5 Great Ideas for Using your RV in the Winter

For many people living in the northern zones of the county, the short and cold days of winter often signify that your camping season has wrapped up for the year. You have antifreeze in the lines, your cabinets are bare and cleaned, and the battery is stored in your heated garage. Now, the only thing left to do is wait until next season until you can get back out on the road…or is it?

For those of you with your RV stored at home (not in an offsite storage location), winter doesn’t mean that you can’t get some additional value from your RV. Below are some tips and ideas for using your RV in the winter and inspiring you to squeeze a little more time out of your camper (or in your camper).

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Considerations:

Water

One of the most dangerous aspects of cold weather and RVs is freezing water. A frozen pipe could easily burst if cracked, creating an expensive nightmare. Unless you’re fully prepared to deal with freezing temperatures, I recommend that you keep your RV water-free over the winter.

Also, when using your RV in the winter for some of the ideas below, I would also suggest that you turn off your RV water pump (maybe tape over it to prevent accidentally turning it on) so you don’t run the risk of emptying your Antifreeze from the lines.

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Heat

Almost all RVs will have a propane furnace that can keep your RV warm (or warm enough) in moderate winter conditions. Just note that heating your RV will burn through full propane tanks much faster than during the shoulder camping seasons (Fall and Spring). Don’t be afraid to use it, though. You don’t need to keep your RV heated 24/7, just heated when in use.

You can also supplement your heat with an electric space heater, but be careful of your amperage use when connected to a standard 110V converter. You’ll be tripping fuses in your home faster than you can say “it’s cold out here”. A small space heater can help take off the chill when combined with the furnace, but for larger electric heaters, you really need to have a full 30A or 50A hookup. Installing one at home makes for a great summer project.

Electricity

RVs are designed to be used without electricity (or with minimal electricity). In order to use your RV in the winter, you will need to connect to the grid. As mentioned above, a dedicated 30A or 50A connection at home is ideal, but not required. You will need electricity to power the furnace, lights, slides, and outlets. A battery alone will not be enough.

To solve this problem, you can simply use a 110V to 30/50A converter. This will allow you to get enough power to run the essentials in your RV. Also, if you will be storing your battery on the RV, which you will want to do if using it in the winter, you should have 24/7 power to maintain its charge and health.

Also, don’t just use any old extension cord. Make sure you purchase a heavy-duty one that is rated for outdoor use. At a minimum, look for a cord that is described as 12/3 at minimum (10/3 is even better). These numbers refer to the wire gauge- lower is better. Most residential outlets in your home use 12/3 wire. If you opt for a thinner cord, you can have power failures at best or even a fire in the worst-case scenario. This is not the area to cheap out on.

Also, be thoughtful of extension cord length. Get the shortest one that will meet your needs. Bigger is not better when it comes to length. Electricity supply diminishes over longer runs. So, that 75’ cord that is running 15 ft. to your camper may not be enough to carry the required electricity. If you’re just using lights and powering the furnace, it may not be a huge problem. However, if you’re running a small space heater, this could be dangerous. Keep it short. If you must go longer, get the highest gauge cord that you can.

Snow

You’ll shoot your eyes out, kid! Remember when Ralphie schemed up his plan to avoid telling his mom how his glasses really cracked? The icicle! Well, his mom was right…they can be dangerous. One thing to keep in mind when using your camper during snowy weather is that it will melt. Campers are not very energy efficient? If you have snow on your roof, using your camper in the winter with heat will cause it to melt and refreeze, creating icicles and possible damage.

When you’re heading out to shovel your driveway and clean off the cars, do the same for the RV if you plan to heat it. Ice has a way of getting into crevices in your shell and can create leaks down the road. If you do get ice on the RV, don’t fret. Try to limit it from growing, knock off hanging icicles, and make note of its location so that you can check for leaks when it warms up. Don’t let this scare you too much. I learned this the hard way by having huge icicles form on the front of my RV. It didn’t cause any damage, but it sure got me worried. In this instance, an ounce of prevention could be worth a pound of cure.

Now for the fun part! The ideas for how to use your RV in the winter.

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Play area for your kids

We all know that being cooped up in the house in the winter can create some super intense cabin (or camper) fever. This is especially true if you have kids. Sometimes a quick change of space can help you get through the long cold days of winter. Kids especially love new and unique adventures. Transforming your RV into a fun play space for the kiddos is a great way to keep them occupied and off of Disney Plus.

With a cleaned-out camper, you can fill it with a handful of fun and entertaining toys/games and give your kiddo(s) a personal space to play- think clubhouse. Make sure that you establish some rules like keeping the door closed, not flipping random switches, don’t use the slide as an amusement ride, etc.

Also, I suggest keeping this as a reward-type option. You want to give your kid(s) something unique and if it becomes an extension of their bedroom, the novelty of it may wear off quickly and so will your options for a quiet house.

Spare room for visiting family

The holidays can be a stressful time, especially when you have friends and family coming to stay with you for a few days. If you don’t have a spare bedroom, or even if you do, giving someone a personal space can make visits more enjoyable for everyone.

Be careful, though. You don’t want to set someone up in your camper if it’s not equipped for the cold temperatures. Nothing can put a damper on the holidays like a hypothermic mother-in-law. Also, if you go this route, make sure that you communicate clearly about the limitations. Make sure that they’re aware that there is no water (or toilets), have an open-door policy when they need to use the house. Teach them how to adjust the heat and make it as comfortable as possible. This may not be right for every visitor, but it can be a great option for the right situation.

Hide those Christmas presents

Santa is real until the kiddos find the presents. You may think that you’re a crafty present-hider, but kids have a sixth sense for seeking out the places you don’t want them to go. RVs make an excellent, lockable, location to hide those Christmas presents.

If hiding presents in an unheated RV, make sure that you carefully screen the items. You don’t want that bottle of Blueberry Jam that you bought for Aunt Linda to freeze and explode all over the Paw Patrol stuffed toys. Also, be sure to keep the camper locked and keys hidden if you have exploratory kids with a knack for snooping.

Store your camping gear

Many of us pack up our camping gear for the winter and store it in our basement, attic, or closets. The amount of “stuff” that we have in our camper is a bit shocking when contained in one space. While I do recommend emptying cabinets, storage compartments, etc. for winter prep, most of your camping gear will do just fine in freezing temperatures.

Here’s what I like to do for storage. I purchased several of those big sealable storage totes (the back and yellow ones) and organize everything into them. One bin for kitchen items, one bin for bedding, one bin for RV gear, etc. Good, sealable, bins can keep nosey critters out of your stuff and prevent them from building a nest out of your shredded kitchen towels.

The benefit of storing everything in the camper means that you’re ready to go when the camping season starts back up. You don’t take up valuable storage space in your home and everything is right where you left it- in the RV. Labeling the bins is also a good idea. I like to use the brother label maker to keep everything organized and easy to find. This is especially helpful if you’re looking for something that you left stored in the RV.

Remote work office

If the last year and a half taught us anything, it’s to be prepared for the unexpected. Working remotely was once an inconceivable thought a few years ago, but has become a reality for many of us. Even though we’re heading back to the office, a home office is still something that you may be using. You may also have started a side hustle where you need some dedicated workspace. The kitchen table just doesn’t cut it anymore.

Why not transform your unused RV into a winter office. It makes a great quiet place to work, secluded writing or craft studio, and helps you keep your living space just that, a living space.

One obstacle that you may run into when using the RV as an office is a lack of internet access. Maybe your Wi-Fi signal is just too weak to be functional outside. This can easily be fixed with the help of a Wi-Fi extender. The great news is that your RV has electricity, so installing one out there is super simple. I like the NETGEAR Wi-Fi Range Extender EX3700 as a great solution for creating an inexpensive way to give you internet access in your RV dead zone.

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