Dave Helgeson’s knowledge about RVing earned him the title of “The foremost expert on boondocking,” bestowed by RV industry icon, the late Gary Bunzer (The RV Doctor). He and his wife Cheri owned an RV dealership in the Pacific Northwest and spent 29 years overseeing regional RV shows. Dave has also served as advisor to many industry trade organizations. When he’s not out boondocking, you’ll find Dave in the spotlight at RV shows across the country, giving seminars about all things RVing. He and Cheri currently own their fifth travel trailer, with Dave doing all the service, repair and modifications to his own unit.
Mention winter RV camping to most RVers living in northerly states and they will respond with, “It’s too cold!” Or, “There’s nothing to do!” Maybe the say “The RV is already winterized!” Or, they share some other misconceptions about winter camping.
That’s an understandable answer if you live in Fargo, North Dakota with an average low winter temperature of -2°F or one of the other coldest cities in the Continental United States. Keeping an RV serviceable and comfortable in these extreme conditions is next to impossible.
Then there are those of you living on the Gulf Coast or the Southwest desert who already know the joys of winter RV camping. Maybe you have never winterized the RV either.
This article is for those living in-between the two examples listed above. Those RVers that reside where temperate winter climates exist giving them the opportunity to RV year-round if they choose.
Winter RV Camping
My wife and I have enjoyed winter RV camping with RVing friends over New Years for a decade or more. The outings are more about being with friends than enjoying traditional “camping” activities.
For example, last winter my wife had a baby shower to attend over 125 miles from our home. The trip would have made for a long and tiring day to drive there, enjoy the shower, and return home. Given the short winter days, it would have also meant driving at night, which neither of us prefer.
The weather forecast was for clear, dry weather. So, I suggested we make a weekend out of it with the RV. Yes, it would be cold, but we would have the RV to keep us warm. It then became a question of what activities we could enjoy along the route.
We Camped on the Washington Coast in Winter
Searching online, I discovered that:
- Winter crabbing on the Washington coast was open.
- The nearby marina welcomed us to park our RV during the day and crab off their docks.
- In addition, a local Native American tribe decorates their properties with nearly 3 million Christmas lights.
- In the middle of it all, was a state park with trails to hike and campsites with electricity.
Wow, we had more than enough to keep us busy day and night! Plus the state park was offering discounted winter rates. This was perfect for enjoying a winter RV camping weekend! Crabs were caught, steamed, and served up for dinner. Trails were hiked. At night we strolled among the millions of Christmas lights.
We so enjoyed ourselves we decided to do it again this year.
We expanded our Washington coast winter camping trip from two nights to three nights. In addition to what we enjoyed last year, we joined the tribe’s players club. This allowed us to casino camp overnight for free in their RV lot. We even had electrical and water hookups, discounts on gas, dining, and free play. The electrical hookup was appreciated as it was below freezing every night. We spent over an hour using a portion of our free play in the casino. Then, we enjoyed decadent desserts in the restaurant. Good thing we had all those Christmas lights to stroll by to burn it off!
Our added night was at our favorite Washington state park.
The Washington coast state park we picked was nearly vacant, providing us with our choice of space. A far cry from what we experience in the summer. That’s if you can even obtain a reservation. Since a winter storm was forecast, we parked the RV with our view window facing out over Admiralty Inlet. We watched the storm from the comfort of our RV while sipping hot chocolate. Once again, a successful and enjoyable outing.
Most of you reading this might not have the same winter RV camping options as my wife and I. But, here are my favorite cold weather camping ideas that may inspire you to try it.
14 Winter RV Camping Ideas
- Visit a hot spring. Imagine yourself and loved ones soaking in a hot spring on a cold winter’s night with a million stars overhead. Many hot springs offer onsite camping.
- New Year’s Eve fireworks display. Many resort areas and cities ring in the New Year with fireworks shows at midnight. Find a campground within viewing distance and enjoy the show from the comforts of your RV or around the campfire.
- Christmas Light Displays. Search out the largest light displays an hour or so away from home and see what the nearby camping options are. You might find a campground, casino or city park where you can set up camp within viewing / walking distance.
- Winter Festivals. Many small communities host winter festivals with all types of activities. Find one with nearby camping and you have a readymade winter RV camping weekend.
- Christmas Ships. If you have any major body of water in your area, odds are the local yacht club celebrates the season by decorating their boats and sailing them around for others to enjoy. Reserve a campsite along the shore and enjoy.
- Tractor Parades. If you are not near a large body of water that attracts Christmas ships, you might find nearby farm communities featuring festively adorned tractors parading down main street.
- Play in the Snow. Many ski areas offer tubing hills along with downhill, cross-country skiing and maybe the chance to snowshoe. Most allow overnight RV parking, some even offer electrical hookups.
Need More Winter RV Camping Ideas?
- Storm Watching. Camp at the ocean, an inland sound or large lake when a winter storm is forecasted. Watch the waves and wind batter the coastline. Afterwards, put on some warm clothes and see what washed ashore during the storm. Then return to the warmth of your RV with your newfound treasures.
- Star Gazing. The sun sets much earlier in the winter allowing more time to stargaze before little one’s bedtimes.
- Harvesting. Go shell fishing, mushroom gathering, ice fishing, gather acorns or see what else you can forage in winter. My wife and I enjoy harvesting razor clams and crabs during winter RV camping.
- Enjoy Sunrise / Sunsets. Winter sunrises and sunsets can be spectacular. Given the short winter days, you don’t have to get up early or stay up late to enjoy them!
- Catch a Glimpse of the Northern Lights. Dark skies are the first basic requirement to seeing the Aurora Borealis. The short days of winter provide plenty of darkness and winter is your best chance of seeing the Northern Lights.
- Visit Historical Parks. Many public historical sites decorate their facilities to celebrate an old time Christmas. Fortunately for RVers, many of these sites also operate campgrounds on the same grounds. Christmas in Coloma is one such opportunity. What a fun winter RV camping experience for the whole family.
- Go Casino Camping. As mentioned above, you can stay in your RV and play at most casinos, and you might even find one like my wife and I with 3 million Christmas lights to enjoy.
Remember- “Let’s RV” is the title of this website, not “Let’s Winterize the RV and Wait for Spring.” If you are not a resident of Fargo or one of its frozen sister cities, hopefully this article has inspired you to give winter RV camping a try. There are plenty of activities to enjoy and new winter camping ideas to try right now. Remember, camping rates are cheaper, and you won’t need to make reservations a year in advance! Enjoy.
About the Author
Dave and his wife, Cheri, live in Western Washington just an hour and a half south of the Canadian border. Winters are tempered by the Pacific Ocean with only 24 nights on average below freezing.