10 Important Insights for Winter Adventures in a Travel Trailer
What to keep in mind when camping in the cold in a towable RV.

By: Amy Jane David (@AmyJaneDavid)

I’ve spent multiple months winter camping in my Winnebago HIKE 100 FLX and using it as a ski basecamp. While the details of my adventures are so much fun to share (read more here!), I’ve also had to learn to look at the big picture: where to park, how to prepare for colder temperatures, and storing winter sports gear. I’ve had a few big takeaways for both winter gear and camping in cold, snowy environments that I’m excited to offer insights on!

What to Keep in Mind When Winter Camping in a Travel Trailer

Here is what I’ve learned from camping in the Winnebago HIKE 100 FLX in cold, snowy temperatures …

1. Have a Flexible Mindset

Similar to all endeavors in life, my biggest piece of advice is to adopt a mindset of adventure and flexibility. First, do the research, make a plan (with a backup plan), and be prepared. Once the journey begins, the key is to be flexible to adapt to the situation as it evolves. Winter can be a fickle environment, so having creativity and an open mind will make facing any challenges much more fun! 

2. Dry Off Winter/Ski Gear

The tricky part of ski gear is there’s a lot of it and it’s often wet. Making a space for the gear to dry after a day on the mountain will keep the space much more clean and easier to manage condensation. I use the bathroom to store my ski boots, skins, wet clothes, and outerwear. 

On the floor of the shower, I set up a small air-blown dryer for boots and gloves. There is enough space under the door to run a cord through. To make this work, the unit needs to have power. 

I hang my jackets and snow pants from hooks above the door and use the shelves to set my helmet and goggles. When the Truma heater is running, the hot air blowing is enough to keep the condensation down. If you notice beads of moisture on the walls in the morning, take a towel and wipe everything down.

I keep my skis in the back of my truck. If I’m concerned about them being stolen, I’ll dry them off and slide them under the couches. There are D rings on the floor to attach bungee cords or ratchet straps to secure them when driving. 

For ideas of what kind of gear you may need for a ski RV trip, this article by a van life couple has some helpful tips!

3. Manage Water

During the cold winter months, dry camping with no water in the unit’s system is the way to go. That eliminates the risk of freezing pipes. Bring water reservoirs for drinking water and cooking. 

Read more about dry camping in a travel trailer in winter, here.

4. Plan for Cooking

I prefer to limit the amount of dish washing in the winter, so plan easy food accordingly. The microwave is great to heat pre-made meals, or I will use the stove. Due to cold temperatures, if you’re not plugged into shore power, bringing a backup stove can be useful. I also pack a Jetboil because coffee is life.

5. Prepare for Bathroom Needs

Be wary of liquids freezing! Use the cassette toilet only for emergencies, but I usually opt to just go outside in those situations (adhering to Leave No Trace Principles, of course). If you prefer a sit-down toilet, park next to a public restroom or campground with heated bathrooms.

Another option is pack a few “wag bags” - these are specific bags with sent and liquid absorbing material inside for disposing of waste properly. You never have to leave the comfort of your camper, just relieve yourself then dispose of the bags in the morning. 

When wild camping without snow on the ground, I bring a backcountry bathroom kit that includes a trowel to dig a 6” cat hole and a Ziplock bag to put the TP in. When in doubt, follow Leave No Trace guidelines to dispose of waste properly. Hand sanitizer is the final step!

6. Heat Management

One of the most common questions I get asked about winter camping is, “do you stay warm?” My answer is, “most of the time!” I’ve slept in snow caves and really cold conditions on multi-day backcountry ski adventures, so I have a good tolerance for the cold and simple comforts. However, with my camper, I take a few extra steps to ensure I stay warm in the winter - that’s the joy of these rigs! 

The Winnebago HIKE 100 FLX has quite a few options for keeping the heater powered up. First, is plugging the entire unit into shore power. This is the most guaranteed way to keep the lights on and propane heater blasting. If you’re not going to be connected to shore power, the next power source is the solar panel and battery to fire up the heater and appliances. 

7. Have Backup Options to Stay Warm

In full transparency, there have been a few very cold nights with temperatures dropping far below 0 degrees Fahrenheit where the battery was simply too cold. The Winnebago HIKE 100 FLX is a great extended-season RV, but extreme cold will necessitate some extra steps to stay warm.

Here’s where your back up plans come into play. First, have a zero-degree-rated sleeping bag, additional cozy blankets, and warm layers of clothing to keep warm without a heater. Trust me, it’s not that bad if you’re properly dressed! 

The next backup is to bring a generator with fuel to provide power to the unit and run the heater on low. While these units are top of the line, the cold temperatures have a plan of their own, so if you prepare for anything, you’re more likely to have a good time! Did I mention pack a sense of adventure?

Regardless of the way you power the heater, the floors do get cold. I put down rugs and towels on the floor to add a little comfort when walking without shoes. My favorite accessory is wearing down booties as slippers inside.

In a motorhome? Read these tips for staying warm in your RV!

8. Research Where to Park an RV in Winter 

I’ve found there are several options of where to park. However, it’s wise to research the options in advance and check local regulations.

  • Town: Some towns have free overnight parking lots or options along streets, but be sure to check before counting on it. Often in mountain towns that receive a lot of snow, overnight winter street parking is not allowed due to snow plowing. 
  • Ski Resorts: Some ski resorts allow overnight parking and camping. I recently stayed in the parking lot at Grand Targhee Resort which has a section of their parking lot designated for camping. Other resorts like Sun Valley don’t allow overnight parking, so be sure to do your research to avoid being asked to leave at 2 a.m.! 
  • Dispersed Camping: One of the trickier strategies is to find your own dispersed camping. This option takes a sense of adventure! I use apps like iOverlander or Dyrt to find beta from the community on camp locations, then decipher if it will be a feasible option with snow covered terrain and unplowed roads. Having flexibility to explore several locations and an attitude of adventure is important for this option. 
  • Campgrounds and RV Parks: My final and most reliable winter camping strategy is to research RV parks or campgrounds that have hookups for shore power. Read online and call ahead to confirm they’re open in the winter and can accommodate the size of your rig.

Wherever you park, if it's snowing a lot, having a long-handle broom is helpful for clearing snow off the roof and solar panel each morning. 

9. Be Safe on Snowy Roads

Traveling to ski requires a vehicle capable of safely driving on winter roads. I’m often seeking the snowiest place, so driving into a storm instead of away from a storm is normal. My truck has four-wheel drive, snow tires, and the Winnebago HIKE towable has great traction on the tires, high clearance, and quality suspension.

My suggestion is to prepare for the worst conditions by starting with a vehicle capable of winter travel in addition to packing chains, a tow rope, a shovel to dig out if stuck in deep snow, and a satellite communication device in case you need to call for assistance. The good thing about having your camper is having a warm place to hide out and food in case you get stuck!

10. Learn More Through Community Connection!

When venturing into new territory, it’s helpful to connect with others who have forged a path before. If you’ve been winter camping and have great tips, please leave a comment below. Or if you have more questions about winter camping or skiing, please post it! 

We can start a conversation to help each other explore more and enjoy the learning process!


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