Frostbite and hypothermia are not the only risks from cold weather camping. When Mother Nature turns into the Witch of Winter, she can bring death from multiple directions all at once. She will gladly, without a second thought, freeze your carcass stiff and blue, and give you a cold white burial.
But winter can also bring a whole bucketful of man-made problems that will kill you just as quickly, and just as dead. By “man-made”, I’m talking about all the stupid things you might do.
Infants and children are, of course, more susceptible to the dangers and risks from cold weather camping.
The most obvious danger from cold weather is the cold. Last winter, in a nearby town, a homeless couple were found frozen to death in a tent. RVs are better than a tent, but they generally have little insulation and cheap single-pane windows which don’t do much to keep the cold out. Roof vents are just a thin piece of plastic, so they have no insulating value. An RV heater may keep you warm for a while, but it can empty your propane tank in a single night.
Many people recommend putting a bottle of hot water in your bed to heat it up. But, if it leaks, your wet bed can effectively soak up all your body heat and turn into a death trap.
People die every year from carbon monoxide poisoning, when using non-vented or unsafe heating devices. Entire families have been found dead. Carbon monoxide is called the silent killer because it is colorless, odorless, and tasteless. It is impossible to detect without a carbon monoxide detector (and how do you even know if yours will work?). Besides deaths, it is reported that 10,000 to 20,000 people are sickened every year from carbon monoxide. Higher altitudes increase the risk of carbon monoxide. Unvented propane heaters, unless specifically made for RVs, are not safe to use inside an RV. This hazard includes using your oven or cook-top for heat. NEVER use gas camping stoves, lanterns, BBQ grills, etc. inside an RV. And, if you try to start the RV and use the vehicle’s heater, make sure the exhaust pipe isn’t clogged with snow, ice, or mud. The same warning goes for your generator exhaust. People have even died from their neighbor’s exhaust.
Fire is another increased risk in cold weather. We always have to be careful of the risk of fire from heaters. But, we also have the danger of fire from campfires. People often build campfires closer to their RV in the winter due to less concern of a campfire escaping. Yet, winds are stronger in the winter, increasing the chance of catching your RV on fire. Add to this, people generally have less access to water in the winter.
If it gets cold enough, you will wind up with frozen water. A lack of water is not just inconvenient; dying of thirst can be harmful to your health. Moreover, cold weather can actually put us at a greater risk of dehydration, because we feel less thirsty. And, cold weather doesn’t always bring snow that you could melt.
Sudden snows can leave you stranded, with a lack of food and supplies. And if you try to drive out, the slippery roads are waiting to kill you. It’s been said that your drive to and from your campsite is probably the most dangerous part of your camping trip (and that’s in good weather).
On the bright side of cold weather camping- spiders, snakes, and other warm-weather killers are gone. Tornado season is still around the corner. And the bears are hibernating; dreaming of having you over for dinner.