Our Top 9 Winter RVing Tips!


Stef and I like to RV in the winter. The crowds are fewer (a LOT fewer), nobody gets sweaty, and we get to participate in activities that you can only do in the snow. But winter RVing is not without its challenges. Chief among these challenges is that things can freeze! Frozen water and waste lines can cause havoc with your vacation, and a cold and drafty rig can be downright uncomfortable.

We’ve written about Winter RVing multiple times in the past – and even presented Winter RVing sessions at seminars around North America. But we’ve never made a video about it… until now:

 

First things first. I reference an old post of mine in the video. I’ll link to that right here:

The Winter-Proof Travato.

In that post, I go into great detail about most of the modifications I made to Lance. If you’re into the nitty-gritty details, or… if you just want to know how cold it gets overnight inside our cabinets… you can give that post a read.

Now, without turning this post into a mere transcription of the video, I’ll summarize the tips here, and provide links to the specific products we mentioned if you’d like to give them a try. First, these are the products that we mentioned – with links.

Winter RVing Products We Use and Recommend:

  • Shark Bite Ball Valve – I’m all about push-to-fit plumbing connections for DIY RV work.  These are what I use to shut off water to things I don’t use during the winter.
  • Ultraheat Tank Heaters – These are the tank heaters on Lance, and also the ones we used on Das Bus.  Never had one fail me.
  • OEM Heaters heat tape – This is the heat tape I have installed in Lance.  I use it sparingly, and only in places where the water lines are pressed up against the exterior skin of the van.
  • Snow Tires – We’ve used Bridgestone Blizzak LT tires on every RV we’ve owned.  Never had any trouble out of them, and they’ve never let us down.
  • Tire Chains – I honestly can’t tell you if these are really any good or not, since we’ve never had to deploy them.  But I can verify that they do fit the ProMaster wheels and tires.
  • Vanmade Shades – We’ve tried probably 10 different things, but we’ve settled on these from Vanmade Gear and absolutely love them.
  • Draft blocker – This is the “regular” draft blocker we keep by the side door.
  • Magnetic draft blocker – And these are the “magnetic” draft blockers we use to block the gap between the rear doors.
  • Vent cover – Ours is a product from MaxxAir that doesn’t seem to appear on their website yet.  But there are any number of commercially available products to insulate your vent openings.
  • RV Antifreeze – I honestly don’t have a favorite or preferred brand.  I typically just buy whatever is in stock.  I do make sure to get the -50 stuff though.  It still freezes, but freezes at a lower temperature than lower rated products.
  • Ice Scraper – When I don’t forget it, I bring along an ice scraper with an extendable handle.  RVs tend to be big, and the extra long handled ones come in handy.
  • Indoor Clothes Line – This is the retractable clothesline I have mounted in Lance’s bathroom.  It works great for drying off snowy gear.  Been using it for years with no issues.
  • Slippers – These aren’t the slippers you see in the video, but these slippers (which I have at home) are the nicest slippers I’ve ever had.
  • Packable Shovel – We didn’t show you one in the video, but this is what we were talking about.  Though, if you go back-country skiing, the shovel you have for that will be fine.
  • YakTrax – These are the shoe traction devices we travel with and they work great.  There are other kinds and brands – as long as you have something that fits and makes you safe, you’re good.

 

Tip #1: Know your rig

This is the most important tip of all. RVing successfully in the winter depends on more than just your RV… it depends on YOU making good decisions. You can’t make good decisions if you don’t know how your rig is set up. For example, you need to know which fresh water lines (if any) are outside. That way, you can make smart decisions about them when the temperatures drop. You need to know the same thing about your waste water lines and tanks as well. You even need to know things like, “Does my bathroom sink drain to the black or grey tank?” Because you might decide you don’t want to fill one or the other. It may take a while to figure these things out, but that time spent will pay dividends when you’re winter RVing and nothing is freezing up.

Tip #2: Investigate tank heaters and heat tape

Particularly if you have a class B or a camper van, some of your tanks and waste plumbing will be outside. I’ve seen manufacturers address external tanks in clever ways like heating them using glycol, insulating them with foam, or building them double-walled. But if you’re not lucky enough to have a rig where that’s already built in, the best and easiest thing for you to do is to add tank heaters and heat pads. The aftermarket ones are generally electrical, so you’ll need to pay attention to your electric consumption to use them successfully. Besides tank heaters, there is also heat tape that can be added to vulnerable lines. We have both tank heaters and heat tape on board in Lance, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Tip #3: Make sure you can get where you’re going

This tip is all about winter driving. In Lance, we travel with snow tires in the winter. I keep them mounted up on a second set of rims, and they store in the garage during the summer months. The good news about RVs is that they tend to be a bit heavy, which helps traction. But even snow tires might not always be enough, and for those occasions (which we’ve never hit), we carry tire chains. Beyond that, you need to be generally prepared for winter driving conditions, just like you would in a car. If you’re feeling a bit lost there, this page from the AAA should get you jump started.

Winter Driving Tips from AAA

Tip #4: Do something about your single-pane glass

Single pane glass 100% sucks at keeping heat in. So if you only do one “insulation type” mod, covering your windows should be it, and will make a huge difference. Typical RV window coverings, like MCD shades, just don’t do anything at all to insulate.  We’ve tried a lot of things, and the product we’ve found that’s the most effective are the insulated window coverings made by Vanmade Gear.  They come in a variety of colors and styles, but the ones we recommend are black on one side, and reflective on the other.  I explain why we recommend these in the video.  Whether or not you buy the Vanmade shades, you absolutely positively need to do something about your single pane glass windows.

Tip#5:  Find and deal with any other drafts

If you’ve been out in your RV in the winter, I’m sure you’ve noticed that some parts are colder and draftier than others.  Your goal with this tip is to find the worst offenders and deal with them.  If you have a metal-bodied class B van, you’ll have no shortage of drafts to work with.  We use a variety of commercial products, draft blockers, and home-brewed foam contraptions to seal up the worst drafts in Lance.

Tip #6:  Know the limitations of RV antifreeze

Spoiler alert!  It actually does freeze!  And at a lot milder temperatures than advertised.  If you’re lucky, you’ll read this tip.  If you’re unlucky, you’ll try to take a shower at -12 degrees, having poured RV antifreeze down the drain… only to find yourself standing in ankle deep water (true story).  While it does freeze, what RV antifreeze doesn’t do is expand and break things when that happens.  That’s great for storage, but not so great if you poured it down your toilet like water, thinking you’d still be able to dump the black tank.

Tip #7:  Accessorize for success

There are a number of things that we take on winter RVing trips that we don’t bring along in the summer.  OK.  Like an ice scraper.  Yes.  I forgot the ice scraper.  I got to hear about that every single morning on this trip.  You can check the video for some other accessories we mentioned, but that’s by no means an all-inclusive list.

Tip #8:  Keep the heat on

At first, this seems like silly advice.  But if you’re in a highly mobile RV like a class B, you’re probably using it rather like a car during the day.  And while you don’t think about leaving the heat on in your car when you go in to lunch, you absolutely should leave the heat on in your rig when winter RVing.  We’re not saying it has to be super-toasty when nobody is around, but you do want to keep it warm enough in there to keep things well above freezing.  You’d be surprised how much passively heating your RVs systems (pipes, batteries, etc.) will help.

Tip #9:  Be prepared for everything to be more difficult in the winter

Many of the things we rely on as RVers are just way more difficult in the winter.  Campgrounds are the biggest one.  Most of them tend to close up during the winter months.  Heck, on this past trip, we even tried two commercial RV parks, and they were closed as well.  Even boondocking spots will be fewer and more difficult (or impossible) to get to.  And WATER!  Oh my goodness water gets difficult to find in the winter.  Most places RVers tend to fill up simply shut the water off during the winter.  And propane is also more difficult than normal to find and purchase.  There’s no getting around this really, so the best advice we can give is to plan ahead, have backup plans, and just be flexible.

 

So there you have it, our top 9 tips for winter RVing success.  Do you have a tip that we’ve left out?  A lesson that you’ve learned the hard way?  Sound off in the comments below!



James is a former rocket scientist, a USA Cycling coach, and lifelong fitness buff. When he's not driving the RV, or modifying the RV (or - that one time - doing both at once), you can find him racing bicycles, or building furniture, or making music. In his spare time, he works for a large IT company.


    27 thoughts on “Our Top 9 Winter RVing Tips!

    1. Eddy

      I’m learning a great deal through your tips, so thanks for them.
      We have sold our Class C and are awaiting our Class B in Aug/Sept so your tips are relevant to us here in New Zealand even if it doesn’t get as cold as you guys in the US and Europe.
      In our Class C we used a exterior quilted cover over the windscreen/side windows and the vent inlets on the bonnet (makes a huge difference to the condensation on the glass). Also we put old towels/rags in the vent outlets in the foot wells and shut all the vents in the cab (when we are not driving). The Dodge Ram is the same as the Fiat Ducato mostly, kinda …

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        *Some* parts for the Ducato are a direct swap with the ProMaster. Some are not.
        Glad you’re finding useful stuff here!

        Reply
    2. Jan Landquist

      From Sweden once more.
      Hi James and Stefani.
      Quick facts about Alde Founded in 1949 by Alde Rask.
      Leader in hydronic heating systems for leisure vehicles.
      All production takes place in Färlöv, Sweden.
      90% of sales go to export. Because Alde has the cosy, silent heat. Alde Heating System provides the entire family with an unbeatably cosy indoor environment. You can enjoy the market’s absolutely quietest heating system because the heated air circulates on its own due to the laws of nature. Moreover, the system is so effective that each cubic centimetre of your mobile accommodation is almost imperceptibly enveloped in cosy heating. Welcome into the warmth! Alde and Truma join forces in North America. Since Fall 2019 Truma Corp. in Elkhart is representing Alde Systems in North America.
      Link:- https://www.alde.us/alde-heating-system/
      Link:- https://www.alde.us/about-alde/
      And if you ”GOOGLE” you can find much moore. Have Fun..
      Jan Maj and ”LOKE”.
      PS: We prefer to have “ALDE” instead of “TRUMA” also in our camper “VAN” because we have the same system in our house. Most of the Swedes have water-based heating in their houses and apartments just because it is the best on the market.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        In the winter, we stay further west. Humidity has never really been an issue for us. In fact, just the opposite!
        We sometimes feel far too dry in our winter camping adventures.

        Reply
    3. Kent

      Another great video, good tips. I do have to wonder how many “B” owners also have Subaru vehicles? As I do also! lol.

      Reply
    4. Geoff Kirkman

      Reference drafts. Here in the UK your Travato is the Ducato (also Boxer also Relay). The driver and passenger seat belt reels are sited in the B Post behind a white plastic trim. The bodyshell steelwork has a huge steel chassis box running left/right underfloor which joins the B posts like a horseshoe. We found a major gale of wind enters this horseshoe underneath and blast out thro the rectangular slits in the white trim where the seat belt strap unreels.
      Removing the white trim to reach the lower B post cavity and block up the airpath under the seat belt reel made a major mega improvement in winter. This draft is so major yet so unobvious.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Maybe our rigs are optioned differently. Our shoulder belt top attachment is actually attached to the seat. No drafts there.

        Still – a good tip for those who may have rigs with the seat belts in the B pillars.

        Reply
        1. Geoff kirkman

          We also see belts fastened to seats on some coachbuilt variants, The steel body will still be the same as those built on the Sevel line in Italy. Im 100% sure that you will still have the same big holes in the B post steel pressings. I recommend you unclip the white B post internal trim and take a look. Kind regards from the other side of the pond.

    5. David Serra

      James,
      Great video and article. We have a 2019 Travato 59KL, much like Parky. My question is simple, but the dumbest question is the one not asked. I winterized our rig in Oct, then decided to take a 3500 mile trip through FL, southern US, Austin, and back up to KY, where we live. So I de-winterized, then winterized it again after that. Now for my question. If I just keep our Travato plugged in to shore power, tanks empty, and heat on low, would this keep any residual water in the lines from freezing? It is under a three-sided carport. I’d like to not have to go through all the winterization procedure every time I come back from a trip south. It doesn’t get that cold here, but easily goes down into the 20s. Thanks for your advice. Ironically, I’ll be in Ft Myers (sans Homer, our Travato) Thurs through Sat and really regret not being abl to meet you and Steph. Thanks, Dave

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Well, if it were me, I would winterize and unwinterize each time. But I’ve got it down to where it only takes me about 20 minutes.

        Sometimes, before we leave on a trip in the winter, I will water up Lance in the driveway a couple days ahead of time. When I do that, I do leave the heat on. I’ve never had any problems working that way, so I doubt you’d run into much difficulty.

        If you wanted to try what you’re suggesting, one change I’d make is to open all the drains and low point drains. That would clear most – but not all – of the water from the lines without you really having to do a whole lot.

        Reply
    6. Other Steph

      I almost feel lucky that I picked up my Revel in November just before a snowstorm. I’ve only known it in snow and cold… I can’t wait to see what it’s like to be able to have windows open!

      Reply
    7. Alain Roy

      My biggest concern about winter use is the salty roads up here in Quebec winter. I plan to used my RV for many years into my retirement, and I am concerned about rust limiting the life of my RV. Also, we have one hell of a steep driveway, always snow covered and icy, and I don’t want to have studded tires on my RV like I have on my Subaru Forrester.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Alain!
        They salt the roads in Utah as well. (We also have a Subaru! lol.) My approach to that has been to rinse off the underside of the rig before we put it away. No different really than what I would do for a car I intended to keep for a long time. I haven’t come up with anything better yet.
        Can’t help you with the steep driveway though! Offsite storage for the winter?

        Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Yes! Your comments came through. We review and approve all comments, and we were unavailable yesterday.
        It makes us feel good if our “Winter RVing Tips” video passes the test in Sweden!
        Thanks for stopping by!

        Reply
    8. Jan Landquist

      The KABE Van is equipped with, and much more depending on the price. (see below.) Search on google to find moore. “It’s about the size of – Winnebago Boldt”. Kabe van has. Integrated heating system. The floor heating system is connected to the convection heating system – providing warm air circulation in the entire motorhome. The system runs on both gas and electric cartridges. KABE has extra wide convectors below all windows. Convectors between the drivers cab and living area creates a wall of warm air to the driver’s cab. Also doors are varmwallprotected.

      Reply
    9. Jan Landquist

      Hi from Sweden. ”One more time”.
      Why not maybe consider buying a “Swedish-made rigg -van” [Kabe Van 2020]. It is built to withstand all the seasons. It is possible to live comfortably in even though it is about -35 -40 degrees Celcius outside. it corresponds to approximately 31.0 and 40.0 degrees Fahrenheit. (I think). Then it is inside the Swedish car [Kabe-Van] about 22 to 24 degrees varm Celcius which should be about 75.2 and 71.6 degrees fahrenheit. And no indoor slippers are needed because the floor is heated with hot water.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Believe me… if we could easily get and operate European rigs over here in North America, we would!
        -40 degrees C is exactly equal to -40 degrees F… and that’s very cold! Any van still working at those temperatures is impressive.
        A heated floor is something we don’t generally have available here. Especially a fuel heated floor. When I see heated floors here, they’re usually electric.
        Checking them out now.

        Reply
    10. Rich Hall

      Hey Stef & James- Thanks for another great video with good tips. No reason to be housebound because of a little cold & snow.
      Is is possible to seal a camper-van too tight? We’ve always left a window and often a vent cracked even on the coldest nights for a bit a fresh air and to keep the condensation down. Thoughts? Is this a crazy superstition? Thanks!

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        I don’t think it’s a superstition. We do sometimes notice condensation (frozen!) on the inside of our windows in the winter when it’s super cold outside. But having said that, we don’t leave a window cracked or any ventilation open during the nights. One thing we find is that we tend to feel very “dried out” during winter RV trips. We’re just as often as concerned about *adding* humidity.
        But we live out west. It’s dry here. People in more… swampy… places may have to manage things differently.

        Reply
    11. Bill Phillip

      Good tip about the valve for the water line. I had that exact line freeze but not break in November. Also like the anti-freeze explanation. I found it turns solid in the black line the hard way too.

      Reply

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