Like a lot of full-time RVers, we try and follow the warm weather as much as possible. The summer season is wide open as most places are generally warm to downright hot. When the winter comes our choices are much more limited.
Some of the more popular winter destinations are places like Arizona, Texas, Southern California, and Florida. For our second winter on the road, we chose to go back to Florida. We had a great winter season last year in central Florida and decided to try northern Florida this year.
Research The Weather
As I always do, I checked Us Climate Data for last years average temperatures. It’s usually pretty close. I don’t know if it’s just changing weather patterns or last year was just a warmer than normal season in Lake City but the temperatures were supposed to average low 40’s at night and mid 60’s during the day. Definitely doable for us.
I guess what you have to focus on is the word “Average”. That means it could dip to 20 one night and be 60 the next and you would have your 40-degree average. That’s all well and fine but 20 degrees is not good for water which freezes at 32 degrees. So what happens at night when the temperature dips below 32 degrees? What do you do about washing dishes, taking showers, or using the toilet? Our biggest problem so far has been the nighttime temperatures. I guess that means no showers, dishwashing, bathroom calls or any other water activities after dinner. That would work but besides being inconvenient what about the water in the lines and tanks?
Since December we have experienced multiple times that the temperature has dipped below the freezing mark with 3 extended time periods where the temperature has dipped to the low 20’s overnight for 5 days in a row. So far to this point, we have not had any water issues at all. Our travel trailer has the covered underbelly. The sales rep told us we had a heated underbelly.
Now to me, a heated underbelly would mean that there are open ducts that flow into the underbelly of the trailer. When I had to replace several of the sheets of underbelly material over the summer, I did not see any open ducts for heat. I would have to assume in my case that the heated underbelly that the salesman spoke of is just heat radiating from the ductwork running under the floor of the trailer in the underbelly section.
Research Arctic Packages
As I said, this applies to my trailer only. Some RV’s come with Arctic packages and different manufacturers have different ways of heating the underbellies of their particular RV’s. I can only speak of how mine works. You will have to ask your dealer/manufacturer how yours works if they claim you have an Arctic package or heated underbelly.
For those with no Arctic packages but have covered underbellies I can share what has worked for us so far. Keep in mind we are not cold weather campers or experts in cold weather camping. I can only share the steps we have taken and what has worked for us so far. If you plan on severe cold weather camping for long periods of time where the daytime temps never get above freezing, I suggest lots of research. If you check out google you will find plenty of information on severe cold weather RVing.
10 Steps To Keep Your Water Running
If you find yourself in a similar situation to ours with above freezing temperatures in the day and below freezing at night I have some tips that may work for you. They did for us.
Here are the 10 steps that should keep your water flowing:
1-Stay hooked up to campground water during the day and make sure you fill your fresh water tank.
2– Find a few spare 1-gallon containers and fill them with your filtered water. We do not drink water from our fresh water tank. We use the water in the containers for drinking and most importantly coffee in the morning.
3– As night time comes and the temperature starts to drop, close the water valve at the campground spigot, unhook your hose (hoses) from the camper and if you use a splitter at the spigot move both valves to the open position. Make sure you have closed the main valve at the spigot. Our campground water froze a few times. The reason you unhook from the camper and leave that side open (it would probably work if you did it the opposite way too/personal preference) is that as water freezes it expands and when the water starts to freeze inside your hose it will have room to expand out the open end. This way your hose will not bust.
4– Remove any water filters you have and bring them inside. We just put them in the shower to keep them out of our way.
5– As the night goes on you can use the water from your freshwater tank with the pump for things like using the bathroom and washing dishes. Try not to use too much water as you will want to keep your tank at least ⅔ full overnight. We took our showers during the day while hooked up to the campground water.
6– This is probably not necessary but we tend to be a little overly cautious. If you have an outside kitchen, put a large blanket over the faucet area.
7– Before you go to bed, open all your cabinets especially concentrating on any with water lines that run through them. We have a rear kitchen and under our kitchen sink, we have a bunch of water lines including the ones for the outside sink. Our water pump is also under there. Where the lines come up through the floor we covered with old rags to help keep drafts out. Our cabinet under the bathroom sink also houses a bunch of water lines. Opening the cabinet doors will help keep those lines at room temperature.
8– Set your thermostat to at least 60 degrees.
9– If you have 2 propane tanks you might want to open the second one for overnight so you don’t run out of propane in the middle of the night. You can close the second bottle that you had opened in the morning. This way you will know if you ran out of propane in the first bottle overnight and can get it refilled right away. Propane gets used rather quickly in cold weather.
10– When you go to bed, turn your water pump off and open all water sources inside. For us, we opened the hot and cold water valve for the kitchen and bathroom sink and the shower. Don’t worry, no water will come out as long as your pump is off. You can keep a small container of water in the bathroom to use to flush the toilet in the overnight hours if need be.
Back To Step 1
So that’s it. The next day when the temperatures warm up and your outside hoses and spigot unfreeze, you can hook back up to campground water for the rest of the day. If you are going to experience another below-freezing night, make sure to start back at number 1 again.
Inconvenient, absolutely but it’s much better than having your water freeze and splitting your plumbing, tanks, or water pump. With any luck, the number of days with low-temperature nights will pass quickly. At least this way you can still wash dishes and use your bathroom. As I said earlier, I am not a cold-weather expert, as a matter of fact, I hate cold weather…lol. All I can say is we have been through these really cold patches with no water issues at all.
What about you? Do you have any tips that may help get someone through cold weather? If so, feel free to leave them in the comments below.