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RV Living: Winter Camping in Winter Weather
When you think of RVs in the winter… do you picture snowbirds traveling south in the winter to enjoy the mild weather RV life?
Well, that’s not us – we do things a little differently than the norm – just ask our family!
Our full-time RV living option found us on the Missouri Riverside, where we are currently working as camp hosts at a private campsite and preparing for our third year of winter camping in Missouri, where the weather may have been mild the day before, The day after tomorrow is harsh.
A lot of people think we’re crazy…crazy about this full time RV lifestyle but crazier wintering in Missouri when we could be in Arizona or Florida or Texas where the winters are warm and sunny Bright.
Oh well – we’re used to raising our eyebrows!
We had these same destinations in our hearts long before the campground owner hired us for a year-round job, and we fell in love with our 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 trip.
Maybe it’s the challenge of figuring out how to comfortably survive the winter in an RV that draws us in, or maybe the universe is telling us it’s time to change the way we think about winter.
(We’re big whiners about snow and cold.)
Little did we realize that our first experience with winter weather in an RV occurred during a snowstorm in 2011!
Little did we realize how much our perspective would be tested when winter snowfall totals set new records for our region… 43 inches to be exact!
Preparing our RV for life in winter weather is a lesson in survival. Until then, our only winter prep is keeping snow shovels and melting ice near the front door.
We spent hours Googling tips for other RVers. It will take some digging to find the right information, as most RV winterization tips focus on preparing the RV for winter storage, not on living in the RV for the winter.
We’ve made countless trips to Lowes, Westlakes, and Bass Pro for help with our winter RV projects. (Again, eyebrows raised by the clerk who tried to help us!)
The most valuable resource is found at a local mobile home supplier. There, the answers to all of our questions were answered by knowledgeable individuals who knew how, what, where and why to protect our truck camper for winter RV living. Their solution is as functional as it is simple…and they are so passionate about helping crazy couples with RV concepts live through the winter!
First off, all the pipes that I have been able to reach, both inside and out, are wrapped with foam pipe insulation. The voids around pipes and tanks are filled with insulation. The interior ceiling vents are covered in plastic to help keep cold air out. Ease of Operation – A familiar task for any homeowner… especially important for RVs living in areas where severe cold and snow hit you for months.
I read some advice on covering the windows for the cold, but just can’t bring myself to block my view, especially since I can look out the window at the river – a saving grace when I’m hiding inside when the snow is falling , the temperature dropped sharply.
It’s this view that makes RV living so worthwhile.
We quickly learned that for RVs living in winter weather it was necessary to protect our water and sewer hoses from freezing temperatures. With the help of the mobile home store staff, we designed a water line made from a small plastic tube that connects to the campsite water pump and our camper. The pipe is wrapped in electrical heat tape, which is then wrapped in foam pipe insulation.
Our flexible sewer hose is inserted into a larger PVC pipe for added insulation. It took some tweaking to find the right elbow for the pipe, but we did it! Now that the exterior hoses are protected, our first RV winter camping experience has a protected water supply!
These fixes did a great job of protecting our water and sewer hoses; however, when we unpacked everything and started our road trip, we quickly realized how “precise” our parking had to be when we got home. Tried backing up a few times – pulling closer – backing up – pulling right a little more – no – leaning left a little more… over and over until the pipes lined up just right for reconnection.
Normally, this would be no big deal – but it was a cold day. It’s just another part of the process of learning the art of winter RVing.
As we started our second season of the RV in the Missouri winter, we looked for other solutions to help us reconnect the hoses easily and quickly. We have to find more flexibility.
Google searches are coming up again as we research more ways to survive winter weather. The following winter our water pipes were wrapped in heavy duty aluminum foil, then heat tape, and finally foam pipe wrap. We also purchased extra heavy duty sewer hoses that can withstand cold temperatures. Now we have flexibility! There is no longer any need to reconnect rigid pipes when we return to the campsite.
One of the most valuable finds to prepare for winter RV life is an electric radiator. These heaters work well in small spaces as a supplemental heat source, keeping you warm without consuming electricity. Since the heat is dissipated by natural convection, there are no noisy fans, so it is very quiet. We don’t have to run the furnace constantly or worry about running out of propane in the middle of the night and waking up to a cold camper.
With all these fixes, the only big problem we have in our winter survival RVs is the condensation that builds up under our mattresses where the cold air outside meets the warm body. (Our bed is above the cab of the pickup)
Create an air space between the mattress and the floor of the bed. I headed to Lowes with my measurements and asked for help to figure out my crazy ideas. Luckily, I had the help of someone who knew exactly what we needed –
Slats are used as slats and 1/2″ foam board is placed on top of the slats and under the foam mattress.
Now the air can circulate…the best part is the added protection of the foam board to the cold floor of the bed.
I’m a happy camper…living in an RV for the winter is a piece of cake!
Two years ago we were stocking up on food, movies and water because a snowstorm was in the forecast! We are looking forward to many new adventures in RV life and winter camping, however, a snowstorm is something we have never experienced! Nineteen inches of snow fell as we snuggled up safely in our camper.
The next day we were like little kids. We couldn’t wait to get outside and walk around in the deep snow that had accumulated several feet deep.
If we had decided to take off that winter and live in an RV in sunny Florida, we would have missed the magical sight of snowy fields sparkling like fairy dust under the light of a full moon, surrounded by silence.
If we go south in winter – sure, we can play in the warm sand, but we’ll miss sinking up to our thighs in the snow – like we did when we were three years old and three feet tall!
I will miss that magical January morning when I wrapped up in my sub-zero sleeping bag, camera and coffee in hand… watching the magnificent dance of seagulls swooping and circling with grace and majesty.
Full time RV living is our life and dream.
It gives us freedom. It also gives us the opportunity to make the most of any situation.
What does that mean – when life gives you lemons, make lemonade?
Well, for RV living in the winter, when life gives you 19 inches of snow, you’ll be a kid again!
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