RV Living: Winter Camping in Winter Weather

When you think of RV living in the winter... don't you picture the snowbirds who travel South in the winter for mild weather RV living?

Well, that's not us - we do things a bit differently from the norm - just ask our family!

Our fulltime RV living choice found us on the banks of the Missouri River where we currently work as camphosts at a private campground and are getting ready to spend our third year of winter camping in Missouri where the weather can be balmy one day and brutal the next.

Lots of people think we're crazy... crazy for this lifestyle of fulltime RV living, but even crazier for spending the winter in Missouri when we could be in Arizona or Florida or Texas where the winters are warm and sunny.

Oh well - we're accustomed to raised eyebrows!

We had those same destinations in mind until the campground owner hired us for the year-round job and we fell in love with the beautiful setting on the banks of the Missouri River.

We decided winter camping in the cold and snow would be a new experience to add to our adventurous fulltime RV living journeys.

Maybe it was the challenge to figure out how to comfortably survive RV living in winter that drew us in, or maybe it was the Universe telling us that it was time to change our perception of winter.

(We are big time complainers of snow and cold.)

Actually, it was both!

Little did we realize that our first experience of RV living in winter weather would occur during the BLIZZARD of 2011!

Little did we realize how much our perspective would be tried and tested when the total snowfall for the winter set a new record for our area... 43 inches to be exact!

Our preparations for RV living in winter weather were valuable lessons in survival. Our only winter preparations previous to this was to keep the snow shovel and ice melt handy by the front door.

We spent hours Googling tips from other RVers. It took some digging to find the right information since most tips for winterizing an RV focused on preparing the RV for winter storage - not RV living IN winter.

We made countless trips to Lowes, Westlakes, and Bass Pro to ask for assistance with our RV living in winter project. (again, the raised eyebrows from the clerks who tried to help us!)

The most valuable resource of all was found at a local mobile home supplier. It was there the answers to all our questions were answered by knowledgeable people who knew how and what and where and why to protect our truck camper for RV living during winter. Their solutions were practical and simple... they were incredibly enthusiastic about helping the crazy couple who have this notion of RV living in winter weather!

For starters, all of the pipes, inside and outside that I could manage to reach were wrapped in foam pipe insulation. The empty spaces around the pipes and holding tanks were filled with insulation. The inside ceiling vents were covered with plastic to help keep the cold air out. Easy to do - familiar tasks to any homeowner... and especially essential for RV living in areas where bitter cold and snow and ice assault you for several months.

I read several suggestions of covering the windows as well to keep out the cold, but just couldn't bring myself to block my view, especially since I can look out my window and watch the river - it is my saving grace while holed up inside while the snow flies and the temperatures plummet.

This kind of view is what makes RV living so worthwhile.

We quickly learned that for RV living in winter weather, it was necessary to protect our water supply and the sewer hose from freezing temperatures. With the help of the staff at the mobile home store, we designed a water hose from a small plastic pipe fitted with connections to the campground water pump and our camper. This pipe was wrapped in an electric heat tape, which was then wrapped in foam pipe insulation.

Our flexible sewer hose was inserted into a larger PVC pipe for added insulation. It took a few tweaks to find the right elbows for the pipe, but we did it! Now the outside hoses were protected and we had a protected water supply for our first RV living experience with winter camping!

These fixes worked great to protect our water supply and sewer hose; but, when we unhooked everything to take a road trip, we soon realized how "EXACT" our parking had to be when we returned home. It took several attempts of backing up - pulling in a little closer - backing up - pulling to the right a little more - nope - angle it more to the left... over and over until the pipes lined up just right for reconnecting.

Normally, no big deal to do this - but it was bitterly cold that day. Just another part of the process of learning the art of RV living in winter weather.

As we began our second season of RV living in Missouri's winter, we looked for other solutions that would help us easily and quickly reconnect our hoses. We had to find more flexibility.

Google searching came through again as we researched more ways to survive in winter weather. The next winter, our water hose was wrapped in heavy duty aluminum foil, followed by the heat tape, followed by the foam pipe wrap. We also purchased a super heavy duty sewer hose that is able to withstand frigid temps. Now we had flexibility! No more rigid pipes to reconnect when we arrive back at the campground.

One of the most treasured discoveries in preparing for RV living in winter was the electric radiator heater. These heaters work well as a supplemental heat source in small spaces and stay warm without using much electricity. Because natural convection distributes the heat, there's no fan to make noise, making them incredibly quiet. We didn't have to run the furnace constantly, never had to worry about running out of propane in the middle of the night and waking up to a cold camper.

With all those fixes in place, the only big problem we encountered for surviving RV living in winter was condensation that built up under our mattress where the cold outside air meets warm bodies. (our bed is over the cab of the pickup)

The solution?

Create an air space between the mattress and the floor of the bed. I headed to Lowes with measurements in hand and asked for help figuring out my crazy idea. Luckily, I was helped by someone who knew exactly what we needed -

boards to use as slats and 1/2 inch foam board to lay on top of the slats and underneath the foam mattress.

Now the air can circulate... and the best part is the foam board added protection from the cold floor of the bed.

I AM a happy camper... RV living in the winter is a piece of cake!

Two years ago, we were stocking up on food and movies and water because the forecast called for a blizzard! We had expected lots of new adventures with RV living and winter camping, but, a blizzard was something we had never experienced! Nineteen inches of snow fell as we were snuggled safely in our camper.

The next day, we were like little kids. We couldn't wait to get out and tromp around in the deep, deep snow that had drifts several feet deep.

If we had decided to take off that winter and settle into RV living in sunny Florida, we would have missed the magical views of snow covered fields sparkling like fairy dust in the light of a full moon, surrounded by stillness.

If we had headed South for the winter - sure, we could have played on the warm, sandy beaches, but we would have missed sinking up to our thighs in snow - just like we did when we were three years old and three feet tall!

I would have missed that magical January morning when I headed to the river, wrapped in my sub-zero sleeping bag, camera and coffee in hand... and watched the glorious dance of the gulls swooping and swirling with grace and majesty.

Full time RV living is our life and our dream.

It gives us freedom. It also gives us opportunities to make the best of any situation.

What's that saying - when life gives you lemons, make lemonade?

Well, for RV living during the winter, when life gives you 19 inches of snow, you get to be a kid again!

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