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Rubyslipper 12-04-2002 09:35 AM

Winter Living
We have a 1995 Classic LTD 31 ft. Our job contract is requiring us to spend this winter (midwest)in the Airstream.Need some advise on how to skirt around the bottom and how to reasonably deal with the condensation that is a plague to Rvs. I have placed some plastic inside over the windows to help with some of the cold air around the windows.

joe hall 12-04-2002 01:10 PM


You didn't specify what part of the mid-west, but ALL parts can get pretty darned cold depending on the year, especially with prairie winds. I wintered once in an earlier-generation motorhome I once owned, and can tell you one cheap way I went about it. I bought some heavy-gauge plastic sheeting, crawled under the coach, and duct-taped it neatly to the bottom outside leading edge of the coach. I then bought about 30-40 bales of hay ($1.50 per, as I recall) which, stacked on their sides, fit snuggly under the coach with just a little pushing and prodding. I pulled the plastic sheeting over the hay insulation and tucked it neatly under the outside bottom of the bales. Surprisingly, it created a great insulation at minimal cost and was not unpleasant to look at. When I moved on, I gave the hay to a young girl who boarded her horse with the owner of the RV park. Everyone was happy, and I stayed warm even with temperatures down into single digits at times. I'm interested in hearing other alternatives as well.

Joe Hall
'86 31' Sovereign, 2003 GMC 2400HD 4X4
WBCCI #7241

Rubyslipper 12-04-2002 03:17 PM

Winter Living
Thanks Joe. Thought about hay but also thought about what hay will draw,varmits! Maybe by wrapping the bales with plastic would keep the little darlings from moving in? We bought this A/S in May and have no clue as to how they do with the cold.We do use the shower facilities at our RV resort to help with some of our winter issues. We are in Missouri currently and just received over an inch of snow today.

joe hall 12-04-2002 03:33 PM

Well, mice can be a problem. My wife's family grows hundreds of acres of peanuts in south Georgia. Peanut harvest ironically coincides with cold weather. Once the peanuts are harvested, you can practically see the little buggers heading towards any standing structure, bags in hand! They can even get in a metal Airstream, bless their little hearts. I have no clue how they do it, but we caught one in the heater compartment. I was in northern Arizona when I built the hay foundation and it was cold enough that I didn't face mice that winter. If they are a problem in your locale, however, there is probably no other alternative that will hold them at bay either. Good luck.


John 12-04-2002 04:08 PM

100 gal LP tank

If you could get a 100 gallon LP tank, it would make life easier. Watch your batteries, check at least once a month and leaving a window cracked will help with condensation.
Good Luck!!:)

j54mark 12-04-2002 05:37 PM

Our 85 Sovereign has a vent in the bathroom that you push open. It also has a fan you can switch on as needed. We have been leaving the vent about half open all the time in cold weather and always use the fan when we shower. So far, no condensation problems.


RoadKingMoe 12-04-2002 07:40 PM

You're doing what you can to fight condensation with the plastic and as others have advised ventilation is the only way to get rid of the moisture. Showering elsewhere is a good idea too.

The hay bales are a pretty ingenious idea... I'll have to remember that. I've also heard of folks putting 2-3 100W "trouble lights" daisy-chained, to create heat under the skirted trailer.

We may be doing this ourselves next year, so let me pass on some of the things I've picked up for full-timin' here in the Midwest winters.

Note John's advice carefully... that's a 100 GALLON propane tank, which is 420 lbs... like 14 or more 30 lb bottles... not one of those little 100 POUND bottles that's not much more than 3 30 lb bottles. Keep your camper bottles filled as a backup. The gas company can probably get you hooked up. The lower you set the thermostat in the trailer, the less propane you'll use.

Don't try this without AC power AND a backup generator with plenty of gas supply. Ice storms sometimes take down power lines, and those in the country are sometimes the last to have their power restored. In really cold weather, a furnace can drain a pair of batteries in less than a day.

Remember to check the batteries frequently so you only have to add little bits of water at a time... so they won't freeze.

You can use one of those safe oil-filled electric heaters to augment the furnance. But don't let it prevent the furnace from running as often as it needs to, to keep the tanks from freezing. Remember how much power it draws (1500W ?), when selecting your generator.

You can also use electric blankets or mattress pads to allow running the trailer a little cooler at night, when it's the coldest. If you have twin beds that are up against the wall (vs an island queen), tacking carpeting or foam to the wall may help you sleep warmer.

Either a small ceramic heater or a hair dryer (keep 'em away from water!) running in the bathroom may be welcome.

Make sure your water supply faucet is freeze protected to down below the frost line. Many have a valve that drains the top part of the pipe, way down deep below the frost line, when you shut it off. Don't leave a hose permanently connected to these with the valve open. Your electric heat tape might protect your hose, but won't help the pipe from ground level down to below the frost line. Some faucets in cold country are electrically heated... until the power lines go down. Use your fresh water tank and connect the hose to the faucet only long enough to fill the tank.

Dumping the black and gray tanks may be a problem if the pipes and valves are frozen. See the UltraHeat tank and pipe heaters for products to deal with this. The pipe heaters are 12 volts, but you don't have to wire them into the trailer batteries... you can connect them to the DC output of small generators to warm them up for a few hours before dumping.

Keep plenty of food on hand and water in the tank. It's been 25 years since there was a bad blizzard here where vehicles couldn't move, but they happen. Country roads are sometimes the last to be plowed.

I also intend to keep a small air compressor and some RV anti-freeze on hand for use in the event of furnance failure and we have to abandon ship and head to a motel. Better than coming back to frozen and burst pipes.

Anyway... hope this helps. And I also welcome more advice from those who've full-timed in cold weather.

john hd 12-04-2002 10:01 PM

you can plan on 10 lbs. of propane useage a day, with hay bales it may be less.

thats what i got on my last cold weather run, 20 to 30 deg. day, 10 to 20 deg. at night.

a 100 gallon set up is a good idea, two 100 lb cyl. on a manifold would work too. like moe sez, call your gas company.


Rog0525 12-05-2002 01:09 AM

Hay under an Airstream?
Isn't that a fire hazard? I know of mobile home parks that don't allow hay, straw or any combustible materials to be placed under a trailer and I imagine that RV parks consider it a no-no as well. It might also violate the fine print in your insurance policy. But even if it's allowed, I wouldn't risk it, especially if the hay was going to be anywhere near electric heat tape.

joe hall 12-05-2002 06:26 AM

Hmmmmm..... I do remember I had electrical heat tapes wrapped around the water and sewer hoses. It was 20 years ago, and I don't remember thinking about the fire potential. Ah, youth! I was in a remote private mountain camp and it was actually the owner that recommended the hay, so no one complained. I am sure you are right, however. I can't imagine anyone allowing you to stuff that around your trailer in most RV parks or a state campground. Regarding moisture, for those of you that know northern Arizona and New Mexico, the area has a very dry winter climate. Even the snow is pure powder usually. It was dry enough that condensation was not my problem. Cold wind was the greater concern, and the hay did stop it from circulating under the trailer.


Rubyslipper 12-05-2002 08:21 AM

Winter Living
Wow some great responses! Thanks and keep em coming. We have already arranged for the bigger propane tanks and have regular delivery schedules.What I am now a bit concerned over is loosing power due to ice storms.Didn't think of that. What would be a good SAFE heater to use? We need to replace our batteries for sure.Have solar panels but havent had to see what they are capable of yet.And a generator????Oh my gosh!!!! I did discover the little vent fan in the bath and do use it when I notice the windows getting damp. Found a small leak appearing down the side of the wall by the sofa.The window,rock shield area, had some leaves and snow was setting in there and apparently we have a small hole in the caulking.We had a fellow give us the idea of using the styrofoam insulation used in the building trades as possible skirting.He says it will cut easily to the size and its flexible enough to bend slightly to fit the curviture of the A/S.He offered using rebar stakes and heavy exterior plastic with tape applied to the trailer to help keep moisture away and to stabilize the insulation.Going to try this we think.If it is a success we will share the pictures either way..=) We did heat tape our water supply from below the frost line all the way up to the tank intake and considering one of those magnetic tank heat pads. Again thanks for the input.....and we will keep our progress updated.

Rog0525 12-05-2002 10:47 AM

Winter RV'ing info sites
Fulltimers or winter venturers might find some other useful tips on these links:

RoadKingMoe 12-05-2002 01:26 PM

Ruby, sounds like you got a handle on this. Rog, thanks for the links!

If your trailer has compartments for Group 27 batteries, these are the ones I would buy. See their dealer locator button on this page. A new pair of these would give you 115AH until 50% discharge in warm weather, but not as much when they're cold.

The only indoor electrical heaters I consider really safe are the oil-filled ones and even then, you have to keep an eye (and a hand) on the power cords every so often. Trailers burn just way too quickly for me to use anything hot enough to start a fire.

barbwire 12-05-2002 02:50 PM

Hi all,

I cant find the link right now, but your generator may not perform as well at high elevations. I was looking into the Honda generators, and I think the steady output dropped like 12% at 4000 feet. That is where I'm at. Missouri probably wouldn't worry about this, but anyone in higher elevations should be aware. Probably old news to this group. I'm just trying to be helpfull.


John 12-05-2002 03:21 PM


I'm currently looking into purchasing a Honda EU2000. If you have this infor available, what's the output loss @ 8000'?


RoadKingMoe 12-05-2002 05:03 PM

Any naturally aspirated engine (i.e. not supercharged) loses significant power at higher altitudes because the pressure drops and there's less air going into the engine. Carbureted engines lose more power than EFI engines, because they don't cut back on the fuel to account for the thinner air, and are running too rich. If the generator's engine makes less power, so does the generator.

I've seen 3.5% quoted as the loss of output for every thousand feet of altitude. If that's true, then at 8,000' you're looking at a 28% loss of power... or 1150 vs 1600 continuous watts from the EU2000, or 650 vs 900 W from the EU1000.

NewStreamer 12-06-2002 12:00 AM

I'm not kidding, but I have seen a Brit in Austria with a wood burning stove in his sob , and it looked cosy and warm.
Ok, Brits are known to be slightly excentric;)


keylime 12-06-2002 04:56 AM

If you want to see a great application of a wood burning stove, not to mention a complete reno of a 1955 26' Silver Pod, take a look at this link.

O spoke with the owner a month or so ago when trying to track down a trailer to purchase. The work on the interior is contemporary and exceptional, but the price was way out of my range. When I drove to the neighborhood here in Brooklyn (NY), I saw her in vacant lot behind a steel barrier, and could smell (and see) the smoke rising from the top.

And he is NOT a Brit!



barbwire 12-06-2002 07:51 AM

Here is a link that derates a generator up to 4% for every 1000 feet. I never did find the original link I was looking at. I am sure the numbers will vary between 3 and 4%.


hex 12-06-2002 09:45 AM

Don't forget the Vodka..... Boris.
Boy what a great thread this one is. Fascinating. Brings questions to mind for a rookie such as I, even tho I will try to avoid wintering at the tundra as often as possible.

Is it the consensus of most that the cold gain (or is it heat loss) thru the belly is greater than thru the walls or top?
Why might this be? Is it a factor of amount of insulation? Would not the 3/4 plywood have at least as great of "R" factor as the either slice of the metal sandwich? (Not to mention the floor covering above the plywood).

I am assuming that actual air/wind infiltration is seldom a problem in our Airstreams. i.e. not many drafts, is this a reasonable assumption?
I also suppose that if the heat source is turned off, that the inside temp will drop in a matter of few minutes to almost the exterior ambient. Is this near accurate?

I wish there was more data/testimony available on the oil/wood heater propositions. Venting and chimney info for instance. Also location in different lengths of trailers and reports of how the heat spreads from one area to another within the trailer.i.e ; If you had no electric (hence no fan to push the warmed air) and had oil or wood stove in front LR area of trailer (31 footer), could you have comfortable heat in say the rear BRm? and if so, would the front LRm be too warm to be in?

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