n00b Questions - Fiberglass RV


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Old 06-16-2008, 05:28 PM   #1
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Hello!

I have been day dreaming about what to do with myself for the coming winter. I was considering the possibility of getting a season ticket to a ski resort, and skiing the winter away in fresh powder.

I was wondering if anyone had any real insight about RV'ing in the snow. I have been searching the web for a while now, and it seems to me that most full time RVers are all about chasing fair weather. Anyone know of a place I could find some information, or a blog about someone who lives in snowier conditions. I also had some questions like; How do these lightweight fiberglass trailers hold up in the snow? I can only imagine how a few feet of snow could put some strain on them. Any insights on adding some extra insulation? What are the issues with condensation?

In particular I have been gravitated toward the Scamp 5th Wheel. It seems I could make it into a great little bachelor pad. My first question was about towing this 5er behind a shortbed truck. I was interested in getting a Toyota Tacoma 4 dr, but it only has a 5ft bed.

Also, I was already debating a couple of modifications to the Scamp if I ultimately took this rout. The first, I was thinking about adding a roof rack, or more like a platform to the rear area. I haven't seen any mods of this sort yet, and I wasn't even sure it would be possable with the fiberglass nature of the RV. The second modification idea, was turning the dining area into a desk area. Anyone seen any mods of this type in an RV? I have idea's of an extremely grand desk, probably closer to a command center then a normal desk.

I have dozens of other idea's floating around my head, but I should probably take it a step at a time...

Thanks, in advance for any information, or direction, that you might have!
Aaron
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Old 06-16-2008, 06:02 PM   #2
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I've camped in my 13' in the snow and ice. It works.
The biggest problem you'll have camping is cold weather is condensation.
Scamp is pretty well insulated, to improve on that heavier curtains would be the major improvement.
Driving in the snow with a trailer, well, there's some laws here in Oregon you need to be aware, (I think the same thing holds true in WA). If chains are required you'll have to chain up the tow vehicle along with the trailer.

Some of the ski areas have places to park with hook-ups some don't. If I was going to spend the winter skiing I would park my trailer close but a bit lower. Example, Hoodoo Ski area on the Santiam Pass has hook-ups, but not far away is Camp Sherman with an RV Park (run by Hoodoo), and a couple FS Campgrounds that are open most winters, not this one but most.
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Old 06-16-2008, 07:28 PM   #3
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Another winter camping tip is to open the door occasionally. The inside heat melts the roof snow a bit, which then runs down over the door and freezes again -- If you let it go too long, the door gets frozen shut. Yes, some of us have camped in the snow!

Condensation can be beaten -- I put insulation on all the exposed and hidden metal surfaces around the windows and roof hatch to keep the condensation from forming there, plus occasional venting of the warmest (most moist) air through the roof vent.

Also glued foam insulation to back of gravel guard, plus curtains, to keep condensation off front window. Trick is to get condensation to form on the windows with drains!
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Old 06-16-2008, 07:47 PM   #4
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The problems would be no different than using your Airstream. Both the Airstream and most of the fiberglass trailers (Bigfoot excepted) are equipped with single pane windows and fair to OK insulation. The Bigfoot comes with a true four season package that includes heated and enclosed tanks, dual pane thermopane windows and significant insulation.

The biggest problems are how to deal with fresh, wash (gray), and sewage (black) water issues. In most of these trailers, the systems should be winterized well in advance of finding sub-freezing temps, leaving you the option of using a porta-potty instead of the plumbing, and carrying all of your fresh water in jugs, using a wash basin for all of your washing needs, and finding a place to pitch the wash (gray) water other than down your drains.

Pretty much everything else is merely nuisance and problem solving. What you DON'T want to do is run out of propane!

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Old 06-16-2008, 08:40 PM   #5
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Byron,

It's almost as if you where reading my mind. I was considering hoodoo, in possible locations to ski all winter. Also thanks for the heads up on the chain laws. Are there any laws that absolutely forbid pulling a trailer in adverse conditions?
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Old 06-17-2008, 06:15 AM   #6
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When I was looking at the Scamp 19 I called Scamp and they told me that the shortbed truck was what they recommended.

Easier to get hitched and turn fully than a long bed truck.

A quick call to Scamp and I am sure they would offer you some advise too.
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Old 06-17-2008, 07:53 AM   #7
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My concern with a 5er would be that the bed is in direct contact with the exterior wall (below), and thus might be colder than a bed in a conventional trailer, which has an airspace below it that should be roughly at the ambient temperature of the trailer. Also, as Roger has posted somewhere, Bigfoot makes true four-season rigs. Caution though, they are heavy and expensive.
But good luck with your quest and let us know what you decide and how it works out for you. It MAY be possible to full-time in Canada (of interest to at least me and Ches), if you are successful.
cheers
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Old 06-17-2008, 11:03 AM   #8
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At our local ski mountain there are a fair number of employees who stay in trailers up there through the whole winter. I have stopped by a few times and condensation was a major problem, it was like walking into a sauna.

Our mountain (Mt Washington) also receives some of the largest snow accumulations of any ski mountain in North America so an hour of snow removal daily is pretty much required =)
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Old 06-17-2008, 11:20 AM   #9
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Quote:
Byron,[b]

It's almost as if you where reading my mind. I was considering hoodoo, in possible locations to ski all winter. Also thanks for the heads up on the chain laws. Are there any laws that absolutely forbid pulling a trailer in adverse conditions?
The weather has to be really bad before they stop trailers. Usually they stop all traffic instead of just limiting. Once in awhile they'll stop manufactured home movements. Most of the time chains aren't required, but you're required to carry them.

As far as winterizing, Scamp has the fresh water tank and plumbing inside, so as long as you keep the inside warm it won't freeze. The grey water is a different story, the valve could freeze.

Hoodoo is great place. I've cross-country skied there a number of times. I have yet to pull my trailer up there in the winter. But plan on doing that sometime.

Good luck
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Old 06-17-2008, 06:32 PM   #10
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Ian-Vicki, I had not thought about the bed being colder because of it sitting rather close to the external wall. I'm sure the fix would be to make an extremely short box for the bed, and insulate the bottom. I was also considering the possibility of heading up to Whistler Canada. Although I'm completely unaware of what an undertaking that would be in relocating, getting a visa, etc...

I took a look at the bigfoot trailers that several of you have mentioned. I'm not sure I'm "feeling" it. I like to think of myself as a bit of a minimalist, and I really don't need all the bells and whistles, that generally just add a great deal of weight. Weight => MPG,.. that originally drew me to the idea... I'm sure a little intuition and elbow grease can get any old box capable of being a winter wonderland hideaway. Although, I would be interested in HOW bigfoot goes about making their trailer 4 season.

Is there anyone who has used a DEhumidifier, to control condensation? A lot of people haven't even heard of such a contraption. It took me a great deal of shopping around to find one. I was always getting pointed in the wrong direction. I was using it to try and help my efforts in fixing up my Airstream. Which I ultimately never got around to completing (On a side note, If you know anyone who's interested in a project Airstream, let me know) I should also note that the dehumidifier worked really well in some extremely wet condition in Oregon. I could only imagine how much better it would work in a smaller area.

I'm still interested in anyones thoughts about putting a platform on the rear roof area. I had the idea of using the platform to set up a solar array, one that wasn't fixed, and gave me more flexibility in using it. I also considered the idea of having a location I could set up a bed and watch the stars. (in summer of course). I also wondered if it would be possible to set up one of those larger solar water bladders. (the idea being gravity fed water vs. using an electric pump, when boondocking) Of course, storage would probably be the first idea of the uses of having a platform, but I would probably only use it in that matter as a last ditch ordeal.

Thanks again for all the wonderful advise and insight,
Aaron
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Old 06-18-2008, 11:59 AM   #11
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Aaron, we lived in our travel trailer for 9 months, including 3 months in various ski areas in British Columbia, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico... We used it as our ski cabin at Whistler last season.

Condensation: We learned to keep the roof vent open at all times, 24/7 and to run it when we were cooking; to run the stove vent, too, when we were cooking; to keep one window, close to the bed, slightly open while we slept (humans give off more water vapour than you can imagine in breathing); to minimize boiling water (we didn't eat pasta until well into summer); to air the bed sheets as soon as we got up and dressed.

In preparation for our ski road trip, I insulated the windows on the inside with heat-shrinkable film (it's used as an alternative to storm windows on single pane cabin windows in Canada). This eliminated condensation completely on the windows. For the trailer door, I bought Reflectix at a home building supply store, cut it to fit the door, taped it to the top of the door frame and velcro-ed it to door sides During the day, we rolled it up and tied it in place; at night, we rolled it down onto the velcro. After particularly cold nights (-22 degrees Fahrenheit), we would wake to find that a thin film of ice had formed on the inside of the metal door step, where insulation wasn't very effective. We had to remove this (easy) and dry the area with a dishcloth.

We had initially used a dehumidifier but found that it was ineffective compared to 24/7 venting and added nothing to the process after we began venting.

We also were careful to leave all of the cupboard doors and the bathroom door open when we left for the ski hill.

You don't indicate whether you intend to boondock or camp with full hookups. As a previous poster points out, boondocking is more complicated. If you do camp with full hookups, you can live very comfortably.

Water: We wrapped our water hose with heat tape, insulated it with foam pipe insulation, and kept it connected to the campground's city water supply. This was common practice in the campground in Whistler, where we learned about it. We subsequently found that most of the ski-campers we met in our travels did the same. In our new Casita, all water pipes are internal and the ceramic heater keeps the trailer temperature above 50 degrees at all times.

However, in our first trailer, one length of water pipe ran outside the trailer for 2 feet. We turned off the hot water heater and kept both cold and hot water taps dripping to prevent our pipes from freezing up. To do that, we kept our sewer connection open so that the grey water drained out as it filled up.

Sewage: We use our toilet only for peeing and keep the sewer connection open at all times in winter. We've never, even in the coldest temperatures, experienced valve freezeup. We were advised by another couple, who use their toilet for more than just peeing, to dump two gallons of potable antifreeze into the black and grey water tanks if we wanted to keep the connection closed.

If you are thinking of using your future trailer as a ski cabin, you might want to inquire about weekend-use-only rates. At the Whistler campground, "weekend warriors" are charged regular rates on Friday and Saturday nights and storage rates the remaining days of the week.

Cheers,
E.
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Old 06-18-2008, 03:44 PM   #12
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I haven't tried a de-humidifier, but the powered ones would be adding to the heat bill because they are essentially like an airconditioner, causing condensation on the cold parts -- Drying the air too much is not good because dry air feels cold (just like a/c).

You could also try chemical de-humidifiers like Dry-Z-Air, with calcium chloride, and suspend over a bucket or set in sink to drain out.
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Old 06-18-2008, 05:10 PM   #13
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I spoke to the Scamp dealership and he replyed that my Dakota Quad short box would fit and haul the 5er just fine. However, he did not recommend the Tacoma as he said the box is "plastic?". I've never seen one, so I don't know.

The 5er is the one I 'really' would like to have, basically just a shell with shower/bath package (not in the 13) and 'maybe' cabinets. I don't really even want the dinette or the sofa/bunk, no appliances, no mattress, however I would get roof air in the 5er. I also like the 13 and 16, I'm in a quandry...Whatever I do purchase, I'd really like to put in my own appliances and furnishings.
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Old 06-18-2008, 07:20 PM   #14
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Check with the Taco-5W owners on Yahoo Scampers -- Several have had custom hitches made for the plastic bed.
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Old 07-18-2008, 02:57 PM   #15
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The 5er is the one I 'really' would like to have, basically just a shell with shower/bath package (not in the 13) and 'maybe' cabinets. I don't really even want the dinette or the sofa/bunk, no appliances, no mattress, however I would get roof air in the 5er. I also like the 13 and 16, I'm in a quandry...Whatever I do purchase, I'd really like to put in my own appliances and furnishings.
I'm totally on the same level with you on this. I really would like to customize a lot of the furnishing details myself. I wonder how streamlined a shell package would be, and I'm very curios what a shelled bathroom would look like. I'd pretty much just want the walls and floor of the bathroom done.

I'd like to have a briefcase style porta-john. Something I can remove by hand, so I wouldn't have to worry about a blackwater tank. It would also free up the space for taking a shower, or making it into a "dirty" closet, where I'm not so worried about a mess, because a hose can fix the problem.

I might have mentioned that I wanted to make the dinette area into a computer desk, something that would probably resemble a command post more then a desk.

At any rate I'll be closer to buying in about 3 months.
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Old 07-18-2008, 05:17 PM   #16
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Aaron

If you really want to start with a "blank slate" I would suggest you look at an EggCamper kit. The kit is essentially a double wall fiberglass hull with no appliances.

All of the things you mentioned could be built into the kit. Since you want something that you could use in the winter you could insulate the water pipes and insulate the underside of the floor. You mentioned that you are alone so you could make the side dinette into a bunk area and build your "command console" into the rear dinette area.

Regarding your earlier question on installing some type of rack on the roof, I really wouldn't recommend it but, if you really want to, I'd suggest something like a Thule basket type rack. It could be attached through the roof with stainless steel hardware easily enough (include ss fender washers to spread the load). I would not recommend carrying a water bladder in the rack though. Too much weight too high. A bad combination. Try to keep heavy stuff like the water tank, a/c, etc low and close to the axle so you don't stress the frame or the hull as much. It also helps keep the trailer from "turning turtle" if you get in high winds.

I have done extensive camping in winter and have found that, if you properly set up your camper and campsite, you can live quite well even when the temp goes down to -20F or lower (that's as cold as it has been when I've been camping, not an absolute limit). Ventilation is a must to keep condensation down and you want to keep plenty of propane on hand. I use 40lb tanks and keep at least 3 on hand. You will also want to keep the propane tanks a little warmer since at some point the propane will no longer boil off. I found that covering the tanks with heavy black plastic to be good for gathering heat during the day. And keep them off the ground with some crumbled plastic below them to keep the heat from leaching into the ground. If you will be boondocking you will want to have some type of generator or solar cell panel to keep the battery topped off since batteries don't like the cold, especially when they are discharged. Another suggestion is to wipe or spray silicon lube on the door and window gaskets. It keeps them from freezing to the door/window. If you attach some type of skirting around the base of your camper the floor will stay a lot warmer.

Well, there are a few ideas. I'm sure others on the forum will have other, better ideas.
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Old 07-19-2008, 03:44 PM   #17
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Orlen Wolf,
Thanks for the information. I searched for the EggCamper kit, and found a few bits on what you have done, Great job! I can only hope I can do as professional of a job as you.

What once was a fling has become an affair, I am really looking into the scamp 5th wheel now. I am under the impression that a 5'er will tow better in adverse conditions. (true?) I also like the idea of having a separate-ish, sleeping area. It has accord to me that I may be able to close this are off a bit more, and in the winter, only have to heat a small area to accommodate myself at night. (of course I will still keep the rest of the RV "heated", just not nearly as much, I'm thinking conservation of resources.)

I think I should try and explain my idea about a roof rack better. I'm not sure we are on the same page. I'm thinking more along the lines of a platform. It wouldn't be higher then the forward portion of the 5'er. I think I could get two legs and a ladder down the backside, anchored to the frame and rear bumper, however I don't think I can get any supports toward the front side. I am completely aware that I'd probably just be adding a lot of unnecessary weight for a limited usefulness. Also, I was not considering hauling around a bladder on the rack, I was thinking more along the lines of a gravity fed sun shower in the summer. All in all, I'll probably scrap the idea.

Thanks again for everyone's input!
Aaron
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