The Unpleasant Truth About Living Fulltime in an RV in Winter

Here’s the truth about living fulltime in an RV in winter from my perspective. Today, I’m sharing my experiences, successes, and failures in coping with the cold, wet climate here in Western Washington. I’m not going to lie, over the past few weeks there have been many times I’ve asked myself, what fresh hell is this?

living fulltimein an rv in winter

Airstreams are not four-season trailers but I was and still am determined to make this work. I spent weeks preparing myself for living full-time in an RV in winter. If you’ve been following along you know I had a well-thought-out plan and did all the work to make this winter in the Pacific Northwest as painless as possible.

Winter RV Living Preparations

Unfortunately, nothing could have prepared me for the reality of winter RV living over the past two weeks.

We started winter with a bang and over a foot of snow which is fairly rare in this area. It’s our norm to get a few inches and have it melt within hours or at least a couple of days. We have also had many days of temperatures below constantly below freezing. Notable low temperatures have been 10 and 11 degrees.

I find myself in a continual battle with condensation. From the time I wake up in the morning until I fall asleep at night, I’m working to keep condensation under control.

Ice on the INSIDE of my window first thing in the morning.

Before you ask, yes I have and use a dehumidifier. I keep the air at a fairly constant moisture content of 45 to 50%. I’ve experimented with lower moisture levels but that has not helped with condensation. It’s simply a matter of cold air on one side of the window and warm air on the other.

Where RV Condensation is Accumulating

  • Inside all the windows (my most challenging issue)
  • Around some windows
  • Inside the closet
  • Inside the furnace compartment
  • Around some interior wall seams
  • Around the entry door
  • Behind the dinette/couch cushions

The most challenging problem is condensation on the inside of all the windows. I’ve been able to adapt to it and keep it somewhat under control by being a detective and with fans, lots of fans. Be sure you check your RV’s hidden places frequently for moisture.

Window Insulation and Why I Had To Remove It

Once the temperatures began to plummet, it became clear the window insulation I had installed was more a problem than a solution. For some reason I can’t remember, I pulled the couch cushion away from the wall and discovered there was a lot of condensation behind it.

This led me to dismantle the entire area to check for moisture. It was pretty bad. The insulation over the inside of the window trapped the condensation and filled the channel at the bottom of the window. The moisture seeped through the window frame, down the wall, and onto the floor.

Couch/dinette window this morning.

I have removed the window insulation to allow airflow and have a fan under the couch blowing toward the wall. This controls the moisture well enough to keep the walls dry but it still builds up on the windows.

The back windows which curve around the trailer are the worst area. Partly due to the large amount of real estate they take up and partly because my cozy seat is right there in front of the windows. Since I’m full of moisture (and hot air) being close makes it worse. One morning there was ice on the inside of the window.

Bedroom Windows

The front of the trailer has the same windows as the back but they have acrylic rock guards covering them and it really seems to help with the condensation. There must be just enough of an insulating factor to help keep the condensation to a minimum.

My morning routine is to get up and open all the curtains and blinds and dry the windows with microfiber rags. After they are dried off, I place small fans in the windows with screens on the inside. I can’t dry them off without going outside and opening the windows.

Accumulation of condensation overnight.
The window was clear the night before.

One of my bedroom windows gets a lot of condensation and when it runs down the inside of the glass it collects around the latch and drips inside the trailer. I discovered this and started checking for more moisture. I found the water had dripped down the wall and onto the bed soaking the bedding. I’ve kept a small rag wrapped around the latch to soak up the water and change it as needed.

Air Circulation is Your Friend

I’ve learned air circulation is the best way to keep the condensation to a minimum. I have four fans running in my little trailer right now. All of them are directed toward windows so they stay as dry as possible. It’s a battle though.

Far-right – fan and dehumidifier chugging away.

Other Joys of Fulltime RV Living in Winter

In addition to condensation, I’ve had my furnace go out twice but I’ve been able to get it up and running again both times. The other day I discovered I have a propane leak in one of the tank hoses so that one is shut off while I wait for replacement parts to come.

My water faucet froze once but we got it thawed out and running again. It’s been insulated better and has been fine since.

One of the only two power outlets in the bedroom stopped working the other day. I checked the breaker and it was off. After turning it back on I heard snapping and popping and smelled something burning so I turned the breaker back off.

I thought perhaps it had gotten moisture inside like almost everything else in the trailer so I took the cover off and pointed a fan toward it for a couple of days then tried it again. More sparks! I could not get the outlet out of the wall but with the assistance of my big brother, discovered there were “dog ears” holding the outlet in place.

Once we were able to get it out we found the problem. It wasn’t water-related at all. It looks as though over time the wire rubbed against something during movement and eventually exposed the wire. The wires themselves were not damaged, but the protective coating has been worn off and they were touching and causing a short.

Bedroom outlet wiring failure.

This is a terrible photo but you can see that it got hot and is a bit charred. Fortunately, it popped the breaker before anything worse happened.

I wrapped the individual wire with electrical tape and then wrapped the entire wire to patch it up temporarily. I will replace that wire when I can.

Space Heating

I’ve finally found a space heater that is adequate for my needs and I absolutely love it. I have learned how to balance the use of the propane furnace and space heater to keep my plumbing from freezing but minimize my propane usage. This takes some experimentation because every RV will have different needs.

Fortunately, it’s above freezing now and I can rely on my space heater, and when the temperatures are above 40 degrees, my heat pump.

This is my new and fabulous space heater.

I have a new respect for people who deliberately spend the winter RVing in a brutal winter environment so they can enjoy winter sports. I have no idea how they manage. I’ll just be here basking in my fond memories of Arizona last winter.

Other Posts Related to Living Fulltime in an RV in Winter

The following are links to my other posts related to winter RV living and the preparations I made to make it a more comfortable experience.

RV Skirting for Winter – How To Skirt Your RV On The Cheap

Winter RV Living – Creative Ways To Keep Your RV Warmer
Cozy Full-Time RV Living in Winter – 5 More Simple Tips

Control Nasty RV Condensation – 9 Tips and Tricks

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7 thoughts on “The Unpleasant Truth About Living Fulltime in an RV in Winter”

  1. Lynn in Buffalo NY

    Oh, I can feel your pain about the condensation. We spent some long winter weekends in our PW Class B at dog shows here in the Northeast. Same type of condensation issues. We did find that NOT running the propane furnace helped a lot. It seems that propane gives off moisture when it is burning…. we even resorted to hardly using our propane stove top. If we just heated the inside with electric space heater(s) there was less moisture. If it makes you feel any better, I also lived in a poorly insulated house and discovered wet walls in clothes closets. I had to line the closet walls with styrofoam type of insulation… that helped. So it’s not just RVs that cause condensation headaches. Next year you will be in AZ!

    1. juley.torkomian

      Hey There Lynn! Yes, it’s been brutal. I’m only using my furnace enough to keep my tanks from freezing and I’ve been cooking in my convection oven and Instant Pot.
      I know this is a short lived situation so I’m just slogging through.
      Thanks for commiserating!

  2. Just some information . I lived in my 32 foot Arctic Fox in a Richland Washington campground during the winters of 05/06 and 06/07 and did not have any of the troubles you are having. I also last year boondocked in Zapata Texas for a week of the bad cold spell in my current Arctic Fox trailer.. We had three continuous days of 30F/21F and the other four days got up to 34F and down to around28F. Same story, no trouble with the rig at all. I have no idea why you had so much trouble. Good luck on looking for solutions.

    1. juley.torkomian

      Thanks for your comment. If I’m not mistaken, Arctic Fox RVs are made for four seasons.
      Airstream’s are three season trailers and sadly, they have single pane windows. That combined with our super wet climate in the Puget Sound Area makes for the perfect storm.
      Like Lynn said above, I’ll be in Arizona next winter come hell or high water.

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