Pop-up campers are great. But given they are a hybrid between a tent and an RV, they can get cold in winter so many owners shut them down in the off-season. But what’s involved in winterizing pop up campers?
Winterizing a pop-up camper involves draining and flushing water lines and tanks, adding antifreeze to the camper’s plumbing, removing the battery, and disconnecting any solar panels.
While those are basic steps, there are other tasks that can help keep your pop-up camper in top shape throughout the cold season.
From understanding how to maintain hot water heater tanks properly to finding out what non-toxic RV antifreeze does best – we’ve got all the tips on winterizing pop-up campers so you’re prepared for whatever Mother Nature throws at you.
And to a large degree, these tips will also apply to a travel trailer or fifth wheel.
1. Parking Surface
The importance of parking a pop up camper on a solid surface like a driveway when storing for the winter cannot be overstated.
This is especially true in places that get a lot of rain and snow during the winter months.
If the camper is parked on soft ground, such as grass or dirt, it can sink into the ground due to its weight and the fact that the snow and rain can make the ground really soft. This can potentially cause damage to the camper, as well as make it difficult to move when needed.
Parking on a solid surface also helps protect against water damage.
If there is standing water around the camper, it can seep into any cracks or crevices and cause rust or other damage. Parking on a solid surface helps keep water away from these areas and prevents any potential damage.
Finally, parking on a solid surface makes it easier to access the camper when needed.
If it is parked in an area with soft ground, it may be difficult to move due to being stuck in mud or sinking into the ground. Parking on a solid surface eliminates this issue and makes accessing the camper much easier.
2. Parking Angle
Parking a pop-up camper at a slight angle forward when storing for the winter is an important step to ensure the camper is well protected.
This angle allows for rain, snow, and ice to run off the camper instead of building upon it. This prevents water from pooling on the roof and potentially causing damage. Additionally, the angle helps prevent water pooling on the hitch which can rust if too much water sits on it.
The ideal angle should be around 10-15 degrees from level.
— Chelle (@rellehcim) September 26, 2019
3. Use Wheel Blocks (if parking on bare ground)
Wheel blocks are an important tool for anyone who owns a pop-up camper and parks it on grass or dirt during the winter months.
Wheel blocks help to prevent the tires from sinking into the ground in the event of excess snow or rain.
This is especially important if you plan to leave your camper parked for an extended period of time, as it can cause serious damage to the tires and axles if they sink too far into the ground.
Wheel blocks also help to keep your camper level, which is important for proper weight distribution and stability.
Additionally, wheel blocks can help protect your camper from theft by making it more difficult for someone to move it without being noticed.
Finally, wheel blocks can help protect your lawn or dirt area from damage caused by tire tracks that may be left behind after a heavy rain or snowfall.
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They’re also great for leveling your RV at uneven campsites, and they work on single or double tires or even for hydraulic jacks in the event of a flat.
4. Clean the Inside
Cleaning the inside of your pop-up camper before shutting it down for the winter is an important step in maintaining your camper and ensuring it is ready to go next spring.
This includes wiping down surfaces, vacuuming, and cleaning out any food or crumbs that may have been left behind.
Doing this can reduce the attraction for pests such as mice, ants, and other insects that may be looking for a warm place to stay during the cold winter months. Additionally, it will help keep your camper in good condition by removing any dirt or debris that may have accumulated over the summer.
It is also important to check all of your appliances and make sure they are in working order before you shut down your camper for the winter.
This includes checking all of the lights, making sure all of the windows are closed and locked, and ensuring that all of the plumbing is functioning properly. Doing this will help ensure that when you open up your camper next spring everything will be in working order and ready to go.
tim: are you sure you don’t want to come up north with me in the bitter cold with no electricity in this pop up camper and stand hip high in ice cold water?
— Kristin Collier (@KristinCollie20) November 22, 2020
5. Disconnect Propane
It is important to disconnect the propane tank before storing a pop-up camper for winter.
Propane tanks are highly flammable and can cause serious damage if not handled properly. To ensure safety, it is important to disconnect the propane tank from the camper and store it in an outside storage shed or other secure location away from the house or garage.
This will help prevent any potential fire hazards that could occur if the tank were to leak or become damaged while in storage.
Additionally, it is important to check the propane tank and connector hose for any signs of wear and tear before storing it away for winter.
If any damage is found, it should be replaced immediately as this could lead to a dangerous situation.
Finally, when storing a propane tank, make sure that it is stored upright and away from any sources of heat or flame as this could cause an explosion.
6. Check plumbing lines for cracks and leaks
When winterizing your pop-up camper, it’s important to inspect the water lines for any signs of damage or leakage.
Look closely at all hoses and pipes, paying special attention to the areas around fittings and valves.
If you find any cracks or leaks, repair them immediately with a quality sealant before proceeding with other steps.
7. Drain and Flush Water Lines and Toilet
Disconnect any outside water source such as a campground or city water supply from the city water inlet. Then turn on all faucets and flush the toilet. But do this in conjunction with step #8.
An air compressor like this one on Amazon is a great tool to have to help with winterizing.
While you are draining and flushing, make sure to remove the water filters and let it dry and store it in a cool, dry place.
8. Drain Holding Tanks
At a dump station, drain black and gray water tanks until completely empty. With an ideally full fresh water tank, run faucets and flush the toilet while still connected to the dump station.
Leave the faucets on, and keep stepping on the pedal to flush the toilet until the fresh water tank is empty.
This will help ensure no caked-on debris is in the black water tank or lines. Then just leave the gate valves open on the tanks until totally empty.
9.Drain the Hot Water Heater
To drain the hot water tank, once the freshwater tank is empty, simply turn on the hot water faucet at every sink and let it run until it runs out.
But hot water heaters will also have a water heater drain plug which should be opened so it can drain the remaining water fully.
Finally, ensuring proper ventilation of the hot water heater tank is key when winterizing your pop-up camper.
Without adequate airflow around the unit, condensation can build up inside and cause corrosion over time – leading to expensive repairs down the road.
Make sure there are no obstructions blocking air flow near or around the unit (such as furniture or boxes) and keep vents clear from debris so warm air can escape properly during operation.
Proper ventilation will help extend its lifespan significantly.
10. Put Antifreeze in the Water System
To protect against freeze damage, it is essential to use non-toxic RV pink antifreeze in all water lines and tanks of your pop-up camper for temperature protection down to -50 degrees Fahrenheit.
Non-toxic RV antifreeze is designed to protect against freezing temperatures as low as -50 degrees Fahrenheit, without causing harm to any surfaces it comes into contact with.
Most RV water pumps have an antifreeze suction tube already attached to them.
So simply find where that is in your camper. It’s typically a small white plastic tube and it will connect to the pump on one end and not be connected to anything on the other end.
Turn off the valve to the fresh water tank, and turn on the valve for the antifreeze tube. Then place the other end of that tube directly into the jug of antifreeze.
Turn the water pump on and allow it to pump until your gallon of antifreeze is empty.
Then turn the valve for the antifreeze tube back off again and turn the valve for the freshwater tank back on again.
Then open the faucets inside the camper (with the pump still on) and the outside shower if you have one, and allow them to run until what comes out is totally pink (the usual color of RV antifreeze).
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— WEnRV (@WEnRVcom) February 22, 2023
11. Patch Any Holes in the Tent Sides
It is important to patch any holes in the tent sides of a pop-up camper before closing the top and storing it for winter. This is because holes and tears become bigger over time, so it’s best to address them early on.
The tent sides can be mesh, vinyl, canvas, or a combination of all of those.
For pinhole holes, the best solution is Loctite Vinyl Fabric & Plastic Repair on Amazon which is currently WELL under 5 bucks. Just a drop of that on the pinholes in any of those fabrics will work great. It dries clear and is totally waterproof.
For holes or tears in the canvas, the best solution is one of these iron-on patches from Amazon. These are also dirt cheap and come in a variety of colors to match any camper.
Just place the patch, and with something solid and heat resistant on the other side of the canvas, just use a regular household iron to iron the patch in place.
For holes or tears in the vinyl, the best option is one of these self-adhering nylon patches from Amazon. As with the canvas patches, these come in a variety of colors to match any camper.
For the mesh screens, assuming you don’t want to buy a roll of screen, cut it to size and sew it to your existing walls, the best option is this screen repair tape on Amazon. This comes in a roll just like a roll of duct tape.
Just cut a piece of it to size to be slightly large (by an inch or 2) than the tear, apply it to the mesh and press firmly. It is VERY sticky! Then cut another piece the exact same size and apply it on the inside in the same place.
And yes, it can hold up to the camper being repeatedly opened and closed.
12. Unplug Appliances
Unplugging appliances inside a pop-up camper before winterizing it is an important step in the process.
This helps to prevent any electrical damage that could occur due to cold temperatures. It also helps to reduce the amount of power draw when the battery is re-installed in the spring.
This can help to extend the life of the battery and ensure that it is ready for use when needed. Additionally, unplugging appliances can help to reduce the risk of fire or other hazards due to faulty wiring or other issues.
13. Unpack Food
Bringing in any boxes, cans, or other containers of food from a pop-up camper before storing it for winter is an important step to take.
This will ensure that pests won’t be drawn to the camper, as they are often attracted to food sources. It also reduces the likelihood of having out-of-date food items when the camper is returned to duty in the spring.
Taking this precautionary measure will help keep your camper clean and free from pests and other unwanted visitors.
It is also important to check all cupboards and drawers for any food items that may have been left behind.
These should be removed and stored in a cool, dry place away from the camper.
Any crumbs or spills should be cleaned up thoroughly as well, as these can attract pests. Additionally, it is important to make sure that all windows and doors are securely closed before storing the camper for winter. This will help keep out any unwanted guests who may be looking for a warm place to stay during the cold months.
By taking these steps before storing your pop-up camper for winter, you can rest assured that it will remain pest-free and ready for use when warmer climates arrive.
— Terri DeVore (@TerriDeVore) April 6, 2018
14. Close All Interior Vents
Closing all external roof vents on a pop-up camper when shutting it down for the winter is an important step in protecting the camper from damage.
Rain and snow can easily enter through open vents, leading to water damage and mold growth inside the camper.
This can be especially damaging if the camper is stored outside during the winter months.
Additionally, leaving vents open can also allow pests to enter the camper, which can cause further damage and create an unpleasant environment for anyone who uses it in the future.
It is also a good idea to check all seals around windows and doors to make sure they are secure and not allowing any air or moisture in.
Taking these steps will help ensure that your pop-up camper remains in good condition throughout the winter months and is ready for use when you need it again.
15. Lubricate the Lift System
It is important to lubricate and test the lift system of a pop-up camper before storing it for the winter.
This will help ensure that the lift system is in good working order and will not fail when you need it most. Lubricating the lift system will help reduce friction and wear on the parts, which can lead to premature failure.
Additionally, lubricating all moving parts with a light oil or grease can help reduce friction and wear on these components.
But don’t overdo the grease; a little goes a long way!
Taking these steps before storing your pop-up camper for the winter can help ensure that your lift system is in good working order when you need it most.
16. Test the Lift System
Testing the lift system will also help identify any potential problems that may arise during use. If any issues are identified, they can be addressed before storing the camper for the winter.
For electric lifts, it is important to check all connections and wiring for any signs of corrosion or damage. For hand crank lifts, it is important to check all moving parts for signs of wear or damage.
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— Ryan Amirault 🏔🚵🏼♂️🍦 (@RyanAmirault) September 14, 2020
17. Remove Your Battery (and store it)
Removing the battery from a pop-up camper when storing it for winter is an important step to ensure the battery and other components of the camper are not damaged.
Storing the battery in a garage can help extend its life by protecting it from extreme temperatures and moisture. It is also important to occasionally test and charge the battery as necessary, as this will help keep it in good condition.
When removing the battery, it is important to disconnect all cables and terminals before doing so.
This will prevent any short circuits or sparks that could cause damage to the camper or its components. Additionally, if any of the cables are corroded, they should be replaced before storing the battery.
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18. Disconnect Solar Panels (if applicable)
Disconnecting solar panels from a pop-up camper before storing it for the winter is a critical step in maintaining the camper’s electrical system.
Solar panels are designed to provide power to the camper’s electrical system, but if left connected during storage, they can cause damage to the system.
This is because solar panels can continue to generate electricity even when there is no load on them, and this can cause a buildup of voltage in the camper’s electrical system. This excess voltage can damage components such as batteries, wiring, and other electrical components.
In addition to protecting the camper’s electrical system, disconnecting solar panels before storage also helps protect them from damage due to extreme weather conditions.
Solar panels are sensitive to temperature changes and can be damaged by extreme cold or heat. Disconnecting them before storage ensures that they will not be exposed to these conditions and will remain in good condition for use when the camper is taken out of storage.
Finally, disconnecting solar panels before storage also helps protect them from theft or vandalism.
Solar panels are valuable items that can be easily stolen or damaged if left connected while stored away for long periods of time. Disconnecting them ensures that they will remain safe and secure until they are needed again.
19. Cover it
It is recommended to cover your pop-up camper in the winter months.
This will protect it from snow, ice, and other weather elements that can damage its exterior. Additionally, covering a pop-up camper helps insulate it against cold temperatures and keeps out pests such as rodents or insects.
It is important to ensure that the cover you use fits properly so no water seeps through into the interior of the camper while also allowing for adequate ventilation. Taking these steps can help extend the life of your pop-up camper for many years to come.
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Frequently Asked Questions
How cold is too cold for a pop-up camper?
Pop-up campers are not designed to withstand extremely cold temperatures.
It is generally suggested that camping in temperatures below 32°F should be avoided with pop-up campers. In order to keep the interior of the camper warm and comfortable, adequate insulation and a heating system may be necessary when camping in colder climates.
Additionally, proper maintenance such as making sure all seals are properly sealed can help prevent damage from cold weather conditions.
Do I need to winterize my pop-up?
Yes, it is important to winterize your pop-up camper if it will be parked somewhere that gets significantly below 32°F.
If it rarely goes below freezing or just below by a degree or 2, you may be able to skip the anti-freeze method. But it’s still a good idea to do most of the following:
This process includes draining the freshwater system and adding antifreeze to all of the pipes, tanks, and fixtures.
You should also check for any potential leaks or damage that could be caused by cold temperatures and make necessary repairs before winterizing.
Finally, you should cover your pop-up with a waterproof tarp or RV cover to protect it from harsh weather conditions during the winter months. Taking these steps will help ensure your pop-up camper is ready to use next season.
By taking a few basic steps, you can safeguard your water lines and reservoirs from the cold temperatures of winter.
Additionally, regular maintenance on your hot water heater tank and other components will help keep them functioning properly throughout the season.
The winterization process for your popup camper may seem like an overwhelming task at first but with some preparation and knowledge, you’ll be ready for whatever Mother Nature throws at you.
If you’re looking for tips on how to winterize your pop-up camper, we have the expertise and resources necessary to help. Let us guide you through RV travel, camping with kids, full-time RV living, and more so that you can enjoy a safe and stress-free experience.
But once spring rolls around, it’s time to de-winterize your RV!
Check out my complete step-by-step guide and checklist on de-winterization. I show you everything you need to do to get your RV ready be back in action.
Just click that link to read it on my site.