Tips For Surviving The Winter In Your RV
If the thought of spending the winter in your RV scares you, we’re not about to change your mind here. The fact is, despite your best efforts, some of you will find yourself faced with wintering in your RV sooner or later. You may have landed here, mid-freeze while looking for a way to de-ice your sewer tank, save on antifreeze, or simply warm your winter woes with a fellow RVer’s story of not so glorious poopcicles. Welcome!
So, we’ve gathered our list of needed preparations, recounted our total fails, and shared our tips and lessons learned while facing the winter in our RV.
The First Few Preparations We Made:
- RV Tank Antifreeze (We needed much more than we thought)
- Foam insulation for the fresh water hose
- An extra ceramic 110 heater
- Tire Covers
- Tarps for the AC units (These ended up being completely unnecessary)
10 More Things We Added When Winter Got Real:
- Mouse traps. We created a cozy nest, how inviting!
- Exterior LPG “Stay A While” set up and tank rental. We bought a Stay A While deluxe with TEE and 12′ Hose with 1″x20 Male x 1″x20 Female 5′ Hose with P.O.L. x 1/4″ Inverted Flare to fit a rented external LPG tank. We used about 100 lbs of LPG per month.
- Inside & outside magnetic vent covers to slow the draft.
- Cab insulation, aka Thrift shop blanket for engine “dog house.”
- More blankets for the bed, the couches, and Cleo.
- More rugs. For the floor and the dash.
- Lamps. My peacock lamps are retrotacular and handy! They kept the front windshield lookin’ fresh and clear of frosty condensation.
- Heat tape (P.S. It failed us)
- Toaster / convection oven: Okay, so this wasn’t a necessity, but vent-less (non LPG) cooking, served us well.
- Rock salt to melt the ice. (See Below)
“This Ain’t Sea World, This Is As Real As It Gets”
Lesson: Yes, Poop Freezes!
That’s No Clog: We took the constant use of antifreeze tip for granted, skipped a pour down, and froze our tanks— solid. Remember our story on Facebook about the clogged kitchen sink? Well, that wasn’t a clog, there were icebergs in our holding tanks.
Tip: The Solution to De-icing Frozen RV Holding Tanks.
Trying to de-ice the tanks using a blow dryer was ridiculous. We even tried wrapping it with heat tape, with no luck. We were dealing with two, over 35 gallon, frozen solid blocks here. This required us to get global warming on these ‘bergs.
Yup, our favorite fiery star, some salt, and time was our solution. First, we relocated to a spot in the park where the sun would shine directly on our facilities side of the bus. Then we began de-icing the valve openings by pouring hot water and dissolved rock salt down the drains. We did this in the heat of the day, when it was above freezing (by one degree). Plus, we added antifreeze to the tanks at night. This process took about three days, and eventually our stars aligned, our poopcicle melted, and our drains opened up!
Tip: The Antifreeze Secret.
Okay, so we learned that windshield wiper fluid has a ‘below freezing’ temperature rating and works like antifreeze. So, use it in place of RV Antifreeze in your holding tanks, for half the coin! (Don’t add it to your fresh water, please!)
Because it is necessary to continue to add antifreeze to the waste tanks, before, during, and after dumping, that adds up to a lot of antifreeze. 10 gallons to be exact. This discovery, at $2/per gal for wiper fluid vs $5/per gal for RV antifreeze, saved us a chunk of change. Whatwhat!
Lesson: Frozen Hose Fail.
Despite our best efforts in using the foam insulation to keep our fresh water hose from freezing, it froze anyway. And how exactly do you get that ice out of your hose? You don’t. It has to melt out on its own. Dennis spent 12 long minutes, banging, spanking, and blowing on it, and it never even so much as dripped. Future solution: We should have bought a heated hose like this: Thermo-Hose Ice-Free.
Lesson: Cold Feet Makes for Better Lovers.
I don’t care what KISS says, it ain’t Hot In The Shade. The constant cold creeping under the bus could have been somewhat avoided with proper skirting, but we didn’t flip for it. Every other brave soul in the campground had added some sort of insulated paneling or skirting to their wind tunnel underbelly. Cold floors were our reality, but we saved at least fifty bucks by not buying all of that stuff. We survived by purchasing more area rugs and wearing slippers, hoodies, and beanies. So, if you’re going to stay a while, skirt-up or else suit-up.
Happy Endings, The Winter-Ready Wanderlodge.
- Our fresh water tank is under the bed with a compartment heater. It was the only liquid holding area that didn’t freeze!
- The bus has seven heaters. Three propane and four electric but, two of the electric heaters don’t work though. Six heaters for 35’ was perfect. One LPG and one electric in each room.
- We incurred hail, snow, 60 mile an hour winds in the rain… and knock on wood, no leaks.
- Heavy curtains and well insulated walls kept the cold under control.
- Hey, what’s that switch? An Engine block heater!
Frankly, we’re still not sure how the hell we survived, but we did it.
300 lbs. of propane, 10 gallons of windshield wiper fluid, and a few good bouts of sunshine helped us along. Not to mention the serious local Italian food that packed on just a few extra body-warming pounds.
We hope you find this blog post before you experience your own mishap! And if you have a RV wintering lesson to share, please leave your story in our comments. This sharing stuff has helped us more times than we can count.