Three Essentials for Winter Overlanding & RV Preparation

Posted January 13, 2021

We all know the personal basics for going out to play in winter weather like dressing in layers and keeping your base layer dry but what about RV or overland vehicle camping during the frozen winter months? There are many dedicated adventurers that look forward to that crisp winter air among the stars. For those that seek the seclusion winter camping can bring, preparation is key. Winter weather can change from tolerable to deadly in an instant. The temperature you fell asleep to can be drastically different from the temperature at which you awake. Let’s discuss how to prepare for your winter camping adventures. Along with the mechanical dependability of your vehicle, you should plan your winter trips around reliable sources of three essentials: warmth, water, and power.

camping winter

1. Warmth

When we talk about warmth, we don’t just mean extra layers of clothing or a winter rated sleeping bag for personal warmth, but the temperature inside and around critical RV systems. Although it may not be cost-effective or even feasible to insulate the walls of your vehicle, several inexpensive measures can be taken to prep for cold temps. Check your windows, doors, and anywhere there’s a seal for leaks or gaps. Replace any cracked or damaged caulking and weather stripping to prevent heat from seeping out. Use heavy drapes on windows to separate the cockpit and living quarters if your RV is motorized, as glass provides little to no insulation from extreme temperature. RV skirting is also a very effective means of blocking wind that draws heat from inside your RV and could cause water tanks to freeze much faster.

2. Water

Access to water for washing, cooking, and staying hydrated is another key necessity for winter camping. However, water expands as it freezes, which can cause unprotected pipes and hoses to burst. Tanks and water lines outside your RV are the most challenging to keep from freezing. Although heat tape and blankets are effective if you’re camping somewhere with access to power, here are a few tips to keep your water flowing and your pipes protected when you’re off-grid.

First, try to keep your fresh water tank as full as possible. Even if you only plan to camp for the weekend and don’t think you’ll need a full tank, be sure to fill your fresh tank to capacity. Also, wait until your grey and black tanks are full before dumping. Larger volumes of water take longer to freeze, and you will help prevent damage to your tanks by keeping them full.

To protect smaller interior water lines on cold nights, open your bathroom and kitchen cabinets so they are exposed to the warmer air within your RV. There are also a number of inexpensive non-toxic antifreeze brands that can be added to all water tanks to prevent freezing. As a bonus non-toxic RV antifreeze is propylene glycol-based and will lubricate faucet and toilet seals, extending their life. As a final measure of security in extreme cold temperatures, you can leave faucets on at a tiny trickle to keep water flowing to prevent freeze-ups in the smallest water lines.

rv winter

3. Power

Power is an absolute necessity when camping in cold conditions. Electricity grants access to many creature comforts and peace of mind knowing you can call for help if trouble arises. A common misconception about lithium batteries is that they don’t tolerate the cold well. Like all batteries, lithium battery performance degrades the colder it gets – however, in temperatures down to 32°F (0°C), RELiON LiFePO4 batteries will still deliver about 90% of their rated capacity. Additionally, our batteries will deliver about 70% of their rated capacity in temps as low as -4°F (-20°C).

Low-temperature restrictions can significantly increase the time it takes to charge your battery and complicate the process of what current to charge at depending on how cold it is or will become. The challenges caused by low-temperature charging are the main reason we developed our Low-Temperature Series. Our standard line of LiFePO4 batteries may only be charged at .1C between 14 and 32° F and .05C between -4 and 14°F. For our 100AH battery, this means you could only charge at 10 amps between 14 and 32°F and 5 amps between -4 and 14°F. Our LT Series features proprietary technology that detects the internal temperature of the battery and draws power from the charger to warm the cells to a safe temperature before charging at their full rate. We currently offer 20, 50, 100- and 300-amp hour low-temperature models to meet a range of power needs.

outlaw winter

Another power option for winter overland camping is a portable power station. These can be especially useful when trying to camp while keeping your packing lightweight. Our Outlaw 1072S offers silent power with no maintenance, and it can be charged more than 1000 times in its lifecycle. It’s a versatile option with an AC output, USB outputs and a 12V output, so you can keep almost any device with you charged. It’s an ideal power source for all of your off-grid expeditions. The Outlaw is a smart device that will protect itself in temperatures that could harm the battery cells. The Outlaw’s discharge temperature range is -4°F to 140°F (-20°C to 60°C) but to protect itself the BMS will prevent charging below 0°C. To recharge the unit, make sure it is in an area that is above 32°F (0°C).

Taking the time to make the proper preparations for your winter camping trips is essential, and ensuring you have these three reliable resources – warmth, water and power - before heading out on your trip also ensures your safe return home. Need help determining the lithium power source that’s right for your RV or overland vehicle? Contact us and one of our experts will guide you to the perfect system for all your adventures year-round.


About the Author:

Chi Woodruff

Chi Woodruff is a Sr. Product Manager at RELiON Battery. Chi's experience includes product management in distribution and manufacturing industries along with a history of analysis, product launches, rebranding and life-cycle management in the battery industry. In his free time, Chi is an avid runner and pacer at many races in Southern California. Keep up with Chi on LinkedIn here.

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