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RV Living: Winter Camping in Winter Weather
When you think of RV living in the winter…don’t you imagine snowbirds traveling south in the winter to live in a RV in mild weather?
Well, that’s not us – we do things a little differently than the norm – just ask our family!
Our choice of full time RV life found us on the banks of the Missouri River where we are currently working as camping hosts at a private campground and preparing to spend our third year winter camping in Missouri. where the weather can be mild one day and brutal the next.
A lot of people think we’re crazy…crazy about this full-time RV lifestyle, but even crazier about wintering in Missouri when we could be in Arizona, Florida or Texas , where the winters are warm and sunny.
Well, we’re used to raised eyebrows!
We had these same destinations in mind until the campground owner hired us for year round work and we fell in love with the beautiful setting on the banks of the Missouri River.
We decided winter camping in the cold and snow would be a new experience to add to our full-time RV adventures.
Maybe it was the challenge of figuring out how to comfortably survive in a motorhome in winter that drew us in, or maybe it was the Universe telling us it was time to change our perception of winter. .
(We complain a lot about the snow and the cold.)
In fact, it was both!
Little did we know that our first experience of RV living in winter would be during BLIZZARD 2011!
Little did we know how much our perspective would be tested when total winter snowfall set a new record for our area… 43 inches to be exact!
Our preparations for RV life in the winter were valuable lessons in survival. Before that, our only winter preparations were keeping the snow shovel and ice melter handy near the front door.
We spent hours googling advice from other RVers. It took some digging to find the right information because most RV winterizing advice focused on preparing the RV for winter storage – not winter living in an RV.
We have made countless trips to Lowes, Westlakes and Bass Pro asking for help with our winter RV living project. (again, raised eyebrows from employees who tried to help us!)
The most valuable resource of all was found at a local mobile home supplier. This is where all of our questions were answered by knowledgeable people who knew how and what and where and why to protect our motorhome for RV living during the winter. Their solutions were practical and simple…they were incredibly excited to help the crazy couple who have this notion of RV living in the winter!
For starters, all the pipes, inside and out that I could reach, were wrapped in foam insulation. The empty spaces around the pipes and retention tanks were filled with insulation. Interior ceiling vents were covered with plastic to keep cold air out. Easy to do – tasks familiar to any homeowner…and especially essential for RVs living in areas where bitter cold, snow and ice plague you for months.
I read several suggestions to cover the windows as well to keep out the cold, but I just couldn’t bring myself to block my view, especially since I can look out the window and watch the river – that’s my saving grace when I’m locked inside as the snow flies and the temperatures drop.
This kind of view is what makes life in VR so interesting.
We quickly learned that for RVs living in the winter, it was necessary to protect our water supply and sewer pipe from freezing temperatures. With the help of the mobile home shop staff, we designed a garden hose from a small plastic pipe that had connections to the campground water pump and our RV. This pipe was wrapped in electrical heating tape, which was then wrapped in foam pipe insulation.
Our flexible sewer pipe has been inserted into a larger PVC pipe for additional insulation. It took some tweaking to find the right bends for the pipe, but we did it! Now the outside pipes were protected and we had a protected water supply for our first experience of RV life with winter camping!
These patches have worked very well to protect our water supply and sewer pipe; but, when we unhooked everything to go on a road trip, we quickly realized how “EXACT” our parking lot had to be when we got home. Took several tries to back up – get a little closer – back up – pull a little more to the right – no – tilt it more to the left… again and again until the pipes lined up perfectly to reconnect.
Normally not a big deal – but it was very cold that day. Just another part of the process of learning the art of winter RV living.
As we began our second season of RV living in the Missouri winter, we looked for other solutions that would help us easily and quickly reconnect our hoses. We had to find more flexibility.
Google search came back as we searched for more ways to survive the winter. The following winter our water pipe was wrapped in heavy duty aluminum foil, followed by the heating tape, followed by the foam pipe wrap. We also purchased a super tough sewer pipe that could withstand freezing temperatures. Now we had flexibility! No more rigid pipes to reconnect when we return to the campsite.
One of the most valuable discoveries in preparing for winter RV life has been the electric heater. These heaters work well as a supplemental heat source in small spaces and stay warm without consuming a lot of electricity. Because natural convection distributes heat, there’s no fan to make noise, making them incredibly quiet. We didn’t have to run the furnace all the time, never had to worry about running out of propane in the middle of the night and waking up to a cold RV.
With all of these fixes in place, the one big issue we encountered for RV survivors living in the winter was condensation that accumulated under our mattress where cold outside air meets warm bodies. (our bed is above the pick-up cabin)
Create an air space between the mattress and the floor of the bed. I walked over to Lowes with measurements in hand and asked for help to figure out my crazy idea. Luckily I was helped by someone who knew exactly what we needed –
boards to use as slats and 1/2 inch foam board to lay over the slats and under the foam mattress.
Now the air can circulate…and the best part is the added protection of the foam board against the cold bed floor.
I AM a happy camper… RVing in the winter is a breeze!
Two years ago, we were stocking up on food, movies and water because the forecast was for a blizzard! We expected many new adventures with RV life and winter camping, but a blizzard was something we had never experienced! Nineteen inches of snow fell as we were safely huddled in our RV.
The next day we were like little children. We were looking forward to getting out and scampering through the deep, deep snow that had drifts several feet deep.
Had we decided to take off this winter and settle in an RV in sunny Florida, we would have missed the magical view of snowy fields sparkling like pixie dust in the light of a full moon, surrounded by silence.
If we had headed south for the winter – of course we could have played on the warm sandy beaches, but we would have nearly been thigh deep in snow – just as we did when we were three years old and one meter tall!
I would have missed that magical January morning when I headed out to the river, wrapped in my sub-zero sleeping bag, camera and coffee in hand… and watched the glorious dance of seagulls swooping and whirling with grace and majesty .
Living in RV full time is our life and our dream.
It gives us freedom. It also gives us the ability to make the most of any situation.
What does it mean – when life gives you lemons, make lemonade?
Well, for RVers who experience winter, when life gives you 19 inches of snow, you’re a kid again!
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