Preparing for Ol’ Man Winter

Winter weather to most full time RVers is something that they see on the TV news while sipping on an iced tea under their awning in Florida. However, sometimes circumstances arise that require folks to endure a northern winter in their rigs. For us, we have been blessed with the responsibility to care for Diana’s mom, who lives a few miles from our campsite in Michigan. We are honored and privileged to accept this. With our house sold, we had to decide whether to rent an apartment or prep the RV and make it livable for winter. We chose the latter. We are extremely fortunate that Woodchip Campground in Byron Center, Michigan has invested in the equipment to have 30 or so sites open all winter. Thank you, Richard!

Preparing an RV for winter living requires some thought. It is true that a person could put heat tape on their fresh water hose, turn up the heat and call it good. The problem with that is they would spend a small fortune in propane, and their waste tanks would most likely freeze. We researched several websites and spoke with people who have actually wintered in their RV’s and found out several tricks. One person we spoke with at the RV-Dreams Fall Rally was Glyn Carson. He was an Ice Road Trucker in Alaska, and he lived in his RV for seven Alaskan winters. He was a wealth of information. Thank you, Glyn!

Our 2007 Colorado has a “winter package”. That includes a heated underbelly, heated waste tanks, and double pane windows. A couple of 30 degree mornings has proven that we need more. Our first step in the process has been to purchase 3/4″ foil foam board to skirt the rig. We also purchased an indoor/outdoor thermometer with a frost alarm and we placed the sending unit under the trailer.

Here is what the process of skirting a trailer looks like:

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The foam panes are extremely lightweight and are easily cut with a utility knife.

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I used 2 x 3 lumber with long spikes driven into the ground to support the bottom of the panels.

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The multitude of corners also provides stability.

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The tape used for this is foil tape. It sticks extremely well, yet comes off without leaving residue. I applied it to the rub rail and tried to avoid sticking it to the Fiberglas gel coat.

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Here is a view of how the front of the rig is encased.

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I cut holes for the sewer levers and hinged them with foil tape.

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Glyn Carson said to cut them similar to the top of a pumpkin. Great tip, Glyn!

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Here is how I dealt with the rear bumper and power cord.

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This is another view of the services side of the rig. Note the box that extends from the side over the sewer. I will detail that in a later post.

I also ran our spare power cord under the skirting to power a heater. We have a small oil filled electric heater coming from Home Depot. I will show that in a future post. Will we need it? Time (and our nifty thermometer) will tell.

We have also discovered another issue that winter RVers have to deal with: moisture. Propane heat and cooking, along with showers, generates moisture on the marginally insulated walls. Lots of folks use a dehumidifier in their rigs. I sold ours to the new homeowner, as I didn’t think we would need it. Oops. We are trying DampRid canisters instead, as we really don’t want to buy a dehumidifier. We also are going to run the exhaust fan during and after our showers. We have another issue to deal with: power, or lack thereof. We have a 30 amp service in our rig. As long as we are above freezing outside, it is much cheaper to run electric space heaters than to buy propane. It is also drier. We have an oil filled heater inside that does fine, but we can’t run two of them on 30 amps, as our outlet breaker is only 15 amps. That runs ALL our outlets. We even have to shut the one heater off when toasting our bread. So, if you are considering doing this, make sure you are in a rig with 50 amp service.

Lastly, we are using window insulating film on our windows. Yes, they are double pane, but they still radiate cold. Every little bit helps.

We will post more on this subject as we move through the winter. I know a lot of you have expressed interest in what we are doing to ride this season out. We are looking at it as an adventure. Be sure to stay tuned. And if you find yourself under your awning in the tropics with a nice cold glass of iced tea, ponder the ice cube spinning in the glass. We’ll be peering out from inside!

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3 thoughts on “Preparing for Ol’ Man Winter”

  1. Jim & Diana

    It sounds like you both have done your homework to get ready for your up-coming winter time fun.

    I will be following your blog as the days, weeks, and months go by.

    As Bonnie and I said back at the RV-Dreams Rally, we both wish you well and hope you have very little problems with your winter camping.

    Take care and best of luck.

    Fred and Bonnie

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  2. It looks like you really have it figured out. Please keep us updated on how the weatherproofing goes! And I’ll try not to flaunt my Florida pictures! Curious, is it known what type of snow load the roofs of 5ers can handle? Seems like it wouldn’t take too many inches to cover up vents?

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    1. Oh, please DO post pics! Send one of you and Steve toasting a cold one under your awning!

      Our 5er sits out all winter, so the snow load isn’t the issue, as much as ice buildup. We haven’t heard that to be an problem, so we will have to see how it goes. Remember, these things aren’t insulated like a house, so the heat rising through the roof should melt a lot of the snow. I’m not really keen on climbing up there with snow on it. I may use our RV brush and our 8 foot stepladder, if we get too much buildup.

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