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Motorhomes and caravans in winter: tips for coping with cold and snowy weather in Italy

Photo: a scene from the movie 10 Days with Santa Claus

Here are our tips, techniques and a few tricks to face the Italian winter with ease and confidence! It just requires a little organization and the right equipment, but experiencing being in an RV with snow outside is priceless. We will guide you step by step through essential tips to ensure you have a safe and comfortable adventure, even in the most icy temperatures. If you have an on-board heating system, you are already on your way to a memorable trip.

Winter turns out to be a magical time to explore Italy in your favorite vehicles. Amid glittering snow and festive atmospheres, Italy offers unique experiences that make traveling by RV and caravan even more special. Find out all the details in our in-depth article: RV and caravan travel in Italy in winter: the sparkling adventures not to be missed!

Winter preparations for your motorhome or caravan

Dealing with snow: before you leave, make sure you have winter tires or snow chains on board. From November 15 to April 15, they are mandatory. Winter tires with M+S initials and a design of a mountain with a snowflake are the right choice. Don’t forget the chains and test their fitting in advance.

Adequate fuel: to deal with subzero temperatures, be sure to fill up with winter or arctic diesel fuel, or add an antifreeze additive. Conventional diesel can freeze at -2°C. Winter diesel is a safer choice, with freezing resistance down to -12°C, and is available in distributors between November and April in cold-weather areas. If extremely harsh conditions are expected, Arctic diesel is the best option, solidifying only at temperatures below -20°C and being available in mountainous areas (it has a higher cost than the other options). Adding gasoline to the fuel is not recommended, as this can be harmful to modern common rail engines.

Preparation for heating: a few days before departure make sure to turn on the water heater (water heater, powered by both electricity and gas) and the vehicle heater (gas or oil heater), leaving them on for a while. For those who have boilers, place them in winter mode to prevent water expulsion.

Heating and other important details

Constant heating: keep the RV heater on at all times, both day and night and even when you are away from the vehicle. Not only is it more economical, but it prevents water from freezing in the pipes, pump, and expansion tank. Keep the temperature between 18 to 20 degrees during the day, 15 degrees at night and 10 to 12 degrees when you are outside. Be careful of snow on the roof that may obstruct the outlet of the gas stove.

Gas and cylinders: in case of subzero temperatures, opt for cylinders with high propane content to avoid having all devices inoperable. Before going to bed, check that there is gas (for those who do not have an automatic selection device). The transparency of the material makes it possible to see the gas level on fiberglass cylinders, but for traditional metal cylinders there are two options: weight and ultrasonic meters.

Gray water discharge: if you do not have a heated or insulated gray water tank, leave the guillotine open with a bucket underneath to prevent freezing.

Sewage drainage: if you own a cistern it is indoor and placed in a room adequately protected from frost. In case you have an uninsulated, heated marine tank, try to empty it regularly, possibly during the hottest hours. Before embarking on the journey, it is advisable to lubricate the guillotine with a silicone spray, as it is often this part that can freeze, hindering opening.

Important details: remember not to leave the electric step open, as they may freeze under certain freezing conditions. Also, keep in mind that the handbrake can freeze in some conditions, so always engage a gear and use the chocks.

RV batteries: make sure both the engine and service batteries are in good condition to cope with the cold weather, which results in higher discharge. Knowing the power consumption of the on-board utilities you normally use will help you plan for service battery life. In free standing, prefer to save energy to ensure energy-consuming nighttime operation of the heating system.

Recommended motorhome and caravan accessories for a comfortable winter

Thermal protections: for a comfortable winter ride, invest in external thermal protectors for the windshield and, if possible, an integral cab cover because the driver’s cabin is the area where the vehicle dissipates the most heat.

Extra heating: you may consider a small oil radiator for use when you are parking or camping, connected to the vehicle’s 220v electrical system. It has low consumption and allows you to lower your gas consumption or have an alternative solution in case of failure with gas or diesel fuel freezing. Remember to turn it off when you are outside to ensure safety.

Humidity control: reduce humidity inside the RV by ventilating it regularly. If you have condensation, between cooking and wet clothes, a dehumidifier can be helpful. At a temperature of 20 degrees, a humidity of 50 percent is recommended.

Drying accessories: some campsites have designated, heated rooms for hanging out, but not all, so to dry snow-soaked clothes, bring folding clotheslines with clothespins or an upright clothesline for the bathroom. A shoe rest tray will help you keep your motorhome clean and tidy.

Coping with snow and ice

Snow chains or snow socks: it is essential to pay attention to the approval before even considering the appropriate size for the vehicle. The Ministry of Transport requires the use of snow chains specifically approved for Italy, identified by CUNA NC 178-01 or O-Norm V5117 specifications. After a decade, the Ministry of Transport has finally approved the use of snow socks complying with UNI EN 16662-1:2020, giving them effective equivalence to metal chains. To determine the exact size of the chains or snow socks to use, consult the motorhome’s vehicle registration, where you will find the wheel sizes.

Snow tools: make sure you have a collapsible snow shovel, work gloves, a headlamp, and a waterproof knee sheet to make it easier to install snow chains.

Ice cleaning: use a scraper or telescoping snow brush to remove snow from the windshield and roof. Avoid leaving the engine running so as not to disturb nearby motorhomes.

De-icer and silicone spray: bring a de-icer spray to melt ice from windshields, windows, crystals and locks in moments. An addition of silicone spray can be useful for lubricating seals and treating locks and moving parts in advance.

Antifreeze Windshield Washer Fluid: Don’t forget to get antifreeze windshield washer fluid to ensure flawless windshield visibility, available with resistances down to -40 degrees.

Final tips for an unforgettable winter trip

Protected parking: when you stop, be sure to shelter your RV from cold and wind to avoid inconvenience. Avoid standing under trees, watching out for broken branches and falling trees due to the weight of snow.

First winter outing: if this is your first time in winter, try traveling in slightly below freezing temperatures to a rest area, campground or Agricamper facilities equipped with electricity. Gradually learn about your vehicle and how to meet the needs of all crew members, including children and pets. And remember that by traveling in company, you always learn something new from everyone!

Conclusion: we are ready for an adventurous winter in a motorhome or caravan with Agricamper!

Now that you are armed with tips and accessories, you are ready to embark on an RV or caravan trip during the Italian winter with peace of mind. Whether you want to explore the mountains, visit Christmas markets or just relax in nature, Agricamper is here to make your trip even more special.

Don’t forget to download our app to discover the facilities in Italy where you can stay for free for one night. Join us and have a dream winter adventure!