10 Winter Camping Items You Shouldn’t Travel Without
Winter camping is a joy in one main way: not many people also want to do it. This leaves boondocking spots, cool weather campgrounds, and empty resorts open for the taking.
While camping in the cold and snow can be a real adventure, you do need to have a rig set up for four-season camping and some sort of heat source. You will also want to supply your camper or trailer and your tow vehicle or toad with an assortment of other items that will keep you safe and secure in more inclement weather.
These 10 winter camping items will not only keep you warmer or get you out of a slippery situation, but can also help your fellow RV travelers on the road get out of a wintery jam.
1. Heat tape
Owners of more simple teardrops or some vans may not have plumbing and don’t have to worry about frozen and busted pipes. However, for the larger rigs with plumbing systems, frozen pipes are one of the top concerns during winter camping.
Many campgrounds will shut off their water hookups during the colder months, so an RVer may need to depend solely on their own freshwater and waste tanks. Bringing along heat tape to wrap around water and sewer hoses and pipes will keep them from freezing. Bring along some foam pipe insulation for double duty warmth.
2. 12-volt heated blanket
One item that comes in real handy when winter camping is a 12-volt heated throw or blanket. Not only can it be used to heat up a chilly bed or for a cold vehicle passenger, it can keep other items around the RV warm.
Wrap a 12-volt blanket around the pipes under your kitchen or bathroom sink. Place the blanket in front of an icy window or windscreen to melt ice, or use it to keep batteries and battery-operated tools protected from the cold.
3. Portable jump starter
While jumper cables are a necessary item for any vehicle or motorized RV, having a portable jump starter or jump pack in your kit can be helpful if there are no other vehicles around.
These jump starters are usually a portable lithium battery with cables that can start up a dead battery. They are helpfully charged up via 12-volt plugs and can also be used to charge up cell phones or other devices with several USB ports. Some even have flashlights, safety lights, or even alarms.
4. Cordless heat gun
If you ever have an iced up door lock or your stabilizer jacks are stuck to the frozen ground, having a cordless heat gun around will be handy. Some RVers will use a hairdryer to get out of this type of situation, but regular hairdryers use regular plugs and an amazing amount of power to run.
A cordless heat gun runs off its own charged battery and can get up to 800 degrees in a few minutes. Some of them even have a light in case you are trying to warm up those stubborn jacks on a dark morning.
5. Tire chains or cables
Anyone who has driven in the snow and ice knows that tire chains or cables are not only necessary, but in some locations they are the law. During snowstorms, highway patrol on some mountain passes or other locations will not let vehicles continue on without chains or cables.
Both of these traction devices have their pros and cons. Cables are lighter and easier to handle, but usually break after a few uses. Chains are strong, but heavy to carry and a pain to put on. No matter which device you choose, have them tucked away in your storage area or trunk for winter camping.
6. Recovery tracks
Winter not only brings snow, but also slushy mud or sand. Make sure your tow vehicle or trailer is equipped with recovery tracks.
These are traction mats made out of rubber or plastic. If you happen to get your vehicle stuck in some snow, mud, or slippery sand, place them under your tires to give them a better grip on the ground. Recovery tracks are lightweight and some can even be rolled up to save storage space.
7. Battery operated weather radio
Winter weather can be both exciting and unpredictable. While cell phone apps such as Dark Sky by Apple are helpful for forecasting incoming storms, cell service is not always reliable in some areas or during cell tower outages.
Having a battery operated weather radio (or even two-way radios with a weather station) will give you localized NOAA information for any upcoming storms or high winds. Some of these radios can also be charged via solar power or by hand crank.
8. Battery operated spotlight
Winter nights can be pretty long. You will most likely be traveling part of the day in the dark and may even be looking for campsites or locations without the help of daylight. In addition, there may also be a few instances where you may need to hook up your trailer or install snow chains in the pitch black.
Having a portable, battery operated spotlight to light up campsites, engines or work spaces can come in real handy. These types of lights are directional and run off of efficient lithium batteries. Like the handy jump starter, they can sometimes power up small USB devices as well.
9. A full tank of gas
There is a long term military adage that you should never let your gas tank go below half a tank. This is even more important in the winter.
Condensation can form and freeze inside the empty part of your gas tank and wreak havoc on your fuel lines and make your vehicle difficult to start. Making sure your gas tank is full or more than half full should be part of your regular stops for hot coffee.
10. Personal items for warmth and safety
When traveling in your RV, don’t forget to also take care of yourself. Make sure you have the essential items to keep warm such as a down sleeping bag, warm clothing, hats and gloves, and good footwear and socks.
Along with warm boots, pick up a pair of traction devices for your shoes such as Yaktrax. Like tire chains for your feet, they will stop you from slipping on black ice or packed snow when you leave your RV for a walk in the wintery woods.
Read more about winter camping:
- The Best Winter Camping Gear For RVers
- How To Avoid Winter Camping Problems In Your RV
- How To Keep Your RV Plumbing From Freezing When Winter Camping
Christina is a writer and designer who has written about camping, tiny houses, and alternative living since 2008. She recently traded in her teardrop trailer for a 13-foot fiberglass trailer from 1982.