Cool Winter RVing: Tips to Help You Stay Warm

When you know you’re going to be camping in a cold climate and that winter is coming, you usually have plenty of time to take necessary precautions. You can beef up the insulation in the under carriage storage areas and winterize your water hoses. You can seal the windows with plastic wrap or weather stripping, and install thermal or insulating blinds and curtains to keep the warm air inside and the colder air out. What about, however, when the weather suddenly turns?

Perhaps the previous day was comfortable and then with little warning, the air became surprisingly cold. Besides increasing the RV’s insulation and regularly maintaining your furnace for efficiency, there are several things you can do that provide short term or “emergency” fixes to reduce drafts and make you more comfortable in your motorhome. Consider the following tips.

Park Appropriately for the Temperature.

As many can attest, when the sun is out and the shades are open, a motorhome can easily take on the warming conditions of a green house. Since the sun is always putting out heat, on Winter days, you should park in such a way that you get the most heat inside as possible. Typically, this should be with the RV’s windshield pointing south.

Keep It All In.

Once the heat is in your RV, you want to keep it there. Cover and insulate all windows that don't have heat coming in with thermal curtains or blinds so that less heat will escape through them. In other words, cover the west windows in the morning when the sun is on the eastern side and cover the east windows after noon. When the sun goes down, close everything up. Shut all of the blinds and cover the windows to keep the heat from escaping during the night.

Pack an Electric Space Heater.

Having one or more space heaters provides you with versatility and options. We place it in the living room/kitchen area during the day, in the bathroom during showers, and in the bedroom at night. This provides us with a steady source of heat in whichever room we are using.

You don’t have to buy a fancy or expensive space heater; just one that gets the job done. There are several aspects to consider when choosing one. For example, ceramic and infrared heaters generally have a better safety record than older versions, so you should consider those first. Then, look for one that has a sensor that shuts it off in case it tips over, has a multi-speed fan for easy adjustment, and has a removable filter so you can clean it. Also keep size in mind. Smaller is better when you are buying something you will be storing in your RV.

Use Rugs and Blankets as Impromptu Insulation.

When the inside of your motorhome is chilly, use blankets and rugs as temporary forms of insulation. Throw rugs can help keep your feet warm when you are walking on the often cold, under-insulated floor of your RV. They also help reduce the amount of cold air entering through the floor.

Use Insulated "Snakes" to Block the Drafts.

Another way to eliminate drafts and seeping cold air from entering your camper or travel trailer is to invest in and use insulated “snakes.” These three to four feet long, stuffed cloth tubes are made to block cold air that enters the space from underneath the front door. Most RVs, however, have several cracks and gaps around the floor, especially if they have slide outs.

Using multiple snakes, you can virtually insulate the perimeter of the interior of your living space by placing them end to end around the edges of the rooms. Anywhere you feel a breeze coming in, like the bottom of your slide outs, cabinets, and even at the base of your windows, place a snake.

Tape Up the Cracks and Gaps.

Another temporary solution for drafts entering through gaps and cracks is applying tape. We usually have masking tape and we always have duct tape on hand. Perhaps a better option, however, is painting tape if you have it.

Painting tape, which can be found at any hardware store and in the hardware section of big box stores, is designed to adhere to a wall and leave no trace when it is removed. Although it is easier to use than the other options, it is also more expensive. Also, the sticky stuff left by duct tape can quickly be removed with a bit of rubbing alcohol.

Just place the tape over any small gaps to keep the cool air out and experience immediate relief. Consider making a more permanent solution, such as added insulation or weather stripping before the next cold spell.

Cook for Added Warmth.

Baking an item that takes a while — like several sheets of cookies or a casserole — allows the oven to increase the RV’s interior temperature from the initial preheat to when the heating element finally cools off.

Using the burners helps, as well. The air during the winter or in a cold climate tends to be very dry due to the furnace and space heaters. Put on kettle for tea or boil something in water on the range, which has the added benefit of increasing the moisture in an otherwise dry environment similar to a humidifier. Furthermore, eating a warm meal increases the body temperature.

Wear Appropriate Clothes.

Although staying warm by wearing warm clothing should be an obvious choice, many people just don’t do it. The strategy should be to keep yourself comfortable without running the furnace or space heater any more than necessary, which means everyone in the camper should dress appropriately.

What to Wear.
Have a couple pairs of sweats and hoodies on hand. Pack some thick tights or long johns to wear under your regular clothes as these take up less space in your closet than other options. Wear sweats or flannel PJs to bed and consider wearing a housecoat or robe over your clothes in the RV; the longer design keeps more of your body warm than a shorter jacket does.

And don’t walk around barefoot. The floor of an RV rarely has enough insulation, so it is usually quite cold. Wear warm house shoes or thick socks to keep your feet from feeling icy. By dressing for the temperature, you can improve your comfort level dramatically without cranking up the heat.

Wear Layers.
Wear layers so you can adjust your level of warmth by adding or removing articles of clothing throughout the day.

Use Appropriate Bedding to Stay Warm at Night.

With the right bedding, you can be very comfortable at night and sleep soundly, even when the rest of the motorhome is uncomfortably cool.

Use the Right Sheets.
Even though they might hold in body heat, slipping between a couple of cold poly-cotton sheets can make anyone dread going to bed. Flannel sheets are much warmer and sleeping between them can result in a much cozier evening.

Use the Right Blankets.
You can add and remove blankets throughout the night, as your personal temperature requires.

Another option is to invest in a good electric blanket. Choose a dual control version, so you can keep your furnace set low when you go to bed, allowing you to save propane and electricity on cold nights.

In Conclusion

Whether winter caught you unprepared or you are merely experiencing an unseasonably cold day, by making a few temporary adjustments you can easily weather out the storm in relative comfort. Allow the sun to shine in for natural warmth and block any drafts and breezes with barriers like insulating “snakes,” tape, or blankets you already have on hand. Consider buying a space heater and/or an electric blanket for emergencies and use as a second line of defense against the cold. Use layers to reduce the amount of propane and electricity you go through when trying to stay warm.

Keep in mind: these tips are for heating up your RV to make your existence more comfortable on a short-term basis. If you plan to spend winter in a cold climate, it is necessary to take more permanent measures to improve your home’s insulation. Hopefully you found this helpful. If so, please share with other RVers on facebook, twitter, and the like. Thanks so much and stay warm!

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