Many RVs are built to withstand the weather of all four seasons, including the harsh cold temps of winter. They're equipped with extra insulation, powerful furnaces, and heated and enclosed underbellies and valves to keep you and your RV warm and toasty even when the temps drop. So why not pack up your skis, snowboards, snowshoes, or snowmobiles (if you have a toy hauler) and head out for some awesome winter fun with your RV! Follow these winter RV travel tips to stay warm and safe on your travels!
Prepping the RV and Tow Vehicle
Before you hitch up and head out onto snowy roads, there is some prep work that needs to be done. Follow these tips to get your RV and tow vehicle ready for winter weather:
- If you have any type of diesel engine, whether it’s in your tow vehicle, motorhome, or the engine on a generator, you need to take care of the fuel. When it gets cold, diesel fuel can turn into a gel, which then causes problems. Adding in a fuel supplement will keep it from gelling and allow it to flow and combust properly.
- Before you head out make sure you have a winter formula windshield washer fluid. Not only does this type of fluid not freeze, but it can actually melt ice that's formed on your windshield. Normal windshield washer fluid will freeze up as soon as it hits your windshield, or possibly even in the reservoir.
- Fill the propane tank before you leave! Propane is a tricky thing! It actually has a boiling point of -44° F and the only thing that will keep it from turning to gas and escaping the tank during extreme cold is to keep it under pressure. The fuller the tank, the more pressure there is. You’re also likely to use a lot of it while you’re camping, so filling it is always a good idea.
- Buy skirting and heated hoses if you plan to use your tanks while you travel! A heated hose will keep the water in your hoses from freezing, and skirting will keep the wind from whipping under your RV while you’re parked and freezing up the lines and tanks. If you choose, you can even get a mini heater to keep in your wet bay. This will help keep tanks and hoses from freezing and keep your valves in good working order. However the easiest thing to do it to simply winterize your RV's water system and only use the campground bathroom.
- Before you head out, make sure to get snow off your RV's roof. Not only will the snow create weight that can do damage to the roof, it can be a potential hazard to others on the road. If you’ve ever been stuck driving behind someone who didn’t brush off their car after a snow storm, then you know how frustrating it can be when all their snow blows back on you as you head down the road.
- Finally, make sure you pack lots of extra clothes to keep you warm, including coats, boots, hats, gloves, thick socks, etc. If you happen to experience a breakdown or accident and have to walk somewhere for help, you can bundle up and stay safe and warm!
While On the Road
- Satellite radio is great for long road trips so you always have great tunes to listen to, but in the winter it’s best to listen to local stations for weather updates. If there’s a storm somewhere around your location or where you're heading, it's good to know about it ahead of time. Local stations also alert you to accidents or areas that you should avoid.
- In some areas, especially mountainous ones, chains for your wheels are required. Practice how to put them on in case you need to use them.
- If you have ABS brakes, don't pump them! They’re going to pump faster on their own than you can and it will be much more effective! If you don’t have ABS brakes, pump them when you slide! If you drive a manual transmission, you can down shift to help you slow down.
- If you hit an area with high winds, it’s best to pull over and find a place to ride it out. High winds and icy roads are a dangerous combination for anyone heading down the road with an RV in tow. As with any kind of severe weather, just pull over until it dies down to be safe.
At the Site
Once you reach your destination, there are just a few more things to take care of before you can kick back and enjoy some winter R & R. Check out these tips to help get you settled:
- If you can choose your spot, find the sunniest spot you can. During the winter you want as much warmth as you can get to keep things from freezing up, and what better way to warm up than from sunshine! Parking in the sun will keep the outside temperature around your RV a few degrees higher, which can make a big difference.
- Set up your skirting when you reach your destination. If you don’t have skirting, build yourself a snow bank that runs along the side of the RV. The snow will act as a wind barrier just as the skirting does and it will keep things warmer underneath. You may think it’s silly to pack cold snow up around the RV to keep it warm, but it works much like an igloo does in the cold northern areas.
- Propane creates humidity, which can freeze. So, try to replace as much propane as you can with electric. Use an electric space heater, electric griddle, and avoid using the stove and furnace if possible. You can set up the furnace as a backup in the event the temperature dips too low, but electric heat will end up costing less and won’t create humidity in your unit. If you don’t have this as an option, you can use your generator instead.
- Know the signs of carbon monoxide poisoning! This is especially important if you’re running a generator, as some times exhaust fumes can make their way into the RV. These signs include lightheadedness, confusion, headache, vertigo, vomiting, chest pain, and shortness of breath.
- One way to stay warm at night and give the heaters a rest is to use an electric blanket and/or mattress pad. This way you can stay toasty in your bed and you’re not wasting energy on heating parts of the RV you’re not even using. Just keep a warm robe and slippers near you so that if you have to make a bathroom trip in the night you’re not going to freeze your buns off!
With any road trip, check the weather and road conditions before you leave and during your travels. No trip is worth risking your life, so if it’s looking like a dangerous situation, it’s better to stay put. You can always try again later.