Over the past couple of years I’ve received a lot of emails inquiring about how we go about our winter camping adventures with our Airstream that it seems I should probably create a post about it.
Here’s a summary of our situation.
We live in the Pacific Northwest in the United States of America — specifically Seattle. Seattle experiences a rather mild change of seasons with the average temperate in winter time hovering around the mid 40’s. We do occasionally drop down to below freezing and we do experience snow every now and then. This means, for us, in the colder months — we need to keep a constant eye on the weather/temperature as we don’t (and never have) winterized our Airstream. If temps drop down below freezing we head into the Airstream and turn on the furnace which in turn, keeps the Airstream and her pipes warm (and from freezing).
So that’s Seattle — but about 1 hour from Seattle you reach the mountain pass (Snoqualmie Summit/skiing) where temps are typically always around freezing (except for this year — it’s weird!). It is here where we love to spend our weekends and holidays with our Airstream. Hubby is a ski instructor, B is a level 5 skier and I myself, after tearing my ACL in half not too long ago enjoy snowshoeing/nordic skiing with Oliver and of course cooking in my silver kitchen ♥
We absolutely LOVE camping with our Airstream in winter. Why? We can take our Airstream with us up to the mountain pass and literally have a ski-in and ski-out situation. Families gather in their trailers nearby and there are kids/friends galore for B and us to mingle with. The fun doesn’t stop when the sun goes down either — bring on the nighttime where people gather outside around portable campfires grilling dinner while the kids sled down the lit ski runs nearby.
We’ve been in some pretty frigid conditions such as one time while in McCall, Idaho we woke up and it was minus 7 degrees. But from inside the trailer we had no idea — that is until we got into the truck and saw the outdoor temperature reading. Wow. Nowadays that probably doesn’t seem that cold but for us, it was pretty cold!
Here’s what we do. We don’t winterize our Airstream. We do travel with a full tank of water. While under tow, we keep the furnace set to 50 degrees — which means keeping the propane on because when you tow through cold weather — things get colder . . .
One of my readers asked me if we added insulation to the outside compartments such as the shower head to which I replied “we never have,” — but I guess if we did use the shower at one point, water would still be in there so it would be a good idea to add insulation there. It’s just that we’ve never used ours, so we don’t.
When we run out of water, we fill the tank back up (we don’t leave the hose attached). When the gray/black tanks get full we dump (and we don’t leave the stinky slinky attached either).
It is very important in cold temps to keep the hot water heater going 100% of the time. This will keep the tanks warm. Also, it’s very important to keep the furnace set to at least 50 degrees (during the day while you are out and about – skiing, etc.) The furnace blows warm air onto the pipes keeping them warm and from freezing. Then when we arrive back at the Airstream, we turn the furnace up higher to around 65 degrees. If you have an older/smaller/vintage Airstream your furnace may not blow warm air onto your pipes — always worth it to check out what heating system comes along for your pipes in cold weather.
We don’t recommend using a supplemental heating electrical fan/unit as this will only confuse the furnace making the temps in the Airstream warmer and it will not trigger the furnace to come on. Now, with that said — there is an occasion where I will use an electric fan and that is when the temperatures outside are above freezing level — around 40 degrees or so. That’s when I’ll use the electrical fan (and I will turn the furnace off, to give it a break and save battery power too) But never, ever when the temps are at freezing. You’ve gotta keep those pipes warm. And the hot water tank heater — it’s always on — even if it is above 40 degrees. Never turn that off.
When we take weekend trips to the local mountain pass to go skiing there are no hookups so we run the generator when the battery gets low. At night in the ski lot you can hear the faint hum of nearby generators — keeping everyone warm. So running the generator at night is necessary because batteries will never last long when a furnace is going full speed. During long ski trips we find places where we can plug in which makes things a lot easier.
We’re going on our third year of winter camping and have never had an issue using the steps above.
Recently on Airforums.com I received this email from a fellow reader:
I love your blog, and am also interested in winter camping. You don’t have any issues pulling your AS thru compact snow and ice? Does it pretty much perform just like a dry street if you go easy?
To which I replied:
Thank you for reaching out to me — I asked my hubby to respond to your question since he is the one who tows. Here is his response:
No it does not perform like towing on a dry street.
I have been driving in all different snow conditions for over 40 years.
All different types of snow conditions can create different challenges.
In slushy snow you are inconsistently hydroplaning. Drop your speed appropriately for those conditions.
There are some kinds of icy conditions where you have little or no control. Do not drive in those conditions. Stop at the nearest rest stop or parking lot and wait it out.
Deep fresh lighter snow is manageable and is better snow to drive in than the former two types of snow conditions. Drop your speed appropriately.
If you have to drive in snow, compact snow is preferable. Drop your speed appropriately.
It is a benefit if the department of transportation is plowing and sanding the roads. Do not let this give you over confidence.
If you are approaching a mountain pass or hill with little or no shoulder to pull off onto, chain up well before entering the steeper grade.
Avoid driving at night in snow and ice conditions.
When driving an RV or towing a coach in severe winter conditions drive slower, leave lots of room between you and other vehicles, travel in the right hand lane, don’t lock up your breaks even if they are ABS, never spin your tires, and carry chains.
We tow with a Ford F350 super duty, long bed. I believe the wheel base on our truck gives us a smooth and stable ride.
Here is a link to all of our snow/winter trip with our Airstream if you would like to see.
Hubby, B and I are wishing you and awesome winter and happy & safe travels xoxo