Winter Caravanning Tips

Winter Caravanning Tips

Posted on November 25, 2013 by

Trees and lake covered in frostIf your passion for caravanning hasn’t cooled along with the weather, there are plenty of available opportunities for winter holidays. Some of us are fair weather caravanners, while others are quite happy to take off for a few days of snow-enhanced outdoor living. Someone once said that there’s no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong equipment, and we would have to agree. The only things standing between you and an excellent winter break in your caravan is a positive attitude and proper preparation.

The biggest problem you will face is the cold, particularly if you intend to stay within the UK. The materials used to construct caravans are far less insulating than the bricks and mortar you’re used to at home, and it won’t take long for you to start to feel the cold. Doing what you can to stay warm and improve insulation can make all the difference, and always travelling with these essentials is a sure-fire way to have an enjoyable holiday experience.

Winter caravanning essentials

  • Switch to propane gas as butane is ineffective in temperatures below zero. Remember to check the manuals for all appliances in your caravan to make sure they are compatible with propane and that you have configured all settings correctly. Propane will work up to -40, while butane will not gas below 1C.
  • Consider installing an on-board water tank if you are concerned about the temperature dropping low enough to freeze your outside container. Alternatively, a number of products are available to make your outside tank compatible with the winter weather, such as winter conversion kits and gentle pipe heaters. Research the best option well before you are due to travel so everything is in place in plenty of time.
  • It is advisable to add anti-freeze to your waste water system (NEVER to your drinking water).  Most plumbing suppliers and builders merchants will have a variety of options available. Remember never to use salt in toilets or similar systems, as it can be corrosive.
  • Make sure that your heating system is in good repair and safe to use. If you normally use a heater which is not suitable for all-night or unsupervised operation, it is advisable to consider installing a replacement. Standalone heaters and radiators will also be worth their weight in gold – never underestimate how miserable a freezing cold caravan can be! If you use a water-based heater, remember to drain it fully after your holiday; we’re sure you don’t want to start next season with damaged pipes.
  • While most new caravans are insulated far better than older models were, you may still find that you need extra protection from the elements. If your windows aren’t double-glazed, you can buy plastic sheeting from any DIY store, which can be used to create an extra layer. This sheeting, which is designed for use in houses, can be attached to the inside of your caravan windows with Velcro for a temporary fix, or in a proper frame as a permanent solution. Rubber strips can be fitted to block any draughts.
  • Don’t forget your tow car – depending on how treacherous road conditions get, you may find that your tyres are not quite up to the job of towing a caravan on a wintery surface. Snow chains of varying types and anti-slip devices are widely available and fairly inexpensive.  Remember though that they cannot be used on public highways. With this in mind, it is wise to keep a snow and ice kit in your car – grip mats and portable flooring can be lifesavers on slippery roads.
  • Consider investing in a porch awning. Not only will it give you more space during the summer, it will double as storage for wet boots and outdoor gear during the winter. Bringing them inside will only increase the level of cold, damp air circulating around the caravan.  And it will help to keep some of the warm air in the caravan when the door is opened
  • If you intend to pitch an awning or pup tent beside your caravan, bear in mind that you may need extra-strong pegs to pierce frozen ground. You should also make sure that your awning and supports are strong enough to prevent snow or rain from collecting on top. If it snows while you are away, remember to clear it from the awning as often as possible. Even a seemingly small amount of snow can be detrimental to a light awning.
  • If it snows during your holiday, remember to regularly clear the snow from the mains cable and any other external fittings.  You should also clear the snow from around air vents and flues, remember NEVER to block any against the elements. It may be tempting but it is also incredibly dangerous.
  • When you arrive at the site, try to position your caravan so that vents, ducts and similar fixtures are protected from the prevailing winds and, therefore, much of the snow and rain.
  • Small containers of moisture-absorbing crystals can be great for clearing any condensation which may form due to the differing temperatures on the inside and outside of your van.
  • Pack as many high-quality duvets and sleeping bags as you can – we can guarantee you won’t regret it! Nor will you regret packing plenty of warm pyjamas, woolly socks and slippers. We may even go so far as to endorse fleecy onesies (maybe). Pack far more outdoor clothing and wet gear than you think you need. You’ll appreciate it if the weather takes a turn for the worse!
  • Make sure that all moving parts are well oiled, both before and during your holiday, to prevent them from freezing up in the cold. Check the brakes on both the caravan and your car regularly, particularly where there has been a lot of surface water.
  • When temperatures really plummet, leave the handbrake off to prevent the brakes from freezing on to the drum
  • Carry four pieces of wood, approximately 15cm x 15cm in size. These can be placed under the steadies to help stop your caravan from sinking into the softer ground after a wet spell. It can also be a good idea to have a fifth block to hand to use under the jockey wheel. The blocks can also serve other purposes – use them as chocks to stop the caravan from rolling on a sloped pitch or to keep the caravan in place when the low temperatures mean the handbrake has to be left off. Soaking the wooden blocks in creosote for a couple of days before you first use them will make them last much longer.
  • Stuck on a muddy pitch? Drive to some nearby solid ground and use a tow rope to ease your caravan from its rut. Consider investing in track mats before you travel, to make moving the caravan slightly less of a chore.
  • If you get stuck with your tow car attached to the caravan, remember to ask any helpers to push the car NOT the caravan itself. Pushing the caravan will just cause the brakes to be applied and won’t do any good when it comes to freeing the car.
  • Always remember to insulate water pipes to prevent freezing, particularly if you use an external water tank
  • Carry a spare battery; you never know when you may need it. This particular advice is equally useful in the warmer summer months
  • Check that your main battery is fully charged before you set off on your travels; you don’t want to use the spare unless you really have to!
  • Placing an off cut of carpet or a mat in your awning will help to reduce the level of mud and damp being carried into the caravan underfoot
  • Make sure all vents are cleared of snow regularly to avoid blockages
  • Always remember to drain your water tanks and pipes at the end of your winter break. Leave taps slightly open so any residual frozen water can easily escape as it thaws.

If simply caravanning in cold weather isn’t enough for you, how about joining in with the trend of wild caravanning? Popular amongst those who like to experience caravanning as it used to be, wild caravanning involves finding obscure places to pitch and not opting for the easier hard standing, electric hook up sites. If you want to trying going a bit more basic with your caravan holidays, have a look at the smallest sites, known as Certificated Locations or Certificated Sites.

For this kind of off-grid caravanning, you’ll also need some (or all!) of the following equipment:

  • A larger battery to compensate for the lack of electric hook-up. A new battery will normally cost from £60 upwards, depending on what size you choose. Remember to err on the side of caution if you’re going somewhere you really can’t recharge it easily.
  • Solar panels are a great way to keep your battery topped up and work even on dull winter days. If you’re interested, you can find more information in our article on solar panels for caravans and motorhomes.
  • If even this isn’t rustic enough for your liking and you want to truly go off-grid, you may need to consider investing in your own generator. Costing from around £500 or so, there are numerous options available and we would highly recommend shopping around and researching carefully before making your purchase.
  • Has your caravan got the capacity to store enough water for your trip? If not, have a look at the Aquaroll, a handy way to expand your water carrying abilities for relatively little financial outlay. Be careful not to leave it outside in very cold weather though as it can easily freeze over.

One last thing – if you intend to be away from home for a long period of time, make sure your home insurance policy covers it. You may need to buy unoccupied house insurance to cover your trip; check with your insurer before you travel. If you decide to skip the cold British winters and holiday abroad instead, you should also make sure you hold adequate insurance for caravanning abroad.

If you caravan all year round do you have any additional tips? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

Another great tip would be to make sure that you have quality caravan insurance in place. Did you know that our policies cover your awning 365 days a year? Just one of the many benefits of Lifesure caravan insurance.  Call the caravan team on 01480 402460 for a quote.

Comments

Legin's Laws 11th January 2014

Very good.
Legin’s Law 3 (Caravaning): Be sure you have a front-wheel drive car before asking anyone to push you out of a muddy field on a wet, cold day! Otherwise, that beautiful new friendship you may have just made during your stay, could disappear in an all-over splodge of icy mud.
Legin

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Neil Kenton 11th January 2014

I regret that on a Swift Challenger the water intake and out flow barrels are not locate when a porch awning will encompass it from the worst of winter weather.
I have considered measures such as placing the fresh water and waste water barrels on a block of polystyrene to insulate from the ground.
A cylinder jacket is good for the fresh water aqua roll, I tried a home brew fermenting heater that worked brilliantly for a time then I burnt out when I left the water run low, earthing is an issue so be careful how you do this.
Driving snow will get under a caravan and effectively freeze everything from underneath. Use the lower awning skirt rail to fashion an all round skirt to peg out and effectively prevent this, heat from the underside of the caravan should help keep the pipes clear and underfloor vents breathing, there will always be some air flow, even if the leeward side is cleared in one place for periodic checks on the pipe insulation.
The front and rear handles are perfect for lashing a sheet and pegging out over the tow hitch and rear (where we shove any weather durable items not needed in the van or awning).
Watch out for metal eyelets as they will whack a whole load of mini dents all over the skin of your van in the wind and keep you awake in the night storm.
Move any snow next day to strengthen the skirts and the porch awning.
Keep everything lashed down as it is self punishing to get out in the night.
Use the tow vehicle if necessary to make a wind break for the pitch, even a lashing point but do not forget the untie if you drive off or a run.
Remember that the tap water supply has the potential to freeze, even if your van hasn’t.
Just a few thoughts and hard learnt lessons.

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    Sandra Hamilton 14th January 2014

    Hi Neil,

    Some great tips there – thank you!

    I hope you haven’t suffered too much when winter caravanning…

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Irene and Philip Hough 16th January 2014

The idea of the cylinder cover is excellent and one we will certainly adopt. Also the extra skirt around the bottom of the van, so simple but so effective. Thank you.

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Seymour Forgey 6th April 2015

Wonderful tips! I am so glad that I found this. You put all of the information I needed.

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