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World of Work Camping
When it comes to RVing and wintertime, you essentially have three choices. You can winterize your coach and store it, you can follow snowbirds’ advice to “Drive it south!” or you can RV straight through winter by taking a few proactive steps to stay warm. Jolene and I are opting for the latter with our northerly work-camping position, and we have a few tips to share with like-minded winter RVers.
To stay warm in your RV throughout the winter, be sure to heed these six steps:
1. Stop Drafts From Entering
Look around your RV carefully for light intrusion. If there are cracks or crevices where light gets in, so will cold air. It’s important to examine the edges of your slide-outs, as the seal is not always completely airtight. Look for small gaps and fill them in. You can use foam strips to stuff into or around the gaps. However, be sure to use closed-cell foam, and not the type of foam that would absorb water.
In a motorhome, remember to check around the dash area; and if you have driver and passenger doors, be sure to examine those, as well. These doors typically use a standard automotive-door bulb seal, and if you have an older RV, you might find might the seal to be a little dry. There are lanolin-based products you can use to help refresh these seals. This is also good for the rubber seals on your entry door.
2. Minimize Cold Air Convection Through Windows
Our motorhome has dual-pane windows. These are very nice; yet sit next to one on a cold day, and you can still feel the chill. My windshield and passenger/driver’s windows are all automotive safety glass. No double-pane there! No matter; glass will conduct cold by convection, so let’s see what we can do.
In the cockpit area, drawing the windshield curtain will help. Because of the curve, this is probably your best bet. Keeping air circulating and having that air gap between the warm and the cold will lessen any moisture forming on the glass. For the flat windows throughout your RV interior, there are a number of readily available solutions, ranging from a simple press-and-peel film to a more durable product. Because these durable options would need to be stored in warmer weather and cost quite a bit more, I’ll skip them here. However, you should be aware that they exist, as they may be just what you want. For an easy, use-and-toss solution, the press-and-peel films work great.
Be sure to have all of your window-frame measurements when you go to purchase your window film kit(s), and carefully review the instructions before you install. These types of kits generally use a double-sided, removable tape on the inside frame of the window. After cutting an appropriate-sized piece of film, press it along the edges where the tape is, trying to keep the film as tight as possible. Of course, you may still have some looseness; to fix this, run a hairdryer over the film. This will tighten the surface, leaving a nice, flat, transparent window. When finished, you will have a draft-free surface that helps keep the cold air outside and the warm air inside.
3. Maintain a Sufficient Propane Supply
If you’ll be camping for an extended period, find a propane service area close to where you’ll be camping and contact them for a bulk tank rental. Your on-board tank will not last for the winter season, and you probably do not want to have to drive over for a fill every two weeks.
When using a bulk tank, there are two ways to connect. One is to connect the bulk tank to the fill port on your on-board tank, which uses your tank as part of the pipeline. This setup uses the propane in your on-board tank before switching over to the bulk tank supply. That means when you disconnect your bulk tank, you will have an empty on-board tank; and if your bulk tank goes empty, you will not have any reserve. For those reasons, I recommend you avoid this option.
A better solution is to use an Extend-a-Stay kit, which is manufactured by Marshall Brass® and available from the Lazydays Retail Parts Store, or to simply disconnect the on-board tank and run the bulk hose directly to your RV fitting. This option allows you to keep your on-board supply full, which you will appreciate when leaving at the end of the season.
4. Run Your Furnace Efficiently
Do you have a furnace filter? If so, be sure to clean or replace it before the start of the winter camping season. If you only have the louvers, be sure to check the fins for any dust buildup, and make sure they are straight and not damaged.
Most RVs use a forced-air system, with hoses running from the furnace plenum to the vents. The hoses usually run through enclosed areas and are inaccessible; if so, you don’t need to worry about them. However, in some RVs, the hoses may run under a sofa or bed frame. If this is the case in your RV, check the hoses to ensure that items stored beneath the bed or sofa have not crushed or pinched the air hose. A kinked or pinched hose may prevent warm air from reaching the vent, and will make the furnace to work harder to heat your coach.
Also, be sure to examine the burner tube for critter intrusions. For some reason, mud wasps seem to love making themselves at home in this environment when the furnace is not in use. Examine the visible area around the burner tube, and if you find any wasp nests, clean them out. If you’re uncomfortable doing this, stop by your RV service center for a checkup.
5. Beware of Moisture Buildup
One downside to using a forced-air furnace is the humidity level, as it emits a dry heat. While some people associate “dry heat” with greater comfort — thinking of Arizona’s pleasantly arid climes versus Florida’s thick summer humidity — dry heat in an RV can have unpleasant consequences, like drying out your skin and sinuses. Normal everyday living, including entering or exiting your RV, should introduce sufficient moisture in the air and help maintain a nice balance. Boiling water can create more moisture than needed, which will be evident if you see water condensing on surfaces. This can be prevented by allowing the moisture to escape. Crank open your kitchen roof vent an inch or so when boiling water, and your bathroom vent when showering. Too much condensation can lead to mold, and mold is to be avoided as it can damage your interior and create unpleasant smells.
6. Consider Skirting
To skirt, or not to skirt? Here is my take on this topic. First, look at your RV’s underside. Is it well insulated? Most motorhomes have an insulating layer underneath, but many towables have very little between the bottom of the floor and the cold air outside. If you own a travel trailer or fifth wheel, you may want to consider installing skirting for winter camping. My motorhome is pretty well insulated, so I opted for no skirt. I have friends with trailers who do use skirts, and for good reason.
How you skirt depends on your situation. There are companies that will fabricate a skirt that snaps onto your rig and stakes to the ground, which is nice for a short season or when you’ll be on the move. If you’ll be staying through a longer cold season, you may want to build a low-cost but more permanent skirting using framing and insulation. I have done a bit of research on this, which I would be happy to share; please contact me through the website if you’d like to learn more.
Winter can be a great time for RVing and work camping. If you find a good work-camping gig in cooler climes, you can always work through the beginning of the winter season to make some money, and then follow the snowbirds south for the remainder of the season!