13 Tips for Comfortable Camper Living in a Cold Winter


Some of the most beautiful times of year to visit the country are also the coldest. From snow-frosted mountains and icy lakes, the winter turns green trees and pastures to beautiful seas of white. The unfavorable weather conditions are a deterrent for fellow vacationers during these cold times.  Why let the lower temperatures be the determining factor of when you take your camper out?

These tips will show you how you can still enjoy and comfortably live in your RV during the cold winter months.

1. Insulate the windows and floors

By adding rugs and thermal curtains you’re helping trap heat inside. Directly underneath the floor of your RV is earth and cold air. By adding thick rugs to a linoleum floor will add an additional barrier to the floor and keep the heat from seeping outside. The rug will also feel much more comfortable on bare feet when walking around your home.

Windows are evil heat stealers and will deplete your warmth supply quickly if not properly sealed and covered.

You can cover the windows with bubble wrap or foam insulation boards to keep heat inside.  To add extra warmth, hang heavy thermal curtains to cover the already insulated windows. By adding the extra layer of curtains, you’ll be able to maintain even higher temperatures inside.

If it’s sunny outside, keep the windows uncovered allowing the sunlight to shine through the windows adding some extra natural warmth and then re-cover them once the sun goes down.

The biggest downside to covering all the windows is eliminating natural light in the camper and of course blocking the gorgeous views from outside.

Here, you can read an article we wrote where we suggest even more ways to insulate your travel trailer. 

2. Keep water out!

Snuggling up on the sofa all warm and cozy is great but when mold starts creeping up the walls and finding its way into cupboards, cozy-time is over.

Vents are a crucial part of ventilating your RV but are also a major source of heat loss. By purchasing a vent cover, not only will it keep you warm, but will still promote ventilation preventing condensation and humidity buildup inside your camper. Vent covers add an extra layer of insulation and allow extra moisture to escape, preventing the growth of mold in your home.

An additional way to prevent humidity inside the camper is to purchase a dehumidifier.  The dehumidifier will lower the humidity level within the RV which will aid in keeping the inside dry and mold free. It will also help keep the air fresh and clean inside the small space.

3. Support the local Goodwill or Salvation Army

If you’re a fulltime Rver than you know that storage space is critical. Maybe when your adventure started it was the start of summer and the thought of packing heavy jackets, long johns, gloves, and other bulky winter items were the last thing on your mind.

Instead of blowing $100 on a new jacket that will only be used for a couple months and then stored the rest of the year, hit the local thrift shop. If the town you’re visiting is notoriously cold during the winter you can expect to hit the jackpot of finding winter clothes.

By doing this you’ll save yourself a lot of money and since you didn’t spend a fortune on buying new clothes, you can easily return and recycle them to save storage space for the warmer months to come.

4. Purchase a smaller RV

A smaller space warms up quicker and uses less energy. If you’re considering camping frequently during the colder months of the year, sacrificing size for warmth may be the way to go.

The smaller the RV, the less propane or electricity it takes to warm up your home which also saves you money on expensive propane!

Unless you’re a family of six, sacrificing the size may not be an option. However, body heat is an incredible thing. Snuggling up together not only makes for a cozy warm bed but also heightens the excitement and joy that camping brings! We wrote an article where we listed 11 of the best small travel trailers on the market right now. Click here to read the article. 

5. Sleep inside a thermal sleeping bag

Sleeping bags are meant to be utilized either inside a tent or under the stars. The benefit of using a sleeping bag inside your camper is that it will increase the temperature of your body and the inside of the RV.

It is best to choose a bag that has a lower temperature rating than you expect to actually encounter. For example, if you predict the weather will be 35 degrees Fahrenheit, select a bag that will tolerate down to 25 degrees Fahrenheit, that way if you become too warm, you can simply vent the bag to promote more air circulation, or even shed a few layers of clothes.

Some sleeping bags offer a hood which will trap heat in the bag and around your head. We lose a lot of heat through our heads and by utilizing a hood, you are preventing the escape of sacred heat.

Some mornings you may be so toasty, you may not want to get out of bed! With a portable sleeping bag, you can take your bed with you! Just be warned, one issue I have found with this product is that my husband refuses to wear anything else when we go camping, which makes it especially uncomfortable when attempting to go out to dinner.

By carefully selecting the appropriate sleeping bag for the weather conditions you’ll be facing, you can count on a good warm night’s sleep.

6. Bake a cake!

Or cook anything that involves using the stove. Heat up the place by turning on the stove and baking some tasty hot treats! Use the heat of the stove as a supplemental heat source and then consume the warm morsels to heat up your belly!

Even after the baking is done and the stove is off, leave the stove door open. This will fill the RV with residual heat that will come from the stove.

Eating food high in fat takes longer to digest and gives you the feeling of being warm because of all the commotion that’s going on in your tum. One trick is to drink a mug of hot chocolate with a stick of butter—all that fat will take much longer to digest keeping your core comfortably warm.

7. Stay active!

When it’s snowing outside and the temperature inside is hovering at a chilly 40 degrees Fahrenheit, instead of bundling up in a blanket fort and regretting your decision to winter camp, get your exercise on!

Especially after baking and eating all those baked goods to stay warm and drinking hot chocolate with butter — you’ll want to work off those extra calories.

Though unraveling from your mountain of clothing may not seem like an appealing thought, working up your internal body temperature will actually help you maintain heat longer, especially if you rebury yourself afterward.

Not only is it good to stay active, but even a short minute of jumping jacks will help increase your internal body heat.

Still cold after your jumping jacks, get on the floor and see how many push-ups you can do. Who knows, maybe you’ll surprise all your friends when you return and you’ll be super buff!

“How’d you get so ripped on vacation?!”

“I didn’t want to freeze to death.”

8. Use an RV skirt

Want to make your RV feel pretty? Put a skirt on it!

Just kidding, the real question is, do you want your RV to stay warm? If you answered “Yes!” then skirting is the way to go.

If you don’t know what an RV skirt is, it’s exactly what you think it is. The skirt is used to protect the “underthings” from freezing and to keep excess cold and wind out.

When the vinyl skirting is effectively used, you will reduce internal heat loss, keeping the warmth inside your home. It will also aid the winterization process. It will protect During strong winds, it will help in the reduction of wind rocking making it feel less like an earthquake inside.

In order to tolerate different weather conditions, RV skirts are created in a variety of materials.

You can have them attach to your RV with heavy duty Velcro or use a zipper splice.

This way you are able to easily remove and attach the skirt after the first time the equipment is installed.

In order to securely attach the Velcro or zipper splice to the outside of the RV, apply a vinyl cement. This will ensure a secure application of the product and minimize the risk of it peeling off.

If at any time you want to permanently remove your skirt (*gasp!*), you can apply Goof Off to get the job done easily. It also removes the sticky aftermath leaving a clean finish on the outside.

If you want to get scandalous, they also make custom “mini” skirts to wrap around the top of slide-outs to help insulate and protect the rubber seal keeping rain out.

Idaho Canvas Products has a huge selection of skirts that are customizable to the inch of your RV. These skirts can range from $100 to $400, but well worth the investment during the winter. 

If you’re towing a fifth wheel, here you can read an article we wrote where we listed the best skirting for fifth wheels. We also wrote about different ways to attach the skirt to the fifth wheel. 

9. Get your pipes ready!

By preparing the plumbing for cold winter months, you’ll increase the longevity of your pipes and hoses.  You’ll also save yourself expensive repairs in ruptured pipes or tanks.

During extreme cold, pipes, tanks, and hoses receive harsh abuse if not protected from the elements. Here are a couple of ideas to keep your plumbing in good order.

  • Leave your fresh water tank empty and bring bottled water for doing dishes, drinking, and brushing your teeth.
    • By leaving the tank empty you’re completely eliminating the worry of your freshwater freezing in the tank inhibiting any damage caused by water usage.
  • If you decide to utilize fresh water or use water hookups, insulate the pipes.
  • Use antifreeze in gray and black tanks; simply pour some down the drain and flush down the toilet
    • You never want your black waste to freeze unless you want to deal with a really disgusting mess.

Though these tips don’t necessarily aid in keeping your RV warm, it will definitely help elongate the longevity of your RV’s internal plumbing during the winter months.

10. Insulate your water heater

Water heater insulation blankets will help keep higher temperatures of your fresh water. Even though the purpose of the water heater is to maintain hot water, in extremely cold environments, even the best water heater has the potential of freezing.

Water in a frozen state expands and will cause problems including cracked and busted pipes or tanks.

With an insulated blanket, it’ll help maintain the desired water temperature making showers or doing dishes a pleasant experience and not one to be avoided. It’ll also make your water heater feel loved when you tuck it in with a cozy blanket!

However, just because the tank has extra protection, the residual water in the pipes are still exposed. Unless you enjoy being sprayed with icy water in subzero temps, be sure to also cover the pipes with insulation. This way lingering water in the pipes will not freeze and potentially crack a pipe. This will also make the initial water that comes out less terrifying. It is unnecessary to keep the pipes hot, but be sure to keep them above 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

If you’re trying to conserve water, bring in a pot or bucket in the shower to save all the water that’s still too cold to bathe in. This way you can use the stove to heat that water up and use it to do dishes.

11. Get a tune-up

Whether you’re handy with vehicle maintenance or you’re willing to pay someone else, take your RV in for a checkup.

By ensuring that your home is “healthy” before hitting the road and encountering the chilly weather, you’re preventing incidents that will be avoided with a simple tune-up, like checking out your battery.

Though driving charges your battery, in colder conditions the battery won’t hold a charge as well or as long. Therefore, if you’re running an electric space heater full blast, the heater will drain the battery much quicker than you might expect, or are used to compared to when used during warmer months.

This obviously isn’t an issue if you’re staying at a location with full hookups but something to consider if you’re going to be boondocking more.

Some RV shops offer full winterizing services ensuring that your vehicle is in tip-top shape to endure the cold road ahead.

12. Consider purchasing solar panels

The beautiful thing about the sun is its powerful UV rays that can penetrate even in the densest fog. Unless you’re camping in Alaska during the winter, you will always be able to charge your solar panels.

By utilizing the solar panels, you can run an electric space heater instead of burning through all your expensive propane. Or grab an electric blanket which will keep you warm and use less energy than a space heater.

Make sure to do your research before going gung-ho for solar panels. Depending on how you’re using your rig, they may end up being a waste of money. If you’ll be at a campsite with full electric hookups, you probably won’t need them. Maybe you anticipate a lot of driving.  Just by cruising down the road, you’ll recharge the batteries; but again consider the effects cold has on your battery life. Or lastly, if you’re going to be mostly boondocking, solar panels may be a good option for you.

There are two different kinds of solar panels available:

  • Polycrystalline: 13-16% efficiency (less expensive)
  • Monocrystalline: 15-20% efficiency (more expensive)

Besides the efficiency level, the energy is still technically the same and your coffee maker won’t know the difference. The benefit monocrystalline panels present is that they are available in a flexible form.  These panels will conform to the curves of your RV and are also more aerodynamic than raised panels.

Alongside the topic of keeping water out, by utilizing flexible panels, you won’t need to drill holes into your home. No holes mean no outlets for moisture. Here, you can find an ultimate buyer’s guide we wrote all about solar panels. 

13. Get in a “cold” mindset

By mentally preparing yourself to be cold and uncomfortable you’ll trick yourself into thinking, “Oh, this isn’t so bad!” and you’ll be able to enjoy the atmosphere instead of resenting it.

Instead of being tense and thinking you’ll never warm up, relax.

When we’re cold we tense up our muscles and our mind is aware we are cold. By forcibly relaxing our muscles our brains are “tricked” into thinking we’re comfortable.

Think warm thoughts…picture yourself basking on the hot sand at a beach. Like meditation, through practice, you have the ability to persuade your mind into a warm state.

Conclusion

It is obvious that when we’re comfortable, we are much keener in recognizing and appreciating beauty. The winter is a stunning time to camp and explore. With fewer campers willing to tolerate the lower temperatures, winter camping can be a magical experience. By following these tips, you’ll be able to witness the true exquisiteness that winter reveals that others will never encounter. Stay warm my friends.

[author title=”About the Author” style=”font-family:lato;”]

Tiondra Clevenger

Tiondra's family, which includes one incredible husband and two senior chihuahuas, are super adventure seekers. Hiking and kayaking are amongst their favorite activities and are quite skilled in the art of napping after said ventures.

4 thoughts on “13 Tips for Comfortable Camper Living in a Cold Winter

  1. I’ve always wanted to live in an RV for a few years to travel the world but the cold always makes me hesitant. You make a great point about using a thermal sleeping bag for those cold nights. If I ever end up getting an RV I’ll definitely invest in some of these.

  2. Rv skirting is a new term to me. I have a small Mercedes Sprinter Van. Even small spaces are hard to keep warm, so I can only imagine a Class A or Class C RV trying to keep it warm. Always learning new tips and tricks for what to try. Thanks for sharing your experience and ideas!

  3. Seriously thinking of an RV as a permanent home. Do you have to use propane? Or can it be hooked up differently?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Content