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Best Way to Heat a Camper in the Winter

It’s officially winter camping season! Of course, that depends on where you’re located, but it’s starting to get cooler all over the country. And if you’re like most people, you probably don’t want to give up your camping trips just because the temperatures are dropping. Or maybe you’re a full timer living in your RV.

So, what’s the best way to heat a camper in the winter? Well, that depends on a few factors — how big your camper is, how well-insulated it is, what kind of heating system you have, and how cold it gets where you’re camping.

Don’t worry; we’ll put our experience on the line and help you keep warm this winter. We’re discussing ways to keep your camper warm in this post (pictures included!). After all, we want you to enjoy your winter camping trips.

Insulate everything to keep your camper warm.

Before we discuss the options for generating heat, we need to ensure that we’re not losing heat as soon as it’s generated. That means insulating, insulating, and insulating some more!

Heat loss will cool your camper faster than you can heat it.

If your camper isn’t already well insulated, this is the first place you should start. You’ll want to keep the heat inside your RV before we discuss how you can create heat.

Check the windows and doors for drafts, and seal any gaps or cracks. The most heat loss occurs here.

You’ll be amazed at how much heat you lose through your RV windows.

You might want to use Reflectix, which is like foil bubble wrap but can be taped into place. It’s great for windows because it reflects the heat into the camper. For doors, you can use a door sweep or even just a towel to block the drafts.

Another way to keep the heat in is to use curtains. Heavy curtains will help to insulate the windows and keep the heat from escaping. You can even make your insulated curtains if you’re feeling crafty. Just get some heavy fabric and sew it to a lining of Reflectix or another insulating material.

Once you’ve got the windows and doors sealed up, look at the rest of the camper. Are there any other gaps or cracks that need to be filled? Any openings that could use some insulation?

Adding insulation to the walls, floor, and ceiling will help to keep the heat in and the cold out. Don’t be afraid to get creative. After all, RV insulation isn’t that great anyways.

Don’t forget to insulate the outside of your RV as well with an RV skirt. This may make a huge difference in keeping your RV warm.

Cold air will blow under the RV there are any gaps or cracks, that cold air will come right in. While you can buy skirts explicitly made for RVs, a tarp or some other heavy fabric will work just as well. Just make sure it’s long enough to reach the ground and that you secure it tightly, so it doesn’t blow away. We’ve even seen bales of hay used as RV skirts.

Adding a skirt around your camper will also protect your RV pipes and water tanks as well.

Skirting on a 5th Wheel
RV skirting around the perimeter of your camper will help keep the draft out and your camper warmer. Photo courtesy of rvwindskirt.com.

Now that we’ve got the camper all sealed up and able to retain heat, let’s talk about generating some heat. There are a few different types of heaters to choose from.

Heat your camper with the built-in heating system.

LP Furnace on an Older RV
This is an older style furnace on an RV. They’re usually tucked away behind a cabinet.

Most RVs and campers have a built-in heating system that uses either LP (liquid propane) or electricity. If your RV has a furnace, it will most likely use LP. This propane furnace is great for freezing temperatures.

Some campers have electric heaters that work like space heaters. These are usually found in pop-ups and smaller campers. These aren’t portable heaters but instead built in electric heaters.

If your camper has a propane or diesel furnace, you can use it to generate heat in your camper in the winter by igniting the pilot light and setting the thermostat to the desired temperature. Modern RVs typically have a self-igniting furnace on the propane heater. Once the furnace runs, you should feel the warm air blowing out of the vents within a few minutes.

Propane heaters are great for keeping your RV warm even on the worst cold weather days.

If your camper has an electric heater, they usually have their thermostats so you can set them to the desired temperature.

The great thing about electric heaters is that they don’t use propane. Therefore, you’re not limited by how much propane you have in your tank.

How much LP does a camper’s furnace use?

Keep in mind that running the furnace continuously will use a lot of LP, so it’s best to use them only when needed.

From our experience, a 30,000 BTU RV furnace will use about 1/2 gallon of propane per hour. So, if you have a standard 20lb tank, you can expect it to last about 10 hours. Of course, this will vary depending on how well-insulated your RV is, the outside temperature during cold weather, and the condition of your heating equipment. That’s why we started out recommending how to keep heat in your RV.

Standard 20lb Propane Tank for RVs
This is a standard 20lb propane tank that is commonly found on most campers and RVs. It holds just under 5 gallons of liquid propane.

Last winter’s coldest day of the year, we went through an entire tank in a single day. Fortunately, we had spare tanks, which shows how much propane a furnace can use.

Supplement your heat with a stand-alone space electric heater.

Even on the coldest days with extremely cold temperatures, a stand-alone space heater or portable heater can take the chill out of the air and make your camper more comfortable. They can also provide extra heat to take the load off your RV’s furnace. Our favorite part of this heater is the lack of carbon monoxide.

Whem you use gas-poeeref heaters you need to ensure you have carbon monoxide detectors throughout your RV.

There are a few different types of space heaters that you can use in your RV, but we prefer the ceramic kind because they’re more energy-efficient and they don’t dry out the air as much.

If your RV has different rooms, such as a bunkhouse or master bedroom, space heaters can be a great way to heat individual rooms without running the furnace continuously.

When using a space heater, it’s important to practice fire safety. RVs usually have a fire extinguisher on board, so ensure you know where and how to use it. It’s also a good idea to keep a close eye on the space heater, so it doesn’t start a fire.

Use a catalytic heater for even more heat.

If you really want to crank up the heat in your camper this winter, you can supplement your space heater or furnace with a catalytic heater. Catalytic heaters are some of the best space heaters for RVs because they’re very efficient and produce quite a bit of heat.

Catalytic heaters work by using a catalyst to create a chemical reaction that produces heat. The most common catalytic heater uses a small amount of propane to heat a metal plate. This plate then radiates the heat into the RV.

Catalytic heaters – often called portable propane heaters – are very safe because they don’t have an open flame, but you should still practice fire safety and ensure that there’s nothing flammable near the heater. These portable heaters are very efficient when winter RVing.

Dress warm and have plenty of blankets for the cold weather.

If your furnace and space heaters are not enough to keep you warm, the best way to stay warm is by dressing in layers and having plenty of blankets on hand.

The more you bundle up with warm clothes, the less heat you’ll need and the more propane you’ll save. As I mentioned, we went through a tank of propane in a single day last winter, so anything you can do to reduce your usage will help.

It’s also good to have blankets ready or even an electric blanket just in case your furnace or space heaters stop working. You’re not left out in the cold if something goes wrong.


Lets get your RV or camper nice and warm!

We hope these tips on how to heat your camper in the winter using various heat sources (i.e., electric space heaters and propane heaters) and insulating have been helpful! Camping in the winter can be a great experience as long as you’re prepared for the cold weather. So bundle up and enjoy some time outdoors and always remember to stay warm on your next winter camping trip.

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