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Old 12-28-2002, 04:13 AM
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Bill Bill is offline
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Default Cold weather camping in the TM

There has been some discussion about the TM water systems and cold weather camping. With the hope of helping out, I'd like to describe my thoughts and experiences. A lot of it seems obvious, but I didn't anticipate some of the subtleties.

In December a year ago, my wife and I made the trip from Maine to Arizona in sub-freezing weather, and everything froze. I was so new to TM, and having such a good time, that I didn't learn much from the experience. This year we made the same trip, but I paid more attention, figuring out what I should have done different. To set the context, it is important to know that we travelled every day, and set up the TM in a campground with water and sewer connections every night. Nighttime temps were in the teens, daytime temps in the 20's. When we closed the TM each morning, some of the heat from the previous night remained inside and kept the interior above freezing. The outside pipes and fixtures, of course, got no benefit from this leftover heat, and that's the part I wasn't really expecting.

FRESH WATER: First, you can't connect your water hose to the faucet at your campsite and just leave it, because the water in the hose will freeze solid during the night. Not only will you have no water pressure in the morning, but you will have a hose full of ice that you can't coil and put away. Instead, use the hose to fill up the 20 gallon storage tank. As you are filling, open a hot water faucet and turn on the demand pump - this will fill the water heater. When both are full, turn off the water, drain the hose and coil it, and put it away. The storage tank and demand pump will supply your water needs, and they are inside the TM so they won't freeze. In my TM, they are under the sink, so I leave the cabinet door open to ensure that they both stay warm. Your location may be different.

DUMP VALVES: When you get to your campground, you will find that the sliding gate valves on the black and gray sewer outlets have frozen into whichever position you last left them. In all probability you left them closed, and if so, they are now frozen closed and you can't open them. On the other hand, if you left them open, you won't be able to close them. Which is the best plan? In my opinion, it is best to leave them both open. Gray water will drain out immediately and won't freeze in the tank. Since the black water tank is inside, it won't freeze either, and dumping the black tank can be done with the valve at the base of the toilet.

SEWER HOSE: If the grey water is going to drain continuously, the sewer hose must be supported so as to have no low spots in it. If you allow water to collect and freeze in your drain hose, you will probably have to replace it. Ice kills 'em.

WATER HEATER: The water heater is inside. It also is its own source of heat, with a nice thermal blanket around it to retain that heat. As a result, I don't worry about it freezing while we're on the road, day or night. When we get home, of course, the story changes - you must be careful to turn off the burner and drain it.

FRESH WATER DRAINS: I hate to travel with water in the fresh water tank or the water heater. This is a weight thing - the TM is already quite close to the axle weight limit, and I don't want another 100-150 pounds of water. In summer, I drain them onto the ground before we start out each morning. In freezing weather, it is not so easy because the four little drain valves under the TM are frozen and you can't open them. How to get all that water out? To drain the 20-gallon tank, simply to turn on a faucet and let the demand pump run until the tank is empty. This doesn't drain the water heater, though, and I don't know an easy way to do it. I tried thawing the drain valve on the high-pressure side of the system (which includes the water heater) by immersing it in a big cup of hot water. That worked, but it was messy, uncomfortable, and required me to kneel in the snow for several minutes while the valve thawed. I may add another high-side drain valve under the sink, where it won't freeze, and leave the outside valve open.

OUTSIDE SHOWER: The hose and the hot and cold faucet-valves seem pretty immune to freezing, but the shower head is not. At the end of the summer, I had left a little water in the shower head, and it broke when it froze. In hindsight, I should have removed the shower head, drained it, and kept it inside, and I will certainly do that in the future. But to make matters worse, one of the faucet-valves wouldn't quite turn off. Water seeped past the valve and dribbled out the broken shower head, so we had a mammoth icicle hanging out of the shower enclosure each morning. I don't yet know why it seeped, or what to do about it.

CONCLUSION: Cold weather camping in the TM is fun, but it requires some different planning. It is worth noting that on both of our trips, the propane furnace was MORE than adequate to keep us warm. I would not hesitate to rely on it at temps down to zero or below.

I would like to read about other cold-weather experiences. We all learn from them.

Bill
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Old 12-28-2002, 10:12 AM
Sinclue Sinclue is offline
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Default Re: Cold weather camping in the TM

I was wondering if you turned on both the hot and cold water faucets wouldn't the pump wind up draining the whole system? Doesn't the hot water tank refresh from the cold water tank? I guess you'd want to be careful not to run your pump dry and make sure the hot water heater burner is turned off before draining.
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Old 12-28-2002, 07:35 PM
Sinclue Sinclue is offline
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Default Re: Cold weather camping in the TM

T.C.
On my 2001 2720SL there are two drains underneath the trailer. They are located under where the sink/watertank cabinet are. You can drain your water system without using the pump. We usually empty our tanks before hitting the road depending on the circumstances, distance to be traveled, and availability of water where were're going. Remember it can be plenty toasty inside the unit, but freeze outside underneath the trailer. If you are at a site with elec hookup then you can use a hair dryer to quick thaw the valves. Easier than a warm cup of water I would expect.
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Old 12-29-2002, 03:24 AM
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Default Re: Cold weather camping in the TM

Quote:
I was wondering if you turned on both the hot and cold water faucets wouldn't the pump wind up draining the whole system? Doesn't the hot water tank refresh from the cold water tank?
That's one of the subtle things I didn't think of until too late. Recall that the fresh water tank contains water that is not under pressure - it just lies there. The pump draws water up out of this tank and forces it into the cold water lines, and into the water heater. When the fresh water tank is empty, the pump can't pump any more, of course, but the water heater is still full, refreshed by the last of the water drawn from the tank. And the water heater can't drain backward through the pump and into the tank - there is a one-way valve in the pump.

The drain for the water heater is one of the little valves dangling down below the outside of the TM, and as I noted, that valve is frozen shut at the moment you need it. The hair-dryer trick should be a good one. We don't normally carry one, but I will do so in the future. The coffee-cup method is really unsat.

During a day of driving, the water heater won't freeze, of course - the water starts out hot, and it is well-insulated. From a freezing point of view, it is OK to leave it full. For me, it is a weight issue - I really want to lighten the load.

Bill
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Old 12-29-2002, 03:44 AM
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Bill Bill is offline
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Default Re: Cold weather camping in the TM

Quote:
How many days were you on the road enroute to your destination? How many days did you spend at your destination, and how many days on the road during the return trip back home? How many were on the trip with you? Adults and children? *And how did the electric recirculating toilet work? Did you empty it daily? weekly?
T.C.
My wife and I are retired, and for us, this is an annual pilgrimage. We go from Maine to AZ in November or December, and return to Maine in May or June. There are just the two of us, plus a small dog and large cat. This year we took 8 days to make the trip west, including two days in a campground in Lancaster County PA (Amish country), plus a third day when we got snowed into that same campground. Our miles-per-day depends on where we are. If there is stuff to see, we loiter and maybe spend a couple days. If the area is boring, we zip on through, and like you, we occasionaly do 600 miles a day.

As for the toilet, it works great, since all of its working parts are in the warm part of the TM. When we are driving, I dump it when it gets half full, which is about every two days - but this is a weight issue and nothing else. A full toilet has 50 pounds or more of liquid in it. In a campground it normally lasts us at least three days.

Bill
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Old 12-29-2002, 04:25 AM
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Default Re: Cold weather camping in the TM

T.C.'s first post, about gravity-draining the water heater through the tub, brings up an interesting question. I hope some cold-weather camper out there has an answer.

In order gravity-drain through a faucet, the faucet has to be lower than the water heater, of course. Assuming that the outdoor valves are frozen, the tub has the only faucets that qualify. You can't gravity-drain the water heater through the tub's hot water faucet because the hot water line comes out of the top of the water heater. But you ought to be able to drain it through the tub's cold water faucet - with the demand pump off, the water heater will drain backward into the cold water line. (Note: it can't drain backward through the pump because of the pump's check valve.)

So now the question. The tub's plumbing is in the area under the tub, so it is nominally indoors. But this area is the only indoor area that is exposed to outside air. If you remove the converter and peek into this area, you will see a gigantic (well, 4-inch) screened-over hole in the floor that goes outside. This hole is actually the outlet for the bathroom vent fan, and it undoubtedly provides cooling for the converter as well, so it wouldn't be wise to close it off. And on a windy day, there is quite a breeze coming up through that hole.

So - in very cold weather, does the plumbing under the tub freeze? Who can shed light on this important issue?

Bill
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Old 12-30-2002, 11:26 AM
Sinclue Sinclue is offline
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Default Re: Cold weather camping in the TM

Quote:
And the camper who posted the idea of thawing drains with a hair blower was great. Wonder if that works well on the black and grey water valves too.
Thanks, but credit my better half for the idea. Ours was something like $10 at Target. Has a high and low setting. And yes, it works for the other valves too. Also have been told that J.C.Whitney sells a 12v hair dryer. That might be good to have if you aren't hooked up to AC.
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Old 01-02-2003, 05:53 PM
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Default Re: Cold weather camping in the TM

Our family just took the 3023 to Grandfather Mountain in NC for a 4 day ski trip. The area had 5 inches of snow Christmas day (Wednesday) and we arrived on Friday. Roads were clean, campground was still covered with about 2 inches of snow. The first night temperatures were in the teens to low 20's.

I used a small halogen light hooked to the 110v and placed it with a clamp under the two waste valves leaving it on overnight. Filled the freshwater tank, closed both waste valves but kept the drain hose (empty) and hooked up.

In the morning, both valves were not frozen but the gray tank was frozen enough where I couldn't drain it. I used a small electric space heater under the trailer and within 10 - 15 minutes everything was flowing fine. Only damage - the drain hose must have had small amounts of water that froze as there was a minor leak in the hose.

The second night the temperature was in the upper 20's and nothing froze. Still used the halogen light but placed it a little closer to the gray water tank so both the valves and the tank would benefit from the heat. In the 3023, the fresh water tank is inside the couch, so we didn't have to worry about it freezing.

One other note, during setup, we turned the inside furnace on along with the electric space heater while working outside. By the time we unhooked, leveled, setup outside (about 15 minutes), the temperature inside was almost 90! This was with an outside temperture in the mid 20's.

We found using the electric space heater, it is easier to regulate an exact temperature. The TM furnace heats it fast to about where we want it, then we set the digital thermostat on the space heater to the exact temperature. This also keeps the number of times the noisy furnace comes on to a minimum during the night. Although the 1500w space heater can not maintain a 76 degree temperature overnight when the outside temps are in the teens, it does keep the cycles of the furnace to only a few overnight, and each time the furnace does kick on, it runs for just a few minutes.
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Old 01-02-2003, 10:21 PM
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Default Re: Cold weather camping in the TM

PJ,
You can buy tank heaters for the holding tanks, one of my cousins has them on his TT, they came from the factory but are also available as an add on. Try this link;

http://www.campingworld.com/browse/s...H&tcode=37

If that doesn't work go to www.campingworld.com and type in Tank Heaters and it will come up. I know he has camped down to around 0 degrees and was still able to dump his tanks when the time came. Also when he is staying anywhere for and extended length of time he uses PVC rather than a reqular sewer hose, to eliminate the freezing hose problem.

Aaron 8)

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Old 12-30-2009, 05:26 PM
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We got the call Wednesday evening before Christmas that we HAD to be in Flagstaff on Monday, December 28 at 10:30am. Air fares this time of year with no notice were insane. I made reservations at La Quinta for Sunday and Monday. Then something reminded me that any noise coming from the hallway in a hotel convinces one of our dogs that an escaped serial killer is just about to break down our door . . . So using my infinite wisdom, I did some quick math in my head and said, "You know, it would only cost $70 extra in gas to take the TM".

I spent Christmas Eve morning here, learning all I could about winter camping. Thanks to all for the great advice. I printed up Bill's original post from here which helped so much.

We figured it was ok to stay home to have Christmas with the kids and grandkids and travel Saturday and Sunday.

It was snowing here on Saturday morning before we left and Gene had to work until 1pm. Still seemed ok until it started to get dark and the truck lights came on. The running lights on the trailer started to do a total light show. Famous last words, they were fine the last time we had it out. So, we found the nearest KOA and called it a night. That issue remains unresolved and we were now commited to travel only during the day or risk making new friends with cars with bright, shiny lights.

The next morning we started getting ready to hit the road at 5:30am and reached the KOA in Flagstaff at 5:30pm.

Monday morning the weather forecast had changed from a slight chance of snow to up to 3" overnight and 2 additional inches the following day.

So, we walked the dogs and got ready. We went to the service, went over to the house, had lunch with a couple of friends and decided to get off the mountain before the snow started flying. Not even 24 hours in town . . .

Anyway, our morning temperatures were 12, 6, 22 and 20 balmy degrees. The first morning we were breaking down at 12 degrees in the dark. We had no choice. We had to get there.

The good news:

Even those of you whom I trust the most could have never convinced me that the TM could be that comfortable with the kind of temperatures we were in.

The new thermostat we installed (but had not been able to test) worked fine the first two nights and totally wigged out the third. The good news is we had no idea it was 54 degrees in the TM until we crawled out of our amazing travasaks in the morning. The only reason it was that warm was because we had a little heater in the bathroom. Amazing that a space heater that small could keep the TM that warm in those temps. Luckily, we held onto the original thermostat.

I was previously considering several types of additional bed insulation but after this trip, I am even removing the 1" memory foam I had added as I think it #1 is not necessary and #2 it makes it more difficult to close the TM.

We camped dry except for the toilet, only because we had so very little time. We stayed at KOAs and their facilities were so much easier . . . This morning we dumped the black water and dumped a bunch of clean water through.

Bottom line, I would not hesitate for a second to camp in the TM in seriously cold weather. If I were faced with doing it again under the gun, where I wouldn't have the option to wait for the sun to come up or wait out a storm, I'd be getting more rewards points at LQ and tossing the keys on the desk as I walked out the door in the morning. There has been much discussion here that TMs are not for everyone. They are for us but not so much when you are so darn rode hard and put away wet.

Attached is a picture of our driveway in the morning, the day we left. Luckily, the interstate looked much better than this.

Thanks once again for the great advice!
Malinda
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Last edited by OneMoBear; 10-13-2010 at 05:18 PM.
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