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Old 08-02-2017, 08:36 AM   #1
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Winter living in my airstream

I'm planning on living in my 25' international in Breckenridge Colorado November - February. Does anyone have experience in winter camping? Looking for advice on keeping my rig from freezing up.
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Old 08-02-2017, 08:46 AM   #2
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Will you have hookups? If ya will, just leave the furnace or heat pump set to a comfortable level and don't leave your fresh water hose connected, just use your tank.

That's all i can think of. I ain't never winterized any of my trailers, I just keep em warm.
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Old 08-02-2017, 11:02 AM   #3
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I haven't winter camped for more than a week at a time in my Airstream. But as a kid, my family and I lived for four years, year-round, in a 34' mobile home in between Limestone, Maine and Loring Air Force Base. I know winter living in a trailer.

Something Maggie ("Lily & Me") once said, if it's warm enough for you, it's warm enough for your plumbing. Provided you're using the furnace so the heat gets into the belly pan. Even if you have to wear a sweater to bed, as long as you're not getting hypothermia, it's warm enough for the plumbing.

But plan to go through a lot of propane. You may want to contact a local propane distributor and see if they can bring out a larger tank to hook up alongside your trailer so you don't have to keep running to the dealer to refill your portable cylinders. Keep your cylinders full for an emergency in case you can't get the big tank refilled in time.

Cover the windows with Reflectix or Prodex (Prodex is better) to minimize heat loss through the windows. If you still want to let in light, you might try bubble wrap from the UPS Store, which is basically Reflectix without the shiny coating, but it won't work as well in minimizing heat loss. There are always compromises.

A heated hose for water service into your trailer will only help if the service pedestal spigot is also heated. The heated hose doesn't help if the spigot is frozen. If you can bury the heated hose under some soil, the heat strip on the hose will be more effective. If you don't have a heated spigot available, winterize your plumbing and use bottled water exclusively. Do not use snowmelt! Snow isn't nearly as clean as people think it is.

Put some kind of barrier around the edges of your trailer to enclose the area under the belly pan, to minimize heat loss in the belly pan and help keep your tanks warm more easily. Hay bales are good, but may provide a home for small critters like mice. Plywood sheeting attached to stakes driven into the ground will also work, if the stakes are driven before the ground freezes.

If you're going to leave the trailer parked for the whole winter, elevate it just enough to get the tires off the ground.

Condensation is a perennial problem, since the trailer itself will be colder than the inside air. An electric dehumidifier will help with that. Water vapor is a byproduct of burning propane, so using your propane stove will add to your condensation problem. The stove is the only device where the flame is vented inside the trailer rather than outside. Use your stove as little as possible, and don't use it for heating the trailer.

You can heat bricks or upside-down clay flowerpots in the oven to provide safe temporary heat for cold areas (like your bed before you turn in for the night). When you heat the clay bricks or flower pots, keep the oven thermostat turned as low as it will go; don't be tempted to heat them quicker by turning up the heat. Don't want to get them so hot that they'll scorch what you set them on.

Don't let snow build up on the outside of the trailer. Snow buildup should be kept to a minimum around your furnace exhaust (it won't run 24/7, and snow could build up while it's off, blocking the flow of air to it) water heater (ditto), main door (since the door opens outward, snow buildup could block the door), and emergency exit. The need to keep snow away is unfortunate, because snow buildup is an excellent insulator— just look at igloos.

Try to orient the trailer so the door faces away from prevailing winds. Also, you might want to hang a clear plastic walk-in freezer curtain just inside your door to help minimize heat loss while the door is open since you don't have a vestibule. Amazon carries several brands, just search for "freezer curtain."

Get used to sponge baths. Not only do they use less water, but you don't need to take them in the shower, either. You'll be using your shower as a "wet closet" to hang up your outerwear so when it drips it will drain into the gray tank and not add too much to your condensation problem. Also, you can use hand sanitizer for all of your skin, not just your hands, in between sponge baths. And as I said on another thread, sponge bathing with a friend is good clean fun!

Make sure your sewer hookup will not freeze, by not leaving it hooked up all the time. Bring your slinky inside when you're done with it (yuck) preferably stuffed into a 5-gallon plastic bucket that you can seal (and so you can soak the hose in soapy water between uses). If the place you're staying doesn't have an all-weather sewer hookup, then plan on calling out a honey wagon to pump out your tanks before they overfill.

Airstreams are really designed as 3-season trailers, but they can be used year-round with some advance planning and creative solutions.
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Old 08-02-2017, 11:26 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RockinRob View Post
I'm planning on living in my 25' international in Breckenridge Colorado November - February. Does anyone have experience in winter camping? Looking for advice on keeping my rig from freezing up.
*******
I had seen a small trailer parked on the west side of the Keystone, Colorado ski area parking lot fifteen years ago. It was buried and no sign of life. I suspect it belonged to an employee who needed to park it and this storage space was given to them as a perk.

As the ski season begins to mellow out, the icicles were... massive hundreds of pounds hanging off the bottom edges of the trailer to the ground.

Your rig will not freeze up. You will. Unless you have large propane tanks and can prevent moisture and frost on the interior walls... it may be doable. Even mobile parks that are better equipped for seasons would be the best people to inquire in the area.

Parked in a RV garage with a natural gas overhead furnace and on a meter... YES. The cost of heating fuel will bankrupt you into selling your Airstream...

Winter camping at high elevation is no more comfortable than Summer camping in the low elevations of the Mohave Desert of southern Nevada.

You have more courage than most Airstream owners, but more is needed than what an Airstream is equipped.

Protagonist mentioned snow build up as a negative. Eskimos find an igloo very cozy... I guess if you figure out how they could manage... you will do fine in your lavish quarters! Live in an igloo and use the Airstream for storage. Just kidding.

Carbon monoxide will be a curse to all who have no ventilation.

Good luck if you can work this out. Everyone who has thought of this adventure will be anxious to hear about your daily experiences!
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Old 08-02-2017, 11:45 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Ray Eklund View Post
Protagonist mentioned snow build up as a negative. Eskimos find an igloo very cozy... I guess if you figure out how they could manage... you will do fine in your lavish quarters!
I suppose you could let snow build up against some parts of the trailer but not others. You'd still need to keep the door and emergency exit clear, and if you have access to water and use your water heater, you'll need to keep the water heater clear so it can get air for combustion. You'll need to keep the furnace inlet/exhaust clear for the same reason. And you'll need to keep your dump valve area clear of snow as well.

In Maine when I was a kid, we let snow build up over most of the trailer except for a tunnel (!) to the front door, and lived with frost— not condensation— on the inside walls all winter. But we also used electric heat exclusively (no belly pan on a mobile home), got our water from snowmelt (and occasionally got sick from it), and answered calls of nature in a bucket periodically dumped in a frozen-over cesspit because the toilet wouldn't flush with the plumbing frozen all winter. So no water, no sewer hookups, no furnace, no propane. No emergency exit, either, just the door that had to be kept clear.

But northern Maine in the early 1960s is a far cry from a Colorado ski resort area today.
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Old 08-02-2017, 12:02 PM   #6
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I lived in Fulton New York for a very short time and we thought it'd be fun to build an igloo out back. We did a terrible job that thing was freezin and wet inside and I reckon if we'd slept in there we woulda woken up frozen like popsicle sticks!

I did manage to drag a tent through neck-high piles of snow and across a frozen lake on snowshoes in the Adirondacks one year just to say I did it and I somehow actually was pretty warm that trip. So maybe wrap the airstream in a tent!
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Old 08-02-2017, 01:11 PM   #7
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Welcome to the forum, RockinRob!

There are a couple of long threads about living in an AS over the winter, and there is no simple answer to the question IMO. It is full of challenges, however, with numerous variables, including the weather being primary (obviously).

Search results for "Colorado winter full timing" --
https://www.google.com/search?q=colo...=airforums.com

The Winter Living forum would also be a good place to look:

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f462/

Some threads to consider:

Taos thread: http://www.airforums.com/forums/f462...ng-161869.html
Winter camping: http://www.airforums.com/forums/f42/...ng-160582.html
AS Insulation: http://www.airforums.com/forums/f4/r...er-161185.html
http://www.airforums.com/forums/f462...ng-159671.html

Here is an overview of the average temps in Breckenridge for January 2018.

https://www.accuweather.com/en/us/br...monyr=1/1/2018

Check the line graph at the bottom, which indicates that the average high is about 30F, and the low about 5F. The threads above have some discussions of the propane required to protect the plumbing from freeze-ups in a location which is basically always below freezing, often with wind conditions which suck the heat out of a poorly-insulated Airstream.

Good luck!

Peter
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Old 08-03-2017, 02:42 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Protagonist View Post
I haven't winter camped for more than a week at a time in my Airstream. But as a kid, my family and I lived for four years, year-round, in a 34' mobile home in between Limestone, Maine and Loring Air Force Base. I know winter living in a trailer.

Something Maggie ("Lily & Me") once said, if it's warm enough for you, it's warm enough for your plumbing. Provided you're using the furnace so the heat gets into the belly pan. Even if you have to wear a sweater to bed, as long as you're not getting hypothermia, it's warm enough for the plumbing.

But plan to go through a lot of propane. You may want to contact a local propane distributor and see if they can bring out a larger tank to hook up alongside your trailer so you don't have to keep running to the dealer to refill your portable cylinders. Keep your cylinders full for an emergency in case you can't get the big tank refilled in time.

Cover the windows with Reflectix or Prodex (Prodex is better) to minimize heat loss through the windows. If you still want to let in light, you might try bubble wrap from the UPS Store, which is basically Reflectix without the shiny coating, but it won't work as well in minimizing heat loss. There are always compromises.

A heated hose for water service into your trailer will only help if the service pedestal spigot is also heated. The heated hose doesn't help if the spigot is frozen. If you can bury the heated hose under some soil, the heat strip on the hose will be more effective. If you don't have a heated spigot available, winterize your plumbing and use bottled water exclusively. Do not use snowmelt! Snow isn't nearly as clean as people think it is.

Put some kind of barrier around the edges of your trailer to enclose the area under the belly pan, to minimize heat loss in the belly pan and help keep your tanks warm more easily. Hay bales are good, but may provide a home for small critters like mice. Plywood sheeting attached to stakes driven into the ground will also work, if the stakes are driven before the ground freezes.

If you're going to leave the trailer parked for the whole winter, elevate it just enough to get the tires off the ground.

Condensation is a perennial problem, since the trailer itself will be colder than the inside air. An electric dehumidifier will help with that. Water vapor is a byproduct of burning propane, so using your propane stove will add to your condensation problem. The stove is the only device where the flame is vented inside the trailer rather than outside. Use your stove as little as possible, and don't use it for heating the trailer.

You can heat bricks or upside-down clay flowerpots in the oven to provide safe temporary heat for cold areas (like your bed before you turn in for the night). When you heat the clay bricks or flower pots, keep the oven thermostat turned as low as it will go; don't be tempted to heat them quicker by turning up the heat. Don't want to get them so hot that they'll scorch what you set them on.

Don't let snow build up on the outside of the trailer. Snow buildup should be kept to a minimum around your furnace exhaust (it won't run 24/7, and snow could build up while it's off, blocking the flow of air to it) water heater (ditto), main door (since the door opens outward, snow buildup could block the door), and emergency exit. The need to keep snow away is unfortunate, because snow buildup is an excellent insulator— just look at igloos.

Try to orient the trailer so the door faces away from prevailing winds. Also, you might want to hang a clear plastic walk-in freezer curtain just inside your door to help minimize heat loss while the door is open since you don't have a vestibule. Amazon carries several brands, just search for "freezer curtain."

Get used to sponge baths. Not only do they use less water, but you don't need to take them in the shower, either. You'll be using your shower as a "wet closet" to hang up your outerwear so when it drips it will drain into the gray tank and not add too much to your condensation problem. Also, you can use hand sanitizer for all of your skin, not just your hands, in between sponge baths. And as I said on another thread, sponge bathing with a friend is good clean fun!

Make sure your sewer hookup will not freeze, by not leaving it hooked up all the time. Bring your slinky inside when you're done with it (yuck) preferably stuffed into a 5-gallon plastic bucket that you can seal (and so you can soak the hose in soapy water between uses). If the place you're staying doesn't have an all-weather sewer hookup, then plan on calling out a honey wagon to pump out your tanks before they overfill.

Airstreams are really designed as 3-season trailers, but they can be used year-round with some advance planning and creative solutions.
In 09 camped for 2 months in Western Kansas. Minus 10 windchill on occasions. Furnace ate propane like it was free. 30# every 2 days. Your advice is very on target. Bubble wrap on windows function very well.
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Old 08-03-2017, 02:53 PM   #9
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I spent 2 weeks in my Airstream in Sisters, OR this past winter.

1. We had to clear a lot of snow off the roof.
2. We put refelctex everywhere and it helped.
3. Temps were in the teens mostly, but got down to -7.5 and up to the mid 20s.
4. We were getting through a 30lb propane tank every 3 days on average
5. We were never warm, even with the furnace blowing 24/7.
6. We keep the hot water heater running 24/7
7. the black and grey tank valves did freeze up and we had to use a heat lamp to thaw it. We had hookups but for some reason I closed the tanks... Other that left theirs open had sewer lines fill up and crack... so no win I guess!
8. heater water line worked, but the pedestal froze!
9. We had a blast!
10. I dented the outer skin in places removing icicles ...

We have done 10 days at whistler, when the temps stay in the high teens, it is ok, when you get to low teens and below... It is a challenge.
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Old 08-03-2017, 03:24 PM   #10
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I echo all of these sentiments...why do it.

You will never be warm, unless under a down comforter....we/I have been in ours with temps in the teens, and that is the absolute truth.

Plus, your activities of daily living are going to create a lot of condensation, which will seep down your walls and under your flooring....I have stains on my flooring from moisture which came from beneath, after some winter time in Louisiana in late 2014-early 2015.

There's a thread here somewhere chronicling the experience of a man who spent the winter in his in Colorado, Wyoming or some such place.

It was hard, and he said he wouldn't do it again. It wasn't fun, it was an ordeal.

It will be very, very labor intensive to winter over in your AS, and you may not get warm til June...but, if that's what you want to do, you have been duly forewarned.

Maggie
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Old 08-03-2017, 05:37 PM   #11
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See discussion thread on camping at the Grand Canyon for an entire winter:

Winter Living in the Grand Canyon

Special thanks to AirForums member "Deauxrite" for documenting 2012 winter challenges.
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Old 08-03-2017, 05:50 PM   #12
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We spent 70 days in our trailer last winter and was always warm. Hook up and go to FLORIDA.
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Old 08-03-2017, 06:03 PM   #13
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window covering

I'm curious about Reflectex or other similar products. Is this like the similar-to-bubble-wrap solar swimming pool covers? Looks like shipping bubble-wrap but acts as a solar heater for a pool, floating on the surface.
?
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Old 08-03-2017, 06:10 PM   #14
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Yes, but it has foil - reflects heat transfer. Can use one layer. Can use multuple layers. Helps in hot or cold weather. Put insulation in the vents too. Pat
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