Winter RV Tips

We recently sent out a newsletter talking about the growing popularity of winter camping.  The interest was far and away greater than I ever anticipated so with all of the curiosity I decided to sit down and see if I could put some information down on the computer.  Here are some of the best tips I’ve learned over the years by listening to the winter camping experts… Our customers.

A lot of the camp grounds close up in the fall, however, we’ve found that with a little bit of scouting we can usually find a wide spot in the road or a turn out in most of the areas we like to camp.  Try to keep an eye out in your adventures for non-traditional places you could park your outfit.  Remember traffic will be way down in these areas so you can sometimes get creative. Road conditions are always changing in the winter.  I hope some of the information below will get you started.

When it comes to winter camping, most RV furnaces are more than adequate to heat the space inside the coach with relative ease.  Trailers with more insulation will use less propane, however some of my favorite trips have been in a metal sided Springdale at snowmobile races in West Yellowstone.  Those trips often have temperatures that dip to 10-20 below zero and the trailer keeps a comfortable temperature inside.  With freezing weather in mind we realize that water freezing is important to pay attention to… This is where rock salt and jerry jugs come in handy.  If your camper is rated for use in the weather conditions you plan to be in then it might make sense to travel “watered up” with the furnace and water heater on. It’s important to remember most ratings are for an RV not in motion with the furnace running.    If it’s going to be exceptionally cold, you will want to travel dry and winterized.

When you are planning your adventures it’s a good idea to have some extra gear when you head out.

  • Bag of Rock Salt
    Put roughly 1 quart of water in your toilet bowl, add 1-2 cups of rock salt and then flush. 
    This will create a salt water solution that will prevent freezing at the black tank valve.
    When you go to dump your black tank we pour our remaining fresh water in our jerry jugs down the toilet. This makes sure the solids make their way out of the tank with plenty of water to carry them.
    Drop a small handful of salt crystals into all of your fresh water drains you plan to use (sinks and shower drains). 

    The rock salt crystals will sit in the bottom of your pee traps making a salt water solution to keep them from freezing. Most places in the winter, we just open the gray valve and let sink water run out on the ground. 

  • Jerry Jugs of extra water
    – When traveling winterized these are your source of fresh water.
    – Short of showering you can do everything in your trailer you could with your water pump and still keep your water system winterized.
    Most people heat our water on the stove or in the microwave for washing dishes and sponge bathing
    My favorite are “Reliance” 7 gallon cube jugs from Walmart or Cabela’s 
  • Snow Shovel
  • Tire Chains
    – Out of dozens of winter trips, I’ve only needed these twice… Boy was I happy to have them though.
    Occasionally winter passes require towing vehicles to chain up. If you don’t have chains your trip may get an unplanned slow down.
  • Stiff bristle broom
    – This stays right outside our door to sweep snow off of our steps and carpet.
    If you sweep snow from the metal steps before stepped on they tend to keep relatively good traction.
    – Used to clear snow from slide roof and slide topper awing before retracting.
    We encourage a slide topper awning to prevent ice buildup on slide roof that can damage slide out seals. 
  • Carpet mat or rug without rubber back
    – Regular awning mats and rubber backed rugs tend to slide on snow or ice.
    – An inexpensive commercial carpet remnant is my choice for winter camping
  • Generator (Optional)
    – Since we aren’t running our air conditioner I usually grab one of my Yamaha 2000s that can:
    Charge Batteries
    Make Microwave popcorn
    Power a Coffee Maker
    Power an Auxiliary Heater
  • Winterize Kit and 2-3 gallons of antifreeze
    Many a trip we’ve started watered up and the weather has changed. When this happens knowing how to winterize your system is important. I encourage people to plum in a quick pick-up tube and gate valve in line with their RV water pump. It makes winterizing quick and easy. Make sure you have your Jerry jugs filled before you drain your system completely so you don’t run out of water. 
  • Extra food, cold weather gear and clear mind…
    I’ve never been unable to return home due to bad weather nor have I had to stay extra days. That being said, you are looking to adventure when weather changes quickly and conditions can be unforgiving. As with all traveling, make sure someone knows where you are going and when you plan to return. If there is ever a problem it is discouraged to travel away from your source of food, water and shelter to seek help.In the event of furnace problems, don’t try to heat your RV using the stove, oven or other open flame sources of heat. These can burn the oxygen from the air as well as cause carbon monoxide poisoning.

Now that you know how to get your RV setup for winter camping, I’ll touch on the fun part! 

Waking up to a winter setting without another person in site is something special that you will never forget.  I can’t begin to share the number of different animals we’ve watched from our windows that we rarely see in the summer with so many people around. Most of the time we go out is by ourselves, however some of our best trips have included friends. Sometimes they take their own camper or others have wanted to go in ours for their first winter RV adventure.  We were fortunate to enjoy last year at Fairmont Hot Springs with two other couples and of course our then puppy, Wrigley.  Their campground was closed, but the parking lot served as a great dinner and cocktails site and after an evening of music and dancing we called it a night. 

I hope some of these ideas help you get out and explore your favorite camp spots and discover new ones in another season.  I am always available for questions, tips and of course ideas of new places to explore in the winter time!

Happy Camping,

Dustin Bretz

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