If you have an RV, you might wonder what it would be like to live in it permanently. You might wonder if it’s even possible. Well, it is, even during cold winter months. If you’re seriously considering giving up your fixed-building living and moving into your RV full time, this article will help prepare you for the coming winter months.
Can You Live in an RV in Winter?
Living in your RV all year round is completely possible, and in fact, some people prefer it to living in a house. However, it’s important to note that you can’t expect things to work the same way in the winter as they do in the summer.
Winter RVing requires a lot more planning and preparation. Most RVs aren’t equipped to function during colder temperatures, and you might not be able to take advantage of the same camping spots.
Even so, with a good knowledge of how your RV operates and where you can take it, you can easily prepare a great winter for yourself in your RV.
13 Important Things You Should Prepare to Winterize your RV
If you’re thinking of living fulltime in an RV in winter, there are a few things you should know beforehand.
Often, a four-season RV will claim it has insulation against cold winter temperatures. However, sometimes this insulation isn’t enough to keep your RV going. A good practice is to add more insulation yourself to better protect your mobile home.
RVs (just like any structure with large panes of glass) lose most of their heat through their windows. You can insulate your RV’s windows with bubble insulation, foam insulation boards, or even solar blankets.
To be extra safe, you can use caulk or RV sealant to seal any cracks around the windows or your RV door so they won’t get drafty. Swapping out your regular curtains for thermal ones will also help keep the heat inside your RV where you want it.
Your RV underbelly is home to many vulnerable yet necessary components, such as much of the plumbing, hoses, and the battery. If you don’t insulate the underbelly, any or all of these things could fail. Your pipes could burst, your water line could break, and your battery could die.
Insulating your underbelly might seem tedious, but it’s still fairly simple to do. By temporarily disconnecting your wiring and pipes, you can place insulating panels directly onto the underbelly. The wiring and pipes will then fit over and around the insulation when reconnected. Adding this insulation will help protect the underbelly and keep your winter adventures fun.
Your RV pipes will be ultra-sensitive to cold weather. They can burst just like your house pipes can, but with less provocation. To help prevent this, you can wrap your pipes in heat tape. Heat tape isn’t actually tape, it’s electrical wiring that exudes warmth to keep your pipes from freezing.
Most heat tape is self-regulating, meaning that if the temperature outside plummets, it’ll get warmer to protect your pipes. If the temperature rises, the heat tape temperature will drop so it doesn’t overheat your plumbing.
Insulating your water hose will prevent it from freezing or breaking in the cold. Having a working water source is crucial at any time of year, and if your water hose fails, you could have a huge problem.
Protecting your hose can be as simple as wrapping it in heat tape or insulation, similar to your pipes. However, you can also swap out your summer hose for a heated RV hose that’s meant for winter use.
A heated hose will provide consistent warmth to negate cold temperatures, and it will also prevent exposing your summer hose to harsh conditions. With two hoses for different seasons, each will last longer over time.
2. Heating Up Your RV Tanks
There is a possibility of your RV tanks freezing during winter weather. To prevent this, you can buy electric heating pads and hook them up to your RV’s power grid.
One heating pad per tank will be enough to keep them warm even in the coldest temperatures. As most RVs have three tanks (Freshwater, Greywater, and Blackwater), you will have to buy at least three separate heating pads.
3. Using the Furnace and the Heat Pump
Your RV’s heat pump is more effective at keeping your unit warm during the summer months. During winter, heat pumps are much more inefficient than furnaces and can overextend themselves trying to heat your entire RV.
When the temperature drops below 45 degrees Fahrenheit, it’ll be time for you to switch from your heat pump to your furnace.
Using RV antifreeze in your grey and black water tanks can help prevent both from freezing over. Antifreeze can be especially helpful if you don’t have extra heating pads.
However, be sure to avoid using RV antifreeze in your freshwater tank.
5. RV Skirting
RV skirting is another way to help insulate the underbelly. It’s a common practice that keep cold air out from under your RV. RV skirts lay around your RV’s bays to help capture warm air and keep it where the major components are.
Sometimes, RV owners will forgo the skirts and rely on snowfall. They will pack snowdrifts up around the bottom of the RV to help keep warm air contained. However, some areas might not have enough snow to do this, even with colder temperatures. So, it’s best to plan ahead and bring your own RV skirt.
6. Stock Up on Propane
Because you’ll use your furnace much more often than your heat pump, you’ll need to be mindful of bringing enough propane. If you’ve never needed to use your furnace before, you’ll need to find out how much propane it requires. Keeping extra propane on hand will ensure you’ll have enough should your original tank unexpectedly run out.
7. Thermal Sleeping Bags
Winter temperatures will drop even more during the night. Swapping out your usual sleeping bags for thermal ones will ensure you have a cozy sleep every night.
8. Extra Warm Clothing
Packing extra warm clothing is just good sense in the winter months. If anything does go wrong, you won’t have to rely on your RV to keep you warm. Plus, using warm clothing means you can use less energy to heat your RV, resulting in less cost.
Your extra warm clothing should include winter coats, boots, hats, mittens, and plenty of sweaters and warm trousers.
You might already have a dehumidifier for your RV if you use it for long vacations. A dehumidifier in the winter will help prevent excess moisture from gathering inside your RV.
Excess moisture in the winter can lead to freezing plumbing or in some cases, mold. Regulating the moisture will help prevent your RV’s interior from getting too damp and help keep things comfortable.
10. Solar Generator / Portable Electric Generator
Choose a generator you’d like to bring along. Solar generators are perfectly capable of doing their job during winter, even if you experience more cloudy days. Portable electric generators are also great choices for an extra power backup.
11. Book Ahead
Plan your camping spots and always book a place ahead of time. RVing is an increasingly popular pastime, but if you want to do it year-round, you can’t risk missing out on a place to park.
Anyone who is more recreational about their RV can simply drive on to another camp or even turn around and go home. If your RV is the only home you have, you won’t have that option.
RV parks are full in summer and often closed in the winter. By planning your route, phoning ahead, and booking early, you will get yourself a guaranteed spot to camp.
Snowbirding requires you to travel to warmer climes during the winter months. Snowbirding is one of the more popular ways to stay in an RV year-round, as it limits the work needed to protect against cold weather.
“Snowbirds” are often retirees, but anyone can become a snowbird if they choose. Typically, a snowbird will live in a more northern region during the summer months (usually an area that they are from) and will travel to a warmer, southern region for winter. Popular snowbirding states include Florida and Arizona, although many southern states also have accommodations for these travelers.
Some snowbirds will travel as far south as Mexico, but if this appeals to you, you must remember to educate yourself on Mexican law concerning RV camping or living.
Most snowbirds will pick a specific RV camp to stay in over the winter. They will return every year, as do their neighbors. This consistency creates winter communities where everyone knows each other, similar to a small town. However, these small towns are impermanent, as they disappear over the summer months.
If you become a snowbird, you will avoid camping in snow and cold temperatures. You won’t have to insulate your RV or take other protective measures to survive the winter. Snowbirding is the optimal choice for people who love to travel, love warm weather, and don’t have the means to prepare their RV for the cold.
13. Space Heaters
Space heaters are not only an option for heating isolated corners in your RV. They can also help prevent certain components that are hard to insulate from freezing.
For instance, your water pump and refrigerator can both benefit from a small space heater keeping them warm. You can also install a small engine block heater to help ensure your engine will start in extremely cold temperatures.
Where Can You RV Camp in the Winter?
All across the United States, you can find RV campsites that are open during the winter or even all year round. The rental rates for these spots depend on where they are, what unit you drive, and what time of year it is.
For the most part, winter rates are cheaper than spring or summer rates, with price ranges depending on the campsite. Lower prices for winter camping tend to fall in three camps; $10-$30 per night, $40-$65 per night, and $65-$95 per night.
Certain sites will also break up their seasons, for example, one might run from April to October, and October to January. Campsites like these will have cheaper rates during the October – January stretch, but may not be open the rest of the winter.
Some year-round RV campsites will have a flat rate for any time of year. These rates also depend on the campsite itself and where it is. For instance, campsites that reside in southern states, such as Arizona or Texas, might have a flat fee of around $200 per night. Campsites in more northern states, like Idaho or Pennsylvania, might have a flat fee of $40 per night.
Best RVs for Winter (What to Look For?)
If you want an RV that’s already somewhat prepared for winter, you can check out any 4-season RV. 4-season RVs expect you to be camping all year round and therefore come with more insulation and winter precautions than other RVs would.
4-season RVs follow similar pricing to other RVs, in that the cost depends on the size, age, floorplan, and amenities. Generally, the cost of a 4-season RV will be between $10,000 – $500,000.
What Is an RV Winter Package?
An RV winter package (or an Arctic package, as some call it) comes with certain features to help prepare your RV for winter. Generally speaking, you can get a winter package for any RV you like.
Most of these packages include beefed-up floor and ceiling insulation, dual pane thermal windows, and heating pads for the water tanks. They do not always come with insulation for wiring or pipes, so be aware that even with an Arctic package, you might still need to winterize your RV.
Winter packages for RVs can cost anywhere between $100-$400 at an RV dealer. In comparison to many RV prices, this cost is minimal and many RV owners believe it is worth paying. However, you might feel it more worthwhile to winterize your RV yourself for free. Either option is available for any RV you choose.
Why Are Smaller RVs Better During the Winter?
Even though a smaller RV will be less likely to have a fireplace or other large heating device, larger RVs are harder to handle in winter.
For instance, a smaller RV requires much less effort to heat. You’ll probably need less in the way of insulation if you have fewer windows, smaller doors, and smaller ceilings. Similarly, if you have a single space heater in a smaller RV, it’ll do a better job of heating all your components than it would in a larger unit.
Because a larger RV has more space, you’ll have a harder time trying to keep it heated to the proper level. You’ll need more power, more space heaters, and more energy to keep every single piece from freezing.
RV Models That Are Best for Winter
Though there are plenty of available RVs you can find that are great for winter camping, here are five of the best options:
- Keystone Montana Fifth Wheel
- Forest River Arctic Wolf
- Northwood Arctic Fox
- Jayco Redhawk 25R Class C Motorhome
- Lance 4 Seasons (All Series)
Additional Tips for RV Living in Winter
Now that you are equipped with the knowledge of living fulltime in an RV in winter, here are a few additional tips you may find helpful:
- When parked, you can protect your RV tires by covering them, elevating them, or reasonably overinflating them.
- For safer driving, use tire chains in snowy conditions and drive slow to reduce the chance of skidding.
- You can plug in your RV to recharge the battery, but doing this too often or during a mild winter will overcharge it and can cause it to fail.
- You can protect your RV roof by buying an RV cover. The cover will prevent UV, weather, and other damage from occurring.
- You don’t have to remove the battery of your RV while living in it, but you should make sure it’s frequently recharged to reduce the chance of it dying.
- To keep your toilet from freezing, you can put RV antifreeze in your blackwater tank to use instead of water every time you flush.
Below are some frequently asked questions about RV winter living.
What is the best RV cover for winter?
The best RV cover for winter will stand up to ice, snow, wind, and humidity. It should be durable and strong and be resistant to UV damage.
Do RV prices drop in the winter?
Yes, RV prices typically drop in the winter and fall. Sellers are anxious to get rid of older models in time for the next spring, so they can showcase newer RVs. RVs also cost money to store over the winter months, so most sellers ideally want to have as little product as possible during the winter and stock up again in the spring.
Is it legal to live in an RV fulltime?
It is legal to live in an RV full-time if you are traveling full-time, or if you live in an RV park full-time. If you want to live in an RV year-round in someone’s backyard, generally this is illegal due to zoning and residential laws.
Do RVs have a fireplace for winter?
Some RVs will come with fireplaces for winter, but not all. If it doesn’t have a fireplace, you can heat your RV by using a generator or stove.