Prepare your caravan for winter
Whatever the time of year, it’s never too soon to start preparing for cold weather to keep your caravan dreams alive, whatever the weather.
At the risk of sounding like Game of Thrones, even when it’s sunny, winter is coming…
But picture this: Snug evenings cossetted in warmth gently wafting from blown-air outlets, or rising from Alde radiators behind seat backs.
Big mugs of hot chocolate. Bright, crisp, cold morning walks before returning to that cosy caravan to make a fine feast and sip some good wine.
Winter caravanning is a joy. You have to plan ahead, though, in a way that isn’t necessary for caravanning when frost isn’t on the weather agenda. And there are some inexpensive items that are worth investing in, to enhance your winter caravanning experience.
Your water supply
Firstly, you need to make sure you will continue to have a water supply when sub-zero temperatures threaten to disrupt your morning shower routine.
If your caravan has an inboard tank, keep it topped up. But how about your exterior water container from which you feed your inboard tank? You could drain it each night to prevent water from freezing inside it. But if your caravan doesn’t have an inboard tank, that’s not an option.
Tank insulating jackets cost around £30 and do exactly what they say on the tin, meaning free running water and morning showers are just as usual.
Your gas supply
The golden rule, as most caravan owners know, is to use propane gas during the winter, because butane will fail to vapourise when temperatures plummet.
If you are away from mains electricity, and are running the caravan’s heating on a 24-hour basis, you are going to use a lot of gas. We’ve used a whole 6kg propane cylinder in a weekend, which might take you by surprise unless you are prepared for it.
Our tip: Research before you leave; find out where you can replenish your gas supply, so that as soon as one cylinder runs out you know where you can exchange it for a full one.
If you’re heating the caravan on mains power, and using gas just for cooking, you’ll use no more gas caravanning in winter than at any other time of the year.
Even though this may be your plan, it’s good advice to factor in a strong possibility that you may want to use gas for heating, for initial warm-up. Both Alde and Truma Combi systems are designed to work on gas and mains power at the same time to get your caravan to your chosen temperature quickly.
Your caravan step
Even on only slightly frosty mornings, moisture on a caravan step can freeze, forming a mini ice-rink that could potentially send you skating off it.
There are two ways to help keep a step frost-free, other than bringing it inside at night. One is to spray windscreen de-icer onto it in the evening. The other is to sprinkle salt on it. Either way, you really have to reinforce a no-shoes-in-the-caravan rule; treading salt or de-icer onto a caravan carpet is something to avoid!
Your towing safety
Towing your caravan on ice or snow is really best avoided if at all possible, especially if you’re using a two-wheel-drive car. Obviously it's important to stay safe when caravanning, but even a four-wheel-drive vehicle can be tricky towing on ice and snow. Loss of traction is more of a risk when you’re towing than solo, so increasing braking distances hugely and reducing speed are the golden rules.
Several awning manufacturers offer porches and awnings specifically designed for winter use. We’ve selected a few of them here.
Dorema has several winter porches and awnings in its ranges. The Davos model, for example, is 2m deep and is made of polyester material that has a PVC coating applied to both sides for extra strength. The frame is 25mm steel.
Kampa’s Rally All Season is designed for extremes of weather. It’s made of heavy-duty pigment dyed fabric. It’s supplied with extra robust marquee-style pegs.
The All Season has a double mud wall, so that the section that folds inwards lies under a ground cover and the exterior directs rain away from the pegging area so that the water does not loosen them.
Isabella’s Winter porch is actually designed for skiing holidays, which gives you some indication of how substantial it is; this awning is specifically made to withstand snow.
The roof is angled to prevent the build up of snow. The mud flap is external so that, when snow lies on the ground, it provides an additional seal around the base of the awning.
The Winter comes with a Zinox steel frame which is hot-galvanised both inside and outside to extend its life and load bearing requirements. The material is PVC polyester and the material from which windows are made is designed to cope with sub-zero temperatures.