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Old 01-22-2017, 02:48 PM   #1
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Post Full Time RVing, Frozen Wasteland Style

I'm not even gonna try to figure out how long I've been living in the trailer now. If it's important to you, you can find out with a minute or two of research in the forum.

I've been working in Idaho Falls ID since October. When I got here, the weather was beautiful. Wonderful fall weather, the leaves changing color, warm enough days, cool crisp nights. A tiny bit of rain, a day or two of wind.

Then all hell froze over.

Don't believe what the National Weather Service would tell you about snowfall in the region. The snowfall numbers don't count when you live in an RV. This stuff is everywhere right now. In some places there are feet of snow. No, feet of snow didn't land there out of the sky all at once, it ended up there for one reason or another. Wind, placed there for one reason or another, but in places there are feet of snow. I guess it shouldn't be a surprise at about 4K feet of elevation.

What has been genuinely surprising is the cold temperatures we've had. We’ve had week-long runs of sub-zero low temps. The kind of temps that do not support life outside, even though somehow the birds and squirrels have figured it out. This is not my climate. Nor is it a good one for most RVs. Damn near all of them maybe.

I have found that Reflectix type insulation is amazing in that it can be cut and placed in locations that only need some temporary (read “all winter long) help. Windows on my RV is where this stuff went as soon as it started to get cold around here. It is easy to cut, reasonably durable, and if doubled up does an amazing job. I put a piece folded over once in the skylight right above the shower, and immediately felt the heat that couldn’t easily escape.

Snow makes great insulation, so I’ve been using it for skirting around the bottom of the trailer. I was gonna buy some canvas to act as a wind stopper, and pile snow around that, but delayed ordering the canvas skirting until it was basically too late. Now I rebuild the snow skirting every few days, but the exercise does me good. All of my 2XL shirts now hang on me like I’m a starving refugee.

I am in a full hook-up RV park, so I bought a heated fresh water hose. It has worked flawlessly, even when temps reached -13F. No problems there. I did have to remove my pressure regulator and filter from the water lines outside, but that hasn’t presented any problems yet either. The filter and regulator froze up as soon as temps got below 30 and stayed there.

I have to leave the cold water dripping in the kitchen sink when temps get down to about the mid-20s. I also have to leave the hot water in the bathroom dripping about that time, too. The hot water line runs under the trailer floor from the hot water heater on the starboard side to the bathroom on the port side, and it can freeze up. I kinda want the hot water for washing and shaving, so I leave the hot water faucet in the bathroom sink dripping and it keeps the water flowing. The water connection in on the port side, and I have not had the cold line to the bathroom freeze up.

The dump valves have frozen a couple of times, despite the furnace blowing warm air almost right on them when the furnace runs. I did some investigating and found the valves are right under my shower. I removed a panel to look under the shower, and there was some corrugated plastic visible next to the shower drain pipe. It was very easy to cut this plastic with a sharp razor knife, and lo and behold, the valves were right there. Now if the valves are frozen, I can place a heat gun on it’s lowest setting and thaw them out in about 5-10 minutes.

Living in an RV in very cold weather is possible, but you gotta learn about your RV. One of the people I am working with had a bad cover over the top of his refrigerator vent on the roof. The heat from his fridge melted the snow on the roof nearby, and the water dripped into the channel where his heat exchanger coils for his fridge live. The space filled with ice, and his fridge quit working. He had to put his trailer in a heated shop for a weekend to thaw it all out. He’s replaced the cover and now all seems fine.

I use about $10-15/week on propane. Not bad. My electric bills have been about $20-30 since I have been here. I run the water heater mainly on electric, but will also flip on the gas when showering for faster recovery. I let the thermostat go down to 55 during the day, and 60 at night. I have an electric heater by the door as that seems to be the leakiest place for cold air. I have two pillow-like insulators that fit in the roof vents that also work very well. Humidity inside the trailer is only a problem near the windows where the moisture condenses very quickly, otherwise the humidity is about 35-45% inside according to my weather station.

There are a lot of gimmicks out there being marketed to RVrs to help you get through cold weather. You really should know your RV first, and give cold weather a go to find out what you will really need before wasting your money. My sewage tanks, for example, have not frozen up, but the valve has. I don’t need expensive tank heaters, and my freshwater tank is under my bed so it doesn’t need a heater unless my furnace fails.

I am warm enough, comfortable, and still very happy living in my travel trailer, even in this vast frozen wasteland of Eastern Idaho.
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Old 01-22-2017, 04:01 PM   #2
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EXCELLENT POST! We are north east of you in Rapid City, SD experiencing our second year of winter RVing. Your points are spot on; especially know your rig (you learn it quickly with extreme weather) and don't buy all of the gimmicky items to survive the cold. We never planned to RV in the Northern Tier; while it has been a challenge it has also been amazing!

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Old 01-22-2017, 04:51 PM   #3
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Hope you're enjoying the job! Carry on with all the fun.....
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Old 10-29-2017, 08:36 PM   #4
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Great post, lots of important information!
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Old 01-09-2018, 03:39 PM   #5
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We are doing our second winter in Flagstaff (7000' elevation). Last winter was cold and snowy (over 6') but warmer and drier this winter. Like you, we figured out how to keep things warm and functioning in winter conditions. Our coach has worked great in these conditions and we wonder about all of those who were complaining about the cool weather they had in the southeast over the last week or two. I am more comfortable in this winter weather that I ever would be in Florida, Texas or the desert during the summer.
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Old 01-09-2018, 04:18 PM   #6
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What brand of heated water hose are you using?
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Old 01-11-2018, 08:36 AM   #7
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We are using a Freeze Ban (Camco) heated water hose from Camping World. Even though it is thermostatically controlled, I run it off a Thermocube so it only gets power when necessary. It has worked as advertised for two winters now. It is 23* right now and I don't even give our water connection a thought.
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Old 01-14-2018, 05:55 PM   #8
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That was a great post. I spent 4 months working in Metaline Falls, WA and had plenty of minus temps. I was in our 30' Safari class A and it performed well. I skirted it with foam board and the only problem I had was a frozen shower drain, one time.

We have a newer DP now (in storage) and I'm eager to get back on the road and test the wintering capabilities. Thanks again for a great post.
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