Some may have purchased fifth wheel campers for occasional use in warm climates, but some fifth wheel camper owners live in their units full-time. If you decide to use such a unit for cold-climate living, you may find that it is certainly lacking in its ability to perform in harsh conditions. Certain fifth wheel campers can be used successfully in cold climates if they are rated for four-season living and are optioned and prepared appropriately.
When shopping for a fifth wheel camper, make sure it is rated for four-season operation. This means the unit can be used year-round in comfort. Ensure the unit you are interested in has a fully insulated ceiling, walls and floor. Ask the salesman to provide the R-value of the insulation used in the camper. The higher the R-value, the better the insulation works. Other features to look for to ensure a warm interior in cold temperatures are double-pane windows -- usually available optionally -- and weatherstripping around all doors and all outside storage compartment openings.
Forced Air Heat
Most fifth wheel campers come with some type of heating system. To endure cold winter temperatures, check to ensure the fifth wheel units you look at have forced-air heat. This type of heating system is much like the system used in your home. A gas burner -- usually powered by propane gas -- heats air that is blown through built-in duct-work and out vents located throughout the trailer. Since most on-board propane tanks have limited capacity for full-time winter living, consider having a local propane supplier install a larger tank outside your fifth wheel if you plan on staying in one spot for an extended period of time.
Some fifth wheel campers are available with an electric heat pump in place of the normal roof-mounted air conditioner. This may be a valuable option if you anticipate encountering mild winter temperatures. A heat pump system provides heat as well as air conditioning, just like the heat pumps installed in homes. Since heat pumps do not work efficiently in temperatures below 30 degrees, propane heat is still needed as a backup. A major advantage of a heat pump is the savings on your propane bill when the temperatures are above 30 degrees.
Enclosed Water Lines
Keeping yourself warm is the first priority when living in a fifth wheel camper in the winter. The second is keeping your water lines, waste pipes and holding tanks from freezing. An enclosed, insulated underbelly that is heated is a must to keep in mind when RV shopping. Steer clear of units that have exposed pipes or holding tanks underneath. Any exterior water hookup points or outdoor shower units must also be protected by insulated and heated covers.
Although you may associate skirting with a more permanent mobile home, this simple addition can ensure a warmer fifth wheel in winter. Foam sheets are available from home improvement centers that can be cut and fitted to shield the underneath of your trailer from cold and wind. The lightweight foam pieces can be easily removed and transported to your next destination.