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Can Airstreams Be Used in Winter?

Published on December 11th, 2018 by Camper Report
This post was updated on April 3rd, 2019

Airstreams are so awesome that people want to use them year-round even in the winter. But is it a good idea to haul an Airstream when the weather gets chilly? I did a little research on the subject and here is what I found.

So, can Airstreams be used in winter? Airstreams are a good candidate to take out camping in the cold winter months. While driving over icy roads can be difficult, the Airstream easily handles adverse conditions and with preparation, you will have a blast enjoying a winter wonderland.

Of course, getting ready to balance the fierce elements that winter brings isn’t a walk in the park and you always have to be prepared for the worse when braving snowy conditions.

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Using an Airstream in the Winter

Winter camping is a blast. I’m not sure how many people have experienced the fun of nature in the cold. Usually, when autumn rolls around, we pack up our tent and fishing pole, and we stow away our RV until summer comes again next year.

This next year consider leaving your RV out for a couple of extra months because you are depriving yourself of an outdoor experience that is quite unlike anything else.

While winter camping sounds fun and good, you may be wondering if your trusty Airstream would be able to handle the harsh conditions of a cold campground. Is it safe to take out?

I’m here to tell you that your Airstream will make an excellent companion as you venture outside this winter. But, like anything, you will have to prepare yourself in order to be ready.

There are three essential steps that need to be taken in order to ensure that your airstream is winter ready. These steps are:

  1. Protect your pipes
  2.  Keeping in the heat
  3.  Keeping out the cold

Once these three steps are taken, then you will be ready to go!

Protecting Your Pipes

I’m not sure if you have ever had a pipe burst from the cold in your home before. Where I live, temperatures can plummet to well below zero, and while I have never had to deal with a busted pipe in my own home, I have seen how much damage it can do.

The same goes for your Airstream trailer. Any water left in any of the pipes could freeze and expand, bursting through the pipes and causing a huge mess.

Damages of this type aren’t only a pain to clean, but they are expensive to fix. I’m talking potentially thousands of dollars depending on the extent of the damage, so be careful.

Here is a list of things that you need to do to make sure that there is no water left in your Airstream’s pipes.

  • If you have any inline water filters remove and bypass before starting
  • Drain the fresh water holding tank
  • Drain the water heater. Remover the drain plug and open the pressure relief valve. Warning: Do NOT empty the water heater if the water is hot or under pressure.
  • Open all faucets. Both hot and cold and don’t forget about the toilet.
  • Locate and open the low point drain lines. On most Airstreams, there will be one for the hat water and cold water lines. Using the water pump will help force the water out, but turn it off as soon as the water is drained or it will damage the pump.
  • Pour antifreeze down each drain. Pour a couple of cups down the toilet.
  • If your water heater has any electrical elements, make sure that they are turned off or it may damage the unit.
  • Make sure all the faucets are closed.
  • Consult the owner’s manual for additional help on winterizing your Airstream.

If you still need some help clearing your pipes, visit for some additional insights. They have been a great resource to me in understanding this topic.

There are some who go winter camping without emptying their pipes. They say that as long as the vehicle is on or charging that you shouldn’t have any problems.

While I have never actually tried this method I wouldn’t recommend that anyone go camping trying this in below freezing temperatures as they are sure to freeze.

However, if you are only driving through a colder area, and don’t plan on doing any actual camping, then don’t feel pressured to empty all of your pipes. You should be fine if you are only passing through.

Keeping in the Heat

One of the best parts of any winter campout is experiencing some real cold weather. There is nothing quite like it! I mean, how often do we experience sweltering heat? I burn up everytime I go to the gym, but the freezing cold? No, we usually stay inside when it gets chilly.

Yes, the cold is something else, but even better than having fun in the snow is warming up after a long day of winter-time playing.

Keeping heat trapped inside your airstream is important if you don’t want to freeze while exploring the frozen tundra. So what are some things you can do to make sure that your Airstream stays nice and toasty?

Becuase heat rises, a lot of people have found it useful to line their ceiling with hatch vent chushions. This can make a dramatic difference in the temperature of the room.

It is also a good idea to wedge insulation between your window panes and window shades. If good insulation isn’t available then try sticking in some bubble wrap. It’s cheaper than insulation, but still very effective. Just make sure the kids don’t pop it all.

Lining the windows with thermal curtains is also a good way to trap heat in. Thermal curtains are made of thick, insulative material that can stop the harsh elements in their tracks. Putting some by all of the windows will make a huge difference. Trust me.

There are also some simple things that you can do to make sure that you stay warm while sleeping in your Airstream.

  • Make sure that you have plenty of blankets. You would be surprised how often people get so focused on coats, gloves, and hats that they forget to bring extra blankets. If you want to keep out the chill, bring a thick wool comforter.
  • Consider bringing a portable heater along for the ride. A little electric or propane heater may be just what you need to keep temperatures inside your airstream balmy. Here is a great article that gives some ideas as to what heater you may want to use.
  • Eat a warm meal. I am surprised by how fast a nice hot meal can not only raise your body temperature but your spirits as well. Did you ever have a cup of hot chocolate after a long day of sledding as a kid? There is nothing better. The same principle applies. Hot meal? Good deal.
  • Dress warmly. If you haven’t been around snow and ice much before, you may not have had much experience dressing for the occasion. When you go out winter camping, make sure to dress in layers. You will want to be able to easily add and take off clothes as the temperatures change throughout the day.

Now that we have talked plenty about keeping in the heat, let’s discuss how to keep the cold out.

Keeping Out the Cold

Have you ever done an art project with your kids that involves glitter? Glitter is the most intrusive substance ever invented. It doesn’t matter how careful you are, or how many barriars you throw up to stop it from spreading, it will get everywhere. Everywhere.

Cold is very much the same. The good news is that unlike glitter, the cold can be stopped, but only if you are sufficiently prepared. So put on your snow boots and grab your gloves because we are going to be talking about how to keep the cold out of your Airstream.

There are a lot of neat tricks that you can do to keep the cold out of your Airstream. The first thing I would recommend is to put a skirt around your RV. And I don’t mean a skirt like the one your daughter wears to church on Sundays.

A skirt sits all around the frame of your RV and stops the floor from becoming unbearably cold. Skirts for Airstreams can be purchased online, but if you don’t want to buy one you can make one out of tarp or plywood.

You will also want to seal any leaks that may be in the hull of you Airstream. Airstreams are great, they’re one of my favorite RVs, but they have a reputation for being very easily bruised. These dents can form leaks that can let cold air flow in.

You can take your Airstream in to be fixed, but there aren’t a lot of people who know how to fix them and it can be expensive to fix. Like, really expensive. If you feel up to the task you can seal the leaks yourself with rubber coating or silicon caulk.

Another good way to stop cutting winds is to use draft stoppers or shrink wrap on your entry door. These will help form a tight seal against the wind keeping heat in and the cold out.

Winter RVing Pro-Tips

As a man that spends a lot of time in frigid condition, I would like to consider myself a bit of an expert when it comes to spending the winter outdoors.

Here I will share some tips about how to handle your huge RV in wintery conditions, how to pick the perfect camping site, how to prepare for the unexpected, etc.

Handling Your Airstream in the Snow

Anyone that isn’t used to driving on ice is in for a shock. It can hide underneath seemingly innocent snow drifts sending the unsuspecting driver into a spin when he least expects it.

Ice will often freeze transparently making even an experienced driver unaware of the danger that awaits them. Driving through the snow and ice is difficult, but the danger only compounds as the weight of your vehicle increases.

If you think driving around in your little Toyota Corolla was hard, imagine hauling 7,000-pound Airstream behind you. Yikes. Things could get complicated.

While driving on snowy roads is risky, it doesn’t have to be dangerous if you take the right precautions. Remember that people drive through the snow all the time without much problem and you can do it too.

Here are a few tips to help you drive safely in less than ideal weather.

  1. Drive slowly. Hey, it may seem obvious now but a lot of accidents happen in winter because someone was going just a little faster than they should have been. Take your time and don’t be afraid to go a slower speed if the listed limit seems fast. People may honk and curse you out, but it beats flying off the road. 
  2.  Equip yourself with the proper snow tires. Both your truck and your Airstream should be fitted with fresh snow tires before you head out camping. Even with the proper tires driving can be dangerous. Driving without the right tires is just downright idiotic. Do yourself a huge favor and make sure that your cars are geared properly before you leave.
  3.  Be prepared to slip and slide. I wish I could say that after taking the right precautions your ride would be smooth and easy, but in all likelihood, it won’t be. Expect to slide around a little and know what to do if you lose control of the vehicle. The worst thing to do in a stressful situation is to panic. If you can keep a level head when things take a turn for the worse, then you will recover from most unexpected slips just fine. 

Picking the Perfect Camping

You have spent most of your day fighting icy conditions on the roads but are finally arriving at your dream winter camping location. You pull in to the site only to realize that picking an ideal spot will be a bitter battle in of itself. Where is the best place to park your trailer to maximize on comfort?

When choosing the best camping location remember to work with nature and not against it. Camping in the snow can be cold, it’s true, but remember that the sun is still shining.

Position your trailer in a spot that will flood your windows with natural light. Natural sunlight is an excellent heater that will warm the interior of the trailer. Avoid any spot where trees or anything else may block the sun from reaching your windows.

Your Airstream has an awning that retracts over your windows. Make sure that those are left up. The fierce winter winds may tare them down, and they will also prevent the sun from warming your trailer.

On top of all that, make sure that you have a proper exit. Heavy trailers like Airstreams have a knack for getting stuck in the snow or mud. If it is snowing heavily, make sure you have a shovel handy to dig yourself out.

In all that you do, make sure that you work with mother nature and not against her.

Facing the Unexpected with Confidence

Winter is a time of fierce unpredictable weather. Where I live, one day is sunny and pleasant and the next is blustery and snowy. The sudden changes keep things interesting, but if you aren’t prepared, it can really put a damper on things.

Here are a few things that you should always have on hand in stormy conditions.

  1.  Make sure someone knows where they are. Tell a neighbor or friend who lives by your home where you are going and when you expect to be back anytime you leave camping. Especially in the winter time. That way if you do run into trouble and are unable to contact help, your friend can save the day by alerting the authorities.
  2. Bring the right supplies. Snow shovels, jumper cables, spare tires, emergency radio, extra food and water, ice scrapers, snowshoes, jumper cables. These are just a few things that you will want to bring with you out winter camping. Prepare for any emergency, and you will be prepared when something goes wrong.
  3.  Bring a backup generator. Things tend to break in the cold. If your heat suddenly goes out one cold night, you may wake up to find yourself in a serious pickle. Bring a backup generator and make sure that your propane tanks are full before you leave. This precaution may just save you from freezing.

Related Questions

Can an Airstream be driven in the mountains? An Airstream can go just about anywhere if your truck has the right horsepower. But just because you can go somewhere doesn’t mean you should. Be very careful hauling your Airstream up a mountain, especially when it is icy.

What does it mean to winterize? A winterized RV is empty of all water and put away for the winter months. It usually sits in a garage or other storage unit until the weather is favorable enough to go camping again.

If you are winterizing your RV, make sure that your pipes are protected and that all awnings are secure or they may be damaged by the time you take your trailer out again in the spring.

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