Going out in the winter with an RV requires a little more preparation than a summer trip.
You have to account for rough weather, potentially dangerous roads, and more. Perhaps you live in a climate where summers are brief.
Or maybe winter adventures with your RV are your favorite thing to do. Either way, if you’re heading out in chilly climates, you will need an arctic package.
These packages are available pre-installed or as upgrades. Alternatively, you can do it yourself.
Regardless of what you choose, know what a decent arctic package should consist of.
1. Insulation Is Everything
The core of an arctic package is insulation.
As long as your RV is insulated, you will be shielded from the cold. Remember that RVs are made up of many components.
Ideally, an arctic package should cover insulating all the essentials.
Floor, Roof And Walls
A lot of heat can escape through improperly insulated flooring and roofs.
Adding insulation to an RV’s walls may not always be possible, depending on the model.
If this is the case for your RV, floor and roof insulation is doubly important.
It may be difficult or costly to insulate the walls of your RV due to permanent fixtures (e.g. cabinets). If you choose to try and do this on your own, proceed carefully. You don’t want to irreparably damage the vehicle.
Here is a short video on using spray foam insulation in older trailers:
There are many types of insulation. Fiberglass, radiant barrier, foam—they all have advantages and disadvantages. It is up to you to determine which will best suit you and your RV.
Your RV’s windows can be another source of heat loss in the winter. If the windows are standard, they can be replaced with dual-pane or thermal glass. If the arctic package you are interested in does not cover windows, have a back-up plan.
You might have to upgrade the windows with another company. Alternatively, you can insulate windows by yourself with a DIY kit.
2. Protect Your Pipes And Tanks
You want to avoid water in any part of your RV freezing, so your tanks (both water and waste) and pipes have to be insulated.
Of course, these need to be functional, regardless of the weather. There is nothing pleasant about trying to dump frozen waste water. And replacing cracked tanks due to freezing is certainly an avoidable expense.
A standard arctic package should include insulating your tanks. If it doesn’t, you can install heating pads on your current tanks. For a more permanent option, standard tanks can be replaced with winterized ones.
Pipes And Hose
Do not neglect the pipes and the hose—these must be protected against the cold too.
You don’t want to be caught out with no fresh water, or frozen pipes.
Unless you have heating pads on hand, you will need to take your RV back home.
Whether you’re upgrading your current RV or purchasing one with an arctic package, perform a check. Look for exposed pipes and discuss whether or not these will be insulated.
3. Make Sure Your RV’s Underbelly Is Protected
Don’t forget about your RV’s underbelly when it comes to winterizing.
There are pipes that can freeze under there, and the cold can seep inside through to your RV floor.
Even if the floor is insulated, your RV will not be as warm as it should be. Fifth-wheel trailers and travel trailers are particularly vulnerable to frozen pipes.
If temperatures are below freezing, this can happen, even with heated tanks.
Arctic packages can shield your RV’s underbelly in one of several ways. They may include heated compartments to prevent pipes from freezing, and enhance insulation.
Another option is that the underbelly is sealed entirely to create a barrier against the icy temperatures. Finally, a combination of these two strategies may be used.
If your arctic package does not include these, RV skirting is also effective against the cold. These “skirts” can be made of almost any insulating material, and wrapped around your RV.
You can have a skirt tailored to fit your trailer or motorhome. If you are the crafty type, you can build one on your own.
Find out how to do this and what materials you will need by watching this YouTube video:
Certain models come with features that heat the underbelly. However, this may not be enough for very low temperatures. It’s better to check the owner’s manual to find out if the heating features will work below a certain temperature.
4. You Will Still Burn Power
It’s not surprising that keeping an RV heated in the harsh winter months requires a lot of power.
Whether you are using propane or electricity as your power source, expect to consume more than average.
Arctic packages can reduce your fuel costs, but not as much as you may think. Even the best insulation will not be enough on its own to keep you warm, especially in extreme cold.
Electricity at campsites is likely to be expensive. Furnaces running at all hours can and do guzzle propane at alarming rates.
If you are boondocking, you will have to prepare by bringing adequate supplies of propane.
Otherwise, you may have to run your furnace less often than you’d like, to avoid running out.
5. Knowing The R-Value Helps
You should know the estimated R-value of an arctic package prior to purchase.
This is a number that signifies the resistance of heat flow through any material.
Basically, the R-value measures how effective any given material is at insulation.
The higher the number is, the better it is at insulating.
You want your arctic package to have a high R-value. However, keep in mind that the value you get from the manufacturer may be biased.
There is currently no agency in place for regulating given R-values for build in arctic package or upgrades.
There is however a resource that rates the R-values of all sorts of building materials. This can help you make a decision before purchasing a package or components.
If you’re doing most of the insulating yourself, you can compare and contrast different R-values.
However, don’t use the R-value as the main marker as to the quality of an arctic package. The extent of insulation, performance reviews, and other features are more important.
Watch this in-depth video to learn everything you should know about R-values:
6. Don’t Forget Your Warranty
Unless you bought your RV secondhand, getting a warranty is always a good idea.
It may seem like an unnecessary expense, but warranties can be life-saving if something goes wrong.
Whether you have a gargantuan motorhome or a pop-up tent trailer, things can go wrong. You could save yourself unnecessary expense—think of a warranty as side help for your insurance.
If you’re buying a new RV with an arctic package, definitely get a warranty if it’s not already included. If part of your arctic package breaks down on your first trip, you will be compensated.
A warranty will usually cover the vehicle for the first year at least.
Apply the same to upgrading a current RV through the manufacturer or dealership. Installing an arctic package on an RV is no easy task. It’s likely to require work on everything, from your RV’s body to the windows and more.
If any part of your arctic package is installed incorrectly, it can cause you problems out on the road. Not only that, but your RV could be damaged—for example, cracked tanks due to malfunctioning heating pads.
If you’re unsure of what your options are, get a free quote for an extended warranty.
7. DIY Or Upgrading Your RV: What To Know
Get as familiar as possible with everything to do with arctic packages.
The article that you’re reading now is a great start! You want to be absolutely certain that the package you purchase is right for you.
The same is true if you will be buying all your materials to winterize the RV on your own.
Try to find a reputable company. Look at all available sources of information, not just the official manufacturer’s website. Check forums for winter RV enthusiasts and reviews on different platforms.
If you plan on upgrading your RV, do the same for the dealerships or companies. Get as much feedback as you can.
You might find that even if an arctic package has good reviews, it isn’t appropriate for you.
Before you begin buying materials for DIY projects, do your research. It might turn out that some DIY projects are more work than you’re willing to do.
Remember that RVs all differ, even if they are the same type (e.g. travel trailer). If you want to copy a DIY arctic package, make sure that it will work on your specific make and model of RV.
8. Buying an RV with Arctic Package: What to Know
If you will be buying a new or used RV with a pre-installed package, thorough research is required.
After all, this isn’t just an upgrade or a project: you are buying a whole new RV.
If you’re unsure of where to start, check top reviews of winter RVs. This will give you an idea of what you should be looking for.
Opt for better known brands that have an established reputation for quality.
Don’t automatically assume that any RV with an arctic package is what it claims. Check for pipe insulation, protected underbelly, etc.
Scour any and all reviews online for the RV you are considering.
You might be thinking about getting a four season RV. However, these may not be suitable for more extreme winter camping.
Watch this video about what to look out for if you are thinking about a four season RV:
When doing your research, apply qualities that are relevant to you personally. Is this arctic package good for trips up a mountain?
What about boondocking, if that’s what you prefer?
Account for additional expenses before you purchase the RV. What else will have to be done to get your RV fully winter-ready?
Will you have to insulate pipes yourself or seal your RV underbelly?
9. Invest In Accessories
Arctic packages can be an excellent investment, but they aren’t comprehensive protection.
There are a few additional accessories you may want for your winter adventures.
You can choose from propane or electric portable heaters for your RV. Ensure that whichever type you buy has a failsafe tip mechanism.
This means that if you knock your heater over by accident, it will turn itself off.
Some models have more advanced safety features. The Mr. Heater portable propane heater automatically shuts off if oxygen levels get too low.
If you are looking for something more high-tech, the Lasko tower heater can be controlled by remote. For those of you with larger trailers or motorhomes, there are heaters that can warm up big spaces.
The Camco Olympian Wave gas heater can be mounted or freestanding, and heats areas of up to 130 square feet.
Insulating your vents at night will stop cold air blowing into your RV. A vent insulator can be tucked into any standard-sized vent.
Humidity might become a problem in a well-sealed RV. A dehumidifier, such as this one from Pro Breeze, can remove the excess moisture from the air.
Carbon Monoxide Detector
If you’re using fuel-operated heaters, consider a carbon monoxide detector for peace of mind. Most are battery operated and easy to install.
When looking for an arctic package, remember there is no one-size-fits-all solution.
The type of RV you own, your budget, and your expectations all come into play. To avoid disappointment, be realistic about your needs and abilities.
If you’re uncomfortable with modifying your RV yourself, there are plenty of companies that will do it for you. If you have a passion for winter camping, investing in an RV with a pre-installed package might be best.
Did this article cover what you needed to know about arctic packages? Share it with your fellow winter camping enthusiasts! If there’s anything else we should know, tell us in the comments!