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Old 02-04-2016, 01:52 PM   #1
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Winter Camping

Well it looks like I'm going to be helping out my daughter by taking a trip with her to Wyoming in the trailer for most of a week. This being my first time camping in the winter with a trailer, I have some concerns/questions.

My main concern is freezing. The daytime temps where we will be are in the high 30's, but at night it's well below freezing. The trailer's undercarriage is heated just for such a possibility. I already assume I can't leave water hooked up overnight (if it's even available in the winter months). My thought is that I will fill the fresh water tank on the way out and keep the heat on through the evening (which we'll be doing anyway). Anything else to watch out for?

Propane - how long can I expect 2x40 gallon propane tanks to last while camping in sub 40 degree temperatures? I suppose I can bring an electric space heater, but I think I need to keep the thermostat at a reasonable temperature to ensure that the undercarriage gets it's share of warm air as well?

Lastly, other than these items... what else should I be watching out for?
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Old 02-04-2016, 02:31 PM   #2
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Hello fellow Oregonian!

Here is my experience with winter camping:

Yes, water freezes at 32 degrees....but it takes a solid frozen pipe or tank to break. That means it has to freeze solid and that takes a long time, even at 20 degrees. Given your lines, tank and T-connections are all inside the trailer, you have nothing to worry about until you get under 20 degrees outside. (that is camping -with the heat on). You should not travel (tow) in under 30 degrees with it full of water. Plan ahead-watch the weather! My hot water heater is enclosed right next to my fresh water tank, so what I will do is heat the hot water tank before traveling. The heat radiates to the fresh water tank, lines and filters in that section while I am towing it. Keeping it nice and toasty.

The issue is the exposed sewer connections. This is where you have to take caution. Look at where the sewage dump valves are located. Luckily my black tank valve is in the underbelly insulation (giving me to about 25 degrees before I worry about it freezing). The gray dump valve is totally exposed. It will freeze in 30 degrees and possibly break the valve or the plastic pipe.

So what to do: I travel in the heat of the day, get to my campsite well before dark. Setup and place a bucket under the dump valve. I open my gray water valve and leave it open (all night) to dump into the bucket. Thus avoiding water from filing up the pipes and freezing. I don't travel in under 30 degrees....or camp below 20 degrees. These things weren't made for those extremes, unfortunately.

Propane: I use TWICE as much propane when the weather goes from 40 degrees to 25 degrees. It is a BIG load on the furnace (in most trailers). Having 2 tanks works pretty well, because you can "gauge" your usage when the first one runs out. I think you will drain BOTH of them in cold weather over about 8 -10 days. If you have electric hookups, use the space heater for 40% of your heat to conserve propane. Have a backup plan! What if for some reason the propane regulator freezes or breaks? What is your plan B to stay warm?
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Old 02-04-2016, 03:24 PM   #3
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Thanks, those are things I hadn't actually thought of. Sounds like the black and grey water tanks, if used at all, should be dumped every night and then left open over a bucket. And my idea of keeping the tanks full was probably a bad one. I'm just concerned that they may not have the water turned on at the KOA campground during the winter months in Wyoming. I guess I should call them and ask.

And plan B would be an electric space heater and blankets. Fortunately, the trailer has pretty decent insulation, so I don't expect I'll freeze to death in either case so long as I have electricity. I do have 50A service (which my destination campground provides as well), so as long as I don't trip a fuse, all should be good.

Looking at the current weather forecast, it's clear to me we'll have to travel with the trailer winterized. The high today at our destination is 29 degrees, so freezing is inevitable. Perhaps we should bring lots of bottled water and put some anti-freeze in the gray/black tanks and leave the fresh water tank and water lines dry, at least until we reach our destination and can turn on the heat.

Looks like I'll have to winterize before we leave for home as well.
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Old 02-04-2016, 03:42 PM   #4
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Winterization is a big effort. I think you might be OK, but you are on the edge of low temps.

I would suggest filling up the fresh water tank and the hot water heater full. Leave the black and grey water tanks empty, but valves closed. It's ok to have the inside lines full of water (water pump too).

45 min before you leave, turn on your hot water heater and let it heat up. Then, turn off the propane and heater and hit the road.

When you get to a rest stop, gas station, or truck stop (you will be stopping I'm sure every 2-4 hrs) Turn on the hot water heater again and repeat the heating. You can even run the furnace at the same time to "heatup" the inside while you eat a snack with your daughter. Then turn everything off and hit the road again.

I believe you will be fine towing in 20 degrees like this. Good luck, have fun!

PS> never leave your black water tank valve open. Always keep closed except for dumping. Grey you can leave open.
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Old 02-04-2016, 03:45 PM   #5
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We do not have an enclose or heated underbelly. We commonly go out when the night time temps are in the low to mid 20s, with above freezing daytime highs. Never been an issue. We keep the FW tank fairly full. Water freezes from the top down. Never had an issue with the waste tanks, and we do nothing for them. I do open a few cabinet doors that have pipes on them to ensure heat gets to them.

We primarily run an electric heater, again no issues.

As for propane, that can be hard to estimate, the size and type of the trailer matters. A PU can go through a 20 pound tank a day. Our htt is really good, we've neve ran a tank dry, but we use the electric if avaliable.

I would guess my parents go well over a week on a 35 pound tank with electric heater.

Two full tanks and you'll be fine
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Old 02-04-2016, 03:55 PM   #6
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Good to know. And good point about stopping at a rest stop and cranking up the heat.

I might be a bit overly worried about this.
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Old 02-04-2016, 04:01 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ecksdude View Post
I might be a bit overly worried about this.
I would be more worried about wet/icy/snowy roads (that's just me). I hope this is an entirely "dry weather" trip?
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Old 02-04-2016, 11:13 PM   #8
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There's no reason you can't run the furnace and water heater while traveling. I've done it many times in motorhomes and travel trailers.
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Old 02-05-2016, 06:57 AM   #9
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Personally, I'd drain the water heater, while traveling, then you do no have to be concerned about greezing. Just flip the winterizing valves to isolate it. Or just drain the whole rig while traveling.
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