Camper Winterization Tips

Although it’s currently 64 degrees outside here in Western PA, earlier this week we had a cold snap and the temperatures dipped into the freezing zone. So Jarrett found himself winterizing the camper in the dark … and rain. It certainly wasn’t ideal, but definitely better than risking frozen pipes.

Since many of you have been working to winterize your own campers, we thought you might enjoy one of our older posts in which we talk about the different ways you can get your camper ready for its long winter’s rest. 

Last year Pennsylvania experienced some unseasonably warm days and we shared on Instagram and Facebook that it was rather sad to see the camper already parked and winterized in the driveway when we might have been able to squeeze in one more weekend camping trip late in the season. In response, a reader asked us about camper winterization tips beyond the typical fluid flushes. So here’s our roundup of how we prepare the camper for its long winter rest.

Camper Winterization, Inside and Out

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Inside preparations: Here in Pennsylvania we have a huge problem with stink bugs. Ugh! The critters get into all of the camper’s nooks and crannies, and every spring we spend quite a bit of time vacuuming them up. To try to reduce the nuisance of dead stink bugs falling out of curtains, mattresses, towels, etc., last year we removed or stored as much as possible–and that definitely helped.

Here’s a run down of what we do on the inside of the camper:

  • All blankets and pillows are stored in plastic bins, either in the camper or in our basement;
  • We remove any curtains, like the kids’ bunk curtains, that we can and store them in plastic bins; the rest of the curtains we open up so that the bugs don’t try to crawl into the “warm” creases;
  • The foam pad for our mattress we roll and put into large garbage bags, taping them off so the bugs can’t crawl in;
  • We bring the bunk mattresses into the house and store them under or behind a bed. (If you don’t have room in your house for this, last year we bagged and taped these as well and left them in the camper.)
  • Make sure to remove all food from the pantry and vacuum up any remaining crumbs.
  • Empty the refrigerator and freezer and wipe it down. We keep baking soda and charcoal in the unit to keep moisture out. Additionally we leave the doors slightly open to allow air to circulate. I did not do this one year and over winter there was a significant science project growing in the bottom bin.
  • We have never had a rodent problem in our camper, but I’ve heard putting moth balls in the camper can help keep them at bay. If you have gaps where your plumbing lines enter the camper, consider using spray foam insulation to seal the holes up so mice can’t get in.
  • Bunk mattresses stored behind a bed in the house.

Outside preparations:

  • I like to use plywood to cover my tires to prevent the UV light from breaking down the tires. You can also purchase tire covers.
  • I remove the propane tanks and put them in the garage.
  • I take the battery off the camper and put it in our basement hooked up to a trickle charger.
  • I put a bag or bucket over my power jack. I know one person that had the housing on the power jack fill with water, which then froze over the winter and ruined the unit.
  • I make sure the scissor jacks are up. If your camper is not parked on a paved surface, you should evaluate whether to leave them down. I made this mistake one year and when the ground heaved, the ground pushed up on the camper’s jacks and bent two of the jacks.
  • I use plywood to cover the tires to keep UV light from breaking down the rubber.

To cover or not to cover?:

One year I covered our camper with a tarp (that was not breathable), but it led to condensation and water building up on the inside of the tarp that left black streaks on the camper. And in spite of my best efforts to adequately tie down the tarp, as the winter winds flicked it, it left behind rub marks on the camper. So we don’t hassle with tarps anymore.

My dad uses a fitted RV cover on his fifth wheel and he has had good success with that option. The covers are nice but they are expensive. After talking to lots of campers who use the covers, they have indicated that purchasing the correct size so it fits the camper well is essential.

There are other options for camper storage as well. Many local fairgrounds will charge small fees to store campers in barns and show rings. In Western Pennsylvania there is another option called Wampum Underground that can hold hundreds of campers in underground mines. We have friends who use this option and when I have helped him drop the camper off, I have seen license plates from several nearby states on the hundreds of parked campers and boats.

Since the camper covers and storing the camper in a building hasn’t been in our budget, I have found that if I position the camper so that it is on a slight slope front to back and side to side, it at least helps make sure all the water runs off the roof rather than pooling on top. We also keep our slide out slid in over the winter.

So those are some of the ways we get our camper ready for winter. If you have other tips and suggestions, be sure to share them below! And make sure you follow us on Pinterest where we are always pinning new ideas for the camping community.


37 thoughts on “Camper Winterization Tips

  1. Jeanette

    We use dryer sheets inside our camper. I usually buy one large box and use most or all of the sheets. I put them everywhere…inside cabinets, on our furniture, on the floors, closets, etc.

    In the Spring, we remove all the dryer sheets and reuse them when doing laundry. We’ve never had a mouse problem and the camper smells great when we open it up in the Spring.

    1. Kristin

      Hi Jeanette! Thanks so much for stopping by and reading. That’s a great tip! We will have to try that this year. Thanks for sharing–happy camping!

    2. Kim

      I have done the same thing with dryer sheets and have never had a rodent problem. I love the smell on the first day of opening up after a long winter here in Michigan.

      1. Kristin

        Thanks for letting us know this trick works for you as well–we’ll have to try this! Thanks for stopping by and reading–happy camping!

    3. Chuck

      Dryer sheets are the better alternative and frankly, just as if not more effective. That horrible smell of moth balls lingers far beyond their removal. I do toss a handful of them under the RV for the winter.

  2. norma

    We use clovesto keep mice out. Works great. I buy them in bulk and sprinkle them about and vacumm them up in the spring. Smells wonderful, whenwe open up in the spring.

    1. Kristin

      Hi Norma! Thanks so much for stopping by and reading. What a great tip, and simple too! Thanks for sharing. Happy camping! 🙂

  3. Patricia Shelton

    Thanks for the information. We are in central Texas so we usually winterize on the off chance we get enough of a freeze that would cause damage. Our biggest problem is the sun. Loved the idea of the ply boards to cover tires.

    1. Kristin

      Hi Patricia! Thanks so much for stopping by and reading! Glad you found helpful info. 🙂 We are hoping to make our way to Texas sometime soon! I was born there but have not been back in a few years. I am eager to visit again!

  4. Sylvia Esposito

    We are at a lakeside resort in Minnesota. They shut off the water by the end of October. We will still have power and can go up at least once a month. So we just have to winterize the pipes? We are first time travel trailer people.

    Sylvia in MN.

    1. Kristin

      Hi Sylvia! Thanks so much for stopping by and reading! Great question. A couple things come to mind: Make sure you empty the hot water tank, and yes, your pipes need to be winterized to prevent water line damage. You could continue to use the camper over the winter, but you would need to bring water with you for drinking, cooking, etc. If you need to use your toilet, we have used gallon water jugs to flush, but you would need to empty the black tank before you left because otherwise things will freeze in there.

      If you are using a propane furnace to heat the camper, condensation will start to build up in the camper, so you need to run a small dehumidifier or crack some windows (but that sort of defeats the purpose of trying to heat the camper 🙂 ). You just don’t want to let that moisture build up in your camper, because it can cause some big problems down the road.

      Since every camper is different, we recommend you touch base with either your dealer or your camper manufacturer to see if there are any additional steps or suggestions they have for your particular camper model. Hope you have a great rest of the season! Happy camping!

  5. Patricia J Cauley

    We use Lavender dryer sheets because it keeps the spiders away. Also we use Peppermint oil on a cotton ball and place under cupboard, in the heat registers, ect. It keeps rodents out. They don’t like the smell. So when you open in the spring it will have a strong order of peppermint. But just open and air out your camper. It’s been working for us for years and our camper is out in the woods.

    1. Kristin

      Hi Nancy! 🙂 I remember my mom doing that in our frig whenever we moved (we were a military family). Great suggestion! Happy camping!

  6. Dale

    Do not forget to make sure the toilet has all the water emptied out of the line, first year have to replace the valve due to not knowing it still held water, cheap fix but not exspected that. Now I just unscrew the line and make sure no water in the valve itself

  7. Debbie

    Is there something to keep stink bugs away? We were in Pennsylvania last fall and I am still finding those nasty creatures. I would love to go back someday don’t want bugs.

    1. Kristin

      Hi Debbie–thanks so much for stopping by and reading! We feel your pain! We had a terrible time with stink bugs last year when they seemed to have infested our camper and we were constantly using the shop vac to suck them up and out of the camper. We have not yet found a surefire solution, but we are on the hunt. In the meantime, here are a few ideas we have thought about trying. And be sure to check back here at the website, because once we find a good solution, we will be sure to share!

  8. Melanie

    We live in PA as well. We have not had a mouse problem but we have stink bugs. We also use dryer sheets EVERYWHERE. I store everything in plastic bins in the camper with the dryer sheets. We have not removed our mattresses before but might try your roll up suggestion for this year. Thank you! We also love your fridge idea with the charcoal.

  9. Terri

    We have a big problem with mice. The trailer is stored in our pole barn. We have to remove literally everything!! We have tried dryer sheets, peppermint oil, Irish Spring Soap, nothing works. The mice ate the soap. We have tried locating areas where they might get in, but can not find them. The underside of our trailer is sealed with a heavy plastic sheet and there don’t seem to be holes in it. They do come in where the water pump comes up through the floor, we have tried everything to seal around that. They still get in. We have to use traps and check them often throughout the winter.

    1. Kristin

      Hi Terri–thanks for stopping by! Oh my–those are some determined mice! How frustrating! I wish I had a great idea to share, but it sounds like you’ve already tried them all. Good luck!!

      1. Nanc

        We do to park in woods near a shed and I have tried everything you have tried, we need to find were they are getting in however you located your spot so try putting stainless steel wool and they are not suppose to eat through it, good luck.

    2. Marla Janine Tucker

      Use aluminum foil or stainless steel scrub pads to stuff holes where you think they come in. It won’t rust and they don’t like to chew on metal. Probably the only thing they won’t chew on!

  10. Marla Janine Tucker

    Use aluminum foil or stainless steel scrub pads to stuff holes where you think they come in. It won’t rust and they don’t like to chew on metal. Probably the only thing they won’t chew on!

  11. Diane

    We use whole cloves for mice 15 years camping and no mice. We live in Canada (northern Ontario) and do everything you mentioned except tarping. So far so good.

    1. Kristin

      Hi Diane–thanks for stopping by! And thanks for sharing the great tip about whole cloves for keeping mice away! Happy camping! 🙂

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