With fall having officially begun and bow hunting season already underway, we’re thinking about autumn and winter camping here at Guaranty RV. Fall is ramping up in a big way in western Oregon—the leaves are changing early this year, the nights are getting cooler, and we’re just a couple weeks away from the beginning of rifle deer hunting season. Whether you take your RV out dry camping in off-road locations for hunting season, or you’re an intrepid winter RVer who appreciates the peace and quiet of off-season campgrounds, fall and winter camping requires some extra preparations and knowledge in order to create the best experience. Some RVs are better than others when it comes to keeping out the cold, but there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy a few more camping trips before 2015 is over. Read on for some tips that can make your cold weather camping experience everything you want it to be. And we’ve also got some suggestions if you’re in the market for a four-season motorhome, travel trailer, camper, fifth wheel or toy hauler that can keep you RVing 12 months a year. At Guaranty, we believe camping should be a year-round affair.
Four-Season RVs for Winter Camping
If you’re in the market for a winter-friendly RV, you may be tempted to simply look for a four-season model, or one with an arctic package. It’s important to know that those terms can mean different things to different RV manufacturers. There’s no industry-wide agreement on what standards must be in place for an RV to be a four-season model. To know for sure what “four-season” means, you’ll have to dig a little deeper into manufacturer websites to see what construction materials were used. Also spend some time on RV forums and review websites to see what others are saying about your favorite manufacturers and models. And of course you should come on in to Guaranty RV, walk through your favorite models and talk to our knowledgeable sales staff about the best options.
One way to approach your search is to look at RVs that are built for snowbirding or fulltime living. Many of these are built with the extra insulation, heated basement storage and protected water and dump lines necessary to withstand colder winter temperatures. You’ll primarily find these models in Class A motorhomes and fifth wheels, although there are also some excellent travel trailers and Class C motorhomes to look at.
Also look to the RV manufacturers who are considered the best in standard RVs, because top rated RV manufacturers are usually going to be the ones with the best winter-friendly RVs as well. At Guaranty RV, we know that one of the most highly rated four-season RV manufacturers is Northwood. Because they manufacturer their RVs in La Grande, Oregon, which regularly has winter temperatures well below freezing, they build their Arctic Fox RVs and Snow River travel trailers to withstand the cold. Whether you’re looking for a travel trailer, fifth wheel or camper, the Arctic Fox models are built on heavy-duty chassis and have fully insulated holding tank areas that circulate warm air around the tanks for ultimate protection against freezing. Northwood also goes the extra distance to enclose dump valves and other parts that are at risk of freezing. With the addition of their Arctic Package, you’ll have an RV that is insulated with residential quality foam and AstroEco Radiant Barrier Reflective Insulation.
If you’re specifically looking for a quality truck camper for those off-road hunting and fishing trips, be sure to look at the Northwood Arctic Fox line of campers, but also peruse Lance campers. The Lance Four Seasons Certified option includes advanced ducted heat, Thermoplastic composite walls, a water heater bypass, winterizing valves, insulated hatch covers, heated tanks and, just for your comfort, insulated bed pads.
Other top RV manufacturers have their own ways of dealing with freezing temperatures. Heartland and Forest River, for example, both sell cold weather packages for some of their best motorhomes, toy haulers and fifth wheels that include heated holding and water tank pads that will automatically turn on when the temperature drops below freezing, as well as innovations like radiant technology insulation and low volt polymer heating cables on the main water lines.
Plan Ahead for Winter Camping
First and foremost, prepare your RV for winter camping. To get some good tips on readying your RV for taking on the winter cold, check out our blog Winter Friendly RVing and Camping, and read the section on “Making Your RV More Cold Weather Ready: 10 Steps for Comfortable Winter Living.” For other excellent tips, look for blogs on camping websites like Reserve America’s What You Need to Know to Take a Winter RV Camping Trip, and keep an eye on websites run by full time RVers who know the ins and outs of all-year RV living, like Gone With the Wynns’ How To Prepare an RV for a Freezing Winter Adventure.
If You’re Heading to a Campground…
If you’ve discovered the wonders of renting a campsite in the late fall and winter—when all the less adventurous RVers have already winterized their RVs and stored them away until next summer—you know how amazing it is to have an entire campground practically to yourself. You get your choice of campsites and all of the benefits of full hookups, without any of the hassle you experience in the packed summer months. However, when planning a winter camping trip, don’t assume that your campground of choice is open. You’re not going to be a happy camper if you get to your favorite campground and find it’s closed for the off-season. A camping reservation website such as Reserve America will often have all the information you need about dates and available campsites. Otherwise, search online for applicable contact information.
Also be sure to check the weather before you leave; there’s enjoyable winter camping… and then there are blizzard conditions. Wind and ice storms are significantly less fun than enjoying a beautiful snowy landscape from your RV window. So, before you take off, make sure the weather is something both you and your RV can handle. Websites such as weather.com and the National Weather Service have real time forecasts and active alerts available 24/7.
If You’re Dry Camping (We’re Looking at You, Hunters)…
If you’re heading off-road and away from RV hookups in order to get closer to the game, you need to pack some extras and make special preparations. As well as the obvious things, like knowing local hunting regulations, getting your hunting licenses, and pulling your insulated clothing out of storage, make sure you have a good map of the area and that everyone in your hunting party familiarizes themselves with it. Basic preparation and safety practices will save you a lot of hassle and will better ensure the success of your hunting trip.
Hunting season is the time when that extra storage in your RV will come in handy. Plan to bring extra blankets and warm clothing for everyone (especially if you’re out with children or elderly hunters). Also bring along tire chains, extra food and drinking water in case of an emergency, and have extra propane tanks if you don’t have a generator. You’ll use more propane than you think when the weather drops, and if you run out too soon, that will put an abrupt end to an otherwise awesome trip. If you’re driving past Junction City on your way to Central and Eastern Oregon, stop by the Guaranty RV Travel Center to fill up on propane before you go.
A great investment to consider for dry camping is a portable solar panel to help charge your batteries and save your other resources. In the right conditions, a solar panel can give your batteries a significant boost. So if you’re heading east over the Cascades where winter days are so often clear and bright, take a look at what your solar panel options are.
If you have any questions about winter camping, preparing your RV, or purchasing a more winter-friendly RV, don’t hesitate to give us a call, or come by Guaranty RV today to see the best RV manufacturers and models for four season camping.
Photo: Colleen Lane