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Old 11-22-2019, 10:01 AM   #1
Join Date: Feb 2013
Posts: 42
The Cold Weather Camping Follies

Winter RV camping follies and Miscellaneous Eephus.
The Grand Adventure, 2019 October and November
Our trip started in early October, first stop Little Rock Arkansas for a week. Turned into almost two weeks due to a sick relative. Lowest temperature was in the 50s-F.
From there to New Orleans (that’s “GNAW-leenz”) for four days. Rambled around the French Quarter with a life-long friend, looking for ghosts and good bakery. Lowest temperature was in the 50s.
Then we meandered along the Gulf Coast to Tifton Georgia where we spent four days visiting a cousin. Family issues kept us two extra days.
Followed by a leisurely coastal drive to Tybee Island, east of Savannah, just to relax for three days. Temperatures dipped into the 40s, with strong wind.
Our next planned stop was in Wilmington NC for four days, again to visit relatives. BUT, a strong cold front dropped temps into the mid-20s, while wind and snow loomed along our route home. Up until Wilmington we had used only the heat pump for heating the coach. We spent an extra day waiting for a winter snow storm to pass. Helpful hint: if you visit the battleship in fall, wear warm clothes – no shorts. And a windbreaker.
Driving home mid-November took four days as we skirted the weather, heading ever more southwestward. I WON’T drive in slippery conditions. Temps en route dropped to mid- to low-20s. With snow. “Home” being Wisconsin, we were greeted by a snow-covered yard and driveway.
A Sales Experience to gush over.
We have a 2014 Forest River Forester 27-foot Class C with three slideouts, on the Ford chassis with the V-10 engine. We bought it in May of 2013. The salesman was excellent, everything he recommended turned out to be accurate. At the time, we did not expect to travel in sub-30’s weather. Best laid plans - - -.
Family and Fish After Three Days, If They Last That Long.
Family came to visit in late November the first year we had the RV, and we used it as a guest apartment. Low temperature was 23-F.
When we got the RV we saw a switch on the central control panel labeled “Arctic Pack.” When pushed to “on” with battery, generator or shore power available, it illuminated. At time of delivery we pointed it out to the dealer and were told absolutely positively it did NOT have the Arctic Pack. It wasn’t on the order/delivery sheet.
The visit from family went fine. BUT, we had emptied all water, requiring our guests to come into the house to use the bathroom. Inconvenient, but HEY! We didn’t have the Arctic Pack. The dealer said so. We also had our guests running the furnace full-time because we were told by the dealer that we absolutely positively did NOT have a heat pump. Even though the round heat/cool/temperature control has “Heat Pump” as a selection and the light illuminates when selected, and the order/delivery sheet says “15,000 BTU Air Conditioner w/Heat Pump.” We had no previous experience with heat pumps, and the instructions that came with the RV had scant information, so we went with what we were told. I mean, the dealer had to be right. Right?
The dealer offered no intro for first-time owners but said one of their employees could do it on a personal basis for $50. We bit. No video, brochure or checklist was included. Just pay attention and, well, - - -. For anyone interested, I will list for you the many errors and oversights we found out the hard way that she made.
We had not camped in any sub-30 weather during the first three years, and during hot weather the air conditioner did a great job. In the cool weather we did encounter, the furnace worked well.
Straining Our Horizons and Technical Knowledge
Then came a trip to Alaska in October a year later.
Do we or don’t we have the FR Arctic Pack? Enquiring minds wanted to know. It’s still not listed on the order or delivery sheets. I looked. Again.
Called the dealer, again, and was, again, told NO! No Arctic Pack! Trip to Alaska went fine. Used both the furnace and the air conditioner as needed. We were in temps less than 30-F only a few days and we had no problems. I had learned when installing a kit for sucking antifreeze into the water system on the RV, that there was a furnace duct to the water pump, so running the furnace kept it warm. Following the advice of a forum member we also left the cabinet doors under the sinks open to let warm air circulate around the drains. As a side benefit, that made the coach smell like Dawn and mouth wash.
BTW, we saw all-wheel-drive RVs in Alaska and Canada. Tempting, OOoooh, tempting.
Some Pathetic Bragging and Humbling Admissions.
Quick note: I built race cars and have spent many hours bent over them or crawling under them, and did much of the maintenance on our family vehicles. We also owned an airplane on which I performed much of the maintenance in the same uncomfortable fashion. *I* don’t do that any more. I prefer to pay flexible youngsters for that.
The spring after the Alaska trip I was dewinterizing the RV and decided to let the heat pump run, oh, just for the heck of it. Guess what! We have a heat pump! And it cooled nicely! Not as well as the AC, but HEY, it worked! Made me wonder about using the heater function. Had to wait for a cool day. GUESS WHAT! It heats very nicely! Even in temps into the low-30s it provides adequate heat.
There is one big difference between using the heat pump for heat or AC, and the furnace. Anything from the roof, air conditioner or heat pump, blows from the ceiling. No heat to the floor and no heat to the water pump. Only the furnace will heat the water pump, and it blows only through the floor vents. I can hear the chorus of “Well, DUH!” from here.
So, we astutely concluded, if freezing of the water systems is an issue, we have to use the furnace. Would be nice to be able to use the furnace and the heat pump at the same time, but, isn’t wired that way. Still, in cool-but-not-cold weather (due to the water pump), we can save propane with the heat pump.
Too bad we didn’t have the Arctic Pack. The dealer - - - well, you know.
Which Brings Us To:
Then came this trip. We had expected to be home in Wisconsin by early November, thereby avoiding any really cold weather. Recent years of mild Octobers and Novembers had lulled us into expecting that again.
Family issues backed us up a couple weeks and it was apparent we would be traveling home in mid-November, possibly late November, without an Arctic Pack.
A Solution Presents Itself
Before leaving Tifton I called Camping World in North Carolina to see if they could order the parts for the Arctic Pack and install them while we visited relatives. ‘Yes’, we were told, they could. They just needed to order the parts. I said “GO!”
The service rep called me back a day later to say I should call Forest River myself to ask about parts because there are options I needed to choose from. OK. I did.
And Falls Apart, Thank The Goddess.
Guess what Forest River told me. I ALREADY HAVE THE ARTIC PACK! It’s on their build sheet! But not on our delivery sheet. (Stay tuned for more riveting revelations.)
Oh, and of COURSE I had the heat pump, they said when I asked about it, it’s standard with the air conditioner! Everybody knows that! “Everybody!” Hmph.
Learning we had the Arctic Pack was a great relief. I asked FR what it included and was told: heating pads for the holding tanks (note amendment below) and electrical heating tape on the “drains”. Nothing for the fresh water tank or dump valves.
Now: THANK YOU to all the people on this forum who told of their own experiences camping in cold weather, and their understandings of “arctic packs”. I realized there was one major oversight in the FR Pack: nothing for the dump valves or the elbows leading to them. One forum contributor related using a hair drier to thaw his.
Getting Creative, I suppose, So, “Like” Me On Facebook.
At Camping World I found a small Comfort Zone ceramic 110V space heater. I ran it for several hours to determine how hot it got. It was quite mild. It also has a tip-over switch that will shut it off if it does tip over, and a high-temp shut-off.
I braced it in the dump valve compartment with a temperature sensor that reports to a station in the cabin, and a fire/smoke alarm, and I propped the door open. I monitored it for several hours until I was satisfied that it was not too hot. Keeping the compartment door open a couple inches resulted in a low temperature of 35-F with free-air temp of 25-F.
This is a temporary setup, of course. I intend to look for a heat blanket to wrap around the dump valves, or something, for any future forays into the cold.
Our first cold night saw temperatures to 27-F. This revealed another short-coming in our system, but one I expected. Our hose from the campground-supplied water spigot to the RV froze.
Easily remedied: Good Ole Camping World! I bought Camco’s “Freeze Ban 2000” hose. It has a short electrical cord so I bought a heavy-duty extension for it.
BUT, the couplings at each end of the hose froze! Good thing we had fresh water on board. I will bask in the glow of your admiration for anticipating this problem.
Since we were driving in sub-30’s temperatures behind a snowy cold front, we kept the Arctic Pack operating while we were driving until temperatures rose. That meant, we thought, operating the generator because we believed, per the contribution of a forum member, the Arctic Pack required 110V. (Keep reading.) We have no concerns about driving with the generator running. I measure our fuel mileage on every fill and it looked as though using the generator for three hours barely made one-tenth mile per gallon difference.
Additional observations and annoying lessons:
Some cold weather kits have double-pane windows. They would indeed be nice and would undoubtedly save propane. I’d have to weigh the cost to install them against how often we would be in such low temperatures. On the cool nights, the heat pump did a fine job even with only single-pane windows. One exception: the two small windows by the slideout bed were cold. We pushed small pillows up against them. I think making them double would be worth it.
A surprise, we thought, the first night we used the furnace on Tybee Island resulted in heavy condensation on every window, stem to stern. Running the heat pump dried it up, and we used it several more times for that purpose.
Extra insulation. I don’t see how I could add any to the cabin without total disassembly and I am not up for that. I can see how it would be useful on the belly, as some forum contributors advise, but I would want an expert to evaluate and install it.
A throw rug on the floor kept our feet warm when using the heat pump.
Campground Follies and First Responders
We had one puzzling experience. While in Wilmington NC the temperature at night dropped to the mid-20s. Early on our first evening when the outside air temp was still in the mid-30s, the CO/propane detector triggered and kept beeping. I threw the door open and sat beside it to do a reset but it stopped on its own. CO is odorless of course, but I sniffed and looked for smoke, detecting none.
About 15 minutes later it did it again, same outcome. We did a thorough walk-around outside and sniffed our way around the interior. I am a life-long pilot and benefited from regular training in an altitude chamber to kill brain cells, so I am familiar with my reactions to hypoxia in its many evil forms. I was experiencing nothing. We opened the roof vent and ran the fan.
This repeated, the interval getting a little shorter each time. Each time we did another careful check. The furnace was not running because we were using the heat pump. After the fifth time, I called the fire department. Three large, muscular men brought very sensitive equipment and did their own analysis and found no trace of CO or propane, and they put their detector on every propane fitting they could reach. They put it next to the CO detector and got zero. They also did their own inspection for fire and checked our smoke detector. My wife closed the door on me with one of them still inside.
I had replaced the CO/gas detector last July when the original reached its life’s end. I’m sure you know how obnoxious they are if not replaced. The new one has been working without problem.
AND, after the fire fighters left (a hostage negotiator got my wife to release the one inside), this new one never beeped again. I think they frightened it into compliance.
The only possibility I can even think of was that the wind was nearly calm and at least six other campers around us had fires. It is possible, I suppose, that some smoke had swirled under our RV in levels too low for my nose to detect. When the FD showed up, most of those fires mysteriously went away . . ..
So, that’s what happened to us on our first experience in really cold temperatures. If you consider mid-twenties “cold”. Due to the health of several family members, we may travel in cold weather a couple times a year.
The Creepy Crawlies and Secret Enclosures.
One other “Hmmm.” Several forum members said to look at the bottom of the holding tanks for heating pads and wires to determine whether an arctic pack is installed. Building on something I said earlier, I don’t crawl around under heavy, low vehicles any more. BUT, I decided to anyway. I could not see any of the three tanks. Another call to Patricia at FR, who told us they are ALL ENCLOSED! That ‘splained it.
Eephus, and a Conflict Resolved.
I’d like to learn ideas for heating the dump valves, and an alternative for the water pump so we can use the heat pump more. If I wrap the dump valves with heat tape, where would I plug it in?
I am puzzled by some forum contributors saying the kits/packs they have don’t put heat to the fresh water tank. Our FR system, does. Patricia said so. And I believe her.
That the couplings froze on both ends of our Freeze Ban 2000 hose makes it useless. Any ideas? It’s a pretty blue, so I could wrap it in tiny blinking lights and drape it along the awning fringe.
One issue with posts on the forum: Several people refer to the FR Arctic Pack as being powered by 12VDC. One member posted an older info brochure which also referred to 12VDC. Yet, others say theirs require 110VAC. Nobody told us and there is nothing official in any literature or online that I could find. So, ‘nother call to Patricia, who told us unequivocally the system is 12VDC ONLY.
I would really really really like a load meter on the electrical system, and a dedicated voltmeter for the battery.
So, let me hear it all. I know much of this has been discussed on the forum because I read a lot of it. Some of it is simply dated, going back to 2006. Some of it is contradictory. Much of it doesn’t seem to match our system.
Shameless Commercial Promotion
If I get this all figured out, maybe I’ll write a plain-language guide and sell it for $109.99 a copy. Ten-percent off for forum members.
THANK YOU to Patricia at Forest River Customer Service for all her help in sorting this stuff out. And for not laughing.
Post Script:
OK, when I say “hear it all” from you, I don’t mean the laughing.

Jan Gerstner. is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-22-2019, 10:29 AM   #2
Senior Member
A32Deuce's Avatar
Join Date: Nov 2012
Location: Mount Laurel, New Jersey
Posts: 8,207
Mine is 12 volt. I only use the heater hose to fill the fresh tank then empty the hose till next use. We have camped down to 16 degrees over night with no problem. Our dump valves are in a closed compartment and have not frozen yet.
The heat vent is on the pass side compartment where the pump and filter is and there is are area open enough all the way across to where the dump valves are. This open area is where all the elec and fresh tank is under the bed. No heat pump on our unit.
2012 SunSeeker 3100SS Toad-1962 Futura Average 100 + days camping
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