RVing & Surviving In The Cold: How To Stay Warm & Toasty

how to winterize your RV

Five months into full-time life on the road after leaving the sunny warmth of Florida, as I type this, we are in northern Virginia in the midst of a seven plus day arctic blast. We’ve been weathering snow, wind chills -0 and highs of about 24 or so for days on end. If you don’t already know, these kind of prolonged frigid temps have the potential to be an absolute nightmare for RV life if you aren’t properly prepared and equipped.

We are three days in and so far (crossing our fingers) we haven’t had one single incidence of anything frozen or busted and we are staying warm and toasty inside our 37 foot, four season equipped (which means it has a heated underbelly to heat the plumbing underneath) Light camper by Open Range. Also our RV has an electric AND gas hot water heater combined.

RV life, campers

Here’s what we did to Arctic Blast proof our tiny home on wheels before we even headed up here that has worked beautifully for us.  (All steps are listed in exact order of how they were done)

  1. Wrapped the water supply hose into the RV with aluminum foil
  2. Put heat trace on it and tapped it every 8 inches
  3. Wrapped it with 5/8 in. thick foam plumbing insulation
  4. Wrapped it entirely in duct tape
  5. We keep the hot water running in one of the sinks on a very light steady stream at all times to keep the hot water heater from freezing up
  6. We keep a small ceramic heater in the bathroom with the doors closed to keep the toilet water from freezing as well as for extra warmth when we shower. We also keep 1 more ceramic heater in the main living area during the day and the kid’s room at night.
  7. When taking showers we cut on the gas portion of the hot water heater as well
  8. Leave the valves open on the grey water tank
  9. Keep black water tank closed except to empty


How to solve humidity & Moisture problems inside an RV

If you’ve traveled to a cold place before you would already know that moisture build up on the inside of the camper becomes a problem when the temperature difference between the outside and inside is so great. We mostly found that it’s mainly a problem on slide outs.

Here’s what we did to 100% eliminate moisture inside our RV

  1. Purchased a dehumidifier    – We got ours from Walmart for around $175. Lowes also carries them for around the same price. The goal for an inside living space is between 30-50 % humidity. If it’s higher than that you will have moisture and a potential mold growth problem which is a big deal.                                                                                     Side note: we’ve had to run the dehumidifier very minimally since discovering the next step on the list that virtually eliminates the moisture problem
  2. Cracked one RV side window open     – While it sounds ridiculous to crack open a window in frigid temperatures, the amount of work the dehumidifier has to do to keep the moisture problem at bay is at least 90% less! It’s best to crack open a side window (away from a sleeping area) rather than a roof vent because this allows for less heat to escape. IT WORKS.  *I would try this step before purchasing a dehumidifier and see if that alone solves the issue before chunking out the bucks for one.


Propane Usage in below freezing temps

As far as propane usage we carry one 100 pound tank and two 30 pound tanks. For usage with cooking, heating and the water heater we are going through about 50 pounds of propane every week which is an average of around $200-$250 a month give or take depending on gas prices where you are.

These are all of the things we have tried and found to work wonderfully for surviving the cold in an RV.  It is our desire that this post is super helpful and informative to you on your journeys and helps in keeping your family and your RV from freezing up in the cold places you may travel.

Stay toasty!

The Light Life Blog family


Be courageous, live adventurously, travel light!

About Rachel Rowell

A true southern gal at heart, Rachel was raised and lives in the deep south and spends her days raising her own babies, writing, making music, reading out on the front porch, and cooking supper for her family to sit around the table and enjoy together at nights! Her ultimate girlhood dream was to raise a family in a house just like "Anne of Green Gables" and now she is living her dream and inspiring others along the way.

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11 Responses to RVing & Surviving In The Cold: How To Stay Warm & Toasty

  1. DeWain Gardner January 24, 2014 at 3:25 am #

    All great suggestions for cold-weather camping, thank you! I wonder if the hot water heater would freeze even with all the taps closed as it has a thermostat that keeps the water hot. I’m not sure about the water lines though.
    Does the sound of the furnace running frequently bother any of you? In our trailer I find it to be quite loud, so we use a large quartz (electric) heater in the main part of the coach, and a much smaller ceramic heater in the bedroom/bath area. Of course, we haven’t been in the extreme temps that you are experiencing. I’ve been thinking about installing catalytic heaters, which use propane, but are noiseless as they have no fans, but run on propane. The only downside that I can see is that the storage compartments (where water lines run) would not get any heat as some of the furnaces heat runs are routed through those areas to help keep them above freezing. (We have a fifth-wheel rather than a conventional trailer.)

    • Rachel Rowell January 24, 2014 at 3:28 am #

      I’m not sure! I guess we just haven’t wanted to chance it since it will be a good while before temps are above freezing.
      The furnace sound doesn’t bother us at all. Oddly enough I actually find that I like the sound – especially at night. 🙂

      • DeWain January 24, 2014 at 5:31 pm #

        I forgot to mention that Camping World now sells a heated water hose, but they are a little pricey. Just hook it up and plug it in.

  2. John L. January 24, 2014 at 4:41 am #

    Are you in an RV park?? Ask if you could put sheets of insulation around the trailer to keep the winds from under it…..build a frame to hold in place, easy job, will keep the floor warmer and save on propane! Or, if the park will let you, you can use straw bales as well!

  3. Michelle January 24, 2014 at 10:21 am #

    I was very interested to read your posts. It is interesting and I will be going back a bit to read some more. I have a question re this post. What do you do with all the water that is coming out of the hot water that you keep running slowly to keep it from freezing up? Boy, am I glad it doesn’t get THAT cold in most places of Australia and we only visit the “Snow Fields” in the summer in our caravan trailer! LOL

    • Scott January 24, 2014 at 1:37 pm #

      Great info. I camp 12 months and am heading out next week for 5 days. I have managed over the years with a day or two of sub-freezing temps but never an extended time given the recent polar vortex issue. My MH is not four season equipped but I maintain a heater in the underbelly compartment area and the furnace ducting is setup as a hokding tank warmer. Keeping the fresh water hose from freezing is challenging but the steps you outlined do work, even though I have only used the electrical heating strip with foam insulation. It can be challenging!

  4. Sue January 25, 2014 at 11:39 pm #

    Hopefully the cold will be break soon and you will be able to warm up. We only RV in the summer so we haven’t had to think through these things. Hopefully we will be hitting the road more in a couple of years….retirement coming soon….please!!

    Your kids are adorable, what a life you are giving them.

  5. Lee New February 4, 2014 at 3:26 pm #

    We are also a full time RV Family of 4, road schooling and traveling for my husbands work. We purchased skirting for our rig (33′ Jayco Eagle, bumper pull with bunk house) We run a ceramic heater under neath our rig throughout winter. The skirting is attached with turnbuckles, it can easily be removed and re attached as needed for travel. Additionally, we installed PVC pipe (heat taped and wrapped in insulation) in place of the standard sewer hose. The temps here in WY are dropping to -20 tonight and we have no fear 🙂 Some other good tips… leave your cabinet doors open at night, so the warm air will circulate. Purchase thick inserts for roof vents, cover your A/C unit, hang an insulated drape across your entry door, place window screens (silver waffle weave type) in your windows at night and remove during the day, cut up a foam pool noodle and use it to plug drafty areas (you can also use the spray foam you get in the can for areas that are out of sight, like where your water lines come into the rig, under your cabinets). Roll on!

  6. Rachel February 19, 2014 at 5:17 am #

    Excellent tips! We have gone back and forth about the best way to keep our water from freezing….we’ve found that heat tape and insulation didn’t keep it from freezing when the temps got below 0. We left the faucets dripping/running for a bit, and then found out that when it’s super cold the water freezes in the sewer drain line….it was frozen solid from ground connection all the way back to the camper. It took renting a forced air heater to put under the camper to get it thawed enough we could disconnect the hose from the camper. We started leaving the faucets dripping with the tanks closed and dumping them every day so the water all rushes at once and doesn’t have a chance to freeze in the line.


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