This is a continuation of Tuesday’s post on bad weather RVing. You might want to read Part 1 on heat and cold first if you haven’t already.
I spent my first summer in the Casita down in coastal South Carolina, where aside from daily highs in the upper 80’s to lower 90’s, the humidity was regularly over 85%. A week of camping in high humidity (or probably even a month) isn’t going to damage an RV, but if it continues long enough mold can become a problem. Plus, it’s uncomfortable.
- Warmer air can hold more moisture than cooler air, so keeping it warmer in the RV will reduce the relative humidity level and condensation.
- If you’re camping somewhere cool and humid (like the pacific northwest), most electric heaters pull moisture out of the air, so running one serves two purposes. Propane heaters normally produce moisture, so they’re less ideal.
- Keeping the air flowing through an RV seems to reduce mold growth (I kept my fantastic fan blowing outward the whole summer with the A/C on and it helped).
- If you’re camping in a high humidity area long-term, look into an RV-sized dehumidifier.
- You can also buy packets to place in drawers and cabinets that suck moisture out of the air to keep clothes and other belongings from getting musty, replace them as needed.
RVs are made to withstand rain, but it does take regular maintenance to keep them leak-free. And you do want to stay on top of leaks as they’re probably the number one killer of RVs. Once damage from a leak becomes structural in nature, it costs a lot to fix (and by that point you’d probably have a mold problem too).
Being cooped up inside during a long period of rain isn’t very fun, but it’s something every RVer is going to experience sooner or later. I wrote a post about what to do on a rainy day (aside from sitting in front of the TV or computer all day) shortly after moving into Cas.
- Pay attention to the forecast. If there’s heavy rain predicted, give consideration to the elevation of where you’re camping. Don’t camp in washes or low spots, and don’t camp down dirt roads that may become impassible. Don’t try to cross roads with running water flowing over them, even if it doesn’t look deep.
- Be mindful about parking along waterways when heavy rain is predicted upstream, or during the spring when snowmelt miles away can cause rivers to flood even if the weather is great.
- If you’re camping long-term in an area where there’s a risk of hurricanes, have some cash and food tucked away in case an evacuation is called.
- Have a schedule for checking your roof and walls (for me it’s spring and fall). Look at all seams/joints/rivets) to make sure they’re still sealed tight. If anything looks suspect, fix it yourself or take it in somewhere to get looked at.
- If you happen to be in the RV during a heavy rainfall, do a cursory check of all seams/joints/rivets from the inside, looking for water. Sometimes a leak can be such a tiny thing that you can’t spot it from the outside, you won’t know it’s there until you see the evidence inside.
- Water can travel a long way from it’s point of origin. If you spot a leak inside, it may take some trial and error to figure out where it’s coming from. Keep patching things and checking the spot when it rains until you’ve got it taken care of.
Snow or ice buildup generally isn’t much a problem for an RV itself, although you’ll want to be careful of awnings or slide toppers which could rip if the weight gets too heavy. If you’re going to be camping in snowy conditions regularly, check your roof for leaks more frequently. The repeated cycle of thawing and freezing can break down the seal around caulking quicker than average as water seeps in to minuscule cracks then expands as it freezes, leaving the cracks a little bit bigger every time.
Hopefully you’ll never have to experience a blizzard while RVing, if you find yourself in the path of one, I’d leave the area if at all possible. But if you have no choice, stock up on supplies ahead of time as it might be a while before you can leave the RV to get anything. Expect that if you have hookups, the electricity will go out so don’t count on having your microwave, and buy a propane heater as a standby if you don’t have a furnace. Fill your fresh tank and dump your waste tanks ahead of time so you’ll have water. Also don’t count on having a phone signal or access to internet. Let your loved ones (and job if you work online) know what’s coming ahead of time so they don’t worry if you don’t contact them for a day or two. Have emergency gear on hand as if there’s a problem it’s unlikely help will be able to reach you with any speed. Know where your neighbors (if you have any) are going to be and let them know where you are, so you can check on each other after the worst has passed. And of course, have cold-weather gear on hand (which I talked about in part 1). I learned all this from experience after being under prepared for a freak fall blizzard up in South Dakota about a year into my full-timing adventure.
As for driving or towing an RV through snow or sleet, my recommendation is simply, “don’t do it.” If there’s snow or ice in the forecast, wait it out, or leave before it arrives. It takes RVs longer to respond and come to a stop in the best of conditions. When driving your tow vehicle or toad around in snowy conditions, anticipate slower driving times, keep more space between you and the person in front of you, be vigilant of what other drivers are doing. Oh, and some states require chains and/or snow tires for traveling in certain areas in winter (particular high elevation mountainy areas), so check the rules for where you’re camping so you’re not caught unprepared.
Preventing damage from large hail is very hard to do, parking under trees can lessen the impact, but then you need to worry about the trees getting damaged and dropping limbs on your RV. It’s also really hard to predict where hail will fall – five miles or less may be the difference between golf-ball sized hail and just a light rain. Some areas are more prone to hail than others though (I’ve seen more hail in the plains states than other locations) and when it happens it usually accompanies strong thunderstorms. The best defense is avoiding camping when strong thunderstorms are in the forecast.
I know, it might not be possible to avoid strong thunderstorms if you’re stationary for months at a time, or don’t get enough warning. Fortunately, hail large enough to dent or puncture an RV isn’t all the common. I’ve been through at least two dozen hailstorms without incident. I also have a single star type crack on the roof of the Casita that I suspect came from a large hailstone when I got unlucky once.
This crack did eventually start to leak. I fixed it up with an epoxy meant for patching fiberglass boat hulls (works great for Casitas) and it’ll never trouble me again.
So I guess the moral of the story is, it could happen, but there’s little point it worrying about it as there isn’t much you can do to prevent it. Accept it as a natural risk of the lifestyle, and move on.
Damaging winds fall in a similar category as hail – hard to predict and hard to prepare for, and more of a threat with strong thunderstorms. I’ll never forget the storm as a child that knocked down trees at my parent’s house in Wisconsin killing the power, and blocked the road going both ways, leaving a friend who was visiting stranded overnight with us.
Out west and in the plains states, strong sustained wind can be pretty common without a thunderstorm (especially during the spring) and advisories will often go out days in advance – as always when traveling, keep an eye on the forecast.
The strongest sustained wind I’ve weathered in the Casita was probably about 45 mph, just two weeks ago I drove through 50 mph wind gusts in Wyoming. The blizzard I experienced nearly three years ago reportedly had gusts up to 70 mph, although I wasn’t in the Casita for that (it didn’t tip over, so I guess all was well).
- As you gain experience driving or towing your RV, you’ll get a feel for what wind speeds feel safe or unsafe to drive in for your particular rig. When in doubt, err on the side of caution.
- When driving, headwinds drop your mpg significantly, wind hitting you broadside is the most dangerous, and wind coming from behind increases your mpg.
- Hitches with sway control do make a big difference.
- RVs closer to their max weight, and trailers being towed by marginal tow vehicles won’t handle as well in strong wind.
- Try to keep heavier things stored lower down in your RV, and keep both sides of the RV and the front and back weighted evenly. Besides being easier on your tires and axles it’ll also ride better in wind.
- Watch for signs about high-wind areas, open flat areas and mountain passes for instance are more prone to dangerous winds.
- To reduce rocking of a parked RV, try to point the nose or butt into the wind. Think about investing in stabilizers if your RV doesn’t come with them as they make a lot of difference.
- Roll in your awning and put away outdoor furniture if strong wind is called for. Never leave your awning out unattended in case the wind comes up while you’re gone.
- RVs and tornadoes really don’t mix, know where the nearest shelter is if your in an area prone to them. If you’re driving when a warning goes out, pull off the road or park and seek shelter. If nothing else is available, laying down in the ditch is your best bet.
As always, if you have tips of your own or questions, feel free to ask in the comments below.