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Old 01-04-2010, 02:55 PM   #1
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South of the river , Minnesota
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Airstreams compared to 'Arctic package' on SOBs

So, how does the winter performance of late-model Airstreams compare with that of SOBs that are billed as having an "Arctic package?" Is an Airstream a reasonable choice for camping in Minnesota through Thanksgiving or are there better choices?

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Old 01-04-2010, 04:39 PM   #2
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through problem.

january in north central, it would take a LOT of propane in a stream.

i use the 'stream year round and have spent weeks skiing with a stream in a resort parking lot, covered with snow.

and i've camped in it in SUB zero weather too... (the door frame ICES UP inside at 10-15 degrees)

but it really isn't the perfect 4 season rig.

for a weekend or week the stream is just fine in really cold stuff.

at this moment there is a 'arctic fox' camped next to me, with the FULL winter package...

the AF has TINY windows (and fewer) compared to a stream and the largest window has a clam sheel clamp down COVER on it.

and while it is a double door model the doors actually SEAL shut on the AF.

while the structural bits are aluminum, like a stream the walls/floor and ceiling are MUCH tighter and MUCH less thermally leaky than a stream...

otoh there are plenty of other folks here who use their streams in the winter too...

some with success...

and some with not so much success...

the issue/difference imo is LIVING FULLTIME PARKED in a cold location vs camping/visiting a cold spot...

for the occasional trip the a/s is fine but for LIVING there are MUCH TIGHTER rvs to consider.


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Old 01-04-2010, 06:14 PM   #3
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Arctic package? Who's selling that?! I saw this thread an hour ago and still chuckle at the prospect. I don't want to see this offered for trailer park toughies -- it's gotta be for a real travel trailer.

What would I expect in an arctic package?
  • they stand behind the definition with an extended warranty of perhaps 5 years on water & sewage components. so they'd better set some clear specs what they mean!
  • that they define a temperature range or geographic highest latitude they cover. I've seen broken pipes in east Texas and water spigots that still freeze up after you've left them dripping (a goofy idea anyway...). can any mfgr stick his neck out and say "five above" and "middle of the country" without losing their shirt?
  • easy emergency winterizing. they assure that all plumbing drains to a low point if the owner levels the trailer; maybe a quick gravity flush with antifreeze is a good idea. (the owner also has to put antifreeze in traps) are the tanks above the floor or below? it was laughable when 120 V tank heaters were plugged as one solution to winter... (there's no 'shaking head' emoticon at AIR)
  • how are we going to get that water on board and discharge it? do we even bother with an LP HW heater? is dry camping allowed? (no 120 V) when batteries are anything less than perfectly managed, is the mfgr off the hook?
  • give me an average R value! that they have a definite thermal break that's more than the foam tape Airstream puts on the inside of the ribs. they pay attention to how wire bundles negatively interfere with batt insulation. and for heaven's sakes on the #)%&@_ skylights! vista views give great illumination!
  • my Airstream experiences at 10-15 degrees F are limited to dry camping in the aluminum tent - no water, no toilet. water in jugs only. electric plug-in necessary & furnace use is okay. and an igloo would have fewer cold downdrafts.
  • ice, snow, towing questions... any traveler campgrounds open north of US-40?
  • why am I bothering going through this exercise? we'd end up with coaches that could be tough to use the other 3 seasons. sorry...
So I'll still laugh at mfgrs who hype any sort of arctic package. Yes to the idea if they're talking about a park model. I'm wary of anything on wheels -- and then they should only call it the Oklahoma package.

For reasonable built-in 3-1/2 season use, check out something like Arctic Fox. Or Bigfoot (didn't they reopen?).

Unlimited dollars? If I ever wanted a Class C, we'd be driving an aluminum Lazy Daze. Or mebbe pull a Paganini if I wanted to look cool pulling into Monaco. But I'd do it in nice weather.

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Old 01-05-2010, 06:18 AM   #4
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I really appreciate both of your insights.

Bob, Frontenac S.P. (you've probably been there, if not it's on the south end of Lake Pepin) has a couple of electric sites on their campground loop that they keep plowed all winter for those hardy souls who want to push the envelope.

Artic Fox is one of the names that comes up in these discussions. Their web site only shows pickup slide-ins at this point leading me to believe that they may have exited the trailer end of things.

The Wind River trailers were also mentioned to me: Outdoors RV Mfg: Wind River: - looks like they have a few things right but they don't sell in the Midwest and also seem to have taken the aforementioned "not enough windows" approach to solving the problem of heat loss through the windows.
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Old 01-05-2010, 08:47 AM   #5
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Yep, we spent about 5 nights at Frontenac last Memorial Day weekend. Might be a good base for the winter trout season.

Okay, Bigfoot did come back and we hope for better market stability for the sake of all RVers. But they never did have dealers convenient to the Minnesota area either.

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Old 01-05-2010, 10:07 AM   #6
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I'm probably as qualified as anyone else here to comment on a four-seasons trailer, since my Bigfoot 25' rear bed has the four-seasons package. I've seen Arctic Fox, but it is laminated and seamed, and fairly heavy for its size, so I didn't look at them very hard. My Bigfoot 25 is a true four-seasons trailer. It has reflective dual-thermopane glass. Both of the solar domes are dual-pane. It has significant foam insulation (although I can't tell you the R value off the top of my head, it's significantly higher than the 2" of fiberglass batting used by Airstream). The tanks and valves are completely enclosed in the fiberglass bottom shell, (with the exception of the valve handles and discharge) and the LP furnace vents into the space where the tanks and valves all live, which has the side benefit of having a nice warm, heated floor to walk on. The LP tanks are covered which keeps ice and snow off the valves and pipes. and the hatch doors are foam core insulated. We have used it well into December before the snow flies and have been quite comfortable in it.

Now... that said... the trailer will keep you nice and cozy when you're parked and stationary. The winter problems lay with where you can dispose of tank waste, and where to get fresh water since almost all campgrounds have their service lines secured for the winter in those conditions. Further, if you travel in it, leaving the furnace on doesn't do much good; it will run continuously, and may or may not be able to keep the tanks and plumbing from freezing.

So while the trailer may be capable of doing it, there are definitely some challenges to be overcome. Where I find the four seasons capability even more important is during summer. I found that our A/C units in both our 325 motorhome and the 34' tri-axle weren't capable of keeping the units cool in full sunlight in summer. As a matter of fact, it was SO unbearably hot in the 34' that we've had to pack up and go home... the later units went from the 13,500 btu to the 15k btu A/C units, but I was still doubtful that even a 15k unit could keep up. OTOH, with the reflective dual-pane windows, the incredible insulation, and the white fiberglass exterior, on the hottest summer day, I have to run the 11k btu a/c unit on low to avoid turning the inside of the Bigfoot into a freezer. The difference is dramatic, even compared the 23' Safari I had for many years.

So... hopefully that'll answer some of your questions. If you want specifics, feel free to ask.

On edit, the Bigfoot name, molds and tools were purchased, but is not returning to the market any time soon. Last I knew the name and molds were up for sale again.

AIR 2053 Current: 2004 Airstream Interstate "B-Van" T1N Sprinter & 2006 Born Free 32 RQ Kodiak Chassis
Former Airstreams: 1953 Flying Cloud, 1957 Overlander, 1961 Bambi, 1970 Safari Special, 1978 Argosy Minuet, 1985 325 Moho, 1994 Limited 34' Two-door, 1994 B190 "B-Van"
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Old 01-05-2010, 10:29 AM   #7
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I purchased an Artic fox cabover camper. It was an 11.5 footer that was heavy! Fully loaded it cost me 23k! I was living full time in it during 2000 for a year. Frankly it was a disaster! It had leakage problems, continued slideout problems and lots of other quality issues that I had to fix myself. The dealer that i bought it from had so many issues with them with customers returning they dropped the camper line and stayed with the trailers only. As far as insulating properties it was small enough to stay warm in some very cold conditions up in Tahoe during winter months. When i came time to sell it 2 years later I was lucky to get 15k for it. Oh well, live and learn.


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