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How to Stay Warm in a Pop Up Camper in Winter

As I have already mentioned on other occasions, I have a great fondness for pop-up campers. I would say that always. Maybe because of my tight budget and the advantages of looking for something light, my first RV was a pop-up camper. Then, as the family grew, we moved to a larger and more comfortable fifth wheel. But I still have a pop up camper and the good times I’ve had for the last 10 years in the garage that I eventually use to go ice fishing and hunting. What can I say, you always go back to your first love. In this series of related articles, I give you all the tips that I put into practice when I use my pop-up camper for several weeks in winter. Keeping warm inside a pop up camper may seem like an almost impossible challenge, but it is not. With the tips, I detail in this article you will find that you can easily stay warm in a pop up camper. Without further introduction, let’s take a look at How to Stay Warm in a Pop Up Camper in Winter.

Many people mentioned to me a lot of times, Hey, Ward, how can you stay warm in a pop up camper? can you live in a camper in the winter? Are you crazy? Do pop up campers stay warm in the winter at least to survive a night in the middle of the snow?

I have my own system for staying warm in a pop up camper. Moreover, heating a pop up camper without electricity when boondocking, and we explain this and other related articles for you.

can you live in a camper in the winter

Do Pop Up Campers Stay Warm in The Winter?

Pop Up campers are easy to heat up and although a little challenging you can stay warm in a pop up camper in winter with the right tips.

There are several ways to winterize, heat up, and stay warm in a pop up camper without using electricity, including propane, solar energy, the generator, deep cycle RV batteries for cold weather, and so on.

Simply be safe, insulate to keep the interior warm, and use safe energy. Staying warm in a pop up camper in the winter isn’t as difficult as many people believe if it’s properly winterized.

If we are boondocking in winter with a pop up camper, it may be challenging, but not impossible to stay warm. Challenging because we are restricted by the generator, the auxiliary battery or deep cycle RV batteries for cold weather, or the budget. That is why I created this post with many situations so that you may learn how to stay warm in a pop up camper in winter, effectively and affordably.

How Can You Stay Warm in a Pop Up Camper

Applying my formula you will effortlessly heat your pop-up camper without any hassle.

If you’re a new RV buyer trying to figure out what is the challenge of heat and staying warm in a pop up camper, you should know that most pop-up campers lack an air conditioning and heating system.

We know that both summer and winter may be difficult inside our pop-up camper when we view the canvas of our tent trailer. We work hard in both seasons to protect the inside of the pop-up camper from the outside temperature as well as the sun and snow, creating perfect isolation.

Winterizing a Pop Up Camper poses an additional hurdle in terms of efficient energy conversion to heat because the construction does not facilitate heat loss in any manner. Insulation comes first. is the first suggestion for winterizing a pop up camper.

  • Step 1 – Preventing Heat Loss: How to Insulate a Pop Up Camper
  • Step 2 – Winterizing Water Deposits and Piping
  • Step 3 – Heating a Pop Up Camper by Choosing different energy sources
  • Step 4 – Staying Warm in the Pop Up Camper

Step 1 – Preventing Heat Loss: How to Insulate a Pop Up Camper

Some devices to use include covering the outside of the structure during the night hours to prevent heat loss, using thermal refractory blankets, which are very inexpensive but effective at preventing heat loss, and sealing any sector, no matter how small, with tape to prevent wind entry and heat loss as much as possible.  

If you heat the inside of the pop up camper without having insulated it, you will only have wasted energy because you will not be able to keep it warm and be warm. You must first insulate the pop up camper from the outside so that drafts do not penetrate, and so that you keep the heat inside before generating heat.

Many people tend to minimize the importance of this first step. However, the right insulation is the only thing that will guarantee you to stay warm for a long time, even with snowstorm situations outside, and it will also allow you to save energy.

If you can manage to have excellent insulation, you will keep almost all the heat generated inside and only spend a small amount of energy to maintain a constant temperature inside the pop up trailer and stay warm. Keep in mind that the structure to be heated is very small. So, it makes sense to only need a small amount of heat to replace the heat dissipated because isolation prevents heat loss.

Insulation of Bunks and Windows

Insulation of bunks and windows: In the winter, we want to reflect any heat that may be present inside. As a result, all refractory metal surfaces will face our camper interior. We will maintain the heat inside this way. We want to radiate our internal heat in all directions during cold weather, therefore we position the refractory metal component face to the interior of the popup camper. So, whether you use insulation with only one reflective side or a tarp with reflective, the reflective should be orientated towards the inside of the camper throughout the winter.

How to Stay Warm in a Pop Up Camper in Winter

One solution is to make your own inserts using thick bubble foil insulation or refractory reflectix inserts  and put them with the reflective side towards the inside of the pop-up camper. With the inserts in the bunk beds and windows, your pop-up will be a little darker, but it will help limit drafts while retaining the heat inside the camper. I propose using a high-quality bubble foil reflective insert with bubbles on both sides.

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To boost insulation and heat retention, cover the tops of your bunks with blankets or a reflective tarp. Clamps may be necessary to secure them.

Insulation Floor – Mattress

By adding insulation between the floor and the mattress, we’ll make sure that the pop-up camper’s interior won’t be readily affected by the cold coming from the ground. I advise putting insulation between the mattress and the wood floor.

The only thing keeping you, or protecting you from the outdoors, is the pop-up camper floor, which is essentially just a piece of wood. Therefore, applying anything—even a thin layer—helps. You may put some materials between the floor and the mattress to insulate the pop-up camper’s interior and maintain the temperature. I discovered two things to be totally efficient.

One of the materials is the same reflecting bubble foam or other thermal reflective insulation that I used to insulate the bunk bed windows is one of the materials that I found to be fairly successful.

The other material is foam interlocking tiles. The second one is my favorite in this area. It is reasonably priced, thin, and thick enough. It is made of highly noble material and makes no noise while you sleep. When attempting to keep your pop-up camper as warm as possible, foam interlocking tiles of 34″ to 1-inch work nicely to insulate around the mattress.

The final piece of advice is to build another layer of defense to have adequate insulation and prevent the entry of any air current. These might be thick blackout curtains that keep the heat inside to conserve electricity. The pop-up camper’s interior is fairly small, so I chose the curtains shown below, which are available as a single double-wide curtain panel. because two panels can be excessive. The black-out curtain was large enough to cover the appropriate sections, measuring 100″W x 84″L.

In my situation, I used some velcro and 1.25″ binder clips to keep them in place. I previously used these blackout curtains from the H.VERSAILTEX brand since I thought they were unique compared to other brands. They completely block all light, even that from the sun, and when you hang that curtain, day turns into night. They are also 100% blackout, strong, thick, and wrinkle-free, and they block the wind and minimize noise. These drapes will undoubtedly aid you in achieving greater energy efficiency. You might need to cut and sew to adequately cover your pop-up camper’s inside, depending on the type you choose.

Insulate any openings to stop drafts. You should insulate your door as well as any other possible openings. Recall that insulation is essential for staying warm in a pop-up camper.

Finally, RV skirting as insulation is another option to keep the floor insulated from cold exterior temperatures.

Step 2 – Winterizing Water Deposits and Piping

Preventing the freezing of the water tanks is key when winterizing a pop up camper. And while one can quickly resort to the use of antifreeze liquid for RVs, the common problems that occur should be avoided.

One of the most common problems is that even when RV antifreeze is added, the water freezes in the reservoirs, pipes, and in water tanks, which can also burst. This happens because the manufacturer’s instructions have not been followed respecting the proportions of antifreeze and water and are used more diluted than recommended or have not been properly mixed. Or cheap brands have been chosen with a very economical composition that does not support such a low temperature.

The other common problem when using RV antifreeze is that a non-toxic composition has not been chosen and the whole system is contaminated with highly toxic ethylene glycol that is used for cooking, drinking, and bathing.

Using a non-toxic RV antifreeze, suitable for the low or extreme temperature that the camper will have and mixing it in the right proportion is key to preventing problems in the pop-up camper’s water system. And believe it or not, stay warm in a pop up camper, because when all these problems occur you spend it outside the camper freezing to death watching how to heat the tanks and looking to control the damage.  I recommend you this article about How to Choose and Mix the RV Antifreeze

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Step 3 – Heating a Pop Up Camper by Choosing different energy sources

The heating methods outlined below can help you heat and stay warm in a pop up camper. I want to give you a variety of energy sources for heating the camper, rather than relying just on one form of energy. So, certain specific components are included in the text to assist our eager campers who want to understand how to heat and stay warm in a pop up camper when living in, when boondocking, if you have a limited budget, or who are suddenly constrained in terms of any particular energy in a middle of a snow storm.

Pop-up camper heaters with thermostat. A portable electric space heater is an excellent choice for warming up a pop-up camper.

Pop-Up Camper Heaters with Thermostat (Electric Space Heater For RV)

Because the interior of a pop-up trailer is modest, pop-up camper heaters with a thermostat (Electric Space Heater For RV) of 1500 W are more than plenty to keep you warm. Your difficulty is solved if you have access to electricity. However, keeping warm inside the pop up camper might be difficult for boondockers.

The electric space heater has the benefit of being portable, lightweight, and swiftly heating the inside of the camper. Some versions also have a thermostat, which I find beneficial for conserving energy and regulating the ideal temperature for an RV.

Some types are more silent than others, and they are labeled as “Quiet Ceramic Heater Fan.”

This electric heater performed admirably in keeping us toasty inside the pop-up camper. Of course, the space heater does not have to be on all the time. Furthermore, in the winter, I recommend setting the thermostat to between 50 and 55 F.

It soon heats up in this space because we have the entire inside of the popup camper thoroughly insulated with all of the recommendations I discussed in the previous paragraphs, which traps the heat inside extremely effectively.

As a result, there is no need for the heater to operate continuously. That is why the thermostat is so important. We just set it between 50 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit so we don’t overheat and sweat, and it works for us.

Let’s move on with more choices for heating and staying warm in a pop up camper in the winter.

Propane-Fueled Furnaces and Propane Heaters for RVs

Our electricity is supplied by a generator as well as a solar panel connected to a DC controller and a deep cycle battery for the RV. As a result, when we don’t have enough electricity to run a space heater, we switch to a propane heater. Propane-Fueled Furnaces and Propane Heaters are an excellent choice for heating a camper without electricity.

We ended up purchasing a Mr. Heater Buddy heater, which is a portable gas heater, and it worked fantastically. In terms of safety, I found the Mr. Heater Buddy heater to be of greater quality than comparable gas heaters. This heater, for example, senses low oxygen levels, loses the pilot light and shuts off automatically. It is also authorized for use both indoors and outdoors, with a clean-burning engine that reduces the amount of ventilation required when using propane and is very efficient.

Mr. Heater buddy heaters are portable propane heaters that do not require installation and offer safety measures such as sophisticated systems. That is why I advocate portable propane heaters over propane furnaces.

The heating system must work on propane rather than butane. When camping in cold weather, butane may quickly freeze. Propane, on the other hand, will not freeze and will produce more BTUs than butane.

Use propane with caution. Make sure you follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use and ventilation. Make careful to have additional propane in case you run out.

They are really effective, and the energy conversion is excellent, particularly in this model, which has a Consumption/Burn Rate (Gal/Hr) of 4000 BTU, which means it needs just 0.044 Gal/hr, and a Consumption/Burn Rate (Gal/Hr) of 9000 BTU, which consumes around 0.099 Gal/hr.

As previously said, it is best to have many methods for heating the pop-up tent trailer rather than relying on a single form of energy when winterizing a camper. If we have enough fuel for the generator or stored solar energy, the propane heater can quickly heat the camper and allow us to sleep well.

RV Batteries for Cold Weather

Deep-cycle RV batteries powered by solar panels are critical for heating a popup camper without power. These batteries may be easily charged using a solar battery charge controller. If you want to know how to charge a deep-cycle RV battery and get the most out of it, this guide is for you. The section “Solar Panel Charging a Deep Cycle RV Battery (DC Power)“may be also recommended.

Because not all deep cycle RV batteries are suitable for usage in cold temperatures during the winter, I recommend that you read this article on how to choose the best deep cycle RV battery to avoid problems with your battery and solar panel system during the winter.

There is always a fight between RV batteries LiFePO4 vs. AGM. Although AGM batteries are not long-life batteries because of the components and chemical is the best RV battery for cold weather. The selection and use of a deep cycle RV battery for cold weather are essential for heating and staying warm in a pop-up camper to live in or when boondocking

How to Stay Warm in a Pop Up Camper in Winter how to winterize a camper to live in

Step 4 – Staying Warm in the Pop Up Camper

Staying warm in your pop up camper while saving energy is the whole point of winter. Here are a few crucial and highly efficient strategies for staying warm. Moreover, sleep warmly in your popup camper throughout the winter.

  • 12 V Electric Heated Blanket with Auto-Off Timer and Regular Blanket on top or Comforter on top
  • 120 V Electric Heated Blanket
  • Electric Mattress Pad for RVs
  • Rubber Hot Water Bottle with caps
  • Fleece bed sheets

12V Heated Blanket with Auto-Off Timer for Campers

Because of the compact size of a pop-up camper trailer, an electric blanket of only 12V will provide a comfortable night’s sleep without the need for a heater or other harsh outdoor winter gear. You will stay warm without needing to heat the inside of the pop-up camper, so you will energy for the time you wake up and walk around.

A 12V Heated Blanket is an excellent alternative for keeping you warm at night. An auto-off timer is advised for a compact space, such as a camper.

The 12-volt blanket is intended to sit on or beneath you, with a blanket draped over top to trap heat. As a result, the electric 12V blanket will only operate if a conventional blanket (such as a Sherpa fleece throw blanket) or a comforter is placed over it. When attempting to save electricity in your RV, the heated blanket described below features a timer for auto shut-off.

120V vs 12V Electric Heated Blankets for RVs

The following option is handy for heating the bunks as well as sitting outside the camper in the cold. It is a 120V AC electric heated blanket with an auto-off timer and heating settings.

Electric blankets from well-known companies only switch off after 8 hours and cannot be adjusted with a timer. However, 8 hours of 120V electric blanket use is excessive for a pop-up camper. I encourage you to seek blankets with programmable auto shut-off.

You will not need 8 hours for a pop-up camper. Too much energy is expended, and too much unnecessary continual heat is generated, resulting in you sweating in your underpants. As a result, it is advised that the electric blanket has adjustable heating levels as well as an adjustable auto shut-off timer that allows you to configure only a few hours you may require while sleeping.

When you compare 120V vs 12V Electric Heated Blankets for RVs, you will see that 120V electric blankets heat up faster and reach a greater temperature than 12V electric blankets. It is also recommended that a conventional blanket be placed on top of the electric blanket to retain heat and avoid heat loss to the outdoors. This is similar to insulation. It will prevent heat loss.

Both electric blankets (selected below) have a thermostat and timer that turns them off after the hours you set. This is very important because we don’t want to use them for 8 hours at a time. We only want a moderate temperature and a few hours, with an auto shut off.

Electric Mattress Pad for Campers

The use of an electric mattress pad or an electric heated mattress for the camper is also recommended to save energy. Instead of using energy to heat the environment, you just will use energy to heat your bed while sleeping.

Do pop up campers stay warm in the winter rv heated mattress

There are several Quilted Heated Mattress Pad alternatives available. We chose the Sunbeam brand (see the product below) this time since it fully covers the mattress, has soft quilted fabric, temperature-regulating settings, and an auto shut-off mechanism.

The electric heated mattress pad is intended for campers who are already hooked up and want more pricey and comfortable alternatives. To use the Quilted Heated Mattress Pad, just set it on the mattress and then cover it with sheets. The heat is rapidly felt, and we recommend setting it to a modest temperature because the heat accumulates fairly quickly within the bunk. Otherwise, you will awaken in the middle of the night with excruciating pain.

Rubber Hot Water Bottle with Lids

My old-fashioned camper-saving electricity advice is to heat the bunks for sleep using a rubber hot water bottle with a lid. That is one option for heating a pop-up camper bed without power.

The thicker material retains heat longer than a conventional hot water bottle, is durable, safe to use, and environmentally beneficial. It is an excellent choice for keeping your feet toasty for 4-5 hours while saving electricity during the night.

Fleece Bed Sheets

My second RV energy-saving advice is to use fleece bed sheets in your pop-up camper. During the winter, using fleece bed sheets will add comfort and keep you warm. It is another method for keeping us warm at night without using energy.

Heating Rocks to Stay Warm

My final camper energy-saving idea is to heat rocks. When we’re boondocking, we like to gather some rocks and cook them in a huge pot over an open fire. We then transport the pot with the hot rocks inside the pop-up camper, where it maintains the area warm enough to allow us to turn off the propane furnace at bedtime.

De-Winterize a Pop Up Camper

When the camper is going to be stored until the spring season starts again or when you return from your trip it is convenient not to wait and proceed to de-winterize the RV. It is advisable to proceed to remove the antifreeze properly as explained in this guide on How to De-Winterize a Camper and wash the exterior very well to remove the salt adhered to the surface that can damage and rust our RV and towing vehicle. The article recommended also includes a checklist of What to Do After an RV Trip.

If the pop up will stay for a few months in an RV store you may find these tips related to RV Storage During Winter useful.

As you can see, there are several ways to insulate, winterize, heat up, and stay warm in a pop-up camper. So, to the common question “Can You Stay Warm in a Pop-Up Camper?” Yes, of course, you can. Moreover, many of the options reviewed in this article about How to Stay Warm in a Pop up camper show you how to heat a pop-up camper without electricity and by using different sources of energy or gadgets that will ensure you stay warm. Staying warm in a pop-up camper isn’t as challenging as many people believe if it’s properly insulated and winterized. I hope you find my experience with my pop-up and tips beneficial.

About Ward Greenway

Since I was 5 years old, I remember being inside my father's pop-up camper crossing the USA. My passion for RVs and Campers grew until I graduated in Mechanical Engineering (Tennessee). Then, I took my passion to the next level. Because I wanted to improve the design and engineering of the RVs I enjoyed them so much. I have been lucky to work for Central RV New Zealand, Jayco Corporation Pty Ltd (Australia), Forest River Inc., and Mercury Marine, as a Mechanical Design Engineer. I have seen and improved hundreds of RV floor plans. Nowadays, I enjoy RV living full time in my Mallard travel trailer and the joy of meeting new friends along the way who help me put the best on CamperOutdoor.com

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