Cold weather worthy - Fiberglass RV


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Old 10-28-2016, 01:23 PM   #1
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Name: Pamela
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Question Cold weather worthy

Hi,

I'm a newbie who has been lurking around the website & forums for a while.

I get that these cool little trailers are economical, light and easy to handle AND last an incredibly long time due to their construction and materials. I also know that generally with the exception of the Bigfoot All Season trailers and RV's most of the other manufacturers trailers are designed for three season use unless custom ordered with extra insulation and heating pads for the fresh water, grey & black water tanks.

I'd love to purchase a used, small, inexpensive fiberglass trailer like the 13' Casita but am concerned that aside from us freezing in the New England winters, that the tanks and pipes of the trailer would freeze too.

Is there a way to retrofit efficiently and effectively thus "winterproofing/weatherproofing" a fiberglass trailer for someone who doesn't have ANY experience with trailers but has lots of technical and practical experience with a lot of other things?

Thanx,
punkpup
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Old 10-28-2016, 01:38 PM   #2
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Most folks forego a water system if used in the winter. Drain/Winterize the system, then use water jugs/portable supplies with a plastic dish pan in the sink. Could probably easily rig a removable catchment under the sink as an alternative to the dishpan.

In my older scamp, without a shower, I only have a fresh water tank with a hand pump. I kept this working all last winter here in Michigan. Had to leave the cabinets open where the water line ran, the drain just ran out to a bucket which I emptied each day. As long as the drain hose was not sitting in water, it would drain completely before freezing.

A simple composting toilet would work fine.

I kept the trailer above freezing with a small ceramic cube heater on low and a remote, plug-in Lux thermostat (much more accurate than the thermostat on the heater). When wanted, I could easily bring the trailer up to 65 or 70 degrees. On the absolute coldest nights, a second cube heater on low was more effective than running the one heater on high.

I had to add an insulating pad beneath my chemical toilet to keep it from freezing while sitting on the floor. Some folks cover their floors with those cheap, interlocking foam pads you can get at Walmart - look like giant puzzle pieces. Easy to put down and pick back up once the coldest weather is over. These add a significant amount of floor insulation.

Reflectix window covers and vent covers are easy to put in place and remove as needed.

Mr. Buddy heaters, while less convenient than an electric cube heater, are very effective - must make sure you have adequate ventilation, not recommended for sleeping hours - then a winter sleeping bag is your friend.

For big bucks, Oliver is also a high quality, four season brand.

These CAN be used year round, but some concessions are needed.
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Old 10-28-2016, 01:49 PM   #3
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Lyle,

Thanx for the input!

I should have clarified that it wouldn't be convenient to not use the tanks and plumbing.

I did look at the Olivers and yes they are way too PRICEY for my limited budget lol.

I like those small Bigfoot trailers and ideally I would purchase one of those but again it's about the budget. After all is said and done it may make ultimate sense just to save up more money to buy a Bigfoot.
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Old 10-28-2016, 02:18 PM   #4
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For a reality check on winter camping in an essentially uninsulated fiberglass egg, start with these:

FT through NJ winter in Casita?

18 degrees and no LP in Casita

I lived for 4 years (3 winters) in a 1973 Holiday Rambler travel trailer. Our winters in the mountains of eastern AZ are moderate compared to New England: nights in the teens or low 20's with rare drops into the single digits. Other than having to put plastic on the jalousie windows, it did fine. It was well-insulated and had ducted heat and enclosed holding tanks. My employer at the time provided an unlimited supply of propane from a bulk tank or it probably wouldn't have been practical.

Guess what I am saying is that with a limited budget, you might look at stickies for something that is really designed and built for cold-weather use. Or save your pennies for the Bigfoot (has to be the newer 2500 series).

It's possible to use a small fiberglass trailer dry for short trips in winter, but I don't see it as practical for extended use with full plumbing systems functioning. The utility consumption alone would be staggering!
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Old 10-28-2016, 02:45 PM   #5
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Well, maybe I should clarify. I come from an extensive backpacking background, including a full year of living out of my pack while moving every day. This included quite a few nights down to 12-13 degrees below zero Fahrenheit where we had to sleep with our water if we wanted it in liquid form in the AM.

Wintering out of a Scamp is very doable, especially if you have electricity and propane available. It all comes down to what you are willing to put up with and what your comfort level is.

Living a "normal" life, without concessions? Probably not going to happen in a three season molded fiberglass, but it can be done, quite comfortably if you really want to make the concessions and do it.
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Old 10-28-2016, 02:54 PM   #6
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Name: Jack L
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The Bigfoot trailers with the cold weather package are later models ( usually 2005 and newer )and at much heavier weight. When I winter camp, I drain my water system in my 94 Bigfoot. I haven't looked lately but Bigfoot referred to the cold weather package as 3 season or shoulder season use. The Oliver would be my choice for 4 season use.


What size trailer are you looking for ? What kind of vehicle will you be using for towing ?
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Old 10-28-2016, 04:15 PM   #7
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This has been a small puzzle I've been playing with ever since we got the Casita (which has full plumbing). I don't think it's practical to four-season it anywhere north of about the Florida border, but some cleverness and the availability of 120v should make it possible to modify one for three full seasons.

The freshwater plumbing's biggest problem is that it's close to the exterior walls and down in the cabinetry. The good news is that it's PEX pipe, so even if it does freeze during a cold windy night no lasting harm should be done. Rerouting the plumbing further inboard and wrapping it in plastic pipe insulation with a low-wattage cable heater would seem doable as well. The pump and fresh tank would have to be kept above freezing, presumably with a couple of small heater pads, and the water heater would have to be either drained and bypassed or kept warm, presumably in electric mode.

The harder part is the wastewater plumbing. The black tank is not too difficult as, at least on my 16er, it's all in the trailer shell except for the dump valve. Stick a patch heater and a cut sheet of styrofoam insulation on the bottom of the bathroom floor and you're mostly done. The dump valve would have to have thermostatically controlled electric pipe tape wrapped around it and be insulated.

The biggest problem is the gray water tank. It's all by its lonesome under the trailer shell and hangs down low enough that keeping it warm is going to be a real challenge. Again, sprayed foam insulation around the sides, a heat patch in the bottom center and a sheet of foam beneath seem the best approach. The heat tape around the black dump valve would have to run around the gray dump pipe as well and that would also have to be insulated with pipe wrap.

Skirting and heat behind it would be necessary for a true winter camper.

Heating the trailer itself (at least to 50 F or so on a cold night) seems easy by comparison. RV propane furnaces are sized for bigger trailers and do a fine job keeping a 13-17 foot trailer toasty, especially with a little help from reflectix in the windows. There are two types - the only kind commonly available new is the forced air sort made by Atwood and Suburban.

It would be a lot of work. I haven't yet decided if it's worth the trouble. Maybe if we decide to go camp in late winter...
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Old 10-28-2016, 07:34 PM   #8
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WOW!!! I thank you all for your responses!

Clearly many things must be considered not the least of which as LyleB points out "it all comes down to what you're willing to put up with and what your comfort level is."

I have to admit that at this stage in my life I'm not as willing as I was in my youth to "rough it" LOL. Car camping is definitely more my speed! In my late teens and early 20's I did camp a fair bit in the Sierra's year round but DEFINITELY not to the extent that LyleB has done but it did include some snow camping, bivouacing on glaciers and my all time favorite of glissading on summer glaciers. None of those things I aspire to these days. Alas my old knees can't take that kind of abuse and frankly I find turning up the thermostat much more pleasant than having to get up to throw more wood on the campfire LOL. Yes, we actually do have a small efficient tent heater for which I was shamelessly laughed at until we used it when temps dropped into the 30's while camping over Columbus weekend then I was viewed as the hero who saved the camping trip!

It wasn't until recently with the advent of "instant tents" that can be erected in 2 minutes and all sorts of wonderful camping accessories like hot water heaters that I became willing to camp again after a 30 year hiatus and now that we're both retired I'd like to be able to hit the road at a moments notice.
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Old 10-28-2016, 08:01 PM   #9
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Simple solution Pamela, since you're retired, become snowbirds and head south for some or all of the winter.
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Old 10-28-2016, 09:04 PM   #10
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mary and bob,

I like your thinking!!!! Just not quite ready to do that this year. Hopefully it will be a moot point by next year as Florida has been calling us back since we lived there in the '80's. Flip flops and tank tops are definitely my preferred style of dress not insulated boots and puffy clothing that makes me look like the Michelin woman! Not to mention the heating bills!!!!! OMG, thank goodness the cost for heating oil has somewhat stabilized otherwise we'd go broke!
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Old 10-28-2016, 09:29 PM   #11
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That's always my first thought when people mention winter camping: don't they put these things on wheels for a reason?...

We're blessed here in AZ. There is temperate weather somewhere within a half-day's drive 12 months of the year.
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Old 10-28-2016, 09:42 PM   #12
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Jon in AZ,

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHA! Well said.
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Old 10-29-2016, 07:02 AM   #13
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Our first year of retirement, which started in September, we went south for one month. Since then we go for 3 months. East coast of Georgia and south central Florida. Replacing the 50 year old boiler in our house has helped cut fuel costs.
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Old 10-29-2016, 10:06 AM   #14
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An Escape trailer with the four season options is another choice worth considering, and still a lot less than an Oliver or Bigfoot.

Walt
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