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Old 02-13-2012, 07:41 PM   #1
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Florida boy with cold weather question

When responding please consider the source. We have lived in FL all of our lifes and do not understand cold climates. Joy and I are planning to leave for Alaska in April not to return until Sept. or Oct.The concern is getting into freezing temperatures that will damage our Airstream. I understand we could drain the fluids and add antifreeze but is there an alternative during the nights? Is it possible to put a skirt around the unit and a heat light underneath? What do you do about wind chil when you are on the road and enter into an elevated area where the temperatures drop dramatically?
Thanks,
John and Joy Dibble
Punta Gorda, FL
2008 28' Safari
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Old 02-13-2012, 07:49 PM   #2
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Maybe some of the Canadian members can give you better advice, but it looks to me like your best bet is to head south out of Alaska no later than late August or maybe first of September.

You can camp in temperatures down into the 20s or maybe teens with heat in the trailer (propane furnace) but any colder than that, or while towing in subfreezing weather, the only really safe option is to winterize the trailer.
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Old 02-13-2012, 08:05 PM   #3
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Your forced air furnace is designed to keep the water system from freezing: part of the air ducting is routed to the water system.

I've never camped in really cold weather, but know someone that does, and he runs the forced air furnace even while driving down the road.

Thing about the forced air furnace is it's thirst for propane and electricity (in the form of battery power). My friend, when winter camping, packs extra propane and camps where he can plug into shore power.

The electric power can be addressed by use of a generator, or in many cases use of a solar panel.

I have another friend who is from southern Cal. He and his wife are very cold-blooded: they head for their trailer before I head for my jacket, and head home before I realize it would be nice to turn my heater on. Being from the south, you may find yourself less tolerant to the cold, so you may need more energy resources to keep warm then someone more climate-adjusted.

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Old 02-13-2012, 09:25 PM   #4
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I'm not familiar with the 28'... but Airstream plumbing runs inside the trailer, so as long as you have the trailer heated you won't freeze up. In some cases (like ours), we don't have duct work, so we need to keep a cabinet door or 2 open to let the heat in there. Our trailer has heated tanks, though I haven't actually tried them yet...

So, I'm not sure a skirt would do much for your trailer... and if it is cold and windy, a heat lamp is never going to have the BTU's to keep up with the heat loss.

Keep your propane tanks in ready shape, plug in where you can, and you may also want to invest in some small electric heaters...
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Old 02-13-2012, 09:46 PM   #5
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You can keep it warm while parked but moving is another story. I would winterize early and late in the trip and not use the plumbing. Use water containers as needed, dish pan in sinks, line toilet with trash bag to dispose of, sponge baths. You can make do.

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Old 02-14-2012, 11:24 PM   #6
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WE do as dk suggests for fall/early winter in Montana. We enjoyed ours "really dry" mid November. But ... you WILL need a generator to replenish batts drawn down by the furnace/fan when not "plugged in" somewhere. Forget the heat pump unless in a campground.
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Old 02-15-2012, 10:42 AM   #7
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John and Joy: If you leave in April, chances are you would do the tourist thing on the way, and not reach the Canadian border till May. Its possible at this time to encounter freezing temp. but only for short periods of time and you could hold up in a cg to wait out the weather if needed. As long as you have power in a cg you should not have any trouble heating and using water.
You will have to be careful on the road north of the 55th parallel (mile 0 Alaska Hwy) as the frost boils will still be active in May.
You should install and use solar power if possible, as the days are longer and the air cleaner, as you go north, and this will allow you to boondock in the many beautiful spots that are readily available along the way.
This is "YOUR TRIP OF A LIFETIME" that is a challenge but well worth it.
Carry a spare can of fuel, and basic tools, and take lots of pictures.
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Originally Posted by mysecondjoy View Post
When responding please consider the source. We have lived in FL all of our lifes and do not understand cold climates. Joy and I are planning to leave for Alaska in April not to return until Sept. or Oct.The concern is getting into freezing temperatures that will damage our Airstream. I understand we could drain the fluids and add antifreeze but is there an alternative during the nights? Is it possible to put a skirt around the unit and a heat light underneath? What do you do about wind chil when you are on the road and enter into an elevated area where the temperatures drop dramatically?
Thanks,
John and Joy Dibble
Punta Gorda, FL
2008 28' Safari
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Old 02-15-2012, 10:56 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mysecondjoy View Post
When responding please consider the source. We have lived in FL all of our lifes and do not understand cold climates. Joy and I are planning to leave for Alaska in April not to return until Sept. or Oct.The concern is getting into freezing temperatures that will damage our Airstream. I understand we could drain the fluids and add antifreeze but is there an alternative during the nights? Is it possible to put a skirt around the unit and a heat light underneath?
As long as you have sufficient propane and electricity you can run the furnace. As long as you keep the interior at 65-70 degrees or so you shouldn't have a problem with plumbing freezing. Leave the water heater on. Don't leave the city water line hooked up as it will freeze and damage the trailer, use the fresh water tank and fill it up as needed.

You can do this down to at least 10 degrees as long as you keep the furnace on and keep the trailer interior warm. In sustained colder weather than that, especially combined with wind, you might have some isolated freezing but it's not much fun camping in that weather anyway. Precautions like leaving cupboard doors open below the sinks would then help.

I wouldn't suggest skirting unless you are staying in one spot and anticipate ongoing weather with daytime temperatures below 32 and nighttime temperatures below 10.

You don't mention the propane supply. A fact to consider is that in extremely cold weather (0 degrees and windy) you might go through a cylinder of propane every day. In 20-30 degree weather you might go through a cylinder of propane every two days.

There are various strategies for dealing with this. Some people bring a 100 pound cylinder or two in their pickup bed, and take it out and hook it up at the campsite. Or maybe bring one or more extra 30# cylinders. Or just plan on exchanging cylinders more often.

The furnace uses a good deal of electricity so you should plan on having shore power at all your overnight stops, and be sure your battery and converter are working properly.

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What do you do about wind chil when you are on the road and enter into an elevated area where the temperatures drop dramatically?
Wind chill affects people, not things. As such it's the temperature, not the windchill, you have to watch. If it's 32 or above, no worries at all.

The thing to realize is that even below 32 it takes considerable time for plumbing to freeze. If you briefly travel through cold air in the mountains, you'll be fine, as long as you return to above-freezing air within, say, an hour or so. Otherwise you can run the furnace while you're driving. Doing so will use a considerable amount of propane and (unless you have a working charge line from your tow vehicle) battery power.

Much depends on what part of Alaska you will be in at the end of your trip and to some extent what the weather turns out to be like.
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Old 02-15-2012, 07:33 PM   #9
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This is actually a second reply. The first is apparently circling in ciber space somewhere. I want to thank you for your expert advise. I am a former boater so traveling with our Airstream has its own learning curve. Your recommendations and percautions are well taken and will be followed. Thank you again for helping me out in these uncharted waters.
An Airstream is a great way to see this wonderful country. Hope to see you on the road.
John
Punta Gorda, FL
Safari 28
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Old 02-22-2012, 10:34 AM   #10
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Maybe... wait for warmer month to arrive

I have experienced 18 degree mornings north of DuBois, Wyoming in July. Running on battery and a solar panel to slowly recharge during the sunny days. What did I learn? Always camp in an open area, away from tall tress to get some solar charge, if you have a roof panel. Most campsites are in the trees... so you have to have the 10AM to 4PM direct sun light exposure.

First. The door where the water pump is located should be left OPEN at night on these cold evenings. If you can maintain a 40 degree interior temperature... although very unlikely to conserve battery charge, you will find some water lines with some partial freezing. Reduce the pressure in the lines by turning off the pump and leave faucets open, to "possibly" frozen line splitting. (So far this has worked for me.)

Second. While traveling during cold weather, I did put my furnace at 50 degrees, using the tow vehicle's electrical charge. As soon as you stop... the AS will cool down quickly, if not immediately.

It is the HUMIDITY that will get to you first. A dry cold, dressed in multiple layers and having a sleeping bag as a cover blanket... on top of multiple layers of blankets will keep you warm... WET from a humid area... like Canada and lower valleys in Montana, etc. is suicide.

Keeping your AS at 60 or 70 degrees? You will be making propane stops as frequently as filling the gas tank on the tow vehicle. Solar panel recharge running the furnace at a high temperature will NOT recover a charge. A generator is the best option to maintain a warm interior. The AS windows WILL ice up with frozen condensation in the interior. You not only need to heat the interior, but also VENT it using the ceiling vents.

The refrigerator will permit LOTS of cold/cool air into the AS. It is like having a window open all of the time! I have even done some sealing around the edges in the compartment behind the refrigerator and still can feel cold air coming in when the gusts pick up!

There is nothing to ruin a long vacation when you leave during cold weather and encounter humid air. Everyone will be miserable.

You might not be able to avoid the gnats and flies by leaving later, but your life will be improved on the road by doing so. I would be interested in hearing your story and techniques on your return on this adventure.

Some of my comments might seem to be a downer... but after experiencing a week of overcast skies last week, high humidity and evenings in the upper 20'sF/lower 30'F in Oklahoma and western Kansas, NEVER again! It was the worst experience on AS battery conservation one could imagine. We camp in remote locations for weeks at a time and those trailer owners in the lower elevations, high humidity and cold nights can offer the best advice for a Canadian Spring to Summer advice. My advice. Wait for things to thaw out and avoid the Spring snow and occasional freezing temperatures. You might be able to imagine your worst experience in a trailer in person and survive to warn others in the future! Good luck!
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Old 02-22-2012, 11:03 AM   #11
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Don't scare him off the trip Ray!!!
Travel below the 50th Parallel in May should not generally be a problem. S*&^ happens, but if one is reasonably prepared, the possible short periods of difficult weather will just add to the campfire stories that you can tell for the rest of your life.
(if the trip was boring, no one would go)

John is booking lots of time to do this trip and I think he can adjust his schedule to handle what ever happens.

Again, have a great trip. You will remember it forever.

Dave
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Old 02-24-2012, 09:45 PM   #12
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Don't Let the Rain Come Down...

Dave... I was trying to be easy and not scare them off.

I was watching the television with the gold prospectors outside of Nome, Alaska in July. Being there are NO roads to Nome, you are safe not going there by mistake. But, in July it looked miserable. The gold prospectors look miserable. It rained. The wind howled. We were in a tent, slopping around the base of the glacier near Lake Louise, BC wondering why we wanted to come there in the first place. Nice mountains. That is a nice statement without prejudice..., isn't it? Montana's Glacial National Park goes into Canada... for getting your toes wet.

Now, I am not a fairy prince when it comes to camping out in some pretty strange places and elevations. Alaska, the Yukon and northwest Canada... could test my courage in comfort. I was at Lake Louise in July and the wind straightened my eye brows it was so strong. But, I have had others say it was calm and nice enough to canoe around... which I tried with two kids and stopped before we were swamped and drowned.

I just want to let a newby adventurer in an AS understand that it might be a good start to get the mean highs and lows for the route you are taking. I have thought of doing this trip myself when much of the Alaskan Highway was still gravel and having an extra wind shield was not a bad idea... But, what if it is NICER than these bums that call themselves my friends say. At least you will have long days and short nights. Now, that is a positive thought.

I just want this AS Pioneer to break in the trailer and family to a wonderful first time trip. This could be the trip that causes the wife and kids to say... SELL that aluminum refrigerator or else... If I were to pick a trip with perils, this would be the one on my short, short list. Like number 1. Just check with someone who had the "tempest in the gut" to make and finish this trip.
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Old 02-24-2012, 11:01 PM   #13
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Haven't been up the AlCan hwy since my geology field camp in '74 when 84cent gasoline up there was astounding, but I remember that wool was good, wool on wool till it's thick enough the mosquitos can't bite through. Count mosquitos on how many you get in one swat. Put heavy anchors on your little ones to keep the mosquitos from carrying them off.
Cover your head lights with those plastic globe things for rocks from passing Kennworths. Don't try to save the windshield, just plan on replacing it when you get back.
Oh I've heard they have paved parts of the AlCan, nevermind.
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Old 02-24-2012, 11:32 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mysecondjoy View Post
When responding please consider the source. We have lived in FL all of our lifes and do not understand cold climates. Joy and I are planning to leave for Alaska in April not to return until Sept. or Oct.The concern is getting into freezing temperatures that will damage our Airstream. I understand we could drain the fluids and add antifreeze but is there an alternative during the nights? Is it possible to put a skirt around the unit and a heat light underneath? What do you do about wind chil when you are on the road and enter into an elevated area where the temperatures drop dramatically?
Thanks,
John and Joy Dibble
Punta Gorda, FL
2008 28' Safari
Hi, we just got back from our Alaska trip last August. We only spent 50 days on the road; From July 1st to August 20th. I made mud flaps for my tow vehicle and bubble wrapped the front of my trailer and still got some dings. I also got a rock chip in my windshield. We also don't live in a cold area, but we have gone into them. Our coldest was South Dakota in October. It got down to zero degrees at night and never above freezing during the day. Our furnace was on 24 hours a day. We spent five days in this weather and one more day, or day and a half, would have totally drained our propane tanks. You never want to run out of propane. Too much for me to type now, but if you're interested, you can read my thread. "Bob and Lee's random trip" in the "On The Road" section of this forum.
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