Winter RV living.

The few. The proud. The ballsy.

While most people buy a camper to flock south for the winter, that’s not your kind of adventure. And lucky for you, it’s your rig and you can take it anywhere you’d like to go.

If you’re thinking you might like a little winter RVing in your life, here’s everything you need to know. From how to know if winter camping is for you, to tips and tricks…this article has you covered, my snow-crazy friend.

*This post may contain affiliate links. Click here to read The Virtual Campground’s full disclosure policy.*

This guide to winterizing your RV is a must read for anyone with a travel trailer. Whether you plan on living full-time in your RV through the winter in a cold climate, or just need to get your rig ready for snow weather you need to read the ultimate guide to maintenance for winter RV living. Click here! #RVLiving #winter #coldclimate #RVmaintenance #maintenance #snow #WinterRVLiving #RVHacks

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Is Winter Camping For You?

Living in a travel trailer in the winter is totally doable. But you definitely need to ask yourself some questions beforehand. Winter RV living can be difficult at times.

You’ve got to be up to the challenge.

winter rving in a motorhome
Baby, it’s cold inside.

Here are some common characteristics of cold weather campers:

Adventurous
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Pretty much every RV owner is at least a little adventurous. But you? You are a real thrill seeker. Especially if you’re going to actually live in your camper full-time in these cold temperatures.

Hard-Working
There’s definitely a few extra things to maintain and plan for when bringing your RV to cold weather. If you’re willing to put in the hard work to prep and maintain your vehicle, you won’t have any problems.

Thick Blood
So um yeah…Do not attempt winter RV living if you’re from South Florida or Arizona or something and have only seen snow “that one time.” This will result in what they call a “bad time.” Thicken up that blood first, my friend.

Flexible
Again, this is a characteristic most RVers have. But when you’re in extreme temperatures in a box on wheels, you can go from yoga-flexible to iron-freaking-rod in less than 60 seconds. Make sure you really are a flexible and relaxed person before attempting to spend copious amounts of time winter RVing.

Winter and/or camping fanatic
I know. Fanatic is a strong word. But I think it’s appropriate here, don’t you? Every person I know that RVs in cold weather is either a big big fan of winter sports, snow, etc…OR they live in a house and love RVing so much they don’t stop just because it’s snowing.

Enjoy quiet
When winter camping, the RV parks and campgrounds are less crowded. This usually means you’ll enjoy a lot more peace and quiet around your rig. If that sounds way better than the crowded pool parties and shuffle board competitions in Florida, winter RV living may be for you.

Do any of these describe you? Awesome. Let’s keep going.

Here are some questions to ask yourself before hitting the road towards lower temps and ski slopes:

How much do I really love winter and cold weather? (read: is snow really that pretty?)

Am I willing to do the extra maintenance required to camp comfortably?

Have I done all my research to make sure I’m going to be safe?

Can my rig handle the winter temperatures? 

If you’re not sure about that last question, don’t fret. I’ve got you covered in the next section:

5 Features Your Rig Should Have to Make Winter RV Living Easier

You don’t need a cold-weather RV to survive a snowy winter. But there are a few features your rig should have to keep you running as smoothly as possible.

Outside skirting

This requires some work on your part, but it really is a must-have if you’re into the whole RV winter thing.

Putting a skirt around your RV keeps the underneath so much warmer. This results in decreased heating costs. And those costs can get high depending on how often your filling up your propane tank. Or if you pay for electricity and are using space heaters, blankets, etc.

In short, putting in the work to skirt your RV will make winter RV living much more possible for you.

Click here to read how one RVer made her own out of recycled material for only $200

Dual pane windows

You can also sub this for insulated RV windows or some seriously insulated window curtains. Or wrap the windows in plastic. Or…

The point is this: That cold weather is going to come in through your windows! You want to do your best to combat that. Do a little homework and find out what you need to make sure you’re not losing a ton of heat through your windows.

Vent cushions

Look up. Does your RV have roof vents or skylights?

You need to seal these off. Just like the windows, they are an ideal place for heat to leak out. Lucky for you, this is a super easy fit.

Just install RV vent cushions. You can get these at Camping World in-store or online at Amazon. 

Insulated underbelly

While you can certainly insulate the underneath of your RV yourself, it really is nice when the RV manufacturer does it for you.

Now this doesn’t mean things won’t ever freeze down there (beware the poopsicle, people), it does give you an advantage.

Electric heaters
In the last few years, RV manufacturers have started to put in a fireplace for certain units. If yours has one, great! You’ll be warming your tootsies by the fire soon.

If you don’t have one, you can buy a portable one and it’s going to help with heating your rig tremendously. A space heater will also do the trick!

Please note: using a space heater and the like can be tricky. Do some research on your rig, your electric situation, and the heater you have before using one! Most brand new space heaters are much safer than old ones, but do the research anyway.

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Tips and Tricks for Winter RV Living

We’ve covered a lot of stuff in this post. But there are still a few tips and tricks left over that you should know before heading out for a winter full of camping.

How to get water

If you like your water in liquid form, you’re going to need to do a little prep. Especially if you’re camping in a place where the temperature often gets below freezing.

The easiest thing to do is to fill your freshwater tank as needed. Unless you’re in below zero temps for weeks at a time, your water will not freeze easily.

That is, if you did your homework and made sure your underbelly is properly insulated and you’re keeping the inside of your rig as warm as possible, too.

If you’re remaining stationary for the winter, or not moving often, there is a method to keep your pipes from freezing while camping.

Insulate your water supply. This is going to take some effort, but it’s well worth it.

Go to your local hardware store and buy some insulation and plastic wrap. Then get to work wrapping any exposed pipes. You can also wrap your water hose this way or buy a heated water hose. 

If you don’t have an insulated or heated hose, be sure to disconnect your water hose in freezing temps. Bring it inside to stay warm. When the temperature warms up enough during the day, reconnect and use your water then.

*That last one is my personal method as someone who tries not to be in cold temperatures for very long.*

Prepare your hookups for the cold

If you’re winter camping in an area where freezing temperatures are normal, you need to prepare.

Any exposed water source/pipe needs to be insulated just like your hose. Wrap them carefully with insulation.

As an added measure, buy a rubber tote and insulate it with foam board. Put the tote upside down and cover the exposed water supply source.

Keep your slides warm

There are lots of RVers out there that will never buy a rig with slides because of “all the hassle.”

While the rest of us roll our eyes and think they’re crazy…they do sorta kinda have a point.

If you’re going to keep your camper warm in the winter, your slides might give you trouble. Make sure you attach foam board insulation to the bottom and sides of your rig’s slides.  Use HVAC tape to make sure it sticks.

It might seem like a lot of work for little effort, but I promise it’s worth it. Your slides are going to be the coldest area in the RV. Any extra effort to keep them warm will help you big time!

Extra precautions to take to ensure you’re staying as warm as possible

With winter RV living, of course you’re going to be cold. Your toes will get numb. Your fingers will not work right. No amount of prep is going to completely eliminate these facts.

BUT you can do your best to make life less than miserable.

Line the backs of cabinets with Reflectix. Especially if that cabinet is facing the outside. I also do this in my wardrobe. I can’t tell you how many times just opening my closet door to get a sweater has made me colder than before.

Line those backs, my friend!

Another great tip is to attach foam board insulation to the bottom of your RV. Just like you did with your slide.

It’s a great last measure to take to ensure your tanks don’t freeze and the heat you’ve paid for stays inside the rig where it should be.

Last, make sure your propane storage area is insulated. Usually they do not come this way. And if things get really cold (below zero) sometimes the propane has a hard time igniting. So buy some reflectix or a space heater to ensure your propane maintains a good flow.

Emergency items

No one likes to think about this, but crap happens. You can do all the planning in the world, but a blizzard can knock out the power and leave your stranded.

Don’t get caught unprepared. Here are some emergency items you should have in your rig when living in your RV in the winter time:

  • Zero-degree-rated sleeping bags
  • Gas-powered generator (with gas, c’mon now)
  • Extra propane tanks
  • Cash for emergencies
  • 5-10 gallons of drinking water stored where they won’t freeze
  • Foul-weather gear
  • Blow dryer to defrost pipes and tanks (don’t skip this one! I know it sounds ridiculous but it’s not!)

4 Fun Places for Winter RV Living

Alright. You’ve read through all the warnings, precautions, and must-dos. And you’re still ready to gas up and hit colder temperatures.

Here are some top spots for RVers to get in some winter camping:

Breckenridge, CO

Possibly the most popular spot for full-time RVers, Breckenridge has a great reputation for hosting folks in the winter time.

And if you’re into this whole winter camping thing because you’re a ski bum, you need to be here.

Breckenridge, (or Breck as it’s lovingly referred to be all my crazy winter peeps), is high altitude with consistent snow quality. You’re not going to get better than this.

The town is also quite touristy for those travelers still looking to brave the cold and explore more than the slopes. There are lots of shops, a historic downtown area, and even winter hiking.

Oh, and if you do make it to Breck, don’t forget the International Snow Sculpture Championships.

Man, that sounds so cool I might want to do the whole winter RV living thing up there this year.

Tiger Run Resort is a luxury RV park that is just as nice and inviting as Breck itself. Check out all the amenities and sites right here.

Jackson Hole, WY

This is a top destination for RVers any time of year.

And of course it is. It’s close to both Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone. But the winter makes it so much better because you can visit these sites without the crowds.

And we all know the only downside to a National Park is the crowds. #canigetanamen

This destination has everything you’re looking for, too. You can go dog sledding, snow shoeing, and even snow tubing. If that’s not enough snow-related activities, try snowmobiling! Oh, and of course there is an award-winning ski resort in town.

Seriously, this is like a snow-themed Disneyland.

Make your reservations at the Jackson Hole Campground. They literally call themselves a “winter RV park” and are only 5 minutes from that ski resort. They also boast a heated bathhouse!

Now if that’s not luxurious winter camping…

Park City, UT

This is another fun winter destination for snow enthusiasts.

Park City used to be a mining town and the downtown area is an interesting walk through history. Of course, there are many modern things about the city now, including dining options and incredible skiing options.

And you’re very close to Salt Lake City.

Stay at Park City RV Resort and be minutes away from 3 ski resorts. But be warned! Winter is actually busy season so make your reservations ahead of time.

Asheville, NC

Like all the other destination on this list, Asheville is a great place for snow sports and outings.

What makes Asheville different is that it’s just plain cool.

Recently dubbed the America’s new Beer City, there’s lots of breweries to explore here. And where there’s beer, there’s amazing food as well.

There are also lots of attractions indoors for those days where you’ve just had enough. Don’t miss the Pinball Museum and the Biltmore.

Stay at Campfire Lodgings. This is a mountaintop campground with spectacular views. Seriously. This is something you’ve got to see to believe. It will make your winter RV living experience worth every frozen pipe, cold toe, and frosted windshield.

Ready to go somewhere warm? Check out this post on the most affordable places to winter RV.

Ready for winter RV living and camping?

I’d love to hear where you plan to travel this year! And any tips and tricks you’ve learned along the way to keep your camper warm!

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8 thoughts on “Winter RV Living: The Ultimate Guide

  1. OK, I get the whole winter thing, but it’s January and I’ve lived with ice and show my whole like so RVing in the snow is probably not going to be my thing, but then again the family is in Michigan so I’ll probably have to be here at some point around the holidays.

    That said one way to skirt your rig for not a lot of money is straw bales, not the big round ones, but square ones which are getting more difficult to find, but ask at the local grain elevator. Another thing you can do that is free if there is already snow on the ground is pile up snow around your RV so the air can’t get underneath. As along as the snow doesn’t melt you’re good, if it does better get some straw bales.

    Next is freezing pipes, DO NOT throw hot water on them to defrost them, you will likely crack them and have a really big mess. If you do get frozen pipes use a hair dryer like Liz suggested. Another thing you can do to keep pipes from freezing it to keep a faucet running at at trickle so the water doesn’t have time to freeze in the hose. I’m not quite sure how the whole water spigot thing works at winter time campgrounds because around here everyone uses frost-proof spigots for outside spigots where you want water all winter, but then that’s the campground’s issue. If you do get caught in the wintertime in a rig without being winterized go to the local hardware store and buy some heat tape to wrap around the pipes. It will get you through for a while until your tank freezes.

    With all the above in my world the best idea is to start your engine and head south if you’re in the northern hemisphere and north if your in the southern hemisphere.

    Happy camping.

    1. haha “start your engine and head south” You’ve got me laughing over here. Some people like to winter RV! And some people have to! Anyway, thanks for the tips. Especially important about throwing hot water…yeah that’s a bad idea like you said!

      The straw bale is a good idea too. Do you think people will have to worry about mice and such with that? Let me know your thoughts.

  2. We’re enjoying winter in a sticks and bricks after four years on the road. Always toasty warm, unlimited hot water, bare feet anywhere. You never know what you’ve got ’till it’s gone.

  3. Hey Liz! Good job on this article, you just about covered it all (and insulating the cabinets is an idea I hadn’t thought of). As someone who is currently stationary in a wintery place for a second year, one more thing we do is, we have a heat lamp plugged in under our house. It makes a big difference! We also leave the kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors open at night, so the warmth from our heaters reached the water lines.

  4. Hey, Girlfriend. So much fantastic information in this post, Liz. Great job. I guess winter camping = nothing-else-to-do-but-write-cool-blogs-time? Btw, I’m not a winter camper but loved reading about it from your perspective. Stay warm around the campfire!

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