For starters, if your idea of winter camping is a cold night in Texas, Florida or Arizona, you’re not winter camping. You’re snow birding. You’ll find quite a few useful tips here, but going south for the winter isn’t winter camping.
We’re talking temperatures below freezing winter. Ice fishing, snow shoeing, skiing, snowboarding and outdoor activity winter camping and RVing.
Winter Camping and RVing Tips, Tricks and Hacks – Part One
Let’s get this out of the way first. Your dog didn’t decide to go winter camping. You decided for your pets and you’re responsible for them. You have 3 hazards to protect your dog from.
- Falling through the ice. Your dog can get out on thin ice, then break through. You will have no way of getting to your best friend to save him. This happens every year, hundreds of times. The lakes start to freeze, the dog runs out on thin ice, then he’s gone.
- Wild animal food. Coyotes, bears, foxes, you name it. A lost dog is way down there on the food chain. If your dog gets lost, he could be supper for the wild creatures of the natural habitat.
- Freezing temperatures. The freezing weather is effective in thinning out deer populations, and they live in the wild. Your dog could become victim to freezing temperatures if lost overnight.
Your best friend deserves your best protection. Keep fido on a leash. He can’t get lost unless you are, and he’s safe from the other hazards when he’s by your side.
Part Two – The Personal Stuff
No. We don’t mean family secrets type personal. We’re talking clothes, items you bring along and being prepared for the cold. No one wants to get out there and freeze there baguettes off.
- Those blue jeans could kill you. Cotton is warm and cozy, but only when it’s dry. Get it wet and it will suck the heat right out of you. Dress for the weather. I’ve used nylon pants over blue jeans for ice fishing many times. It’s not ideal, but it keeps you dry.
- Consider investing in a pair of snow pants or bibs. Something like the White Sierra Men’s Insulated Bib Snow Pant is inexpensive and easy to use. You can spend the big bucks on some high end stuff, but these will get you started and keep you warm.
- Check the rest of your clothing. Is your winter jacket cotton? How about your gloves?
- Matches and lighters. Those disposable lighters are dirt cheap and there’s no reason to not have several around. Knowing how to make a fire is useless if you can’t even start one. Be sure to store your matches in something that isn’t going to break when it freezes.
- Always let someone know where you are going and when you’ll be back. In the worst case, it would help if the sheriff came looking for you Sunday night instead of Wednesday when someone finally figured out you never made it home.
- Pack the right food. If you’re going to be active, you need energy to help the body stay warm. There’s a reason they call it trail mix.
- Alcohol. Contrary to popular belief, alcoholic beverages don’t make you warmer. They’ll make you colder. Drink responsibly.
Part Three – Tent Camping
When it comes to tents, you get what you pay for. That budget two room tent from the big box store may not be the smartest thing to take camping in January. A high wind could leave you stranded. Be prepared to spend some money on a 4 season tent. For winter camping don’t buy a bigger tent than you need. Keep the heat in a smaller space. An easy alternative would be to sleep in your SUV, van or camper shell, if you have one. If you really want to go crazy on a winter tent, check out the Thermo Tent. It’s going to set you back a few bucks, but it’s worth a look.
A few things to remember.
- If the temperature is below freezing, everything will freeze. Be sure your food supply is packed with this in mind.
- A small propane heater like the Buddy Heater is fantastic. If room allows, use a 20 pound propane tank instead of the little green one pound bottles.
- Be sure to have the appropriate sleeping bags for the weather. That Wally World slumber party bag isn’t going to cut it. Think down, as in duck feathers.
- Keep condensation out of your tent. Here’s a great article on the subject from sectionhiker.com. It’s pretty good stuff.
- Survivallife.com also has a great article on winter camping. Be sure to take a look.
- You never want to winter camp alone. Here are a few tips on inviting a friend from backpacker.com.
Part 4. Winter Camping in your RV
Maybe you’re one of those who’ve spent the big bucks on that high end RV that heats everything. You can skip this part and head back to town to fill those propane tanks. For everyone else, here are a few things to help.
For starters, let’s assume you’ve already winterized your RV. We have, and the only plumbing we will be using is the toilet. With RV antifreeze already in the holding tank, we’ll use water in a bottle to flush. We’ll use bottled water and a dish pan for everything else.
Remember, the R factor on that RV is most likely about 0.75. Most RVs are stored through the winter, or they’re taken south to warmer weather. Here are a few steps that will really help.
- Skirt the bottom. If it’s a trailer or motor home without a basement, how can you keep the wind from blowing underneath the unit? Even if it’s only done on the side facing the wind, it will help. You can innovate with tarps and bricks if need be.
- This is easier with a pickup camper. Swim noodles stuff perfectly into the space between the truck bed and the camper sides.
- Many RV doors aren’t even insulated. Remove the know or a window to determine whether or not your door is insulated. Even if it is, you may be able to fit a thin layer of pink foam insulation on the inside.
- Storage compartment doors on the outside of your RV probably aren’t insulated. Again, pink foam insulation to the rescue. Why don’t they make this stuff in a more manly color?
- Slide-outs generally suck in the insulation department. Keep them in when you can.
- Cover that RV roof air conditioner.
- While we’re talking about pink foam insulation, cut some to fit your windows. Block the ones you don’t need. Those windows are probably rated at R-1. They need all the help they can get.
- You may be able to use that plastic shrink-wrap on many of your windows. If it’s a window you can do without, add a layer of insulation between the glass and the plastic, then shrink it with a hair drier.
- Roof vents are a big heat sucker. You can insulate these from the inside or outside.
- Rugs, rugs and rugs. Keep rugs on the floor. That vinyl flooring is cold stuff.
- Park the RV with the most windows pointing into the sun.
- Watch where you store groceries. Cabinets can freeze easier with the doors closed.
Condensation will be an issue with winter RVing. Using your RVs forced air furnace will help. You will also want to slightly open a window or two for a few hours a day.
Change your mindset about how to stay warm
Think more about how to keep you warm in a cooler RV. Sweaters, hoodies, long johns and stockings could be indoor apparel. If you’re curling up with a good book, you might as well curl up under a blanket.
These little gems can be picked up for about 10 bucks. Made to mount inside your vehicle with a probe to go outside, they give you the temp inside and out. You can mount the outside probe in any space you want to monitor. Basements, bathrooms, refrigerators, and outside.
I found a great product to help deal with mice. Check out FreshFresh Cab Rodent Repellent (4 Pouch Box) Net Wt. 10 Ounce Cab and see what you think.
A BIG THANK YOU
I found several on-line sources to aid in writing this article. Here are the top two, and both are worth taking a second look.
RVillage.com also has a great article on winter RVing. Follow the link to read the full article.