You’ve enjoyed a summer exploring, and now it is getting chilly and winter is on its way. Does this mean that you have to stop going out in your campervan or motorhome?
Do you cover up your ‘home-on-wheels’ and sit and wait for signs of spring? Or can you keep touring, and enjoy the winter season on the road too?
We’ve already written about preparing your campervan for winter. Now we are going to look at what happens if you don’t want to put your vehicle away until spring.
So, what is the reality of campervanning and motorhoming in winter?
CAMPERVANNING & MOTORHOMING IN WINTER
Winter touring in your campervan or motorhome
There are lots of advantages to touring out of season. There are fewer traffic jams, more space, and you get a chance to be able to explore some wonderful places without having to fight through the usual summer tourist hoards.
And just because it’s winter, it doesn’t automatically mean that there will be bad weather. There are often plenty of nice days and lots of crisp sunny mornings, ideal for walking and sightseeing.
If you do it right, then using your campervan or motorhome in winter can be brilliant. You just need to think ahead and make sure that you are prepared…
Our tips for UK touring in winter
- You’ll need to plan for chilly overnight temperatures. If your motorhome or campervan has built-in heating then you are probably good to go. If not, then you would do yourself a favour to get a heater that can be left on overnight. Read our article about heaters for more info, and to see what we recommend.
- Make the most of the short daylight hours! Get out early, walk along a beach or explore an interesting town or harbour. When you’ve done, then you can always find a nice pub or coffee shop to relax and fortify yourself!
- If the weather is less than ideal, then there are some great cafes and pubs with some wonderful views. The Waterhole in Perranporth Cornwall, is such a place. Right on the beach, you can sit inside with a hot chocolate and a slice of cake (or something stronger) and watch the crashing waves in comfort. Places like that, prove that you don’t actually have to be out in the elements, to appreciate the sights.
- Plan your trips to include interesting places that are not totally reliant on good weather. Our post: great days out in your campervan documents some of our favourite places that are perfect for a winter visit. Check out the Ironbridge Museums, and Bridgenorth, we had a great time in the area and learned lots too. The site we stayed on (Stanmore Hall) is open all year, as are the museums.
- Dress appropriately. Pack clothes that can be worn in layers to keep you warm, and that are easy to get dry. You don’t always need to bundle up in heavy coats or jumpers, a couple of warm layers beneath a good waterproof and windproof jacket will works wonders!
Have you got a dog?
- If your dog is travelling with you, then it might be worth checking out our post on motorhome and campervan Dog Accessories. You’ll find some handy solutions for dealing with a wet dog, and ideas for keeping your canine cosy too.
Looking after the practicalities:
One of the main things you need to ensure as the temperatures drop, is that your water supply doesn’t freeze. If you have an onboard water tank and your heating is run regularly then you may not have too much of an issue. But if you have an external water container, such as an Aquaroll, then it is at risk of freezing if the temperatures are low enough.
To combat this, at the very least, you need to fit an insulated jacket to your water container and make sure that it also covers the inlet pipe to make sure that doesn’t freeze either. You can insulate your water container and pipe to help prevent this from happening. This insulated cover on Amazon, fits a 40L Aquaroll. The cover will also fit a 50l water hog and has an all-important inlet pipe cover. If you use a jacket such as this, it should be enough to keep your water running when the cold weather hits.
In prolonged exposure to sub-zero temperatures, even an insulated cover may not be enough to completely stop your water freezing. To err on the side of caution, it is wise to have a small water container that you can keep inside overnight, ensuring you have enough water for your morning coffee whatever the weather outside is doing.
Now on to the waste-water. Though we’ve no personal experience of this, our research suggests that if freezing temperatures are set to last, then you are better off draining your waste-water directly into a bucket. The thinking behind this is, that it is easier to deal with a frozen bucket, than a frozen waste water container. Also, be sure that your waste pipe is at an angle that ensures free drainage, as any water sitting in the pipe is likely to freeze too.
What about your gas supply?
For winter camping change to Propane (red bottle) rather than the usual blue bottle. Propane has a much lower freezing temperature. Remember though, that when using gas you need to leave your floor vents uncovered – no matter how chilly. And invest in a good carbon monoxide detector, it’s vital for your safety.
Electric Hook Up
Be aware that winter touring is probably going to mean that you’ll want to use multiple appliances at the same time. But you need to think before turning everything on at once. If you’re running an electric heater, plus an electric kettle and maybe a TV and a microwave on electric hookup, there’s a good chance of tripping the campsites RCD unit. To give you some idea what can be run together, you can read how we got on, in life on the road with a microwave oven.
Preparing for colder temperatures
- Ensure you have antifreeze in your engine.
- To stop ice formation in your window-washer unit tank, hoses and nozzles, add a good quality window wash antifreeze concentrate and increase the concentration in especially cold weather.
- Make sure to keep de-icer and a windscreen scraper handy for frosty mornings.
- You’d probably be wise to take an emergency snow shovel and heavy-duty snow traction mats with you to help you out of any tricky situations.
- If you are suffering from condensation, then wipe windows regularly and when possible pull your seating and bedding away from walls and lift them to let warm air circulate underneath.
A memory: touring Cornwall in winter…
One cold frosty December, we went to St. Ives. We parked up in a car park above the town, and as the sun was setting over the ocean, we made our way down through the warren of tiny streets and steep steps toward the harbour.
As we came down the final set of steps we heard the soft sound of children singing, then we saw the flicker of candles as a procession passed along the main street on its way to the harbour. By this time it was properly dark, and the moon was shining silver on the black water, boats were bobbing and the scene was magical.
The whole spectacle was just so unexpected and beautiful. It is the ‘discovered’ moments like this, that make travelling out of season so special.
If you are going to Cornwall at any time of the year, then read our post, Touring Cornwall in a Campervan for insider tips on the places to visit and the sights to see. You might also enjoy this article by forest holidays, 10 reasons to visit Cornwall in the winter.
Keeping your motorhome or campervan warm in winter
- We have a blow heater for when we need instant heat, and also a small oil filled radiator that we leave on to keep us snug overnight. Read our post on electric heaters for more info.
- Shut the ventilation grills in the cab to prevent icy air from circulating. But always leave fixed low-level vents OPEN. They are there to stop carbon monoxide poisoning!
- Keep the warmth in and stop heat escaping. Close your curtains and blinds as soon as it starts to get dark. Temperatures drop very quickly as soon as the sun goes down.
- Put up silver screens on the windows if you have them.
- A heavy curtain that you can draw around the cab area is a great way of keeping the heat in and the draughts out. A curtain over the side door would achieve the same thing.
- If (as we had in our diy campervan) you have hard flooring in your campervan or motorhome. Then when touring in winter, a rug or two underfoot would be a welcome addition.
- Make sure to take a winter tog duvet. And why not pack a hot water bottle too!
- If you are going to be regular winter travellers, then think about installing some thermal blinds if you don’t already have them.
Winter campervan & motorhome touring UK – where to stay
This is where you definitely need a plan!
You need to know where you want to visit, then search for good campsites that are open all year round, and plan your trip around these destinations.
Read reviews if you haven’t visited a site before. And always contact the site beforehand, just to double check that the details you’ve read online are correct and that they are definitely open.
Pick sites with hard standing pitches. It will make life much easier if the weather takes a turn for the worse. You don’t need the hassle of trying to get off a wet, muddy, or snowy pitch.
But what if you want to explore further afield…
Motorhoming or campervanning in Europe – what about going abroad in search of winter sun?
Have you ever fancied packing up your campervan or motorhome and heading across to the continent for some winter sun?
Many motorhomes and campervans spend at least a portion of the winter in Europe – and who can blame them! Some of the most popular of the places to head for are Spain, Portugal and the South of France. It is worth keeping in mind that some of the sites that are open all year offer discounts for winter stays, and on longer stays you can make quite a saving.
If you do intend to go winter touring abroad then there are a couple of practical issues that you’ll need to look into…
- Will your breakdown and accident insurance cover you for where you are planning to go?
- Do you need to take out health insurance to cover you on the continent?
If it is going to be your first time travelling abroad in your motorhome or campervan:
Ask yourself if you’d be better off joining a club that has winter sun rallies?
That way you would be among experienced winter sun seekers, and benefit from their experience and expertise. The stewards would help ensure a safe environment for you while you find your winter-sun seeking feet.
Lots of clubs run these sort of rallies, including the Camping and Caravanning Club, the Caravan Club, and the Motor Caravanners’ Club.
The South of France is popular as it tends to miss most of the winter storms. But bear in mind that it isn’t quite as warm as Spain and Portugal, and is also one of the most expensive places in Europe.
Southern Portugal is another popular winter destination; the Algarve is one of the warmest of the three places we are looking at. There are plenty of sunny days to be found here and, because of this, it attracts lots of campervans and motorhomes over winter. Though it is known for winter storms, it is one of the cheapest of the winter destinations.
The southern coast of Spain (Andalucia) is less crowded in winter than the Algarve, and is almost as warm. It avoids most of the Atlantic storms, and though cheaper than the south of France it is more expensive than Portugal. Night time temperatures in all these places can still be chilly, so you will need to be prepared.
TIPS FOR CAMPERVANNING & MOTORHOMING IN EUROPE
- If anyone has even the slightest chance of feeling seasick on the ferry, remember that the shortest ferry route to get you onto the continent is from Dover to Calais.
- Make sure that your bank doesn’t charge you for taking money out when abroad. If it does, then do some research as it may be worth opening another account to use for your travel expenses.
- Get familiar with the road signs that you’re likely to encounter. Also, have some form of GPS with you. It will be essential if you find yourself lost.
- When travelling to a campsite, try to arrange your journey so that you arrive during daylight hours. It will make it so much easier to find the site and settle in.
- Have a phrasebook, or a translation APP on your phone. That way you have at least a basic understanding of the language and will be able to make yourself understood.
- Make sure you have plenty of fuel on board. You don’t want to have to go searching around an unfamiliar area when you are getting low. Keep your tank topped up.
There are some things you need to be aware of…
- Did you know that Calor Gas is UK only, and you can’t get Calor Gas in Europe! So either carry sufficient gas for your trip or use Campingaz, which is usually readily available in Europe. (Look into any restrictions that apply to carrying gas on ferries.)
- If driving in Europe there are certain things you need to know. You must use beam deflectors on your headlights to avoid dazzling other drivers. You also need to display a GB sticker as it is an international legal requirement. (Vehicles that are being driven from one country to another must show their country of origin.) Also, in many European countries, it is compulsory to carry spare bulbs in your vehicle. Luckily Amazon has a set that will cover all three of these issues. Beam benders, GB sticker & 10 piece spare bulb set.
- Do your research! From the best routes, to the best campsites, to any hazards to be aware of. Online forums are often a good source of help and advice from people who have ‘been there and done that’. Experience counts.
- Road laws vary from country to country, and some may require you to carry equipment you might not already have. Again, do your research. The AA has some good info – what do I need if driving in Europe.
- Need access to cash? Using a debit card to withdraw money from ATM’s is probably the way to go. ATM’s are widespread and should have an English language choice. (But you are best sticking to ATM’s that are owned by major banks.) Be aware that you will be charged a fee for every withdrawal. So avoid the ‘little and often’ approach to accessing your cash.
Right, that just about wraps up our exploration of winter touring
It’s true, that in winter the days will be shorter and the nights will be colder. But it also means the chance to see things differently than you would in the height of summer. It enables you to see the bare bones and beauty of our countryside and coast. Yes, it may be a bit chilly, but if you’re well prepared, then we reckon that’s just part of the fun.
Hope our tips have been of some help. 🙂
See you on the road!
“Freedom begins between the ears.”
If you have finished your campervanning or motorhoming winter trips and want to store your vehicle, then read our guide to preparing your campervan for winter.