7 Winter Camping Tips

Winter camping is perfect for campfires, snow days, and hiking without the heat.  We love this time of year outdoors.

Do you dream of getting out and doing some winter camping?  In the deep south and other warm parts of the country, it is entirely possible.  Also, the deep south can get cold weather.  Being prepared is key to a successful winter camping experience.  
We don't always see snow, but our rig saw it twice in less than a month.  So many good memories!

Winter Camping Tips

One thing to remember about winter camping, or camping in general really, is that weather can quickly change.  Wind, snow, and ice can greatly change your plans.  We have canceled trips when the winter weather seemed like more than what we would like to deal with.  And, if you are really far from home and canceling or leaving early isn't an option, what do you do?  For starters, keep a watch on the weather and the temperature.  This is going to be your guide and gauge for the decisions you make while you camp.  

Making sure your propane tanks are full is a key part of winter camping.  You don't want to be without heat!

Check Your Propane

Before you hit the road, check your propane.  Make sure your tank(s) are full.  I have always felt a little uncertain about how long our propane would last.  Much of the year, our propane is only used for cooking and running our fridge going down the road.  On our recent trip to Texas, we had freezing temps for a couple of days with really low temps at night.  I found an article on RVblogger.com that said a 20-pound propane tank would last 4 1/2 days.  I have not done scientific research on this, but I can say that a 20-pound tank will last longer than you think.

We took off on a 7-night trip.  We had 2 full propane tanks when we left.  We used our propane to operate our fridge for 2 long days of towing, plus cooking meals and then cold weather where we ran our furnace for 2 straight days.  Even after a third long travel day of using propane for our fridge, we still had some propane remaining in one of our 2 tanks.  We didn't run out over that entire week!  But make sure your tanks are full.  

Keep a check on them and get a spare if you are nervous.  There is no harm in having some extra fuel.  While in Marfa this winter, we were 30 miles from the nearest town with bulk propane refills.  The roads were closed so refilling our tanks was not an option.  We purchased a spare tank at a local Dollar General.  Since we didn't end up needing it, I returned it at the store the day we were leaving.  But we also didn't run out.  The spare just gave us peace of mind, and everyone sleeps better at night that way!

A space heater will help to extend your propane tanks life by allowing you to turn down the furnace and use less gas!

Use a Space Heater to Extend Your Propane

We keep a little space heater in our RV that we bought during our pop-up camper days.  It's a little Duraflame Cube Heater.  I don't think Duraflame makes this exact heater anymore.  But, it has lasted more than three years, and it is obviously well built.  

A space heater will allow you to turn your RV furnace down to a lower temp and remain warm.  We use this heater exclusively if temperatures hover in the 40's at night.  Our camper is small and doesn't require as much heat to keep everything warm.

What you don't want to do is turn your furnace off if temps are below freezing.  Running the furnace helps to heat the underbelly of your RV and keep things from freezing and causing damage to your lines.  

Use a Heated Fresh Water Hose

A heated freshwater hose will keep things moving in cold weather.  We have a Valterra Heated Fresh Water Hose.  It is a self-regulating hose that adjusts as the temperature drops.  We have used this hose for both fall and winter camping.  Our hose is nearly 4 years old and still works great.  If you plan to camp year-round, a heated hose is worth the investment!  However, water spigots at the campground can still freeze, so keep reading.

Handle Sewer Hoses with Care

If you have water or anything in your sewer hose and the temps drop below freezing, ice can form in your sewer hose and could cause it to break.  We filled up our grey tanks to our shower and bathroom lines the capacity on the day before we left Texas.  Craig drained our grey tank so that we could get ready the next morning that evening and the temperatures had already started to drop.  This caused ice to form in our sewer line.  He took some hot water and poured it over the sewer connection to loosen it the next morning as we were getting ready to leave.  He poured more hot water into the sewer hose to rinse out any additional ice and loosen it up before draining our tanks fully and flushing.  It took a little extra time and effort, but going slow kept us from having a much bigger problem.  Take your time.  Assess the situation and warm up anything that is stiff and has ice.  

You could also choose not to connect your water and sewer lines at all.  If you are camping at a location with public facilities for the restroom and shower, you could use these instead of your sewer and water lines.  With Covid, this just didn't feel like an option for us this year.  However, beyond the pandemic, this is something to consider and would also allow you to winterize your camper while continuing to use it.  

Wrapping our spigot at the campground with a blanket didn't keep it from freezing in 12-degree weather, but you can certainly try it if the temperatures hover closer to freezing.

Thawing Out Frozen Water Spigots

If you are camping in really cold weather, the water spigot at the campground could freeze.  It did for us on our trip to Texas.  It froze two nights in a row!  The first night that it happened, Craig poured hot water from an electric kettle slowly over the spigot and got the water going.  He then wrapped the water pipe at the campground with a blanket.  But, even that didn't help the second night.  He was back to heating water and thawing again the next morning.

You could use a heated cable for keeping the water flowing.  But unless this is something that you would use often, I don't know that it would be worth it.  We don't camp in weather that harsh ordinarily.  Typically, our winter camping weather is hovering around the lower 30's at the worst.  So, we don't have to make too many adjustments.

Snowy roads can be treacherous - especially if you are not used to driving on them.  Make sure you check the conditions before you head out.

Travel and Road Conditions

Heat and water are two of the biggest considerations during winter camping outside of the actual towing and getting there.  Depending on the weather your experience, severe weather can affect your travel plans delaying your travel to a location or back home.  When we arrived in Marfa, the snowy weather was predicted but it quickly turned into a much stronger winter storm.  The day before the snow came, there were 35 miles an hour winds and would have been difficult to tow our RV on that day.  The next day, the snow came and closed the roads that we would have traveled to leave.  We simply extended our stay and enjoyed the snow.  

Even with us extending our trip by a day and waiting on the roads to reopen, there were delays and closures farther away from us.  We took an alternate route toward Fort Worth that avoided much of Interstate 20 and many delays along the way.  However, this also put us on some lesser traveled roads that were good but still very snowy in places.  Know your limits.  Check with the local sheriff's offices or state department of transportation on road closures or advisories.  The Apple Maps app will show you road closures on the route you are trying to take.  I have also learned that it won't give you directions to a location if the roads are completely closed.  

The right winter clothes will make a big difference.  Be sure to pack lightweight layers that you can add to or remove as needed.

Food and Clothes

Make sure you have enough food and the right clothes for your trip.  You might want to pack extra socks and thermal underwear for a winter trip.  If your clothes get wet in the snow or rain, you will have a dry change of clothes.  Also, make sure that you have clothes that you can layer.  We recently invested in LL Bean's Packaway Jackets.  They make them in all sizes.  They even come in a tall men's size.  These jackets seem thin but don't let this jacket fool you, it's plenty warm while not adding bulk.  Plus it doesn't take up much space.  It's my new favorite jacket.  

I'm also a big fan of Smart wool socks to keep my feet warm in cold weather. I have several pairs that I use a lot during the winter. One other winter favorite that I purchased recently is Fleece Lined Leggings.  They are warm and practical plus they come in a variety of sizes and colors.

Also, make sure to pack an extra meal or two.  Or, have peanut butter and jelly on hand just in case you need some extra meals.  PB & J is my go-to meal for any time we need something quick.  It's nonperishable and just an all-around favorite.  Cans of soup are also easy and a warm comfort meal. 

Winter camping works for us because we don't live where the weather is extreme.  So, this season of the year may not be for everyone, and I know that.  But for those of you that can camp, I encourage you to do it.  Also, if you are thinking of snowbirding, there are still places in the south that get snow and winter weather.  The term winter is relative to us in Mississippi, but it is still winter here.  And, we get freezing temps and snow.  It may not be often, but it happens.

There is still time to get in some winter camping if you feel like this is something you would enjoy.  It is a time of year like none other.  The campgrounds are quiet mostly.  I enjoy the sound of the wind in the trees and hiking can be a lot of fun.  So, grab your winter gear and hitch up your RV for a new adventure!

Until next time...

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