How to Winterize a Pop Up Camper in 14 Steps


parked car under snow

Missing even a single step in a winterization routine could lead to damage and expensive camper repairs come the spring. Im not saying that to scare you, but it’s true. That’s why it’s so important to have a comprehensive winterization checklist you can follow year to year. I’ve striven to provide you just that.

Let’s get started.

How to Winterize a Pop Up Camper

1. Parking and Blocks

Let’s start with a basic overlooked winterization step. If you are parking your camper on any other surface besides hard concrete, you should use wheel blocks.

Yes, it’s true that the dirt you’re thinking of parking on is rock solid now. That’s because it’s so cold out. But guess what? It won’t be that cold forever. Eventually, the ground will begin to thaw and that hard dirt can become mud if it rains or snows. You don’t want to come back to your camper to find it several inches in the mud. Get wheel blocks now! You’ll thank yourself later.

2. Prep Your Tongue

Okay, not your tongue per se, but your pop up camper’s tongue hitch. You’ll probably keep the hitch connected to your camper during the off-season, even if it’s not hooked up to a towing vehicle.

Before you leave your camper for the winter, you’ll want to readjust the positioning of the tongue end. It should be as low as you can get it. This way, when it inevitably snows or rains, the liquid will move right off the hitch at an angle instead of pooling and lingering. That can keep your hitch from rusting or corroding.

3. Close All Your Vents

It’s crucial that all the vents throughout your camper are completely shut. Otherwise, you’re inviting cold air into your pop up, and who knows what kind of damage it can wreak? Do you really want to find out? Probably not.

If your vents don’t manually open or close, then plastic wrap is about to become your new best friend. A tight square of the stuff over the vents should create enough of a seal that the vents are effectively closed.

Make sure you get every vent, even the oft-forgotten ones like the hot water heater, furnace, and refrigerator vents.

4. Bring Your Battery

Your battery is the lifeblood of your camper. Without battery power, you aren’t enjoying any amenities. It’s so important then to care for your batteries, charging them when they get low and watching your wattage on the items and appliances you use.

Battery maintenance doesn’t stop when your camping adventures do for the winter. If you leave your batteries in your vehicle during the cold season, you’re most assuredly going to come back to dead ones. When I say dead ones, we don’t mean the battery levels, either. Yes, those will be down to zero, but you could kill the batteries completely.

Your batteries are not meant to be exposed to very cold weather (or very hot weather either, for that matter). Doing so could kill them for good. It’s recommended you bring your batteries with you for the off-season. Stash them in your house or garage, anywhere that’s away from direct sunlight. Placing them on cardboard or even flat wood slabs is best so they don’t retain the coldness from bare flooring. Oh, and charge the batteries when they drop to 80 percent.

It’s natural for the batteries to drain even when they’re not in use, so get into a weekly habit of checking how much juice they have left.

5. Look for and Patch up Gaps and Holes

The idea is that when your pop up camper is left alone for the winter, nothing or no one will get in it. Yet if you have any holes in your vehicle, even small ones, you could be surprised to find that critters have been living in your camper all winter. From mice, rats, insects, and even bats, if you want to keep them out, you’ll have to patch up every last gap and hole.

To do that, start by inspecting the interior, exterior, underside, and roof of your pop up camper. If you notice any gaps or holes, keep track of them, as you’ll come back to them later. After the inspection, use caulk or a sealing product to close all the gaps. Now critters and insects can’t get in.

6. Lubricate and Lubricate Some More

Just because you won’t be using parts of your camper like the hitches, bed slides, locks, and other moving components for a few months doesn’t mean you should let them sit dry. Apply lubricant to them. Use the same amount you normally would, as overlubricating can cause a sticky mess.

If you can come back to your vehicle sometime during the off-season and lubricate again, that’d be great. Sometimes, though, depending on your storage solution, that’s not always possible.

Don’t stress too much if you won’t see your camper until the spring. Its parts will survive the winter as long as you remember to lubricate them before you go.

7. Unplug Everything

Leaving items running in your pop up camper won’t affect the battery, since you’re taking it with you, but it’s still not generally a good idea. From your refrigerator to small counter appliances and alarm clocks, if they’re staying onboard for the winter, then don’t leave them plugged in. You could accidentally kill your favorite electronic item that way. If it’s a major appliance, replacing it can be expensive.

8. No Food Left Behind

Remember how in an earlier section I mentioned that critters and insects would love to camp in your pop up for the winter? One way to attract them that’s almost guaranteed is leaving food in the vehicle.

I am talking about any food, sealed or unsealed. If it’s edible and has a scent, even a faint one, you’ll appeal to some cold, hungry critter. You might think it’s safe to leave bottled, sealed beverages or unopened cans, but you’d be surprised. Creatures like racoons have deft little fingers that can probably get to most of your food, even if it’s sealed.

It’s not just food, either. Wrappers or packaging are enough to bring furry friends and insects alike to your camper. You do not want to come back in the spring to an infestation. That’s why you need to get rid of any and all last traces of food. It also doesn’t hurt to do this…

9. Clean up Your Camper

From top to bottom, inside and out, you must clean your camper before you winterize it. Not only does this prevent the aforementioned rodent and insect problem, but it saves you time in the spring. Your camper won’t be spotless after winterization, but it’ll be a lot less dirty than if you didn’t clean it before you stored it.

One tip, if you can swing it, is to keep the fridge door sitting open. Since your fridge is going to be unplugged anyway, there’s no harm in doing this. In fact, it can actually help. When you leave the fridge door closed, the warm, slick environment is the perfect place for mold and mildew to grow and propagate. When the door sits open, enough air can get in that mold will not thrive.

10. Empty Your Toilet and Tanks

All your tanks, including freshwater and blackwater tanks, must be empty. Don’t forget your toilet, too, if you have a marine one. Otherwise, you can always dump a cassette toilet outside at a dumping station at your leisure.

You can deep-clean your marine toilet, too. To do so, open the freshwater holding tank and dump some antifreeze in there. Use your hand pump to pass all the antifreeze through the toilet. Flush clean water through to remove antifreeze residue and drain it.

11. Empty Your Hot Water Heater, Too

[box type=”warning”] Don’t neglect your hot water heater in your winterization prep. The tanks should be completely empty. Before you handle your hot water heater, make sure it’s been unplugged and adequately cooled down. Otherwise, you risk burning or severely injuring yourself.[/box]

Once you can safely get to your hot water heater, drain it completely. If even some water remains in the pipes, it spells bad news for you. The water will get cold and then freeze. As liquid becomes solid, expansion occurs. That could break your pipes. In the spring, you’d have to buy a whole new hot water heater. That’s a surprise no one wants to come back to.

12. Winterize Your Shower and Sinks

If you’re lucky enough to have an interior shower in your pop up camper, you’ll have to do some work to get it ready for the season. You’ll want to use antifreeze yet again, but make sure it’s pink or otherwise colored. This way, you can see it when it comes out.

Start with your cold-water knob, cranking it on. Then do the same with the hot-water knob. By pouring antifreeze into the freshwater tank and keeping the faucets on, you should notice the antifreeze will start to bleed out of the faucet.

Do this for both your shower and your sink and you’ll be in good shape. It’s recommended you remove the shower head and stash it elsewhere off the camper for the winter.

13. Check Your Awnings and Tent Sides

I talked earlier about the importance of cleaning your entire pop up camper. As you do this, pay special attention to your awnings and/or tent sides. These can become worn down from inclement weather or long-term use. If you notice any loose strings, trim them right away. Frayed seams should be trimmed down as well if there’s excess strings.

Look for other signs of damage, such as holes, tears, rips, or punctures. Most of this is relatively easy and quick to repair if you can catch it soon enough. Don’t leave the issue until the spring, though. Even rolling up the awning or retracting the tent sides can cause a small tear to become bigger. Patch it up now and check on it again in the spring.

14.Test Your Lift System

I’ve written about your pop up camper lift system , so that article is recommended reading if you missed it. Your lift system may run on a hand crank or it may be a powered system. Regardless, you should test all the parts and components before you pack up for the winter. If the limit switch isn’t working or the lift system is malfunctioning, then don’t put off getting everything repaired until the spring.

Lubricate any parts that are moving sluggishly or look dried out. If you’ve tested the lift system and all is working well, then you can safely leave it for a few months.

Pop Up Camper Storage Options

Before you can start all your winterization preparations, you have to consider where you’re going to keep your pop up camper for the off-season. If you have a small pop up camper, then you might be in luck. Its compact size is ideal for parking in your driveway and maybe even in your garage. If not, you could always park the vehicle on your street.

Before you go this route, you might want to get in touch with your homeowner’s association (as applicable) or your community so you ensure you’re not breaking any zoning regulations. You should also ask your neighbor if they mind whether your keep your camper nearby. You don’t want to upset anyone, after all!

If you have a mid-sized or large pop up camper, then parking it at home probably isn’t an option. Instead, you’ll have to keep your vehicle at a storage facility. There are many facilities for trailers and RVs across the country, and price points vary. You will pay more money forindoor storage versus outdoor storage. If you get indoor heated storage, that will be the most expensive of all.

The facility will charge you monthly for the duration of time your camper is on the premises. You could spend $500 to $1,000 or more for several months of storage, so plan and budget accordingly.

If you must keep your camper outdoors in the elements for the next several months, then you want to park it in a shady spot. Also, remember that concrete is better than dirt, since it can become mud when it thaws or gets wet. This is where wheel blocks will come in handy, as mentioned earlier in the article.

I would recommend investing in a cover for your pop up camper if outdoor storage is your only option. Here is one such cover available from Adco on Amazon. While a cover like that isn’t cheap, it can protect your camper from the elements.

Make sure your cover is waterproof, not water-resistant. A waterproof cover is made with fiber construction that prevents water from soaking through. Water-resistant covers lack such fibers. Instead, they have a special finish that lets water slide right off. With time, though, the finish can come off. That leaves your pop up camper exposed to water damage.

Your cover should also be UV-resistant. If it’s not, the rays of the sun can still penetrate to your vehicle through the cover. With a UV-resistant cover, your pop up is protected from fading and other sun damage.

Conclusion

[box] Winterization time has arrived for many pop up camper and RV owners. If you’re packing it in until the warmer weather returns, I think this guide will give you all the info you need for your preparations. By following our winterization checklist, you won’t miss any part of your camper.[/box]

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