To some, surviving winter in a skoolie probably means going someplace warm like Arizona or Florida.

However, traveling during the winter in a skoolie can be one of the most amazing and beautiful experiences, especially during snow season!

If you enjoy fresh snow prints or exploring North America during the winter in your RV, we’ll share with you some of the best tips for staying warm and cozy.

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1. Incorporate Insulation Into Your Ceilings, Walls & Floors

We see too many of our friends build out their entire rigs without insulation and regret it afterward. If you plan on living or traveling in your rig during colder months, take the time and budget for insulation for your ceilings, walls, and floors.

A well-insulted skoolie or van is easier to heat and cool, stays warmer in the winter, and is more energy-efficient. Every insulation has an R-value which measures the material’s resistance to heat transfer.

If you’re looking for more information on the various types of insulation and what may work best for you, check out our article: Everything You Need to Know: Bus Conversion Insulation.

2. Create Shades & Insulation Around Windows

Most of the heat loss that you’ll experience during winter in a skoolie will be from the windows. School bus conversions have even more of a disadvantage. Most windows are single pane and will let in a lot of cooler air during those colder months. To help combat this, we’ve done a few different things in our builds:

-Multi-layer shade system: In our 2002 Thomas Built “Charlotte”, we built a 2-layer shade design that has really helped with the cold in the bus during the winter. They were built on channels that allow for simple maneuverability.

The outer layer is corrugated polycarbonate that has spray frosted mirror spray paint applied. This layer is used in greenhouse walls and forms a layer of insulation between the bus windows and the bus interior.

The inner shade is an insulated blackout shade. It’s a layer of luan with Reflectix on top. When these are raised, it also raises the interior shade for a 100% blacked out shade that lets no lights or drafts in.

surviving winter in a skoolie

Multi-layered Shade System

-Add reflective coverings to your front windows: Reflective window coverings help keep the inside of your rig warm and cool air out. I know it may not look the prettiest, but they sure do help. We use Reflectix on our front skoolie windows with another curtain we purchased from Home Depot to help the “aesthetic”. It’s easy to cut and apply!

-Using Great Stuff insulation around the windows: Great Stuff is an easy-to-use product that you should have on you at all times. We’d recommend spraying insulation all around your windows. It’ll help with sealing up any extra cracks and preventing heat loss from your rig.

3. Install a Heat System

If you’re thinking about traveling into colder regions during the winter in a skoolie, we’d highly recommend installing some form of heater.

There really is an assortment of heating sources you can choose from including wood stoves, diesel, propane, electric, and radiant heating.

If you’re on a tighter budget, we’ve absolutely loved using our Chinese diesel heater in the winter in our skoolie. We’re able to run it at most temperatures and elevations with minimal issues. In addition, we were able to tap the system directly into our skoolie’s diesel tank which makes the system virtually unthought about.

Of course, there are much more expensive diesel heaters that are also recommended. These tend to be a bit quieter without the strong smell of diesel.

If you’re interested in finding out more information about ways to heat your skoolie, van or RV, check out: Best Ways to Heat a Skoolie in the Winter

4. Keep Your Pipes Warm While Spending Winter in a Skoolie

It happens to the best of us at some point, but we’re hoping it won’t happen to you. Having your pipes freeze during the winter is a pain and can lead to permanent damage to your systems. It’s important to keep your water flowing through your pipes during the winter without freezing by following these tips:

-Use foam insulation or heat tape on interior and exterior pipes and hoses. 

-Warm your tanks with an RV tank heating blanket of Reflectix

-Use only interior freshwater tanks. 

-Add antifreeze to protect plumbing valves from freezing. 

-Dump takes wisely and only open exterior valves when necessary to further prevent freezing. 

5. Install Door Weather Stripping & Prevent Drafts

If you keep your original bus door or installing a new door with windows to your rig, we’d suggest installing weather stripping to seal any cracks. We’ve also found that hanging a blanket over the front door and cabin areas significantly reduces the draft that usually comes from the front area of our skoolie.

6. Frequently Maintain Your Van, Skoolie, or RV Engine & Batteries

We like to have our skoolie looked at by a mechanic at least once a year. This gives us peace of mind that everything is working correctly. In addition, a good set of batteries is a must in the winter. Once we replaced our batteries and got a heater for them, our bus started right up in those colder temperatures!

7. Park in Non-Shaded Spots & Continuously Remove Snow During Winter in a Skoolie

If you installed solar on your rig, getting solar during winter in a skoolie is critical. Solar supply will be limited, so it’s important that you park in spots that have a lot of access to the sun.

In the event that it snows, be sure to stay on top of getting it off your roof. Not only is it important to keep your panels clear for optimal solar consumption, but it’s also beneficial to get it off your metal roof.

8. Make the Space Extra Cozy Based on YOUR Needs During Winter in a Skoolie!

Making your skoolie, van, or RV space as comfortable as possible during the winter will definitely make your experience more enjoyable. Many parts around the country can get brutally cold, but that doesn’t mean you need to be miserable.

Pack enough blankets and sleeping bags on board. If you have a bit of solar to spare, get an electric heating pad. Maybe even consider investing in a few of those fozy socks!

Of course, coffee and hot chocolate are a must during winter in a skoolie.

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