Explore America's Campgrounds
Winter camping presents some challenges that require preparation to keep your trip safe and enjoyable, but cold-weather camping rewards the adventurous with a different perspective on the great outdoors. The truly hardy set up their travel trailers in remote areas, but experts recommend that beginners stick to RV parks with electrical and water hook-ups.
Type of Camping
Winter camping considerations depend on the number of days you plan to spend at your campsite and whether you’ll be staying in a campground with hook-ups and bathhouses or dry camping at a primitive campground or a free spot like those on Bureau of Land Management properties. Long-term campers need to go to greater lengths to keep their rigs and themselves safe. Skirting, hay bales or even piled-up snow blocks cold air from the underside of the trailer, but it’s probably overkill if you’ll only be out for a weekend. Campers at full hook-up campgrounds need to protect their exterior water hoses with heat tape and insulation, while those at primitive sites need to make sure their battery is in top shape and the propane tanks are full.
Your travel trailer probably has a furnace that operates on propane, electricity or both, but it quickly drains propane tanks and batteries. Keep in mind that battery capacity decreases in cold weather. Turn the furnace down to 50 or 60 degrees Fahrenheit if you’ll be out all day. Carry a small space heater to warm the trailer up quickly when you get back and to augment the furnace for short periods of time if you have electrical hook-ups or solar cells. Set up your trailer in a sunny spot and put throw rugs down on the floor to keep your feet warm. Prepare for emergencies by packing extra blankets and don’t hesitate to share your body heat on cold nights.
Inside the Trailer
Some RV manufacturers offer an “arctic package” that includes dual pane windows, heating pads for the water tanks and sewage drains and extra insulation. If your travel trailer doesn’t have these added features, cover the windows with insulating plastic and either buy roof vent covers or make them by cutting four-inch foam to fit inside the roof domes. Remember not to make the trailer too airtight. If it is, condensation will form on the walls and windows, and carbon monoxide can build up inside the trailer. Keep your carbon monoxide detector in good working order. Keep cupboard doors ajar so warm air can circulate around the pipes. Pack a hair dryer to unfreeze window or door gaskets.
Outside the Trailer
If you’re planning to set up camp for a long period of time in the winter, park the trailer on pavement or on blocks, so the trailer doesn’t sink and become stuck if the ground thaws and freezes. Carry chains for your tow vehicle and pack a snow shovel and kitty litter or sand. Don’t let snow accumulate on the roof, and keep the roof vents clear so air can circulate. Some winter campers erect an easy-up shelter outside the main entrance to the trailer to use as a portable mudroom.
- HappyVagabonds.com: RV Winter Camping
- Family Motor Coach Association: Polk’s Top 7 Tips for Cold Weather RVing
- North Dakota State University Extension Service: Preparing RVs for Winter Living
- FiberglassRV.com: Winter Camping
- Surviving the Winter in Your RV
- RVLiving.net: The Joys of Winter Camping
- The Adventures of Jerry and Cynthia: Temperature Effects on Batteries
- Campers Inn: Winter Camping Tips!
Meg Jernigan has been writing for more than 30 years. She specializes in travel, cooking and interior decorating. Her offline credits include copy editing full-length books and creating marketing copy for nonprofit organizations. Jernigan attended George Washington University, majoring in speech and drama.