Freezing Weather Camping Tips

Itching for an RV getaway, but freezing temperatures and/or snow keeping you at home in front of the fireplace? Maybe you will be traveling to friends and/or family east of the Cascades for Christmas and would like to take the RV to stay in, but are concerned about the weather. Don’t let extended freezing temperatures keep you from RVing this winter.

The first thing you need to ask yourself is, “Is my RV designed for winter use?”

Many manufacturers build what they call a “4 Season RV” or will offer an “arctic package”. While there is no industry standard defining either of these terms, they typically will include some or all of the following:

- Double pane windows
- Enclosed and heated holding tanks
- Freshwater tank located within the heated interior of the RV
- Extra heavy insulation in the floors and ceiling
- Oversized furnace

If you have the majority of the items listed above you are in good shape for a winter RV excursion, but even if you don’t have any of them, following are some steps you can take to prepare most any RV for freezing temperatures and/or snow.

Holding tanks - If they are not enclosed and heated:

- Install self adhesive holding tank heaters on the underside of the tanks
- Pour non-toxic antifreeze in the tanks to keep them from freezing

Freshwater - If your freshwater tank is not enclosed and heated

- Install a tank heater

Tank Heater

- Leave the freshwater tank empty and hook onto a city water source using a heated hose to keep the incoming water from freezing.

Heated Hose

- If you are hooked to sewer and city water, leave a water faucet dripping and your gray tank valve open as running water can’t freeze.
- If you will be staying where restrooms and showers are provided (RV Park or relative’s home) some RVers will leave the RV winterized using bottled water for drinking, brushing their teeth, etc.
- Note: Your water heater requires no special attention providing it is left on and operating to prevent the water inside of it from freezing.

Water Pump

- If your water pump is not located within the heated interior of the RV, a small thermostatically controlled space heater can keep it from freezing.
- If your pump is located in a cabinet within the heated interior of the RV leave a cabinet door cracked so heat from the living area of the RV can circulate to it.

Windows - If you don’t have dual pane windows consider the following:

- Cover your windows on the inside with foil-backed foam insulation available at most home improvement stores. It is lightweight, easy to cut to the size and shape of the window openings and it can be removed during the day to let light in.
- Research if storm windows can be made/ordered for your RV.
- Motorhome owners can install an insulated curtain separating the cockpit windshield from the living area of the RV which will reduce the amount of space you need to heat.
- Note: Condensation forming on the window glass will always be a problem when RVing during winters in the Pacific Northwest. Be certain the weep holes located in the bottom of your window frames are open to the outside allowing condensation running off the glass to escape. Click here for tips on reducing condensation in your RV while winter camping.

Ceiling Vents and Skylights

- Ceiling vents and skylights are poorly insulated letting heat easily escape the RV. For ceiling vents, consider installing RV vent cushions which push into place and fit securely into most standard size RV vent openings. For skylights, consider making custom size cushions out of thick foam rubber.

RV Vent Cushion


- During freezing weather, cold air entering the back side of the refrigerator via the exterior vent may trick your refrigerators thermostat into thinking it is cold enough shutting down the cooling process. To remedy this situation, use non-flammable material to block part of the vent limiting the entry of cold air while still allowing air circulation.


- Prior to departure, make sure the duct work from your furnace to registers is clear of obstructions to avoid overheating or limiting.
- To supplement the heat from your furnace, consider a portable electric space heater and/or catalytic heater.
Note: When using a catalytic heater always follow the manufacturer’s instructions, crack a window for ventilation and expect more condensation due to combustion.

LP Gas

- “LP” is an abbreviation for liquified petroleum. The terms “LP-gas” and “LPG” are widely used to describe propane and butane, or a mixture of the two. While your RV can operate on either butane or propane vapor in normal conditions, problems arise when the temperature turns frigid as butane won’t vaporize under 32° F. This is seldom a problem RVing in the Northwest unless you purchased your last tank of LP in a southern state where higher levels of butane are present in the LP supply.
- You will consume considerably more LP when winter camping. Consider carrying an extra supply during your trip.

Slide Outs

- Snow and ice can accumulate on the top of slide out awnings, which can prevent the awnings from rolling up properly. Consider carrying a ladder and broom with you to clear the snow and ice before retracting your slide out.
- Ice can also freeze slide out gaskets to the side of the RV or slide out room. To prevent possible damage when retracting the slide out spray some de-icer or RV antifreeze on the gasket to thaw it prior to retracting.
Note: Use sparingly or protect carpets the slide out will traverse over when retracted as you don’t want drips staining your flooring.
- Some RVers leave their slide outs retracted during cold weather to avoid heating the expanded area and the problems listed above.

Don’t let snow and ice keep you from enjoying your RV this winter. Get out there and enjoy!

Dave Helgeson
Author: Dave HelgesonEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Dave Helgeson is the MHRV Show Director. He and his wife love to travel across the west in their RV. Dave writes about all things RVing but loves to share destinations and boondocking advice.

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