I thought I would write about winter living after the frigged temps receded a bit and I could put all my friend’s worries aside. This past week we have seen temperatures below zero and have lived to tell the tale. I’m certain I have more to learn this winter and from other full-timers (those that live in campers full-time) but for now, I have only my experience.
First of all, when I was living at the state park amongst seasoned full-timers I was constantly picking their brains about the woes of winter. When I suggested that I would empty my tanks and winterize (you know, add anti-freeze to my tanks) and then haul water aboard, they all guffawed. Apparently the warmth of the interior is enough (from their experience) to protect the pipes and tanks. I was also encouraged to make use of space heaters.
How are we staying warm?
The camper is heated with propane. I have two 30 pound cylinders. They cost $28 after tax to fill at Heetco in North Lawrence. When the weather is above freezing and I am using a space heater, a 30 pound tank lasts me on average 22 days. I keep the thermostat set at 65 just to avoid having to use propane for heat. That one tiny space heater will run us out of the camper some times. If the temps are below freezing, I am getting about 10 days per tank. Not too shabby. We have tried running more space heaters but it flips our breaker. Eventually I’ll just run a second line, I just haven’t been that organized yet.
The first night of freezing temps, I barely slept. Things get really loud in a camper at night. The sound of the furnace (can I call it that) coming on, the water pump making whatever noise it makes, the dog jumping off the sofa, the gust of wind that just came through. Each creak and moan and I was certain my pipes were freezing. I actually got out of bed and crawled under the camper at 2 a.m and pounded on the bottom of my fresh water tank. As soon as I felt the water slosh around I was able to fall back asleep. Silly, I know.
Survival tip #1; A good sense of humor is required! The second no-brainer is to wear lots and lots of layers, vanity aside.
Are our tanks freezing?
Apparently so. The grey water and black water tanks seem to be fine (as in they are not freezing) but they are constantly in motion. Our fresh water tank is another story. If the temperature gets low enough for enough days in a row, the water freezes just enough that the water pump can’t pump it into the camper. We could remedy this by getting a heated hose and directly feeding the water. If we were at the state park the water would be shut off, so I never purchased a heated hose. Instead, when it’s super cold, I just turn my water pump off (its crazy noisy) and bring jugs of water on board. Not too bad, but not too great either.
How do we take showers?
This is the hardest thing for people to wrap their minds around, but we never shower in the camper, even when it was warm outside. We shower at the gym, the pool, friends and families’ houses, and currently at our friends house as we are parked in her driveway. I wanted to avoid filling up our grey water tank (which requires dumping) and its really not that great a shower. This has never been an issue for us. Actually it has made our lives a bit more sociocentric.
In the meantime, the skylight makes for an awesome atrium and hopefully is helping to keep our bathroom air a bit cleaner.
Do we have a skirt on our camper?
We do not. Yikes, I know. What a difference that would make! Essentially, they are quite pricey and I just never got it done with everything else this fall. Fortunately, we are not at the lake any more and the houses around us create a fairly decent wind-breaker. I can only imagine what a difference a skirt would make and I absolutely intend to have one next year. I did purchase heating pads to stick to our tanks and as soon as things warm up, I will have an electrician over to install them. We are just making this up as we go.
I will admit, its a bit frosty inside, but it helps to keep a sense of humor. I was at my Dad’s the other day and discussing the struggles with staying warm in a tiny, drafty popsicle box. I mentioned that there was an inch of ice on our steps and that both the dog and I slip on every time we go in and out. Without skipping a beat he said, “well, its made of metal, get a hammer and beat it off!” Day’s of us slipping and two seconds at my Dad’s and wala! When I got home a took a hammer and beat off the ice and improved our quality of life just enough to see the light!