Should I Cover My RV in the Winter?

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A recreational vehicle is a large monetary investment in your leisure time. It becomes more than a hobby, almost a way of life for some. People shell out tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars to purchase their RVs. That is why it often comes as a surprise to see that owners will leave their expensive campers completely exposed to the elements when not in use. If you live in a region with cold or harsh winters, this can be detrimental to your recreational vehicle.

You must protect your investment over the winter. Storage facilities offer rental spaces to park your RV when not in use. These are typically a monthly expense, and although these are very effective in protecting your camper, they are not affordable for everyone. So, let’s look at a more cost-effective option to cover your RV over the winter.

Benefits of Covering Your RV During the Winter

Purchasing a tarp to cover your RV is perhaps the most cost-effective method of protecting your leisure-time investment. Tarps can be secured to the camper and protect it from all sorts of risks posed by exposure to the elements. 

  • Constant sunlight causes paint to fade.
  • Consistent UV exposure and weather can dry and crack the surface. 
  • Long periods of exposure can cause the seals around the doors, pop-outs and windows to dry, crack and wither.

This causes even more problems when you have any precipitation. Not using a cover for your RV will cost more in unnecessary maintenance expenses.

Before you run out and purchase the first tarp you see, consider the various types of tarps and which is the best fit for your RV.

Types of Tarps

Types of Tarps

Vinyl

Vinyl tarps are waterproof and extremely durable in the face of wind, rain, snow and against UV rays. Vinyl tarps come with flame retardant options. The exterior vinyl coating resists mildew, oil, acid and grease. These tarps are pricey compared to other options.

Mesh

Mesh tarps are a screen-like material. These tarps allow airflow, so moisture doesn’t get trapped. They are not waterproof. Mesh tarps create shade but don’t fully protect from sun damage. While they can be useful for camping trips, we do not recommend mesh tarps as protective covers for your camper. 

Canvas

Canvas tarps were a popular choice for recreational vehicle owners for many years. They are water-resistant but not waterproof. These tarps resist water to a certain level, but they do not typically come with a waterproof coating. They are not designed to withstand freezing temperatures.

Poly Tarps

These are currently the most popular tarp for recreational vehicle/camper owners. The sealed polyethylene coating is 100 percent waterproof. They can handle freezing temperatures without becoming rigid. They allow for airflow to prevent mildew. 

Preventing Mildew

Preventing Mildew

Mold is an unfortunate and common problem with RVs. Mold can cause long-term respiratory issues. If mold is detected, it needs to be handled immediately. If you are applying a cover to your RV to protect it over the winter, review these precautionary steps to prevent mildew. 

  • If you are storing your RV near a source of electricity, run a dehumidifier to reduce moisture. 
  • Thoroughly clean and dry the exterior of the RV before applying the cover. Do not forget about the awning. Warm and damp spaces are conducive to mildew growth. If the RV is not cleaned and dried before you cover it up, you are trapping any dirt and moisture in with your RV. 

Check out our tips on properly winterizing your RV.

Storage Unit

A pricier — yet more effective — route would be to rent a storage unit for your camper. Sparefoot is a great website to find a local facility capable of safely storing your RV. Storage facilities are fenced-in and monitored with security cameras. Some camper storage facilities even offer climate-controlled units.

This method offers a level of protection from the elements that a tarp simply cannot provide. However, the monthly cost of one of these storage units can be up to five or six times the one-time cost of a tarp.

RV Shed/Carport

RV Shed/Carport

These are typically metal sheds designed to protect your RV from nature-related threats. They provide shelter like a traditional carport (bottom half exposed) or can be built to provide protection all the way to the ground.

If you are comfortable with a one-time investment in an RV shed, you can essentially have your own RV storage unit on your premises. It may cost more upfront, but in the long run will be cheaper than renting a storage unit at a facility.

The most important takeaway: Protect your RV during the winter. How you choose to protect it has to do with your price threshold and personal preference.

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