What Is a 4 Season RV?
How To Evaluate a Four-Season Camper
What Does It Mean To Be a 4 Season RV?
A logical definition of a 4 season camper would be a camper that a person could use all year long regardless of the weather or the temperature.
However, the RV industry doesn’t have a standardized definition for a 4 season RV or 4 season camper, so manufacturers are free to use the term as they wish.
This causes confusion among potential camper buyers that don’t have the background or knowledge with regards to the weak links in the camper for cold weather use.
The bottom line is that the manufacturer and salesperson can call any RV a 4 season RV or even a true 4 season RV with no repercussions. The main concern a customer should have revolves around water, and how to keep it from freezing.
A typical layout for a camper will include a freshwater tank and fresh water lines. You have a “black” tank to hold wastewater from your toilet (unless you have a composting or cassette toilet which does not require the holding tank).
You also have a “grey” tank to hold the wastewater from the shower, if applicable, and the water from all sinks. The terms “black” and “grey” refer to the water stored in each and not the color of the tank. The water system will also typically include a water heater and a water pump.
When a camper is not engineered for use in cold weather there will be components of the water system that will freeze. To keep the water system from freezing it obviously needs to be heated. For some helpful tips on this, check out this great guide on how to protect your RV from heat loss.
While there are a few ways to heat the components of the water system, the only way that really works is to heat it all with forced air.
How To Evaluate a 4 Season RV
To decide if the RV is a 4-season camper follow these steps in evaluating the system:
- Are the holding tanks enclosed or are they exposed? If they are exposed, it is not a 4 season RV. It can still be used in all four seasons which we will cover later but it is not a 4 season camper.
- Is the fresh water tank exposed? If so, it is not a 4 season RV. Any camper claiming to be a 4 season camper will have the fresh water tank in a heated compartment or have it above the floor of the camper such as under the sofa or the bed.
- If the holding tanks are enclosed, how are they heated? If they are heated by running a duct from the forced-air furnace, this is the first step to having a 4 season RV.
- However, the black tank and grey tank each have valves from which to dump the contents. You guessed it: if the valves are exposed, it is not a 4 season camper. The valves need to be enclosed and heated as well.
- Are any of the water lines run underneath the coach? If so, it is not a 4 season camper. Historically, some manufacturers have sprayed insulation on exposed water lines underneath the camper and while that does help it was not a good long-term solution as chunks of the sprayed-on insulation would break off over time. The only way to have a 4 season RV is to not have any of the water lines exposed.
If your tanks and valves are enclosed and heated and your fresh water tank and lines are not exposed and in a heated area, you can use your camper in freezing temperatures as long as you leave that furnace or heat source on.
Many manufacturers will have a term such as an ‘Arctic Package’ when referring to their heated holding tanks. This typically means that they have placed a 12-volt heating pad on the bottom of the holding tanks.
While this will help keep the tanks from freezing down to a few degrees below 32F, the real problem is that the valves freeze, and once the valve has frozen you can’t dump the tanks until you thaw it.
One solution to using a non-4 season RV in freezing temperatures is that if the freshwater portion of the water system is heated and only the holding tanks are exposed, you can pour some RV antifreeze down the toilet and down the shower or sink to keep the valves from freezing.
Many of the 4 season campers are 5th wheel campers, since they have more “basement” compartments with the space to accommodate heated tanks.
In summary, while there are several manufacturers using the 4 season label for their campers, there are very few that actually are. However, with more manufacturers building for the off-road and off-grid market, it is likely that we will see many more choices in the coming years for true 4 season campers.
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