Beginner’s Guide to Cold-Weather Living in Your RV

So, you plan to make an RVing tour of ski resorts and put that snowboard to good use. Or get those stunning mountain-and-pines snow photos to share or sell. Or maybe you just thrive on cold weather. Making your RV livable in winter takes preparation, some new gear, and information about RV tolerance of freezing temperatures.

This introduction is designed to lead you to further research, but let’s take a look at some starting points.


RVs are not built like insulated, slope-roofed, solid homes. OK, we know you know that already, but it’s worth repeating for cold-weather living because it can get really uncomfortable. There are ways to compensate, however. First, check the window seals and consider vent covers if you don’t already have them. Windows can also be insulated with foam insets and thermal curtains. Next, skirt the exterior. Portable skirting can be purchased which will help protect both you from the cold coming through the flooring and your RV from damage. Heat tape for the connections is essential.

Pipe Connections

Let’s talk about water and gray/black tank connections: heat tape, heat tape, heat tape on the pipes, and consider a heated water hose on the RV water pump. Even with skirting, the most vulnerable equipment is under the RV so you may also want to put a low-amp portable heater near the toilet.

In fact, low-amp electric heaters can be very useful in subfreezing weather as long as you know whether you have a 30 amp or 50 amp RV. (No more than 1 space heater in a 30 amp and more with a 50 amp, but not when running other major appliances). When caught unawares, leave faucets dripping to prevent freezing, but this not a great long-term solution for obvious reasons.


Tank heaters are another important option. Cleaning out a sewer hose exposed to freezing conditions is definitely an experience to be missed. However, don’t leave gray and black tanks open. Plan on draining them periodically. Water tanks, or any freezable liquid, should not be filled to the maximum. If they do freeze, ice expands with remarkable strength and can crack the container. Tank heaters provide additional insurance against this problem.

Your freshwater tank is the least susceptible due to its location.

Don’t turn the heat completely off when you leave. RV construction places heat ducts near pipes to help prevent freezing. Leave cabinet doors open, especially at night, and turn off the toilet valve if it is in danger of freezing. (See note about ice expansion above). Speaking of the heat, when temps drop below 45 degrees, don’t try to use the HVAC system to heat the interior. Turn on the furnace.

Being Prepared

Keep your propane and freshwater tanks filled. Even with a cozy down comforter or sleeping bag, running out of propane in the middle of the night makes for a hard morning. If you are boondocking, think “worst-case scenario,”—especially: warm clothing, boots, blankets—and stock up accordingly. Even if not boondocking, be prepared with additional supplies in case the camp’s pipes freeze. And keep the engine filled with standard antifreeze.

A good engine tuneup before heading into the cold is a good idea. Check the battery for corrosion and secure connections, as well. If heading to seriously arctic climes, an electric engine block heater is useful. You don’t want to hear a click instead of a smooth engine purr.

Additional Resources

RV Winter Tire Options
RV Winter Living

The Alternative

Lake Havasu City averages a low of 41 degrees in December. In some places, that is not even considered “cold.” Once the cold gets tiresome or you need to thaw out your fingertips, park that RV at the best not-so-cold place in Arizona, Riverbound Custom Storage & RV Park. No, no skiing here—well, actually there’s water skiing, but that’s nicer in the spring. In the meantime, you can play tennis, basketball, exercise the husky in the dog park, and kick back in the café. Once thawed, you have some great options for hiking and boondocking. Enjoy! And leave the reindeer up north.

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