Winter is coming. There, we said it. For some of us, the snow has already arrived.
While many RV snowbirds cope with the winter by migrating south, there are fantastic camping experiences to be had where the snow is falling. But RV camping in cold weather requires some special equipment.
Here are 10 must-have items for cold weather camping.
Many parts of the country with hazardous winter conditions have laws requiring you to have chains or cables for your vehicle. You don’t always need to have them on, but you need to have them, just in case. When conditions are icy or when there is heavy snow, they really do help. You want enough to put them on all your drive wheels—the wheels that power the RV or tow vehicle. You don’t want to use them when you don’t absolutely need them and when you are using them, you should drive slowly.
Security Chain makes a number of types of winter chains and cables. You want to check to make sure the ones you get fit your vehicle’s make and model. These Super Z6 cables are sized for a full sized truck and you can put them on without having to move the vehicle. The cable style is generally better for most purposes than the actual tire chains as they are more durable and do less damage to your tires and the roads.
Frozen pipes and holding tanks in an RV is a very real danger you need to deal with. Some RVs are winter ready and have insulated tanks or tanks with built-in heaters to prevent freezing. If your RV doesn’t have that, you will need to get an aftermarket tank heater and install it on your RV. The one linked here glues onto your tanks and is connected to your RV battery. You want to be connected to shore power with these or they can drain the battery pretty quickly. The better models have a thermostat so they only activate when it gets cold enough to freeze your tanks.
If you are boondocking in freezing cold weather, your best bet is to keep all of your RV tanks dry and not use the bathroom in the RV.
Typically, you don’t want to be on a municipal water when the temperature drops below freezing, as there is a good chance the hose will freeze and the frozen water will crack your water inlet. A heated hose will allow you to stay hooked up as it will keep the hose from freezing. You do need shore power to make this work. The linked model is only 25-feet so you also need to be fairly close to your water source to use one of these.
When in the snow, it’s incredibly useful to have a good snow shovel, but in an RV a big, long-handled shovel takes up too much space. This emergency snow shovel is ideal. It folds up and doesn’t take up a lot of space, yet it is incredibly sturdy and can move large quantities of snow very quickly. It’s exactly what you need in an emergency or simply to clear snow out of your campsite.
Some RVs are very well insulated, but most have some weak points, especially around windows and skylights. Having some extra insulation you can put in those spots really helps when it gets very cold or very hot. Your best bet is to get a roll of reflective bubble wrap. This stuff is super effective and you can cut it up into whatever size you need. You can directly tape it to the insides of windows, or if you’re feeling crafty, you can create padded baffles with it that slide snugly into your window frames. It can make a huge difference either way.
When things get icy, you need a way to get rid of it effectively. There are two types of products we recommend. The first is a spray de-icer. You want this for de-icing locks, delicate objects, and anything you can’t use a scraper on. For windows and other large, flat surfaces, a good ice scraper with a snow brush is the tool you want. The True Temper brush we linked to is especially sturdy and yet won’t scratch up your RV.
Your RV may have a pretty good heating system, but not all do, and should you get stuck and run out of propane, its a good idea to have a nice warm winter blanket so you can get a good nights’ sleep. For the ultimate toastiness, combine a quality goose down comforter with a flannel duvet cover. This insulating duo will turn your own body heat into a cloud of warmth under the sheets.
If you need to really kick it up a notch, an electric blanket can get you started on the road to warmth. Without a good insulating blanket to go on top of it, you don’t get the most impact from an electric blanket. But if you want to crawl into bed and have it already be toasty, these are wonderful.
The best winter clothing is adjustable so that you get just the right amount of insulation. Believe it or not, you can get too hot while out in the winter wonderland. It helps to have clothing where you can remove layers to cool off and add them to warm up. Start with a warm fleece shirt (his/hers). The one we linked here has a zippered neck so you can ventilate as needed. Then layer that with a good medium weight jacket (his/hers). You’ll also want something that has a hood and is wind and water resistant.
A good pair of gloves is also essential. These Ozero gloves are a great combination of warm and flexible, letting you do work on the RV while keeping your hands warm. They are also easy to slip on and off, which can be important. Perhaps most critical of all is a good pair of warm boots (his/hers). You want something with good grip, insulation, and which are largely waterproof.
Personal hand warmers
You are going to be outside working with your hands at least some of the time while camping in the winter. Hand warmers can be a real godsend when you do. They are also nice for simply going on a long walk. Nothing beats being able to stick your hands into toasty warm pockets. There are three types you can get: Chemical, Electric, and Gas. Each of them has some distinct advantages.
The Chemical ones are nice in that you can stick them nearly anywhere—pockets, socks, bra, you name it. You can buy them by the case and put them anywhere you like. The Electric ones are reusable, get hot the fastest, but have a long recharge time—they also act as a USB battery. The Gas types last a long time and are quick to refuel, but are not as versatile or as cheap as chemical packs.
A good thermos
One of the essentials of good cold-weather camping is having a hot drink to hold. Hot chocolate is my favorite, but for others, coffee, tea, or even a hot-toddy are their go-to chase-the-cold-away drinks. Whatever your drink, a thermos is essential for keeping your drink hot on a cold winter day. Zojirushi isn’t a brand many Americans are familiar with, but their products are often innovative and high quality. This personal thermos is big enough to last you a good long walk, but small enough that everyone can carry their favorite drink without undue burden.
There you have it, the 10 must-have items for cold weather camping. Now all you’re missing is the perfect RV from Outdoorsy!