Lots of people have asked us what we’ve taken on our motorhome ski adventures – our natural instinct for over planning meant that we researched this extensively before we left on our first trip, tried to get the best deals on everything we needed, and this is what we’ve lived with on a daily basis.
So what are the 15 essential items you need for your motorhome skiing trip?
It’s worth noting, there is a finite amount of space in a motorhome or campervan… which means you need to choose every item wisely. This list is based on the fact that we do not have an external garage and we do want to carry a single thing that we do consider essential – life in a motorhome is cosy enough without too many ‘in case of emergency’ items.
Some of the lists we’ve read seem bonkers – unless you’re travelling in a 7.5t RV, we have no idea where you keep all this stuff, let alone why you need it. Add to that the monumental expense and suddenly your adventure becomes comparable in cost to a 10 day all-in catered chalet experience for 20! We thought we might regret some of the things we opt not to take but the only real issue we have come up against is a shortage of Nandos sauce, easily rectified by a drive-by delivery from Milton Keynes.
What we have learned is that the winter motorhome community specifically, is generous and helpful beyond measure! If you don’t have something crucial to your survival and wellbeing, someone nearby will have it and will willingly lend it to you!
(thank you Frank for the spare 20amp fuse, Colin for super glue and the loan of water containers when our original one broke, Digs for the plastic folding box/ waxing table!)
15 Essential Items You Need For Your Motorhome Skiing Trip and 12 You Absolutely Don’t.
This list assumes you have all the usual motorhome kit – cables, ramps, pots and pans etc…
#1 Winter Tyres
Don’t get us started on this. Take our word for it. Please do not go on a motorhome ski trip, at any time of year, to anywhere where you expect there to be snow without them. Here’s a blog from our early days and our thoughts on the matter haven’t changed.
If you want all the up to date information on where and when in Europe you have to have winter tyres, you can find the full list here. Winter Tyres, everything you need to know. The rest of the world don’t need so much convincing – US and Canadian citizens are not daft when it comes to winter set up for their vehicles
Ours: Falken Tyres EuroWinter Van01
The one thing you should note is that not all tyre fitters are up to speed on the legal requirements and classifications of winter tyres (I know, but it’s true) so once you’ve got a quote, double check the reviews or better still, jump on the Winterised Facebook Group where you will no doubt find someone with some experience.
#2 Snow Chains
Legal requirement in many places. Essential safety kit elsewhere. The Gendarme inspected ours at a random roadside check in France so don’t get caught out – authorities across Europe take it very seriously and seem to be having an uphill battle. We invested in a premium set from Pewag – an Austrian brand. The reason for this was that we knew we were going to cover a lot of miles and chances were they were going to be used. Cheaper options are available but if you’re actually likely to use them, the more expensive brands are easier to put on and less likely to fail, which is a massive nightmare.
Ours: Pewag : You can find options here on Amazon – Make sure you get the correct size.
#3 Screen Cover
You need one of these. We have a Van Comfort one. It’s ace. If your budget stretches, make sure you get one that covers the engine, bonnet and whole front end if you can. A tarp will do if not but you will be surprised how much heat you loose (or cold gets in) through the cab. Alternatively you can use this area to chill/freeze your wine.
See our review of the Van Comfort silver screen cover here.
#4 Snow Shovel
Digging is one of our favourite hobbies. Making more room for the van in tight parking spots; clearing paths; hacking out your frozen-to-the-ground ramps. We have a grain shovel which is much more durable and is much, much more useful when it comes to ice management! We even used ours to dig out a crashed 4×4 on the road to Les Gets before we’d even reached our first location! We wrote a bit about it here because it’s a pretty important bit of kit.
Ours: Spear and Jackson Grain Shovel – click here for our review.
#5 Rubber Floor Mat
Our van is low enough not to require a step. Some people advise not to use electric steps because they can freeze in the extended position which gets you into a right pickle if you need to go anywhere in a hurry. The reason we don’t have a beer crate is because it serves no additional purpose and takes up a huge amount of space we simply don’t have. If you do get one, make sure it’s sturdy enough… we tried one and to be frank, me and ski boots we’re going to fall through it at some point, particularly in the cold when the plastic can get a little brittle!
Ours: Floor Mat (Amazon link)
If you’re always on a site you probably don’t need one of these but we’re having an extended adventure and we very rarely stay on sites. With that, you need a jerry can (with funnel obviously) but be careful with carrying fuel. In some countries you’re not allowed to carry it on board – it must be empty (not very helpful we know!). We have a Honda EU20i Mint. Borrowed it from a friend and it’s one of the best things we have. If you can afford to invest, we suggest you do so.
Our full review of the Honda EU20i – Click here.
#7 Water Bowsers and Containers
We found watering cans are a bit crap in winter. If you have to carry them any distance, they slosh freezing water on your hands and it’s a rubbish job to fill a tank manually as it is, without having your hands seize up.
The other thing WE DO NOT RECOMMEND is a flexible water carrier. We took a good quality (highly recommended) one and it only lasted a few weeks. The trouble is that water and the cold and plastic are just not happy bedfellows and sooner or later mother nature wins as freezing water trumps plastic… every time.
We recommend 2 x 10L with screw on spout (longer the better). This way pretty much anyone can carry them and not just the muscles onboard! An attached cap is a real bonus if you can get one because trying to locate a dropped lid in a snow drift in gloves isn’t easy.
Ours: This comes in a few sizes (if you’re feeling strong) – take a look on Amazon
#8 Grey Water Catch
First thing you should do is unhook your waste pipe. The best motorhome waste pipes will freeze and this is what everyone does to make life easier. Make sure your grey water catch will fit under your vehicle in snow – ours has been ‘modified’ a number of times now depending how deep the snow pack is!
Ours: re-purposed barrel
#9 Hair Drier
If you get caught out in unprecedented conditions or you have any pipe freezing, however unlikely you believe this to be, a hair drier will get you out of a load of fixes. The climate is changing and we can be in +9 one day and -15 the next. It happens. Best to get a travel one because then you can vary the voltage if you need to.
Ours: Gift from a friend – Thanks Matt! (comes with mini hair straighteners too!)
#10 -45°C Screen Wash
Autoglym do a -45°C antifreeze for your washers. The salt and grit make your windscreen very smeary, particularly in the valley’s where the fumes get caught at road level and stick everything to everything. -20°C or -30°C is ok but has let us down -45°C is better.
#11 Tool Kit: Non-Negotiable Items
(Everything on here has been used)
- Gaffa tape
- 2 x adjustable spanners
- Socket set
- Set of screwdrivers
- Stanley knife
- Plyers – bull and needle nose
- Cable ties
- Electrical tape
- Junior hacksaw
#12 Old Snowboard
If you can get hold of one (ask in a rental shop) – ours is now a sledge/mechanics slider and is used for everything from getting under the van to check things to dragging water containers about.
Ours: Snaffled from Ski Extreme in Les Deux Alps
#13 Mechanics Gloves
Our hands are knackered already but these have really helped with outdoor maintenance things and you don’t want to get your fancy ski mitts covered in anything unpleasant! Get the yellow ones – they’re super easy to spot in the snow and in dark corners when you need them.
#14 Extendable Brush
Ours: Was crap and succumbed to the cold – went brittle and died. This one is an extendable snow brush with ice scraper. It’s about time someone did a proper job. Much better. It’s the Swiss Army Knife of the broom world. Not too heavy but still offers sufficient reach to ‘push’ snow from the middle of your motorhome.
Check it out on Amazon here or click the image.
#15 Arctic Grade Cable (Extra long)
For most conditions, your regular orange cable will probably be good enough but we’ve upgraded to an arctic grade cable (2.5mm as apposed to 1.5mm) plus we’ve invested in a really long 25m version for places where the only hook up is at the end of a row.
This cable is more resistant tot the cold, less likely to crack and weaken from frost fatigue. It’s a bit more expensive than your regular one but power is something we’re always keen to make as robust as possible. There are two types – 16A and 32A. 32A is total overkill but….. it’s yellow as standard which makes it high visibility in the snow or on fishing rob stands (see our article on Electrical Essentials)
What we Don’t Have and You Don’t Need (Or Can Go Without)
Obviously – you’re an adult(!) and some people probably have a really good argument for carrying the following… like when we need them and don’t have them (!) but… like we said, finite space and budget meant this stuff didn’t make the cut.
People say this because they are getting on their roof to clear snow. We have used an extendable brush and twinkle toes for this job. Ladders are dangerous things at the best of times, let alone in ice and snow so we decided that they were more likely to cause an incident than prevent one so that’s off the list. We would also have to sleep with it or move it every 5 minutes. Even a collapsible one. If you have space – GET A LADDER – we will be adding one, it’s just not a priority and it’s only getting used under strict supervision!
You’ll find out if you’re on the wonk. Tip: stand back and get your eye in. That works as well and you get a Moho-Pro badge for competence too.
Spare Toilet Cassette
Just empty your cassette on a regular basis. The whole of Europe is well furnished with places you can do this. Who wants to have rotting poo sat in an extra cassette somewhere in your van whilst you chirpily fill up another one? If you’re off grid for so long you have filled your toilet, you’ve probably got bigger problems than that in deep winter!
We have a pimp heating system – blown air, super efficient, gas and electric. However, if you need these, you need them.
We have snow tyres and chains. If those can’t move you, you’re likely to be in more of a spot than a tow rope can solve! In which case you need to call professional recovery. Anyone who can help you in this kind of situation is likely to have a tow rope (or winch) onboard anyway.
Some people take grip mats – we have used ours several times in heavy snow and ice. The absolute best thing you can carry if you need something like this is a rollable set – you can find all sorts of tracks and mats online but these are what we recommend.
People have them for sitting out for 5 minutes on sunny days. We prefer to find a bar or café and save the space but if you have a decent sized garage it’s a lovely addition!
Tyre/ Foot Pump
Not really sure why you’d need one (unless it’s to blow up your mattress – see below) because you should carry a small compressor as standard in your van.
These are expensive and very heavy. You don’t need one to change a wheel in an emergency – in fact, no idea why people think you need one at all.
So many things on motorhomes are plastic – if you can guarantee you’re not going to melt something, by all means, fire 1000’sC at it. If not, use a hair drier.
Hot Glue Dispenser…the plot thickens
What? Why do you need a hot glue tool? If you need to stick things together, learn how to plastic weald. Cable ties and a lighter work fine. Also – superglue. In my entire life, I can think of maybe one or two occasions where I’ve thought,
“blimey, I wish I had a hot glue tool”
…and none of them have been in a motorhome crisis situation.
and the pièce de résistance…
Inflatable Mattress for Under The Van???
This is absolutely mind boggling. We don’t know who started this rumour but they are mad as a box of frogs. What makes us giggle is the thought of thousands of French, Italian, Swiss, Polish, German and Austrian seasoned winter motorhomers watching bonkers English people blowing up mattresses and putting them under their motorhomes! Add to this the hilarity (not to mention massive inconvenience) when a warm day allows your mattress to melt into the ground, freezing again at night – you go to move the next day… you don’t need us to explain the problem there.
The argument given is that it stops the wind-chill effecting the tanks and pipes and prevents them from freezing. It doesn’t. Wind chill doesn’t work like that. There’s no science behind it that adds up but we’re going to test the theory in a cold chamber at some point*… if nothing else but to save people from carrying inflatable mattresses around the mountains and having to inflate and deflate them continuously.•*
Caveat: If by some weird twist of fate there is a measurable and significant thermal benefit to putting an inflatable mattress under your motorhome, that prevents any kind of detrimental effects of the cold on the van… I will write a comprehensive report and issue an apology!
*UPDATE ON MATTRESS GATE:
I tried – honestly I did. I pulled all the strings and tickled all the right people. Nobody with a vehicle testing cold chamber (or a modicum of sense) could see any reason to test the mattress into-freeze theory. Sorry folks!