How Cold is Too Cold for RVing?

Are you a die-hard RVer? If so, you might be wondering if you really have to stop camping for the winter months. You could of course head to a southern state and continue to soak up the sun. But what if heading south isn’t in the cards? Can you camp in the winter weather? How cold is too cold for RVing? 

In this article, we are going to address these questions and then some. After reading, you should have a good idea of whether or not you can (and should) continue camping during the winter.

How Cold Before RV Pipes and Tanks Freeze?

The first and most obvious issue we want to address is frozen RV plumbing. It’s no secret that RV water lines have a tendency to freeze and crack, and holding tanks can actually do the same. This is a huge headache and can be very expensive to fix. Therefore, you want to avoid this scenario if at all possible. 

Typically, the way RVers avoid frozen plumbing is by winterizing their RVs. That said, this is really only necessary if the temperature drops below 30 degrees Fahrenheit for more than 30 minutes at a time.  

Even then, you can get away with a little more if you will be in the rig and taking all precautions to keep the plumbing as warm as possible. These precautions are listed in the section below. 

Cracked and broken pipes are easily avoidable, if the right steps are taken.

Quick Tips for Avoiding Frozen Plumbing

In order to avoid frozen water lines and holding tanks while camping in the winter in your RV, be sure to do all of the following:

Use a Heated Hose: A heated hose will ensure the water coming into your RV doesn’t freeze. 

Wrap with Heat Tape: The sewer hose and exposed water lines can be wrapped with heat tape in order to avoid freezing. 

Open Cabinets: Opening cabinets helps circulate the warm air inside your RV so that it makes its way to the water lines under your sinks. 

Use RV Furnace: Using the RV furnace ensures that the underbelly of your RV is getting some heat. This can help keep the water lines and tanks warm enough to prevent freezing. 

Install Tank Heaters: You can install tank heaters for keeping the holding tanks warm and preventing freezing. 

Lights Under Rig: Using work lights or small space heaters under the RV can also be helpful. 

Can I Camp when My RV is Winterized?

What if the weather is going to be well below freezing for days on end? Can you still camp? Yes you can, but you will want to winterize the RV water system. Fortunately, you can camp even when the water lines are winterized. 

Camping in a winterized RV does require a little bit of planning, and it is a little bit inconvenient. The section below tells you what you need to know about camping in a winterized rig. 

Quick Tips for Camping with a Winterized Rig

Here are our tips for having a successful camping trip when your RV’s water system is winterized:

Take Jugs of Water: You will need drinking water, a way to wash your hands, and water to cook with. For this, we recommend taking 5-gallon jugs of water. Choosing jugs with spigots that can be placed over a sink can be helpful. Keeping a one-gallon jug of water next to the toilet for flushing is also a good idea!

Put Antifreeze in Tanks: You will likely still be putting some water down the drains. That’s okay, but you will want to put RV antifreeze into the wastewater holding tanks in order to keep those tanks from freezing up. Tank heaters can come in handy here as well. 

Book Campgrounds with Bathhouses: Since you won’t be able to flush your toilet easily or take a shower in your RV, campgrounds with bathhouses that are open during the winter time are your best bet. Keep in mind, some campgrounds don’t heat their bathhouses. This is something you might want to inquire about before you book.

Just because it’s chilly outside, doesn’t mean you can’t be warm and toasty inside your RV!

How to Keep the Camper Warm

Once you figure out the best solution for keeping the water lines from freezing while camping in the cold, the next step is to figure out how to keep the inside of your RV warm.

Obviously, if you’re unable to keep the interior of your rig wam, it’s too cold to be RVing. That said, you should be able to stay comfortably warm even in very cold temperatures if you take the right measures. 

To ensure you stay warm, be sure to do the following:

Stock Up on Propane: Always, always make sure you have full propane tanks before a winter RV camping trip. RV furnaces can eat through a propane tank in no time flat, and running out is definitely not a good thing. 

Get a Skirt: A skirt that goes around the RV will keep cold air from getting under the rig and will help protect the water lines from freezing. For a super easy-to-install solution, check out AirSkirts

Install Window Insulation: Lots of heat can escape though RV windows. Installing a shrink wrap window insulation kit can help a lot with this problem. 

Use Electric Heat: We said before that you will definitely want to run your RV furnace in order to keep the underbelly as warm as possible. That said, you can supplement the heat offered by the furnace with heat from space heaters, along with electric blankets to make things extra toasty. 

Check Seals: Before you head out on a winter trip, check all seals. Make sure your caulk is in good shape, replace worn weather stripping, and check on your slide seals. You don’t want cold air to be able to enter anywhere. 

Cover Skylights: Finally, we highly recommend covering skylights and roof vents. After all, heat rises, and if given the chance, it will rise right out of the RV. 

How Cold is Too Cold for RVing?

So how cold is too cold for RVing? Well, that depends on whether you’re willing to camp without running water, and how much trouble you’re willing to go to in order to keep the RV comfortable inside. In theory, you could camp in extremely cold temperatures if you really wanted or needed to, but the steps you’d have to take may not be worth it. 

It isn’t like you’re going to be sitting around a campfire or heading out on a hike when temperatures are in the teens, and you could just as easily cozy up on the couch to watch a movie in your house. For this reason, we think that if it’s too cold to be outside enjoying nature, it’s probably too cold for RVing and you’ll likely have a much better time camping once the weather warms a little.

About Chelsea Gonzales

Chelsea Gonzales has been living in an RV and traveling with her family for 7 years now. She road schools her two children, using various travel experiences as lessons in history, science, geography, and more. During their time on the road, the Gonzales family has had the pleasure of touring the 48 contiguous United States as well as parts of Canada. They have learned a lot along the way and Chelsea is happy to share some of that knowledge through her writing.