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Old 01-01-2020, 07:57 PM   #1
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can an airstream be used in very cold weather?

So, let me start from the beginning ...


I have never even put a foot in an airstream or in any other trailer.


I met a woman about 10 years ago. She is paralyzed from the shoulders down as the result of a diving accident when she was 12. She needs medical care ever 4 hours, thus she had never traveled.


I got the idea of getting an RV and converting it. I ended up with a 1999 (10 years old at the time) 28 ft Bounder class A motor home (no slides) ... $18K. I gutted the interior .... installed two hospital beds ... built a track lift from front to back (to get her from her electric wheelchair to the bed), quoted $10K, built my own for $1K .... cut a new door in the side and built a wheelchair lift (quoted $25k ... built my own for less than $5K include SS door frames and such).


My mom is 80, has cancer and lives in Canada. Wanting to be with her for Christmas ... and needing to take care of the wife ... I did my best to winter equip the unit. I heat wrapped the water pipes ... put a fan and electric heater in the water / drain area at night (ran the generator so I had power for the furnace and such).


It worked. Then we decided to live in it while we built a house .... on winter turned into 3. Here in VT, we hit temps of -30. I did freeze water lines a few times but except in the worst conditions, we survived.


So now I have a 20 year old RV with 150k miles and a lot of winter driving on it.


Holes in the floors ... lots of rust for road salt (aluminum skin underneath has denigrated), transmission slipping, one by one every sensor on the engine is dying and worse parts are now obsolete (I just had to buy two ABS sensors off ebay to get the brakes working).


We are on a relative tight budget so I have limited options.

I can look for another RV .... something about 10 years old and convert it again.


Or I can buy a trailer and covert it.


We need to replace the wheelchair van (10 years old with rust holes big enough to put my fist through). We tow the mini van behind the RV ... but I could tow a trailer with a full size wheelchair van.


Sooooo ... back to my question ...... I read a lot of the posts and watched a bunch of videos.



Running the furnace ... heat pads on under the tanks .... heat wrap pipes ... all "normal" for winter camping. Since we stop along the way (a lot of nights in Walmart parking lots), I would need to somehow mount a generator.



But with single pain windows and an aluminum shell, can you make an airstream comfortable?



On the opposite end ... my wife has relatives in AZ and TX that she has never seen and wants to visit now that the house is done. How about cooling? Will one A/C keep this thing cool in the south?


Just want to know if I am going in the right direction before I do too much homework.


Thanks ... Mike


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Old 01-01-2020, 11:35 PM   #2
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Hi Mike, welcome to the forum.

On the question of cold weather camping in an Airstream trailer. It has been stated many times here on the forum that these are not a good 4 season trailers. For many reasons
Only 1.5" of insulation space between walls. The walls are both aluminum and so are the internal ribs that hold them together which forms a thermal bond between the two skins thus radiating cold or heat from the outside to the inside regardless of any insulation. The floor is not insulated well either.
That being said folks adapt and do it anyway. With the proper precautions and propane and electric heat it is doable, maybe just not as practical as (SOB) some other brand.

Buying a new AS is quite expensive and modification of one for your specific needs would certainly be even more expensive.

If you are thinking used. That would be an even more interesting way to go especially if you planed to do the work your self. However you will still have the inherent AS problems to deal with.

Perhaps SOB trailer may be a better cold weather option and less expensive to purchase and customize for your needs.

Best of luck
-Dennis
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Old 01-01-2020, 11:42 PM   #3
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Cold weather in an Airstream.

Hi, from my experience, My trailer is good for about one week max with two full 30lb. propane tanks. My trailer has the smaller windows, mouse fur walls, and a vinyl headliner; Most other Airstreams would freeze sooner.
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Old 01-02-2020, 03:50 AM   #4
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Only have personal experience with lows in the low 30's overnight which was not a problem, but for near 0 F temps I can see you would use a lot of propane to keep an airstream comfortable. When you are exploring other brands, you will discover "arctic, 4-season, and extreme cold options" appears they include: double pane windows, special insulation, underbelly ducting, electronically temp controlled tanks, insulated vents, and other appropriate features. Looks like some are pretty heavy for their length, so your TV must be capable. Good luck with your adventures.
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Old 01-02-2020, 04:33 AM   #5
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SOB means "some other brand"

I concur with prior poster's opinions. In your circumstances I would go moho again, with a small car as a "toad" (towed vehicle). You need more space than most trailers provide and you need a generator, and medical equipment? Some fifth wheel trailers might work, so explore those... but ones where you have to go up 3 or four stairs for a bedroom are impossible. Modifying a slideout for an access door/lift might work well though.

There is an OLD thread by SMOKELESS JOE you should peruse though. Do a search on "contemporizing" and it should pop up. His approach had two unique ideas that could well apply for you. First he had a tow vehicle that was a flat bed truck upon which he mounted a Mini Car and a diesel generator and huge diesel tank. The generator could have lighted a whole campground in an emergency. His trailer was a smallish Argosy (vintage painted Airstream) and almost every appliance in the Argosy was also diesel fueled. I didn't realize there were diesel hobs or refrigerators... but they are common in Eirope. JOE didn't want to have two or three power sources to worry about, so both the truck and the Mini were also diesel. He made a succinct point - diesel is flammable, gasoline is explosive.

Good luck on your research.

Paula
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Old 01-02-2020, 04:42 AM   #6
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Wow . . . and what an informative thread that is . . .

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f227...ase-18448.html

Mike, you might also want to read "The Love Shack" thread to get a sense of Airstream construction, and the pitfalls that can befall a gut job reno:

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f227...ck-183431.html

Echoing comments that an Airstream trailer may not be the best road to head down, Mike, for your purposes. [IMO]

Good luck,

Peter
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Old 01-02-2020, 05:08 AM   #7
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First of all, kudo's and respect for your ingenuity and get it done attitude.

Wintering in an Airstream is really not advisable, period; can it be done, yes, but not advisable.

The best all weather trailer out there is an Oliver, but it maybe too small for you.

I really don't have any inexpensive solution for you, other than this.

I have a 1993 Fleetwood Bounder 34' 5.9l Cummins diese diesel pusherl, with 135,000 miles on it, (which on a Cummins, is not a lot), on a Freightliner chassis. It has a recently rebuilt Allison 4 spd, but it is rust free and runs. There is a fluid leak for the transmission around the reservior bottle that should be easily fixed.
The interior needs a complete gut and redo, due to mold and water ingress, but would suggest doing so with better insulation anyway.
Relatively new fridge, 7000 Watt Kubota diesel generator that works, some newer interior touches done by a PO.

I bought it as a parts vehicle, (long story here), for a Argosy project, that unfortunately due to health reasons I cannot complete.

Since you have experience with the Bounder, have all the parts from your Bounder for the wheelchair lift and are a pretty handy guy, it maybe an inexpensive option for you. The Cummins has no computer or sensors, with parts easy to get. You could strip the Bounder and reinsulate with blown blue insulation; heat with Platinum Cat heaters, and make it a really workable rig.

It has not been winter driven in at least the last 5 years; before that, I don't know.

I live about 8 HR drive away from you. PM me for contact info, so we could talk, if you're interested.

Cheers
Sidekick Tony
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Old 01-02-2020, 09:15 AM   #8
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I would get a more conventional trailer since they are easier to heat and cool. Problem is finding one in decent shape. 10 yrs is about the lifetime of a conventional trailer unless it has been kept under cover. They are also cheap enough to be disposable. These things don't like to be in the weather at all and salt compounds that. Airsteam trailers are not going to like salt at all. They are harder to heat and cool but they tow better than anything out there.



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Old 01-02-2020, 10:16 AM   #9
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Old 01-02-2020, 09:17 PM   #10
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No cold weather in an Airstream...they are cold...try an artic fox..more for 4 seasons
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Old 01-02-2020, 09:41 PM   #11
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Thanks .....

Thanks for all the information!


I think I will heed the warning and look for other makes of trailers that may better suit the conversion.


Between the salt, the heating/cooling, the limited room ... there may be better chooses.


Thanks so much ... Mike


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Old 01-02-2020, 09:59 PM   #12
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imho, 3 season only

too much humidity build up with the heater, stove etc. that leads to frost
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Old 01-02-2020, 10:29 PM   #13
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We did have front on the front windows

This was a bit of a problem in winter.


The side windows in my RV are thermopane so no real problem.

The aluminum window frames had frost on them.


The big problem was the front windows. Because they are basically a super large car window, they are not insulated. We had frost on them all the time.


I would put a fan on them to help clear them.


I did use a small de-humidifier ... it helped.


Not ideal but we survived three winters in Vermont ... as I said, we even had a week of -30 (real temp before wind chill) !!!


I don't plan on ever doing that again. A week or two at a time to visit my mother ,,, that is enough.


Note the external propane tank ... it would last 7 to 10 days. I put a tee inline so I could just take this tank and fill it rather than drive the RV to the fill station.


Mike


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Old 01-02-2020, 11:38 PM   #14
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I wintered in Omaha. I made a deal with a propane company to supply 2 100# tanks and keep them filled. Heat taped the water from underground to the city connection. Then banked the trailer with snow until it melted. Stayed nice and warm all winter. I would do it again if needed.
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Old 01-02-2020, 11:46 PM   #15
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saved $1000 per month

It was not ideal but we wanted to build a house. It had to be custom for a wheelchair. On a tight budget, I wanted to do as much work as I could myself.


It took a lot longer than we expected. We spent 3 years (including winters) in the RV while building.


In the end, we saved $1000 per month in rent and put it toward the house.


Plus, I would do my wife's care every 4 hours and then just walk outside and work on the house.



Mike
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Old 01-08-2020, 10:01 AM   #16
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Iffy

Works best if you’ve got sun for heating thru windows. Otherwise anything lower than 49 becomes a problem.
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Old 01-08-2020, 11:53 AM   #17
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Our experience in a Flying Cloud 27 is that outside temperature of about 20 degrees is about the lower limit. To maintain 55 inside, the propane furnace is running a lot. You will need bigger battery capacity or a generator to power the blower through the night, assuming you’re not hooked up to shore power. We did not have any waterline or tank freeze up problems. There will be condensation on the inside of the windows and on some of the trailer sides, which are bare metal in the Flying Cloud models. If you or your wife can’t tolerate 55 degrees or colder then this won’t work at all. If you need to have 65 degrees inside, then think of an outdoor lower limit of about freezing. The heat pump/ ac units that newer Airstreams have work well down to about 40 degrees, depending on outside humidity. If it’s humid outside, they will be self-defrosting frequently. And, of course, they need 120 volts AC, which means either shore power or a big generator.
As for cooling, the 27 foot and bigger trailers have the option of being fitted with a second A/C — heat pump unit. We have that. We have no experience with 100 degree temperatures, but our two units seem pretty maxed out at 90 degrees outside if the trailer is in the sun. That gets you about 75 inside.
Others have already described the construction characteristics of an Airstream that make them not so good in extreme weather. On the plus side, Airstreams have lots of big opening windows on all sides—more than on any other trailer or motor home that I’ve seen. So, in moderate temperatures, they can’t be beat.
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Old 01-08-2020, 01:48 PM   #18
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I think very cold conditions in an Airstream could quickly become life threatening. Something always fails.
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Old 01-08-2020, 09:27 PM   #19
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In very hot weather, (90-100 deg F) our experience is the AC will lower the inside temp about 10 deg and dehumidify. Lots of windows make cooling the Airstream tough to do in those conditions.
We love our Airstream but use it only for recreation. Your needs are different.
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Old 03-30-2020, 02:46 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by xtal_01 View Post
So, let me start from the beginning ...


I have never even put a foot in an airstream or in any other trailer.


I met a woman about 10 years ago. She is paralyzed from the shoulders down as the result of a diving accident when she was 12. She needs medical care ever 4 hours, thus she had never traveled.


I got the idea of getting an RV and converting it. I ended up with a 1999 (10 years old at the time) 28 ft Bounder class A motor home (no slides) ... $18K. I gutted the interior .... installed two hospital beds ... built a track lift from front to back (to get her from her electric wheelchair to the bed), quoted $10K, built my own for $1K .... cut a new door in the side and built a wheelchair lift (quoted $25k ... built my own for less than $5K include SS door frames and such).


My mom is 80, has cancer and lives in Canada. Wanting to be with her for Christmas ... and needing to take care of the wife ... I did my best to winter equip the unit. I heat wrapped the water pipes ... put a fan and electric heater in the water / drain area at night (ran the generator so I had power for the furnace and such).


It worked. Then we decided to live in it while we built a house .... on winter turned into 3. Here in VT, we hit temps of -30. I did freeze water lines a few times but except in the worst conditions, we survived.


So now I have a 20 year old RV with 150k miles and a lot of winter driving on it.


Holes in the floors ... lots of rust for road salt (aluminum skin underneath has denigrated), transmission slipping, one by one every sensor on the engine is dying and worse parts are now obsolete (I just had to buy two ABS sensors off ebay to get the brakes working).


We are on a relative tight budget so I have limited options.

I can look for another RV .... something about 10 years old and convert it again.


Or I can buy a trailer and covert it.


We need to replace the wheelchair van (10 years old with rust holes big enough to put my fist through). We tow the mini van behind the RV ... but I could tow a trailer with a full size wheelchair van.


Sooooo ... back to my question ...... I read a lot of the posts and watched a bunch of videos.



Running the furnace ... heat pads on under the tanks .... heat wrap pipes ... all "normal" for winter camping. Since we stop along the way (a lot of nights in Walmart parking lots), I would need to somehow mount a generator.



But with single pain windows and an aluminum shell, can you make an airstream comfortable?



On the opposite end ... my wife has relatives in AZ and TX that she has never seen and wants to visit now that the house is done. How about cooling? Will one A/C keep this thing cool in the south?


Just want to know if I am going in the right direction before I do too much homework.


Thanks ... Mike


Attachment 358478
Would I buy an Airstream for winter weather alone......no. But the pic showing my 2006 Safari was taken at Dakota Ridge RV park in Golden Colorado during a snow storm bringing 19 degree temps. We had heated insulated hose for fresh water, open grey water tank valve and kept the black water valve closed and emptied it only after the snow melted and it warmed up a bit. Propane supplier rented us a 100LB tank that kept us warm. We also had two small electric space heaters in addition to the furnace to keep us warm. We were fortunate in that the weather in the Denver area then would cycle two weeks of snow and two weeks of sun during that stay. So no problem emptying the tank. The only weird cold weather incident with the AS was during one of the storms when the door frame contracted and the door wouldn't close. Ooops. Had to lash the door partially closed with my belt tied between the door handle and the inside grab handle. Wife unhappy. Door had to be adjusted after storm passed. I doubt we would have been as comfortable as we were if a cold front would have come in and stalled for a month or longer. The worst that happened was a broken ankle slipping on black ice. Not the trailer's fault.
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