Is your goal to camp all year long anywhere in the country? Ambitious explorers don’t want to limit their camping experiences to the best times of year when the weather is ideal. Their goal is to travel and see the country throughout the year, including winter, spring, summer, and fall.
If you consider yourself a part of this group of campers and explorers, you’ll need the right vehicle. There are a variety of RVs and travel trailers that can be used throughout the year, but if you want something you can hitch to your existing vehicle and use during every season, you’ll want a four-season travel trailer.
Four-season travel trailers can be lived in no matter the season. Most are comfortable regardless of the weather or temperature unless you’re in an area experiencing extreme lows or severe storms. Even then, some people have outfitted their travel trailers to be especially durable and protective against severe elements.
If you’re considering a four-season travel trailer, what should you know?
Four-season travel trailers allow you to travel and camp in comfort no matter the season or temperature. They provide a warm environment in the winter and a cool space in the summer months. They also have all of the benefits of any travel trailer, including offering convenience and ease of travel.
You might be wondering what makes a four-season travel trailer different from other options. The truth is most travel trailers and RVs are not equipped for four-season use. In many cases, manufacturers advertise their travel trailers and RVs as being so, when in reality they just offer a little extra protection if temperatures dip to the 40s or 30s.
To truly have a comfortable four-season experience, you need a trailer that measures up to what is offered. Additionally, you might need to customize your trailer a bit to get the comfort level you want, especially if your goal is to live in the trailer in less-than-ideal weather conditions.
Four-season Travel Trailer: What Does It Actually Mean?
There are no official criteria or standards for a four-season travel trailer. Though there are features that are pretty standard and “must haves” when it comes to a weather durable trailer, it isn’t as if manufacturers need to include certain features to be labeled four-season – it’s not an industry designation.
In fact, just about any travel trailer can be considered a four-season and comfortable year-round if the owner makes the appropriate additions and customizations.
In many ways, “four-season” is a marketing term used to get the attention of those who want to camp year-round or not have any regard for the time of year when they do camp. It can mean a trailer is more durable, but it doesn’t necessarily guarantee what you’re buying will be equipped with any particular feature.
If you are in the market for a four-season travel trailer guide, you should look for a vehicle or plan to customize an existing trailer with:
You don’t want to be able to see the tanks on a travel trailer because that means it isn’t protected from the weather. Insulation on the underside or underbelly prevents tanks from freezing or being exposed to too much heat. Some call this an enclosed underbelly, while others just look for the underside to have foam or insulation on the bottom of the trailer. Essentially, the less plumbing and piping you see the better, and in some cases, if you’re planning to camp in extremely cold areas, you’ll want there to be heating elements to keep the tanks warm.
The water connection on a four-season travel trailer will be located in an interior compartment, or there will be an outdoor electrical outlet near the water connection. This allows the hose to be heat taped. You can buy heat tape here.
The sewer hookup on a four-season travel trailer should allow you to run the hose with as little exposure as possible, so it should be on a close to or slide. This allows you to avoid having to tape the sewer connection with heat tape.
Dual Pane Windows
Just as you would want dual pane windows in your home to protect against the elements, you’ll want them in a four-season trailer, assuming your trailer has windows. If your trailer is the kind that breaks down and you don’t have official windows, you’ll want to insulate in whatever way you can once things are set up at a site. It’s also a good idea to have tinted windows because this helps protect against sun damage and keeps temperatures cooler indoors during the hotter summer months.
Ducted Heating System
The more efficient the ducting in your trailer, the better. This will prevent there from being hot and cold spots inside, which means the more even the temperature, the less energy you’ll use making the space comfortable.
Bypass for the Water Heater
If your trailer has a water heater, you’ll want there to be a bypass and winterizing valve. This makes storing the camper easier and ensures the longest life and best performance.
Insulated Hatch Covers
If you intend to camp during the winter months, especially in colder climates, you’ll want to have insulated hatch covers. This makes a big difference when it comes to ensuring the heat you pump into your trailer stays in your trailer, and it allows you to keep the cold outside from seeping in. It’s a must-have feature if you intend to camp year-round, especially if those plans include camping in the dead of winter.
What Should You Consider Before Buying a Four-Season Travel Trailer?
In addition to the features you want to look for, there are a few things you should consider about your specific camping experience before investing in a four-season trailer. There are standard features everyone will want in a trailer that will be used year-round, but there are also things that might be specific to your needs. Or possibly something you can forego, depending on your situation.
What questions should you ask before you begin shopping for a four-season trailer?
- Do you plan to travel with others or by yourself? If others, how many people at a time?
- Do you usually camp with hookups?
- Do you usually stay at campsites or rugged, off-road areas?
- Do you intend to vacation in your trailer or is your intention, now or ever, to live in your trailer? Most people tend to upgrade to a full-size
- Do you intend to take short-term or long-term trips? Chances are if you’re thinking about a four-season trailer you intend to take longer trips, but this isn’t always the case. Sometimes people just want to be able to take their short, enjoyable camping vacations year-round.
Additionally, you should consider the temperature rating, which should be a wider span if you’re planning to travel for extended periods of time. If you’re a weekend warrior, even all year long, look for temperature ratings from 40 to 80 degrees. If you intend to camp for longer than two months at a time, you’ll want to expand that to 30 to 90 degrees.
Once you’ve thought about your situation, you can consider the four most important features in a four-season travel trailer:
- Venting and the trailer’s heating and cooling system
You’ll want to pay attention to the ratings regarding these four things and think of them as the most important considerations when shopping. If you’re going to splurge on any upgrades, do so in these areas if you want the option of four-season camping and traveling.
If you have any other special needs or there’s anything unusual about your circumstances, you’ll want to take that into account, too. Travel trailers can be equipped to handle just about any situation, as long as you plan ahead and have an idea of how you intend to travel and camp.
Other Features of Four-season Travel Trailers?
Another important consideration of a four-season trailer is the materials used in construction. There are variations from manufacturer to manufacturer, but the important thing to note is that they are durable and that the trailer was designed and constructed with four-season use in mind.
Four-season trailers tend to have higher quality roofs and walls, insulation in the ceiling, and of course, the enclosed tanks. A good way to determine if the claims a manufacturer is making about its travel trailer are accurate is to check user ratings. If people who are using their trailers year-round in all weather conditions are happy with their purchase, you can assume the manufacturer’s claims are legitimate.
You’ll also want to consider air circulation. It’s one thing to have a trailer that’s capable of heating up to a cozy 72 degrees during the dead of winter, but still have cold spots where it’s not more than 40 degrees. Good circulation of air will allow the entire camper to feel warm in the winter and cold in the summer.
Looking for the Perfect Four-Season Travel Trailer?
The number of things you need to consider when it comes to buying a four-season travel trailer can seem overwhelming. And it doesn’t get better once you begin shopping. It’s common for people to find options that offer all but one or two features they need or want, and to have those missing features be different from manufacturer to manufacturer. It’s a lot like buying a new home – the perfect home is rarely out there, and you need to prioritize the features that are must-haves versus those that are wants.
It can help to make a side-by-side comparison of the materials used in the construction of the trailer. If you are having a difficult time deciding between two different options and there is no comparison between the two available, write a list of each feature and mark side by side which of the two trailers have it. This gives you a broad overview of which choice outweighs the other.
You can also check out online camping forums for more information. You don’t want to use the opinions of others to make your final choice, but if these opinions and reviews can confirm a direction in which you are already leading it can be helpful. For instance, if you think one travel trailer is better than another based on your research and online reviews rave about it, you can have more confidence in your buying decision.
If you do intend to use a forum for information, make sure you conduct some research about the quality of reviews. There are a lot of great options out there, but there are also those using review sites to promote their own products or degrade the competition. When using reviews to purchase any product, look for patterns from various reviewers to get a sense of whether something is truly a problem or benefit, or one bad apple reporting his or her experience.
Ultimately, if you discover the perfect traveler trailer isn’t out there, you can modify one that’s near perfect, so it suits your needs. Among the customizations and modifications that are common for four-season travelers to make are:
- Adding your own insulation to windows, much as you would do in your home if you can’t afford a new window upgrade (You can find a simple DIY insulation kit here
- Adding weather stripping to the doors
- Covering the vents and other seepage areas with foam
- Lining windows with foil-backed insulation that reflects the sun and makes it easier to maintain a comfortable temperature inside of the trailer
- Buying a tank heater separate
- Covering water lines with heat tape
- Using antifreeze in the tanks when the trailer is not in use
- Running a humidifier or dehumidifier inside the trailer
Finding the right four-season travel trailer to suit your needs can take some time, but it’s an important part of your investment. If you do the appropriate amount of research and go into the process with an open mind, you are more likely to find a trailer that you love and that you’re able to use for years to come.