So you’re thinking of using your travel trailer for winter camping? Yes, you can use it. But don’t try until you learn what you need to know about cold weather RV living.
Although fifth wheels and travel trailers can be used in fall camping weather, and winter, too, they work better and keep you more comfortable if they have cold weather camping accessories. In this article, we discuss:
- What is a four season RV?
- What to ask when buying a winter camper.
- Must have winter RVing upgrades and accessories
- The best fifth wheels and travel trailers for winter camping
What is a Four Season RV?
There’s no arguing that fifth wheels and travel trailers with a four-season accessory package are the best choice for winter RVing. These are the kind of cold weather travel trailers that can be used throughout the year. But four season RVs are even better in winter. This is because their underbelly is better insulated and heated.
Unfortunately, there is no RV industry standard definition of a “four-season RV” arctic package. All manufacturers define “four season RV” differently.
Winter Camping Upgrades
The best four season travel trailers have cold weather camping features like:
- Added insulation in ceiling, floors, and walls
- A heated and enclosed underbelly
- Dual pane windows
- High btu furnace with floor or wall ducting
- Pex pipe plumbing (expands if water freezes)
- Additional (or larger) propane tanks
- The best RV generator and/or extra RV batteries
RVs with these “four season” features help keep you warmer in cold temperatures. The majority of campers are not outfitted with these features. And without them, using your travel trailer in winter means you are only comfortable when the weather gets as low as 40 degrees. You may find yourself at the nearest hotel if the temperature drops lower.
Let’s dive into the details about four season RV accessories:
Enclosed and Heated Underbelly
If you can see holding tanks underneath your camper, you should not use your trailer for winter RV camping. A four season travel trailer has an enclosed and insulated underbelly to protect tank contents from freezing.
Heated Water Connections
In a four season travel trailer, water lines run through an inner compartment which keeps them from freezing during cold weather. Some water lines are heated. Others can be wrapped in heat tape purchased from RV parts dealers. You can also purchase heat tape to protect the potable water supply that fills your freshwater holding tank.
Dual Pane Windows
The windows on your travel trailer for winter RV camping should be dual pane windows. These windows literally have two layers to provide better protection from the cold. The extra layer prevents cold air from passing through.
Word of Caution – Dual pane windows sometimes crack. Air gets trapped between layers, and the windows fog up. This is a costly repair. Having said that, many RV owners will not get any other type of window for their campers.
Ducted Heating System
An RV with a ducted heating system prevents cold spots inside the camper. If the air ducts are spaced appropriately, they can create a comfortable, even temperature throughout the interior of your RV.
One thing to watch out for is loose connections in the ductwork. This allows heated or air-conditioned air to escape. Regularly inspect your HVAC and associated ductwork to keep warm air inside your camper.
Insulated skylight covers keep cold weather from seeping into your camper. They also protect pumps and generators and any gear you may have stored in the pass-through storage compartment.
Unlike copper or solid plastic pipe, Pex pipe expands if water was to freeze in them. Once the water thaws, Pex pipes are not likely to have any ruptures, cracks, or leaks.
Robust RV Furnace
If your RV only has an air-conditioner and heat pump you’ll quickly find out that setup is inadequate when the temperature drops below 32F. The heat will simply not generate enough heat to keep the RV warm.
Look for an RV furnace that can provide 30,000 BTUs, and that is connected to a good heat duck system that will distribute the heat evenly throughout your camper.
A custom RV skirt you make or buy prevents cold air from passing underneath your camper. Once installed, it prevents cold floors and stops cold air from seeping in through openings under the camper. RV skirting can be permanent if you don’t move your RV.
Top questions for four season RV Buyers
Whether you buy an RV for winter camping, or to enjoy all year long, it’s critical to know how and where you intend to use the RV. These questions can help you get the answers:
- Are you planning on long winter camping trips or short ones?
- Will other people live in the RV with you?
- Do you want to try winter boondocking (dry camping)? Or will you get full hookups (power, water, sewer) at an RV campground?
- Will you take your trailer off-road in remote, rugged areas?
- Is full-time living something you want to do?
Your answers to these questions will help you determine your must have features in a four season travel trailer.
Best 5 Travel Trailers for Winter Camping (and Fifth Wheels Too)
Once you understand your RV living style, it’s time to shop for a four season RV. Below are five travel trailers and fifth wheels designed to be used in all four seasons. They all meet the minimum criteria we discussed above. Some go above and beyond, and we’ll point those out.
Northwood Manufacturing Arctic Fox North Fork
At the top of our list of the best four season travel trailers for winter camping is the Arctic Fox North Fork by Northwood Manufacturing. The Arctic Fox is available in 6 different floor plans, including three dual-entry travel trailers. They range from 29′ 5″ to 38 ‘ 11″.
Northwood’s 4-Season Package includes a fully insulated holding tank, enclosed knife valves to keep them from freezing, and various residential quality insulation such as Rigid Foam, Batten & Reflective Foil.
Here are some additional Northwood 4-Season Package features:
- Auto-ignition furnace – (25K to 30K BTU depending on floor plan)
- High-density foam block insulation
- R-15 Reflective Foil Insulation in Roof / Slide
- Heated holding tanks
- Frameless Thermal Pane Windows
- Extra Large Fridge (10 Cu Ft) w/ Cold Weather kit
Overall the Arctic Fox is a great travel trailer you can use in the winter just about anywhere.
Heartland Elkridge 5th Wheel
The Heartland Elkridge 5th wheel is a 4-season camper with great features and amenities. It is available in 6-floor plans.
These are well-made luxury four-season 5th wheels with features such as Amish-crafted cabinetry, solid surface countertops, lots of storage space, and all have one or more slideouts for extra space.
When it comes to its four-season preparedness, the Heartland Elkridge does not disappoint. For instance, the 37 Bar included the following:
- 35,000 BTU furnace
- R11 Rvalue for the wall insulation
- Heated and enclosed underbelly
- R-38 Rvalue for the floor insulation
- R-40 Rvalue for the roof insulation
- Azdel laminated sidewalls.
- Ducted heating system
Overall the Heartland Elkridge is a great 5th wheel for all-season camping. The features and amenities that come with it are hard to beat, and the luxury interior will make you feel right at home.
Outdoors RV Mountain Series
When manufacturing a 4-season travel trailer right out of the box, no one comes as close as Outdoors RV. Their Mountain Series has been built to withstand the rigors of the cold climate in the Mountain States and Western Canada.
The Mountain series of campers is available in various floor plan classes.
- The Creekside class is under 6,000 lbs, with floor lengths ranging from 18 to 21 feet. There are 5-floor plans available in this class.
- The Timberridge class ranges in weight from 6,000 lbs to 7,750 lbs and has a floor length of 22-28 feet. There are 8 available floor plans in this class.
- The Blackstone class is over 7,000 lbs and has a floor length of 26-31 feet. There are 6-floor plans in this class.
The final class of the Mountain Series is Glacier Peak. These are 5th wheels and available in three floor plans.
The features that make the Outdoors RV Mountain Series 4-season are as follows:
- Mountain Extreme Thermal Pane Windows
- Triple-Layered Four Seasons Roof Insulation
- Fully Enclosed Heated Insulated Underbelly
- Insulation Wrapped Holding Tanks
- 1″ Thick Thermal Insulated Luggage Doors
- Thermal Insulated Bedroom Ceiling Vent
- XL Furnace for Extreme Camping Heat System
- Norcold (Refrigerator) Cold Weather Kit – Operation Down to – 0 F
- Exterior Shower Protected by 1″ Insulated Door
- Semi-Auto Winterization System
Outdoors RV is not one of the RV brands you don’t hear much about. But as you can see from the specs, they make excellent travel trailers for winter camping.
The Keystone Montana is available in 17 different floor plans. Montana is solid with welded aluminum-framed walls and floors, 8-inch floor decking, seamless roto-cast holding tanks, laminated sidewalls, and a double-insulated rear wall.
Its 4-season fifth wheel features are just as impressive:
- 3″x 14″ in-floor straight line heat duct system (Four Season Living Package)
- 35,000 BTU Furnace (Four Season Living Package)
- 16,500 Btu heat pump on the main air conditioner (Four Season Living Package)
- 12V electric tank heaters (Four Season Living Package)
- Enclosed and heated low point drains (Four Season Living Package)
- Dual-pane frameless windows (Optional)
- (R-21) Insulated Main Floor
- (R-38 Equivalent) Radiant Technology Insulated Roof
- Enclosed, Insulated and Heated Underbelly
- Enclosed, Insulated and Heated Holding Tanks and Dump Valves
One of the more interesting things about the Keystone Montana is the testing it went through to determine its extreme cold-weather capabilities. After extensive testing, engineers discovered that the inside temperature averages 70 to 72 degrees in winter. That’s even when the outside temperature drops to -4 degrees.
Summary of Travel Trailers for Winter Camping
If you’re not going to winterize your RV for storage, but will try winter RV living instead, getting a four season RV that is properly equipped makes the experience more enjoyable.
Our four favorite travel trailers for winter camping are excellent units that can be used all year round, not just in winter. As I’ve said before, do your research since specifications can change on a particular RV, stay within your budget, and buy for your intended needs.