How to Survive the Cold in an RV


I wish I didn’t have the experience to write this post. It’s my opinion that RVing is not for cold weather. I don’t like it, and that’s why we’re in Texas hiding from the bad weather.

Even still, it found us.

sophiafrozenwaterspoutSo, if you’re in an RV, I sympathize.

Here’s what we’re doing to stay warm and prevent damage:

1. When you know it’s going to freeze, watch those water pipes!


  • Prepare your water system by letting the water run in all of your sinks. (The kitchen and the bathroom sink.)
  • You should also keep your grey tank valve open so the water can flow freely. The colder it is, the more water you want to run… a small drip might not help much in a bitter freeze.
  • Consider swapping out your longer drinking water hose for a shorter one, and insulate it or use heat tape, which keeps your hoses at 40 degrees.

2. Bring in your awning.

awningIf it rains, and that water freezes on your awning, it might be a disaster trying to bring it in later on. Unless you’re fond of testing fate, play it safe and keep your awning in.

3. Watch for condensation.

condensation As we learned in elementary school science, when cold and hot mix, condensation appears. If you keep the RV toasty, and it’s cold outside, you’re gonna get water on the walls and windows. You should do two things:

  • Wipe down any visible condensation as it appears.
  • Use a Lysol product to keep germs at bay in the areas you cannot reach.

Otherwise you might get a new houseguest: Mold. (And he will never pay rent or do his share of the housework!)

4. Supplement your gas heating with an energy-efficient space heater.

spaceheaterIf your RV uses a propane heater, you might keep another electric space heater around in case you run out of propane, or to heat only one room at a time. There are several on the market that are made to heat one room and have a thermostat built in. (Ours, above, uses radiant heat and is very safe to have around kids. I can put it in the kids room and set it to 68 degrees at night.)

Note: If you keep more than one space heater running constantly, you may drain down your batteries. Keep in mind that a heater running on full power requires about 15 amps!

5. Make sure your propane tanks are full, and if you have a generator, get some extra gas. fuelguage

Our electricity went out for almost an entire day recently. I was in the middle of cooking breakfast and homeschooling the kids. We just flipped on the generator and went on with our business! If you don’t have a generator, consider buy one with a substantial gas tank. That’s one of the perks of living in an RV!

6. When it is cold out and your RV is warm, little critters will come to you seeking shelter.

mouseUnless you like mice chewing on your electrical wires and causing thousands of dollars in damage, take these simple steps to let them know you aren’t operating a Rodent Homeless Shelter:

  • Buy some Bounce dryer sheets and put them everywhere. Get this: dryer sheets repel mice. (That makes me wonder, what do they put in those things?)
  • Have your husband (or someone else) crawl under the RV and fill the openings or holes with steel wool. (If I didn’t have my husband, I wonder who would do all the crawling under the RV?)
  • If you suspect a mouse is loose in the house, set a trap. But don’t put cheese on it; use a very small amount of sticky peanut butter. Otherwise they’ll easily snatch the cheese and laugh at you the next morning from under the kitchen cabinets. (Nothing is more humiliating than to be outsmarted by a 4-inch mouse.)

7. How to handle the most glamorous part of RVing: The Black Tank

blacktankI save this subject for last because I prefer to not think about this part of RVing. But it’s real and it’s there, and you have to deal with it especially when it’s freezing out. So, here’s what to do:

  • Never leave your black tank open. You can do that with your grey water tank, but NEVER with the black. (The “solids” can build up… and … and… oh, just trust me and don’t do this.)
  • If you have a heads-up when the storm is gonna hit, dump your black tank just before since you may not have a chance to dump it later on when everything is frozen.
  • Do not try to dump if you suspect the tank is frozen. Use the campground bathrooms if you have to.
  • After the storm passes, you’ll probably want to empty the tank, but be extremely cautious. There may be some frozen “matter” that can clog the pipe and cause it to break during the process. (Unfortunately, we learned this one the hard way. When I say, “we”, I really mean my husband. Poor guy.)

Okay, that’s all there is to it! To all you RVers out there, stay safe and keep warm!


Kimberly February 10, 2011 at 8:37 am

We are in the midst of an Artic Blast in South East Texas! The outside water has frozen, the antennae is frozen in the up position – and we can’t walk down the steps b/c they are encased in ice. I found your post at the perfect time!

Stephanie February 16, 2011 at 5:59 am

We’re in Canyon Lake, TX now. It was freezing when we got here last week, but now it is BEAUTIFUL…balmy and in the 70′s. Just about perfect. :)

Where in Texas are you?

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