Jan 142017

I got an email yesterday from a couple who are currently stuck in Wisconsin dealing with a family medical issue that may keep them there most of the winter. They said that while their RV is supposed to be an “all seasons” rig, they are finding it is far from adequate in the situation they find themselves in. They are parked in their son’s driveway and finding it to be quite a challenge living in an RV in the wintertime. Moving into the house is not an option, and they were asking for advice on ways to handle the situation and keep warm.

We know only too well what they’re going through. Eighteen months into our fulltiming adventure, we found ourselves stuck in Traverse City, Michigan in the wintertime while Terry was being treated for stage four cancer. And while the RV we had at that time, which became known as the Motorhome From Hell, was also supposed to be a four seasons rig, we found that it wasn’t.

Even without the terrible medical ordeal Terry was going through, it would still have been a miserable experience. But we did get through it, and today she is healthy and cancer free. Here are some tips we learned during that experience.

Power management is very important. We were parked at my cousin’s house and the best we could do was to plug into a 20 amp electrical outlet. It was enough to keep our batteries charged, and to watch television when the snow did not cover the satellite TV dish, but that was about it. We tried to use an electric space heater to supplement the feeble furnace on our motorhome, but every time we turned it on we blew the circuit. We had to switch to propane for our water heater, and carefully monitor our electrical use.

Insulate anyway you can. The more cold you can keep out of your RV, the less you have to heat it. I have known RVers in similar situations who put tarps, plywood, and even hay bales around the bottom of their rigs to keep the cold from coming in underneath. And surprisingly, snow is a very good insulator. At least it kept the cold wind from blowing underneath the rig. I guess that’s why Eskimos used to live in igloos, right?

Glass is a major conduit for cold. Silver foil over the windows reduces your ability to see outside, but can go a long way to helping you stay warmer inside. We also found that a lot of cold air came in around both of our slides. If bringing them in for the duration is not an option, stuffing towels around the inside of the seals helps a bit. But when you’re in below zero temperatures, you can only do so much.

Condensation is also a problem when you keep the rig closed up in cold weather. Our poorly insulated Pace Arrow Vision had several places in the front of the coach that were soaking wet for most of the time we were there. Later on we discovered DampRid, which does a very good job of absorbing moisture. I wish I had known about it back then.

Obviously, water hoses freeze in that kind of an environment. We would fill our fresh water tank, then disconnect the hose and run off the water pump until we needed to refill it. I found that hanging a simple trouble light with a 40 watt bulb inside the plumbing bay kept things from freezing in there.

One of the best things we bought, and the thing that really made it tolerable for us when we had to return for Terry’s follow-up care, was an Olympian catalytic heater. That thing worked great and was much more efficient than the RV furnace that came with the motorhome. Like the DampRid, I wish we had known about it while we were in the worst of the winter weather up there.

We bought extended-stay type propane line and ran it to our motorhome’s tank, and our gas consumption went down, while our comfort factor went way up.

When using any propane device inside for heat, it is absolutely necessary to have proper ventilation. We kept a living room window and a roof vent in the bathroom cracked open to provide it. We also used a small fan to help circulate the warm air from the heater throughout the motorhome.

One of the things that helped considerably was isolating the parts of the living quarters we were actually in. Even with the foil over the front windshield it was still very cold in the cab of the motorhome, but hanging heavy blankets across the rig just behind the driver and passenger seats helped keep that cold up front and made the living and dining room more comfortable.

If you are parked somewhere where you have decent electrical power available to you, a heated mattress pad can make sleeping much easier. With heat rising from below you, you don’t need as many blankets on top, which for me makes for a better night’s sleep.

Those are just some of the things that helped us get through that terrible time. Of course the best thing you can do is get out of Dodge and go someplace warm as soon as possible. But that’s not always an option. Hopefully, until you can, these tips will make life a little more tolerable. Does anybody else have any suggestions they would like to share? Your input is always welcome.

So far almost 90 people have entered our latest Free Drawing, and I’m not surprised, because we have a great prize for you this time around! Marianne Edwards from Boondockers Welcome is donating a membership for this week’s lucky winner. That can save you a ton of money in your RV travels! To enter, all you have to do is click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.

Thought For The Day – Live life like a butterfly. Take a rest sometimes, but don’t forget to fly.

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Nick Russell

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  6 Responses to “Stuck In A Winter Wonderland”

  1. We lived in a travel trailer way back when — we used bails of straw to insulate around the bottom however we became inadated with mice from those so be carefule when using those.

  2. There was a good article in an Escapees Magazine some time ago about how to live in the RV in the winter. Perhaps this person could check that out if they belong to Escapees.

  3. One trick very few people even think about if you’re going to be there for three months average have an electrical contractor put in a 50 amp temporary construction site electrical box The same type you see on new home construction lots ( it has its own separate meter)
    Blue flame makes a really good catalytic heater. But pick the one that has the thermostatic option
    And as far as propane that you’re working with get 150 pound or 200 pound bottle With on call delivery

  4. We have that Olympian Wave 8 and it really really helps a lot in cold temps in Wisconsin. Does not use any power so it is great for boondocking. We do use a 12 volt CoolAir fan to move some of the heat to the back bedroom. Also that mattress pad heater is something we use too. VERY nice to crawl in warm sheets at bedtime!

  5. I would also recommend an electric dehumidifier it really increases the comfort level in the coach and keeps the condensation to a minimum. I use one in my MotorHome all winter in the PNW. It makes the air feel warmer instead of a damp cold.

  6. In addition to what has been mentioned, we found that our over-the-range microwave / exhaust fan was pulling air out because the wind was opening the flap … stuffed the opening with plastic bags to hold the flap closed.

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