Staying Warm in Our RV in Winter: Tips and Tricks

When Norman and I were preparing for our first winter living in an RV (in Canada!), I was having a bit of a panic attack.

What if we freeze?

What if something cracks?

How do we stay warm?

Should we use propane or electricity to keep warm?

I visited many different sites, all suggesting different things; some suggested just letting your pipes freeze at night, making sure they’re empty before bed, and just letting it thaw during the day. (In case you’re wondering, we didn’t take this advice.)

Some suggested expensive, but awesome vinyl RV skirting to keep the cold air from blowing around the holding tanks under your coach. But since $2000 isn’t really what I had in mind, we skipped this advice too.

The truth is, there is a lot of advice out there on how to stay warm. Some of it is good; some of it isn’t.

Keeping warm in your RV is about two things: Preparing the outside, and preparing the inside. For exterior preparation:

 

Skirt your RV. You absolutely should (I would say must!) skirt your RV if the temperature will drop below freezing. Otherwise you could be looking at burst pipes, cracked holding tanks, and a whole host of other concerns.

If budget isn’t a major concern, then feel free to go for the vinyl skirting – it is easy to install and remove, and can be reused every winter (or as you move around). If, however, you don’t have multiple thousands to spend on an RV skirt, then Reflectix will work just fine!

Norman installed the Reflictix using weather resistant foil tape (both supplies can easily be found at Home Depot or another home supply store). It has held beautifully, and the underside of our coach has stayed well over freezing – even in the times it was well below!

If you’re in an emergency, pile some snow up next to the RV as an emergency skirt – it isn’t fancy, but it will protect you in a pinch!

For cold snaps or extreme cold conditions, put a small space heater under the coach. We have this one:

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It is attached to an extension cable that lights up when it is in use (like this one):

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The heater is under the skirting, 24/7; hen we know it is going to be especially cold outside, we plug in the space heater (We know it is on because the extension cord lights up when there is power flowing through). The skirting+this space heater means that our tanks are always, always fine.

Either invest in a heated hose, or just fill your fresh tank and use your pump. We do the latter; it’s not that big a deal to fill the fresh tank, and then we know that the hose and/or connection will never, ever freeze. Lots of people at our campground use heated hoses, and they seem to work fine, but this works great for us.

If you want, insulate the dump valves. This is the only part of our RV that has frozen all winter; no big deal, we just use a hair dryer to thaw it for a few minutes, and everything was right as rain. If you REALLY don’t want to mess with it though, you could insulate your dump valves.

For interior preparation – to not just survive, but thrive:

 

Buy good electric heaters. We have this one – it works AMAZING. It heats the whole room, not just the area surrounding it. Bonus: It has 3 wattage settings; we can keep it on the lowest wattage, with the heat dial on 3, and stay toasty warm – even in days that are -15.

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We chose electric heat because:

  • We don’t have to go fill up on propane every few days
  • Electric heat is safer than propane heat (no need for careful ventilation)
  • Electric heat doesn’t add moisture to the air (you’re already battling condensation in your RV in winter…. why add more moisture to the air?)

Cover any areas of major airflow with a blanket. We use brown fleece blankets, and have covered the front cab (so many windows!), under the couch (where there is a small air leak in the slide), and the floor around the front door. At night, close your blinds – the extra layer will help keep the heat in, and the cold out!

Good personal warmth gear. House shoes, reading socks, warm, comfortable sweaters, comfy throw blankets – invest in some good warmth gear. The floor of your RV will be COLD – so hard bottomed house shoes are a must! (They sell them at the dollar store here – and they make a HUGE difference.) Find a set of warm, comfy clothes you can wear while lounging at home… I have a cute pair of flannel pants, and a long sleeve shirt. I also have a hand knitted sweater that is AMAZING. This doesn’t have to be expensive; most of our warm gear came from the dollar store and/or thrift store. 

Hot water bottles. These things are the BOMB. We had a two week cold snap, and I would prepare 2 of these before bed. It warmed up the bed before we got in, and then, held against us overnight, kept us toasty warm until morning. These things, when properly insulated, last FOREVER.

Snuggles! On super cold nights, Norman, Jewels (the dog) and I have warmed up with body heat. If you’re RVing alone, a heated blanket could do the trick… but if you have a significant other or pet, we find body heat to be the best.

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That’s it! These are our tips and tricks – and we haven’t frozen this winter AT ALL! (Except the dump valves…. which gave us a #poopsicle!) Let us know if this was helpful, or if you have any suggestions – we’d love to hear your tips and tricks!