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Quick Guide: Winter Roadtreking

| Updated Nov 28, 2014

Humpf!  The muffled noise stirred Lynn to full consciousness. Actually, she was only half asleep, having previously woken up cold and tried to roll over, but discovered she was pinned on her left side by one dog curled against her chest and another behind her knees. The 27-inch wide “single” beds in the Roadtrek were not meant for one person and two dogs (especially 50-pound dogs.)  Roger uttered the “humpf” – Becky was trying to climb in bed with him. It was freezing and the three Poodles were cold.

Red Rover Campsite - smallWe were parked in the West Virginia mountains above Cass (in the quiet zone of the Greenbank Observatory). It was January and the temperature was 12 degrees outside.  We were at friend's house, plugged into a 15-amp circuit, and we had turned on our little electric heater before retiring. We had been in the same location the night before and had been comfortable in our Travasaks (winter side up,) with the little heater on the same setting. But the temperature had plunged this night to 12 degrees and the heater was not keeping up.

Three Dog Twin Bed-small
Simon, Becky & Mark think a Roadtrek twin is the perfect size for 3 Poodles. And they claimed it first.

We got up, turned on the propane furnace. Ahhh! Nice and warm. We remade the bed as a king and we and the dogs slept comfortably the rest of the night.

We have learned a lot about comfort in winter Roadtreking since that night. There are multiple approaches to winter RVing, so we will describe what works for us and our Roadtrek. Our comments apply to the less exotic Roadtreks — we will leave the eTrek and other new products to Mike.

Some owners park their Roadtreks when the temperatures dip below freezing. Our Roadtrek gets about the same amount of use year-round. Since we got our Roadtrek, we have spent every Christmas Eve in the comfort of it, in a relative's driveway. Our winter trips, except for those to warmer climates,  are often fairly short — up to three nights– but still occur regularly.

ReflectixThe first thing to know about winter camping is Reflectix. You need some. It looks like bubble wrap between two layers of aluminum foil. It is available at Lowes or Home Depot in the insulation department. You can also find it at Camping World. It is great for summertime use in the windows to keep down the sun heat load, but it is equally useful in the winter to prevent heat loss. Use scissors to cut it.

Reflectix in Side Window (Medium)
Side rear window. Cut Reflectix to fit and label each piece.

Cut pieces that fit the windows tightly. Most of the time you can press them into the window and they will stay in place. If you have screens on your door windows you can cut the pieces to fit between the screen and the window — pop the window open,  insert the Reflectix panel and close the window.

Reflectix over Fantastic Fan (Medium)
Reflectix cut to cover Fantastic Fan. Useful for keeping light out when sleeping too.

Cover all your windows. We use a folding reflective  sun screen for the windshield. A piece for the Fantastic Fan in the roof is useful, secured with a couple of mini-bungees to hold it against the opening. A piece for the stove vent fan is even more useful  because it is drafty even when closed. We've heard of owners who wrap a big piece of the stuff around the entire head of the bed to avoid any drafts from the rear door. And some use a piece of it to direct heat from a front furnace toward the rear.  Reflectix is wonderful multi-purpose stuff for the RVer.

Although Travasaks (or equivalent) are wonderful, consider a warmer sleeping bag for winter camping. We have several weights of down sleeping bags from our bicycle camping days and have never regretted using them when the weather turned cold.

Use your furnace. It works well. Even if you are using an electric heater, turn on the furnace and set it to a low temperature. That way if the electric heater can't handle the temperature drop, it will not get too cold inside your Roadtrek.

Usually the obstacles to winter RVing involve water and tanks. Our Roadtrek was not built for winter use plumbing, so we do winterize when cold weather comes. That doesn't keep us from living comfortably in our Roadtrek.

Water Jug over sink - small
Put dishpan in sink and swivel drinking water container over the sink. You got running water!

First, running water for washing, brushing teeth and cooking:  we fill a container of drinking water that sits on a foam pad against the kitchen wall.  When winterized, we put an RV dishpan in the sink (perfect fit) and swivel the water container so the spout is over the dishpan. Voila! Now we have running water.  Water for dish washing or shaving can be heated in the microwave or on the stove.

Antifreeze and Toilet -smallWith the dishpan in the sink we don't use the gray tank at all in the winter.  But we do use the black tank.  It works fine as long as you use enough antifreeze to keep liquids in it from freezing solid.  A little slushy is OK.  We keep a jug of antifreeze beside the toilet to flush with a half-cup per use.  If the weather is not too cold, we will used the water in the dishpan for flushing as well.  Just pick a warmer day to dump the tank. If it sits for many weeks between dumping, it does not hurt anything as long as you have sufficient antifreeze in it.  You can add some warm water to the tank before dumping to ensure good flow.  It is possible to avoid toilet use at all with pee bottles and wag bags, but that is far too much trouble for us.

There is really no reason to avoid winter travels in your RV. With some preparation and some practice  you and your dogs will be just as comfortable as other times of the year. Our Roadtrek is an all-weather joy!






Mike Wendland

Published on 2014-11-28

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.

33 Responses to “Quick Guide: Winter Roadtreking”

October 23, 2017at5:39 am, 0123 456 said:

Please remove the Send Voicemail pop out on the side. It blocks text and it doesn’t even work. Thanks

November 06, 2015at11:14 am, Mycopsycho said:

Invariably winter RVing discussions focus on the interior — heat, black water, gray water, etc. — but of far greater concern for me in Colorado is on the outside. From Denver, for example, going west, south, or north involves mountain driving with passes to negotiate. And Colorado has instituted very strict chain and traction restrictions for all vehicles, especially this year. Given that the Roadtrek is a 2WD vehicle, I’m wondering if folks have “chained” up their Roadtreks for winter road travel? I’ve looked at one traction device, the Auto Sock, that might work for temporary traction but would never hold up to miles of snow packed highway going up to the Eisenhower Tunnel and would get torn to shreds on the bare pavement in the tunnel. Any thoughts? BTW, I have a 2015 RT 190 Popular so am rather new to Roadtreking.

December 05, 2014at7:59 am, Cathleen Cavanaugh Savage said:

Thanks for posting. The info about Reflectix and the vents is especially useful!

December 05, 2014at12:15 am, Jodi Hahn Walker said:

If you’re nice, we’ll let you sleep in the house…especially if the temps dip!

December 04, 2014at10:56 pm, Lorna J. Dodge said:

Bought a class c Fourwinds today, will be on the road soon.

November 28, 2014at10:28 pm, Sylvia Eger said:

We’ve used these tips and they really work! We were in northern IN a year ago when the temps unexpectedly dropped to zero, but we stayed warm and comfy! For personal care, we’ve also used the hospital-type bathing wipes (warm them up in the microwave) and no rinse shampoo. Not afraid cold-weather trekking with these simple helps!

October 10, 2014at5:15 pm, Sue said:

I would love to have a list of the cave exploring books Roger has authored or co-authored.

January 09, 2014at12:56 am, Robert Brandt said:

Mel, that would be about a 1996 190 Popular on a Dodge

January 09, 2014at10:40 am, Lynn & Roger Brucker said:

Close. Red Rover is a 1995 Dodge 190 Popular Roadtrek. That means we still have the generator in a compartment and the aisle goes all the way to the rear door. Although we do not have an outdoor shower, we do have low point drain valves for the plumbing. We love our Roadtrek, and really like the 1994/1995/early 1996 Dodge. There are more photos on

January 09, 2014at12:51 am, Robert Brandt said:

almost like mine.

January 06, 2014at9:09 pm, Kathy RedHat Markward said:

Love my 2001 RT, I’m headed north with antifreeze in my potty/black tank. I keep a few gallons of water on hand for washing, but I just use a plastic bowl.

January 06, 2014at8:22 am, Mel Deveau said:

They give good fuel milage.

January 06, 2014at8:21 am, Mel Deveau said:

What year would this one be ?.

January 06, 2014at7:57 am, Jean Bartibogue said:

I will have a roadtrek!!!

January 05, 2014at11:43 pm, Ray Harwood said:

thank you for you all posts I so enjoy reading them and pray you all are safe

January 05, 2014at11:30 pm, Cheryl Dupe said:

Sweet 🙂

January 05, 2014at9:58 pm, Nancy Miller said:

just right for me

January 05, 2014at9:56 pm, Karen B Bell said:

Starting to re-think this concept.

January 05, 2014at9:43 pm, MLopez Rodriguez said:

thats what i need

January 05, 2014at9:37 pm, Tess Carrillo said:

Thank you for the winter tips

January 05, 2014at9:35 pm, Jane Morin said:

I really like this big enough for my husband and myself that way we can go alone no room for anyone else ha ha.

January 05, 2014at9:30 pm, Carolyn Tody said:

Wanted, more than anything… please show the inside.

January 05, 2014at9:25 pm, Mimi Wolf said:

Love it…. Is it solar powered.. Can I see the inside. I really need one

January 05, 2014at9:07 pm, Myra Taylor said:

Need me one one of these machines!!

January 05, 2014at8:53 pm, Donna Hankins Knox said:

Too small forme.

January 05, 2014at8:48 pm, Phyllis Button said:

Got any pics of in side this one?

December 22, 2013at9:31 am, LInda said:

Too cold for me…We love to RV but not in cold weather!

December 21, 2013at8:50 pm, Brenda Rivers said:

I live in WV and have been to Cass a lot. Don’t you just love our beautiful state. I camp in my Volvo station wagon, but hope to one day have a Roadtrekker.

December 21, 2013at6:14 pm, Pam Hicks said:

Thanks, Roger & Lynn! I’m experimenting with winter camping for the first time this year. I love the idea of being able to use my van year round in the northern climate. I use a down comforter or two & stay super warm. The propane furnace is great – extremely reliable & inexpensive. I use the basin in the sink & the toilet. Have thought about getting one of those thermos pumps for hot to warm water.

December 21, 2013at1:46 pm, John said:

I would like to know what it is like to live in the quiet zone of the Greenbank Observatory. No WiFi and other RF emissions. Curious about that. I understand people who are sensitive to RF move there because there isn’t any flying about.

December 21, 2013at3:41 pm, Lynn & Roger Brucker said:

Our friend who lives in the quiet zone is quite happy to be there. He gave us very detailed instructions on finding his place since it was impossible to call him if we got lost. Still we had some confusion (it was after dark) because he said “take Back Mountain Road up the mountain from Cass”. We found Back Mountain Road went two ways and everything was uphill from Cass. The Cass Scenic Railroad is well worth a visit. Our friend volunteers there and we got a great tour of the shops.

December 21, 2013at1:01 pm, Maureen said:

Good info….thanks. I definitely plan on longer stays with relatives in the winter. Very helpful. I like down comforters and sleeping bags and usually never have the heat on in the house through the night unless way below freezing so makes sense to me.

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