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I’m a Southern Girl at heart; sweet tea and iced water run through my veins. Unfortunately Belle (my camper) is a bit southern too and defaults to frozen water with the tiniest little temperature drop. Since we’re wintering in Washington this year, that’s a problem.
Winter isn’t just coming… it’s already here.
Or at least it feels like it to us. The locals just laugh and offer advice. Mainly, “Drive South.” But a few have been more helpful with tips to turn my little tin can into a winter ready home and places where we can stay that have milder temperatures and less snow. Pretty much we’ll be staying west of the mountain passes on the coast where snow and sustained Arctic temperatures are less likely.
Of course location is only part of the story. Even in Texas temperatures can drop below freezing and play havoc with your camper.
Condensation forms on windows and walls. Frostbite seems certain if you dare to walk barefoot upon the floor. Cold drafts seep from every window. Waterlines freeze.
It’s a mess.
But there are things you can do to keep your home from becoming a frigid nightmare.
Slippers. We all have them. And wear them religiously as the temperature falls.
Window insulation. This can be as simple as bubble wrap, reflectix, or plastic shrink wrap. We’ve done all three in Texas, but I wanted something different this year. The reflectix makes it a cave. The bubble wrap obscures all view. The plastic wrap makes the windows inoperable. This year we made window covers (
instructions HERE) from thick clear vinyl and attached it with black Velcro run around the window frame channel. You can’t see the Velcro. You CAN see the outside, and it’s all removable or easy to just roll up out of the way if you need to open the window. It even works around the emergency handles! ***Unfortunately, the velcro wasn’t air tight so condensation was a BIG issue with this solution. I still think this might work but it would take a different adhesive to make it airtight and it wouldn’t be removable on nice days. By the time we figured this out it was too cold for the double sided tape to put up the heat shrink plastic wrap. Let me know if you have any other ideas.***
Curtains. I don’t know what came with your camper, but my curtains were useless. They barely covered the windows and were super thin. You can buy insulated curtains, but I steered away from this for two reasons. One, they’re super expensive, and two, my windows are all really weird sizes. The only thing to do was make my own. It’s actually fairly simple. Just time consuming. We’re using window curtain insulation from The Warm Company and facing it with fabrics that reflect our individual personalities.
The water system. This preparation takes a wee bit more time and money. And you really need to pay attention to details. Frozen pipes are more than just inconvenient; they can lead to serious damage and costly repairs. But don’t let that scare you. The steps necessary are actually fairly simple.
A heated water hose. You can find these at your local camp store or online. They are much more expensive than a standard drinking hose and the reviews are about evenly split as to whether they’re any good. I personally have not bought a heated hose. I made one instead. You’ll need a drinking hose (mine is 25ft), aluminum foil, heat tape (not actually tape) longer than your hose, pipe insulation, and waterproof tape (I really like Gorilla Tape). You can find detailed instructions HERE.
A protected water filter. Last year we used the small inline filter that you find at Walmart. They’re really only meant for short camping excursions so we went through a lot of them. We stayed south, wrapped it with pipe insulation, and hoped for the best. We have since moved up to a larger, heavy-dutier filter and I wrestled for months trying to figure out how to insulate it. I even considered moving it to the inside portion of the water system! Don’t worry, I didn’t actually do that. Instead I built an insulated container and left it outside. You can find details for that project HERE.
Tank and pipe heaters. We spent our first two winters at spots with sewer, left the grey tank open, left the water dripping, and said lots of prayers. This worked well for the grey tank, but unfortunately, on two occasions we were left with a poopsicle tank that took all day to thaw. I do not ever want a poopsicle tank again. Also, I can’t always count on a sewer spot being available. So…tank heaters. We ordered them off Amazon, installed them on the tanks while it was still warm enough for the adhesive to take, and then agonized over the wiring process for a month. Procrastination fueled by perfectionism at its best, right? This project was a lot scarier and more involved than any of the others. I actually drilled a hole through the floor of the camper clear to the outside. You can find the details of that little adventure here (link coming soon!).
Fresh water tank. Don’t forget about your fresh water tank! We don’t actually use ours very often because I prefer campsites with as many hookups as possible. But I do like to plan for emergencies so before the winter season starts I recommend cleaning (We used this.) your fresh water tank and checking your water pump to make sure it is in working order and leak free. If the campground waterlines freeze, this might be your only source of water.
Sewer system. I’m not actually worried about this hose freezing since it only has liquid in it when we dump our tanks. I do, however, want it as easy to set up and efficient as possible. Our tanks always seem to need dumping in the dark so I don’t want to be outside trying to make the perfect dumping angle in the dark. We built this (link coming soon!) stand to make our lives easier. It is quick to set up and tear down, and it keeps things flowing at the perfect angle whether we’re connected to sewer or our much higher honey wagon.
Other odds and ends. We also wrap exposed piping with the pipe insulation that looks a bit like pool noodles. You can find it at any home improvement store. While we’re there we also buy a few of each connector foam pieces that they have. You just never know what the next campground will look like and it’s nice to have the appropriate spare parts on hand. Another nice thing to have is a spare bucket. We put it over the handle to the water spout whenever possible since connections are normally the weak point in your insulation game.
I know this looks like a crazy list but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Take one project at a time and don’t be afraid to ask for help. For any projects requiring adhesion, don’t wait until the last minute. Nothing goes right when you are rushed or freezing. And if something doesn’t work, don’t panic. Search on youtube or camping blogs for a solution. I gaurantee there is one out there.
Now get outside and enjoy the weather! Or curl up with your slippers, a good book, and a cup of hot tea. Nothing wrong with hibernating for a few months and just watching the snow from inside.