How to Insulate a Camper for Winter Use (10 Toasty Tips)

Campers aren’t built for living in them through the chilly winter months. While a motorhome has a reasonable amount of insulation in the walls, this is even less true with campers.

The walls of a camper may be thinner and certainly don’t retain the warmth particularly well.

One of the best tips for winter RV living, even for milder seasons, is to add insulation (and take other steps) to keep toasty warm. Fortunately, insulation is breathable, so campers and trailers stay cool in the summer too.

Insulating a Camper for Winter Living

Can You Use Your Camper in the Winter?

Yes, it’s entirely doable to use a camper in the winter months.

Preparations must be made to do so though, otherwise, it will be a less-than-optimal experience!

At What Temp Will Pipes Freeze in a Camper?

Plumbing is a major concern in the winter because the water pipes can freeze up. And RV antifreeze won’t unfreeze the pipes either, contrary to what you may have heard.

The pipes will likely freeze up when the temperatures drop to 32ºF or below.

However, it will require about a day at that steady temperature before they become solid.

Measures to insulate and protect from the cold can avoid this outcome.

How Cold is Too Cold for a Camper?

Given that some people live in RVs in Alaska during the winter, they’d argue that you can get to freezing temperatures and manage just fine.

However, their motorhomes are usually entirely winterized to survive it.

We’d suggest that when reaching around -19ºF (-28 ºC), it’s going to be a major issue.

Certainly, frostbite is a significant danger. The water pipes on the camper will inevitably freeze, and water valves will freeze as well making it impossible to dump the tanks.

Even some gas supplies like propane won’t be usable in sub-zero temperatures.

Where possible, plan your location and route to head to warmer climates.

Many snowbirds head south as the temperatures begin to drop in the fall to avoid needing to winterize their RV and interrupt their regular routines.

Read Also: How to Heat a Camper Without Electricity

How to Insulate a Camper for Winter Use

There are different approaches to keeping the camper warm. The best way to insulate a camper for winter requires several actions working in combination to achieve optimal results.

When insulating your camper trailer, it’s designed to stop heat from escaping. Not only does it make the camper feel warmer overall, but it reduces the heating costs too.

Here are some tips for insulating RVs for winter living:

#1. Add RV Skirting Around the Exterior

RV skirting for winter is designed to surround the camper and prevent air from moving beneath it.

There are a variety of materials that work for this, depending on what you have to hand. This includes hay, sheeting, insulation board, and installed siding too.

For best results, it’s more useful to set it up for the winter season. If planning to move around during winter, then it’ll need to be installed, removed before relocating, and then re-installed again.

With RV skirting for winter, the Adco Wheel Skirt is the best RV skirting for winter:

Adco Polar White Skirt – Model 3501 (64 Inch High x 236 Inch Length)

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Read Also: Carbon Monoxide Alarm Going Off in Camper

#2. Hang Thermal Curtains

Thermal curtains are designed to absorb the heat and not let it reach the windows.

Reflectix cut out and fit in the windows also works well, but it’s a little awkward to remove when wishing to take a look outside.

Pulling back the curtains to take a quick peek and then drawing them across the window again is far easier. They’re also affordable and washable too.

These Nicetown Thermal Insulated Blackout Curtains will do the trick. They retain the heat and are triple weave to prevent people from looking in:

NICETOWN Thermal Insulated Grommet Blackout Curtains for Bedroom – Grey Color (2 Panels, W42 x L63 Inch)

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#3. Seal the Windows

If you’ve noticed a draft coming from the windows, then it’s important to add a sealant around the window frames to remove it.

An RV flexible sealant is what’s required to do the job right. It’s produced to cure and seal even on damp surfaces but performs best on dry ones.

This caulking will prevent unintended air drafts, and limit the loss of heat.

The Geocel Pro Flex Crystal Clear RV sealant is a good one:

Geocel Pro Flex Crystal Clear RV Flexible Sealant – 10 oz. (Model GC28100)

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A shrink window kit is also useful to prevent air from moving near the windows themselves.

They act as a form of double glazing for the camper’s windows.

They’re positioned over the frame of each window, and then heat is applied to temporarily seal them airtight.

The Frost King Indoor Shrink Window Kit has 9 separate films to cover all the camper’s windows and redo them if necessary too:

Frost King Indoor Shrink Window Kit 42 – 62-Inch, Clear, 9-Pack (Part V73/9H)

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#4. Winterize the Water System

The RV plumbing system is at risk during winter.

The pipes can freeze up and make it impossible to access the fresh water supply, use the greywater tank, or the RV toilet and the blackwater tank too.

Unless you’re staying in a warmer winter climate, it’ll be necessary to use RV antifreeze in the plumbing system.

Emptying all the tanks and valves of water prevents it from freezing.

Fill the RV toilet, bathroom sinks, and shower drain with RV antifreeze to let it run through the pipes and into the various tanks.

Note that it’s still possible to use an RV toilet during the winter, but RV antifreeze must be present at each flush and the tanks regularly emptied.

Splash 619526 RV/Marine Antifreeze – Pink (6 gallons)

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Also, cover the accessible water pipes with wrap insulation to keep them safer from freezing.

Doing so raises their temperature enough to reduce the likelihood of a burst water pipe and flooding inside the camper:

Frost King Foil Backed “No Itch” Natural Cotton Pipe Wrap – 3-Inch x 1-Inch x 25-Feet (Part CF42X)

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#5. Heat the Water Tanks

Part of how to insulate an RV underbelly is dealing with the exposed water tanks. They can attract ice and water near to them and freeze fast as temperatures plummet.

To avoid this, using an RV holding tank heating pad increases the temperature of the tanks to stop them from freezing. Because heat rises, it also helps the camper to stay warmer from underneath.

This RV Water Holding Tank Heater Pad can work wonders to keep the tanks usable in winter:

#6. Use a Heated Hose

At freezing temperatures, it becomes impossible to use existing water hoses because they’ll freeze up during use.

This becomes a real problem when wanting to take on more freshwater.

How to keep RV pipes from freezing while camping? Use a heated hose to prevent pipes from freezing.

This Camco TASTEPure Heated Drinking Water Hose includes a useful thermostat and is long enough to reach the nearest safe water supply too:

#7. Insulate the Flooring

The floors can become colder during the winter. They need a little extra help to retain their warmth and be more comfortable underfoot too.

Add some thick rugs or carpeting even if you don’t feel it’s needed for the rest of the year.

It will make the camper feels far more inviting.

#8. Insulate the RV Roof Vent and Skylight

Insulating the RV roof vent prevents heat from escaping. Warm air naturally rises, so this provides a way to prevent this from happening.

It’s also a good idea to do so with any skylights too.

A special cover for a roof vent is perfect for winter. This one from Camco will cover an RV roof vent and avoid losing warmth through it:

Camco RV Vent Insulator and Skylight Cover with Reflective Surface – Fits Standard 14″ x 14″ (Part 45192)

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#9. Insulate Beneath the Mattress

Bed mattresses can attract the cold, especially if they have an innerspring design.

Adding a layer of insulation under the mattress can avoid this. A layer of foam or a radiant coil might do the trick.

Alternatively, a heated mattress pad can make bedtimes feel cozy. This one from Electrowarmth fits a twin and will warm the mattress nicely:

Electrowarmth Heated Mattress Pad. Twin, Non-Fitted. Size 36 x 60, 12V Used in RVs & Campers – White (Model: # T36)

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 #10. Don’t Have Too Little Heating

Sometimes the heating options in a camper are inadequate.

Don’t have too little heating.

Ensure there are adequate backup options if the primary heating fails due to mechanical reasons or something else.

It’s possible to heat a camper without electricity and we’ve covered the options for that before.

There are good options with electricity too, like space heaters, such as this Lasko Ceramic Portable Space Heater with a thermostat control system:

Lasko Ceramic Portable Space Heater with Adjustable Thermostat. Wide Oscillation – Silver color (Model 5409)

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How to Insulate a Travel Trailer for Winter Use

The steps to insulate a travel trailer for winter living aren’t much different from that of a camper.

What you need to appreciate is that you’re talking about a larger living space with more places for pockets of cold or dampness to linger.

It will be more expensive to take the various steps indicated above to insulate the travel trailer for winter. This is because there are more windows, larger tanks, etc.

Read Also: Using RV Toilet in Winter

Living Fulltime in an RV in Winter

When you’re wanting to know how to live in a camper year round, both summer and winter are the primary concerns.

For the summer, the camper needs to still have insulation, but vent out moisture from humid temperatures using a rooftop fan. A dehumidifier is key here.

In the winter, the camper must be prepped to withstand the colder temperatures and keep you warm, while ensuring all the essential RV systems will keep operating as winter descends.

Best RV for Winter Living

For motorhomes, there are 4-season RVs designed to manage any time of year. These are the best options for year-round living.

Failing that, it’s entirely possible to add some of the systems used in 4-season RVs to your camper.

This can create a living environment that’s cooler in summer and warmer in winter.

Multiple measures are needed to ensure this, rather than taking one or 2 steps and believing that that’s sufficient. It won’t be.

Read Also: How to Keep Moisture Out of RV in Winter

Closing Thoughts

Insulating a camper for winter use is no joke. Failing to do it is not an option because it will be too cold otherwise.

Essentially, campers aren’t usually designed to manage the winter chills.

Therefore, if you’re living in one during the closing months of the year, it’s essential to prepare the camper for winter. This avoids being too cold, the condensation dripping from the windows to the floor, and the plumbing systems seizing up.

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