A couple e-mails have come in recently asking how adverse weather affects the camping experience, and how well the Casita handles it. I figure when several people ask the same question, it’s worth making a post out of because there are likely others who haven’t written in wondering the same thing.
The article quickly grew to monstrous lengths, so I’m splitting it into two parts. First I’ll address hot and cold temperatures, which are probably the most common forms of “undesirable” weather, but which there are several solutions for. In part 2 I’ll address other weather conditions such as wind, snow, and humidity.
I’ve found that on a warm sunny day, with no wind and no shade, and all windows open with my fantastic fan running, the inside of the Casita will usually get about 6-8 degrees warmer than the temperature outside by late afternoon. If the day is overcast or I’m parked in full shade, the Casita will be about the same temperature as it is outside. If I’m in the sun but there’s a good breeze, or if it’s partly cloudy, it’ll be somewhere in the middle.
This of course will vary depending on the outside color of your RV (darker colors absorb more heat), how well insulated it is (better insulated means it will take longer to get hot inside, but once it does it’ll stay hot later into the evening), how many windows you have and how they’re placed, whether or not you have a fan and how effective it is, how you park the RV (nose or butt facing south means less surface area for the sun to hit at it’s highest and slightly cooler temps), etc.
Of course the most immediate way to negate hot temperatures is an A/C unit, which requires an electric hookup or generator to power as it would take a ridiculous (almost impossible) amount of solar to run one for any length of time.
A/C effectiveness inside RVs seems to vary wildly. The warmest weather I’ve ever camped in in the Casita is maybe 96 or 97 degrees (the summer I worked at Badlands National Park), and my apartment-style front-mounted A/C unit had no problems with it. I was able to keep the inside in the low to mid 70’s (which is the temp I prefer) without using the coldest setting. It helps that my RV is quite small, so there isn’t a lot of space to keep cool – I don’t know for sure but suspect that my A/C is rated for a space bigger than a Casita, and that’s why it works so well. I have heard from others with larger rigs who have two or more A/C units and still can’t keep their rigs at a comfortable temperature when it gets that warm.
Less immediate of a solution but nearly as effective is traveling with the seasons. Move up north or to higher elevations in the summer. I have gone this entire summer without using the A/C in my trailer, and while I’ve occasionally been caught in heat waves where daytime temps far exceeded the norm for the area, for the most part I’ve been quite comfortable.
If you’re struggling with staying cool inside your RV, here are a few additional ideas (if you have tips of your own for any of these sections, feel free to share them in the comments):
- If your RV has an awning and it’s facing toward the sun, roll it out (unless it’s windy). The less sun hitting the RV, the cooler it’ll stay.
- Consider parking smaller RVs like vans, Class B’s, and teardrops under a pop-up canopy, or rigging drop cloth or netting over them to reduce sun exposure.
- If you’re camping in a dry location and have a vent in your RV that will blow inwards, you can fashion a homemade swamp cooler by wetting a washcloth (or something similar) and attaching it over the vent. When the air hits the damp cloth it cools it.
- Buy a roll of Reflectix or similar reflective material and cut it to size to put up in the windows facing the sun to reflect light, this works best when you have your A/C going and need all the windows closed anyway.
- Spend the hottest part of the day outside. While boondocking on hot days, I’ll read in the afternoon outside in the shade. As I said, it’s usually 6-8 degrees cooler than inside. Or, take a trip somewhere that has A/C.
I’ve written quite a bit about cold weather camping before, as I’ve worked two holidays in Kansas and one in Nevada, both of which get pretty cold by late December. Check these two articles for tips and idea:
In short, few RVs are manufactured for true four-season camping. If your RV comes with heated holding bays, double paned windows and quality insulation, you’re in good shape.
If not, that doesn’t mean you can’t camp in cold weather, you’ll just need to take some precautions. While keeping yourself warm may seem like the biggest priority, keeping the plumbing in your RV from freezing is actually more important in my opinion, as a burst pipe in the wall of your RV (or burst holding tanks) can cause a lot of damage and be pricy to fix. Luckily, the new plastic piping standard in RVs since the early 90’s hold up to the pressure of freezing a lot better than older options and a frozen pipe does not spell instant disaster.
Consider a heated hose or heat tape to wrap around your fresh and gray water hoses to keep them from freezing (or, pack them away when it gets below 28 or so and hook up next time it gets above freezing).
- If your holding tanks are enclosed in a bay, run an incandescent lightbulb on an extension cord down into the bay to provide heat.
- If your tanks are exposed like the gray tank on a Casita is, you can put skirting around your RV to try to keep the cold out. Or, you can dump your tanks when they get more than half full (during the warmest part of the day) so that if they do freeze at night, there’s room for the liquid to expand.
- Bubble wrap, saran wrap, or Reflectix placed in windows will reduce the amount of heat escaping from them. You can even cover your fan vents, A/C, and any other openings to hold heat in.
- For about $20 you can get a small ceramic heater from Walmart or other similar stores and they’re quite effective. The winter I saw nights in the single digits, I had two of them going (each plugged into a different outlet – didn’t blow anything and I was on 30 amp, but I always turned one off when I wanted to use my microwave).
- An electric blanket uses less power than a ceramic heater and makes for a toasty sleeping experience when it’s cold.
- If you’re boondocking: use a sleeping bag and more blankets, invest in a set of thermal underwear, make a warm breakfast on the stove to heat up your RV in the mornings, if your RV doesn’t have a furnace (mine doesn’t) get a small propane heater that is rated for indoor use (and always crack a window for ventilation when using it and also get a carbon monoxide monitor!) Winterize the plumbing in your RV if you’ll be camping without power somewhere it gets below freezing regularly.
Part 2 on how to handle humdity, precipitation, and wind can be found here.