Many people find that just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean they lose their itch to travel and explore the outdoors. With a brutal winter sweeping across the United States, you may be curious about how to insulate a travel trailer.
Fortunately, there are numerous methods available to help keep a camper warm in the winter. Below, you’ll find a few of our team’s favorite techniques.
Things to Note About Insulting a Trailer
Before we share how to insulate a travel trailer, there are a few things that we should note. First and foremost, you should practice caution when camping in the winter, especially as temperatures drop below freezing. Although the methods you’ll find below are effective ways to keep your camper warm, they are not full-proof.
A travel trailer’s design is the primary reason why this is the case. Some campers may not have more than a single layer of insulation that is prone to air leaks. If the temperature is too cold outside, you’ll be fighting an uphill battle. The tips that we provide are perhaps best suited for fall camping when the temperatures can dip once the sun goes down.
If you do plan on camping during the winter, be sure to check your local weather reports to make sure that there are not any temperature or freeze warnings in place. Also, make sure that you carry adequate supplies with you. Not only does this include food and water but gasoline and batteries as well.
If you run out of fuel, you could quickly find yourself in a life-or-death situation.
Also, keep in mind that insulation is a year-round effort. The tips you find listed below should not only benefit you in the fall or winter but in the summer as well. In these cases, you may be looking to keep colder air inside of your camper and prevent hot air from entering.
Although we’ll primarily focus on ways to keep a camper warm, many of the tricks could be useful during the summer as well.
Secondly, you may find something called an R-Value pop up when looking into the insulation that campers offer. An R-Value is the official thermal resistance rating. The higher the R-Value on your trailer, the more efficient it will be at maintaining an even temperature. Numerous external factors could determine R-Value efficiency, including the climate in which you’ll be camping.
This brings us to our third and final point, which is that you should look into the insulation options offered by today’s modern travel trailers. Manufacturers now offer features such as insulated underbellies and full heating units.
If you are struggling to keep your current camper protected, check to see if there are manufacturer’s upgrades available, which could streamline the process significantly.
Method One: Replace or Reseal the Windows in Your Trailer
If your manufacturer does not offer any heating or air conditioning upgrades and you are struggling with insulation problems, then you may want to look at the windows on your trailer. Many older travel trailers have single-pane windows, which are remarkably cheap and inefficient when it comes to insulating the vehicle.
The first thing that you should do is check with your manufacturer to see if there is still a warranty in place. If so, explain the problems you’ve been having. While the warranty may only cover replacement single-pane windows, they may offer you a discounted upgrade for windows of better quality.
More important, however, is the fact that tampering with your windows could void the warranty if it is indeed still in place. Stricter manufacturers could void the entire warranty on your travel trailer if you chose to replace the windows, even though the warranty covers other aspects.
So, it’s best to check with your manufacturer before performing any third-party alterations.
Replacing the windows in your trailer could be expensive, but it could go a long way toward solving your insulation problems. There are two reasons why this is a costly option. For one, windows, in general, are expensive, especially if you’re looking for a quality option that will keep your camper warm.
Secondly, RV windows are often not of standard size, meaning they aren’t available in your local hardware store. As a result, you’ll need to custom-order the windows or have someone cut oversized windows instead.
If you still wish to proceed, you should start by measuring the windows that you want to replace. Then, look up the types of windows available for your trailer. Typically, there are four windows options for trailers and campers:
- Vertical sliders are tall and open on tracks
- Horizontal sliders are wide and also open on sliders
- Awning windows feature dual-pane glass
- Jalousie windows provide excellent views but subpar insulation
Once you’ve secured your new windows, you can unscrew and remove the existing window frame. Remove any putty that is leftover.
Then, use fresh sealant to fix your new window in place. We recommend that you use new screws to help fasten the window to the siding of the trailer, instead of the screws used with the previous unit.
If you’re in a bind and replacing windows isn’t an option, there are some short-term fixes that you could try using items that are easily accessible. You could first try wrapping the windows in bubble wrap. Spraying the windows with water will act as a clinging mechanism for the bubble wrap.
You could also try adding a plastic insulating film, which creates a functional airtight seal on the windows.
Method Two: Reinsulate the Walls
Another pricey endeavor that you could undergo to help insulate your trailer is reinsulating the walls. The same protocol goes for the walls as it does the windows. We recommend contacting your manufacturer to see if you’re eligible for any work covered under warranty and if altering your trailer will void your warranty.
If the warranty is not an issue, then you could find it worthwhile to replace the thin layer of fiberglass insulation that likely came with your camper.
We recommend that you contact a professional maintenance expert to perform this repair, as it will be quite tricky to do on your own, especially if you do not have much experience tinkering with your trailer. You’ll likely choose from one of three options:
- Fiberglass foam
- Spray foam
- Rigid foam
Fiberglass foam is an excellent choice if you’re not looking to tear down and reconstruct your entire trailer. Your insulation expert will likely add additional fiberglass foam overtop the single layer that is currently in place. Fiberglass foam provides decent R-Value. There are, however, a few points of concern that you’ll want to consider.
First, fiberglass foam could be prone to mold, resulting in a damp, musty smell in your trailer. If your insulation is moldy, you’ll need to replace any affected areas. Furthermore, fiberglass foam expands when it is warm.
The expansion could potentially be one of the reasons why your current fiberglass insulation has become less effective. Again, you’ll need to replace the insulation when this occurs.
Spray foam is a quick and easy choice to reinsulate a trailer. Spray foam has an exceptional R-Value. The foam comes in a can with an extended nozzle. You will likely have to remove your windows to find crevices where you can spray the insulation.
Once you spray the insulation, it expands much like shaving cream, filling cracks that have resulted in poor insulation.
Lastly, rigid foam is custom-fit for your vehicle. That’s because it comes in blocks that you then cut to size. This foam also offers a high R-Value and should provide a considerable upgrade over your existing insulation. The foam is durable and is not prone to moisture. However, installing rigid foam is an extensive effort that requires caulk, industrial tape, and other tools.
Method Three: Reinsulate the Doors
Another area that tends to cause problems for trailer owners is the doors. Much like windows, factory-issued entries don’t always have the best weather-prevention capabilities. The first thing that you can try is to purchase weather stripping and adding it beneath the door.
Weather stripping is a heavy fabric that adheres to the bottom of the entrance to prevent outside air from entering.
If you notice a draft coming in beneath your door, weather stripping is the answer. You should be able to find the product at any local home improvement store. You’ll likely need to purchase a roll of the stripping and cut it to size. However, it’s always a good idea to have some handy considering your trailer door likely sees frequent use and the stripping can wear down quickly.
If you don’t have access to a hardware store and notice a draft coming in beneath your door, you can create a makeshift weather strip with a towel or t-shirt.
Roll the fabric into the shape of a log and butt it up against the bottom of the door to reduce air flow. Remember that each time you open the door, you’ll need to put the fabric back in place.
When weather stripping does not seem to work, you may need to take more permanent action by re-caulking the area around your door.
Re-caulking the area around the door should be a part of your annual maintenance, but many camper owners neglect doing so. Be sure to fill in any cracks or holes with extra caulk, which should create a quality seal.
Method Four: Close the Vents
If your windows, walls, or doors are not the source of your insulation issues, you may want to look at the vents on your trailer. You should practice extreme caution when doing so though, as forgetting about the vents could create numerous safety issues and put your camper at risk. Cooking inside of the trailer without proper ventilation could increase your chances of carbon dioxide or monoxide poisoning.
The vents are also useful for allowing moisture and humidity to leave your vehicle. Leaving your vents closed in the summer could result in poor air circulation that causes considerable moisture damage. It could also increase the risk of mold developing in the camper.
So, if you are going to close the vents in your camper, make sure that you’re mindful of when they are open and shut.
One of the best solutions to close your vents is with a vent cushion. These devices don’t cost more than $15 or $20. However, they are sized to fit specific vents, so you should measure your vents before purchasing the products.
Vent cushions are useful both for cooling your RV in the summer and keeping it warmer in the winter by stopping the transfer of heat.
Some cushions are available with a reflective coating that repels the sun’s UV rays. Those worried about keeping their camper warm in the fall or winter probably don’t need to worry about this, but it could be a nice add-on for those dealing with insulation problems in the summer.
Installing the cushion is quick, as you merely climb up to the vent and stuff the product into place.
Conclusion on Trailer Insulation
If you’re someone who enjoys traveling throughout the year, there’s a good chance that you’re continually trying to figure out how to insulate a travel trailer.
Fortunately, we feel that the four methods that we’ve provided on this list will go a long way toward keeping your camper warm. You’ll be both comfortable and safe as a result.
One of the biggest things that trailer owners must weigh is the cost of the upgrades versus the cost of a new trailer.
For instance, replacing windows and doors in a camper could be expensive, depending on factors such as the age of the trailer, whether the surrounding material is dry-rotted or weather-damaged, and the materials you’re looking to use for the upgrade.
Today’s manufacturers offer state-of-the-art heating and cooling amenities. It could be in some trailer owner’s best interest to purchase a new unit rather than continuing to sink money into their existing vehicle. However, if you feel as though you are not yet ready to upgrade your trailer or are in need of a more short-term fix, the four methods that we’ve listed above should suffice.
I am a well traveled Marine Corps veteran that enjoys the outdoor and nomadic lifestyle that RV living provides. I am also a member of the National RV Inspectors Association (NRVIA.org). As the founder of Camperguide.org my goal is to provide you with well researched information so that you can enjoy the best of the RV lifestyle.