Winter RV motorhome parked on snow-covered ground.

Winter RV Tips for a Safe Holiday Season

Winter traveling is not uncommon. However, not everyone thinks in terms of winter RV traveling. For most, RV travel is limited to the warmer months. When the snow flies, thoughts generally turn to storage options for the winter. But cold weather doesn’t mean the end of RV travel for the season.

Whether you are visiting friends and family for the holidays, getting away for some off-season weekend fun or taking advantage of some extra time off to ski or snowmobile, here are some winter RV tips for a safe holiday season of traveling.

Tip #1 – Adjust How You Handle Your RV in the Winter

Even if you’re an expert at winter driving, pulling or driving an RV in the winter is completely different. One tip is to remember that the additional weight of an RV increases necessary stopping distance. Slippery and potentially icy winter roads require even greater stopping distance.

Don’t be overconfident when driving. Stopping distance isn’t the only thing to be aware of when pulling or driving your RV in the winter. Road conditions can change quickly while you are traveling. The 60-70 miles you normally cover in an hour of driving will be drastically reduced in poor driving conditions. Temperatures can fluctuate tremendously in winter. What begins as a rainstorm can quickly become treacherous as the mercury drops below freezing. Increased height can make taking curves on icy roads a recipe for disaster if taken too fast. This applies both to driving an RV motor home or towing a trailer.

Chances are your RV motor home is rear-wheel drive. If you regularly drive a front-wheel drive vehicle, be sure you are aware of the differences in handling between front- and rear-wheel drive. This can drastically affect your mobility and recovery from a loss-of-traction situation. It also affects the traction when you are stopped on a hill. Breaking the inertia and trying to “push” a heavy vehicle uphill with rear-wheel drive is much different than “pulling” it uphill with front-wheel drive.

Tip #2 – Keep an Eye on Your Batteries

Another winter RV tip is to be sure to check your batteries for both charge and condition. This is important both before and during your trip. Cold weather has an effect on batteries – a negative one – if your battery isn’t fully charged. According to, “A 100-percent fully charged battery will not freeze until approximately minus 76 degrees Fahrenheit. A fully discharged battery can freeze at or around 32 degrees.”

What most people don’t realize is that there’s only about eight-tenths of a volt difference between a fully charged battery and a discharged battery. So, keeping a close eye on the charge in your battery is very important.

The irony is that hot temperatures cause shorter battery life more directly than cold temperatures. However, losing power in the middle of a snow storm can ruin a trip or even leave you in much more serious danger than losing power in warmer weather.

Tip #3 – Pack for the Worst

You may be familiar with the phrase, “Expect the best but prepare for the worst.” This is a good phrase to keep in mind when RVing in winter. Chances are high that your winter RVing will be a great experience, but unlike RVing in comfortable conditions, you may encounter problems that are harder to overcome. Losing power in the summer can make for hot, sticky, uncomfortable sleeping conditions. But losing power in sub-zero temperatures can not only be uncomfortable, but life-threatening.

Always pack extra water, food and blanket supplies just in case. Having extra firewood can also be a plus if you are in a remote location. So even though you can expect to have the best experience, “…prepare for the worst,” is one of the best, and safest, winter RV tips.

Tip #4 – Invest in Proper Snow Tires or Chains

If you usually travel in warmer weather and have decided to venture out in colder temps, keep in mind that the stock tires may not be ideal for winter travel. You’ll want to make sure your tires are rated for snowy travel. Even if your RV is well-equipped for summer travel, for safety reasons you may want to invest in snow tires.

Different areas have different regulations. When you’re traveling out of state, it is a good idea to look up the laws in the state(s) you’ll be traveling through. Some states may require tire chains during periods of adverse weather. It may be necessary for you to buy them and learn how to properly and safely put them on. The winter RV tip of preparing for the worst applies to tires as well as packing!

Tip #5 – Park in the Sun

There’s a good chance that if you typically RV in warm weather, you’ve gotten used to parking in the shade. Not so in the winter! When RVing in winter, the sun is your friend! Look for open parking spaces with generous sunshine throughout the day. The solar effect from parking in the sun can make a surprising difference in the temperature throughout your RV whether you have solar power or not. You may be surprised to find yourself in need of cracking a window open on a bright day with no wind.

An added bonus from this winter RV tip is that parking away from trees can keep you safe from big piles of snow falling from them onto you or your RV. It also keeps you safe from trees that fall due to heavy ice buildup.

Tip #6 – Beware of Plumbing Issues

The last of our winter RV tips addresses plumbing. Since RV pipes are susceptible to freezing due to their proximity to the outside, it’s important to know your RV’s plumbing and be ready to deal with issues if they happen. Pipe wrap or other insulation options are worth the investment to keep your pipes safe and the water flowing both into – and out of – your RV. One of the best emergency tools to keep on hand for frozen pipe emergencies is a hair dryer! When all other remedies fail, a hair dryer can clear away frozen blockages from inside the pipes.

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