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Old 01-07-2015, 04:48 PM   #1
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Running DRY WATER TANKS in Winter Travel

Kathy had a nice post planning to leave Salida, Colorado and crossing some mountain passes in the near future. Some great advice has been offered.

One mistake made by some pulling a trailer during the Winter months at... elevation is running with FULL PRIMED WATER. I am at 6,500 feet. It can be 25 degrees, yet with full sun I am wearing a shirt or light jacket! BUT air temperature can still freeze your water lines in the trailer.

We always run DRY water lines when traveling to the Tucson Rock Show late January, early February. ALWAYS. We carry five gallons of fresh water in a container in the back of the pickup and water for our two Blue Heelers. Under a shell the temperature is warmer during the day, but if you catch some of that fresh Canadian Arctic freezing weather that runs up against the Rocky Mountain Front Range... you can experience some water lines and pump freezing up. Just drain the lines by gravity, as I do, OR blow them out if you have that option!

An evening of 20-25 degrees, the fresh/grey/black are less of a problem of freezing solid over night due to volume(s), but the interior water lines are at risk. Just consider what your HOME would have if you lost heat, the water lines are under pressure and a cold snap for a couple days shows up while you are on the road. The freeze is not noticed. It is the THAW that creates the massive damage to a home. At least with the trailer the volume of damage is minimal, but getting to it for repairs cannot be considered a do it your self project in the driveway. While moving, the wind chill can steal any heat the sun can offer on the aluminum skin. Open the doors below the sinks and open the door where the water pump is found. (We shut the water supply off to the house when not at home... for a period of time.)

I keep the RV antifreeze in the traps. I have the faucet hot and cold left open so there is no pressure in the system. I have the hot and cold water drain line valves open. I have the plug to the hot water tank OUT, unless you drained it and then return the plug and snug it up. Avoid using the toilet. Nothing like hauling frozen black water and contents until you can thaw it out.

Airstreams, as any trailer on the move... are ICE Boxes where the days can be 50 degrees and the evenings drop to 15... Convenience can be expensive if you want to travel with water lines primed and full. The fresh water tank is less likely a problem... but why take a chance? The same reason you have antifreeze in your engine block...

When returning to the high elevation, or crossing the Rockies to get home... drain, drain and drain... any water line, hot water tank, tanks. Forgetting can be a natural disaster you forgot about. Liquids in cans or bottles... although they are under pressure in some cases, the freeze point temperature changes a bit, but not that much.

Yes... this is over kill. But I have never had water line problems. Under "Wyoming Boondocking" thread we dropped to 18 degrees in July, DuBois, Wyoming and our water pump was frozen up enough to prevent using it. By 10AM it was 70 degrees... and operating So, even when you play it safe...

One warning to those who have never froze up their water pump. TURN YOUR WATER PUMP OFF WHEN TRAVELING OR EXPECTING FREEZING TEMPERATURES. No sense burning out your water pump when it is frozen, or the water lines are not bringing water to be pumped, so it is running all the time you are happily cruising 150 miles to the next gas station to hear it running. If you water pump is switched ON and nothing happens... switch OFF immediately. To test later... do a quick on/off.

I could tell you my Beer Story... but this is already a typical overdone memoir.

You are towing a trailer. Unless you are running your furnace, heating your tanks...be safe, make it a good trip and avoid having to look at yourself in the mirror and seeing who should have thought about running, Dry.

Please add some other options to my Doom and Gloom to brighten things up.
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Old 01-07-2015, 06:51 PM   #2
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"Wind Chill". Cold air blowing on a water surface or the moisture on your skin.

Inanimate objects like the metal skin on an Airstream do not suffer from wind chill, UNLESS it is wet and evaporation, I guess, could cool things down more. The aluminum would be the temperature of the air on the shady side. The sunny side could be nice and toasty. For a real competent understanding of Wind Chill... Wikipedia can really make you an expert and also confusing at the same time. Good luck.l Thinking about it... skip Wikipedia and make up your own definition.

What I was trying to get across is the cold air flowing over the aluminum is not warming the exterior skin. Eventually when the outside temperature does rise... you will find the interior much colder than expected.

Beer... one of our first trips in 2006 we had beer in bottles in the refrigerator. The uneven roads in the back country was shaking them up... much like a bartender mixing a drink. My discovery. There can be enough pressure within the bottle to blow off a cap!

Nothing like beer flavored vegetables in the refrigerator.
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Old 01-07-2015, 07:44 PM   #3
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I don't get it.

I understand bringing a trailer, if you are heading for a warm climate. I understand bringing a trailer if you are visiting friends or relatives that have a small house. I just don't know why people would go camping in winter.
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Old 01-07-2015, 08:47 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by mandolindave View Post

<stuff clipped>

I just don't know why people would go camping in winter.
More people should believe this!
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Old 01-07-2015, 11:03 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mandolindave View Post
I understand bringing a trailer, if you are heading for a warm climate. I understand bringing a trailer if you are visiting friends or relatives that have a small house. I just don't know why people would go camping in winter.
Going from Denver to anywhere warm in the winter is often a very cold drive out and back in. For instance we just got back from Mesa, AZ where it was 10 degrees when we left Denver right after Christmas and 20 degrees when we got back on Monday. Not to mention that there were nightly freeze warnings in Mesa most of the time we were there. I always fill the lines, hot water tank, traps and then make sure the grey & black tanks have enough antifreeze to slosh around prior to leaving anywhere warm heading back home to Denver.
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Old 01-08-2015, 11:13 AM   #6
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Winter camping in Miami, Florida is a Rocky Mountain delight. Summer camping in Colorado for those living in Miami is a Floridians delight.

We are looking forward to getting to Tucson, AZ and work our way to Las Vegas. Sixty degrees in Las Vegas will be tee shirt weather for us... and fur coat weather for them.

We travel dry until we get into southern Arizona... Payson, Arizona, by the way, seems to always be short on water and you have to negotiate to get any water during the year. Last time we had to buy Propane before we could top off our fresh water tank. Last time to Payson.

2012FB has figured it out. You have to travel smart from freezing to warm and reverse.

We have neighbors on another nearby street who spend winters in their home state of Hawaii. They did not flush their home's water lines... but did turn the heat off... since they were not living there to cut... costs?

A caretaker they use, noticed during our last "warm spell", broken water lines throughout the house. I am not about to go over to see what has had to be torn out of the place, but the -18F and lower weather must have caught them this year. Just think of this when thinking you are "safe" in winter travel. They might have been getting away with this process for four or five years... just not this time.

Today it is dry, sunny and in the 50's. A week ago heavy snow and in the below 15 degrees. That is why we love Colorado front range weather. Anything can happen twelve months of the year. Next week... we need just two days to get to Karchner Caverns and the wonderful RV Park in Arizona, east of Tucson. Then we decide if we want to prime and fill our fresh water tank for the desert camping.
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Old 01-08-2015, 08:12 PM   #7
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We always travel with full potable water. Winter is no exception. I just finished prepping our FC23FB and filled the potable water tank for our journey from Durango, CO to Bradenton, FL. Yes, it will freeze tonight, (we're at 7400 ft ) but the furnace is set and I've done this many times without problem. Why possess the luxury of Airstream travel and then sacrifice the basics?

Fortunately, we had a thaw this week, and the roads in Durango cleared. Otherwise we would have had to pick up the trailer on the fly and prep it at the first campground. I retrieved it from storage and ran the furnace for several hours to thaw the unit before filling the tank with warm water. I do an air blowdown for winterizing, so there is no residual pink chemical in our potable water.

Of course we pick our routes with weather forecasts in mind, but travel via Airstream remains our preference winter or summer.

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Old 01-08-2015, 08:25 PM   #8
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So when I was picking up my new 2014 FC I ran into bad weather in Ohio. Fresh water was full. This might be a bone headed newbie thing but I figured since the propane was on the for the fridge why not turn on the furnace and set it to 50. Outside on the road temps were down around 15 or so. Seemed to work fine and the newer trailers throw heat into the pipe/tank areas. Only thing that would be getting heat were the low point drains behind the wheels. Thoughts and comments?
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Old 01-08-2015, 09:21 PM   #9
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Some states do not allow propane use when moving. I would personally never run the risk of freezing my pipes. If traveling in extreme cold as we often have it would not take long to cause damage if the heater stopped working. We keep bottled water on board or in the TV if really cold and if emergency bathroom needs arise we flush with anti-freeze. An Airstream is really not that well insulated. Pipe/tank/valve/toilet repairs can be very expensive. If it is a small crack that leaks slowly over time you can have a whole section of floor ruined before you know it. I also prefer not to place travel loads on the tanks, tank supports and frame when bouncing down rough highways. In Leadville for instance we fill up at the municipal water station for free when we arrive for the rare mountain boon dock.


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Old 01-09-2015, 12:43 PM   #10
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There is a thread where someone in Missouri had "issues with their water supply in their trailer". They do not get it about their water system is blocked by ice and frozen. Somehow people get the impression that an Airstream is a heated capsule that can ignore sub freezing multiple days. Obviously learning an important lesson... Trailers are Portable Ice Boxes in the winter months.

We always travel DRY during the winter months... no water in the fresh water tanks, no water in the water lines and water pump. Convenience can be very expensive if your system expands and damages water lines. It is not worth it.

We carry five gallons of fresh water when traveling, mostly for our two Heelers drinking water. We have bottle water in the cab and even it will freeze overnight. I see Colorado posts and they do have the experience and understand. Especially JamuJoe in Durango... the ice box of south central Colorado. Make us in Castle Rock look like Floridians in Georgia weather.

Why do you add winterizing fluids when stored and flush them with fresh water in the same environment before arriving in a warmer climate? We use our furnace to heat the interior when stopped. Not heating the interior to prevent water from freezing while traveling or camped.

Convenience is nice... but at what potential cost?

You can argue that you have never "had a problem" with water lines freezing up in the winter months. That is great. I am happy for you.

I WILL NEVER HAVE A PROBLEM.... EVER. That is the difference.
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Old 01-11-2015, 02:01 PM   #11
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We're leaving for Florida in 10 days or so. I blow the lines out with air for my winterization process and will put water into the fresh tank before we leave. That is unless we are in a deep freeze period. I do not pump the water through the trailer until we are south of somewhere.
( Don't ask how I know this ). We plan to spend one night along the road to our first destination in North Carolina. The weather ( temp ) will determine if we stay in the trailer or in a hotel. Once far enough south I will run the pump and circulate water through the trailer. By the time we return home the freeze threats will be long gone so we'll be set for spring and summer camping season.

That's my story and I'm stickin to it. Seems to work for me.
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Old 01-12-2015, 06:00 AM   #12
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And that's the answer! Do what works for you! It's good to share experience on this forum without criticizing others for doing things differently.

We've had two freezing nights since leaving Durango with full water. Enjoyed our clean functional toilet, hot showers, and ability to wash dishes. Kept the furnace set to 50 while towing, (255 watts of solar maintains batteries while towing) and had a trailer that warmed quickly when we stopped. We use campgrounds with hookups when traveling in winter (although we have boondocked in special places during freezing nights). Little 'personal' electric heaters at the front of our FC23FB and in the rear bathroom really even out the heating and reduce furnace time. This has worked for us since we bought the Airstream four years ago. It the way we travel.

We had a Casita before the Airstream. Left Durango one January and encountered a blizzard enroute to ABQ. We opted for a hotel there, and without sufficient battery for the furnace fan she froze overnight. She thawed out the next day heading south, and had a leak at the toilet - a cracked fitting that cost about $10 and took me 20 min to replace. Another time a November snowstorm caught us with the Casita in Green River, UT. We took a room at the Best Western, and I noticed power outlets on the parking lot light poles. With permission I plugged in to operate the furnace, and had no plumbing problems.

Problems? They can happen. I do my risk assessment (first nature for this engineer), weigh benefits against possible consequences, think through contingency plans, prepare, and go forth to enjoy life. It works for me. Do what works for you!

Lingering in Cisco, TX until the fog lifts.

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Old 01-14-2015, 07:58 PM   #13
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JamuJoe is correct about understanding what is necessary to avoid problems while DRY or WET on the road.

I would suspect that a 16 foot Bambi would be the easiest to handle cold weather living conditions. The longer the trailer... the more difficult.

IF you can set up your trailer like a house trailer... and plug into 120v... you can beat the Winter freeze ups. Maybe someone has worked that one out. I have not, as I can not find many rocks under a sheet of ice or any snow.

I used an example of Canada Geese flying SOUTH before Winter, and fly NORTH when Spring is on its way. I like their system of thought. Those Front Range lakes with the all season geese... ignore them... they do not need hookups.

Keep the experiences coming. My 2015 Winter travel begin tomorrow AM and off to the Southwest. The Sandia Casino IS OUR Front Range lake on our way to the desert country. Just hoping we have a good tail wind on the way... you can always hope.
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Old 01-16-2015, 10:19 PM   #14
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Ray, we're with you. We camped many times in a winterized AS. Sure, it's a little inconvenient, but not outrageously so.

What twigged us onto winterized RVing was talking with our salesman for Bambi #1 at Can-Am in Ontario. He had friends who took their trailer to Algonquin Provincial Park for x-c skiing outings. (Think frozen Canadian North.) He suggested that we manual-flush the toilets with water bottles, and use a chaser of windshield-washer fluid for anti-freeze. This worked fine. Our first real camping trip was at the Pinery Provincial Park on Lake Huron, where the campground hosts lived all winter with a winterized jumbo SOB and a lot of water bottles. They used the campground bathrooms and showers.

Later, we got one better, and figured out how to camp with no waste water. We line the toilet bowl with two new plastic garbage bags (new so there are no pin-holes,) add some ordinary garden peat moss (highly absorbent and light weight,) and simply toss out the bag in the dumpster when needs be. This is no more unsanitary than putting used baby diapers in the dumpster. We use disposable baby-wipes for hand-sanitation. We wash up in a plastic dishpan, and toss that water outside or in a CG utility sink, as well.

Our philosophy is, that if the chances of something going wrong are small, but the consequences of something going wrong could be major, we take the precautions.

In exchange for the inconvenience of a winterized trailer, we get a lot of peace of mind. Dewinterizing a trailer is as easy as replugging the water heater drain, and letting the water run through the entire system quite a bit if there is any anti-freeze in the pipes.

We don't do any serious winter camping, but we are 3-season campers, now looking forward to our second "shoulder season" trip from BC to Death Valley in early March. It will still be winter up here!
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