Cold Weather RVing Tips & Warnings

Fall is that perfect in-between season that many people love and some even prefer to summer. For RVers, reservations are easier to make with far less advance notice and campsites are far less crowded. There’s also the added incentive of fall festivals full of cider, pies and changing leaves. However, there is a big difference between the weather in late September and the chill that sets in around November and December. In some areas, it can be cold even before Thanksgiving, and in some cases temperatures dip below freezing. The way you prepare an RV is different for freezing temperatures because you’ll have to winterize your RV. If you haven’t yet purchased your RV but know you’ll be doing lots of cold-weather RVing, ask your dealer about arctic package options. Some vehicles have better insulation and heated holding tanks and other equipment designed for winter RVing. Remember that not all RVs are built for colder temperatures. If you’re not sure, ask your dealer or the previous owner of your RV.

Below, we have common winterizing and other in cold-weather RVing questions. After reading our explanations, you should be well on your way to many fun fall adventure.

What’s the Best Way to Keep an RV Warm Without Using a Generator?

The most cost-efficient way to heat up your RV is to expose it to the sun all day. Park in such a way that the front or end of your RV is facing the wind. Before your trip, install plastic film over all of your windows. You can buy these kits at most hardware stores and they are very simple to install yourself. Some people also create skirts for the exterior of their RVs. This works to prevent cold air from getting beneath the belly of the RV, which will leave your entire rig much colder.

Install hatch vent insulators to the hatch vents on your RV roof. You lose much insulation from these vents which are usually made of thin plastic.

At night, close the blinds or use insulated curtains. Most RV windows will allow cold air in. There are also several products, like Reflectix, which help to insulate windows.

If you need heat at bedtime, use the RV’s forced-air furnace. Always take care to run your RV’s LP furnace at 45 degrees. The furnace consumes gas or propane, so you should make sure to fill up before the trip. Use a second source for heat too: it’s cheaper and more efficient to turn up your electric space heater if you’ll be at sites with electric hookups. Also, as simple as it sounds, electric blankets really do wonders!

If you don’t have access to electrical hookups, you can use a generator to use the RV furnace. Again, make sure you have enough fuel for the entire trip. Avoid heaters that pose a carbon monoxide threat but if there’s no way around it, be very careful: Carbon Monoxide deaths happen to far too many RVers. Also, direct the exhaust away from your camping area. Before leaving, make sure the generator’s carbon monoxide detector works properly.

Lastly, see if the weather-stripping around doors and windows is in good shape. This will make a big difference in how much heat escapes.

How Cold Does It Need to Be to Winterize an RV?

If you even suspect that temperatures will dip below freezing wherever you may be traveling, it’s vital that you winterize your RV. If you do not winterize and there is water in your RV’s water system, your pipes and water heater tank will freeze. This would cost you thousands of dollars to repair. So, do not take chances and make sure you know just how cold your destination will be so you’re prepared to take the proper precautions.

Also, make sure your wiper fluid is also made for winter conditions. Use a diesel fuel supplement if your RV is diesel. Otherwise, you might experience gelling, which is not a good thing.

You should always learn how to disconnect water lines from your tanks in case an unexpected freeze sets in while you’re camping. You’ll also need to drain the water from these lines to prevent freezing or add RV antifreeze ASAP. Otherwise, you will have some expensive damage to your water and waste systems.

Can We RV with Our Water System Winterized?

Yes, you can absolutely use the bathroom when you’re traveling with your RV winterized. Just take lots of 1-gallon jugs of water to use in the toilet.  Also, if you do not have heated holding tanks, you’ll want to make sure there is RV antifreeze (the pink stuff) in the tanks. Also, add the antifreeze through the toilet and black water holding tank. Make sure to do the shower for the gray water too.

Also, you cannot drink any of the water with antifreeze in it, so bring plenty of bottled water for drinking and cooking as well as brushing your teeth and washing up. For more winterizing tips visit here.

How Much Antifreeze Do I Need to Use?

This is all based on how large your tanks are and how much is in the tanks. You need to add more as waste-water accumulates so that the antifreeze is not too diluted. Also, keep in mind to empty your tanks frequently unless they are heated. Otherwise, you risk having the contents freeze and damage the tanks. Again, each time you empty you must add antifreeze to the holding tanks.


What Else Should I Keep in Mind for Cold Weather RVing?

  • Pack the right clothes, especially shirts that you can layer accordingly. It may be 70 degrees during the day but it may drop to freezing temperatures at night. Bring jackets, fleece sweaters and sweatshirts and warm socks.
  • Keep in mind that cold weather drains batteries. Make sure your RV’s battery is in good shape before you head out into the cold.
  • Expect less-than-perfect showers in colder weather because the cold water has to run through the pipes to send the hot water from the water heater to the nozzle.
  • Insulate your sewer hoses in heat tape or some sort of heavy-duty insulation to prevent ice from forming inside. Try to use them only when you dump and then clean and store them in a heated compartment. If it freezes, it will split when you disconnect.
  • Consider using a heated fresh-water hose to prevent splitting and freezing.

Remember to not only protect your RV with proper maintenance but also with the right insurance. If you have any questions about getting the right policy that fits your lifestyle, contact an Insurance Specialist: (866) 501-7335.


The information in this article was obtained from various sources. This content is offered for educational purposes only and does not represent contractual agreements, nor is it intended to replace manuals or instructions provided by the manufacturer or the advice of a qualified professional. The definitions, terms and coverage in a given policy may be different than those suggested here and such policy will be governed by the language contained therein. No warranty or appropriateness for a specific purpose is expressed or implied.

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