winter camping in our RV

Camping in the mountains, during winter, in your RV, is not the easiest. It takes some planning and special considerations. Nick had been thinking of these considerations all year, so we were pretty prepared when it came time to set up our RV for the cold temps.

One the largest tasks was building a skirt for the trailer. While Nick really wanted to buy a vinyl custom made skirt, Brittany wanted to save $500 and make it ourselves. After talking it through, we ended up taking a stab at making it ourselves.  First task was painting the 1" silver insulation boards white, to match our RV (a park requirement in Breckenridge). Next, Nick built a wooden frame out of 2x3 wood studs, spacing the vertical supports about 4 feet apart, entirely around the circumference of the trailer. Using the insulation board, he then drilled the boards to the wood using washers and screws. We decided to drill the board to a wooden frame instead of just taping it to the trailer, because we had experienced how windy it got in Fairplay, CO and we did not want the skirt to be flimsy or fall apart in rough weather. After all the boards were secure, we then took aluminum tape to the top half of the boards,further securing them to the R.V and to help keep any warm air from escaping. We then took white duct tape to cover the aluminum tape, so the entire skirt was white (again, a park rule in Breck). If there were any large gaps showing in between the boards and the RV, we stuffed them with Duct wrap insulation, before covering it with tape.

Under our slide, Nick cut out an access panel so we could store our bikes, tools and kayaks under the RV to clear up space inside the RV. With the skirt on our trailer, it remained an average temperature of 38 degrees in the "basement" - even in temperatures below zero. It's important for your basement to remain warm so that your pipes and water tank don't freeze and you're efficiently using your energy in the living quarters. With our skirt on, our tank and pipes never froze, and we stayed pretty toasty inside. 

Now, our tanks and water line did freeze this winter, and it happened when our skirt was not on and our water hose was not heat taped. In order for it to thaw out, we had to wait and hope that the sun and heat lamp would help melt it. Not too fun.

The three campgrounds that we chose to stay at this winter all had heat probed water. This means that the water faucet from the RV park is heated or prepped so that the water does not freeze, and you are able to get water in all temps. To protect our water hose from freezing, we wrapped our hose in heat tape, and then wrapped it in pipe insulation. 

 

One problem we did run into this winter, was our fridge coils freezing and not working. The coils are located in an outside panel on the trailer, and during an extended period of low temps, they froze and quit working. A small, cheap, 75 watt lightbulb plugged into the area emitted enough heat and fixed the problem and our fridge was back to working order in a day.

THE INSIDE: The inside of our trailer produced a ton of moisture this winter. Moisture is a RV's enemy as it produces mold and other structural problems with the wood. They say to keep the humidity level between 30% and 40% in a small space such as a trailer. Through the use of a humidity thermometer we monitored the percentages, and noticed we were reaching 50% during the night while we slept.  

To lower that percentage, opening a window can instantly bring your humidity level down. As we were camping in negative degree weather, we were not stoked on the idea of having our heat escape out an open window. So we started looking into dehumidifiers. Because we are in a small trailer, we are really conscious about anything new we bring into our space. A new, large dehumidifier would not only weigh a ton, but cost several hundred dollars, and use up quite a bit of electricity. When looking over smaller and cheaper dehumidifiers online, we learned that sometimes they worked great and sometimes you got a lemon - it was a crab shoot.

We decided to go with Homasy mini dehumidifier.  It uses 22w of energy, is only 2.9 pounds, and was pretty quiet.  We bought two and placed one in the back bedroom and one in the main living area. The one in the bedroom filled up its 16.9 oz reservoir within a week. The one in the main living area barely collected anything and we ended up returning it and just keeping one in the bedroom.

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Along with the dehumidifiers, we purchased a Eva-dry E-500. We had read online all about its greatness and decided to put it to the test. The nice thing about the Eva-dry E-500 is that its small, relatively lightweight, and does not use electricity when in use. The inside is filled with little crystal balls that start off blue and slowly turn to pink as it collects moisture. When its full and turns pink, you plug it in an outside and source and it releases the moisture back into the air. We have had the Eva-dry for 4 months and it just turned pink. We have no idea if it is really collecting water, or if it's all a scam, but we are still using it on our counter as we speak, so theres that.

Along with the Eva- Dry, we purchased Damprid Hanging Moisture Absorbers. (We figured we might as well try a bit try of everything.) They are also designed to collect moisture in the tiny beads and then release the water in a plastic see through reservoir below. It took about two months before we saw any water collecting at the bottom, but we were impressed with how much water they did end up collecting. They worked really well in our bathroom, and bedroom.

 

Condensation dripping from the inside of our windows was one problem we never really found a good solution for. We started off with reflectix in all the windows, to help keep the warmth inside.  Soon we grew tired of not being able to see out our windows, so we covered half of them in the clear window celephane instead. Both options worked great at keeping the warmth in, but neither could stop the moisture that dripped onto our furniture and walls from the windows. Our quick solution was just to leave towels under them to catch the water. Maybe next year we will think of something better. 

Overall, we thought that this winter went really smooth, and we are already scouting out new camping spots in the mountains for next winter! 

how we chose our first home on wheels.

We are currently in Portland,Oregon waiting to get some travel trailer and truck issues looked at, and Nick and I have been reflecting how everyday has been a learning experience out here on the open road. We put in quite a bit of time into research before buying our trailer, thinking we knew so much, but yet still only grazing the surface of this great big world of full-time rving. 

During the summer of 2013, Brittany convinced Nick that buying an RV would be pretty cool. We loved the outdoors, and traveling, and an RV would give us a place to store our St. Bernard Buford while out and about. We were starting to see examples of other people choosing to live their life in a different way, and it interested us. Brittany was starting to realize that the standard "American Dream" didn't really click with her. We were heading down a very predictable path of adulthood. We had gotten married, had the dog, had the house, and we were getting sucked into this world of obtaining more and more things. Things that were better than our last thing, more expensive, and meanwhile, never really having enough time to spend together. Brittany, a hairdresser for 10 years, was in the balancing the act of owning her own salon and putting herself through school to become a special ed teacher. After college, then it was surviving her first teaching her first year of middle school for children with Autism. Nick was getting promoted at work, gaining more responsibility and having less free time. Hearing and seeing other people living their lives in different ways really inspired us to stop moving in autopilot mode and examine how we wanted our story to be read.

So while Brittany was subconsciously thinking an RV could be their next home, Nick was just thinking it sounded fun on the weekends. Then came the hard part. Choosing an RV. We scoured online for months, trying to make sense of all the information out there. It was a lot to take in. Through websites, blogs, and our experiences visiting dealerships, we had decided that a travel trailer would best suit our weekend warrior needs. It was inexpensive, easy to maintain, and would (hopefully)  be a nice introduction into the RV world.

Next came deciding on a size. Brittany was hoping to eventually go full time, so she was trying to find a size that would work in place of their home. Nick was trying to find a size that didn't scare the heck out him, as he had never towed anything in his life. Both of us were looking for a space large enough to entertain friends and family, and for Buford to be comfortable in.

The whole time, Nick already knew exactly what he wanted- an Airstream. Having completely redone our 1960's ranch home into a mid century mod paradise, he felt the Airstream would be a perfect extension of our current design element. While Airstreams are actually made in OH, finding dealerships or a used one nearby, proved quite hard at the time. We found one dealership that had just opened 30 minutes from our home in Columbus, and we set off. It was an overwhelming experience, one that left us with sticker shock, and a dream of owning a 25' International. After leaving the dealership, we entertained the sales persons offers and realized our monthly payment would be around $700 a month (!), and reluctantly moved on.

From there, we headed to a dealership in Indiana, about an hour or so away from our house. They had over 20 acres of RV's and we spent the entire day walking in and out of every unit they had.  We were drawn to trailers that had rear living, with lots of windows and lighter colors. Neither of us can remember the brand of trailer we first made an offer on, but after we made the offer, the salesman directed us to our Springdale. Nick was very firm at not wanting to spend over $15,000, and we ended up getting a used 2013 26' Springdale originally priced at $19,900 right where we wanted it.

There are several features of the trailer we were not and are still not thrilled about. In the end, it came down to the Springdale having a huge picture window in the back ( like an airstream) and numerous windows throughout. We bought our first RV on January 1st, 2014. 

Next, we had to find a tow vehicle. As it was winter, the dealership had no problem storing the trailer for several months while we found a truck. Trucks ended up giving us further sticker shock,  and we quickly started looking at ones closer to 100,000 miles, rather than brand new. It was rough out there, in the used truck shopping world, and there were not many options. 

The first truck we bought was a lemon. It was a grey, 2008, Ford F-150 with numerous upgrades, including a towing package. After the first day of driving it, it began to stall out, so we took it back into the dealership and they issued us refund and some excuses for why it was happening. It turned out to be a good thing, because in the end, we ended up finding the truck we really wanted - an '07 Black Toyota Tundra. We had some reservations about it only being a half ton truck, and towing our large trailer, but it towed and handled great.

That summer, we took a 40 day trip out west in our Tundra and trailer, and it turned into a catalyst for what was to come.