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Surviving cold and snow in an RV

Surviving cold and snow while living fulltime in our RV

One of the great advantages we saw with full-time RV travel was the ability to stay where the weather was comfortable. What we’ve found is that it’s easier said than done. In the last year we’ve experienced more cold and snow in our RV than in multiple years in our sticks & bricks.

When we set out to travel full-time in our RV, we had hoped to escape the worst of the weather. We wanted out of the heat of North Alabama summers, and we wanted to avoid the freezing cold that sometimes comes with the winters there. Our first winter in the RV we were still mostly stationary in and about the Huntsville area and as such we experienced the full range of weather.

When we picked up our RV in early September, 2019 in Florida it was close to 100 degrees. As we headed back north with it the weather stayed just as hot. It was November before we saw it cool off to a temperature comfortable enough to not need both of our rigs air conditioners.

But it wasn’t long – the second week of November – before we would see our first few nights with temperatures below freezing. Brandon fashioned a heated hose out of a heat strip and pipe insulation. It worked well enough until we moved. In December we saw our first snow, nothing major, just enough to be pretty. In January, temperatures dove below freezing again. We arrived at a new campground and didn’t even hook up to the water that first night because the temps would be so low (and because we expected to move to a different site the next day). It was a good thing we didn’t. The faucet froze (even though it was running). It wasn’t long before we ordered an actual heated hose.

Our first snow in the RV – back when we were still in Alabama

It was all fine, we knew we’d be escaping soon and this would be the worst winter weather we’d have to endure in our RV. LOL.

When we finally hit the road in June of 2020, we found little escape from the encroaching Alabama heat. It was well over 90 degrees when we left and despite heading further and further north the temps stayed well over 90 degrees everywhere we went. Until we headed south again, landing in southern Colorado – Del Norte. Our first night there felt amazing as did the next couple of weeks. The days were in the 80s and the nights were cool enough to enjoy a fire.

A foot of snow in Colorado

Over labor day the temps soared into 90s, only to plummet two days later, dropping below freezing and bringing a foot of snow. We were not prepared, but then no one was prepared for that. It was one of the earliest snows they’d seen in decades. We didn’t hook up our heated hose, we just left the water running and we survived without anything freezing. It only stayed below freezing for less than 24 hours and soon it warmed up and the snow melted, but not before damaging many trees in our RV park – making us happy we’d opted for a site in their “meadow”.

A foot of snow in Del Norte, Colorado – 2 days after Labor Day

Again, we thought that would be the worst weather we’d see. It was a fun adventure. Not really something we looked to encounter, but it wasn’t so bad really. We got a great story and some good pictures out of it.

We spent the end of January and first half of February along the Gulf Coast of Mississippi and southern Louisiana enjoying warm weather and sunshine. We pulled out our shorts and walked on the beach. It had been our plan to head to Texas over President’s day weekend, to arrive ahead of the class we were taking. As we watched the weather we realized we needed to quicken our pace. A trip we’d planned to take over three days was shortened to two to make sure we could arrive ahead of potential snow and ice in Texas.

When we departed Lafayette on Friday the temperatures had already dropped to just above freezing. We stopped for the night a bit further north and it got colder. Then Saturday we finished the trip. We’d missed the first ice storm that had caused a pile up of 20 or so cars, but there were still signs of ice in the trees and on the roads.

Surviving the Texas Snowstorm of 2021

When we got into our site we found that the faucet had already frozen. The previous tenant had only left a few hours before. It was COLD. We thawed the faucet with a hair dryer and hooked up before heading to Lowes and Walmart to try to pick up a few last minute items to help us prep for the cold that was to come. It was already below freezing but we were expecting temps to hit zero, or lower, within the next few nights. We were able to find some pipe insulation at Walmart, although they had little else.

Brandon wrapped the faucet, hose connection, and water pressure regulator with the insulation we’d just purchased. In addition to the heated hose, we left all of our faucets running a small stream of water. The last thing we want to experience is a busted pipe.

Sunday morning we were already down one propane tank – no worries the park sells propane. But, no one was in the office or answering the phone. Hopefully, we could get filled on Monday.

Day 1: Monday

Sunday night the wintry mix began, we were comfortable and warm and had little to be concerned about. Until the power went off at 2AM and we realized that the breaker for the invertor was tripped – so the batteries weren’t sending any power to the rig. Unsure if the power outage was us or a wider problem we both got up and got dressed. I went to look for the breaker. It’s tucked behind a panel in the battery compartment – something we’d learned last winter when it tripped and we had to call a tech to help us figure out why our slides weren’t working. Brandon went to check the power.

We soon realized it wasn’t just us and shortly thereafter the power came back on. Only to go back off about 20 minutes later – a cycle that would repeat all night. It wasn’t until the next morning that we learned that what we were experiencing was a rolling blackout – something we’d only ever heard about.

We didn’t get much sleep that night and woke up Monday morning to about 6 inches of snow on the ground. It was pretty, but it was really really cold. The highest temp we saw on Monday was barely in the teens. Thankfully, a worker did show up to fill propane and we were able to get the tanks filled. All but the one we were currently using – that tank went empty about the time we headed to bed Monday night.

Surviving cold and snow in an RV

While there we discovered that we were better prepared than some in our RV Park. One thing that surprised us is here is that this is the first place we’ve been where they didn’t tell us what to do when the weather dropped below freezing. Everywhere else we’ve been when it was expected to freeze came through and left a note or spoke to us to tell us to leave our faucets running – and they made sure that the external faucets were running if no one was in a site to avoid freezing. Here we were on our own and quite happy this wasn’t our first frozen rodeo.

Unfortunately, it was the first time for others and they found themselves with frozen pipes, and busted water hoses.

We spent Monday conserving energy in every way. While we have battery backups on our electronics – including our router – we opted to just take the day off and hope that maybe Tuesday things would improve. We lay around and read and during the bursts of power we watched local antenna TV, catching up on game shows from the 1980s. Big Bucks Big Bucks, No Whammies!

We counted ourselves lucky as we watched the news and saw that so much of Texas was completely without power. We were thankful that we were in an RV and not a house. At least if the power did go out completely we had batteries and if needed we could plug into the truck to keep those batteries charged. So many throughout the state were not so lucky, as they went multiple days without any power. Bathtubs they’d filled with water (just in case), frozen solid. And, between the power outages and so many faucets running, water pressure was dropping as well.

Day 2: Tuesday

Tuesday was a bit nicer, the sun came out for a short while and it didn’t feel nearly as cold as the temperature (and the wind chill) said it was. Brandon took our other propane tank down for a refill and found out that while they’d just had their 500 gallon tank filled on Saturday they were already down to 10%. They were hoping for a refill later that day. We were hoping for one, too because we were going through about a tank a day.

The battery back-up on our router paid off ensuring that we had internet access even when the power was out. And, although we couldn’t use our larger monitors we were able to get some work done. We have UPS battery backups at each of our work stations but the power needed to run a big monitor takes a pretty big draw, so we worked without them. We realized something that we often take for granted – the power that comes with just being comfortable with your work station. Simply not having our usual comfortable work station really affected our productivity as we struggled with not being able to view multiple windows at once and instead had to work to see the screens on our tiny laptops.

Rather than worry about the Roku resetting every time the power came on, we set up the Ipad and watched shows in the evening, something we could do even when the power was off – thanks to the battery backup on the router. We bought that thing because it would allow the router to stay connected when we were on the road – theoretically so we could use it to work on travel days (something that has never happened), but it has more than proven its value this week.

Day 3: Wednesday

Wednesday morning we woke up to more snow and ice – enough to cover the tire tracks from the previous two days. The snow continued through the day Wednesday with big fluffy flakes. We continued to adapt, getting more and more used to the “new normal,” while also thankful that it wouldn’t last beyond this week. Our periods with power lengthened. We actually had power for a full three hours at one point.

Texan RV Park covered in about 6 inches of snow

Although our stove works on propane we opted not to use it in an effort to conserve propane because of the rate we were using it just to stay warm. Instead, we cooked when we had power using our induction cooktop or air fryer. Of course, every meal was a race against time because we never know how long we’d have power. So it was a game of prep the food and be ready when the power came on to cook something that would take less than 20 minutes (generally that was the shortest time we had power).

We also conserved propane by turning our refrigerator to AC only and just allowing it to be off when the power was off. When we filled our propane we learned something very important, propane does not work efficiently when the temperature is super low. The lower the temperature the lower the BTUs a tank can put out – meaning that when it’s really cold you only get maybe half of your tanks worth of propane, requiring you to fill more often.

Day 4: Thursday

Wednesday night the power kicked back on at about 10pm and finally stayed on. It seemed the rolling outages were finally over and we could return to normal (more or less). ERCOT requested that people continue to conserve power by avoiding things like running a clothes dryer. We don’t have one of those anyway, but we definitely needed to wash clothes (and ourselves).

All in all, it was an adventure, but not one that we’d want to repeat. We don’t mind encountering snow for a day or two. Freezing temperatures are also doable for a short time, but when that snow and cold affects everything from the roads, to the power, for days on end it’s a bit much and definitely not a situation we would recomend.

Hindsight is always 20/20. We’ve asked each other several times if we’d known what this week would bring would we have done things differently? The answer is probably not. The area around Lafayette where we spent the previous week was hit with cold and ice and even rolling power outages as well. Staying south wouldn’t have helped and because we needed to be in Texas next week we couldn’t really go east either.

After we completed our coursework at the NRVTA we headed East and found that the ice caused issues well into Mississippi where we found the grocery aisles still bare a week after things had thawed.

All in all, it was an adventure, one that we wouldn’t choose to repeat, but one that we know we could survive if we needed to.

What would you have done?

Julie
Julie

Julie grew up making cross-country road trips, and has always loved to travel. She dreamed of one day retiring and living in an RV while traveling. Finally, she realized that you can't wait to live the life you want, and there was no reason to wait. As a freelance writer and marketer she realized as long as she had internet she could live anywhere! So, she did.

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