I never thought we’d purposely camp in the snow. As a full-time RV family for over 2 years, we have always followed the warm weather and avoided parking our RV anywhere it could snow. So we never expected to be living in a camper in the winter!
Well, if you’ve been following along on our journey at all, you might know that in September of 2019 we put our RV in storage in Denver, Colorado and flew overseas to Bali, Indonesia on one-way tickets.
Why one-way tickets?
Well, because we didn’t know how long we’d want to be overseas, where else we’d want to visit other than Bali, and what airport we’d want to fly back to the US from.
Rounding out our first overseas travels with 3 weeks in Phuket, Thailand, and finally a 3-day trip to Tokyo.
What a time we had, but our family was ready to come back ‘home’ to our RV.
Yet, it was February and our RV was stored in Denver, Colorado!
Yup, that means we willingly flew home to snow.
I wrote this post to not only help those of you who are thinking about winter RV living, but also the shoulder seasons when there 'might' be freezing temperatures.
Oh, and you'll learn a little more about our traveling story and adventures below as well.
If you're wondering how many full-time RVers stay in warmer places over the cold months in the USA, then check out our suggestions on where to RV in the winter that might keep you warm.
What NOT To Do When Living In Your Camper In The Winter
1. Do not plan a travel day when it’s snowing
We did this but not by choice. Honestly, we couldn’t get around the fact that our flights were booked and paid for and we arrived in Denver while it was snowing. Luckily, we booked a hotel for the night first before getting to our RV so that we could be well-rested.
If you have plans to drive your RV while it’s snowing….see if there’s any chance that you can postpone it for a day by staying put in the current campground or grabbing a hotel for the night.
2. Do NOT forget gloves!
If there’s a chance you’ll be RVing in the snow, then be prepared by bringing and wearing warm gloves. Not only a great packable jacket like those we have from REI, but gloves are necessary as you clear the snow off your RV or truck so that you can actually travel.
We didn’t have much for gloves coming from the tropics ourselves, but we were quick to go out to the store to grab some.
3. Do NOT travel with bald tires in the snow.
Luckily, our Class C RV still has great tires and we were safe there. Yet, we knew that our minivan, parked next to our motorhome, had some very bald tires.
That’s why our first order of business after starting both the RV and van engines was to carefully drive the van to the tire shop and get fresh tires on it. We did not want to travel without good traction.
4. Do not use your freshwater or grey tank to avoid damage.
Stay winterized if you can. Or, be very sure that you have a warm undercarriage and leave your faucet on a slow trickle at night to avoid letting your tanks and lines from freezing.
When we picked up our RV out of storage and drove it to a campground, we decided NOT to use our freshwater or grey tanks at all. The temperatures were below freezing each night and even with ‘tank warmers’ turned on in our 2017 Jayco Greyhawk, we didn’t want to take the risk of frozen lines.
5. Don’t forget to book your camping ahead of time
Not all campgrounds are open in the winter, and if they are they could very well be full.
We booked our campsite at Cherry Creek State Park in Colorado 2 weeks before we arrived and there was only 1 other campsite still available. You see, they only leave one camping loop open with about a dozen campsites during the winter months.
6. Do not run out of propane, or you’ll be cold.
If you're wondering how to keep your camper warm in the winter, then my best tip to you is to avoid running out of propane.
Running your furnace in the winter, you’ll be going through propane quickly. I’d suggest making it a daily routine to check your propane levels and plan to fill when you have no less than a quarter of a tank left.
We made sure to stop at the Tractor Supply store right after I drove the RV out of our storage lot to fill up our propane. I also went inside to grab small propane cans to use for our Mr. Buddy Heater which we used each night as additional heat in our cold RV.
7. Don’t forget to pour some RV antifreeze in your black tank.
We learned this tip from our RV friends. If you want to avoid a poopsicle, then pour some RV antifreeze in your black tank.
As we were camping at Cherry Creek, we used the warm bathhouse during the day. Yet, it was closed at night and we needed to use our own toilet. So, we kept a large jug of water on our bathroom floor and used that to help ‘flush’ the toilet, as we didn’t have any freshwater going through the lines.
8. Do not stay connected to water and sewer if you do decide to use water.
Imagine the damage you could have if your hose froze to the freshwater spigot or your sewer hose frozen? No thanks.
I’ve heard of many RVers who will fill their freshwater tank and stay disconnected. They might use a heating lamp under their rig and turn on tank warmers that are installed to keep things moving.
9. Do not put your stabilizing jacks down on concrete or cement.
You might end up frozen to the ground and not able to travel the next day! We didn’t know this and just set up our jacks directly on the concrete. Thank goodness it was above freezing on the morning of our travel day and we were lucky.
Don’t be like us and live on luck. Put some blocks under your jacks before you put them down to avoid being frozen in place!
10. Don’t forget to bring extra drinking water on travel days.
Taking an RV road trip in the winter can bring many surprises. Be sure to not only have a roadside emergency kit with you but bring enough drinkable water with you to cover your family for 24 hours.
We forgot to do this, as we’re so used to having water in our freshwater tank that we can access and drink. Then of course, on our big travel day to drive across the Rocky Mountains, we learned that they shut down the interstate due to high winds.
Thank you Wyoming DOT.
Be Prepared For The Unpredictable When RVing In Winter
As we drove from Denver, Colorado North, the weather was amazing with clear skies and clear roads. However, 2 hours down the highway and we started to see signs for road closures ahead due to high winds.
This was not in our plan, yet there was nothing we could do about it. All of Interstate I-80 across Wyoming was shut down. So we had to search for a campground quickly.
We love using Campendium for this on our phones.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t find one open nearby so we had to find a hotel in Laramie that had a room available for us and a place to park our RV.
Thank goodness for our IHG Chase credit card reward points, as we were able to get our first night free at the Holiday Inn in Laramie, WY using points.
Another favorite card that allows us to transfer to many hotels is our Business Ink Chase credit card.
Yes, you read that right, the FIRST night free. As we woke up the next morning we learned that the Interstate was still closed with high winds, so we needed to stay a second night!
As a family who has traveled a lot over the last 3 years, we learned to be flexible and resilient.
Thank goodness, as we ended up staying in the hotel for 2 nights instead of the cold RV without water. Especially because I was still fighting a horrible cold since our flight back from Japan.
But you know what? We had our RV kitchen in the parking lot with enough propane to keep the refrigerator going.
Talk about a convenient way to feed our family using the microwave in our hotel as Tony and I used the hotel internet to work and the kids enjoyed the indoor pool for two days.
RVing in the snow can be fun, exciting, but also a bit of extra work. The weather can be unpredictable so I'd recommend having a back-up plan and making the most of it.
Have you ever purposely camped in the snow and winter weather? What other tips do you have for anyone thinking about RVing in the snow?