RVing in Winter Wonderland

The last lingering leaves falling from autumn's trees signal the end of the camping season for many outdoor enthusiasts. But a growing number of campers are welcoming the first snowfall since they've discovered how to comfortably enjoy their favorite camping activities and winter's pleasures at the same time.

A bit of investigation will lead the adventurous to a variety of campgrounds across the country that remain open in the winter. Incentives for winter camping include unmatched wildlife viewing, a variety of outdoor activities and breathtaking winter vistas. Yellowstone National Park, one of the most well-known winter recreational areas, has tallied an increase in winter visitors and campers during recent years.

"You truly experience winter in Yellowstone when you stay in our campground," says Rick McAdam, supervisory park ranger for Yellowstone National Park. "Wildlife viewing is great here in the winter. You're likely to see an elk wander through the campground, and wolves are more active and easier to spot in the winter."

Mammoth Hot Springs is the only campground kept open in Yellowstone from November through March. Located five miles south of the park's northern entrance, the campground's roads are plowed throughout winter to allow vehicle access, although main road plowing takes a priority after large snowfalls. Mammoth Hot Springs is conveniently located just a mile or two from access to popular cross-country ski and snowmobile trails.

Winter Campers Use Smaller RVs

Although far from crowded during winter, the number of winter campers at Mammoth Hot Springs Campground has increased dramatically during the past five years. The Yellowstone National Park visitor services office reports 363 campers stayed at the park from December 1997 through March 1998. That number jumped to 609 campers during the same months of the 2001-2002 season.

"About 75 percent of our winter campers stay in small RVs, tow-able campers or pickup truck campers," McAdam notes. "While a total winter immersion experience would include skiing into the back country to set up camp, staying at the campground provides a comfortable intermediate option."

Mammoth Hot Springs does not offer electrical hookups, but other options are available for heating RVs during cool weather. Onan has introduced a compact portable generator, Camp Power, which provides big-RV power for smaller travel trailers, folding camping trailers and truck campers, making power available for heaters and other conveniences throughout the year.

Winter Generator Tips

"A Camp Power generator provides enough power to keep winter campers toasty warm," says Joyce Drinnin, manager for RV marketing with Onan. "By following a few winter tips for generator operation, winter enthusiasts can comfortably camp close to the activities of their choice."

The first thing winter campers using generators should remember is to keep generator tailpipes clear. "Be certain not to back generator tailpipes into snowbanks or obstruct them in any way," Drinnin cautions. "Also, for best operation, run the generator set with a full load. Avoid running it with a light load for long periods of time."

Other winter pointers include matching generator oil viscosity to outdoor temperatures. And, although Camp Power generators are not water-cooled, Drinnin reminds campers with water-cooled generators to be certain to use the right strength of antifreeze to protect against damage from freezing temperatures.

"Your owner's manuals and your dealer should always be your primary sources of information for winter RV and generator maintenance," Drinnin adds. "With a little pretrip preparation, you can have a comfortable, rewarding winter RVing experience."

For more information about winter camping at Yellowstone National Park, visit http://www.nps.gov/yell/planvisit/todo/winter/winsprts.htm; for information about RV camping and Onan generators, visit www.funroads.com.