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Old 10-03-2013, 12:55 PM   #1
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Winter camping hints?

We have to go up to Denver for a few weeks starting in December. We're considering taking the 27FB out of storage and using it instead of a hotel room. I looked up typical Denver Dec-Jan temps and see the nightly average down in the mid teens.

I did try the "Search" function here for Cold Weather and Winter, but all I found so far were tips on winterizing. I'm looking more for tips on surviving.

Three years ago we got caught in an early season snowfall in CO and it got down to 17 deg. and the campground power went out due to all the down power lines because of heavy snow snapping tree limbs that still had the leaves on them. Whoa. I ended up hooking the AS to the rented tow vehicle and idling the diesel all night for power to run the furnace, etc.

I know I need to make up a heated section of hose to get from the campgrounds water to the trailer. What else do I need to think about? 200 Wal Mart space heaters?
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Old 10-03-2013, 01:12 PM   #2
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How 'bout a generator on hand should power go out again. I have a 2500w and that should run a couple of small space heaters and keep your batteries charged at the same time. Also top off your propane before starting. Heat is a the big consumer. Course, if you need to buy a generator might as well spring for the hotel room. Towing in Colo. winter weather might be a challenge too.

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Old 10-03-2013, 01:25 PM   #3
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You don't need to make a heated hose. Just buy one. Camping World carries one made by Pirit, which is blue and orange rather than blue and white.

However, heated hose will do you no good at all if the campground's water faucets freeze, or if they shut off the water to keep it from freezing.

Here along the Gulf Coast, four-season camping is possible. I only have a Pirit heated hose for the occasional winter overnight low that's below freezing. I would not go camping at all if the daytime high was also below freezing! Airstreams aren't insulated well enough for that.
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Old 10-03-2013, 02:47 PM   #4
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I would not go camping at all if the daytime high was also below freezing! Airstreams aren't insulated well enough for that.
Not sure about that. Friends of ours own a stationary Airstream that they use as a cabin in Northern Ontario. They visit it all year round.

They do have a wood-stove installed, which makes a difference.
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Old 10-03-2013, 02:47 PM   #5
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Yes, I looked up the hoses all pre-made. Then I read the reviews. People who have used them in cold weather seem to hate them, or at least the ones writing reviews about using them with their horse watering tanks do. They all seem to fail pretty quickly under actual use. I'm okay with wrapping a short standard hose section with a heating element and then insulating it. The pre-made ones all seem to come from China, and leak where the heating element penetrates the hose. Makes more sense to me to keep the hose's integrity and keep the heating element on the outside.

the campgrounds that are open all winter have their end of the water thing under control. The faucets are wrapped and heated already.. Its that exposed hose that's vulnerable, sitting there full of water that isn't moving most of the time.

Hey, if a woodstove works, I don't see why a furnace and a bunch of space heaters wouldn't. A heat source is a heat source.
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Old 10-03-2013, 02:56 PM   #6
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You also need to have adequate propane on board. While you can supplement with electric heat, you need to keep in mind that the Airstream furnace does pass some warm air into areas that might otherwise freeze due to their remoteness from the main living area.

I remember camping in late October in Springfield Illinois at the local KOA. I don't believe we got below freezing but day time highs were in the low 40's. Compound that with a strong wind blowing across the flat lands and constant clouds. I think the furnace was running long and cycling rapidly. I used in excess of half a 30 lb. bottle of propane on a weekend campout. I can't imagine the amount of usage if you are in the 17 degree range. I've seen some folks with 100-300 lb. auxiliary tanks next to their RV's in cold climate camping.

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Old 10-03-2013, 03:02 PM   #7
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Good point. Says maybe stay away from the State Parks and look at the RV resorts. Where they sell propane. We do have the standard two tanks, whatever those are.
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Old 10-03-2013, 03:30 PM   #8
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I have not yet camped in the Airstream in the winter, but did my share of winter camping in tents, Lean-tos and quinzee huts with the Boy Scouts.

Once you get the trailer warm, Keep it warm. I takes a lot longer to warm it up from cold than to maintain the warmth. Insulate you windows with heavy curtains, blankets or the foil/bubblewrap insulation. keep the door shut as much as possible and keep some heat running all the time.

You don't need to keep the trailer at a T-shirt temperature, wear a sweater and bring an extra blanket for the bed. This should save you a lot on propane.

I would shut off the campground water and drain the hose and bring it inside at night or when not in use to keep it from freezing. Then use the water tank (heated by the furnace) to flush the toilet, wash hands etc.

If you use the furnace it will keep the tanks warm, so don't just rely on space heaters.

If it gets really crazy cold, consider plugging in your tow vehicles block heater if you have one.
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Old 10-03-2013, 03:54 PM   #9
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It's not always that way. Many are in areas where the temperatures are cold enough that freezing pipes well below grade is a serious problem. As a result, so-called freeze-proof hydrants are called for (generally by building codes). These unique hydrants can be used throughout the year, but you cannot leave your hose connected to them after filling your fresh water tank.

I'll add a picture below. This picture is stylized to show the hydrant without its full length, which can vary a lot. Where we are, these are mandated at six feet in length below grade, the lower two feet of which extend below the typical freeze line, which is four feet below grade up here.



The alternative is to dig a hole six feet down and run heating all the way down. If the heat media fails, it's a major job to repair. Generally, this type of repair can't be accomplished at all during the winter, when the ground turns into brick.

Many Airstreams are winterworthy, meaning that they have insulated and heated waste tanks as well as insulated and heated associated plumbing, including all waste tank valves. By running the propane-fired furnace, they can make it through cold weather (which is 24/7 during the winter up here). However, not all Airstreams are built in this way. I've seen quite a number of them that have non-heated/non-insulated plumbing. They'd last less than a couple of hours up here before freezing solid during the winter, potentially resulting in some expensive damage to the rig.


Lynn

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...the campgrounds that are open all winter have their end of the water thing under control. The faucets are wrapped and heated already.. Its that exposed hose that's vulnerable, sitting there full of water that isn't moving most of the time.
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Old 10-03-2013, 04:40 PM   #10
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Well, they've been in business for 20 years. I figure they worked the pipe situation out, since they're open every winter, all winter, with full timers. I've been looking at the KOA in Ft. Collins and Dakota Ridge in Golden. Year round.

I did see those funky faucets at Chatfield SP, though. Took me forever to figure out I needed to pull a bottom thing down to get water out of it.

So how do you tell if your AS is the insulated version? Is it in the serial number?
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Old 10-03-2013, 04:56 PM   #11
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If you use the furnace it will keep the tanks warm, so don't just rely on space heaters.
This is an interesting discussion for me given that I live in Central Oregon on the Eastern slope of the Cascades at 4,000'. It can get pretty cold here at times in the winter. I will be mostly on the road with the trailer from January to June, but may have an occasion to spend sometime here in the trailer during cold weather.

I have a '90 25' Excella and I'm unclear as to what is heated and what isn't when Nellie is inhabited and heated. What areas in the belly, if any, are heated when the furnace is on in my trailer? And what areas are at risk of freezing at temperatures in the teens?

Informative information here - as always.

Thanks,
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Old 10-03-2013, 05:00 PM   #12
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We have to go up to Denver for a few weeks starting in December. We're considering taking the 27FB out of storage and using it instead of a hotel room. I looked up typical Denver Dec-Jan temps and see the nightly average down in the mid teens.
Averages don't tell the story. In late December in Denver you might get subzero lows and highs in the teens. Or the averages. Or something warmer. So you either have to depend on your luck or plan for a storm or cold snap or both.

Quote:
I know I need to make up a heated section of hose to get from the campgrounds water to the trailer.
You are probably better off filling the freshwater tank as needed during the day and running the pump. Then coil up the hose and keep it inside.

Quote:
What else do I need to think about? 200 Wal Mart space heaters?
You have a number of things to plan for.

1) Be sure that you have a place to stay and that you have a clear understanding of which amenities are available in the winter. Make sure you'll have water, electricity, and sewer available, because it isn't practical to camp for 2 weeks in the winter any other way.

2) You will go through a lot of propane, a 30# cylinder will last 1-2 days depending on the weather. Best thing to do is plan ahead to have 100# cylinders delivered by the local propane company. If you can't arrange that maybe try to have them bring a 100 gallon tank and then haul it away when you leave, sometimes that works out better. You will need to plan ahead for how to connect the tanks. If you are just going to run the 30# cylinders then think about having more than 2 available. Be sure you know where the closest place is that will fill tanks, and what their hours are.

3) I don't recommend portable electric heaters for safety reasons. They have a poor track record and it's easy, in the confines of an RV, to have them ignite curtains or linens or something. If you use one try a tabletop style rather than a floor one since it is easier to put them where they won't get kicked over or have linens or an article of clothing in contact with them. Some people like the oil-filled ones, though safer they are bulky and heavy. There are also wall heaters like the pic-a-watt. That's what I have, but it takes some installation. Having some electric heat will reduce your propane consumption by 20-30% if you run it all the time.

4) You will have a problem with condensation at those temperatures and will have to leave windows open for ventilation more than you might expect to control it.

5) You will want some means at hand to winterize the unit quickly in the event of a loss of electric power, propane, or a mechanical failure. There are various methods but most people have a couple of jugs of pink antifreeze along and a 3-way valve on the pump inlet.
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Old 10-03-2013, 05:04 PM   #13
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Take lotsa propane

I brought no heated hoses for our below-freezing trip to Snow Mountain Georgia, and we survived.

You can read about the trip here: Adventures of a Curious Fellow: Snow Mountain Georgia
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Old 10-03-2013, 05:10 PM   #14
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It's pretty easy to spot a non-winterworthy rig: Just look underneath. If you can see sewer pipes and valves that are exposed to the outside weather, then you're not winterworthy.

When it comes to freezing weather, though, it's not just that the temperature drops below 32F. Practically any rig can handle just a while below freezing without issue. When it becomes an issue is when it drops way below freezing and stays there for extended periods of time. (Up here in the mountains, we started having below-freezing temperatures a couple of weeks ago. By mid to late November, it'll drop well below freezing and stay there 24/7 until some time in March. Early January is the worst: We always hit -30F as a nighttime low with daytime highs on those days ranging around 10F. When it's really cold like that, count on running through a 30 pound propane cylinder in about two and a half days.)


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