RVers who love to hunt or who want to head to the snow instead of the sunny Southwest, know that there is a lot to be said for winter camping, and here at Guaranty RV, we couldn’t agree more. Most RVers do one of two things when it starts to get cold; they either head south, or they winterize the travel trailer, motorhome, toy hauler or camper, and put it away until the sun shows its face again. Increasingly, however, intrepid hunters, skiers, snowboarders and other snowsports enthusiasts are taking up winter RVing—and some of us more sedentary snow lovers who just want to sit with a hot toddy while we look out a window at a winter wonderland are also happily succumbing to the appeal of cold weather camping. With today’s RVs, you can be as toasty warm inside as you would be in your own home.
High-end Class A motorhomes, especially the diesel pushers, have long been equipped for four-season living, and several RV manufacturers, like Oregon’s own Northwood, have a long history of building four-season travel trailers and fifth wheels. If you’re considering taking up a more year-round RV lifestyle and you’re starting to consider what to purchase, these might be perfect options for you. We’ll talk about some different brands and RV types in this blog, and also ways that you can prepare your RV for the cold. Depending on the manufacturer, model and year of your RV, you probably already have some degree of weather protection, and there are a few things you can do to help your trailer, camper, fifth wheel or motorhome keep you warmer and perform better in cold weather.
Looking to Purchase? Explore Your Four Season and “Arctic Ready” RV Options
If you’re thinking about a more active RV lifestyle and you’re wondering what RV will serve you best, be sure and contact us; we’re always happy to listen to your particular situation and help you determine what will best meet your needs. Often, we offer pre-owned RVs here at the RV Super Center that will give you everything you want at a budget-friendly price. In general, however, you can look to certain features and manufacturers that will take you a long way in the world of cold weather camping and living. High capacity propane furnaces, electric fireplaces, heated and enclosed holding tanks, heavy duty insulation, dual pane windows, heat pumps, and winterizing or “Arctic” packages that give you fully enclosed underbellies and heated storage bays make the modern RV a much more viable living option in cold weather.
One of the most popular four-season RV brands at Guaranty is Northwood’s Arctic Fox line. Northwood is based in the high-elevation community of La Grande, Oregon, where they know cold weather. They build their Arctic Fox travel trailers, fifth wheels and campers on heavy-duty chassis made from structural grade steel with double-primed welds to strengthen the joints, and finishes that prevent corrosion for lifetime use. Northwood’s chassis are independently tested and certified by Pacific West Associates, Inc. for their durability in off-road conditions. These Arctic Fox models are considered to be “All Conditions Units” or “4-Season Ready.” They have fully insulated holding tank areas that circulate warm air around the suspended tanks to provide the best protection from freezing, and their dump valves are also enclosed from the weather. Their four-season Arctic package RVs are insulated with residential quality foam and AstroEco Radiant Barrier Reflective Insulation, an eco-friendly thermal insulation that gives superior protection against both winter cold and summer heat.
While manufacturers like Northwood build a line specifically for cold weather camping, other manufacturers sell optional four-season or Arctic packages that you can purchase with your new RV. A good example is Heartland’s Landmark luxury fifth wheels. Acting on the requests of RV lifestyle enthusiasts, Heartland introduced their Yeti Extreme Cold Weather Package in 2010. This package provides you with heated holding tank pads, radiant technology insulation in the front and rear caps, and a main water line that is heated with low volt polymer heating cable to avoid freezing.
Other manufacturers, like Forest River, sell an Arctic package for their motorhomes that includes heating pads on the holding and water tanks, as well as on the elbows of the sewage drains, that will automatically come on when the temperature drops to freezing, and will keep them at about 45 degrees Fahrenheit (7.2 degrees Celsius).
If you’re in the market to purchase a new or pre-owned RV, and you’re dedicated to cold weather camping, select one that has an Arctic-type package. It should include dual thermal pane windows, added roof and floor insulation, insulated holding tank areas or heating pads for water and sewage tanks, and either heated water lines or an easy way to heat them that doesn’t involve you down on the ground with a hair dryer or a space heater. Be sure to check the manufacturer’s temperature guarantees to ensure the RV will serve you well.
Making Your RV More Cold Weather Ready: 10 Steps for Comfortable Winter Living
RVs are getting more and more amenable to full time living and that includes cold weather packages that won’t force you to fly south for the winter if you don’t want to. Still, most four-season RVs, even ones with Arctic packages, will have some issues in extreme cold and will require some ingenuity and planning ahead to use your power, heat source and water wisely to avoid freezing and breaking your plumbing. Here are 10 steps to get you started on winter camping.
If your RV doesn’t have an insulated, heated underbelly, then your foremost concern is going to be frozen pipes, especially if you’re towing a fifth wheel or travel trailer. Motorhomes, especially the Class A models that are designed for year-round living, tend to feature options for heating the water tanks and lines, but don’t assume that that will be enough in extreme cold. Cover and insulate any exposed piping, and purchase heated water hoses when possible.
When you’re set up to camp, one way to help insulate the underbelly of your RV is to put on an RV skirt. You can have these made to the exact specifications of your RV and they are relatively easy to put on and take off. In extreme cold, you can then run a space heater if necessary under your RV to keep the pipes from freezing.
Know where your plumbing is so that when you’re setting up your camp, you can try to position your RV so that the front or rear takes the brunt of any cold wind, not the sides where your tanks and pipes are. Look for natural windbreaks and places where any afternoon sun will warm up the exterior of your RV.
Leave cabinets or drawers open where your water lines are located and the heat from inside will help keep the lines warm.
Cover your doors, windows and overhead vent openings at night. Purchase or make heavy, fabric, insulating curtains to keep the cold out. You can make one to cover exterior doors at night as well.
A tiny ceramic heater will heat your storage bays without using much electricity in freezing temperatures.
Stay on top of your propane supply. Make sure it’s full when you leave home and don’t run short in cold weather. Prepare ahead and have plenty.
Bring extra drinking water in your RV in case the campground water freezes.
NEVER use your range burners or oven as a heat source; carbon monoxide is deadly. Install a carbon monoxide detector in your RV and always use a safe heat source like your RV furnace. If you don’t own a generator, and you’re considering winter camping, this would be a good time to purchase one and have it installed in order to keep your batteries topped off and your heat system working properly. Solar panels can also be a big help and will save you money in the long run. Our service department would be happy to help you choose these accessories.
Bring an electric blanket or mattress pad for your RV bed for cold nights.
For some other great ideas about winter camping, check out Gone With the Wynns, a wonderful blog by a couple of perpetual RV travellers. Be sure to watch their YouTube videos on how to prepare the outside and the inside of your RV for a freezing winter.
Winter camping and RVing has its own special appeal and offers some of the most magical scenery, from the national parks to the snowy slopes. Winter travel means winter fun! We’re here to help you get your RV ready for cold weather adventures, or to help you decide which winter-ready RV is the right one for you to purchase, so give us a call.
Photo: Vicki Watkins