View Full Version : winter full timing

09-12-2008, 11:25 PM
I know i want a TM 2720SL for family trips, been looking at them over a year and read everything I can on the net- I also am starting a new job where I have to attend training away from home for two months starting 29 September and ending the end of November...in the Pacific Northwest.

I am considering getting the TM and living in it by myself for the two months I'll be attending training...and boondocking most of the time to save money on RV park fees...has anyone done this in a TM before? I know the sandwiched Styrofoam construction will be good insulation, but good enough to be comfortable in Northwest early winter months? what winter boondocking tips can anyone give me? Thanks

09-13-2008, 07:14 AM
Kevin -

My Dad did this same thing 35 years ago, using his hotel budget to buy an Airstream. It worked well for him - but he did it in greater Los Angeles. For your plan, my first question would be where in the Pacific Northwest will you be? If you are in the low altitude rainy part (ie, near the coast), it shouldn't be bad. If you are going to be in the high altitude and/or snowy part, it could be tougher. Wikipedia tells me that Seattle is pretty moderate. Average high temps in Oct/Nov are in the mid-to-high 50's, and average lows are in the low 40's. That's quite manageable. And Spokane, way out east, is only a little colder - but it is at low altitude. Most of the Pacific Northwest appear to be similar, as long as you stay out of the mountains.

If you get deep snow, you'll need to shovel or rake it off the roof occasionally. The TM is strong enough to hold quite a bit of snow - but if it rains on top of that snow, things can get ugly.

No matter what, I would be less enthusiastic about boondocking, especially if you are in the snowy part. You will need to run the furnace a lot, and the furnace will discharge your battery in a day - so if you are boondocking, you'll need to buy a generator and run it for several hours a day in order to have power for the furnace, as well as lights. And you neeed to consider where you will get water, and how you will handle the gray and black water dumping question, if you are boondocking, especially in the cold. These can become real problems in any travel trailer if the outdoor temp stays below freezing for any appreciable time. I would look for a "trailer park", and ask about the rates for an extended stay, which will be way down from the overnight rate. And during this season, the tourists are gone, so rates are down for that reason, too.

A lot of it will depend on your personal temperament, and how much time and enthusiasm you have for dealing with some of the issues.


09-13-2008, 07:53 AM
Thanks bill, I'll be further inland from Seattle, right on the Columbia River (Oregon/Washington border, Hood River, OR/White Salmon, WA. I'd say it will be somewhere in between a coastal wet climate and a Mountain dry cold climate- snowfall will be a gamble- some years have seen significant snowfall, other years not so much. I think my temperament will be fine (retired Air Force and avid outdoorsman), but I don't want my boondocking to distract me too much from my training- I was planning on a generator, and coming in every 3-5 days to a dump station and to refill water- and maybe staying in a park at least 1 week a month out of the 4- what issues with grey/black water dumping are you referring to?

will the water heater keep my water hot for showers below freezing?

how/where do you dump grey/black water if it's not convenient to go to a dump station? where do I refill water?

will i need to insulate my water tank/lines?

Also, I'll be towing the 2720 with a Saturn Vue V6 AWD, only a 3500 LB tow rating- I will be getting a swing hitch and good brake controller.

By the way, what are the R-values of the TM? One thing I have not found on the net. The big 5th wheel manufacturers always brag about their floor, ceiling, and wall R-values, all of which seem basically the same but each one boasts that they lead the pack- curious how TM stacks up...

09-13-2008, 07:59 AM
Bill is 100% right.

I'm just packing up from a 2 week boondocking excursion in a Wyoming state park. I didn't move the trailer the entire two weeks, and used all the appliacnes except the A/C (definitely didn't need that!). Daytime temperatures were around 50, night temps got down to just above freezing (35F or so usually), with lots of rain and sleet.

If you are staying in a place above freezing, have a small generator (or electric hookup of some kind) to recharge batteries, and don't mind driving to a dump station every once in a while (I can go about 4-5 days easily by myself) or have some other way of dumping, you'll have no problems. That's easily within the design envelope for the TM.

Here's my experience:

If you camp below freezing, it's a loosing battle to try keeping running water in the TM, IMHO. You would be better off buying a trailer with a winter-usable water system than a TM, in that case (such as all pipes enclosed, with ducted heat into the tank and plubming areas - the TM definitely does NOT have that). I do it all the time, however - I just don't use the water in the TM below freezing. The TM is, however, extremely simple to winterize to protect the plumbing (turn four valves, take off the sprayers in the bathroom, outside shower, and sink, and dump a couple cups of RV antifreeze down every drain), so you can winterize and unwinterize several times if you only occasionally have below freezing temps.

The toilet *can* work in nearly any temperature though, even below freezing, because all the "stuff" stays inside the heated interior of the TM. I still keep the lid up and the bathroom door open when camping in winter, and I never let the inside get cold, even when away from the TM. Dumping it can be a bit of a pain sometimes in winter (the outside valve likes to freeze - after you dump, dump a bunch of RV antifreeze down the toilet, first with the inside and outside valve open, then with the outside one closed, and cross your fingers that it is enough - it might not be).

When it gets colder, 20F or so, expect to use a 20 lb bottle of propane in about a day if you like to have house-like temperatures inside. I keep a spare bottle in the back of my truck because of this - I started feeling uncomfortable with just two 20 pound bottles in the cold, I didn't want to run out, and I like to stay warm! If you were willing to bundle up, you would use a lot less propane than I do. If I have electrical hookups (not generator, it isn't cost effective on the generator), I use a little cube electric heater which significantly reduces (but doesn't eliminate) the furnace runtimes.

My dual batteries (two six volt golf-cart) have comfortable power for about 2 nights, max, when it is quite cold. I can go a week or more easily in the summer - there are two factors here. First, the furnace runs less in summer (although I rarely camp places where I never need it!) and all batteries are miserably inefficient in cold. I typically run generator a couple hours a day to recharge the batteries.

As for dumping, I dislike moving the TM to the dump station, so I use a macerator pump that pumps waste into a tank in the back of my truck. I then take the truck to the dump station and dump it there. I have another tank (definitely not the same one!) for fresh water in the truck, along with a pump to fill the water tank in the TM. If I was willing to move the TM more often, I wouldn't do this.

If you are even thinking of driving in winter on ice, the TM is definitely not what you want - you need something you can put chains on, and you cannot do that with the TM. After learning this lesson the hard way (it's very hard, even for someone used to driving on ice, to stay in control of a vehicle towing a trailer on ice), I won't ever pull on ice again - anything.

Good luck - I think the TM could be used in winter, and if you are above freezing most of the time where you are going, you won't have many of the problems I mentioned above. And it is doable below freezing, you just have to get more creative. For me, I enjoy being a bit self-sufficient, and I enjoy the challenge of figuring out things like "How will I have water when it's cold" or "How will I stay warm?" I used to tent camp in winter, and I can say the TM makes winter camping *much* easier, but it isn't quite a class A with heated basement, either.

09-14-2008, 12:32 AM
Great reply grakin, thanks for the detailed info-I think I'll break my TM down once a week and tow it in to a dump station to avoid some of the hassle of extra tanks, etc. I'm with you on the towing on ice though- not gonna do it so I'll have to have a backup plan for that contingency. Not too worried about October, just November. What other trailer could i consider that would have a winter usable water system that my Saturn Vue with 3500 pounds tow rating could pull? I'm pretty sure Trailmanor is the only option for me because I'm unwilling to upgrade my tow vehicle right now and I don't want to sacrifice the amenities and space a trailmanor can give me.:new_newbi

So is there no way to winterize the TM's plumbing to keep water running below freezing? The fresh water tank and all the lines are in the heated space of the trailer like the toilet aren't they (under the kitchen sink)? If i'm hooked to city water in a park, i could foresee problems at the connection point outside, but boondocking I could just have extra water in the trailer and refill the tank from that and keep the furnace set to keep the inside at least above freezing even when I'm away from the trailer right? Aren't TM's water lines supposed to stand up to freezing well? Is there no cost effective way to keep them from freezing when the temp drops below 32 degrees?

Actually, I'll probably only be in the trailer from 6-7 PM until 6 AM except weekends- I'll be at my new workplace attending classes and training the rest of the time. :new_newbi

09-14-2008, 08:16 AM
For freezing of fresh water lines, I've found the shower lines tend to freeze (that may be fixable with insulation), and on particularly cold days the water pump freezes in my 2619 (other models that place the water tank in different places may differ). I don't generally like to let them freeze, even though they can supposedly handle it, because it still ends up being my problem when they freeze.

The big problem is the gray water tank - huge surface area, completely exposed to the weather under the trailer, and water expands when it freezes - I can see that tank cracking, and also the ABS waste pipes cracking on the side towards the tank from the valves, but maybe someone has other thoughts on it. I've never wanted to risk it - replacing that tank is a $1500 job or so at a dealer.

Freezing aside, if you plan on staying in the TM for a week at a time, you need to do a couple things IMHO to save water:

1. "Navy" showers


3. When you fill the fresh tank, fill the toilet and water heater at the same time. If you leave them empty and fill them at your parking space, you will need about 9 gallons of water to do that.

4. If you have a model that can have the 40 gallon water tank instead of the standard 30, that's probably worth the upgrade.

I'm sure someone more clever than me, or with more time on their hands, could keep everything from freezing - heck, there are electric mat heaters for waste tanks and also heated valves, but of course they need utility power to run (not battery). It's just been easier for me to shower elsewhere in cold weather (and I keep a couple gallons inside in plastic jugs, along with a bucket for gray water, to wash dishes and cook and such).

09-14-2008, 11:31 AM
Lotís of good advice given so far and grakin is right, the first thing to freeze up is the shower lines. There is a good size exhaust vent hole in the floor under the tub exposing the plumbing to out side air. I made a mod. to my TM putting shutoff valves in the lines going to that area so I could shut off the water and drain it then only turning it on when using the shower. Have a hair dryer with you to thaw the outside drains if need be. Leaving cabinet door under the sink and the bath door open when itís really cold helps keep that area warm. When below freezing, use a dishpan for wash water as much as possible and toss it. I poured a gal of 40 below windshield washer down the drains, cheaper than RV anti freeze, to help keep the gray water tank from freezing then used the drains as little as possible. Worked at temps well below zero, so far. An other thing we do is use a gas Coleman lantren, gives off plenty of light, saves on battery power and helps heat the place. Just be sure you have good ventilation. Ed

09-15-2008, 08:04 AM
We happened to have camped in White Salmon, Wash. last week. There is a great RV park right next to the bridge over the river. It was very clean with excellent showers, and I believe open all year. Most RV parks will negotiate the site rental especially at the time of year you will be there. You wouldn't have to move to dump and a small electric space heater would keep you warm down to 32 degrees. Just a suggestion. By the way, the bridge there has a small toll and is very narrow.

09-15-2008, 08:41 AM
Kevin -

Did you see the post by AlRHall in the Plumbing forum that showed the underside of the tub area? You could see where the water pipes come out of the underfloor channel and into the tub area. I'm betting you could snake a heat tape through that channel, from the beginning of the channel under the kitchen sink, into the undertub area, to keep those supply lines from freezing.

It would be quite a project to do this, but I ran an electrical cable through the wiring channel (runs parallel to the piping channel), and it worked out OK. Since you don't want to pull up the tub, you would have to pull the converter out of the wall and work through that opening - that's what I did. It is cramped, but manageable.

As part of the project, you would have to seal up the openings in the floor under the tub. Specifically, the ones around the pipes would have to be sealed, probably with a piece of tarpaper or building paper and expanding foam. You would want to leave the vent fan opening clear, but then close it off from the outside during the winter.

I bet this would work. Of course, it would depend on the specific configuration details of your trailer in that area. Not a task for the faint of heart, I think.


09-24-2008, 07:46 PM
Thanks guys for all your input- I'm picking up my new 2720SL Friday from Camper Outlet in Tualatin Oregon (Portland suburb). Thanks SCBilland Jane for the RV park recommendation in White Salmon- I've decided to stay there at least for the 1st month since it's only a mile and a half away from my new workplace where I will be attending training. I'm going to ease into the winter boondocking and prepare myself and my trailer with my usual meticulous style and extensive research- but I have gained much knowledge from this site alone and am very grateful to all the proud Trailmanor owners who have gone before me and made the mistakes I now don't have to make because I learned aboutthem here- I hope to bring you all great adventure stories myself as I enjoy my Trailmanor...Happy camping!

09-24-2008, 08:48 PM
Good luck. I'm sure you'll enjoy your 2720SL -- we sure do.

Looking forward to any reports you care to share with us.

09-25-2008, 04:07 PM
Would you let us know how using the TM as you are going to works out? I was wondering how the TM would do as a temporary home away from home. Camping is one thing. But going to work everyday, coming home to the TM would be different. Thanks much and best of luck to you!

09-28-2008, 10:01 AM
Reference the tub/shower area... I had a vent cut in from the "hallway" to the area under the tub to allow warm air to flow in. Also, and probably more importantly, keep your bathroom door open except when it's being used, particularly at night.

09-28-2008, 11:43 AM
FDXFlyer -

Sounds like a good solution. Did you also cover up the outside of the vent under the tub, to reduce cold air infiltration?


10-09-2008, 08:14 PM
Last winter I spent 3 weeks Charlotte SC and it went down to 17 deg. The only freeze up I had was in the supply hose. I wrapped pipe insulation around it and felt insulation around the little drains. I did not let the gray tank fill up.
I assumed that everything was well insulated. But my drains and water lines under the tub were un-insinuated. All of the insulation was removed to make the channel they lay in. See my gray water tank replacement posts for more pictures.
Now, after having spent a few weekends under the tub, I understand how I survived.
Here is what I think saved me in Charlotte.
1. I bought 2 electric heaters. Electricity in included in the rent and a heater costs about the same as one tank of gas. See my post about a second breaker for the hidden outlet behind the stove.
2. I ran one heater on low, all of the time.
3. I left the bathroom vent fan on. I didnít know where it was, but I like to keep the toilet well vented.
Actually the fan is in the side of the tub next to the toilet. It exhausts past all of those un-insulated pipes and keeps them warm.
As you can see in the attached, my pipes now have insulation.
Next time I am in the cold world, I will fill most of the hole where the drain trap is with fiberglass. I also intend to buy the external cover that the newer TMs have.

It is not as hard to remove a pre-2007 tub as I made it. Actually it is about a 30 minute job. More on that later.


10-10-2008, 07:04 AM
If anyone is doing a lot of cold weather camping, you might check out www.nofreezewaterhose.com. They aren't cheap, but might be worthwhile if you do a lot of winter camping. - camp2canoe

10-26-2008, 11:57 AM
one thing I do when cold weather camping is to use silver bubble wrap insultation on the windows. I go a 50' by 4' roll from Home depot and cut pieces that fit the windows using the curtains to hold them in place. I also put this stuff on the bottom of the beds (2720). I also use air mattresses(coleman's from Wal-Mart) with electric bed pads (Wal-mart). I use a 1500 watt ceramic heater when shorelined.

I also use the window wraps in hot weather to keep cool.