Something unusual happened this past winter that rarely happens here in Vancouver. We found ourselves in a snowy deep-freeze. Although most of the rest of Canada and many areas of the United States would find our 15-degree Fahrenheit temperature and 3 feet of snow laughable, it is something that rarely happens here on the West Coast. We normally enjoy fairly mild winters with very little snow, in fact, it is uncommon to get much below freezing.
While many RVers store their coaches, hunker down, or head south for the winter, winter camping can be enjoyable, even for those who normally don’t enjoy the cold weather. However, it is important to make sure both you and your rig are protected from the elements. A previous article focused on the technical aspects of winter camping, such as how to prepare your vehicle. This article will discuss the “personal” side of the activity.
Once you have ensured that you and your wheels are properly prepared, the next question is where to go and what to do. My wife and I RV year-round and probably the biggest obstacle we face when trip planning is the road conditions along our route. Although I am a licensed commercial driver with lots of experience driving tractor-trailer units in various weather and road conditions, operating a motorhome, especially a large one, can be stressful, especially when driving conditions are less than favorable. It is considerably worse with a travel trailer or fifth-wheel. I do carry tire chains in my coach, and I recommend this if you plan on doing winter driving on secondary roads or at higher altitudes. Check the conditions and regulations along your route, as some combination of winter tires (as opposed to all seasons) and chains may be required. If you decide to purchase tire chains, be sure they are the correct size for your vehicle and be sure to test fit them before you set out, as mounting chains can be a chore, especially in freezing weather on the side of a snowy road.
At The Campground
Once you determine your destination, make sure the campgrounds you are planning to visit are open in the off-season. Many parks close for the winter, and others provide limited services, so it’s important to know before you go. For instance, some locations turn off the water supply during the winter, so you either have to use the park facilities or use your coach supply, which I don’t recommend unless your unit is designed for winter operation. Many people carry jugs of bottled water to avoid damage to the fresh water system from freezing.
Make sure you have propane in your LP tank instead of butane. While propane will continue to vaporize down to -40 degrees Fahrenheit, butane condenses at around 32 degrees Fahrenheit so it will start to become ineffective below freezing. If your RV is equipped with electric heat such as heat strips or a heat pump, use it as much as possible and minimize furnace use. Although electric heat is less efficient and doesn’t work well at very low temperatures, it is effective as a supplement to gas heat and will save propane. NEVER use your stove or oven to heat an RV.
Once you have ensured that both you and your rig are comfortable in the cold weather, set out and enjoy your winter travels. The scenery looks very different and hauntingly beautiful when covered with snow. As an added bonus, you will often find you have RV parks largely to yourself.
About the Author:
Steve Froese, an avid RV owner, traveler, and Coach-Net member since 2013, is the principal of “A Word to the Wise Technical Communications”, a published RV author, certified RV technician, and licensed Professional Engineer. He frequently collaborates with the “RV Doctor”, Gary Bunzer, and has worked with the RVIA/RVDA as a technical and training writer and consultant. Professionally, he works as a quality engineer and musician. Watch for more of Steve’s work in upcoming Coach-Net publications.
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