Survival Tips for RV Camping In Storms and Bad Weather
The weather is going to start getting warmer soon, and that means it’s time to start thinking about pulling the RV out so you can do some early spring camping. Unfortunately, storm season is also just around the corner, and spring storms can make RV camping a scary experience rather than the fun and pleasant one it should be.
What’s an avid camper to do? Fortunately, there are ways to ensure you and your family stay safe while also fully enjoying every minute of the camping season. Here are our top tips for camping during storm season.
1. Create a storm-smart route
Our first tip? Avoid camping in a storm altogether. Your tiny home has wheels, after all. Why not use them?
By avoiding areas such as Oklahoma, Texas, and Kansas during tornado season, and places where hurricanes tend to crop up during hurricane season, you are reducing your risk by quite a lot. Instead, choose to travel to those areas during other parts of the year and focus on different destinations during times when storms are likely to come around. Plan your travels with RV LIFE Trip Wizard and the RV LIFE App to find more campgrounds and points of interest in the areas you’re visiting.
2. Pay attention to weather reports
No matter where you decide to travel, you will want to pay attention to the weather forecast. Knowing if and when a storm might crop up is important because it gives a chance to watch for it and get out of harm’s way if need be. We recommend keeping a weather radio on hand for this purpose.
It’s also a good idea to install an app such as Dark Sky or Weather Bug on your phone. These apps will send you alerts should severe weather be headed your way.
3. Stock up on the right tools
Besides your weather apps and a hand-crank weather radio, there are a few other things you’ll want to keep on hand just in case you end up camping in a storm.
- Flashlight and batteries — This will help you see should the power go out.
- First aid kit — You never know what kinds of wounds you might need to tend to.
- Portable power bank— The ability to contact help is crucial. Always have a way to charge your phone battery.
- Water bottles — Being thirsty in a storm shelter is no fun. Avoid it by packing water bottles.
- Snacks — In case you get hungry while waiting out the storm, you’ll be glad to have a few non-perishable snacks on hand.
We recommend putting all these things into a bug out bag. This should be kept in an easily accessible location near the door. It will ensure you’re well prepared. Then you can get to safety quickly.
Make sure your family is fully dressed with closed-toed shoes on. Grab your phone and any important documents in the rig. Then get to shelter. If you can, grab helmets and/or pillows to cover your head. They also protect you from flying objects.
4. Know where to go
Of course, if you’re going to bug out when the weather gets bad, you won’t want to be wandering around trying to figure out where to go. Always establish where you will go in case of a storm when you arrive at a new campground.
A lot of RV parks in tornado alley have storm shelters. However, those that don’t usually recommend heading to a bathhouse or another sturdy structure with as few windows as possible.
When you get to the place where you will wait out the storm, find a place to sit that is far from windows and potential projectiles. Wear your helmets. Keep your important items under you. Use the weather radio to track the storm. Have your pillows close at hand in case you need them.
5. Check your site
If you have enough notice of an impending storm, there are also several things you can do. That’s if you must stay in your rig while camping in a storm. These are all fairly simple steps. All can make a big difference. Take time to follow them.
- Putting pets inside — Dogs and cats deserve a safe, dry place to weather the storm as much as you do. Take them to the shelter with you.
- Removing projectiles — If you have chairs or other potential projectiles on your site, put them away. You don’t want one to go through a window.
- Closing storage doors — Make sure your storage bay doors are closed to keep water out.
- Pulling the awning in — RV awnings can’t stand up to much wind and rain. Keep yours intact by pulling it in before any kind of storm.
- Latching the windows — Obviously, you’ll also want to make sure all windows are closed.
- Parking away from trees — If possible, move your RV out from under trees that could break and fall on your roof, causing expensive damage.
- Pulling in the slides — Slides can catch the wind, causing a whole trailer or motorhome to flip. Pull them in.
- Filling the water tanks and hitching up — If it’s going to be very windy or if a tornado is headed your way, consider filling your tanks to add more weight to your rig. If you have a trailer, hitching it to the truck can also help keep it upright.
6. Use common storm sense
Of course, you’ll also want to use your common sense when it comes to storms. Don’t hang out outdoors in a lightning storm. Avoid pools or other bodies of water. Especially if there is lightning in the area. If there is hail, get away from skylights and windshields.
Finally, you will want to watch for flooding and evacuate quickly. Head for higher ground if it looks like water is headed your way.
Stay safe while you’re out camping this season. You won’t want to get stuck out in a storm like this one captured by The Deprey’s, where strong winds flipped campers in Myrtle Beach:
See also: Our Close Encounter With A Tornado Storm
Chelsea Gonzales is a full-time RVer, freelance writer, and roadschooling mama who loves sharing her expertise about RVing with kids, roadschooling, and full-time RVing. The entrepreneurial and free-spirited author is also artistic director of the Aistear Mobile Irish Dance Academy, and currently travels with her family in a 27-foot travel trailer. Chelsea’s informational articles about full-time RVing, raising children on the road, camping, and destination features appear on her blog, Wonder Wherever We Wander. throughout the RV LIFE network, and in RV industry media outlets such as Outdoorsy, Coach-Net, and RV Share.
Great article. Other things to watch out for, depending upon where you are located in North America;
Sand storms – these can completely destroy your RV, windshield, and clog up vents and air conditioning. Watch for sand drifts on the roads as well. Getting stuck in soft sand is no fun.
Firestorms – in the Western United States these are becoming all too frequent. As with all the great suggestions above, ensure you have an exit plan. Lot’s more to consider during a firestorm.
Hail – If you are in areas of extreme weather with a lot of updrafts, hail can be detrimental to you or your RV. Look for a large area that covers your RV or even pull into a gas station or truck stop with a large covering.
Beach camping – during storms there is a lot more storm surge and usually higher tides that can leave you in a very scary situation.
I’m sure, if you’re reading this, you are a conscientious RVer. Always plan for the unforeseeable. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
Stephen Monteith Albers says
I’ve been an ocean yachtsman for +30 years. Safety rules for land yachting are nearly the same which makes most of these 6 things incorrect. Rule #1 NEVER go to sea in any craft that cannot stand up to ANY weather that can be encountered. With a seaworthy vessel, the weather never intimidates but rather inspires. I actually go looking for bad weather for fun. The weather NEVER compromises my plans. It complements them.
Rickey Bratcher says
thanks for the tips
this was very helpful I am a greenhorn and this information is very helpful for my wife and I
Stephen the yachts man. Bull!
I too have spent decades boating. I’m not pretentious enough to say yachting. There is a huge difference between being in a storm at sea in a well found boat and being in an RV and getting hit with a tornado. If your boat, excuse me, yacht was on land for work of any kind and got hit by a tornado it too would be demolished.
Even the best sailors have died at sea, so better watch that superior attitude.
Thank you for this article. However I do think there is one thing that all RV parks could do for us. On their information package they hand out they should indicate what county we’re currently in.. we have noticed that on the radio and many times on TV , they
typically announce counties that could be affected, and as we’re driving along we really don’t know if that’s where we’re headed ,where we’re leaving or where we are. Thanks for reading.
For years heading from AZ to MN in the spring I would go straight N up I-25 to South Dakota before heading E just to avoid driving through Tornado Alley. Nicer scenery anyway.
Ralph & Kathy Moore says
I agree with Joyce, parks, especially smaller ones, should post or hand out that information. County and WEP for weather scanners.
John Koenig says
Gee, MAJOR storm coming. Lets keep ALL our slide outs in the fully extended positions…….
We just bought our first camper with a slide. I probably wouldn’t have thought of that. Awning, yes. Slide.. maybe. Thanks!
Larry Crook says
You should also unhook from the pedestal, we didn’t and it cost us 18,000.00 dollars. We had the best insurance company. They paid the bill.
Joyce is right about knowing what county you are in. When a tornado is headed your way, get out of your rv and go to a building. Tornado vs RV—tornado will win. Add your essential medicines to the “go-bag” containing flashlights,etc. even if you go to a building for a tornado, there can still be damage and injuries. If you have children, have them put on their bike helmets. Take a heavy quilt or blanket to wrap yourselves in. It might cushion from falling debris. Tornados are a part of springtime for us Texans. But it doesn’t stop us from enjoying our state during the spring.
Hans Klaudt says
I can also recommend using NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center (spc.noaa.gov) where you will find a useful predictive analysis of the risk of severe thunderstorms, and tornadoes, for 1,2,3 and 4-8 day intervals. We consult this daily whenever we are traveling across the country in either direction and have made changes in our route accordingly.