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Old 11-24-2015, 11:09 PM   #1
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Boondocking/Dry Camping in Winter

I have a couple of questions concerning travel and/or boondocking/dry camping in the winter months, when temps are below freezing. What is the method most used to prevent water lines/tanks in the basement from freezing IF you're using supplemental heat, e.g., catalytic heater, Big Buddy, Blue Flame heater, etc., and you're NOT running your furnace? If you're using a catalytic heater in the coach, and your furnace isn't being used because of excessive battery drain.......how do you keep the water lines & water tanks from freezing/getting damaged, other than emptying & winterizing and using a supplemental water source, such as a 5-gallon jug in the coach? Also.....I have read comments stating that using tire chains on motorhomes during travel is NOT a good idea, and I'm curious as to the reasoning behind NOT using them. I know that on mountain passes during certain winter conditions, tire chains are REQUIRED.
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Old 11-24-2015, 11:23 PM   #2
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Get some after market electric tank blankets. They are installed under the tanks...though you can dump antifreeze into the black and grey tanks...so you'd only need one.

Then, I'd zip tie some heat tape along the exposed plastic pipes, around the pump, and put another heat tape around the dump valves.These low current devices would be run by an appropriately sized Inverter.

This all assumes you're talking about a Class A with somewhat insulated basement compartments for the tanks, pump, and plumbing you speak of. You don't tell us what kind of vehicle. If it's a 5th wheel, all bets are off.
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Old 11-29-2015, 05:55 PM   #3
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The real question here is why does your furnace cause excessive battery drain? All you are running is a couple of DC blower motors. I've run ours for 12 hours overnight in 28 degree weather and the batteries were only down to 12.3 volts in the morning.


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Old 11-29-2015, 06:02 PM   #4
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If you are not using the furnace you will be sorely pressed to keep stuff from freezing. Using 5 gallon water containers and an outside biffy would be the easiest (maybe not the most popular) method.

Tire chains are not a good thing to use on any vehicle. They do help with traction.

Problems with tire chains are if a link breaks the link will beat up the inside of the fender or outside. Other is if you spin the back tires. The resultant "catching of the next link can do damage to the rear end and drive train.

My dad told me if I put the tire chains on my truck to drive slow and steady.
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Old 11-29-2015, 06:09 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim_HiTek View Post
Get some after market electric tank blankets. They are installed under the tanks...though you can dump antifreeze into the black and grey tanks...so you'd only need one.

Then, I'd zip tie some heat tape along the exposed plastic pipes, around the pump, and put another heat tape around the dump valves.These low current devices would be run by an appropriately sized Inverter.

This all assumes you're talking about a Class A with somewhat insulated basement compartments for the tanks, pump, and plumbing you speak of. You don't tell us what kind of vehicle. If it's a 5th wheel, all bets are off.
OP indicated a coach using catalytic heaters.
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Old 11-30-2015, 10:36 AM   #6
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Most motorhomes are not built for overnighting in severe freezing conditions and even those that have a hot air duct running down into the basement are probably just kidding themselves because there are lengths of pipe and dump valves that will still freeze. Add strong winds whistling through all the holes in the basement (yes, motorhomes do suffer wind-chill effects of a sort) and the basement temperature is likely to be little above ambient.
We have ended up overnighting in snow a few times but conditions were mild and even using just the catalytic heater we didn't have problems - but would if conditions were more severe.
Furnace blowers use about 8 amps so those with only a couple of batteries WILL run into problems if they need to run it longer than overnight. Trying to heat trace the whole deal is also not practical on 12V. Purpose-built expedition trucks have fully-insulated basements with either dedicated diesel air blowers or diesel hot water heating around all compartments.

Chains? Yes, you have to carry them on some roads in some states, but doesn't mean you have to put them on and drive when the signs are up. Much smarter just to pull over and wait until the chains-on edict is lifted.
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Old 11-30-2015, 10:51 AM   #7
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While we were at the dealers for some work we camped beside a fellow with a 2014 Tour. He told us he had camped at the dealers in -40 temperatures while there for some work on his slides. They had to order some parts so he spent several days there.

He said his only problem was a cracked water filter.

I have no other details. He did not seem like a fellow who overstated the issue.
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Old 12-01-2015, 09:16 AM   #8
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I've posted eslewhere about running in -17* weather with full fresh water tank and no frozen pipes. The key is to prepare for it. Our MH at the time was a 40' Phaeton. I didn't feel the basement floor was insulated enough and had 2" of urethane sprayed on the underside including the wet bay tub. I could never understand why the manufacturers leave the most vulnerable area unprotected from freezing temps. Years ago Holiday Rambler used a 12 volt "Back Seat Heater" in the wet bay. I added one to our wet bay and set it at 40*. I now have solar panels but also carry a 2KW Honda generator that feeds a 45 amp smart charger when dry camping. Just running the charger, it will run for 10 hours on less than a gallon of gas. Now on cloudy or rainy days, we can use all of the power and heat we want and the batteries are always charged. Rather than use other heating sources, I would rather prepare the coach for cold weather and use a small portable generator to stay warm and comfortable with all of the MH facilities. The Honda is so quiet that we don't know it's running.
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