While the majority of RVers call it a day once summer is over or the leaves start to fall, some brave souls head out into the cold temps and continue their RVing lifestyle well into winter. And for good reason! Winter camping can be absolutely beautiful and filled with great outdoor activity making it exhilarating and photo worthy! Many RVers who own toy haulers look forward to loading up their snowmobiles and “fat bikes” and heading out into the cold, blustery winter wonderland for some awesome trail riding. Other winter campers love strapping on their waterproof hiking boots or snowshoes and heading out to explore quiet, snow-covered mountains.
While there are a lot of great reasons to consider giving winter RVing a try, it’s important that you don’t just jump into winter camping without giving your safety some serious thought. With frigid temps, heavy snow, ice, and bitter winds, winter camping can pose some unique problems and dangers. So if you’re considering postponing your RV winterization and taking to the snowy roads with your RV in tow, here is some advice on how to prepare for winter weather emergencies and stay safe!
Tip #1: Stock an Emergency Kit
When you go camping in the summer you travel with a first aid kit, right? Well in the winter you should do the same! But instead of stocking it with sunscreen and band-aids, you should fill it with cold-weather items. This includes things for you and your RV. A great winter weather emergency kit would include tire chains, a blow dryer for your RV’s pipes/tanks, warm clothes, blankets, food, water, flashlight, batteries, extra gloves/hats, and a shovel. Snowstorms can drop feet of snow in a day in northern states or in the mountains, so it’s possible you could quickly get snowed in where you’re camping or on the side of the road if you have to pull over. Have enough food/water and winter supplies to last for a few days.
Tip #2: Fill Your Tanks
Always travel with full LP tanks, as running a furnace will quickly use up a lot of your gas. Bring along a few extra tanks as well if possible. Keeping your RV heated during a snowstorm or dangerously low temps is important for your safety and the safety of your RV. If your RV gets too cold, the pipes and holding tanks can freeze and crack, which is a very expensive and disastrous problem to have.
Tip #3: Heat Efficiently
While having a furnace on board is great for winter camping, using it has its drawbacks. Running it uses a lot of electricity, it uses propane inefficiently, and you need fully charged batteries and LP tanks to run it. But it does help keep your pipes and tanks from freezing and it lets in fresh air through the vent, which can be nice when your RV is closed up for the majority of your stay. As an alternative to using your RV’s furnace, consider using a portable electric heater (if you have shore power), a vent-free propane heater that is installed permanently and runs directly off your LP tanks, or a portable propane heater that runs on disposable propane bottles and can be moved around inside your RV.
Tip #4: Drive Cautiously
Driving on snowy, icy roads with an RV in tow is not the same as just driving a car. The added length and weight of an RV complicates things when you lose your grip and traction. Always leave more distance between you and other vehicles around you on the road. Stopping will take more distance with the added weight. And take corners more slowly, as maneuvering an RV around an icy corner can be tricky! Use low beams when driving. High beams reflect off the snow and ice and can impair your vision.
Tip #5: Position Appropriately
If you find yourself in the middle of a windy winter storm, park your rig so that it’s facing into the storm. Your RV will stay warmer inside if the wind is hitting the front of the RV than if it’s coming at it on the side. You also won’t experience as much rocking or shaking if the front of your RV is taking on the majority of the wind. And you’ll be less likely to tip over, which is always a good thing!
Tip #6: Be Ready To Winterize
If you’ve pulled over and are parked for an indefinite amount of time due to a sudden winter storm, you have to protect your water and sewer systems from freezing. To do this, drain the black and gray tanks. Then unplug and store water and sewer hoses inside your RV to keep them warm. Even if temps are hovering in the 20s or 30s but there’s a fierce wind chill, they can freeze right up faster than if there was no wind.
Tip #7: Seal Your Seams
Find areas on the outside of your RV where cold wind can blow in and seal them up! Cover the A/C unit, latch stove fans, and Fantastic fans shut, and tape plastic around areas where hoses enter the RV. Even small openings can let in chilly drafts that quickly fill your RV with winter air or let your much-needed heat out.
Tip #8: Secure Belongings
When winter winds are whipping, objects can quickly get picked up and thrown! Don’t let your outside furniture or decorations become projectile objects during a storm. Put your furniture in storage (or bring it inside if needed) and secure every inch of your patio awning so that brutal winds can’t get their hold on it. Make sure your LP tanks are securely attached to your RV as well.
Tip #9: Clear Off Your Roof
If you’ve hunkered down in a big snowstorm and there’s a break in the action, head outside and try to remove snow and ice from your RV’s roof if possible. Snow falling outside and warm temps inside is the perfect condition for ice to form on your roof. Ice can creep into roof seams and cause them to crack wide open. Also, the weight of the ice and snow could potentially cause your RV’s roof to collapse if it gets heavy enough. However if your roof ladder is iced over and it’s not safe to climb, try to get some snow off the roof without climbing up. Use a shovel or rake to reach the perimeter of the RV’s roof and pull off as much as you can.
Winter RVing can be amazing, but it does pose a few weather-related challenges. As long as you’re prepared and ready to face a winter weather emergency head on, you’ll be back on the snowy trails and enjoying the powdery white stuff in no time!
Do you have any tips on how to handle a winter weather emergency while RVing? Share them with us in the comments!