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Old 02-18-2019, 03:02 PM   #1
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Extreme Weather Insulation Package Results

[My first post. Any and all feedback is welcome, especially about finding existing threads on this topic.]

Do you have experience with Sportsmobile's Extreme Weather package?

We hope to receive our new SMB next year. We live in Massachusetts, and expect we will need to winterize when we park at home. What experience do you have camping in your SMB? How cold is realistic to still be able to camp at night? Any recommendations about what precautions to take, or risks to avoid?

Thanks in advance.
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Old 02-18-2019, 10:14 PM   #2
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We have an older van (1997, 7.3 L diesel) with a fixed top and have been upgrading it over the past 2.5 years. We haven't added to the standard insulation in the walls (perhaps about 2 inch thick foam). There is no insulation (yet) in the doors. With this somewhat minimal insulation we have been camping in single digit Fahrenheit weather in Montana without problems.


However:
1. We do have an Espar D2 diesel heater with a high elevation kit. We use the air heater until we sleep and when we wake up, but so far we have turned it off when we sleep.
2. We use insulated sun shades to reduce heat loss through the windows. For the two non-standard bay windows and the 2 roof hatches, I have cut reflectix to size. This has kept the minimum temperature to around freezing in the van (when it was single digits F outside the van).
3. We use a nice down comforter.
4. We keep the 6G water jerrycans inside the van (not mounted outside under body). It is no problem if it gets to around freezing inside the van; the large volume of water in the jerry cans doesn't freeze quickly. We do not have a gray water tank. In summer we connect a hose from the outflow of the sink to a 5G bucket outside. In winter we do not let the water go outside... it would freeze in the hose before it gets to the bucket. Instead we put a small bucket in the sink to collect the grey water, and bring it outside when it is full.
5. We recently installed an Espar Coolant heater with a programmable timer. This was a critical addition, because now we can automatically pre-warm the diesel engine (e.g. start pre-heating 90 minutes before departure) and be confident that it starts, regardless of how cold it is.

Though I plan on putting insulation in the doors in the spring, I feel confident that we can camp in pretty extremely low temperatures without a problem. We may want to keep the Espar D2 running through the night on the thermostat, but since we also have a carbon monoxide and a smoke detector this should not be a concern.

In short, water management, an air heater, and a coolant heater (especially for a diesel engine), and a nice down comforter are I think the most critical aspects to look at. Insulation in the walls and doors of the van certainly help, but it is not necessarily the most critical aspect of winter camping.
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Old 02-19-2019, 07:21 AM   #3
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I agree with Marcel. In fact, I think more insulation could be counterproductive. I think our van's oem insulation i.e., air infiltration, means more effective moist air removal while sleeping.
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Old 02-19-2019, 09:24 AM   #4
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I have a different opinion on the insulation after having both a well insulated and poorly insulated van. I camp year round and well into the -10 F realm.
My current van has been insulated very well, including all doors and I find have found that the furnace runs far less, there's less temperature fluctuation, it's quiet and most importantly my plumbing doesn't freeze (routing is important).

I've spent a combined 280 nights in a van.
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Old 02-19-2019, 02:32 PM   #5
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We had SMB North install additional insulation in our rig. Routed all plumbing inside and had the batteries placed in the interior (vs externally on the frame). We do winterize the water system (super easy to do in a SMB). Depending on conditions, we would camp with the top down to retain heat. At the end of the day, it’s more than possible to be comfortable winter camping on a SMB.
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Old 02-24-2019, 11:33 AM   #6
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My nearly 20 year experience

You can find a list of the upgrades I've made to my 99 7.3 Voyager top SMB in the classified section (I'm just too lazy to re-enter it here). I didn't know they had an "added insulation" option or I'm sure I would have included it in the original build.

However, the important point is that I've been perfectly fine sleeping and living in the thing on nights in Wisconsin and the upper midwest when the temperature dropped to -30 (that's 30 less than none) or more. I use the Espar air heater at night and the hydronic coolant heater in the morning. Throw some regular antifreeze in the recirculating biffy for emergency use. Keep water in separate jugs and dispose of grey water directly outside. I also pour a cup or two of antifreeze into both holding tanks just to keep any residual liquids from freezing.

These are excellent cold weather living quarters. I'd be confident anywhere.
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Old 02-24-2019, 03:55 PM   #7
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I don’t have mine “ extra” winterized, and have had no problems in below zero temps. My backup plan is to use the portable potty liners and get rid of those before departure. My water tank is inside, and I also have the foldable double walled water containers for
drinking water in 5 gal. Size, which also stay inside. If
I’m plugged in, I have no oroblems at all. If unplugged, I use my below zero Western mountaineering sleeping bag, and am fine. Sleep in smartwool layers and even better!
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Old 02-25-2019, 10:55 AM   #8
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I went with the extra insulation due to experience I had with my Four Wheel Camper. With the FWC, you can buy a thermal pack which is just insulation (thermal fabric) for the pop-up canvas and it made a HUGE difference. Not just in winter, but also in keeping it cooler in the summer. With my 144 SMB Sprinter, the heater doesn't need to continuously run to keep the van at 55F during the night in Tahoe, even when it's a bit below 0F. I have a high roof so they dropped the headliner and added insulation there too. While I don't have a baseline of how the van would be without the extra insulation, I have a hard time thinking that it isn't helping. The less I have to rely on the heater the better. If I lived on the east coast, I think the extra insulation is one of the first options I would be looking at.
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Old 02-25-2019, 06:40 PM   #9
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6 Years of Winter Camping

I think the SMB is awesome for winter camping.....at least way better than sleeping in my 4Runner snuggled up with the pups freezing my tail off. We have used ours for West Virginia, Colorado, Washington State, and British Columbia snowboard and snowshoeing trips since 2012. We have camped down to -10 or so and stayed warm and toasty. I am running the Espar D2.....we do have the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors just to be safe. We did have to plug some holes in the rear of the van where the D2 exhaust goes out the driver's side back corner. Depending on wind direction you could smell the exhaust. I used gasket sealer and plugged every hole in the van body behind the wheel well and have never smelled any more diesel smell. I plan to get either the Espar or Webasto coolant warmer for cold starts if I can ever save enough money but I have not had any issue so far just using a good winter fuel treatment and running synthetic oil. I will say it does not like it though. I will get out the generator and plug in for a bit if it is below zero. I also purchased the silver reflectix type insulation from Lowes and used that to cover some of the vans exposed metal areas in the back and put it in the windows....thanks upzmtn. Other wise they will be frosty cold. I also keep the pop top down for less area to heat.
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Old 02-28-2019, 10:27 PM   #10
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Our 2018 Sprinter 4x4 hightop was fitted out by Sportsmobile North and we opted for their cold weather insulation package. I am not sure what insulation material Sportsmobile North uses, but it does seem to work well, especially when combined with the use of the D5 hydronic heating system.

I was camped in my sister's driveway in Oswego, NY recently during a freezing rain storm. I woke in the morning to find that I couldn't my sliding door as it had been covered in about 1/2 inch of ice. I had to exit via the driver's door. I started up the van and ran it in high idle with the heat on full for about an hour to melt the ice from the van so I could safely drive it.

The inside of the van actually got up to 107F and the ice was still stubbornly sticking to the sides and top of my van. It took almost another hour for the heat to percolate through the sides and top of the van enough for me to remove the ice. That told me a lot about how well the insulation in the van was working.
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