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Old 02-21-2012, 06:31 PM   #1
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Cold Weather boondocking- Gilbert Ray CG, Tucson

This is, again, maybe off topic, but our return from the Tucson, Arizona Rock and Gem Show was a wonderful experience, as usual. We camped at the Gilbert Ray Camp Ground which is run by the county. It had electricity at the site, water access to be hauled to your trailer, dump stations, rest rooms, picnic tables, clean and a variety of sites on a first come first serve basis.

This I will be offering photographs on a later thread.

One thing I can say about an Airstream going through eastern New Mexico, Oklahoma and Kansas is... I understand why Airstream owners think I am nuts camping out in the west and not plugged in to power, water and sewer. Well... we pretty much froze our butts off.

The Tucson weather was FANTASTIC. Sunny, dry and wonderful. At least this year. I heard last year it got down to below 20 degrees... but at least it was a DRY 20 degrees. There is a difference.

The propane furnace is a battery eater and we avoid using it out west on battery only (no electricity in the forest), unless it gets below 25 degrees... in the Summer to add. I think a HONDA generator is in my future. Once we left Tucson and headed east, heading to Ardmore, Oklahoma to buy a truck load of geology books, the weather changed to cold and HUMID getting into Roswell, New Mexico. Running the furnace on battery to maintain 40 degrees was not even possible without getting the battery down to 60% and below 12 volts. The solar panel could not charge due to the seven days of overcast. Idling your tow vehicle would use three gallons of gasoline over one evening... and that was at Goodland, Kansas, 50 mile per hour winds, 20 degrees and 90% humidity on the 20th.

We could survive the just above freezing inside temperature if it were not for the high humidity. You would run the furnace to maintain some point above freezing, venting to avoid condensation on the inside windows and it was a lesson in WHY people question what I call Rockdocking out west. These higher elevations offer low humidity, which is NOTHING like what the rest of you experience. Trust me. When we are doing a February trip in humid areas... I would PREFER electrical hook ups over the wet and cold camping.

My conclusion: If you think you will be comfortable in your AS in a cold and damp area for an extended period of time, WITHOUT outside power... forget it. You will freeze your acorns and not get much sleep. Even with multiple blankets, sleeping bag and hoping you do not run the battery down too low, freeze your water lines and just say hell with it all. If someone tells you they can live in their AS, year round, with power... yeah right. I do not think there is enough insulation in an AS to keep you comfortable for too long.

This will be a "half trip" to remember. If you want to experience a dry cold Spring, Summer and Fall camping trip... Go West Young Men and Ladies.

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Old 02-22-2012, 10:23 PM   #2
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Ray, I couldn't tell whether the humid cold was better or worse than the dry cold. I'd expect the dry cold to be much better. And yes, if it's overcast you're destined for a generator.
When we last camped in 20-something we had electric hookups and used a space heater, much, much better than the furnace. For boondocking I'm planning to install a hydronic kickspace heater and use the hot water heater. I'm hoping for less electricity usage, less noise, and more even heat instead of the noisy hot blast from the furnace. But first I need some time to install the stuff.

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Old 02-24-2012, 07:26 PM   #3
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Dry Cold is Better for camping

Dry camping has the advantage over humid camping at any temperature!

We can sleep comfortably in SW New Mexico at 40 degrees and 15% humidity. The high humidity and cold weather we survived in Oklahoma was a true struggle. You were always damp. Your clothes. The trailer. Your body. I now understand why AS owners in humid climates cannot understand how one can camp in the dry, higher elevation environments... comfortable. I put HIGH elevation at 3500 to 8000 feet above elevation. Above 8,000 feet you then get condensation most mornings creating dampness inside and outside the trailer, but the sun burns the moisture off shortly after sunrise. Overcast skies at the elevations over 8,000 feet would be equally as miserable as that in lower elevations... just out west... it could also SNOW in July.

Now, I am going to post some photographs of the Gilbert Ray camp ground.
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Old 02-24-2012, 07:48 PM   #4
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Gilbert Ray Camp Ground information

Gilbert Ray Camp Ground is located just west of downtown Tucson about 10 miles. You would not know it by looking at the surroundings! You have a pass, called Grants Pass, which is the short cut into town to be made by your tow vehicle. The road is closed to large RV's and towed trailer traffic... for you own good and the bikers peddling up and down the pass. You would enter the area from AJO Way, which intersects I-10 and I-19 going to Mexico. You will come to Kinney Road, turn to the North and follow the signs.

Our cost was $20 per evening, seven day limit. I noted that when seven days were up, a trailer would leave for a day, or relocate. There seemed to be plenty of camping sites empty each evening.

The restrooms with the A shaped roof with tile were nicer than the older flat top restrooms... just FYI. They had showers that were also clean and roomy. Water is available near groups of sites, but not at the camp site. They conserve water this way. The dump stations are easy in and out just to the East of the various camping circles of sites. We stayed at A-50 which was roomy, picnic table, close to water and a flat top restroom. They are one way and easy to back into a site. You pick a site and go back to the office, which is located just before the camp sites. They also have a map of the camp sites with occupied and unoccupied sites, to save you some looking if they look busy. We just drove into a loop, found a nice site and backed into it.

The weather from February 3rd to February 9th was very pleasant. Sunny each day and in the upper 50's to low 70's during the days. Upper 30's to mid 40's at night, with low humidity that made those temperatures pleasant jacket weather. It snowed and drifted four to six feet at our Castle Rock, Colorado home while we were in Tee shirts enjoying the weather!

Our two Blue Heeler dogs had no problem with cacti or things with sharp needles. There were plenty of places for them to do their "duties" and you pick you duty #1 and drop it off in the convenient dumpsters.

When you arrive, there is a fresh water stop to fill your fresh water tank. We DO NOT leave the Colorado high country with water in the system. We waited until Tucson to fill up. Saved on gasoline towing the water and also no risk of a hard freeze in the water lines... which the weather south from Colorado was also above freezing with no risk of icing up.
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Old 03-09-2012, 12:45 AM   #5
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cold sleep


I full time and have been in as low as -23 in my 1973 Excella 500. In my trailer the furnace heats the tank compartments and thats fine as long (as you found out) you have enough battery. If I'm going in that country I do drain everything and blow out with air...a good dose of rv antifreeze down the traps and toilet also. Walmart sells a nice little adapter to screw into the city water hose attachment point that has a air valve on it. A quick stop at any gas station for air (I carry a compressor) and your trailer is blown out and ready for the very cold.
I was sorry to hear about how cold you got...awful. My trailer has a great factory installed Catalytic propane heater and it will run you out on the high setting. They are easy to install in most trailers and if you dont have the wall space for it they come with legs and make it free standing. Add a T on the propane line for stove and a length of line to your heater and your in real buisness. These heaters dont need 12v and that saves your battery.
Also if you change out a few of your inside lights for LED it goes along way in power savings.
Final note,,,pay close attention to your battery and the Amp hour ratings.
I hope this helps you enjoy your trailer even more.
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Old 04-27-2012, 09:30 PM   #6
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Ray, thanks for the funny story.

Being uncomfortable out camping is always a learning curve for us. We are making our tradewind a 4 season/rocky mtn camper and sometime's that learning curve hurts!!!

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Old 04-27-2012, 10:00 PM   #7
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Gilbert Ray is one of our favorite local campgrounds, and we highly recommend it. It's in a naturally beautiful park of the desert, with up-close views of the western slopes of the Tucson Mountains and a sweeping view of Avra Valley to the west. It is also very close to Saguaro National Monument West and the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, a world-class living museum that is well worth the entry fee...you need a good day or longer to do it justice. Old Tucson Studios (complete with "wild west amusements") is nearby as well...kids love it. As Old Tucson's slogan goes, you are "10 miles and 100 years away" from Tucson. You'd never konw Tucson lies just on the other side of the Tucson Mountains.

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