Humpf! The muffled noise stirred Lynn to full consciousness. Actually, she was only half asleep, having previously woken up cold and tried to roll over, but discovered she was pinned on her left side by one dog curled against her chest and another behind her knees. The 27-inch wide “single” beds in the Roadtrek were not meant for one person and two dogs (especially 50-pound dogs.) Roger uttered the “humpf” – Becky was trying to climb in bed with him. It was freezing and the three Poodles were cold.
We were parked in the West Virginia mountains above Cass (in the quiet zone of the Greenbank Observatory). It was January and the temperature was 12 degrees outside. We were at friend's house, plugged into a 15-amp circuit, and we had turned on our little electric heater before retiring. We had been in the same location the night before and had been comfortable in our Travasaks (winter side up,) with the little heater on the same setting. But the temperature had plunged this night to 12 degrees and the heater was not keeping up.
We got up, turned on the propane furnace. Ahhh! Nice and warm. We remade the bed as a king and we and the dogs slept comfortably the rest of the night.
We have learned a lot about comfort in winter Roadtreking since that night. There are multiple approaches to winter RVing, so we will describe what works for us and our Roadtrek. Our comments apply to the less exotic Roadtreks — we will leave the eTrek and other new products to Mike.
Some owners park their Roadtreks when the temperatures dip below freezing. Our Roadtrek gets about the same amount of use year-round. Since we got our Roadtrek, we have spent every Christmas Eve in the comfort of it, in a relative's driveway. Our winter trips, except for those to warmer climates, are often fairly short — up to three nights– but still occur regularly.
The first thing to know about winter camping is Reflectix. You need some. It looks like bubble wrap between two layers of aluminum foil. It is available at Lowes or Home Depot in the insulation department. You can also find it at Camping World. It is great for summertime use in the windows to keep down the sun heat load, but it is equally useful in the winter to prevent heat loss. Use scissors to cut it.
Cut pieces that fit the windows tightly. Most of the time you can press them into the window and they will stay in place. If you have screens on your door windows you can cut the pieces to fit between the screen and the window — pop the window open, insert the Reflectix panel and close the window.
Cover all your windows. We use a folding reflective sun screen for the windshield. A piece for the Fantastic Fan in the roof is useful, secured with a couple of mini-bungees to hold it against the opening. A piece for the stove vent fan is even more useful because it is drafty even when closed. We've heard of owners who wrap a big piece of the stuff around the entire head of the bed to avoid any drafts from the rear door. And some use a piece of it to direct heat from a front furnace toward the rear. Reflectix is wonderful multi-purpose stuff for the RVer.
Although Travasaks (or equivalent) are wonderful, consider a warmer sleeping bag for winter camping. We have several weights of down sleeping bags from our bicycle camping days and have never regretted using them when the weather turned cold.
Use your furnace. It works well. Even if you are using an electric heater, turn on the furnace and set it to a low temperature. That way if the electric heater can't handle the temperature drop, it will not get too cold inside your Roadtrek.
Usually the obstacles to winter RVing involve water and tanks. Our Roadtrek was not built for winter use plumbing, so we do winterize when cold weather comes. That doesn't keep us from living comfortably in our Roadtrek.
First, running water for washing, brushing teeth and cooking: we fill a container of drinking water that sits on a foam pad against the kitchen wall. When winterized, we put an RV dishpan in the sink (perfect fit) and swivel the water container so the spout is over the dishpan. Voila! Now we have running water. Water for dish washing or shaving can be heated in the microwave or on the stove.
With the dishpan in the sink we don't use the gray tank at all in the winter. But we do use the black tank. It works fine as long as you use enough antifreeze to keep liquids in it from freezing solid. A little slushy is OK. We keep a jug of antifreeze beside the toilet to flush with a half-cup per use. If the weather is not too cold, we will used the water in the dishpan for flushing as well. Just pick a warmer day to dump the tank. If it sits for many weeks between dumping, it does not hurt anything as long as you have sufficient antifreeze in it. You can add some warm water to the tank before dumping to ensure good flow. It is possible to avoid toilet use at all with pee bottles and wag bags, but that is far too much trouble for us.
There is really no reason to avoid winter travels in your RV. With some preparation and some practice you and your dogs will be just as comfortable as other times of the year. Our Roadtrek is an all-weather joy!