Fulltiming in Alaska Winter - Fiberglass RV


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Old 01-04-2017, 07:36 AM   #1
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Fulltiming in Alaska Winter

Wife and I are looking to make the transition into full time living in a fiberglass RV. We are planning to buy a RV and move up to Anchorage this summer. We are tentatively planning to head to Juneau for the harsh winter but know that even that will be very cold for a fiberglass RV. For reference the lows in January are in the low teens to single digits.

Basically we are looking for advice on what RV to get and how we should go about outfitting it to survive that cold weather. Seeing as we will be living in it full time we have been looking at something like the 17' Escape because it has a full bathroom and tanks etc. We have also been looking at used Scamps and Burros and thinking of potentially doing a renovation of sorts with that. Insulation and heat being the main concerns. We are looking at all options for heat even potentially installing a wood stove. Our budget is around $20k. My top choice at the moment appears to be a 17' BigFoot due to its all weather design.

Sorry about the rant but we appreciate any feedback and any advice you can offer. Every piece of information helps. Thanks!
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Old 01-04-2017, 08:02 AM   #2
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I would definitely go for a 4 season design, especially in humid Juneau. Interior moisture will be a problem on poorly insulated rigs. This moisture will grow mold pretty quickly.

Scamps, etc will do occasional Winter weekend camping, but will be problematic for longer stays, especially in humid climes.

That's one reason the desert is good for full timing. The dry climate keeps the moisture problems away.

In Juneau I would definitely plan to use a dehumidifier. You also benefit from its heat by-product to help keep warm.
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Old 01-04-2017, 08:07 AM   #3
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Bigfoot is the way to go in molded fiberglass. You want a 17.5' model in the 2500 series, or even a 21'- cabin fever might make the extra space worthwhile. I think you have a chance to find something within your budget, but you'll need to be prepared to travel wherever one shows up. There are pitfalls importing newer Bigfoots from Canada that you'll want to understand.
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Old 01-04-2017, 08:31 AM   #4
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We are going to tow in a Tacoma which is rated for towing at 6700 lbs. so we were looking at the 17' due to weight restrictions. Thanks for the input. We are in Texas but would be able to go get one if it was in our range. The closest I have seen was in CA and that is a bit far.
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Old 01-04-2017, 08:47 AM   #5
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Check out this blog. I haven't looked around it in a while so I can't say how well he's catalogued his old posts or how easy his site is to navigate, but I know when I read it a couple years ago he had a lot of good info. He's making it happen so he's definitely a good resource.

And if you really want a Bigfoot you're going to have to travel, unless you get ridiculously lucky. I'm up north in Montana, and even I had to drive 7 hours up into Canada to jump on the one I wanted. Just the way it is with these trailers, especially if you want something specific.

If you aren't willing to jump right up and travel to get one, you can believe there are at least a dozen people who are, on any given trailer that comes up. These things fly off the shelf and people know it. Even if you find one 4 hours away in some Texas town, you're going to be working hard to convince the people to hold it long enough for you to come see it, since 3 people already called him and just booked their tickets from Florida to fly out and see it...
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Old 01-04-2017, 09:34 AM   #6
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A one or two night freeze is nothing like living with extreme cold over a prolonged period of time . What may be a slight irritant in Texas can soon become a major headache in the North.
Most Fiberglass trailers are designed to be used at temps above freezing and will not work well or at all at 20 below zero.
We lived in a mobile home on Minnesota's Iron Range . The trailer was supposedly rated for Arctic conditions .
Even with heat tracing the plumbing froze and our interior walls / windows / doors were coated with ice .
We are predicted to have a week with highs in the single digits and lows well below zero with strong winds . Trying to heat a fiberglass trailer under those conditions is almost impossible and cost prohibitive.
Sometimes the best of dreams run up against reality.
Good Luck
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Old 01-04-2017, 10:06 AM   #7
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Last time I was in Juneau It was raining at 3 AM and at 5 AM there was 14 inches of very heavy wet snow on the ground. I'm with Steve on the difficulty and cost. Also the cost of transportation from Anchorage to Juneau to consider.
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Old 01-04-2017, 06:55 PM   #8
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Living the northern reality

Don't know about Alaska but I live in Winnipeg which is much farther south and where it is currently -4 farenheit with a wind chill that feels like -26. It will get colder overnight. We can expect this type of weather or colder for at least a week or more. We probably won't see much above freezing until perhaps late March. That would be a long time to be in a trailer.
You might want to research things like wind chill which is a measure of how quickly heat is stripped off anything that generates heat and mainly refers to how quickly exposed skin will freeze. Proper clothing and footwear are a must as well as an awareness of frostbite and hypothermia. Unless you are a rabid winter sportsman be prepared to stay inside A LOT. Wind chill can also affect the efficiency of heating your abode and snow load can create a lot of weight on fiberglass. As for heating, a huge concern is carbon monoxide. Although we try to seal our homes up tight and let little air escape there must always, and I mean, ALWAYS be an outside air source for combustion appliances like furnaces, wood stoves etc. It must be kept clear of snow , debris etc. CO is a silent killer so every home should have a detector including your trailer. Blocked vents cause CO to build up in or be sucked back into the home. One death so far this year and a number of people ill but rescued in time. Carbon monoxide is no joke, odorless, tasteless people fall asleep and don't wake up. The lucky ones get a bad headache and vomiting.
You will also find the cost of food and fuel may be significantly higher in the far north since most everything must be trucked in, especially fresh food.
Keep in mind too, that Alaska is the land of the midnight sun only in the summer. Winter is the opposite with long stretches of darkness. Even here in Manitoba we are happy when the days start to get longer after Christmas.
I don't wish to be a spoilsport but you might want to try visiting some of the states along the Canadian Border in the winter before committing to Alaska. At least the roads should remain passable enough for you to retreat to warmer climes if all does not suit your expectations. Until you have been trapped in your home for a week by a blizzard unable to get out without a skidoo. Or had your furnace shut down over the holidays and watched the temperature drop all the while praying the technician can fix it before the pipes freeze (true story this Xmas) you will not be fully prepared for how unforgiving a true northern winter can be. We have had about 3 feet of snow already this year and it is early days yet.
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Old 01-04-2017, 07:19 PM   #9
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One other thing. Your tow vehicle would definitely need to have a block heater installed. This must be plugged into an electrical outlet to keep the fluids in the engine warm enough for it to start and a good battery is essential. A battery blanket would be a thought in extreme cold. This keeps the battery from freezing and losing charge. You would have to check with the manufacturer regarding the use of winter fuel which contains a certain percentage of ethanol and whether to change to a synthetic oil. Any travel in the tow vehicle alone and you want a winter survival kit and always carry gas line antifreeze to keep ice crystal out of the fuel lines.
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Old 01-04-2017, 07:35 PM   #10
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Thanks for all the replies definitely food for thought.
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Old 01-04-2017, 07:54 PM   #11
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My understanding is that 'wind chill' has no effect on inanimate objects, like a trailer. Which is rather beside the point, when you are freezing.
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Old 01-04-2017, 08:10 PM   #12
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A wood stove would be a must in my opinion it wont quit on you in extreme cold. I like this one for a small space like a camper it is how ever very expensive.
The Kimberly™ Wood Stove | There are a lot of other small wood stoves that would work this is just my favorite.
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Old 01-04-2017, 09:01 PM   #13
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In Alaska, winter starts in mid October and ends mid May. The Fur Rendezvous is in Anchorage in mid January. It's a huge celebration because winter is half over.
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Old 01-04-2017, 09:02 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Glenn Baglo View Post
My understanding is that 'wind chill' has no effect on inanimate objects, like a trailer. Which is rather beside the point, when you are freezing.
The windchill factor that the weather reporters give you is the effect on exposed skin of living creatures (us), and includes extra cooling by water evaporation off the skin, and the resulting "feel". And it is always lower than the actual air temperature.

Moving air removes heat much faster from anything, living or not, than stagnant air. However, it cannot cool anything below its temperature if the object is dry. So, that cozy house freezes up in a hurry when the heat stops working on a windy winter day. I lost heat in my house once. An ice storm in southern New Hampshire caused a loss of power for several days. I was driving all over to buy a propane heater and my wife was getting ready to go to a motel. Memorable.
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