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jcnine

Suggestions for a cold weather travel trailer?

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Hi all!  I'm very new to this as I've never owned an RV of any kind before.  I recently decided to obtain a permanent camp site not too far from my home and work.  I'm looking for suggestions on a travel trailer that can withstand the frigid cold temperatures we get up here in Wisconsin.  A typical January high for us is about 15 degrees F but we do dip below 0 degrees F on a regular basis.  I would intend to spend an enormous amount of time at the campsite, even in winter, as they are planning to have water/septic available year round.  Are there particular trailers that are better designed (ie insulation, better heaters, better windows, and many more) to handle the extreme cold?  I've also heard of some companies adding an "arctic package" to make it more sustainable in the cold?  I'm looking for something small as it's just me and the occasional visit from the girlfriend.  I've been looking at some designs and I love the layout of the Forest River Wolf Pup 16FQ, so something roughly the same size is all I'm looking for.  Thanks in advance to anyone who has suggestions!

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Welcome to the Escapee forums! 

There are very few RVs available which will be comfortable in temperatures of 15° and even fewer that would be a 0°. Ask your dealer if he will guarantee it to be usable in below freezing weather and if so to put that into writing. Even if you are able to keep the interior warm enough to use in cold weather, you will need to keep it that way all of the time, even when not there or the plumbing will freeze, unless you winterize it each time you leave. Like linda, my first thought about what might work for that use is an RV from the Ice Castle Company that is made in MN. They are designed to be used in the way that you are thinking, while very few others are. A trailer of the type that you are looking at will be very expensive to heat enough to prevent plumbing from freezing, if it can be done at all. While there are travel trailers that are buit to withstand winter use, there are very few of them and you probably will need to get something like the Airstream Bambi to handle the type of use that you have in mind. Most RV owners who use them in the winter months go to one of the southern states in winter where freezing weather is rare. 

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Current manufactures stick on an Arctic or Polar pac sticker which which really is a joke.

For cold weather trailers look into Canada or Arctic Fox.  Personally I would not live in an RV in an area where the winter high is only 15 degF.  

Look at older Tetons, King of the Roads, and others of that vintage that are true 4 season trailers.

Ken

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Thanks for the suggestions so far!

That's a really interesting design on those ice castle trailers!  I'm definitely going to look into them to see if they could customize a little bit more to my kind of design and interior.  Maybe they can completely omit the fishing holes completely?!

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4 hours ago, jcnine said:

Maybe they can completely omit the fishing holes completely?!

I suspect those hole covers are well insulated and eliminating them would affect resale value so you might want to think carefully about that.

Linda

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If parking that RV on the ice to do some ice fishing you had better be ready to drive your truck out there in spring to get it off before it sinks! Wow!!   

We had a ice shack once and one guy wanted to go home for more liberations.  On return and driving the car 5mph on the ice he slid right into the shack and everyone dispersed very quickly!!!

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On 6/25/2019 at 12:42 AM, jcnine said:

 I'm looking for suggestions on a travel trailer that can withstand the frigid cold temperatures we get up here in Wisconsin. I've been looking at some designs and I love the layout of the Forest River Wolf Pup 16FQ, so something roughly the same size is all I'm looking for.  

Your keeping it small will be less to heat and less to skirt, nice :) Some that come to mind are...

https://casitatraveltrailers.com/

https://outdoorsrvmfg.com/

https://northwoodmfg.com/

http://www.bigfootrv.com/

Good Luck & Happy Trails!

     Spot

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As well, he is looking for a cold weather Park model as he said  "I recently decided to obtain a permanent camp site not too far from my home and work."

As well he mentioned the one he liked was this one: http://www.forestriverinc.com/rvs/travel-trailers/wolf-pup/16FQ/1332

But he'd like similar with cold weather capabilities.

0°F requires a lot of heat from your furnace. However, your propane at zero degrees produces less pressure inside the tank or cylinder that may cause issues in your propane systems. It may require adjustments for propane appliances to work. We've never been below 17°F but at that temperature we burned through a full cylinder every two days. So heating becomes very expensive in an RV at temperatures well below freezing or 32° F. Propane will percolate, or change to a gas at any temp above  . https://www.propanetankstore.com/blog/what-is-the-pressure-inside-my-propane-tank/

Can we predict how long our propane will last? Yes: https://www.propanetankstore.com/blog/tag/Propane+Pressure

I post this to illustrate that despite insulation inside, your propane cylinders (travel trailers and fifth wheels) or tank (motor homes) are outside for safety and the available pressure can vary as the ambient temperature changes.

Your regulator can freeze and stop the flow of propane and is caused when a cylinder or tank is not purged properly, or the fill system has air in it which always contains moisture. https://www.propanetankstore.com/blog/tag/Tank+Freeze

More on Propane systems that are off topic can be found on my website here including how to check easily for leaks, here: http://home.earthlink.net/~derekgore/rvroadiervfulltimingwhatisitreallylike/id42.html

Edited by RV_

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Any trailer can work in cold weather, it's just a matter of how much extra work you're willing to put into it. This is a photo from a couple years back, in northern Canada, following a cold snap. The only thing left open to the elements was the flues off the furnace, and water heater. The fridge had been abandoned earlier, due to low performance. This was not us. That's insulated tarps wrapped around the whole rig, and you can just see the propane tank in front. That was getting refilled every 2 weeks, if not sooner.

A6735C81-8E06-47BE-BC63-F7B963E86462_zps

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I don't think he's looking for a Park Model.  The 'pup' is 21.5" exterior.  There are many permanent camp sites that allow normal RVs.

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A regular camper like the one I mentioned in my first post would definitely be my first choice as it's much closer to my budget.  I'm certainly willing to put some work into keeping it warm but I don't think I can go as far as tarping and insulating the entire outside of it!!! Skirting around the entire perimeter will definitely be done though! 

Here is another thought...  It sounds to me like the major concern would be keeping the water lines from freezing.  So what if I was willing to turn my water/sewer off during the extremely cold months?  The campsite has a shower/bathroom/laundry facility available year round so I could just use that. 

Like $Spot said, I intend to keep it fairly small so heating it should be a little easier.  Any thoughts on adding an electric space heater to take some strain off the propane tanks?  And speaking of propane, RV_ mentioned that propane is going to lose it's efficiency as the temperature drops, has anyone ever tried a propane tank heater blanket to help with that? 

Thanks for all the comments and help!  Nice to see a very active forum!  

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Propane will form a gas, until -44*. The rate of gas formation slows as the temps drop. The ways to counteract this slowing involves either a blanket and heat source, or a larger tank. A blanket, by itself, doesn't help a whole bunch. The tank in my pic has a lot more surface area to make gas off, than a typical RV bottle. 

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The idea of getting dressed and walking anywhere if nature calls in the middle of the night would not be something I would want to do. And what about washing dishes and pots and pans? You could do it with jugs of water and a bucket, then you would have to lug the bucket over to the bathroom to dump. Again not something I’d want to do.

A space heater isn’t a bad idea with a couple of provisos, I use one when the temps are above freezing. When they dip below I run the furnace to keep warm air going down to the heated holding tanks. If you are going to use one for most of your heating, you would have to winterize your plumbing system and not use it at all.

I would rather run the main furnace, use the fresh water tank as much as possible, filling it with a heated water hose on warmer days, use my grey and black tanks sparingly and dump them when it’s warmer I guess. Maybe come up with a wind break, extra insulation or something along walls that have plumbing. 

The other thing you will have to deal with in a small trailer is condensation (walls and windows, perhaps under the bed). I would guess you would need a combination of ventilation and a dehumidifier. You could still have an issue with mold under the mattress if you have underbed storage exposed to an un-heated area. 

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Be careful about wording as well. We once bought a mobile home in Texas we planned to move to Minnesota so we were careful to ask about insulation. We were assured the walls were fully insulated. That turned out to mean the insulated wrap went all the way around the home but it didn't mean it was thick enough to do the job. Now we have R values but RVs don't tend to tell you the R values unless they are insulated much greater than normal. Even then they don't always give you values for floors. That's why the Minnesota built Ice Castles appeal to me--they wouldn't still be around if ice fishermen found out they couldn't stay warm inside them. Although they do mostly get used on weekends so fulltiming in one might be a bit harder.

Linda

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I suggest that the first step you take should be to visit the park and speak with some of the owners of RVs that are kept there and used in winter. Ask what they have, how they keep it warm, and learn all that you can from them, since they are in the place you are considering, while we are only speculating . I have used an RV in winter for as much as a week in the Wyoming & Colorado mountains, so have some experience with the cold but we kept our RVs winterized most of the winters in our 18 years living in WY and never left it parked with water in the plumbing when the RVs were not occupied.

10 hours ago, jcnine said:

Here is another thought...  It sounds to me like the major concern would be keeping the water lines from freezing.  So what if I was willing to turn my water/sewer off during the extremely cold months?  The campsite has a shower/bathroom/laundry facility available year round so I could just use that. 

That is certainly possible, but do consider the cautions of fpmtngal, as that could be an issue. And while it is true that a smaller RV will require less heat, small RVs typically also have lower BTU output furnaces so be careful. In addition is the cost of heating it when you are not present. Electric heaters can be used and I suggest one of the oil filled heaters for that. We have used electric heat for short periods and used to do so for more extended stays, but we also never wintered in any northern state while fulltime. 

Does the Wolf Pup trailer have enclosed tanks and plumbing that is in a heated space? I can't find any specifics on the manufacturer's website and most ultralite RVs do not, but have waste tanks that are under the floor and exposed to the weather, along with at least some of the plumbing. Not only does that mean you won't be able to use the plumbing in freezing weather even with the interior heated, but it will also mean your floors will get extremely cold. What specifications there are on the manufacturer's website do not say but with the size and weights very nearly the same as our present ultralite, I suspect that like ours the floor is not insulated and the tanks & plumbing are exposed. 

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We had a Forest River Salem in the winter in the southeast part of NC (the warmer part), and it is very similar to the Wolf Pup.  When temps dropped below freezing at night and didn't get above 40 degrees with sunshine the next day, even with both the propane heater and electric heater, the fresh water lines froze as they run inside the walls, mattress next to the wall froze.  We had Reflectix on the windows which froze to the window.  The floors were very cold.  A wind made it much worse.  There was one ice storm which took the electricity out, but we were lucky as the owner of the park let people charge their batteries with his generator.  We just spent the winter in central KS in a Hi-Lo.  It was 10 times better in colder temps as the fresh water lines run toward the inside of the cupboards and the floor is better insulated.  There were probably twenty RVs here for the winter with various issues in all the different types of units, and central KS doesn't have near the cold being addressed here.  The park insulated their portion of the water line with heat tape, we made a heated coat for our fresh water hose.  Tanks will freeze as will the release valves.  With freezing rain, the entrance door can freeze shut.  My suggestion is to look at Big Foot, used with OP's budget.  And, watch out for snow load as that can bring an issue with the roof.  I would not do this as it will not be like a cozy cabin in winter, not even close!

Note:  I can verify that "winter" or "arctic" package is a joke.  Always ask "Southern AZ/TX winter or MT/ND winter?"

Edited by SnowGypsy

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My base camper is a 30ft Alberta made Roughneck travel trailer intended for full timing. It is a non slide high density foam insulated dual pane window trailer that does not leak air. Tanks and connections are inside the heated envelope. It weighs 9000lbs dry and empty. At -35c a cylinder does not have a big enough “puddle” of liquid to provide enough vapour flow for the two 40,000btu furnaces and water heater firing at the same time. The cylinder would supply down to about -25c. A 80gal “pig” cylinder works. A horizontal style tank like a motorhome has would also maintain vapour supply. It uses about 5USgal per day in those conditions.

Throwing an old blanket over the small cylinders and placing a small electric heater directed on the cylinder warmed it enough to flow. I do not trust electric heaters close to flammable material like a blanket. 

There are charts available on line that show what temperature each size of propane tanks can maintain what btu vapour flow.

The propane does not “freeze up” it just stops boiling.

One nice sun shining day north east of Ft. McMurray we had a company reporter visit from Houston working on an article for the company magazine. It was -52c at 9:00 a.m. I poured liquid propane into a bucket so she could say she carried propane in an open bucket. It wasn’t “frozen.” Anyone know what color it is?

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Have you visited the area that you want to spend the winters at? If so, look at what people have. Talk to them about the challenges and solutions. Do they have any recommendations? As they have the real world experience of living in those conditions in trailers. As any manufactures can make claims that really do not measure up to what they claim. Best of luck.

Edited by rynosback

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Thanks again for even more suggestions!

I have reached out to Ice Castle to ask them a bunch of questions about the customizing abilities in their design.  They are very willing to work with me in basically giving me a shell to work with and I can finish off the interior as my own project.  They said "the shell will consist of a the walls, exterior siding, roof, treated plywood floor, exterior door and the exterior marker lights."  They also mentioned that they do this for people quite often!  I'll have a lot of work to do with electrical, plumbing, insulation, finishing off any interior walls and I'm sure a bunch of other things, but I love the concept of doing that on my own! They even sent me a couple pictures to show exactly.  This idea looks like the best for the harsh winters as the full 2x4 construction of the walls will allow me to get a reasonable R-value if I use really good insulation.  The really big question is if the campground would be willing to accept it?!  I guess I'll have to contact them as well!  

I'll keep you guys updated with whats going on and who knows, maybe start a new thread for a custom interior Ice Castle :)

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