Caravanning in winter

Written by Stuart Craig on 19th November 2020

Touring adventures don’t have to come to an end when the clocks go back. In fact, whether it’s Christmas with a difference or a last-minute escape from the January gloom, caravanning in winter can easily become one of the highlights of the year. 

This winter especially, the thought of crisp country walks and cosy, Covid-safe getaways are more enticing than ever. So for stress-free (and warm!) winter touring, here are our essential caravanning in winter tips. 

What should I do to prepare for caravanning in the winter?

From Braemar to Penzance, there’s no shortage of caravan parks open in winter. However, given the tumultuous year we’ve had, demand may well be higher than usual. Also, be aware that many sites have cut their pitch capacity to help maintain safe distancing. 

So the best advice is to try and book as far in advance as you can. Keep an eye on any local restrictions in place right up to the day of travel. Also,  aim (if possible) to arrive in daylight: hooking up is that little bit easier if you don’t have to use a torch! 

It’s also worth double-checking what facilities are going to be available on-site. After all, you don’t want to bank on being able to use a heated shower block, only to discover it’s closed for social distancing. 

Your usual summertime ‘to-bring’ list will need some adjustments. For instance, you may not need your outdoor chair & table set or BBQ. This frees up space for things like extra-thick duvets and outdoor clothes. Don’t forget the board games and reading material for those cosy evenings in! 

How do I prepare my caravan for my trip?

If it has been out of action since summer, your caravan itself may need some TLC. Before your trip, flush out the water system using whatever cleaning agent is advised by the manufacturer. 

To keep the heat in and the rain or snow out, check the door, window and skylight seals for damage. Repair with sealing strips where necessary. Tyres should also be inspected for any warping or cracking – and remember to check the pressure levels. 

How do I keep my caravan warm in the winter? 

Most gas-powered heaters are capable of running on your choice of propane or butane. Because butane gas performs poorly once the temperature dips below 5 degrees celsius, you should choose propane (red bottles) for winter camping. 

You will use more gas than usual for winter trips, so check the heater manufacturer’s fuel consumption guidelines and make sure you bring sufficient reserves. It’s also worth finding out the closest cylinder stockist to your campsite, in case you run out. 

You should make sure you test your heating system before the trip. With ‘wet’ (i.e. gas-fuelled) central heating systems, you have to change the antifreeze every few years for tip-top performance; ensure you are up-to-date on this before your trip. 

Finally, if you’re out exploring for the whole day in very cold conditions, put the heating on very low to keep pipework from freezing and think about investing in a heating timer if you like the thought of coming back to a warm caravan.

How do you insulate a caravan for the winter? 

Even if freezing conditions aren’t forecasted, a hard frost is always possible. To prevent cracks, it’s wise to lag external pipework with the type of hose insulation available from DIY shops and secure this into place with duct tape. 

An insulation bag for your external freshwater carrier is also a good idea. Tip: if you can’t get hold of one in time for your journey, you can always fashion your own from old bedding. 

Thermal blinds or thick curtains can also provide another heat retention layer for your windows. 

When there is a big difference between indoor and outside temperatures, condensation can be an issue, a portable dehumidifier can help reduce this.

Towing a caravan in the winter 

When towing a caravan in the winter, be sure to check your towcar’s fuel, oil, water, screenwash and coolant levels before you set off. You should try all bulbs, including fog lights, and check your wipers and tyres for wear and tear. 

Always keep an eye on the forecast. If severe weather is expected, listen to the official advice by asking if the trip is really necessary. 

If you do find yourself towing in poor conditions, stay alert and take it smooth and slow. Use a low gear to stay in control and keep your distance — remember that safe stopping distances are ten times greater in snow and ice. Our guide to towing a caravan and tips for avoiding caravan snaking provide more useful pointers in preparation for your winter trip. 

If more than one winter trip is on the cards, winter tyres can be a wise investment; they offer much better traction and grip in cold conditions. And if you really catch the winter caravanning bug, it’s definitely worth considering a 4-wheel drive vehicle for your next car.  

How to store a caravan in winter 

When your winter holiday is over, the safest place to site your caravan is at a CASSOA approved location. In fact, with Shield, you can earn a discount on your caravan insurance with this method of storage. 

Before storage, you’ll need to prep your caravan to guard against damp and frost damage. This includes draining down the water and heating systems according to manufacturers’ instructions, wiping down the bodywork, removing the 12V battery and giving it an occasional top-up charge. For some expert tips and tricks on winter storage preparation, be sure to check out our explainer video

We all deserve a little winter cheer this year, so wherever you’re headed, make sure you have an enjoyable and safe trip. For award-winning cover and that all-important peace of mind, check out our touring caravan insurance and see our top tips here

For lots more guidance, from our favourite sites in Wales to mastering caravanning for beginners, don’t forget to explore our blog

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