November 2022 – Winter camping is on trend: In the last winter season, arrivals at European campsites increased by over 130 per cent compared to the previous year, which was dominated by Corona. As the upcoming winter sports season approaches, it is the perfect opportunity for adventurous families or friends to pack the camper, caravan or van and to put this winter holiday alternative to the test. But beware: the white season also comes with one or two challenges. The tire manufacturer Semperit reveals in five steps what the perfect travel preparation requires.
Whether with a motorhome, caravan or van – winter camping is a very special vacation experience. Instead of spending time in a sometimes crowded hotel, winter campers rather keep to themselves. In addition, the motorized home offers a lot of flexibility and opens the possibility to get very close to nature. With a little luck, maybe even in the immediate proximity of the ski slope.
Step 1: Load smart and avoid penalties
The suitcases are packed, skis and/or snowboards as well as the bobsleds for young and old are prepared – but how can the precious luggage be stowed safely and in a space-saving way? It's simple: put the heavy stuff at the bottom, the lighter things on top, and distribute everything as evenly as possible. With this rule of thumb, nothing stands in the way of a camping adventure. Tetris pros and all those who want to become one start with heavy luggage such as water supplies, canned food, camping furniture or tool boxes and stow them at the bottom near the axles. The lower the center of gravity, the better the vehicle sits on the road and the safer the handling. Caravan drivers should also ensure that the weight is well distributed between the axle and drawbar so that the axle load of the caravan and drawbar load of the towing vehicle are not exceeded. Medium-weight items such as cookware, shoes, skis or snowboards belong in the storage compartments near the floor. Light items such as clothing, food or technical equipment with little weight go into the overhead lockers. Once this is done, loose and especially heavy items must be adequately secured with straps, safety nets or a luggage bar so that they are not flung through the cabin during the next braking maneuver. Once this is done, there is only one thing left to do: weighing. Since the added weight and the distribution have a strong effect on driving stability and braking behavior, the camping vehicle must not be overloaded. Therefore, the maximum permissible gross weight (see registration certificate) should be observed in advance, because if this is exceeded, fines of up to 1.697 euros may be imposed in Italy . Similar penalties apply in other countries. Similar penalties apply in other countries. So, it's better to be safe than sorry and weigh your motorhome, caravan or van before you leave, for example on a public truck weighbridge at recycling or materials centers.
Step 2: Use winterproof equipment
Sub-zero degrees outside, cosy warmth inside? That's also possible when camping in the winter! With the right equipment and a few extras in your luggage, you'll be toasty comfortable in your mobile home even in the cold season. Of course, warm blankets, fuzzy socks, hats, gloves and lined, breathable outdoor clothing are indispensable for anyone who wants to be active in the snow. To keep even the biggest cold-haters among us in a cozy mood in any situation, thermos and hot water bottles should be on the packing list. No matter whether you heat with a gas heater, electric heaters or a diesel engine: it is important to retain the heat in the camping vehicle for as long as possible. Thermal hoods, which are attached to the windshield from the outside, are suitable for this purpose. In addition, they prevent it from icing up. Thermal mats are also suitable for the interior. They are especially recommended as an insulating layer in case of high sub-zero temperatures on the ground.
At least as important is the safe location for the vehicle at the destination – the campsite, hopefully snow-covered by then. In this case, liners should be included in the luggage, on which the vehicle can find a firm footing even in snow or slush. A snow shovel, a robust ice scraper and a hand brush with telescopic pole for clearing snow from the vehicle roof complete the winter-proof equipment on site.
Step 3: Heat safely and keep water frost-free
When the heating and hot water systems fail, it’s getting uncomfortable. So if you want to camp carefree in winter, you should prepare both systems accordingly. A particularly common and practical solution is a gas heater, which should be operated exclusively with propane in winter. This – unlike butane – remains in gaseous form even at sub-zero temperatures. Since the heater runs continuously at cold temperatures, up to three eleven-kilogram gas cylinders can quickly be consumed per week . In such cases, it is advisable to use a two-cylinder system with automatic switchover, which conveniently switches from the empty to the full cylinder and thus ensures continuous heat. For the gas supply to be sufficient, the filling level should be controlled regularly and refill possibilities with the camping site be checked for. As an alternative to heating with gas, radiators, electric blankets and other electrical devices can also provide pleasant warmth in the camping vehicles. However, please make sure to switch them off again to avoid potential fire hazards.
At least as important, though, is frost-free water to be able to cook and do the dishes in winter if necessary. Heated water tanks that prevent frost damage are suitable for this purpose – although the fresh water tank should not be filled unless the heating and hot water system have been running for some time and the interior has warmed up. In turn, it is best to drain the waste water directly and collect it in a bucket with antifreeze, so nothing gets frozen. By the way, the waste water should not go down in the drain, but should be properly emptied, for example, at the disposal station at the campsite.
Step 4: Proper "footwear" for the vehicle
A slippery descent in the icy snowy landscape is fun – just not on the road. The right tires are therefore key. In Italy there is no general obligation to use winter tyres, but traffic signs prescribe winter tyres or snow chains for a certain period of time, depending on the weather. Examples of this regulation are the Aosta Valley and the Brenner motorway in South Tyrol. Using the appropriate equipment in winter is therefore important for driving safety. The same recommendations apply to motorhomes, caravans or vans as to passenger cars: suitable winter tyres are marked with the snowflake symbol and should have a minimum tread depth of four millimetres. When using snow chains, at least two drive wheels must be equipped. Anyone driving in wintry road conditions without appropriate tyres will pay fines of up to 345 euros.
Step 5: Find campsites suitable for winter
Location, location, location: It is worthwhile to align your route with campsites that are specially equipped for winter camping. With heated sanitary facilities, washing and drying rooms for ski and snowboard equipment, cozy lounges or saunas, these facilities are a little more expensive because of the comfort, but also offer additional amenities in the winter time. Families with children, in particular, benefit from this in terms of whimsy. Extras such as winter-proof supply posts for electricity, water or gas as well as restaurants with typical regional cuisine make the camper's heart skip a beat. And best of all, the campsites are usually located right next to the ski slopes – in the middle of the winter wonderland.
Pictures 1 & 2: Semperit / Adobe Stock7