Wintering in an RV

Some answers for a reader.

It’s that time of year again: the time of year when my blog post titled “Prepping My RV for Winter Living” get a bunch of hits every day.

One of the readers — I’ll call her C — went the next step and emailed me. Here’s her message:

Hello! Write me back or don’t. Its ok. I understand being busy. It won’t ruin my day if you don’t.

I stumbled upon your blog when I was looking for advice RE: living in an RV in winter. I am thinking about purchasing one to live in while I try to save my family’s 3rd generation ranch house. It could take a while!

I found all your info quite helpful and was tickled to see that you had a small dog (me too) and a parrot (me too).

I did wonder about gas appliances in an RV and the risk to my cockatoo. Since I got her in 1992 I have avoided rentals with a gas stove, etc.

I don’t know if you have any gas/propane appliances in the RV or if you felt this was a legitimate worry.

Also, I wondered where you placed your parrot in the RV. Have you ever thought about hanging the cage?

Do you feel it stays warm enough in the winter for your parrot? That was another worry. Molly is not the hot house flower some birds are, but I would hate for her to be uncomfortable.

Great Blog! We must encourage other women to be do it yourselfers. As you wrote it is fulfilling and empowering in so many ways!

That first paragraph is likely in response to me saying, on my contact form, that I don’t always respond to email from readers. Why don’t I? Well, I really do prefer blog comments so we can get a conversation going. I will send C a link to this blog post as my response. I hope she uses the comment form for any follow-up questions. (Hint, hint.)

Living in an RV while working on a home is a great solution to a problem. You can be there every day to work or supervise and you can really get a feel for the property. I did it when I worked on a cabin I once owned in Northern Arizona and, of course, I lived in my big fifth wheel while building my home here in Washington State.

RVs, in general, have really poor insulation. The walls are thin and it’s sometimes impossible to keep the heat in. I found that with my Montana Mountaineer — a high mid-range model by Keystone — once the temperature got below 20°F, I could run heaters full blast all night and not get the temperature above 50°F. For that reason, I don’t recommend living in a typical RV outdoors in an area where temperatures get much lower than freezing.

I was fortunate. The first winter I was on the property, before my home was built, I got a housesitting gig about 2 miles away. That lasted until I headed down to California with the RV for my late winter work. The second winter, although my building was built, my living space was barely started. I was able to bring the RV into the building’s garage and live in there. Not ideal, but the “outside” temperature in the building never got lower than about 35 so I had no trouble keeping the RV warm.

Of course, not all RVs are like this. Some are set up with great insulation because they’re designed for winter use. If C’s RV is like one of these, she’s in good shape to stay warm.

I no longer have a parrot. Alex the Bird went a new home in early 2013. I do still have a dog. I never did worry about propane appliances. My RV — which I sold just last week — had carbon monoxide detectors. Make sure yours has one and that it’s working! In addition to that, I always left one or two windows cracked open when using the propane heater. I actually preferred electric heaters in my RV because they’re quieter and electricity is cheap here. I used the ones that look like radiators and had one in the living room and one in the bedroom.

Alex the Bird had a large corner cage. My RV was spacious and I removed one of the La-Z-Boy recliners to accommodate the cage. It was on the far end of the RV, away from the kitchen. I’d be careful about hanging anything from an RV’s ceiling. You’d likely be better off putting the cage on a small table or stool. Or cage stand. Alex was never in the RV over the winter, which is a good thing. I don’t think I could have kept it warm enough for her.

In summary, I should say this: Some RVs are better than others for winter living. If the temperature gets below freezing, you need to take steps to keep your water source and interior pipes ice-free. That can be a challenge in itself; my prepping blog post explained how I did it. Think about the possibilities and prepare for them. Good luck!

As for encouraging women to do it themselves, I’m all for that. Actually, I’m all for encouraging everyone to do it themselves. There’s no better feeling of satisfaction than tackling a task you weren’t sure you could do and getting the job done.

2 thoughts on “Wintering in an RV

  1. I have never done any cold weather RV -zing but some high and cold tent camping. In the latter circumstances a good thick sleeping bag on a thick insulator mat and a warm head covering are the essentials.
    I notice that some companies (out your way, in fact) offer ‘four season ready’ RVs with freeze-proof tanks and lines plus frost protected foul water valves.
    The brand often mentioned is Northwood ‘Artic Fox’ range.
    (Feel free to delete this if you don’t like product identifications)

    • Arctic Fox is a high end brand. I’d love to get one of their truck campers, but $54K is a bit of an investment. Keystone’s Everest line is cold-weather ready, too. And a few other brands.

      I honestly wouldn’t camp anywhere where the nighttime temperatures got below 20 and the day time temperatures stayed below freezing — no matter what kind of rig I’m in. I don’t like being uncomfortable when I don’t have to.

What do you think?