Simple and Affordable Ways to Winterize Your RV for Full-Time RV Living | Camping in Freezing Weather Tips | RV Life Blog
RV in Freezing Weather?
If you are a full-time RVer like me, or perhaps a Van Dweller, you know the beauty of this life is spontaneity in your travels. But what do you do when your plan does not include an overnight in freezing weather? Would you be able to survive the night with just the items inside your rig and stay warm? In this blog, I share simple and affordable tips on how you can winterize your RV for winter nights and stay warm while it is freezing outside.
During one of my travels, I stopped over just outside of Winnemucca, which is in Nevada. During my two-night stay, it snowed. It was gorgeous and cold! If you thought it never snows in the desert, you have never visited the desert in November! The nighttime temperature dropped (and quick!) down to about 20 degrees. While full-time RVing, I usually do not have a rigid plan of where my travels will lead me. However, I prepare for environmental unknowns, and you should prepare as well!
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Preparing the House of Your RV for Freezing Weather and Cold Nights
Here are some simple tricks and tips to help keep the inside of your RV warm and cozy on freezing nights and cold days too.
- Start with the Cab of Your RV. The first thing I do is cover up my windshield with a reflective sun visor or Reflectix. The visor will insulate the cab windshield. Heat will remain in this area for a while as the engine begins to cool down. Remember this first step when just pulling into your campsite. You can trap the heat inside longer by placing the reflective visor/reflectix in the window.
- Insulate the House Opening from the Cab of your Class C RV. Next, once the truck cab has cooled to a colder temperature than the house part of the RV, hang blankets. Most Class C RVs have a storage space right above the cab area. I double insulate this area using a heavy blanket and thermal blackout curtains. You do not need to spend a fortune on specialty items. You can easily find these at discount box stores, thrift stores, or Amazon. First, place the blanket on top of the shelf and weigh it down. Next, make sure the blanket covers the entire entry to the cab. It should be as wide as the opening and length should touch the floor. Lastly, using the installed RV curtain clips, hang full-length thermal blackout curtains. When you close the curtains, they should reach from wall to wall in width and touch the floor in length to provide more insulation.
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3. Cover the House Windows. You probably have curtains that cover your side windows. In addition to closing your curtains, you can put up a lightweight fleece blanket that can cover the entire width and length of each window. I hang the blanket by folding it over my curtain rod. A tip for more insulation is to leave some extra blanket at the top when you fold it over the curtain rod. Doing this creates more of a cushion and filler to seal the top of the window and prevent outside air from drafting in. Remember to cover the small window in the kitchen area as well.
Doors can be cold air culprits in FREEZING WEATHER!
4. Cover the Door. The door can be a huge culprit for bringing in cold air. If your weather stripping is old or failing, you need an extra layer of protection against the cold air seeping in. I installed a little curtain rod over my door to hang a thermal blackout curtain panel to cover the doorway. Make sure your curtain is wide enough to cover the whole door and can touch the floor as well.
5. House Battery Compartment. Next, fill in the area where house battery access is. Mine is right in front of the door. If you travel with a dog as I do, you can place your pet’s bed there to create a barrier on the floor. If not, lay a big blanket or pillows from your sofa in the area.
6. Keep the Bathroom Door Closed. Yes, this should be obvious. Keeping this door closed will trap the cold air in the bathroom instead of seeping out into your sleeping quarters.
Preparing Your Sleeping Quarters for Freezing Weather
- Don’t Forget About the Floors! If you have laminate flooring in your RV, you will find that they are cold and drafty in the winter, especially if you have an older RV. To combat this, you can place rugs/runners over the floor to provide more insulation. Laying a runner or several runners together along the wall behind the bed can help insulate the seams and keep cold air out. I also use a down comforter to give extra insulation from the floor.
- More Windows. My RV has three windows in the back in the sleeping quarters. I have two small windows and a large emergency window behind the bed. These many windows can make the sleeping area cold and drafty. Using blankets over the curtains will make a huge difference in keeping the cold out. I suggest using full-length curtains for extra insulation from the walls as well. To insulate the emergency window, you can place a reflective sun visor in the window over the blinds/curtain. Next, place a blanket over the sun visor. I also use extra pillows to line the wall to hold the blanket in place. The extra pillows create a barrier between the wall/window and my head while sleeping.
- Remember Warm Clothes. If you are in freezing weather, the best thing for you to do to keep your body heat is to wear a hat. Sleeping in a zero-degree sleeping bag is also a great way to stay warm and cozy in your bed.
How to Heat your RV When You Do Not Have a Furnace
Whether you are primarily boondocking or do not want to drain your battery using the furnace, or maybe your furnace quit like mind did, there are other ways to heat your RV.
- Mr. Heater Buddy. The Mr. Buddy is portable and heats up to 200sqft. It runs on propane, so you will need a separate propane tank, hose, and filter to filter the gas going into the Heater Buddy. I know some of you are gasping: What about CO2? This heater has a low oxygen sensor shutting it off automatically. The shutoff safety feature keeps carbon monoxide from being produced at dangerous levels. CO2 is the result of not enough oxygen being present in the air. As a precaution, your RV should have a CO2 detector/alarm installed, even if you are not using a portable heater. My RV is older and very drafty. I can feel fresh air circulating, even with the extra coverings. But, if you do not feel safe with this, keep reading for more options.
- Catalytic Heaters. If you are worried about CO2, a catalytic heater is another alternative. Catalytic heaters use chemical reactions to produce heat, which means no CO2.
- Electric Space Heater. If you are at a campsite with hookups, an electric space heater is an option instead of using your furnace. Take caution as these can be a fire risk. I suggest finding a model with built-in safety features for shutting off if knocked over or too hot.
How to Keep Things from Breaking in Freezing Weather
You will never be able to keep things from freezing if you are indeed in freezing weather, but there are measures you can take to make sure your pipes and tanks do not break. Water in your black and grey tanks will freeze when you are in freezing weather conditions.
- Don’t keep your Fresh Water Tank and Waste Tank full in freezing weather. In case you did not know or did not remember, liquids expand when they freeze. The liquid in a closed container will expand when frozen and create stress on the container and possibly crack it. Foreseeing that I would be spending at least one night in colder weather, I dumped my waste and only filled my freshwater tank about less than half full.
- Turn off your Water Pump and Open Faucets. Water left in your pipes will freeze. Everybody who lives in an RV and dry camps relies on the water pump. Turn your water pump off. Turn your faucets on to empty all of your water, including your shower. Remember to make sure no water is remaining in your toilet. You can pull the toilet lever releasing the remaining water for the flush to drain.
Be Prepared for When Things Freeze
It can take a few hours for things to thaw out. You may not have running water for a while if not hooked up to city water.
- Before you go to bed, fill everything up. I have my Britta Water Pitcher that I I fill up before I go to bed to ensure I have water to drink, water to make coffee and breakfast.
- Keep another gallon of water on hand for the toilet. You will not be able to flush your toilet if the water is frozen. Have an extra jug of water on hand to place some water in the toilet for flushing. You can keep it in the cabin with you to keep it from freezing.
And that is it! Simple steps to survive some freezing nights. Notice I said SOME, as in a few. These are steps I take because I know I will not be in the cold weather for long. The few times that I have had to stay overnight in freezing temperatures, as low as 15 degrees, the steps I’ve shared have worked very well for me. Enjoy your travels! Stay warm, stay safe. And as always…
BE HAPPY, BE FREE, BE KIND.
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DISCLAIMER: Carolyn’s RV Life and Carolyn Higgins share her experiences, thoughts, opinions and ideas in this blog post and on this website for entertainment purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, instruction or guidance. Viewers/Readers should consult with professionals before pursing any actions or behaviors exhibited in this video. Carolyn’s RV Life or Carolyn Higgins cannot be held liable in the event of any accident or injury that may occur as a result of application of procedures and information provided in this video.