Who says the camping season has to end just because the cold creeps in? Over the last five years, we have made more of an effort to extend our season by taking trips through November and December. Yes, camping in cold weather involves a change in routine, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun.
Can your RV stay warm enough to camp during the winter? Can you use your water system? Are bathhouses and services available? Are many campgrounds open in the winter? There is a lot to consider when you are thinking of camping in cold weather, but with a little extra prep, you’ll be on your way.
Here are 16 tips for making the best of those cold-weather camping trips!
To hear more about camping in cold weather, click play on the media player above or search for The RV Atlas wherever you find your favorite podcasts.
1. There ARE campgrounds that are open for the winter.
While it does take some extra research, you can find RV parks open year round, even in cold destinations. To find them, you might start by asking some experienced campers if they know of any (like the wonderful people found in our Facebook group).
2. Pay attention to driving conditions.
It is a big deal to tow or drive an RV in inclement weather. You really have to watch the weather on your whole route. Don’t book a campground too far in advance since you won’t know what the conditions will be like, and consider booking close to home.
3. Invest in a heated hose.
If you’ll be camping in cold conditions, invest in a good heated hose. Some campgrounds even offer heated spigots. But, ultimately, you can find yourself in trouble if you aren’t careful. Watch the temps closely when deciding whether or not to hook up your water. While it’s more convenient, it’s not worth the cost of the damage caused by frozen pipes.
4. Invest in a heated freshwater tank.
Some rigs come with heated, enclosed freshwater tanks or you can look into upgrading yours. These are perfect for camping in cold weather since they are safer than relying on an external water system.
5. Know your RV.
Some RVs are better equipped for camping in cold weather. This is primarily a matter of insulation. Some RVs are even advertised as “four-season” rigs. While this isn’t a guarantee they can handle any weather, it does mean they are built to handle cold temperatures and more.
6. Watch your propane tank levels.
If you’ll be using your propane for heat, be sure to head out for your trip with full tanks (and take extra tanks, if at all possible). We have found that we easily go through a 20-pound tank in a single night on cold-weather trips. Your propane heater burns more propane than you might expect.
7. Watch out for the air quality.
If you’re using propane heat, it’s a good idea to crack open a window. It’s not good for your RV to have no fresh air circulating. Plus, this keeps condensation from building up. Most importantly, make sure your fire/propane/carbon monoxide detectors are working
8. Consider using electric heat.
Electric space heaters are a great way to supplement or replace the propane heater (some RVs even come equipped with these in those faux fireplaces). This way, you won’t be spending money on propane. The only downside is that this heat might not circulate as well since it doesn’t go through your ducts. You can close off the bathroom or other unused spaces, but be sure to heat them if you are using your water system. Also, electric heaters work better in smaller spaces instead of large RVs.
9. Let’s talk toilets.
You have a few choices for using the restroom while camping in cold weather. You can go out into the cold weather to walk to the campground bathroom. You can use your RV toilet and flush with antifreeze instead of water (and then dump before leaving the campground). Or, you could take along a porta potty. We love our Thetford potty (though, it’s a little better for kids than for adults). After some trial and error, you’ll figure out which works best for your family
10. Take along wet wipes.
It sounds ridiculous, but those giant wet wipes really come in handy. We use Epic Wipes, and they provide a little refreshment when water isn’t available.
11. Keep the campfire cranking.
Keep that thing burning morning until night! It’s unbelievably cozy warming up around a fire when the cold weather is nipping at your nose.
12. Pick a campsite close to the bathhouse.
If you’ll be using the campground bathhouse, you might want to pick a site close to it. We don’t mind walking across the campground with wet hair during the summer months, but that is definitely no fun in the winter.
13. Use paper products for dishes.
Even through we try to be environmentally friendly, we admit to using paper products while camping in cold weather. When you can’t wash dishes, disposable wares are SO much easier.
14. Take along a bin for dirty dishes.
If you won’t be able to do dishes in the RV, toss them in a bin and store them out of the RV (not advised in bear country, of course).
15. Put bowls over the drains.
You don’t want anyone to pour liquids down the drain if you’ve already winterized, so put a bowl (or tape) over the drain as a visual reminder.
16. Take some friends.
For some reason, friends make cold-weather camping even more fun. While you might not get to hang out outside as much as usual, you can still enjoy some quality time together.
Hopefully, these tips will help you be more prepared to camp in cold weather! Don’t be afraid to give it a try, just be safe and be smart when you do.
We’ll see you at the (cold?) campground,
Stephanie + Jeremy