Top tips for winter touring
Many sites have extended their opening season or remain open all year round, where you can enjoy heated toilet/shower blocks, laundry rooms, mains electric hookups and often hardstanding pitches.
With the right preparation, caravanning can be enjoyed all year round, and there is something quite special about the silence of a snow-covered Certificated Location when snug inside a caravan, motorhome or campervan!
A modern, well-insulated leisure vehicle and a decent duvet or sleeping bag will keep you snug in all but the most extreme conditions overnight, so you’ll rarely need overnight heating. Modern caravans and coachbuilt motorhomes tend to be very well insulated, and have efficient heaters, although you might want to use insulated covers on the cab windows of a motorhome to reduce heat loss. Campervans and van conversion motorhomes can be more problematic – not all have as much insulation, and single-glazed glass windows in the cab and sometimes the rear doors tend to let heat out.
Heating systems vary. The wet central heating systems found on many higher-specification caravans and motorhomes are ideal but the blown air heaters on most others will still do the job. If some extra warmth is necessary, a small, thermostatically-controlled fan heater is fine if on mains hook-up (1kW should be adequate), and can also provide reasonably rapid boost heating –ideal for first thing in the morning!
Heaters will use quite a lot of gas and also battery power (for control systems, fans and circulation pumps). Make sure you have sufficient gas and battery charge if planning to stay somewhere without mains electricity. Most systems run off gas or mains electric, though, and the latter is more convenient in the winter. Some smaller campervans use diesel heaters similar to those often fitted to truck cabs.
With gas or diesel heating, you must make sure the flue is not at risk of blockage by snow or wind-blown rubbish, especially if you do want to run the heating overnight.
Heating which can be programmed through a timer (or even a mobile phone app) to provide warmth when you get in in the evening, before you go to bed and best of all, before you get up is really useful.
Which gas should I use?
Liquefied butane doesn’t turn to gas as temperatures fall to around freezing (0*C) so for winter touring, switch to propane. Propane can be used all year round, but butane’s a little more efficient, so is cheaper for the summer.
In below-zero conditions, an outside water container may partially freeze over so keep a small container inside too.
Many motorhomes and some caravans have on-board water tanks. These are less likely to freeze.
You can get insulated covers and even low-power electric heating devices to stop containers from freezing.
To reduce the risk of your waste water container freezing, you can use insulation, a low-powered electric heater, or add salt to the container. You could also use a proprietary glycol-free caravan/motorhome anti-freeze such as that made by Elsan, which can also be used to prevent freezing of the toilet. Glycol-based car anti-freeze should not be used, as it cannot be disposed of into the drainage system for environmental reasons.
For regular winter caravanners, a four-wheel drive car or all-terrain vehicle is well worth considering. Mud and Snow tyres often improve traction and can be used all year round. For very slippery sites, snow chains might be needed. For more advice, check our guide on buying a towcar or take a look at the winners of our Towcar of the Year Awards.