Travel Trailer Covers: Choosing the Best Protection for Your RV

Travel trailer covers offer cheap insurance, allowing you to spend less time maintaining, and more time vacating. They will completely cover your RV from top to bottom, offering excellent protection against mother nature's wrath of intense sun, wind, rain, and snow.

Whether parked in the frozen north for the winter, or the blazing south for the summer, an RV cover will better preserve your travel trailer than having no cover at all. Of course, there's always a flipside to the equation, and I'll go over a few downsides too.

Travel trailers aren't cheap, so it's wise to choose an RV cover that will work best for your particular model, and for the climate in which it will be stored. Thus, I'll go over several options that are available.

Here's a rundown of the article topics:

  • Advantages and Disadvantages
  • Choosing a Fabric
  • Custom RV Covers
  • Camper Cover Tips

Camper Covers: Good or Bad?

Not all RVers agree that RV covers are a good thing. Some have had bad experiences such as sharp corners poking holes in the fabric, wind ripping the cover to shreds, and accidently stepping on roof components while installing the cover. Despite this, travel trailer covers still remain a popular choice for protecting your home away from home. Here's the rundown on camper covers.

Travel Trailer Cover
Travel Trailer Cover

The Good

Water Protection: One of the best reasons to use a travel trailer cover is to avoid devastating water damage. As your travel trailer sits there, neglected, for weeks or months at a time, water is your worst enemy. And if you park where the snow flies, the problem can be magnified during cycles of freezing and thawing. Any crack will fill with water, and once that water freezes, it also expands, leaving a larger crack. This process can repeat itself over and over during the winter season, and before you know it, you've got a serious leak and extensive water damage.

Blocks Sunlight: Sunlight is not on your side either. UV rays are notorious for deteriorating plastic, especially those plastic roof vent covers (thankfully they're cheap to replace). Sealants (like silicone), putty tape, calking, rubber, and latex will all dry out and deteriorate faster in sunlight. This means more maintenance down the road. Your exterior finish can also fade over time. When sun shines into your travel trailer through a window, the furniture, shades, and carpeting can also fade. By blocking sunshine, a cover will also keep your travel trailer cooler. This can prevent any damage that might occur due to excessive heat build-up inside.

Keeps It Clean: Let's face it. Washing a travel trailer can be big chore. Give it a good scrub and waxing in the fall, put a cover on it, and once spring rolls around you won't have to bother washing twice. The cover may also protect your travel trailer's finish by preventing scratches from wind blown dust and sand.

Save Money: There are other ways to protect your travel trailer in the off-season. You could buy and construct a metal RV cover (aka "pole barn") if you have the room for it. You could also pay for a space at an indoor storage facility. These options aren't cheap, and a travel trailer cover is a real bargain in comparison. You can also save money on RV maintenance costs by using a cover.

Portable: Unlike a structural camper cover (like a "pole barn", storage facility, or garage) one made of fabric can be used anywhere you park the travel trailer.

The Bad

Can Be Difficult to Install: Putting a cover on a travel trailer can be likened to putting a shirt on the Green Giant. It's not easy, and you'll need a ladder. You'll most likely have to climb up on the roof with the cover (which isn't exactly light as a feather) to put it on. Once the cover is over the roof, you'll need to be extra careful where you step when adjusting it. It can be difficult to know what you're stepping on...and putting your foot through a roof vent is not a smart way to enter the RV.

Not Easy to Remove When Wet: When the travel trailer cover is wet, it will be much heavier and more difficult to remove. And if you're in the middle of a deep freeze, the cover may be frozen to the roof. If you want to be ready for an RV camping adventure at a moments notice, you might be out of luck.

Damage Due to Sharp Objects or Wind: You'll need to be wary of any sharp edges that could put a hole in the travel trailer cover. These will need to be padded before you put the cover on. High winds can also damage the cover, even rip it to shreds if not properly secured. The cover should fit tight, as any flapping can not only damage the cover, but it can abrade your travel trailer's exterior as well.

Requires Maintenance: The travel trailer cover must be cleaned and dried before it is used again. A dirty cover can abrade your travel trailer's finish. This isn't too much to fret about though, especially if you consider all the time you'll save on RV maintenance by using a cover.

Choose Your Fabric Wisely

The type of fabric you choose can make, and break, a travel trailer cover. Mother nature always wins, but some fabrics tend to stick around longer than others.

Durability isn't the only factor though. A fabric that is less durable, but lighter in weight, will be easier to put on. You also want a material that's breathable - otherwise mold and mildew can form and your travel trailer will get quite hot.

With camper covers, you usually get what you pay for, and quality fabrics aren't cheap. Here are some of the most popular fabrics used today. 

Polypropylene

Most car covers are made of polypropylene and so are many travel trailer covers. The material is a popular choice due to it's lower cost, and it does work for short term storage. It's lightweight, making it easier to put on - however you'll have to take extra care of any sharp edges that could damage it. You'll want to make sure a polypropylene RV cover is well secured, as it's more prone to flapping in the wind than heavier fabrics.

The Good: It's breathable, lightweight, moisture resistant, non-abrasive, offers good UV protection, and the cost is lower.

The Bad: Not as durable as other options.

Tyvek by Dupont

Tyvek is on the expensive side, however it's more durable and carries a 4-year warranty. The fabric is a bright white, which reflects sunlight well, keeping the travel trailer cooler and blocking 99.8% of harmful UV rays.

Due to its high cost, many Tyvek RV covers use Tyvek on the roof only, and a less expensive fabric (such as polypropylene) is used for the sides. Covers made completely from Tyvek can be quite pricey.

The Good: Blocks out 98% of dirt and dust particles, resists solvents, alkalis, and acids found in bird droppings and acid rain, water resistant, breathable, blocks 99.8% UV rays, 4-year warranty

The Bad: Expensive

Sunbrella

If want top-of-the-line, choose Sunbrella. A Sunbrella RV cover is the priciest option, but in return you'll have a durable cover that will last for years. You'll probably have to have the cover custom made, as there are few, if any, one-size-fits-all options.

Sunbrella is on the heavy side, which will make the travel trailer cover more difficult to put on. The plus is that the fabric is tear resistant and offers excellent protection in all climates.

The Good: Blocks UV rays, resists moisture and mildew, won't harden or crack, breathable, 5-year warranty

The Bad: Most expensive option, and a bit heavy

SFS Aqua Shed

If you live in the pacific northwest, or any climate that receives more rain than sun, consider an SFS Aqua-Shed travel trailer cover. This fabric beads water on contact providing excellent protection in rainy and humid climes. It also allows moisture to escape, which is good in preventing ice build-up, mold and mildew. Moderate protection against UV rays is another feature.

The Good: Maximum resistance to rain and humidity, breathable, UV protection, 2-3 year warranty, less costly than Tyvek and Sunbrella

The Bad: None, unless you live in a desert - then it's best to go with a fabric offering more UV protection like Tyvek, Sunbrella, or polypropylene.

Crafty Custom RV Covers

Custom travel trailer covers are available to fit your RV like a glove. These are made to fit the profile of your exact model, and around any components such as the air conditioner, TV antenna, satellite receiver, etc.

The main advantage to a custom RV cover is the better fit, which minimizes any slack. Extra slack can be taken by the wind, potentially damaging the cover as well as your travel trailer's exterior. Any movement from the cover is not a good thing and can lead to abrasion. A custom camper cover lessens this risk.

Another nice feature is that you'll have a zippered opening in the location of the entry door, allowing easy access to the inside of the travel trailer.

Due to the extra work involved, custom travel trailer covers can cost hundreds of dollars more than the universal fit varieties. If you plan on keeping your travel trailer for years, having a durable cover that will last for years isn't such a bad idea. And you may actually save money since you won't have to replace lower quality covers every couple years.

A universal fit RV cover may work fine for trailers with standard rectangular profiles. However, if you have a model that's out of the norm, like a curvy Airstream or a V-nose travel trailer, you may have no choice but to go with a custom camper cover. In addition, if you decide on a premium fabric, like Sunbrella, you'll also have to go with a custom cover.

Under Cover Tips

Class is almost dismissed...just a few more notes to take with you on your way to the RV store...

  • Only choose a travel trailer cover that is breathable. This will keep the travel trailer cooler and prevent mold and mildew from forming.
  • The cover must be secured tightly and the material must be of a type that will not cause abrasion to your travel trailer's finish.
  • Don't forget the tires and wheels. These should be covered as well for protection against the elements, especially UV rays. Tire covers can be purchased for this purpose.
  • Pad sharp objects and corners on your travel trailer to avoid wearing a hole in the cover.
  • Thoroughly wash the travel trailer before putting the cover on. This will avoid any abrasion from dirt and dust.
  • Clean the travel trailer cover before using it a second time, for the same reason.
  • Built-in zippers are handy for easy access to entry doors and compartments and they can make installing the travel trailer cover easier when unzipped.

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