real-world tips from winter-time nomads to make sure you’re ready for whatever your cold travels may bring you.
Exterior Upgrades For Your Rig
Insulate your water hose: Unfortunately, letting your faucet drip isn’t a great option to keep your water from freezing in an RV. As one Airstream veteran says, “You’ll just end up with frozen water that will eventually accumulate enough to freeze your pipes on the way out of the RV.” Not ideal.
Insulate the undercarriage: One of the best ways to trap heat and keep your whole rig warm is to insulate the bottom. Not only will this help to keep the frozen ground from messing with your RV’s underparts, but it will keep your floors warmer and you happier.
There are a few ways to do this. You can spend a good chunk of money on custom RV skirting, or you can build a skirt yourself. Vinyl billboard tarps work well and are easy to set up and tear down. The thicker the vinyl gauge, the warmer your rig will stay, but thicker gauges are more difficult to handle. If you plan to move your rig at all over the course of the winter, folding up vinyl skirt siding is the way to go.
Insulated Styrofoam boards can also work if you don’t want to set up a heavy tarp, but they are also prone to leaving gaps at the seams. To combat this potential heat loss, you can mount your styrofoam boards with aluminum foil tape, which is flexible and holds securely but won’t leave behind obnoxious, sticky residue when you remove it come springtime. The aluminum foil tape that we recommend withstands temperatures from -20°C (-4°F) to 180°C (356°F), so you can use it anywhere you may need, any time of the year.
If you’re going to be in colder weather — and staying below freezing consistently — providing additional heat under your rig might mean the difference between an enjoyable winter RV experience and packing up for warmer climates. Clamped lamps with aluminum reflectors are easy to attach to the underside of your rig and don’t require permanent modifications. Make sure to stock up on infrared heat bulbs that provide heat, rather than purely light.
We can’t forget an old-school approach to insulation…snow! If you have a good blizzard come through, pile up the snow around your RV’s skirting. Snow, while cold, is actually a great retainer of heat. Why do you think igloos were the popular housing option way up north? Piled snow will also protect your skirting from damage from freezing, wind, salt, and more. Put that frozen water to good use — besides just snow angels and snow cones, of course.
Install a sturdier sewer hose: If you’re working with an older hose that has withstood many a summertime rambles, there’s a very good chance it could crack in the cold. Replacing it or adding on a sewer hose extension will help you keep kosher in cold winter times. Wrapping your sewer hose with a heated cord or insulation and duct tape is also be a great idea.
Add insulation to your windows: A large amount of heat is lost through windows, so adding insulation will significantly increase your heat retention. While our recommended insulation is not see-through (and good insulation will never be see-through), even making removable window inserts will help you save heat on the coldest of nights without compromising your natural light.
Though it’s a big project, those who are looking to camp in colder temperatures regularly would benefit from installing in-wall insulation. Many #vanlifers looking to ski their hearts out add Reflectix foil insulation to the inside of their rigs to make sure that they’ll stay warm throughout the winter. This foil insulation can also be key for insulating your RV or travel trailers, whether you want to dig in and get this in between the walls, over your windows, over your door, or as an additional layer around your skirting.
Interior Upgrades For Your Rig
Portable heater or woodstove: Whether you get a plug-in heater or a propane-powered heater (depending on whether or not you’re boondocking or hooked up to power at an RV park, we highly recommend a space heater of some variety! Most portable heaters are now equipped with an automatic shut-off switch if it’s not perfectly square on the ground (aka, your heater will turn off if it tips over from a rambunctious dog or if you kick it on your way to the bathroom at midnight). Always be sure to properly ventilate your rig if using a propane or other natural gas heater.
If you’re willing to make the necessary improvements to your rig, a small wood-burning stove can make a huge difference — especially if you will be boondocking in the snowy woods! You can customize your wood stove based on the size of your rig, too. A wood-burning stove, and the installation of the stovepipe exhaust, is an investment, but the aesthetics and warmth can’t be beaten.
Warm blankets and heating pads: If you have enough power stored (or are plugged in), electric blankets and electric heating pads can make a huge difference — especially if you don’t want to run an electric heater throughout the cold, wintery night. If you don’t have the power to spare, use low-temperature-rated sleeping bags (down is very warm!), thick duvets, or wool blankets. Another tried-but-true option? Hot water bottles! Heat up water right before bed and sneak a hot water bottle under the covers by your feet. Give it a few minutes to warm up the bed; you’ll be more than cozy when you’re ready to sleep.
Dehumidifier: While a dehumidifier won’t directly produce heat, it will affect how warm you feel! Removing moisture from the air in more humid climates can remove the chill inside of your RV. A small dehumidifier can go a long way in your small space.
Slippers and rugs: You lose a lot of heat out of your head and your feet. Wearing slippers around the rig will keep your toes cozy, and the rest of your body happy, as well. Rugs will lift your feet off of the cold floor (especially if your RV is equipped with tile, linoleum, or hardwood flooring) and help keep the warm air toasty.
Have more tips and tricks for staying warm in your RV? We’d love to hear them! In the meantime, stay warm and adventurous on your wintertime travels.