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RV Snowbird Fail? Managing Short RV Trips To Winter Climates

RV Snowbird Fail? Managing Short RV Trips To Winter Climates

Despite the name, the term “Winter Snowbirds” generally involves neither winter nor snow. Since we love warm weather, becoming Snowbirds each winter was one of the main reasons we started RVing. But that doesn’t mean we always avoid cold weather and snow. Sometimes there are considerations other than weather for choosing a route or destination.

Five years ago, we spent our one and only winter entirely in a cold climate in an RV. We made a video about how we prepared and lived comfortably during that time. While we did make it to the Desert Southwest this year, we returned North earlier than usual. We knew this would likely take us into the tail end of winter, especially during a La Niña year, with the West forecast to get hit harder than it typically does. And it sure did.

While we love warm weather, we’re not afraid of winter. There’s definitely a mitigating effect just knowing that we have the freedom to go South whenever we want. We always say full-timing means that “Winter is a choice” and that cuts both ways… in a good way. We can choose to stay warm, or we can choose to experience winter, which can be really beautiful. The very fact that we can choose is what makes it okay for us either way.

Pre-RV (when we were firmly entrenched in The Rut) we had no choice in the matter. Neither of us had spent more than two weeks in a warm winter climate in our entire lives. So the “Snowbirding” aspect of RVing was a really big deal for us (our first totally-warm winter in Desert Hot Springs, California was an incredible experience)! Now that we’re free to come and go from the snow as we please, winter weather doesn’t bother us as much.

Not that we plan to stop snowbirding. After all, we still love us some warmth. But we turn a trip that could be called a “Snowbird Fail” (as in, it’s cold) into a win, by dealing with it like pros.

This video covers the techniques we use to care for our rig and stay as comfortable as possible during a short trip to sub-freezing temperatures and some fairly heavy snow. Managing our power, propane, water and other systems correctly makes short trips into the winter mostly a non-event. Even for us Snowbirds. ;)


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Byron Eaton

Saturday 25th of February 2017

Always great and informative videos. How about winter driving. In a car I'm fearless in the RV not so much. Im sure with your extensive bus driving you have many a good tip. Thanks again

TheRVgeeks

Saturday 25th of February 2017

Hi Byron! Literally the very first time I ever drove a bus... my very first day of training... was during a snowstorm. No kidding. My instructor said that since the entire winter was snowy in that part of the world (the upper mid-west), I'd better just get used to it! So I have no fear when it comes to winter driving. That said, there are some obvious factors at play here. The first is that slowing down and increasing following distance in accordance with conditions is #1. The slipperier it is... rain, then snow, then ice, etc... the slower and more following distance required.

Of course there are two other factors now in play for me. First, we don't generally have a schedule to keep, so it takes a lot less severe weather to lead us to getting off the road for the day. Secondly, this is our home. Not that I was cavalier about the idea of crashing a bus with 49 people on board, of course. But when it comes to the vehicle itself, the ramifications of damaging it are pretty severe.

We make it a habit to avoid driving in winter conditions, and I can count on the fingers of one hand (with some fingers left over) the number of times that I've driven our RV when the temperature was below freezing with any kind of precipitation going on. Below freezing? Fine. Precip? Fine (just increase following distance from 4 seconds minimum to 6 seconds minimum.... 8 seconds minimum at night). But it's that combination of freezing temps & precip of any kind that's an unwarranted risk, which we avoid unless absolutely necessary.

By the way, I get asked about the weight of our rig.... whether it's a pro or a con when it comes to slippery road conditions. It's actually a double-edged sword. Our 19 tons does help us stay more firmly planted to the roadway in most conditions. But if tires DO break loose, all that mass and momentum now works against us, making it more difficult to stop. When it comes to icy roads, discretion is the better part of valor.

Lou Hernandez

Saturday 25th of February 2017

You guys are great thank you.....Lou

Elizabeth

Friday 24th of February 2017

As always - GREAT JOB. Thank you so much for your videos. You are an inspiration and give me confidence that I really can RV.

TheRVgeeks

Saturday 25th of February 2017

Thanks so much, Elizabeth. So great to hear. You just made our day :)

Sonia and David

Friday 24th of February 2017

Great video as always. What a gorgeous view outside your windows of the beautiful snow. Thanks for sharing how you RV in cold weather. My husband and I have been rving for just over 3 months and loving it. We've been and are still taking plenty of notes from generous rvers like you who share your RV knowledge and experience through YouTube and blogs. Though we don't comment much, know we enjoy your videos and blogs very much. So a big thank you.

TheRVgeeks

Friday 24th of February 2017

Well a big "Hi" and "Thank You" to you both, Sonia & David! It means a lot to us that you took the time to comment. And congratulations on 3 months of RVing! We're so excited to hear that you're enjoying this great way of life.

John Schretlen

Friday 24th of February 2017

More good tips.

Even if only a few of your readers will need to climb on the roof to shovel snow there are many of us who could use the remote sensor thermometer. I do not see a link to it on your Favourite Gear pages. I'd like to give you the Amazon business if you have a link.

About that snow shoveling - I do not think that I'd like to be on my roof when it is so slippery. Have you given any thoughts to throwing a plastic tarp over the roof? I'm thinking that if you leave one side drape down as far as it can and the other side, with ropes attached, pulled down just a few inches. When you need to clear the roof throw the ropes over the roof and pull - using a long pole to assist if required to clear antennas. This would work for 3 or 4 inches of snow and could be repeated easily.

Just a thought.

TheRVgeeks

Friday 24th of February 2017

Thanks so much for thinking of us John. Very kind of you. Of course the moment we put out a video showing that thermometer, it stopped broadcasting after many years of great service.... and they don't make it anymore. Of course! We just ordered a replacement from Amazon that got fantastic reviews. When we get it, we'll check it out, and if we like it as much as the old one, we'll add it to our Favorite Gear page. In the meantime, we did a LOT of looking, and this one was our choice: http://amzn.to/2kVnERJ (yes, that's Amazon Affiliate link, but please don't feel obligated if it's not the right one for you, or you want to wait to hear if we give it the RVgeeks Seal of Approval when we receive it). LOL

As far as covering the roof with a tarp, we envision a couple of potential issues for us. It would prevent us from using our roof fans to vent moisture when using our portable propane heater, we have things on the roof that we'd be concerned about damaging while trying to pull it off (our WeBoost antenna in particular), the potential for wind whipping the edges of it into the finish and marring the paint job, the difficulty of installing and removing it, and the problem of removing it if a particularly heavy, wet snow fell (we doubt we'd want to walk on it for shoveling, especially since it would be slipperier than the roof itself, and since it would make it hard to see where solar panels, roof vents, skylights are as easily as if we just shoveled up to them). Not saying it wouldn't work, but I think we should just head south from now on! ;-)

We totally get the aversion to walking on the roof at all for some people, let alone when it's wet, or worse, snow and/or ice covered. We have a non-skid area all around the perimeter of our roof that helps a lot (we're guessing that, being a fellow Newmar owner, that your rig might also have that). We advise anyone who's uncomfortable getting up there for any reason to do what works for them. We're VERY careful up there. The wife of the husband-and-wife team that installed our internet satellite dish years ago actually fell off an RV roof (not ours!) and broke her wrist. She's lucky she didn't end up paralyzed.... or worse. We think about that.

You definitely have the right idea about taking a climb on the roof seriously. Our biggest thing is actually the climb up from the ladder. When we ordered our rig, a rear ladder was a $217 option. We'd had a ladder on our Bounder, and couldn't imagine being without one, so we of course checked that box. When we were hanging out with the Wynns one time back when they still had Windy the Monaco Vesta, Jason & I got up their roof so I could help him work on something. They had no built-on ladder, and got up there with a collapsible extension ladder they carried. I did not like that at all! The transition from the ladder to the roof and back made me very uncomfortable (being 20+ years younger than me, Jason must have looked at me like an old man, since I obviously didn't like that transition one bit, while he hopped around like he always does... like a mountain goat on amphetamines)! LOL

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PLEASE NOTE: We're handy RVers, not professional technicians. We're happy with the techniques and products we use, but be sure to confirm that all methods and materials you use are compatible with your equipment and abilities. Regardless of what we recommend, consult a professional if you're unsure about working on your RV. Any task you perform or product you purchase based on any information we provide is strictly at your own risk.

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