Living in an RV or trailer has become much more popular over the last several years. With the cost of housing rising and the amount of student debt that seems to never end, it’s no wonder as many as 1,000,000 people in the US have decided to live in a camper full-time!
But there are good reasons why people choose to live full-time in campers as well. Jobs today offer so much more flexibility to their workers than they did in the past. Wifi and mobile hotspots has made it easier for people to do their jobs from anywhere in the world, which has freed people to work and travel wherever they choose to! Regardless of the reason, more and more people are beginning to change their ideas on where they choose to live and campers offer people the flexibility they need to achieve their professional and personal goals.
Campers are great during the summer but are often at risk during the winter. They don’t typically have as much insulation around their key components compared to permanent houses, so the water pipes are often most at risk of bursting during cold winter months. So, how exactly can you make living in a camper a sustainable year-round thing? Easy! Be sure to follow this checklist to make sure your home stays safe to live in during the winter:
- Insulate your water pipes.
- Insulate your floors.
- Get a cover for the bottom of your camper.
- Connect to power frequently to help heat your camper.
- Move your camper somewhere warmer when possible!
For more on each of these tips, keep reading!
Insulate your pipes.
When part-time RVers get their campers ready for the winter, they fill their waterpipes with anti-freeze to keep freezing temperatures from rupturing their camper’s pipes. This chemical is great for maintaining pipes through the winder and ensure that by the summertime, you’ll be able to fully use your camper. But this is a problem for those who live in their campers year-round.
Anti-freeze is toxic to ingest. If you’re living in your camper full-time, you can’t put anti-freeze into your camper system due to the risk of accidentally drinking some! Plus, whenever you end up dumping your grey and black water tanks, you’ll end up dumping out all of the anti-freeze you put into the system, which is a huge waste of money.
In order to deal with sub-freezing temperatures, it is necessary for full-timer RVers to insulate their water pipes.
Most campers come with flexible water pipes due to their ease of installation and weight savings compared to hard PVC or copper pipes. You’ll need to remove some of the panels in your camper in order to access the flex piping. It’s pretty easy to locate it, because it will look like red and blue pipes under the sinks in your camper.
Once you have located the piping, it’s time to begin insulating it. The best insulation to put on your flexible piping can be found on Amazon here. This foam insulation is flexible and isn’t too thick, which makes it ideal for putting on your camper’s water pipes. It doesn’t take up too much space, which will help with installing it in the tight spaces of the camper.
After you have fit the insulation around every inch of piping in your camper, be sure to wrap that insulation up in some reflective foil to help add to the insulation of your pipes. The last thing that you want to deal with in the cold winter months is a burst pipe, so you’ll definitely want to give your pipes all the help they can get!
If you do experience a burst pipe in the winter, it is important that you try to dump your water as soon as possible. If you don’t, you’ll likely end up with a huge frozen mess and even more damage to your camper! A great thing to keep with you when you’re living in your camper full-time to deal with pipe damage is extra flex piping, a heat gun, and a full set of bushings and connectors. That way, you can fix any leaks or burst pipes quickly!
Insulate your floors.
Once you have insulated your camper’s most vulnerable spaces, it’s time to turn your attention to the rest of your camper to help keep the warmth inside. As mentioned before, campers don’t possess the same quality of insulation as permanent houses, so it’s really important that you take the time to insulate your floors.
Cold air can come up through uninsulated floors, which will cause your pipes unneeded stress and make the inside of your camper uncomfortably cold. Additionally, you’ll end up using much more power to heat the inside of your camper, so you’ll need to camp in a campground if your camper depends on electric power for heating. Or you’ll need to constantly refill your propane. Both options get pricy. Help your camper and your wallet by insulating your floors.
There are tons of great options for insulating the floors of your camper. One of the easiest and most cost effective ways is to use a heat barrier mat under the floors of your camper. These work by helping block cold air from seeping in through the floors and keep the hot air from escaping. By installing this insulation, you’ll save your pipes and your money from costly repairs and on energy usage.
Now, it’s important that you cover every inch of your flooring with insulation. But, you may run into spots that you can’t completely cover up the floor with the heat barrier mat. That’s why it’s also recommended that you use a spray foam insulator as well. Spray foam insulation can easily fill in the spots that the heat mat can’t reach. By using both, you’ll be able to rest assured that you have optimized the inside of your camper for winter!
Cover up the bottom of the camper.
Now that you have effectively insulated the inside of your camper, it’s time to turn your attention to the biggest gap in your camper’s defenses: the large space that is uncovered underneath your camper. If you’ve ever seen trailer parks where a camper has been permanently set up, you’ll notice that they have built coverings around the sides of the camper that extend down to the ground. This blocks cold air from passing under the camper, which helps keep the floors nice and warm inside.
This works great when you are living in a permanent space, but what if you’ll only be in an area for a week or two? No problem! It just takes a bit of ingenuity to figure out a solution. You’ll need to cut up some ¾ inch plywood to cover up the bottom of your camper. Measure out from the skirt of your camper to the ground to determine how much plywood you need to cover up the bottom. Once you have done that, you can begin to cut your plywood so that you can cover up the entire camper.
There are a couple of options for fixing your plywood to the skirt of your camper. The first, and most risky option, is to drill holes in the sides of your camper to fix tie down points for your plywood.
A less risky option is to put strong magnets on the plywood and to glue metal trim around the skirt of your camper. This will allow your plywood to effectively stay up against your camper and save you from having to drill holes into it.
If your budget and space doesn’t allow for you to use plywood to cover the skirt of your camper up, consider using canvas. Canvas will achieve the goal of covering up the bottom of the camper but is much easier to stow than plywood is. Plus, it’ll be easier to cut it to the dimension that you need!
You can install the canvas in the same ways that you can install the plywood. The one thing to keep in mind is that wind will move the bottoms of the canvas, so you’ll want to place heavy objects around the bottoms of the canvas to keep if from blowing up in the middle of the night.
Connect to power.
Your camper is now fully insulated, both inside and out! Now it’s time to consider how you’ll keep the inside of your camper warm. There is a saying in the outdoor industry that goes something like “it’s easier to cool down than it is to warm up.” This is true because the human body is very efficient at shedding heat, but it isn’t as efficient at adding heat back into itself. That’s why it’s supremely important to keep your camper heated all through the winter if possible.
If you can afford to stay on a campground that has power through the winter or if you know someone that you can stay on their property and connect to their power, do it. The benefit of staying in one location vs. moving from place to place is that you’ll be able to constantly keep the heat on inside of your camper.
Staying in one location, especially if it’s a campground, can get expensive. That’s why it’s also important that you have a means of keeping your camper’s electrical system charged. Generators are great for this as they can produced hours of power on only a few gallons of gasoline. You’ll want to conserve how often you use your generator though, as these fuel costs can add up over time.
Another more ecofriendly option for keeping your camper charged up are solar panels. Solar panels capture the energy from the sun and can charge up your camper’s battery without having to use up fuel consumed by a generator. They are great to use when you have access to sunny weather!
But sometimes, it’s not possible to always have access to sunny weather in the winter. That’s why it’s recommended that you have both means of producing power if you’ll be camping away from a permanent source of power.
Move to where it’s warmer
The absolute best way to guard your camper against the ravages of winter is to simply move to warmer weather! That’s one of the best parts of living in a camper. You can escape to wherever you would like to in order to live comfortably. But where should you move to?
In the US, there are tons of amazing places to visit during the winter that will keep your camper from being exposed to sub-freezing temperatures for long periods of time. Southern California, Arizona, Texas, Florida, Georgia, and Alabama are all excellent options for living in a camper during the winter months.
Southern California and Arizona are both very cool places to visit during the winter. In southern California, you’ll want to visit the Colorado and Mojave Deserts, which are two of the largest deserts in the US. A really great campground to stay in during the winter is near a town called Winterhaven, CA. Winterhaven is close to the California-Arizona border and offers tons of camping at both campgrounds and BLM dispersed campsites. The greatest part is that it’s also close by one of the coolest spots in California: Picacho State Recreation Area.
Picacho is on the Colorado River, which flows lazily through a desert landscape. There are tons of opportunities to go fishing or floating on the river, so be sure to bring along your fishing gear and kayaks when visiting! If you’re not into that, there are tons of hiking trails nearby that allow campers to explore some of the most beautiful desert landscapes in the US!
Arizona is another great option to visit during the winter, especially near Phoenix. There are a lot of rural areas near Phoenix where you can easily locate large campgrounds or dispersed camping while being within 15 minutes of the most populated state capital in the US!
Phoenix offers visitor access to very mild temperatures during the winter. Living in a camper near Phoenix gives you the flexibility of being able to access wild places nearby for hiking as well as the amenities of staying in a big city. Adventure, entertainment, and a variety of dining options await those who choose to relocate to Phoenix for the winter!
Winterizing your camper to live in might seem like a difficult task, but if you properly prep your camper during the summer months, you’ll be sure to stay nice and cozy warm throughout the winter, while also protecting your home on wheels. If all else fails or you just want to escape the freezing temperatures of winter, be sure that you remember the best benefit of living in a camper: you can move and live wherever you want with ease!