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When is it too cold to RV?

| Updated Jan 18, 2014

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

Published on 2014-01-18

Mike Wendland is a multiple Emmy-award-winning Journalist, Podcaster, YouTuber, and Blogger, who has traveled with his wife, Jennifer, all over North America in an RV, sharing adventures and reviewing RV, Camping, Outdoor, Travel and Tech Gear for the past 12 years. They are leading industry experts in RV living and have written 18 travel books.

40 Responses to “When is it too cold to RV?”

January 21, 2014at5:44 pm, Judi Darin said:

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?

January 21, 2014at9:27 am, Dave Miller said:

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

January 20, 2014at6:55 pm, Bill Sprague said:


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,


January 20, 2014at12:48 pm, Gary Hennes said:

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!

January 20, 2014at12:28 pm, Barb and Don Pfotenhauer said:

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

January 20, 2014at11:29 am, Karsten Askeland said:

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. 🙂

January 20, 2014at11:15 am, Steve and Gaitha Athans said:

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

January 19, 2014at11:28 am, JJ ( RVing Toadless ) said:

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

January 18, 2014at10:59 pm, W Thurman Bryant said:

Too cold for no shore power

January 18, 2014at6:19 pm, Marty Reed said:

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!,,

January 18, 2014at3:33 pm, Judy Gillen said:

Discretion is the better part of valor

January 18, 2014at3:03 pm, Dave Miller said:

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

January 18, 2014at2:54 pm, Bev Laing said:

Is there an RV somewhere in that photo ??

January 18, 2014at2:31 pm, Muriel Moore said:

Michigan here love the weather and love being in it 😉

January 18, 2014at2:22 pm, Billy Barnes said:

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.

January 18, 2014at12:13 pm, Nancy Nesmith Nelson said:

Beautiful … but not RV weather!!!

January 18, 2014at12:11 pm, Maureen said:

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

January 18, 2014at12:06 pm, Brian Barker said:

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

January 18, 2014at11:52 am, Peggy Ferguson said:

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

January 18, 2014at11:28 am, Paul Konowalchuk Pogorzelski said:

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

January 18, 2014at11:25 am, Joe Moorefield said:

Too cold. for no power.

January 18, 2014at11:23 am, Janet said:

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.

January 20, 2014at11:17 am, Steve and Gaitha Athans said:

They should come see you Janet… 😉

January 18, 2014at11:21 am, Jo Ann Stukkie Johnson said:

“Discretion is the better part of valor”

January 18, 2014at11:17 am, Kim Bourne said:

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

January 18, 2014at11:15 am, Kim Bourne said:

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

January 18, 2014at10:40 am, Sandy D said:

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

January 18, 2014at10:38 am, Laureen Jewell said:

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

January 18, 2014at10:15 am, David Herrmann said:

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

January 18, 2014at10:06 am, Toni Pelletier said:

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….

January 18, 2014at10:02 am, Dillon said:

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

January 18, 2014at9:59 am, Cathy M Rice said:

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

January 18, 2014at9:58 am, Laurie J. Buell said:

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…

January 18, 2014at9:50 am, Robert Limato said:

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

January 18, 2014at9:50 am, Brenda Harrison said:

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

January 18, 2014at9:46 am, JR Cline said:

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

January 18, 2014at9:45 am, Roadtreking said:

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

January 18, 2014at11:17 am, dianekfromohio said:

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!

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