Spending an Entire Winter in a RV in the Rocky Mountains

Spending an entire winter in a RV in the Rocky Mountains, or to be precise – Spending an entire winter in a RV in the Northern Rocky Mountains, and now with 6 winters “under my belt” as a full timer who likes to stay in the mountains and ski all winter.

So… when it comes to

Spending an Entire Winter in a RV in the Rocky Mountains

Yes! I’ve got some experience – AND, had some experiences! What follows is probably the BEST guide I’ve ever prepared on how to SURVIVE & THRIVE while living in a RV in WINTER in the ROCKY MOUNTAINS – or anywhere where it gets REALLY COLD!

At the time of this writing, I’m at 5000 ft. elevation in McCall, Idaho. and have spent the past 3 winters here. McCall is considered to be part of the Pacific Northwest – but it is well inland from the modifying effect of the Pacific Ocean. More technically, McCall is in the “West Central Mountains of Idaho”, also referred to as the Northern Rockies. Between my winters here and in Steamboat a few years back, I’ve seen morning temperatures as low as -35F, and days where the campground didn’t see temperatures top 0F.

One of the best lessons I’ve learned is to spend some time in Autumn PREPARING. The following video details how I prepare my water, sewer, propane and refrigerator systems to INSURE a successful experience. I even include some “last minute” lessons learned – even after 6 years of doing this, I learned a new important detail this season. Be sure to read on below the video for more specifics – and the products I use to help me through this period of extreme cold.

Lets take a few minutes and discuss each system in a bit more detail as we discuss Spending an Entire Winter in a RV in the Rocky Mountains.

Protecting your RV sewer system for Winter in the Rocky Mountains

As noted in the video above, its really as simple as get a decent sewer hose, use a sewer caddy to guide it from the connection on your RV to the sewer entrance, wind heat tape around it (do not cross the heat tape over itself! keep the heat tape loose around the sewer hose. wrap in a basic space blanket.) I plug this into the 15A GFI plug on the power pedastle. There is usually a light on the heat tape’s plug, see that it is on to insure its working. Remember, the heat tape will have a thermostat and will only work at subfreezing temperatures. Click HERE to see the products I recommend for best results.

Note: If you ever experience a freezeup, check the GFI plug on the campground’s power pedastle FIRST!

**Lets connect! Meet me in the Facebook RV Lifestyle group I started HERE **

Keeping the water flowing to your RV during winter in the Rocky Mountains

Insure your hydrant is insulated – this is typically done by the RV park staff. Use the Camco hose I recommend. It is good to -40F. There is a ‘lighter duty’ model, but for what you save, in my view, its not worth it. I linked a 25 ft. length here, you can also buy it in 15 ft or 50 ft lengths. Some important notes:

  • the Camco hose is MORE RELIABLE than its competitors
  • Camco does a GREAT JOB standing behind their products
  • the connectors on each end must be insulated. In my case, one end is protected by the insulation around the hydrant; the other end is inside the heated wet bay. If you do not have a heated wet bay, and connect your water hose directly to the outside of your RV, I suggest insulating the last foot or so – perhaps using the same foam we see kids using as “noodles” in the pool in the summer would work just fine.

Insuring you do NOT run out of propane for your RV during winter in the Rocky Mountains

30 Pound (7 gallon) tanks will run out quickly in cold weather. If its cold enough and you have a large RV, you’ll burn through 7 gallons in one or two nights! The solution? As noted in my video above, rent a tank! Depending upon where you are in the nation, you’re preferred vendor will vary. Feel free to write me and I can do some quick research and suggest whom to go with or avoid. The added advantage of a 120 gallon tank is the ability to buy in bulk. Typically I pay 25 – 40% less than the rate being charged to fill a 30 pound tank.

To help minimize the amount of propane I burn, the skirting helps tremendously. You can learn more about RV Skirting HERE.

Keep that RV Refrigerator running all winter in the Rocky Mountains

The goal here is to keep the cooling unit cooling all winter. It may seem basic, but your RV fridge (if its Norcold or Dometic) is a gas absorption fridge that works on an ammonia mixture that in cold temperatures can gel or crystallize. When it does, the ammonia will no longer flow and your fridge no longer cools.

Each time your fridge fails, you may be doing damage to the cooling unit. In the case of my 2011 trailer, after 5 years of periodic failures, the cooling unit had to be replaced, and FORTUNATELY I had an extended service contract which reduced the repair charge from over $3300. to under $300!

In my new 5th wheel, the Norcold came equipped with a “winter kit” and heat tape installed along the coils. These two factory additions (I suppose both can be done after market as well) I *hoped* would be sufficient. But… as noted towards the end of my video, a -16F morning put my fridge to the test and I was back to the drawing board. I have applied a heat inside the rear compartment, a light inside the fridge, and as noted (and NOT recommended due to FIRE HAZARD) applied tape to block two of the three rear vent openings in the lower vent cover. I am also running the fridge on LP and NOT AC (for now). When the weather consistently stays over 20F at night, I will ABSOLUTELY be removing the tape!! Further, as some nights have been mild, I have turned off the light (I control it via an extension cord outside my door) to prevent too much heat from building in the back of the fridge.

As noted earlier and in the video, my recommended products that I personally use are highlighted on the page you can access by clicking the image below. The links are for Amazon and the prices are typically the best you’ll find.

Hey, as always, THANKS for joining me here! I hope you found value in this article. If you did, there are several links to other pages on my site. I encourage you to check them out for additional background, stories and insights. And… if you do use my Amazon links, you’ll be helping me fund the costs of maintaining this site AND saving yourself some $$ as I do search for the best price on the products I personally use and recommend.

6 thoughts on “Spending an Entire Winter in a RV in the Rocky Mountains

    • Chris, thanks for the kind words. If I can be of any assistance, let me know. What part of the nation are you based in? Al

  1. Hello, my fridge stop cooling this weekend. We’re at the Pocono and a few weeks ago did experience -19 2 days in a row and at lot of -0 in the past couple of weeks. My question is how do i make it work again? We had 2 weeks without visiting our rv as we have it park at a campground and yesterday when we got there notice everything in it was melted and ruin. I turn it off and back on but nothing. The weather has been above 35 this past days. I won’t be back until next Saturday but decide it to leave it on to see if it would cool again by itself. I even open the back vent and blow some hot air with a blower to see if that would help. Would it cool off again by itself ones the ammonia warms up?

    • If you dig back into my post and video, I talk at length about what to do to prevent trouble with the fridge; i also talk at the end of the video about what I did to bring mine back to life after a recent (brief) failure. If my advice in the post does not help, you may have to remove the fridge and burp it (google this – burping your rv refrigerator).

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