Camper Living in the Winter: Frozen (water pipes)…Let it go!!

Despite using a heated water hose, heat tape, and skirting around the camper, we’ve unfortunately succumbed to a very common problem for RVs and campers in frigid temperatures: The water pipes froze. It occurs when temperatures drop into the teens and below. Over the weekend, we received 7 inches of snow, and the temperatures dropped below zero. No doubt our water pipes froze. I’m surprised my blood didn’t freeze inside my veins when we ventured outside.

We thought we had prepared and would prevent this from happening. However, our neighbor informed us that no amount of insulating would hinder water pipe freezing in a camper not built for all-seasons (like his, like ours we discovered recently), or those without Arctic packages (I’ve since learned about this after the fact). He encountered the same problem his first winter and discovered only one thing that works: Keeping the water running at a trickle when he knows temperatures will drop into the teens.

This won’t help us now, though. We’ve got to figure out how to thaw the water pipes. As a hopeful solution, we’ve added foam insulation to the pipes we have access to and installed a very small ceramic heater in the compartment where the water heater and those pipes exist. We’ve positioned the electric space heater to heat underneath the sink and in the shower periodically. Thus far, I’ve only seen a few water drops from the faucet. Perhaps a sign the water pipes are thawing, albeit at such a rate I fear we won’t have water until spring. Or maybe Wednesday when the outside temperatures rise to 45*.

We’ve learned very valuable lessons from this, and I want to pass the wisdom (which we lacked) onto others who read this post and plan on buying an RV or camper they hope to use in all seasons.

The most important tip is to RESEARCH!!! Research which campers are all-season.

Try these sites:

Don’t rely on the “expert” salesman to help you. The sales manager at Camping World neglected to inform us our Geo Pro was NOT an all-season camper, even though he knew our intent to live full-time in a camper and knew we would live in a cold-clime area. We didn’t discover this fact until I called Forest River about the water heater issue (which they have quickly resolved by agreeing to send us the required part to fix the water heater). In the future, we may find our walls (made of fiberglass, which may become brittle in the cold) may buckle because of the cold and moisture. The insides of my clothes cabinets have iced up on the inside! Frost has accumulated alongside the mattress and the camper’s seat cushions. Eventually we’ll have to scrub off mildew and mold, even though we’re using electric heat and a dehumidifier. We can only hope to truly weather winter in our toy trailer meant for spring, summer, and fall.

In the meantime, I will definitely call Camping World Headquarters to complain about their lack of due diligence and ethics. 😡

Watch all the YouTube videos you can find that guide you on your new journey living on the road, in campgrounds, boon-docking, etc. While we did this, we seemed to have missed the information on all-season campers and didn’t know about such a thing to even think to research it. Even if we did it over again, unless we had this foresight, we’d have made the same mistake. We wouldn’t have looked for the right camper for the living conditions beyond comfort, price, hauling weight, and off-grid options (e.g., we have a solar panel and batteries).

But, you’re forewarned! Know where you’ll park your camper or RV; know if you plan to “snowbird” (aka “pack up for the winter and head south, if you’re northern”) or plan to rough it through unkind winters. If you’ll adopt a snowbird life, then you can relax standards for your camper or RV. If you’re going to be a snowy owl, like we are, check out this site that will help you determine your needs and how to go about finding your perfect home no matter where you park it:

Let it snow! Let it snow! But let our water pipes go!

Update: Water runs again! The pipes have thawed! Yay!