When is it too cold to RV?

 When is it too cold to RV?

I am beginning to have some serious doubts about the wisdom of taking our Roadtrek eTrek to the wilderness of Northern Minnesota next week to report on a dog sled marathon from Duluth to the Canadian border. The long term weather forecast predicts lows of -20F/-28C along the Northern Shore of Lake Superior, where we would be boondocking with no outside power.

UPcenterpieceI had really looked forward to this but it seems foolhardy to do a RV trip under such extreme cold. We handled -5F/-20C last year in February in Michigan's Upper Peninsula but we had commercial power there and ran a small ceramic heater in addition to our on-board Webasto heater. Since we would be boondocking in Minnesota with no shore power, that ceramic heater would be too much of a battery drain in such cold running all through the night.

20belowBesides, we had a pipe freeze at our sticks and bricks home home during the last cold spell of a week ago. We were fortunately home and were able to get it thawed out without it bursting by hooking up space heaters but if that happened while we were on a trip, I hate to think of the damage we would have had.

That predicted -20F/-28C up in Minnesota is the real temp. The wind chill would make it even colder!

The place where we would be boondocking is several miles from civilization at a road crossing/check point for the mushers. I was going to help with the amateur radio setup I have in my Roadtrek to report on the teams and their times as they passed the checkpoint. The location is so remote there is no mobile phone coverage.

I just mentioned the possibility of canceling to Jennifer and she is voicing no objections. In fact I think she's secretly hoping for that decision. Those temps are even too cold for Tai, our Norwegian Elkhound.

Haven't made a decision yet… but good grief…that is REALLY cold.

What do you think? Should I go or cancel this one?

How cold is too cold?


Mike Wendland

Mike Wendland is a veteran journalist who, with his wife, Jennifer, travels North America in a small motorhome, blogging about the people, places, joys and adventure of RV life on the road at RVLifestyle.com. He and Jennifer also host the weekly RV Podcast and do twice-weekly videos on the YouTube RV Lifestyle Channel. They have written 10 books on RV travel.


  • I mean, there’s cold and then there’s REALLY cold!

    • The cold is not as much an issue as the question of safety. If you had commercial electric which could support additional heaters but you do not so therefore you don’t need to risk being frozen popsickles!

  • Anything below freezing is too cold for me. I prefer 60s and above. lol

  • Never

  • To cold without heat you will get sick and you don’t want that. Now that’s just me thinking.

  • Might be a good way of life if I could trailer my car

  • It does get cold in northern Minnesota-glad I don’t live up there anymore! I’m tired of the snow and cold here in southern Minnesota…

  • Way to cold…you need shore power for sure….

  • The roadtreking life is all about adventure, right? Get out there! Just be safe, and stay at a park with hookups if needed.

  • We are in Tyler Texas for the winter in a 38ft Motorhome… It got to 12 degrees here a couple of weeks ago and we had our hose and outside connection freeze up…. the furnace and two heaters kept the inside warm and the basement compartments safe, but that certainly would be too cold for me… It sounds like a fun trip, but not sure I would be going with you….

  • Go south!!!

  • Sometimes discretion IS the better part of valor…….had home pipe freeze long time ago…..not good.

  • …this looks a lot like Tinker Falls near Labrador Mnt in NY!

  • It does sound risky. Will your amateur radio setup allow you to have communication with the outside world in the event of an emergency?

  • I do not like cold weather and I would cancel for sure

  • in fact if I was you I would be driving south as fast as I could go lol

  • “Discretion is the better part of valor”

  • That is too friggin cold. I mean it is 60 degrees in my house right now and I just turned on the heater for a short bit to take the chill off. I say listen to your gut. It is fun to camp but to be uncomfortable doesn’t sound good to me.
    Take the RT if you must, park it in front of a hotel and leave the heat on at night. That way you can still help with the monitoring but you can be warm.
    Listen to you gut. It has already given you the answer. Stay warm, Stay safe.

    • They should come see you Janet… 😉

  • Too cold. for no power.

  • I’m finding the irony here, should I attend a dog sledding event? My answer is RUFF RUFF….RUFF, RUFF, RUFF RT

  • The mountains of NC. Snow Wed, snow last nite., today too! Yeah!!

  • I would n’t consider it without shore power and maybe not then….at those temperatures if something goes wrong …..it is a big problem…

  • I’m surprised the whole event isn’t cancelled. Stay home!

  • Beautiful … but not RV weather!!!

  • God gave us the ability to make choices and as we grow older and more experienced, we have wisdom; that said, I believe you know the choice you need to make. This ole Southern girl would certainly stay home; and I know my husband would be thankful and agree.

  • Michigan here love the weather and love being in it 😉

  • Is there an RV somewhere in that photo ??

  • Its just getting good up here! We’re heading out tomorrow for a couple of days of XC skiing and snowshoeing. A couple of years ago at a dog sled race I woke up in my unheated truck topper to -20F. I was nice and warm in my sleeping bag but my boots were so stiff I couldn’t get them on.
    This time of the year the air is so fresh, the trees crack in the cold, the stars are soooo bright, the Northern Lights are usually out all night and there’s nothing like waking up in the Northwoods of Lake Superior.
    You have to blend diesel fuel and I use additives so we have never had starting problems or gelling issues.
    Think warm thoughts, dress in layers and remember Call of the Wild and The Cremation of Sam McGee. There are lots of people out and about around here and when we’re not out and about we hug the wood stove Hi Hi
    Bigfoot Dave

  • Discretion is the better part of valor

  • Well if ito were me being the tag along i would be holding out for a week in the Bahamas if I had ro freeze!,,

  • Too cold for no shore power

  • I have survived -10 with shore power. I think you should cancel.

  • I think a roadtrip to see Janet Arnold in San Diego would be the better way to go… 😉

  • I’ve been good for about 0º F with windchills up to -20º F without shore power. But that was with propane furnace and generator running to run ceramic heater. That was for about an 8 hour period.

    I wasn’t in an isolated area and I have cell phone and Internet reception. Not sure I would have been totally comfortable if I didn’t have cell access.

    As much as we love our RV’s and the challenges winter camping/Rving may bring … I think if you are too isolated with no outside contact … time to rethink. 🙂

  • I’d be more worried about the engine. We will be picking up our Etrek in April and plan 5 months of inside storage in U.P. Michigan

  • Mike – don’t do it! I mean don’t Cancel!! I’ve camped out up there following a dog sled race around at -30F and not had a problem. There are places for shore power along the route, if you need them. MN State Parks – Tettegouce & Temperance River have electric sites plowed out. Usually, Grand Marais municipal campground has sites plowed, with electric. Most of the checkpoints are at warm spots, Like Trail Center on the Gunflint Trail, Devils Track near Grand Marais, Finland Community Center, Tofte and Billy’s. AND – there’s always a big bonfire going outside to warm your tootsies!

  • Mike,

    In an arctic equipped Triple E B+ with enclosed, heated tanks, dual pane windows, and valves and a 4×4 conversion, maybe. In a Sprinter Class B with single glazing and vulnerable batteries and plumbing, no. Diesels have issues in clod weather and, even though we enjoy having you serve as our guinea pig, I’d be concerned for your safety in those conditions.

    My 2¢ and worth every penny,


  • Good morning Mike. Its -19F here in Duluth this morning and the wood stove feel really good. We got back from our XC ski trip up in the general area of your road crossing site for the Beargrease. It was +26F on Sunday and 0F on Monday. We put in about 12 miles between the 2 days and had a great trip. We cheated though. The thought of a nice hot tub after a day of skiing was too much to resist. We stayed at a lodge. The scenery was beautiful. You can see so much more when the leaves are off the trees, the snow adds so much to the woods and the ice on the shore of Lake Superior is like ice candy. If you do come this way consider hiking out to see the Sea Caves at Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. The caves are just East of Cornucopia, WI. There is a phone # at the park that has a recording of ice conditions.
    As much as we love the winter wonderland we live in I have to say that this adventure you are considering will be a real challenge in your Roadtrek. We are here to offer all of the support we can but it will be COLD from the looks of it. Blend your fuel and bring lots of warm clothes and bedding. Last night I went to a HAM meeting and left a water bottle in the car for 2 hours. It was half froze when I left the meeting!
    Thought of walking the beaches of the Emerald Coast are starting to resonate!
    We respect your thoughts either way, Bigfoot Dave

  • I’ve often wondered how cold is too cold, but mostly for my RT and not my comfort. I want to do an extended ski trek, going from ski area to ski area. I wonder how my tanks would do in the cold. Is there less of a freezing risk in an eTrek than as Agile?

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