RV Life: 10 Tips For Winter Living

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My family and I are a strange breed. When most full-time RVer’s head south for the winter, we head north. To the snow!

We’re skiers…enough said.

Truth be told, the first season we suffered unnecessary woes…growing pains you may call them. Now, as we roll into our third season of growing delightfully buried in the snow, we’re confident we got this down. Winter is a cinch when you prepare your traveling home for the elements.

Here are my TOP 10 TIPS…

  1. Insulate most (but, not all) of your windows

    The easiest of tasks can make the biggest difference. Every season we insulate the inside of our RV windows with foam board. We buy it just thick enough to set in the window seal and cut it to fit. If cut correctly there will be no need to attach it to anything…it should fit right in the window like a puzzle piece. Insulating the windows makes a huge difference in our heating bill and makes sitting or sleeping next to windows, wildly more comfortable. My only caution is this…don’t insulate EVERY window. The more windows you cover the darker your RV becomes and in the Winter this can get mighty depressing. Leave a few choice windows open for both natural light and ventilation.

  2. Heat/insulate your outdoor waterlines

    There are a few options for keeping your water from freezing. Usually we keep the hose detached, empty and rolled up in the storage under the RV. About once a week we pull it out, attach it to the RV park spigot and use it to fill our RV water tank. This does however require a little extra work and we’ve found that because our tank sits behind our couch, the condensation on the outside of the tank (from holding ice cold water in a warm RV) will often run up the wall. This also means we have to utilize our water pump which isn’t a problem but, it does shorten the life of our pump.

    This year we have decided to keep the hose attached, forgoing the condensation issue and giving our water pump a break. Although I am grateful to not have to fill the tank anymore, I am skeptical of whether or not we’ll make it through the Winter without an “oops…the water froze!” If you are opting to leave the hose connected I suggest purchasing a special winterized hose or like us you can make your own by wrapping electric heat tape around the hose, covered by foam pipe insulator and wrapped in weather proof tape.

  3. Clear caulk EVERYTHING

    Clear, weather-resistant caulking is the bomb! You can put that stuff all over the outside of your RV and IT WILL keep the leaks away. At the bare minimum I recommend you slap that goo on every crack, crevice, seam and bolt you can find on the top of your roof! If you have more time/money to invest, I also recommend you hit up the window and door seals along with any other seams you can find on the outside of your RV. But, you have to do it before Winter hits because that goo needs dryer/warmer conditions to set up right. If you forget to caulk your roof or it’s already too late for the season, keep an eye out for leaks and have a tarp ready to drape over the top if necessary.

  4. Start your DE-humidifier

    If you have one, plug it in. If you don’t keep your eyes open for a good sale! Developing moisture, in an RV, in the Winter is inevitable but, a DE-humidifier, or two, will help you fight this ongoing battle.

  5. Use radiant heat

    Our motor home comes with a propane heating system, which comes in handy when off the grid but, we have found it to be incredibly inefficient when it comes to heating our living space, day to day, in the Winter so we don’t use it. We have also found electric heaters are wildly expensive so instead we use a radiant oil heater. So far we have found this to be the most efficient way to heat our tiny space.

    Ideally, I would love a little rocket stove! If you have one…lucky you. I’d love to hear your review.

  6. Fill your propane tank

    Because we don’t use our propane for heat we can fill our “on board” propane tank at the first sign of snow and it lasts us until the snow melts and we can move again. If you choose to use more propane than you can hold on board, you can always attach an external 5 gallon tank, which can easily be transported and filled, to get you through the season. Another option is to find a local propane company that will rent you a large external tank for the season. Often these companies will also offer a fill service, coming by every few weeks to top your tank off.

  7. Protect your sewer line

    There are two simple things you can do to protect your sewer line and keep it from cracking or freezing in the Winter. The first is to wrap the whole hose, from beginning to end, including the release valves, with electric heat tape. Second, you want to keep your release valves closed and only open them when your tanks are full and need to be dumped. After dumping, be sure to always clear any standing water out of your hose or it can freeze and back up your whole system.

  8. Insulate the underside

    Our best suggestion, go with the foam board again. Cut it to fit and cover the entire base of your RV. You can tuck it under or butt it right up to the side. Use aluminum tape to cover the seams and seal the top. Along with the windows, this underside insulation will make the biggest difference in your comfort level. Get it done before the first snowfall and as Winter snow falls, let it build up against the insulation for an extra layer of warmth wind protection.

    Note: I do not recommend you let the snow build up against the walls of your motor home because it may cause moisture problems but, letting the snow build up around your insulation is quite beneficial.

  9. Invest in rugs and slippers

    Adding rugs to your floor creates another layer of insulation that your morning toes will appreciate. Along with rugs, I would never consider going a Winter without my cozy slippers. Gotta have ‘em!

  10. Build a mud/awning room (optional)

    There’s not a tip above that I would consider to be optional. Tips 1-9 should be taken seriously if you wish to enjoy a comfortable Winter in your traveling home but, this last tip is simply a luxury.

    Years ago we purchased an “awning room” to add extra space to our RV in the Winters. It worked great in the wet climate of Oregon where we used it to keep our bikes and recycling under cover, while giving us a dry space to enter before stepping into our RV. With the heavy snow fall in Montana we had to take it one step further and build an internal frame/roof that provides support for both wind and snow. We use it to store ski gear and take off snow covered shoes and clothes. We spent our first Winter in Montana without it and it was seriously no big deal but, the second season we took the extra time and set it up. It’s such a simple luxury, if given the choice I would choose putting up the awning room every Winter.

Janelle Thomas