You’re Going to Live in That Thing All Winter?!

I suppose if I were in a more officious mood, I would have gone with Overwintering in an RV for a title, but one must take humor where one can find it. And the above is a phrase we hear fairly frequently.

As most likely know, we live in a 32′ fifth-wheel RV. (That’s really our RV in the photo. You can see the roof of the little cabin behind it. ) I did a lot of research concerning how it would be possible to tough it out in the camper over the Winter. I read for months, I read everything, and I have to say, we’re doing pretty well. In fact, I honestly don’t feel like I am “toughing it out.” Yes, there are a few extra chores that a lot of people would not put up with, and sometimes they are tough.

But we’re comfortable, and we are totally fine. Everyone said it couldn’t be done. We’d freeze. We wouldn’t be able to use the plumbing. Hasn’t happened that way. And it has already been 27 below zero. We’re fine, and we are indeed over-wintering in an RV. In the spirit of passing on information, below are a few tips and fixes.

We bought a fifth-wheel type RV, because 5ths (larger RVs that hang over a pickup truck) and Motorhomes (the kind you drive) are more substantial than Travel Trailers (the kind you two behind a car). Okey-doke. On to the issues …

Problem – Water Line to the RV is Frozen

Solution – Don’t use the hose to a pressurized faucet. It will freeze. We fill our tank each day, or ever other. This way, water doesn’t stay in the hose. In our specific situation, I take the hose out, connect it to the well pump, and fill the tank. When I’m done, I bring the hose in, so it’s warm. If you have a galley drain from a hose, or any need of hoses outside – no uphill stretches, only downhill.

Problem – Front Door is Frozen Shut

Solution – Hairdryer, on the latch, from inside. It’s not that the door is frozen shut, so much as the warmth from inside collides with the cold from outside, and the little pokey latch thing freezes. Sixty seconds and a hairdryer will fix it. If it continues to stick, use your deadbolt and key to open and close the door, rather than the latch. I have to tell you, this happens a lot. Warm inside vs. cold outside. Ice builds up at the bottom of the door – I’m always either hairdrying or ice-whacking.

Problem – Ice on the Inside of the Windows

Solution – Chances are, that shrink-wrap window stuff would take care of this, although we have not gotten to that. Propane gas (for your furnace and stove) releases a bit of water vapor, as does cooking. A little bit of ventilation goes a long way. During the day – Hatches open a little bit, heat cranking. At night, close the hatches. Haven’t had ice since we instituted this system.We keep a fan running in the bathroom.

Problem – Tanks Underneath the Coach, Open to Freezing

Solution – Buy yourself some of that one-inch foam insulation board, and start cutting. Skirted in tightly with that stuff, and with the seams sealed with metal tape and/or spray foam, you’re good. I also banked plenty of snow up against the insulation. We haven’t had a problem. We don’t even have a heater or a lightbulb under there.

Problem – Potential Freezing of Interior Plumbing

Solution – I had originally planned to put a small ceramic heater in the hatch near the pump and interior water lines. But I forgot. Ah, well. Down to -27F, we’ve just kept the furnace running at our normal 65/70F. It has heated the hatch and the interior plumbing enough that we’ve been fine. In fact, just the furnace seems to heat the hatches and skirted underneath enough that most mornings, the snow bank has pulled away from the skirting a hair. Now, to be clear, you must keep your heat on. And, we were very careful to buy an RV that has the plumbing and pump essentially on the inside. The hot air lines from the furnace are in the same compartment as our pump. If your pump is through a single hatch on the exterior, you’re going to have to take more precautions.

Problem – Filling Onboard Propane Tanks is a Pain

Solution – Call a bulk supplier. Same places that supply homes. Call around – prices vary wildly. I found that every place I called could come out and hook up a 100 gallon tank for us, hooked directly to the RV propane line. We’re using about 70 gallons per month. Not bad.

Problem – What to Do with Black Water

Solution – Hook a four-inch septic pipe to your dump valve, and run it right to the septic tank. Ours worked out nicely – It runs under the extended slide, inside the insulated underneath of the RV. I simply dug to find where to hook in, and went directly to the septic tank. Because the whole works is enclosed under the skirted RV, we have no problems. Do not leave the valve open. You still have to pull the valve and dump the tank. If you leave it open, you’re going to have a total PVC Poopsicle.

And on that savory note, I’m outa here. You have a great day too!



Filed under adirondacks

10 responses to “You’re Going to Live in That Thing All Winter?!

  1. I know, we hear, “y’all still staying that camper?”

    although we do get cold and snowy weather here in the NC Appalachians, I don’t think y’all have the humidity that we do, so a dehumidifier has been very helpful to us.

    Are you saying your 5th wheel has a “heated underbelly?” yes, our propane furnance blows heat on the tanks. We also have a wall propane heater in the sunroom. Because it’s somewhat difficult for the propane company truck to get up our road, one day we may switch from the 100-gal tank to a larger one, and they say the propane will be cheaper by the gallon for the larger tank.

  2. So are you using the 5th wheel to make more living space in addition to the cabin (which is the cutest thing ever I will add!)?

    Have a Merry Christmas!

    Your friend,


  3. Oh, no. The cabin is tiny, just 10×14. It’s really just a piano room and sort of extra retreat space. The 5th Wheel is about 350sf, and we do all our main living in that.

  4. LOL … PVC poopsicle…

    I am so impressed. I wouldn’t have thought it possible to overwinter in an RV, but it sounds like you have a solid handle on the situation.

    I love the cabin photos in your post below. Being there, with the wood stove, must be heaven.

  5. I am glad for you that you know how NOT to make “Poopsicles”, LOL! That was totally my laugh for the day!

  6. I’m with PP — the poopsicle made my day! Thanks for the chuckle!

  7. gromit

    Successful North Country living is a constant exercise in problem solving. You’re clearly very good at it.

  8. themac

    There are some people that don’t have it as good as you do up here. Meaning, there are still people that reside without indoor plumbing year ’round.

  9. I would SO love to do what you’re doing now. It’s so adventuresome! Except that a lot of what you do entails plumbing. Which I do not do. Oh well. I’m doomed to town life.

    Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! And stay warm!

  10. I just read this post, I had missed it somehow – and it was really informative! We’d been bemoaning the fact we can’t really stay in our cabin all winter and trying to figure out a way to winterize it enough to stay there without spending a fortune. You’ve given a lot of great tips that we could use for the cabin, with a few modifications!

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