RV Living: Winter Camping in Winter Weather
When you think of a trailer home living in the winter…don’t you picture snowbirds traveling south in the winter to live in a trailer in a mild climate?
Well that’s not us, we do things a little different from the norm, just ask our family!
Our choice of full-time RV life found us on the banks of the Missouri River, where we currently work as camp hosts at a private campground and are preparing to spend our third year of winter camping in Missouri, where the weather can be mild one day and brutal the next. .
A lot of people think we’re crazy… crazy for this full-time RV lifestyle, but even crazier for spending the winter in Missouri when we could be in Arizona, Florida, or Texas, where the winters are warm and sunny.
Oh well, we’re used to raised eyebrows!
We had those same destinations in mind until the camp owner hired us for year-round work, and we fell in love with the beautiful setting on the banks of the Missouri River.
We decided that winter camping in the cold and snow would be a new experience to add to our adventurous full-time RV life trips.
Maybe it was the challenge of figuring out how to comfortably survive in an RV living in winter that appealed to us, or maybe it was the Universe telling us it was time to change our perception of winter.
(We are big complainers about snow and cold).
Actually, it was both!
Little did we realize that our first experience of living in an RV in winter weather would occur during the BLIZZARD of 2011!
Little did we realize how much our perspective would be tested when winter snowfall totals set a new record for our area…43 inches to be exact!
Our preparations for RV life in winter weather were valuable survival lessons. Our only winter preparations before this were to have the snow shovel and ice melter handy by the front door.
We spent hours Googling tips from other RVs. It took some digging to find the right information, as most tips for winterizing an RV focused on preparing the RV for winter storage, not the RV living IN winter.
We made countless trips to Lowes, Westlakes, and Bass Pro for help with our winter RV life project. (Again, raised eyebrows from employees who tried to help us!)
The most valuable resource of all was found at a local mobile home supplier. It was there that the answers to all of our questions were answered by expert people who knew how, what, where and why to protect our truck camper to live in RV for the winter. Their solutions were practical and simple… They were incredibly excited to help the crazy couple that has this notion of living in an RV in winter weather!
For starters, all the pipes, internal and external, that I could get to were encased in foam pipe insulation. Void spaces around pipes and holding tanks were filled with insulation. Interior roof vents were covered with plastic to help keep cold air out. Easy to do – familiar tasks for any owner… and especially essential for living in an RV in areas where bitter cold, snow and ice assail it for several months.
I read various suggestions to cover the windows as well to keep out the cold, but I just couldn’t bring myself to block my view, especially since I can look out the window and see the river; It’s my saving grace while I’m hiding inside. as snow flies and temperatures plummet.
This kind of view is what makes living in an RV worth living.
We quickly learned that in order to live in RVs in winter weather, it was necessary to protect our water supply and sewer hose from freezing temperatures. With the help of the mobile home shop staff, we fashioned a water hose from a small plastic tube fitted with connections to the campground water pump and our RV. This pipe was wrapped in electrical heat tape, which was then wrapped in foam pipe insulation.
Our flexible sewer hose was inserted into a larger PVC pipe for added insulation. It took some fiddling to find the right elbows for the pipe, but we did it! Now the outside hoses were protected and we had a protected water supply for our first experience of living in an RV with winter camping!
These arrangements worked very well to protect our water supply and sewer hose; but, when we unhooked everything for a road trip, we soon realized how “EXACT” our parking lot had to be when we got back home. It took several attempts to back up, get a little closer, back up, pull a little more to the right, no, tilt it more to the left… over and over again until the pipes lined up just right to reconnect.
Normally, it’s not a big deal to do this, but it was really cold that day. Just another part of the process of learning the art of living in an RV in winter weather.
As we began our second season of RV life in the Missouri winter, we looked for other solutions to help us quickly and easily reconnect our hoses. We had to find more flexibility.
Google search came up again as we investigated more ways to survive winter weather. The next winter our water hose was wrapped in heavy duty aluminum foil, followed by heat tape, followed by foam pipe wrap. We also bought a super strong sewer hose that can withstand freezing temperatures. Now we had flexibility! No more rigid pipes to reconnect when we get to camp.
One of the most treasured discoveries in preparing for winter RV living was the electric radiator heater. These heaters work well as an additional heat source in small spaces and stay warm without using a lot of electricity. Because natural convection distributes heat, there’s no fan to make noise, making them incredibly quiet. We didn’t have to constantly run the furnace, never had to worry about running out of propane in the middle of the night and waking up to a cold RV.
With all of those solutions in place, the only big problem we encountered surviving in an RV in the winter was the condensation that collected under our mattress where cold outside air meets warm bodies. (our bed is over the cab of the truck)
Create an air gap between the mattress and the floor of the bed. I turned to Lowes with measurements in hand and asked for help in figuring out my crazy idea. Luckily, I was helped by someone who knew exactly what we needed:
boards to use as slats and 1/2-inch foam board to place on top of slats and under foam mattress.
Now the air can circulate…and the best part is that the foam board adds protection from the cold floor of the bed.
I AM a happy camper… Living in an RV in the winter is a doddle!
Two years ago, we stocked up on food, movies, and water because the forecast called for a blizzard! We expected many new adventures with RV living and winter camping, but a snowstorm was something we had never experienced! Nineteen inches of snow fell while we were safely nestled in our camper.
The next day, we were like little children. We couldn’t wait to get out and walk in the deep, deep snow that had piled up several feet deep.
If we had decided to take off that winter and settle in an RV living in sunny Florida, we would have missed the magical views of snow-covered fields that shimmered like pixie dust in the light of the full moon, surrounded by stillness.
If we’d gone south for the winter, sure, we could have played on the warm, sandy beaches, but we’d have gotten lost in thigh-deep snow, just like we did when we were three years old and three feet tall!
I would have missed that magical January morning as I headed out to the river, bundled up in my subzero sleeping bag, camera and coffee in hand…and watched the glorious dance of seagulls swooping and turning with grace and majesty.
Living in an RV full time is our life and our dream.
It gives us freedom. It also gives us the opportunity to make the best of any situation.
What’s that when life gives you lemons, make lemonade?
Well, to live in an RV during the winter, when life hands you 19 inches of snow, you’re a kid again!