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It sometimes feels that summer is over in a heartbeat and before we know it we’re stuck into long cold nights and short cool days. One minute we’re basking in tropical heat and then within a week we’re being battered with freezing rain and gale force winds.
Maybe I’m showing my age, but the summers seem to be getting shorter, and the winters are getting longer. December is just around the corner, the kids are getting excited for Santa and the temperature will probably continue on its downward trend with no chance of warming up anytime soon.
Common sense dictates that most of the shelf RVs are not meant for exploring the Antarctic. If you’d like to take your RV out during colder weather, you’ll probably need to invest in what’s commonly named an arctic package. These will normally upgrade the existing insulation and provide additional heating for the enjoyment of the RVs passengers and driver.
However, there are certain models of RVs that have designed and built with the colder weather in mind. These vehicles are meant to be taken out when the mercury drops, through icy gales and even in some cases, snowy roads. If you stay in an area that experiences harsh winters, or you just want to experience the thrill of being on the road with your RV year-round, then these top cold-weather RVs are made to meet that need.
1Cold Weather RV FAQ
Just because the temperatures are freezing and the days are short does not mean that you cannot enjoy camping in your RV. However, RV camping in cold weather is quite different from camping during other seasons.
Having the right information will ensure that you enjoy a safe and relaxing camping trip. The information contained in this cold weather RV FAQ section seeks to answer the most frequently asked questions about winter RV camping.
1. How Do I RV Camp in Cold Weather
The most important step to take to ensure a great RV camping trip is to prepare your RV for the rigors of cold weather camping. Not all rigs are designed to take winter weather in stride. Below are some steps you should take in order to RV camp in cold weather.
Air-seal and Insulate the Doors and Windows
RV doors and windows can be poorly insulated and air-sealed and are major sources of heat loss during cold weather. The best way to air-seal your doors is to add some weather-stripping around the door frames.
Using a piece of insulating fabric or blanket, create a full-length curtain for your doors. You can also do the same for the windows. Insulate your windows further by installing double or triple-paned windows, plastic film insulation and thick fabric curtains.
Insulate the Ceiling Vents
You will require ventilation to replace humid internal air with drier external air. Insulate and plug the ceiling vents with something that seals them but can be easily removed.
To insulate ceiling vents, invest in factory-made vent plugs. You can also use rigid insulation, which you cut to the size of the openings and wrap with duct tape to strengthen it.
Insulate the Plumbing and Electrical Openings
It’s essential that you seal and insulate the areas around electrical openings and plumbing on the outside of your RV. Use expanding-foam insulation for large gaps and caulk for smaller gaps.
Be careful when using foams since they can expand and cause damage. Always go for low-expansion foams typically used around windows and doors.
Skirt Your RV
Including skirting to your RV serves to reduce heat loss from the areas underneath the rig. There is a wide range of the commercially available skirting solutions build from a variety of materials such as rigid insulation and plywood.
Insulating your skirting with rigid insulation will help keep the area under your RV warm. This will, in turn, keep your floor warm and prevent freezing underneath the rig. It is advisable to bury the skirting a few inches underground if the area is not frozen. Doing this will reduce air flow and add stability.
Prepping the Water Systems
Before embarking on a winter RV camping trip, empty the black and gray water tanks. Add approximately a quart of special RV antifreeze (not the type used in cars) to the tanks. Doing this will prevent freezing in the dump valves.
Ensure that you insulate all the pipes draining into the tanks. If you will be RV camping in cold weather for an extended period, you may consider including electrical pipe heaters. Note that these will require a generator or electric hook up.
You may also invest in AC (120V) or DC (12V) holding tank heaters. Always insulate the sewer hose to prevent the formation of ice dams. It is advisable to empty the tanks periodically instead of continuously.
Purchase a heated water hose in case you utilize a freshwater hook-up. These will help avert freeze-ups and bursting. All cables and hoses should be kept off the ground and out of snow.
Always Have Emergency Items
Many things can go wrong when RV camping in cold weather. Even the best planning may not help you avert unforeseen circumstances. Below are some items that can help you out during emergencies:
• Extra blankets
• Tire chains
• Weather band radio
• Winter rated Sleeping bags
• Drinking water in the heated storage space
• Extra propane tanks
• Emergency GPS system
• Solar charging panels
• Blow drier for defrosting tanks and pipes
2. How can I Insulate RV windows For Cold Weather?
The windows are one of the major sources of heat in RVs. This is also true for homes, apartments and office buildings. Insulating your RV windows can make a huge difference in keeping the RV warmer. There are three main ways that you can insulate your RV windows. They include plastic insulation films, triple paned windows or double and curtains.
Double or the triple-paned windows are windows that have small gaps between the panes. These gaps are usually filled with gas, which helps trap heat. This design helps keep the heat in and your RV warmer.
Double or triple pane windows also reduce heat transfer and condensations issues. If your RV has these features then that great news. You can have these windows installed if your rig does not have them. Alternatively, there are several ways that you can create the same effect. You can use thick plastic films or Lexan on the outside of your windows.
Add heat-shrink or plastic films on the inside too to reduce cold air filtration and heat loss. Invest in curtains that provide some insulation value as well. Polar fleece or quilted fabrics are great options. You can purchase them at fabric or retail stores.
You can seal the curtains to the wall with fasteners such as Velcro to reduce air drafts. Ensure that you cover the windows that you are not using for light. You can use rigid foam insulation to seal these windows and reduce heat loss considerably.
3. Will a Cold Weather Package Help When Storing the RV?
Cold weather packages, also referred to as arctic or polar packages, are a great addition to your RV when you are storing it during cold weather. Arctic packages have a number of upgrades that will be vital during storage. Some of the upgrades include:
• Double or the triple-paned windows
• Extra floor and roof insulation
• Heating pads for fresh water and the waste water tanks
• Enclosed underbellies
• Temperature guarantees
• Heated storage bays
There are different types of cold weather packages with different upgrades. Overall, an arctic package will help you maintain comfort and functionality when storing your RV.
4. What Do I Use To Cover My RV Bathroom Vents and Skylights During Cold Weather?
Your RV loses considerable amounts of heat through the bathroom vents and skylights during winter weather. Vent and skylight insulation can help keep the air inside warmer. You can use several materials for insulation.
They include reflective foil wrap, rigid insulation panels and loft insulation. Reflective foil wrap is similar to silver bubble wrap. This type of insulation has a dual purpose. You can use it in cold weather to help hold in heat and also in summer as extra shade.
Styrofoam and polystyrene boards are great low-cost insulation panels that you can use to cover the RV skylights. Always go for panels that are foil lined on either side for extra thermal protection. Loft insulation is the flexible material rolls found in many lofts.
Loft insulation is a great option for bathroom vents as you can squeeze it in spaces where rigid insulation panels cannot fit. There are a variety of materials used in loft insulation including recycled denim, recycled plastic, fibreglass and wool. These materials have different R-values (thermal protection).
5. How Do I Store My RV In Cold Weather?
Sometimes you will need to store your RV during very cold weather in order to avoid damaging it. There are two main approaches to storing your RV during winter: renting a storage unit and applying an RV cover. Renting an RV storage unit is a more effective option but also the most costly.
If you are located near a storage facility and want to provide proper protection to your rig, then this is the way to go. A great online tool to locate an RV storage facility near you is Sparefoot. Sparefoot is a convenient platform that allows you to access the closest-storage facilities via your ZIP code.
If your budget doesn’t permit you to rent a storage unit, purchasing an RV cover is a great option to protect your RV in cold weather. RV covers prevent ice buildup and snow accumulation on the exterior of your rig. They also keep meltwater from seeping into the seams, panels and other components of your RV. Below are a few steps that you need to take to safely store your rig under an RV cover:
• Clean and dry the interior and exterior of the RV before covering.
• Remove the batteries and store in a secure place.
• Inflate the RV tires and place something between them and the ground.
• Ensure that you drain out all your water systems.
• Double check that the cover shelters all sides completely.
• Always monitor the snow that accumulates on your roof.
6. What Is The Best RV Sewer Hose For Cold Weather?
Having a quality RV sewer hose is very essential and more so during cold weather. The RV sewer hose provides a way to drain the waste that accumulates during your RV camping trips. There are certain key characteristics of a quality RV sewer hose.
It has to have durable construction, must be leak proof, should be easy to install/use and should be able to withstand cold temperatures (most are built for warm weather). Currently, the best RV sewer hose for winter weather is the RhinoExtreme hose from Camco.
Camco is renowned for producing top quality and unique RV products. The company claims that the RhinoExtreme hose can survive -44 degrees F without cracking. It is also abrasion and crush resistant due to a triple TPE vinyl layering and polyolefin wire core. This means that the hose will not dent or rust.
As the saying goes ‘winter is coming’, however, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll need to migrate south with the starlings. If you want to head out into a winter wonderland, then choosing one of the ten cold weather RVs we’ve discussed will all but guarantee a comfortable trip. Some of them are larger, better equipped or costlier than others, but all are capable and will make great choices for anyone looking to spend some time exploring the winter landscape.