Camping In Freezing Weather - Fiberglass RV


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Old 11-23-2007, 06:30 PM   #1
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We're planning a trip over to New Mexico for some bird watching next week, and it looks like we will be running into some freezing temperatures at night. Since this is our first experience with extensive exterior plumbing in a trailer, I've been reading posts about this and am thinking about doing the following.

Does anyone thing this will result in a typical Murphy-Law disaster? (That M in my name IS Murphy.)

1. A few gallons of water in water tank for flushing, sink use.
2. Full hot water tank.
3. 1/2 gallon antifreeze poured into shower drain. (Puts it in trap, into drain line, and next to valve. Repeat if shower used.)
4. 1/2 gallon antifreeze poured into toilet. (Puts it into drain line and next to valve. Repeat when dumped.)
5. Keep trailer warm, cabinet doors open.
6. Unhook RV park water at night, drain hose.

I think this would allow us to use the water system in a normal manner. Comments?
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Old 11-23-2007, 08:35 PM   #2
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Sounds like fun Patrick I'm going to leave the answers to someone who winter camps... which I haven't. But, I wanted to point out a really nice article on the left navigation bar written by Charles Watts.. entitled, what else... Winter Camping

Be sure and take pictures!
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Old 11-23-2007, 08:50 PM   #3
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I read Charles' essay and it was very informative.

Pictures will be posted and THIS is what we hope to see:
<div align="left">Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge
Bird Counts and Checklists
</div>
Weekly Waterfowl Survey
Bosque del Apache Numbers as of Nov 21, 2007

Total Ducks 33,500
Total Canada Geese 80
Total Light Geese 40,000
Total Sandhill Cranes 6765
Total Bald and Golden Eagles 2
Total Swans 0
Total American White Pelicans 0
American Coot 511
Marsh and Water Birds 15
Shorebirds 4
Gulls and Terns 44
Hawks and Owls 23

Note: Aplomado falcons still occasionally seen this past week. One adult and one juvenile bald eagle.

And, turn your speakers up and play the clip on this page: http://www.friendsofthebosque.org/flyout.html
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Old 11-24-2007, 12:04 AM   #4
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I would do my winter camping slightly differently

1. Drain hot water tank and close the bypass

2. Put 5 gal of antifreeze in an otherwise empty water tank and run at all faucets until pink is visible

3. Put antifreeze in traps and a bit in each tank

4. carry 5 gal of water in a plastic collaspable jug

5. Save the showers and hot water for campground facilities and heating on the stove.

Nothing worse than having burst pipes and plumbing lines in the middle of a trip

Paul
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Old 11-24-2007, 05:38 PM   #5
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I just got back from visiting friends on their ranch in Colorado for T'giving and some hunting. We got hammered a bit by that storm and I had two nights at 7 and last night at 12. The dogs and I were toasty warm with our furnace and a little cube heater. When we camp in winter conditions I do not fill or use the water tank, or the hot water heater. Otra had been drained and blown out before this trip. I use jugs of water for flushing and washing. If I need hot water I use a kettle on the stove. Works for us!
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Old 11-24-2007, 06:47 PM   #6
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>snip<
I think this would allow us to use the water system in a normal manner. Comments?
We've been camping in temperature just below zero in our un-winterized Scamp trailer. Some of our water lines froze (but did not burst) and we were unable to flush our toilet until outside temperatures came up a bit. Water to our sink worked just fine.

We have also been camping with a winterized trailer. We put a few gallons of RV anti-freeze in the fresh water tank to flush the toilet, and used bottled water to drink and wash up. We used every opportunity to drain our tanks, but more often then not the dump station was snowed in; when it wasn't snowed in, our drain valves were frozen. We were finally able to drain our holding tanks on the way home when the temperature was around 40 degrees at a campground that was open all year.

-- Dan Meyer
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Old 11-24-2007, 07:40 PM   #7
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Your water supply lines are more likely to freeze up during short stays than your waste tanks. It takes some time and low temps to freeze a large mass (and who cares, anyway, as long as the tanks are relatively empty?).

If you do put antifreeze in the waste tanks, be sure it is the pink RV stuf so it doesn't mess up a sewage system.
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Old 11-24-2007, 08:01 PM   #8
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I think it's worth mentioning in this thread that the antifreeze people are using in their fresh water system is NOT the same stuff you use in a car radiator. Green-colored radiator antifreeze is made with ethyl glycol, a sweet-tasting but highly toxic liquid (translation: if you drink it, you will die a slow, uncomfortable death); the pink stuff used in RV fresh water systems is propylene glycol, which is non-toxic.

--Peter
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Old 11-24-2007, 08:12 PM   #9
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The Casita is really poorly insulated. Foam-backed carpet laid over the fiberglass. Then there are the single pane windows with aluminum frames. The cold just flows right in, so we crank up the technology to keep it at bay.

On my Liberty the water line goes along the back from the tank on curbside, next to the carpet wall, then further away from the wall until it jogs back next to the wall under the kitchen area and on to the bathroom. So keeping all that warm will just require keeping the cabinet doors open, although it occurred to me that if a person wanted to do some serious winter camping, then some small circulating computer fans might be more efficient to keep the warm air moving next to these lines and in the inaccessible storage areas.

The temps we expect this week won't be bad, maybe 25 at night going to 55 in the daytime. I don't anticipate any problems with my scheme of keeping RV antifreeze at the valves, in the shower trap, and a little in the mostly empty grey and black tanks.

As most probably know, the RV antifreeze is premixed (i.e., you're buying expensive water), so there's no directions on mixing quantities for volumes vs. temperatures, but I think for the temperatures I expect and the small volume of water we will use, we won't have a problem with freezing in the waste tanks, but time will tell!

Thanks to all for the advice!
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Old 11-24-2007, 09:25 PM   #10
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At 25 degrees for a couple hours I doubt you'd have any problems without doing anything. How long does it take to freeze ice cubes in your freezer? Most home freezers are set at 0 degrees F and if my memory servers me right it takes 2 to three hours. Water doesn't instantly freeze at 32 degrees F. If your plumbing was open to the sky you might get a bit of ice forming, but it's protected in and under the trailer. Also I doubt you can get either the black water or gray water to freeze at 25. The transition point for PURE water is 32F or 0C impurities lower the transition point.

I don't have any experience with full plumbing in trailers, I only have a fresh water tank and it's plumbing. Last winter we spent a week-end where the temperature never got above freezing. No problems. I also never let the inside get below 50. When we weren't in the trailer or sleeping the thermostat was set at 50F.

No matter what you decide to do here's a little experiment for you. Take a couple small buckets and fill them with water. Set one under the trailer and set one out in the open. In the morning see if they've frozen. You might be surprised at the results.

At any rate. I hope you have a great trip and spot lots of birds. (bird watching is on my list of retirement hobbies.)

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Old 11-25-2007, 08:57 AM   #11
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Patrick, I use my trailer(s) in the winter pretty regularly. The biggest challenge is keeping the plumbing warm in subfreezing temps while you're on the road. When you're parked you can do it pretty successfully. Driving in subfreezing temps is a whole different issue.

While you can defend your plumbing against a 25* night or two with highs above freezing, your plumbing won't survive weather much colder than that if it's charged. My suggestion is to go ahead and give it a try, but if you don't already have one, install a bypass valve at the pump intake, and carry a couple of gallons of the pink stuff with you which will allow you to winterize on the spot if the weather turns nasty, or your propane system gives out. That way, you can be completely winterized in the time it takes to drain the water heater if necessary.

Have a great trip!

Roger
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Old 11-25-2007, 04:06 PM   #12
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The biggest challenge is keeping the plumbing warm in subfreezing temps while you're on the road. When you're parked you can do it pretty successfully. Driving in subfreezing temps is a whole different issue.
This won't be an issue on our trip, but is there a solution to keeping the trailer interior above freezing while traveling down the road, short of a forced-air duct from TV to trailer!

Anyone run their furnace while traveling? Anyone run a small propane cat heater?
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Old 11-25-2007, 07:03 PM   #13
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..is there a solution to keeping the trailer interior above freezing while traveling down the road, short of a forced-air duct from TV to trailer!
Sure! Just run supply and return hoses from the TV cooling system to a heater core in the trailer, with quick-release dry-break hose connections. Or maybe not...

Quote:
Anyone run their furnace while traveling? Anyone run a small propane cat heater?
I have not run any heater in the trailer while driving.

Any propane heater will raise the same issues as running a refrigerator while driving - see plentiful discussions of this in other topics. Aside from those issues, I don't know how well a typical vented furnace would cope with the high "wind" of driving, past the inlet and exhaust; some people report that their refrigerator flame blows out, and the furnace might too. An unvented catalytic heater would be free of this problem, and would also not pose quite the same open flame hazard when stopped near fuel fumes.
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Old 11-27-2007, 06:33 PM   #14
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We're planning a trip over to New Mexico for some bird watching next week, and it looks like we will be running into some freezing temperatures at night. Since this is our first experience with extensive exterior plumbing in a trailer, I've been reading posts about this and am thinking about doing the following.

Does anyone thing this will result in a typical Murphy-Law disaster? (That M in my name IS Murphy.)

1. A few gallons of water in water tank for flushing, sink use.
2. Full hot water tank.
3. 1/2 gallon antifreeze poured into shower drain. (Puts it in trap, into drain line, and next to valve. Repeat if shower used.)
4. 1/2 gallon antifreeze poured into toilet. (Puts it into drain line and next to valve. Repeat when dumped.)
5. Keep trailer warm, cabinet doors open.
6. Unhook RV park water at night, drain hose.

I think this would allow us to use the water system in a normal manner. Comments?
Sounds like you've already received excellent advice from folks about your plumbing question so no need for comments from me about that. Just one thing though for an increased comfort level while winter camping. We cover a few of the windows with a plastic film that is specifically designed to cut drafts from single pane windows. We buy it as a package which includes the film and a two-sided tape. Just make sure the window frame is clean, cut the tape to the right size and attach. Then cut the plastic film to size and, stretching as tightly as you can, attach it to the tape. You'll need to do this at home or wherever you have power since you'll then need to take a hair dryer and 'shrink' the plastic until it's stretched so that it becomes almost invisible. Make sure that you don't do all the trailer windows as you'll need to still allow for ventilation - we always leave the window closest to the cooking area slightly open while cooking. Usually we cover the windows where we end up spending time sitting and it's amazing how much more comfortable it is without the drafts. I don't know how cold it will be where you're camping but we've used a trailer to park in the parking lots of ski hills for weekends and ice-crusted windows are not pleasant! The plastic covering keeps the windows perfectly clear to see out, no ice and no cold drafts Have a wonderful time!
Pat and Jim
P.S. We're bird watchers too - we're very envious about what you'll be seeing!
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