SARA'S WINTER ROAD ADVENTURE
By Sara Caldwell
Earlier this month, my husband, dog, and I went on a 10 day Road Adventure trip. We stayed at 6 different campgrounds in 6 different states and travelled a total of 2,300 miles. The purpose of the trip (besides to have fun!) was to try out camping in the winter, along with setting up/taking down camp multiple times. We have camped in the summer and fall before, but there are a few key differences in winter camping. I will highlight those differences, as well as things we did to prepare for/combat them in this article.
Myself, my husband, and our dog Blake.
Beginning thoughts- where we stayed
To begin, I would like to outline our trip/ what campgrounds we stayed in. We started by driving our GMC Yukon and Micro Minnie 2108TB travel trailer to Red River Gorge, KY where we stayed at 4 Guys RV Park. We stayed at this campground last year and loved it. It’s a great location in the heart of the Gorge. It also has a really cute barn next door that is used as a wedding venue!
We then travelled to Pigeon Forge, TN where we stayed at Pine Mountain RV Park. This was the most “touristy” location we travelled to. There is plenty to do in Pigeon Forge, but we really enjoyed the Sky Bridge. If you are in the area, it is a must see!
Next we went to Rivers End Campground in Tybee Island, GA. This was our favorite campground of our trip! It had beautiful trees and large, private campsites. It was also just a few blocks away from 2 beaches!
We then travelled to St. Augustine Beach, FL where we stayed at Ocean Grove RV Resort. This was nice as it was a gated RV park, and there was a restaurant on the property. There were a lot of locals who lived there; check out our neighbor’s Christmas decorations!
To start our route back home, we went up to Murrells Inlet, SC where we stayed at Huntington Beach State Park. We originally weren’t going to stay at any state parks just to support local campgrounds, but we selected this one specifically as it was right on the ocean. It was beautiful!
To break up our long drive home, we stayed at Mash Fork Campground in Camp Creek, WV. We were only there for 1 night, but it was close to many trails so we easily could have explored around for a few days.
Now that I went over where we travelled to, let’s get into my 6 thoughts on winter camping:
1. De-Winterization of the Camper
Something you must think about with winter camping, that you don’t have to account for in the summer- is the winterization of the camper. When temperatures drop below freezing, there is a risk of the pipes in the RV freezing- which can cause a lot of damage. We wanted to use the shower/toilet/sink in the camper we took, so we de-winterized it before we went camping. As a result, we had to be conscious that if we were in an area with low temperatures, we had to keep the furnace running. My little piece of advice if you are winter camping: keep the cabinets that need directly to the water pipes open so the heat can get directly to the pipes. For those wondering if we ran out of propane during our 10 days of running the furnace/cooking over the stove- we did not!
In front of our Micro Minnie travel trailer!
2. Traveling in Inclement Weather
I am not going to sugar coat this topic. Towing with snow on the ground made both my husband and I slightly uneasy. It is scary not knowing if you could hit a patch of ice, or what backroads will be plowed when trying to navigate to your campground once exiting the highway. My best advice is to drive slow, and follow any posted signage. When we were winding around the mountains in Kentucky, even though the speed limit was 70mph, we didn’t hit speeds above 50mph. I always tell my renters when they leave to “Have fun and drive safe, you are on vacation so relax- you are not in a race!” and I heeded my own advice. When in doubt- slow it down to a speed you are comfortable with. Will there be semi’s passing you by? Yes. But my thought is- they drive for a living, and they go the speed they are comfortable with. So should you!
A legitimate road our GPS took us on in Kentucky.
3. Electric, Water, and Sewer Hookups: What is Important?
When camping in the summer or fall, I don’t find it necessary to have a sewer or even a water hook-up at my campsite. This is because I don’t mind walking to the bathhouse to shower or use the restroom. However; for this trip, 4 out of the 6 campsites I booked had full hook-ups. This was extremely useful for winter camping, so I didn’t have to walk to the bathhouses to shower when it was chilly outside. In addition, we could take long, hot showers to warm up and not have to worry about filling our gray tank up.
30 amp, water, and sewer hook up at our campsite.
As I mentioned, 4 of the 6 campsites I booked had full hook-ups. The other 2 campsites just had electric and water. These were our last 2 stops in Georgia and Kentucky. My husband and I were both able to shower inside the camper at both locations and not fill the gray water. However, we were only at each site for 2 days. If you are planning on staying any longer than 2 days at a campground and do not want to dump the tanks- you have 2 options. The first is to take what I call a “military style” shower where you turn the water off to lather your soap, and then turn it back on to rinse off. The second options is to take down camp, tow your trailer to the dump station, dump the tanks, then tow your trailer back to your campsite. The second option is a bit of a hassle for me, and I would not choose that option if I didn’t have to.
4. Camping During a Pandemic
I touched on walking to the bathhouses in my last point- but it is important to note that due to the pandemic, some campgrounds have closed their bathhouses. Definitely do your research while booking your campgrounds to see what amenities are open. It would not be very fun to plan on showering in the bathhouses, to get to the campground and find out they are closed. Another important tip is to make sure the campground hasn’t turned off the water for the season. I know some campgrounds in Ohio remain open throughout the winter months, but they turn off their water to avoid the pipes freezing underground. Again- do your research!
Another question you may be wondering is if camping is safe during the pandemic. I personally felt very safe when I was camping. I had my own space that I stayed in, and everyone at the campground was respectful of social distancing. 2 of the 6 campgrounds we stayed at had contactless check-in, which was fantastic. The other 4, we checked in at the camp office and received a parking pass and instructions on where our campsite was. The camp offices all took the pandemic very seriously. They had a maximum amount of people that could be in the office at 1 time, required masks for entry, etc. To me, camping is such a safe way to travel because you can be self-contained, especially if you plan ahead.
I planned meals before I left, so that I could avoid the need to run to the grocery store. (I posted the links to 5 of the meals I cooked for dinner below if you are interested). We made a couple meals over the campfire, which in my opinion is such a fun way to prepare dinner! Also, I prepared a big pot of chili before I left and kept it in the freezer to pull out when we didn’t feel like cooking.
Garlic Steak and Potato foil packet- yum!
For more information on the operation of Road Adventures during this pandemic, please visit our Covid-19 page on our website. The URL link is: https://roadadventures.com/covid-19/
5. Planning Your Route
I am going to be completely transparent- I did not plan my route correctly for a winter trip. I planned it the same as I always have: bring up Google Maps, put a few destinations I knew I wanted to travel to, and find campgrounds along the route. What do you ask did I do wrong? I didn’t think about the type of road the route took us on. I kid you not, when we were travelling from Red River Gorge, KY to Gatlinburg, TN- we were on such a windy road traveling around a mountain that I held my breath (I can admit it now- I am so glad my husband was driving and not me!) What I suggest: know which highways you want to travel on, and find campgrounds that are convenient to the route you want to travel (rather than finding destinations and/or campgrounds first and making them fit your route, like I did).
Me, driving along the foggy highway.
6. Packing the Right Items
Packing the correct items is essential! Before I get started, if you haven’t looked at our Covid-19 page yet, please do- I wrote a suggested packing list for basic camping items. In this section, I will dive deeper into the winter-specific items I suggest packing.
First of all, even though we travelled to Florida, we stopped along a few colder states to get there (and on our way back home). Make sure to bring blankets- the more the merrier. Most sleeping areas in RV’s are accompanied by a nice window; while they may be nice to gaze out during the day, they don’t protect you from the cold weather! Blankets are your friends during winter camping. Also, make sure to pack extra towels. This is because it takes a while for them to dry, so you don’t want to be using a wet towel from the day before. Typically I set the towel out on the awning arm to dry (like I suggested in my last blog post, viewable here: https://roadadventures.com/saras-trip-to-buckeye-lake/); however, this is not an option in colder weather.
In addition to extra blankets/towel, another essential cold weather camping item is extra fire starters. As my husband found out, it is much harder to make fire during winter as the kindling nearby is always cold/wet. The great thing is, at most campgrounds, you can have firewood delivered right to your campsite- score! (Some campground actually prohibit bringing in outside firewood). If you are not using all the firewood the same day, make sure to store your firewood in the trailer’s outside storage to keep it dry.
Fire starters make all the difference!
I hope you enjoyed my thoughts on camping during the wintertime. I really enjoyed my RV trip in the winter. Campgrounds were less packed, and there was more opportunity to get the premium sites that typically are sold out months in advance in the summertime. There is something really special and serene about winter camping. If you are interested in a winter RV trip, please do not hesitate to reach out to a Road Adventures team member today!
To view my last blog post on summer camping, please visit: https://roadadventures.com/saras-trip-to-buckeye-lake/
Until next time,