At lower elevations, southern and central California don’t usually get much snow. If winter driving is not appealing to you, consider these options. Northern California can have much harsher winters, but we know better than rain on your parade. After all, campgrounds are typically less populated during these times — the crisp, cool air, and serene atmosphere can be well worth the trouble, which is why we compiled helpful advice for California RVers traveling and camping in the winter months.

High-altitude roads during the winter are particularly hazardous for RVs. California HIghway Patrol requires all vehicles to install chains or other traction devices on their tires. The requirements can be stricter based on certain road conditions. Locations with chain requirements have a speed limit of 25-35 mph.

Chain Control Requirements

R1: Chains and snow tread tires are required.

R2: Chains on all vehicles are required except on four wheels with snow tread tires on all wheels.

R3: Chains on all vehicles are required.

While late fall is one of the best times to travel in your RV, it’s not unheard of to wake up the next day with five inches of snow waiting for you. Don’t let random weather hiccups ruin your trip. Preparing for the winter months is crucial. While the tips below can help keep you and your family safe on your RV winter trip, careful planning, presence of mind, and good judgment make all the difference.

Winterproof Your RV

Make sure your vehicle will ready for the unpredictable conditions of winter camping. Current RV models, even with the most basic technology, are designed and insulated to withstand colder climates. Still, it’s always important to inspect your RV and perform routine maintenance.

  • Your exterior must be in top shape. Check for window seals that need re-caulking. Also check if the weather stripping on exterior doors and access panels need to be replaced.
  • Don’t forget to empty your grey and black water tanks, but only do so when you are ready to leave or else ice will form in the empty tanks. To prevent dump valves from freezing, add a quart of RV antifreeze concentrate. Note that RV antifreeze is different from automobile antifreeze. The coolant for RVs is commonly a pink color. The green one of for other vehicles.
  • If your windows are not insulated, you can use insulated curtains to trap warm air.
  • Check if you have the proper size chains for your tires.
  • Refill your fuel tank in full.
  • The refrigerant in refrigerators and propane tanks may turn to a gel and block the refrigerator coils permanently.
  • Using a humidifier inside your RV will remove moisture from the air and prevent corrosion and the formation of mold and mildew.
  • Install new wiper blades

Expect the Worse

Expect your trip to be unpredictable at best. Careful planning gives you leverage if worse comes to worst. Trips to snowy mountains take longer during winter months, so prepare and leave early to reach your destination on time. You must also expect delays and closures. A lot of things can happen while you’re on the road. Previously open highways can be closed because of poor weather conditions. And most importantly, double check if your campground is open.

Make sure your travel kit and emergency kit have the following:

  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Extra water and snacks
  • Extra clothing and warm blankets
  • Sleeping bags
  • Ice scraper or deicer
  • Shovel
  • Solar charging panels
  • Extra propane tanks
  • Gasoline-powered generator
  • GPS system

Know if Your Vehicle is a Rear Wheel Drive or a Front Wheel Drive

Always maintain a safe distance from other vehicles. Getting into a slide inside an RV trailer can be beyond disastrous. If you’re driving a rear wheel drive (i.e., motorhome), adding power may only compound the skid. Pump the brakes lightly to regain control.

Be Observant and Watch for Black Ice

Ice that forms on road surfaces can be slippery even if the temperature is above 50 degrees. Icy spots can also form in areas that are low and shaded.

Keep it Slow and Steady

Fasten your seatbelt and drive at a lower speed when going downhill. To control and maintain your speed while doing this, rely more on lower gears than braking. Sudden stops and direction changes must be avoided. It is not recommended to use cruise control while driving on slippery roads.

Stop When Necessary

During a snowstorm, get off the road immediately, look for a safe place to take shelter, and wait for the roads to be cleared. It’s better to err on the side of caution. Even if you’re an experienced RVer who has driven in the worst conditions, do not invite trouble by underestimating unsafe road conditions.