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Old 10-15-2003, 11:09 AM   #1
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Question Airstream vs. ???

Reallizing that this forum is devoted to A/S trailers, none the less I will ask the following question? Which make of travel trailer (other than an A/S) would you choose for full time living in a northern climate? From the posts that I have read it seems to me that those of you who have tried living through a cold (0 degree and lower) winter have not been very comfortable in your A/S trailers. This is understandable, since the trailer is not designed for this type of use, and living in it full time may be pushing the limits. Is there a cold weather package that can be ordered from A/S when purchasing a unit? From my research into this matter I understand that the Arctic Fox trailer is constructed for the cold, having R-18 insulation in the roof, and R-8 in the walls and floor. Are there any other makes that feature insulation values that match the Arctic Fox? Does anyone have any experience with an Arctic Fox? As I stated above, I realize this is an A/S dedicated site, but a little outside advice and opinion can also be helful. I don't want to offend those of you who own A/S's, and if A/S offered the type of insulation that the Arctic Fox apparantly does, I would not even post my question, for an A/S is what I really want, but it may not be practical for the situation that I describe, i.e. winter living full time. Any comments will be appreciated.

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Old 10-15-2003, 11:53 AM   #2
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They have a very good quality trailer. They use a solid insulation, and their units are built quite well. I believe that their interiors are up to par, if not better than the Airstream interiors on the new trailers. It is a fiberglass trailer, not aluminum. They also offer winter packages.
we inspected a small Bigfoot trailer recently, and were pleasantly surprised by the features and build quality. Much better than your average white box.
They are not cheap, but definitely less of an investment than Airstream.

Good Luck, and keep warm!

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Old 10-15-2003, 07:01 PM   #3
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The Artic Fox is a well-constructed trailer, and the additional insulation will ensure it uses less energy for heating. But it, nor any other RV that I'm aware of, is really designed for full-time use below 0 degrees F. At best, they're designed to start a little earlier in the spring and wrap up a little later in the Fall. The Artic Fax shares most of the same winter problems as the Airstream.

One of the bigger problems is the MUCH smaller volume of air compared to a house, especially if the RV is well-sealed. Not only does it more rapidly run out of oxygen with people breathing in it, but the relative humidity level climbs MUCH more rapidly just from that, not to mention showering, cooking, and unvented combustion of the gas stove/oven, as well as catalytic heaters.

Heated air must continuously be exhausted to remove the CO2 and water vapor, and thus fresh, dry, COLD air sucked in from somewhere. Whether that's from an open overhead vent or window, it's virtually impossible to do that in the small confines of an RV and not have a 0 degree COLD draft, and have to heat that COLD constantly incoming air. In the small volume of an RV, this recycling air is a much larger percentage of the overall than in a house, and has a much larger impact on comfort level.

If that air exchange is insufficient, and sometimes even when it is, the cold glass windows condense water out of the air like a glass of iced lemonade in Florida, and the water runs off, staining walls, flooring and furniture. Thermopane windows help some with this, but in the mobile environment of an RV, the seals often crack. Airstream tried and abandoned them. I don't see them as an option on the Artic Fox page unless I've overlooked them. Perhaps they also had problems. At any rate, Airstreamers often use that 3M plastic film "storm window" solution to insulate the single-pane windows.

It isn't just the cold that sucks heat out of the RV, it's the wind. This is particularly a problem beneath it, where the tanks are insulated and heated, but sometimes not enough for the 30-50 F below zero chill factor. Unless the water pump pickup in the water tank, and all water using appliances are on the same side of the RV and contiguous where water pipes can run between them in the walls, there's bound to be at least some water pipes below the floor.

For these reasons, it's best to use auxiliary heating as little as possible, and ventilate in as much cold air as much as possible, making the furnace run as much as possible, to keep heat going to the pipes and tanks. And that constantly running furnace can suck a pair of batteries dry in a few hours, so a backup generator with a generous fuel supply is mandatory in case of power outages, or you'll quickly have frozen, burst plumbing. An RV has much less volume and thermal mass than a house, and even with the best insulation, will fall to ambient temperature rapidly without heat.

It's also good to skirt the entire RV with something... even hay bales covered in plastic film... to keep the wind from getting underneath (where there's little insulation relative to the ceiling and walls) and perhaps run a few incandescent lights under the RV, particularly in the area of the tanks.

That's still not going to keep the black and grey water pipes and dump valves from freezing up. Electrical heating tape or pads will be required here. The usual RV sewer hose can sometimes be frozen so hard it splits when the dump starts, so you'll want to adapt PVC drain pipe instead of hose.

Then there's the problem of water. Outdoor faucets have a rod that goes to a valve well below the frost line, and when shut off, the water SHOULD drain out of the faucet and pipe above the frost line to the ground down below it. However, that may not happen if you leave a hose connected, certainly won't if you leave it on, and the upper pipe will burst. A frozen hose is no fun to play with either.

There ARE electrically heated water outlets that keep the riser pipe warm, or you can dig the pipe out to below the frost line and wrap it with heat tape, the same as you'd do with a hose connected to the trailer. But you also better have a backup generator for these or you'll quickly be facing damage. Not much you can do if the heat tape fails.

Oh yeah... not just any portable generator will do if someone isn't with the RV constantly. You need one of those that senses the loss of power and auto-starts the generator, with a tank capacity to last until you return to fuel it.

As you can see, the matter of insulation is a pretty small one in the overall scheme of things.
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Old 10-16-2003, 09:39 PM   #4
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Seasonal for sure

Maurice, that was an excellent summary of the problems posed by cold weather camping!

I found it interesting that trailers made in Canada, such as Award, are only considered three season trailers. I would think the Canadians would be addressing the problem better because of the necessity of it, but not so - undoubtedly for the reasons mentioned by Maurice.

Still, I can't help thinking that a trailer couldn't be made for four season camping (or living in full time). I suppose the windows would have to be reduced in size considerably, and some sort of de-humidification system integrated into the trailer. Perhaps in the form of a heat exchange system? Any thoughts on that?

Out for coffee!
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Old 10-17-2003, 10:52 AM   #5
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Forrest, I think an air to air heat exchanger like they use in many modern houses would be just the ticket. Those weren't available at a reasonable price when I built my house, so I just had a small duct with an outdoor intake plumbed into the return air duct. It pulls a little cold fresh air in when the furnace is running, heats it before distributing it, pressurizing the house, and stale air exits via the one-way bathroom and kitchen vents. Maybe something like that would work in an RV also.

We were preparing to start full-timing this past summer, but I had some health problems crop up and it looks like we're staying awhile longer. I'd been preparing for a winter in Dayton in the Airstream for quite awhile, but it looks like the additional time it's taking us to dispose of and store all the junk so we can sell the house may turn out to be a blessing, and we'll winter in the house. I was NOT looking forward to a winter here in the trailer and sure wouldn't do it without a lot of justification.
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Old 10-17-2003, 11:19 PM   #6
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Healthy environment


That's a good decision. We just came back last Friday from a 2,500 mile trailer trip to the Mississippi River. The weather was decent, but in the low 40's at night. We kept the back vent cracked a little to let warm moist air out, and let an electric space heater keep the interior at about 65. Still, there was heavy water condensation on all our windows the following mornings. I'm not used to that. In Colorado it is so dry we haven't had camping problems with condensation and humidity. I haven't had the flu or even a cold in over two years, but I slept so poorly - waking up hot and sweaty under the covers, then later waking shivering and damp from throwing the covers off - that I finally got sick. We cut our trip short by two days I was feeling so puny. Anyhow, I wouldn't want to go into winter living in a trailer if I was already having health problems. Of course your unit is twice the size of mine, but it still wouldn't be the best environment to get well in.

Out for coffee!
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Old 04-19-2004, 06:57 PM   #7
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Old 04-19-2004, 07:40 PM   #8
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I think these may be 4 season units Teton's But they cost and weigh like a house too.

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Old 04-19-2004, 07:45 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by wahoonc
I think these may be 4 season units Teton's But they cost and weigh like a house too.

And a 33' Grand Teton only weighs 12,690 lbs with a GVWR of 16,800lbs on TWO 8,000 lb rated axles! Piece o' cake!

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Old 04-19-2004, 09:06 PM   #10
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There are a few different companies that boast that they have the only 4 season camper. The main difference that I noticed about the two that I saw was that they had a heated compartment under the floor.
The deck of the camper was 5 steps from the ground. It had three
steps outside and two steps inside. ( Stairway to Heaven ) I saw them do well in 28 degree weather for a weekend. I wouldn't want to be dealing with frozen sewer connections all winter long though.
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Old 04-20-2004, 07:22 AM   #11
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I think if I knew I was going to use my Airstream in cold climes, I would probaby either buy a Limited or see if the Limited insulation could be added as an option on a new build trailer. I forget what the actual R value is but it was noted by our tour guide at Jackson Center that insulation used on the Limited's did have a higher R value.

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Old 04-21-2004, 04:20 PM   #12
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Question Winter Living

I loved this ol' ended about a year ago with:
The A/S needs to be flying down a highway going someplace all the time and not setting put. As much as we love it, its best to set her free. Peace to all. Rubyslipper
I wonder how Rubyslipper is doing today?

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Old 05-04-2004, 01:15 PM   #13
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Greetings Fellow ASers!

This will be my first post to this forum. A couple months back I dragged home a 1991 60th Anniversary Limited from Cleburne, TX and have lived happily ever after. I have to say I just wanted to get a good used AS for a decent price. I think I overshot just a tad. This rig is magnificent! I plan to live in it full time. Will be moving in permanently in about a month. I won't be pulling it much. Since it's my home I have to admit I'm afraid of damaging it in any way. And I feel it's my DUTY to preserve this beautiful trailer. I pulled it across the swamp in Louisiana and thought those bumpy roads were going to beat it to death! I did find a fresh crack on the front inner plastic head cap thingy. I'm going to get another rig to camp with—possibly a Bambi.

Now as to why I'm responding to this post. Right now I have 5 acres in Florida I live/park on. I'm going to be buying some land in Montana in the next 6 months or so. I may only spend time on that property in the mild summers and do winters here in FLA. I still have it in my mind to be able to stay anytime during the year I want to in Montana including winter. I was tickled to find out from this thread limiteds have a higher R value. But after reading some of the posts about the difficulties of living in sub-zero temps I'm wondering if it wouldn't solve many of the problems mentioned above to build an enclosure to park my AS in. It would act as a barrier against the harsh outer environment, stop the wind from blowing under the unit, possibly keep the sewer and water lines from freezing and make it much easier to keep the inside warm. But I've lived in FLA all my life and I have no idea if what I'm thinking would actually work. What do you guys think? Here in FLA I plan to stretch some shade cloth over a canopy to help keep it cool in the summer. I think that will work nicely.
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Old 05-04-2004, 01:36 PM   #14
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That is a dream of mine- to have a piece of property that has beautiful views. Maybe MT, ID, or WA. That is a few years off, though, since I just bought my new A/S.

I would think that building an enclosure would work for the winter months. Keep the wind from blasting it and maybe could keep everything from icing over. Then in the summer, you could pull it out and set it up in a nice spot, like along a river.

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