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Old 11-28-2010, 11:21 PM   #1
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2009 23' International
Boulder , Colorado
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Winter Camping Screw Up!

So I decided to take our 23ft 2009 international to the ski resorts last weekend for some winter fun. Staying at a RV park is way cheaper than a hotel or condo, but I think I may have paid a price anyway.

I thought I had all the tricks for winter camping down. I ran the furnace at 65 the entire weekend and had a portable oil filled electric going at full blast as well. I put RV antifreeze in the black and grey tanks and used the internal water tank as opposed to using a city hookup. BUT THE TANKS FROZE anyway.

Of course it did get down to -11 one night so maybe I was doomed no matter what. The faucets only seized up for a few hours but once they freed up i kept a slow drip going which seemed to help. When it was time to leave Sunday we opened up the dump valves but nothing came out.

So I figured we try again near home where the temperatures were in the 40's. I guess I didn't put enough antifreeze in the tanks. Because even after a few hours at 40 degrees we could not get the black tank to empty. (the grey did) So I decided to try the sewer flush thinking it might loosen things up, but all that did was raise the level in my black tank to the only a few inches from coming out of the toilet.

So the weather in CO is not looking to get much above freezing for the next few days. I will attempt to thaw things by maybe leaving the trailer inside a dealers garage for a day if possible.

Anyway, I'm freaking out!
How much damage does the occasional accidental freeze cause? Is my black tank ruined? Is having the sewage so close to coming out of the bowl going to mess up things? Are the newer plastic pipes more resistant to cracking than the older metal ones? Is it just to risky to attempt winter camping? i've heard of retrofits done to trailers where heating pads are installed around tanks and pipes. Do these sort of modifications work well?

Anyway I just really wish there was a worry free way to camp with all the conveniences a trailer offers (water and bathroom) in the winter.

Thanks for listening!
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Old 11-29-2010, 12:12 AM   #2
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If your tanks were full they'd be toast. However if there was room for expansion they should be OK. Your black tank may be thawed, but the drain pipes might still be clogged. Try a space heater on LOW near the back side of the black tank drain.

You could also siphon some HOT water into the black tank by way of the open toilet valve. Fill your sink with HOT, then use a short hose to siphon it into the toilet, do a couple of gallons at a time. You could use a teakettle of boiling water - just make sure it does not contact the valve seals or the toilet if it's not porcelain. Don't fill it all the way if there's any chance it could re-freeze.

For winter camping, in the northern part of the country, you're better off with dry tanks, drained water heater and lines. Carry a porta potty, eat off of paper plates and carry bottled water. Keeping the underside of an Airstream warm is difficult in February in VIRGINIA. At a ski resort?

Good luck thawing out, Paula
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Old 11-29-2010, 01:41 AM   #3
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Agh! Frozen plumbing can have titanic results...

I like the suggestion of using a small AC heater with a fan that can direct the heated air toward your black tank's outlet, if possible...

You can buy small 'ceramic' type heaters that can fill the bill in this regard....

Even if you can only point the heater toward the tank's metal enclosure, if you point it in the area of the outlet, it should heat the area enough to melt the clog...I'd prop the heater up as close to the tank as you can get it...

If all else fails, perhaps a move to Florida would cure things!

Ray
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Old 11-29-2010, 06:20 AM   #4
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The best thing to do now is pull in favors as necessary to get the trailer into a heated bay overnight. If you have a friend who works at a repair shop for cars, ask them if you can park overnight. If not talk to an RV dealer or try just going to a local body shop to cut a deal.

Even if you have to pay it's worth it, because by the next morning everything will be thawed and you can dump tanks and winterize.
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Old 11-29-2010, 06:57 AM   #5
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cold weather camping

spent Dec 09 and Jan 10 in Kansas hunting pheasants in my 98 31' excella. Stayed in a state park that had a heated shower and bath house. temp got down to -20 windchill several times. All tanks, black, gray and h2o heater were emptied and antifreeze installed in interior lines. used the forced air heater and a 2.5 kw space heater to stay nice and toasty.
hung an electric blanket across front windows to offset heat loss during the day. not pretty but functunal. will try bubble wrap this year. used electric blankets at night. put thermarest camper pads under rear mattress to offset unheated storge space underneath.
washed dishes with heated water from stove. drained gray tank frequently on warmer days. don't think it ever froze.
yes it is extreme camping, geese talking on the lake, deer running thru campsite, stars at night, it even warmed up a couple of nights so we could have a campfire outside! made the trip worth while. 2 brothers, 3 excellent hunting dogs PRICELESS.
We became well known in the little town we stayed near, as the Campers from Florida and Oklahoma.
The AS was an upgrade from the Boy Scout camping we used to do in canvas tents in the 60's in Kansas! The motto is Be Prepared. Scouting is 100 years old, congrats.
A 34' with dinette would have been appreciated.
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Old 11-29-2010, 07:40 AM   #6
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Tough one tmarquis! The blockage most probably is in the tank outlet pipe. Thawing could take more than an overnight in a heated garage. Heated to what? 50 degrees? Maybe 2 days or more to thaw. Heated garage + space heater sound like a plan. Careful for fire!

Consider that your automotive ethylene glycol is used at a 50% concentration to protect at below zero temps. One might assume RV propylene glycol has similar mandates at such cold temps. It would have been difficult to treat well enough to have used any of your tanks in such conditions. Temps like this, it'd have been better to use your coach as an aluminum tent (albeit a nicely heated one) and gotten the BVD fur-lined dropseat option to use the outhouse. Jugs of water; basins to wash & throw out the door. Just brainstorming...

I've heard of someone with a frozen drain system during a winter storm -- think they got out of it okay.
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Old 11-29-2010, 07:57 AM   #7
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Ah, the RV antifreeze is different from automotive: All of the labels I've read indicate that it should be used undiluted. When diluted, it loses more and more of its effect.

Does your Airstream have enclosed, insulated and heated tanks/pipes/valves (black and gray)? Or is it one of those that is primarily intended for summer use? (It's easy to tell the difference. Just look at the plumbing. If it's visible from outside the rig, then it's a summertime rig.)

If it is a summertime rig, then there's not a lot you can do to make it winterworthy short of a bunch of heating and insulation. If it is winterworthy, then you'll need to diagnose why the heating system didn't keep the system from freezing.


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Old 11-29-2010, 12:57 PM   #8
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So I should update my profile. I am no longer in Virginia we moved to Boulder CO last year. And I believe I've learned my lesson, I just don't think I will risk trying to use the plumbing, I will winterize and just dry camp. The resort we stay at up in Breckinridge CO has public showers and all so no worries there. I did find a place called Timeless Travel Trailers that will retrofit heating pads and such to your rigs plumbing I'll check out the price. THANKS!
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Old 11-29-2010, 02:04 PM   #9
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I don't believe I've encountered any success stories of wet camping in -10 F and colder weather that didn't involve skirting the trailer.
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Old 11-29-2010, 02:12 PM   #10
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Please forgive me

I heard this from a MAN who does a lot of winter camping. I report this as an option that truly inclement weather may necessitate.

His solution to the 2 AM comfort stop in a winterized airstream? Heavy duty or "Heavy Doodie" plastic bag draped in the bowl of the toilet under the seat. He uses the facilities as needed, then seals the bag and drops it into a bucket to "deliver it" to the camp bathroom the next day.

His excuse is that he barely wakes up. The plastic bag keeps him from having to deal with a nasty mess, or worse yet create a flushed frozen nasty mess in the black tank. A brisk walk to the outhouse would ruin his sleep for the rest of the night. I suppose one could find a fine porcelain chamber pot with a cover and use it. This does seem to be utilitarian and practical especially if adult beverages are inbibed near bedtime.

Moi
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Old 11-29-2010, 02:21 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GatorDave View Post
temp got down to -20 windchill several times.
While a strong wind might get the cold air through a crevice or two, wind chill is only significant as a perceived temperature on the human face. Wind chill does not affect inanimate objects. If the wind was gusting to 30 or 35 mph in your case (causing a -20 wind chill), the temp was about 5 above.
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Old 11-29-2010, 03:20 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Foiled Again View Post
I heard this from a MAN who does a lot of winter camping. I report this as an option that truly inclement weather may necessitate.

His solution to the 2 AM comfort stop in a winterized airstream? Heavy duty or "Heavy Doodie" plastic bag draped in the bowl of the toilet under the seat. He uses the facilities as needed, then seals the bag and drops it into a bucket to "deliver it" to the camp bathroom the next day.

His excuse is that he barely wakes up. The plastic bag keeps him from having to deal with a nasty mess, or worse yet create a flushed frozen nasty mess in the black tank. A brisk walk to the outhouse would ruin his sleep for the rest of the night. I suppose one could find a fine porcelain chamber pot with a cover and use it. This does seem to be utilitarian and practical especially if adult beverages are inbibed near bedtime.

Moi
A 5 gal bucket half full of cat litter works too.
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Old 11-29-2010, 04:14 PM   #13
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You were lucky that I-70 didn't ice up on your return trip- it would've made your frozen black tank seem like a stubbed toe. I consider my AS to be a 3-season rig only, and even the Spring and Fall in Colorado can be white-knuckle scary due to snowstorms, if you're caught driving in it. Your water lines are probably fine, as they are PEX plastic. The tank and valve, good luck with that. Hope to see you out there next summer! -tim
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Old 11-29-2010, 04:45 PM   #14
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A 5 gal bucket half full of cat litter works too.
Then set the lid on pail by the side of the road with a "FREE" sign on it.
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