How Can You Heat An RV Without Propane?


RV camping in the winter is a lot of fun, especially if it’s raining and snowing outside because you get to stay in, have fun with friends and family and just enjoy the peace and quiet. Even though you can have a lot of fun winter camping, you mind yourself out at the campsite and you forgot to fill the propane, or your heater just stops working right as the rain starts to fall. Since your propane is typically your primary source of heat, you could be in trouble, or are you?

There are several options for you to stay warm and heat your rv without propane while out camping. You can layer your clothing, add additional blankets, and add different sources of heat like an electric heater. You can do upgrades to your rv like extra pipe and floor insulation, to heavier window covers that will hold the heat in to keep you warm. Be careful of fire if you choose to use a space heater, and always make sure you have ventilation if you use a portable propane heater.

Layer Your Clothing

You have heard it from your parents in the past when going out in the cold, bundle up! If you happen to be out at the campsite and your heater goes out, you can always add some extra layers of clothing to keep you warm. Add an extra sweater, long johns, and bring some wool socks to keep you warm. Make sure that you layer dry clothes only, and if you have just come in from the rain, hang your wet clothes up to dry before adding any additional layering. If you put new clothes over your wet stuff, you will only add to your problem because all your other clothes will get wet, and you will be even more cold than you were.

More Blankets!

Even if you don’t think you will need them, always bring a few extra blankets. If you know you are going to be camping out in the rain, snow and cold air, bring four or five extra blankets, especially for the kids. adding extra blankets on top of a sleeping bag can keep you extremely insulated and warm overnight. It is much easier to pull blankets off if you get too warm, than it is to add them if you didn’t bring them. If you did not bring enough extra blankets for everyone, you can always double and triple up in your beds if you have the room.

Use A Different Heater

Most rv’s come with central heat through vents in either the ceiling or floor, but you can always bring extra heaters with you. Since rv’s and campers usually have extra storage cabinets, you should have room for extra heaters. Below is a list of different ways you can heat your rv without central heat.

Wood Stove: Yes, some rv’s do have wood stoves, but are normally not found in your normal motorhomes. This will generally be a special add-on, or something someone has done themselves. If you want to use a fireplace, make sure there is a vent pipe for the smoke to escape the rv, and don’t rely on opening windows.

Ceramic Space Heater: Ceramic heaters are usually the most common heaters that are used in rv’s because they do not need much ventilation. Power is pushed through the ceramic tiles and it heats up quickly. These heaters are great and can push a lot of heat out to your rv.

Catalytic Propane Heaters: These heaters are great for rv’s as well because they do not require much ventilation. Even though they are running off of propane gas, they are not combusting it, rather they are speeding up the chemical process of the propane. I highly recommend these heaters as a backup.

Portable Propane Heater: Portable propane heaters need to be used with extreme caution in rv’s because they need a lot of ventilation. While these heaters heat up fast, they can fill your rv with dangerous gas that can cause you to pass out, or even death. If you have to use a space heater to keep warm, you must make sure that you have a lot of ventilation.

Radiant Electrical Heating: This heating is usually done through the floor under your tile or hardwood floor. While this is great for keeping your feet warm, I would not suggest relying on it to heat your whole rv with it, especially if you have an rv that is 32 feet or longer.

Cover Your Windows

Rv windows are NOT like your windows at home, and are usually made from cheap single pane glass or plastic, so you are not going to get the same insulation as you do in your house. If you have ever been out camping in your rv and put your hand on the window, you have seen how much colder it is than your typical home windows. To keep the heat in, try covering your windows with blankets, towels or special covers. This will trap the heat inside, and the cold air outside, and will keep you much warmer. Do not just rely on your blinds to keep the heat in, they are not meant for insulation, only shade and privacy.

Add Insulation

If you are handy at DIY projects, or have the extra money, you can always add extra insulation to your rv. You can spray foam any cracks, or openings in your rv to keep the heat in, as well as extra foam insulation under your flooring to keep from cold air coming in from the bottom of your rv. This will actually help you from getting water, snow, ice and sand from getting into your camper from driving as well, and will also reduce road noise while driving.

Don’t Forget Your Vent Pipes

For a couple of dollars at any local hardware store, you can get foam insulation that will allow you to wrap any vent pipes that go through your rv. Wrapping your pipes will keep cold air from coming in, as the vent pipes that are in your camper are only made from PVC and will easily let cold air in.

Final Thoughts

As I said before, camping in the winter is super fun, and some of the best camping trips I have ever gone on, but only when you can stay warm. I have been out at a campsite when my heater would not start, and thank god, I had extra clothes and blankets, so I did not have to end my trip early. While losing your heater in the middle of camping is a bummer, it doesn’t have to be the end of your trip. Follow some of these simple tips above, and I guarantee that it will save your whole trip and keep your friends and family happy.

Related Topics

What Is Snowbird Camping?

What is snowbird camping? Snowbird camping is when you leave your house when winter hits, and travel to a place that stays warm in the winter. Typically, people will leave their home at the end of November, and snowbird camp until late March, or early April. These people are called Snowbirds.

How can I be a cheap Snowbird?

There are many ways for you to be a snowbird for very little money. You can share the expenses with friends or family, or you can purchase a small place wherever you like to visit, so it keeps the monthly cost down. You can also rent your house out during the winter months to people, but be careful when doing this and always have a rental contract that covers you from liability.

Terry Minton

I am the owner of Fast Cast Rods. I live in the mountains of Northern California where I love to be outdoors hunting, fishing, camping and hiking with my wife and three awesome kids.

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