How To Insulate A Camper For Winter Use

RVing during winter can be as much fun as any other time of the year. I mean, have you ever seen Yellowstone National Park in the winter? There’s nothing like it!

But, with that being said, the cold weather can be tough on your vehicle (and you), so it’s crucial to plan well.

The real challenge in keeping a camper warm in winter is to ensure that it’s adequately insulated.

Indeed, some campers are equipped with optional winter packages, but if yours isn’t, don’t worry. You can get your RV in winter camping shape in just a few steps.

Insulating Your Camper Trailer

Whether you have a new or old RV, here are a few tips on how to insulate a camper for winter use and make the most of your recreational investment.

Install Skirting

Using skirting is one of the most effective ways to limit the flow of air beneath your camper.

Options range from custom vinyl skirting made specifically for your model (which can be expensive) to canvas skirts.

You can even install DIY skirting around your RV using hay bales, plastic sheeting, insulated siding, or foam insulation board.

Bear in mind that skirting works best if you’re staying in a campground for at least a few days or more. It might not be practical to spend a few hours skirting your rig when you’re only camping for a weekend.

Adco Polar White RV Wheel Skirt

Adco Polar White RV Wheel Skirt

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Insulate Your Windows

When it comes to insulating your RV windows to retain heat, you have a few options. Some options provide better insulation than others, but which one(s) you potentially choose comes down to personal preference and budget. And you can use a mix of options below for even better results!

Use A Window Insulation Shrink Kit

Window insulation shrink kits are commonly used on home windows during the winter months to retain heat. And they work just as well on RV windows!

They are easy to install, are crystal clear so you can still see through your windows, and can save up to 35% in heat loss.

Frost King Indoor Shrink Window Kit

Frost King Indoor Shrink Window Kit

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Cover Windows With Foam

Chances are you don’t need to access certain windows during the winter months. For example, if you don’t plan on spending plenty of time in the bedroom beyond dozing off, you can cover those panes with foam solution.

It’s a small compromise for a little extra comfort and energy savings. Measure the pane and cut out the right dimensions, then tape the foam along the edges.

Buy Insulating Drapes

Since your glass windows will allow heat to escape, an easy and cost-effective way to minimize heat loss is to use drapes to cover your windows. Thick curtains will retain the heat inside your RV and keep cold air out.

Upgrade To Multi-Pane Windows

If your RV has only a single pane of glass, consider installing a multi-pane window instead. Single pane glass windows are prone to losing heat, which is far from ideal if you spend a lot of time in cold temperatures. With multi-pane windows, you won’t have to cover your windows with plastic film or work as hard to insulate your camper.

Seal Your Doors

Be sure to inspect rubber seals around all the doors and compartments. Whenever these seals deteriorate or crack, they allow air and moisture to get into your vehicle, which can cause extensive damage in the long run.

For instance, if a small portion of your door seal gets damaged at the base of the door, air and snow could flow freely onto the floor. The amount of moisture may seem insignificant but can cause serious floor or carpet damage as it melts and refreezes if left unattended.

Should you discover that your seals are defective, replace them immediately.

A door snake is another tried and tested way to keep cold drafts from coming in through your doors. A door snake is an insulation filled tube of fabric that sits across your bottom door line and effectively keeps drafts out.

Door Snake Draft Blocker Heavy Duty Insulation

Door Snake Draft Blocker Heavy Duty Insulation

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Make a habit of checking your door seals regularly, and you might just save yourself a headache down the line.

Insulating Your Vents

Warm air travels upward, so ceiling vents have the potential to leak plenty of warm air when not in use. You can fill that space with a vent insulator.

Camco RV Vent Insulator And Skylight Cover

Camco RV Vent Insulator And Skylight Cover

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A vent cover will retain heat, block out cold air, and prevent snow and ice from potentially getting into the RV.

Insulating The Floors

The floor of your rig is another area that may require extra insulation.

One option is to use foam board flooring to help keep heat inside and the cold out.

A cheaper solution is to simply lay down heavy rugs or carpets on the floor to block cold air from seeping through the floor.

Insulating RV Walls

Most RV walls are insulated with fiberglass or foam. Insulation is measured by R-value, which refers to thermal resistance. A higher R-value translates to better thermal resistance.

Fiberglass insulation is very reliable when it comes to maintaining a consistent temperature. Still, there’s no harm in adding insulation to your walls. Just be sure to check your camper warranty before adding insulation, as it may void your warranty. And unless you have the experience, adding a layer of fiberglass insulation to your wall is a job best left to the professionals.

Spray foam is an easy and cost-effective way to plug any leaks in your walls where wires and pipes have been cut.

did you know Did you know…

Camper slide-outs oftentimes have less insulation than the permanent walls. If you must use them in winter, consider attaching a foam board to the bottom of the slide-outs for added insulation. Be sure to remove the foam board before retracting the slides.

Plumbing/Holding Tanks

If it gets extremely cold, you’ll need to ensure your plumbing and tanks don’t freeze. Here are some pointers on managing your RV’s plumbing system during winter.

Cover Exposed Plumbing

An RV skirt can help in covering exposed plumbing, but you may want to kick it up a notch. For example, you could build an insulated box to protect pipes, tanks, and other parts of your rig’s plumbing system.

Insulate Pipes

Metal pipes contract when it’s cold, potentially leading to cracks. As long as your pipes are exposed to freezing temperatures, it’s important to insulate them. Even if you’re planning to skirt your rig, applying insulation can go a long way in preventing unnecessary damage.

Frost King Natural Cotton Pipe Wrap (R-Value 4)

Frost King Natural Cotton Pipe Wrap (R-Value 4)

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In extremely cold temperatures, you may even want to use a heating cable. Simply tape the heating cable lengthwise to the pipe.

Redford Supply Co. Pro Valve and Water Pipe Heating Cable

Redford Supply Co. Pro Valve and Water Pipe Heating Cable

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In addition to your pipes, if you keep your RV water hose connected to the city water supply you’ll need to insulate that, as well. Check out our guide on how to keep your RV water hose from freezing for the 3 best methods to do just that.

Empty The Tanks Only When Necessary

When the temperatures are extremely low, it’s better to keep your tanks closed as much as you can and only open them for dumping. Leaving them connected to a drainage dump, for example, will allow cold air to creep in much faster.

If you must keep your sewer hose attached to the drain, be sure to keep that insulated and heated, as well. Check out our guide on how to keep an RV sewer hose from freezing for more detailed information.

Insulate The Tanks

As an extra precautionary measure, don’t shy away from adding foam insulation or heat tape to the exterior of your tanks. A frozen tank is the last thing you want to deal with in the middle of winter, so it helps to be as cautious as possible.

FAQs

At What Temperature Will Pipes Freeze In A Camper?

Frozen pipes are a major problem when camping in the winter. They prevent you from using water and can create long-term issues for your camper.

When water freezes to ice, it expands. Frozen pipes or tanks may burst, leading to costly repairs or replacements.

The rate at which pipes freeze depends on the temperature and the speed of temperature change.

For RV pipes to freeze, temperatures usually need to dip below freezing (32°F) for about 24 hours. Other factors to consider are the insulation, heat tape, heated underbelly, enclosed underbelly, and other preventative measures you have in place.

Check out our guide on how to keep RV pipes from freezing while camping to make sure this doesn’t happen to you!

How Can I Heat My Camper Without Electricity?

There are plenty of scenarios in which you may have no access to electricity but still need to stay warm in your RV. Whether you’ve been caught in an unexpected storm or you’re looking to get off the grid for a while, here are some viable heating options to consider:

  • Using your vehicle’s heater
  • Keeping your camper well insulated
  • Mounting a vented furnace
  • Using a portable gas heater specially designed for boondocking

Can I Run My RV Furnace On Batteries?

Unlike air conditioners, which are power hogs, a furnace can make it through the night running on battery alone. If you have a propane furnace, the heat is produced from propane. The only battery power needed for the furnace is the blower fan.

Can I Use A Space Heater In A Camper?

Yes, you can use a space heater in a camper.

Although space heaters are generally safe for indoor use, be sure to exercise extra caution when using one. Be sure to have the electrical outlets, wiring, and breakers in your RV inspected to ensure they’re capable of handling the space heater’s power draw.

A small propane heater can help when you don’t have access to an electric power hook-up. It can even supplement your RV’s standard furnace.

If you have an older RV that lacks a standard model furnace, a space heater can make a world of difference for your comfort.

Check out our guide to the best electric heater for RV use for reviews and comparisons of the top models!

Is An RV With A Winter Package Worth It?

The short answer is that it all boils down to preference. Do you plan to winter camp enough to justify the additional cost? There’s no harm in getting a winter package for an RV, but if you only plan to camp in moderate temperatures, that money could be better used for something else.

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