Keeping Warm in my Little RV

keeping-warm-in-my-little-rv1Coffeyville had it’s first hard freeze Tuesday night, with a low of 22 and 20 mph winds. Last year, temps like that would have froze my hose up and spelled death for my water filter, but this year thanks to some kind neighbors, I’m borrowing heat tape and have foam insulation for my water hose.

It worked like a charm, even on the water filter. I have a 25 foot water hose and the heat tape, which really isn’t tape-like or sticky in any way, was 30 feet long (if you wanted to order something like this from Amazon, this length would start at about $40). We wrapped the heated wire around the water filter and then ran it along the length of the hose the rest of the way, using duct tape to hold it in place. The foam was ΒΎ” pipe foam insulation which comes from Walmart at a few bucks for 12 feet in 3 foot sections. The foam has sealant on the edges to hold it closed, but once temps dropped below freezing it stopped working as well so I still used quite a bit of duct tape to hold it closed.

After scraping frost off my car and driving home at 3:30 am Wednesday morning, I still had running water, success! Last year when it started getting really cold I eventually just took Cas in to get winterized since I was going to be driving up to Wisconsin afterward anyway, and spent the last two and a half weeks using just the shower house bathroom and buying water for cooking and dishes.

Since I’m driving down to Texas to get some work done on the Casita after Amazon this year and then going to Florida after that, I won’t need to winterize this time. And thanks to the kindliness of my fellow RVers, I won’t need to worry about having water.

keeping-warm-in-my-little-rv2I added one more tool to my cold weather arsenal as well this week. Since my RV has no furnace in it, I’ve been relying entirely on a small ceramic heater to keep the inside warm. For how small it is, it can keep the inside of Cas about 30 degrees warmer than it is outside. When it’s 40 outside, it’s still quite toasty inside. When it’s 22 outside, it’s no longer so toasty inside. So while I was at Walmart I also picked up a second little ceramic heater, it costs just under $20 with tax, probably about the same price as my first one and a good value for the heat it puts out.

I can plug them both in (at different outlets, and you aren’t suppose to put them on a power strip with a lot of other things either) and keep the inside of Cas quite warm now. What I’ve been doing is leaving one on while at work, that at least keeps things above freezing, then when I get home at 3:30 am I turn the other one on while I get ready for bed. By the time I get under the covers things are warming up nicely.

Other than that, my cold weather RV strategy hasn’t changed from last year. I do not skirt the bottom of my RV nor do I have enclosed tanks. So when it looks like a cold night, I dump my tanks if they’re more than a quarter full (I’ll fill the black tank up with water first so it empties properly), and I make sure my sewer hose doesn’t have any water sitting in it. To help keep the heat I’m pumping into my RV inside my RV, I put Reflectix (which can be found at home improvement stores or online at Amazon) up in my windows as insulation, my windows are single pane glass and I lose more heat from them than from anywhere else.

Last winter was mild here in Kansas, and forecasts are calling for a more proper winter this year. But I’m feeling much more prepared for it. It really doesn’t take a lot of effort to keep the inside of a RV comfortable when the temperatures start dropping even when you only have a three-season trailer, at least when the expected lows aren’t lower than the teens.


Do you have any questions about cold weather RVing? Any tips that you’ve discovered for keeping a RV comfortable in the winter? Please do share below! Today’s snow pictures were taken up in the Badlands the day after the blizzard ended last month. The middle one is how my water hose looks all bundled up right now.

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39 Responses to Keeping Warm in my Little RV

  1. john November 14, 2013 at 6:29 pm #

    Not to boast, but it was a chilly 65 degrees at 6 AM inside my home on the edge of the jungle here on Maui.
    I really like your blog and what you are living, I am retiring soon and your writing among a few other RV living blogs inspire me to get out and about!

    • Becky November 16, 2013 at 1:03 am #

      Hehe, I’m willing to put up with the colder weather for this kind of money. In less than 2 months I’ll be heading to warmer environs myself.

      Congrats on your impending retirement!

    • Gary November 27, 2013 at 8:33 pm #

      I think the word boast is an understatement! We all feel for you. How will you ever survive that frigid weather?
      Gary recently posted..One of a Kind RV Garage: 8 Foot Tall Door That Any RV Can Fit ThroughMy Profile

      • Becky December 1, 2013 at 2:33 pm #

        I grew up and lived most of my life in Wisconsin Gary. By comparison, anywhere south/warmer than that isn’t so bad. πŸ˜‰

  2. Richard Myers November 14, 2013 at 9:16 pm #

    Hi Becky,

    Glad this winter will be a better experience for you. I like the Reflectix idea and will try that this weekend.

    I recently added this space heater:$15%20-%20$25

    purchased from Lowe’s at about $25. It has a built-in fan and kept my 16 ft Casita at about 64 degrees in 30 degree weather.

    My other weapon against the cold is an electric blanket. Highly recommended!

    Have a great day!

    • Becky November 16, 2013 at 1:06 am #

      I bet that heater is very similar to mine Rick, it’s a ceramic heater with a built in fan, just like my two are.

      I’ve thought about electric blankets before, some day perhaps.

      You have a good day as well, enjoy your weekend!

  3. Liz November 15, 2013 at 9:42 am #

    Great advice, Becky! I have a question for Rick about the electric blanket: Can you use it when you’re not plugged in or does it pull too much electricity? We have a solar panel and usually are off the grid. We bought a small electric blanket that plugs into the DC outlet but haven’t tried it yet.

    • Richard Myers November 15, 2013 at 10:42 am #

      Hi Liz,

      The blanket is AC, so it needs either an electric hookup or an inverter. I am in the process of adding solar, so I checked the amperage draw and 1 amp. How does that compare with you DC blanket? My guess is that for drycamping, both solutions would be hard on a small scale solar setup. Running a propane heater to do the initial warming, then shutting that off and using lots of quilts might be the answer πŸ™‚


      • Becky November 16, 2013 at 1:19 am #

        Hey Liz and Rick,

        I get my boondocking advice from RV Sue who also runs off of a modest solar setup. She has a propane heater for her RV, and that’s eventually what I’ll be doing as well.

  4. John W. Abert November 15, 2013 at 9:43 am #

    Hi Becky,

    I’d like to pass on a tip to keep you and others safe while using electric heaters. As a master electrician and robotics technician (retired) I have seen this issue before. If you can, run a cord inside your RV directly from the outside pedestal and plug into that. Why? Because it will carry more current than most RV grade wall receptacles will carry. The wall receptacles used in most RV’s are sandwiched together over the wires and make very little metal to metal contact. To visualize this, take an ice pick and slide it between the tines of a table fork, and then look at how much contact it actually makes…very little. On a home grade or commercial receptacle the wire actually wraps around a screw, and makes full contact on both the backing plate as well as the underside of the screw head, providing many times the contact area and a much greater ability to carry current (amps).

    Whenever we have to use a heater in an RV, we set it at half wattage (usually 750) rather than the full 1500 watts, as it draws less current and has a lesser chance of burning out faulty connections. Of course, in extreme cold conditions, I understand the need for higher settings, but I still don’t trust RV/mobile home grade receptacles. I have changed a lot of them in my 40 years of troubleshooting!

    Also, we camped all winter in Michigan after our house sold sooner than expected in October of 1991. Our 34 foot Honey motorhome had exposed waste tanks underneath, but our fresh water tank was inside, under the bed. Thankfully, it only got down to 8 degrees that winter, or we could have had worse problems. We used 2-inch Styrofoam and built a box around the waste tanks, from the ground to floor level, and then added a 60-watt light bulb inside the box for heat. We also added some RV antifreeze to the waste tanks, and only dumped them when they were full. For water, we had a RV water hose (several lengths totaling 100 feet) and would string it out to the restrooms and water spigot across the street, which stayed open all winter. As soon as we were done filling the tank, we disconnected the hose, drained it, and wound it back onto the reel again. Unless your fresh water tank is under your trailer, there is no reason why you couldn’t do that, and use your on board pump for water pressure.

    Our propane was another story. Most small tanks do not have enough surface area on the liquid to run a furnace in cold weather. The colder it is, the less evaporation there is to provide gas to the furnace. (a cooking stove is usually OK. Because they don’t use as much gas). To run our furnace, we had to get an extension hose tapped into our propane line and run it to an exterior 100-pound tank set next to the motorhome. The larger surface area provided enough propane to run our furnace.

    For your trailer, you should get a Camco Wave 3 catalytic heater, like RV Sue and many others have added. It will provide plenty of heat without using your electrical power (it doesn’t need any) and is especially great for boondocking. Because it is so efficient, you can run it from a standard 20-pound tank. With that and some solar to power lights and electronics, you could park anywhere for at least a week at a time, and be totally self-sufficient. It is already in our plans for our “near future” full-time trailer.
    John W. Abert recently posted..Indiana SightseeingMy Profile

    • Becky November 16, 2013 at 1:31 am #

      Hello John,

      Thanks for the advice and I appreciate your concern. Sadly plugging my heater in to the pedestal isn’t an option right now even if I did have a cord long enough to reach, I’m double parked and sharing the site with a couple in their Class A, and I’ve already used my one smaller volt socket to plug the heat tape into.

      Skirting the RV and heating exposed tanks like that is a really great idea if you’re going to be farther north. Here in Kansas a few people skirt their RVs with everything from wooden boards to tarps, but it’s not real common because it doesn’t get as cold here. I follow the blog of a lady named Rae who is a full-timer up in Canada and she uses that light bulb trick even though her tanks are enclosed.

      My Casita does have an enclosed fresh tank, I think it’s pretty rare not to. That’s a good piece of advice if you don’t want to bother trying to cold proof your water hose or if you’re far enough north that it’s impractical. I cannot use my on board fresh water tank right now, because my city water connection valve isn’t working right, and if I fill up my tank it drains out of that opening (I’ve written about it before). It’s one of the things I’m getting fixed down in Texas.

      I responded to a comment above about RV Sue’s boondocking equipment. I’m going to be getting one of those heaters when it comes time, like hers my Casita does not have a furnace installed in it. So far that hasn’t been an issue because the little electric ones can keep up in this kind of weather, it would definitely be a problem up in Michigan. πŸ˜‰

      Thanks for commenting and take care John!

  5. Reine November 15, 2013 at 12:04 pm #

    When you’re camping with hookups in cold weather, an electric blanket is definitely the way to go. You can be as toasty warm as you want and if you wake up colder than you like, you just turn up the blanket. Our controls are hanging on the wall behind our pillows using drapery hooks. We like to sleep warm but have the room pretty cool so the electric blanket in the Casita with ceramic heater turned down really low works great for us. For couples, a dual control is fantastic so each of you can set the temp they prefer.

    When we camp without hookups, we add a 20 degree sleeping bag on top of the blanket and quilt. Works fine for us.

    • Becky November 16, 2013 at 1:32 am #

      Thanks for commenting Reine!

  6. PamelaP November 15, 2013 at 1:07 pm #

    Just curious – has anyone tried using space blankets? When outdoor camping in the LA mountains my husband & I used them inside our sleeping bags and they worked really well. They reflect back your own body heat and if I recall correctly they were really inexpensive.

    • Richard Myers November 15, 2013 at 1:17 pm #

      Hi Pamela,

      That is a great idea! Was condensation an issue, though?

  7. PamelaP November 15, 2013 at 1:21 pm #

    No, thought I don’t perspire a lot! ;0) I put them on the bottom of my bag & then on top & wrapped myself in a thin cotton blanket so that may have helped as well.

  8. PamelaP November 15, 2013 at 1:23 pm #

    Sorry should have said bottom & top inside the sleeping bag, wrapped the cotton blanket around myself.

    • Becky November 16, 2013 at 1:32 am #

      That is good advice Pamela, thanks for sharing!

  9. Lou Axt November 15, 2013 at 1:52 pm #

    Some great ideas! My wife and I are at Cambellsville for the Amazon WorkCamper season. We have a 12 volt electric blanket with a timer. We use it to warm the bed prior to us getting in, and can use it even when boon docking and relying on solar. And yes, it came from Amazon.

    Also, we wrap our water hose, but do not use heat tape. Instead we leave one faucet dripping on freezing nights, and disconnect/drain the hose if it will be below freezing for more than a few days. Our internal water tank is large enough for 4 to 5 days.

    We have an older (1966) 24 foot Airstream that we purchased in very distressed condition. We found a Pelonis ceramic heat and a small inexpensive milk house heater to be more than adequate for any temps we have encountered so far. We fire up the propane furnace only if we let the temperature get too cold ( like if we forget to leave a heater on while out.)

    If you have a roof vent, you can make or buy an insulated cover or insert to cut down on the heat loss there.

    Good luck with the Casita through the rest of the winter and God bless!

    • Becky November 16, 2013 at 1:38 am #

      That’s another vote for electric blankets, you’re the first to mention that it’ll work on solar power, good to know! I imagine you’d want to read the product info carefully before buying to make sure you get one that can work that way.

      I tried the dripping faucet thing on the first night it got down to 25 here last year, still froze up. I probably didn’t have it dripping fast enough. It bothers me to be wasting water, just a personal thing though.

      I’ve never plugged up my roof vent, but I bet that does make a difference. Usually I’ll still keep mine cracked ever so slightly even when it gets real cold to keep condensation down and fresh air coming in, but when my heaters can’t keep up, not a bad idea.

      Thanks for writing in, have a good weekend!

  10. MarciaGB November 15, 2013 at 5:24 pm #

    I’ve read that some folks use bubble wrap on their windows as insulation. If you have some just lying around (from Amazon shipments, like I do). It’s FREE! It amazes me what you can find out in the FB egg groups online. There’s also YouTube vids of various winterizing techniques and other Casita mods.

    • Becky November 16, 2013 at 1:39 am #

      Thanks for the advice Marcia. πŸ™‚

  11. lee and lynda November 15, 2013 at 6:46 pm #

    I love dragons???????

    • Becky November 16, 2013 at 1:39 am #

      Haha. We are fighting a dragon Lee, it’s name is Winter, and it breathes ice instead of fire. πŸ˜‰

  12. Crabman November 17, 2013 at 7:29 pm #

    You lost me at “scraping frost off of your car at 3:30 AM”. It is still November, time to head for South Texas or Florida. There must be other jobs out there.

    • Becky November 18, 2013 at 3:42 pm #

      Not other jobs that make this kind of money Crabman. And I was born and raised in Wisconsin, this really isn’t all that cold, haha. I’ll be heading down to Florida after this to enjoy their milder winter weather.

      • Teri Lee November 30, 2013 at 3:23 am #

        try a temp job with the IRS – sign up to get job notifications at They can pay up to $17 an hour – its sitting at a desk job in a cubicle, but must be easier than working at Amazon. The jobs are posted between Oct and January with most jobs starting between January and March and lasting from 3 to 6 months.
        Teri Lee recently posted..Lost Maples State ParkMy Profile

        • Becky December 1, 2013 at 2:30 pm #

          Hmm, I’ll look into it Teri thanks for the suggestion. I have no desk job experience though so I’m unlikely to be hired. Heck the government won’t hire me for jobs I do have the schooling and experience for, I’ve spent a lot of time on over the years with no results.

  13. Dennis November 17, 2013 at 9:27 pm #

    Bubble wrap helps if the temps aren’t too frigid and it also lets light in which reflectix doesn’t. If you use bubble wrap be sure to put the bubbles against the window and the flat side toward the inside. This creates more dead air pockets and thus insulates better.. Just mist the window lightly and the bubble wrap sticks to it.

    • Becky November 18, 2013 at 3:44 pm #

      Aligning the bubbles towards the windows makes good sense Dennis. Since I’m working nights and sleeping during the day, I like that Reflectix provides me with a darker interior, but I can certainly see the benefits for those who have a more normal sleep schedule. Thanks for responding!

  14. Michelle November 17, 2013 at 10:31 pm #

    Great post! I am not so familiar with rving and your site gives so much information that I needed. Thank you for sharing and looking forward to your future posts.

    • Becky November 18, 2013 at 3:46 pm #

      You’re welcome Michelle! Glad you’re finding IO helpful and thanks for commenting. If you (or anyone else reading this) ever has more specific questions, you can also drop me an e-mail. It might take me time to respond depending on how busy I am, but I always do respond.

  15. William November 19, 2013 at 10:50 am #

    I know living in the cold can be an adventure. I rented a camper last holiday season and it was not a 3 seasons camper. I did have a propane furnace, but that puppy had to work hard to keep things from freezing when it got down to 10 degrees at night.

    I’m spoiled in my skoolie, it came with a 45,000 btu Diesel radiant heater. Right now I’m using the old school bus heaters, but after my trip north this season, I putting in in-floor heat. Nothing like a warm floor in the winter.
    William recently posted..Ripping up the floor part tali (two)My Profile

    • Becky November 20, 2013 at 4:31 pm #

      Hey William, I sure wouldn’t want to be camping in 10 degree weather, haha. I sincerely hope it doesn’t get down that low here in Coffeyville while I’m here, but it’s happen in the past and could happen again.

      That radiant heater and in-floor heating sound quite luxurious. Enjoy!

  16. John Pontsler (Ol Ponts) January 19, 2014 at 9:00 pm #

    I’ve been following your blog since reading the article at Technomadia. I am really enjoying it, in fact I just put in an application for Amazon in Fernley, NV. for this fall to winter season partially based on your recounting of your experiences. But also I had a solo female friend who worked there last season (2013). You mentioned that you were getting home at about 3:30 AM on the night shift. So is isn’t a classic graveyard shift? Just a swing shift (4-midnight with OT)? My darling bride will not be accompanying me, as she doesn’t want to be away from the grand kids for that long. Besides we worked at the in the Grand Tetons the summer of ’12 and the 40+ hours a week were too brutal for her. She did it, but it wasn’t any fum for her. So if I get offered a job there it will be as a solo. And like you stated I’d be there for the money, so working the night shift would not be a problem, nor would OT.
    Thanks for keeping us up to date on your adventures. I live vicariously through your posts as my knee heals from replacement surgery.
    Keep the posts coming, and good luck.
    Ol Ponts

  17. Pete November 8, 2014 at 8:49 am #

    I am thinking of taking my RV up to the mountains for two nights. Temps will ben 30 degrees at night and 60 during the day. I have a 2014 Fleetwood Jamboree. Do you think I need to do any freeze protection for this or just set my furnace to come on at 50 or so at night.
    Will things freeze underneath?

    • Becky November 9, 2014 at 4:24 pm #

      Pete, with a low of only 30 you should be fine, it shouldn’t stay below freezing for long at night. If you’re hooked up to water, you can drip a faucet to keep your outside hose open, but I doubt you’ll need to. Have fun!

  18. dave March 18, 2016 at 6:28 pm #

    talkig about 30f temps , try living in Ontario Canada in the winter at -30f in a travel trailer then you know it can get a bit nippy

    • Becky March 19, 2016 at 8:22 pm #

      No thanks Dave! The coldest I ever had was single digits, at at that point the pipes in the walls froze even with two ceramic heaters running non-stop. My RV is not meant for winter camping.

      I followed a full-timer named Rae Crothers (Travels with Miranda) who lives in Canada and she spent four winters in her 31′ Class C up there, I think in a different providence every winter. I specifically recall the winter in Saskatchewan when the temp fell to -40 F for a week and her propane bottles froze so that she couldn’t use her furnace, talk about trouble! She had to keep one tank plugged in outside while the other sat indoors thawing, then replace them every two hours or so. Now she travels to Mexico in the winters, smart girl. πŸ™‚

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