A checklist for those new to cold weather RVing
If you're ambitious, unlucky or cheap, you may find yourself having to deal with winter RV living. Though many of us have experienced the joy of RVing in the summer months in the warm weather, living in a travel trailer or fifth wheel when it's -2 outside and snowing is another story entirely. It's a situation that I know well.
My wife and I have been living in an RV full-time for more than three years now while saving for a down payment on a house. I have learned a great deal about cold weather Rving over the last three years and it's not been easy. In that time many issues have come up ranging from the inconvenient to the downright frustrating and I have had to devise solutions to a wide variety of problems. I have assembled this checklist for winter RV living so that you know what steps to take before the cold and ice hits. Living in a fifth wheel in winter doesn't have to be a negative experience, but if you're unprepared, I can assure you, it will be.
Here are 8 things that I recommend you address if you are new to RVing in cold weather.
1. Buy the right rig
I can not say enough about buying an RV that was built for cold weather camping. This is the first huge mistake that we made. We bought a model that although very high-quality, was sold in Tennessee originally and did not have any cold-weather options. Getting the proper RV will cost you more, but I assure you it will be worth it if you're even remotely considering cold-weather camping. A camper well-equipped for the cold will have insulated windows, insulated pipes, heated tanks and other options that will keep you comfortable.
2. Keep your furniture off the ground and away from walls
If your couch is directly against the ground or a wall, MOVE IT! We had an unpleasant surprise when we moved our couch that had been sitting directly on the floor through the cold months. There was a ton of mold on the ground underneath it. It was gross. No matter what your floor and walls will get cold and if the inside of your rig is warm it's a recipe for condensation on your walls and windows. I have found that the best way to fight condensation in a trailer is to keep air flowing. Make sure there's ample space between any furniture and the walls/floor.
3. Vent pillows
All RVs have roof vents, and they allow a ton of your expensive warm air to escape. You can buy foam and cut it to the size of your vents or for around $15 you can buy pillows that fit and insulate the cutout in your roof where the fan is. You don't want them there full-time but when it really gets cold they will hold in a good amount of heat.
4. Keep air flowing
No matter how cold it is, I always have a window cracked at either end of the trailer. I don't like that it wastes heat, but it's just one of the realities of living in a fifth wheel full-time. It allows air to flow slowly through the trailer which prevents mold from forming.
5. Get a dehumidifier
They're not cheap, but for winter RV living, you need one, plain and simple. Humidity is enemy #1 in an RV. My wife and I have a small dehumidifier that we leave running most evenings and any time we're not home. It does wonders to prevent excessive moisture and you wouldn't believe how much water it collects! I would recommend getting a decent model as it will last, and also be quieter than a cheap one which is important when you're listening to it droning on for hours on end.
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6. Heat and insulate your water line
Few things are more annoying than having no access to clean water. Sure the trailer has a tank on it but it's good for 1-5 minute shower at best. You need to keep your water supply from freezing. Buy some pipe insulation (only a few cents at a hardware store) and some heat tape ($10-20) and use it to keep your water line warm.
7. Turn off your water and leave the heat on!
When you go away for more than an evening, turn off your water supply and leave the heat on inside your unit. If you don't shut off your water then you may be dealing with a flood if something breaks. If you don't leave a heater on, the lines inside your trailer freeze and destroy your faucets. Trust me on this, leave a cheap heater running at all times and you will be glad you did.
8. Get a radiator heater
Radiator heaters are great because they put out a good amount of heat, they're reasonably cheap to buy and they are very cheap to run. They are perfect for maintaining an ambient temperature at all times. Have a couple smaller space heaters on stand-by for when it gets really cold because although your propane furnace does a great job of keeping you warm, it costs a fortune to run and it's loud.
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Living in a fifth wheel in winter can be a great experience, or one you will regret. It all depends on how prepared you are. If you get the right stuff ahead of time you will be just fine. Start planning for winter RV living when the weather is still warm and sunny and you will be able to get through the cold season just fine. If you need more tips for getting through the cold months in a fifth wheel or travel trailer, go see the folks at your local dealership, they've always had great advice for me.