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Old 07-11-2010, 08:18 PM   #1
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Join Date: Mar 2010
Posts: 10
Winter camping

Newbie here, doing research for my build.
One of my significant intended uses is for winter camping. I would really like to go with the Pop top but am curious to know of others experiences during winter.
What works and what doesn't?
How low in temperature can propane go? Is diesel for everything a better option?
Can you pop the top for general mobility and then lower it while sleeping to keep heat in? Is this a pain?
Is the standard SMB build sufficient to survive 0F, -10F, or -20F night time temps or are significant modifications necessary?
If you camp in the freezing cold, what would you do differently the second time around?

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Old 07-11-2010, 09:51 PM   #2
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Re: Winter camping

I lived in mammoth for 4 winters in a vw panel
i know a little bit

you pop up that pop up and you better have a blast furnace to heat the rig

yes, you can insulate it with reflectix etc
still will not be a toastey deal IMHO

can you do it a few nights,

how many nights camping at a time
what kind of plumbing (water) you planning
how many people?

gonna Home brew or SMB factory the deal??

also, closing a poptop that has been exposed to low temps on the outside
warm temps on the inside
equals ICE
Me thinks that lowering the rig after a snowstorm or two might
cause some Pop Top Discomfort

again, snow campers with PH will chime in

my two cents, Voyager or cruiser
WELL insulated BEFORE the build

water, better insulate the tank and pipes too
and run them inside
(my suburban blows directly under my gaucho and with service hatch open, keeps things warm)

in my vw van and later my camper
the LP tank was outside
never had a lick of problem at 8,900 feet

diesal, cant spell it and dont know
someone will chime in
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Old 07-11-2010, 09:52 PM   #3
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Location: Pasadena, CA
Posts: 785
Re: Winter camping

I've done a few winter camping trips in the eastern sierras. One trip this past January with the kids where we had quite a bit of snowfall and temps easily dipped to 0-10deg overnight.

We had four sleeping inside, obviously with the top up.

We have the suburban propane heater. It has worked quite well for us over the years and it easily kept us very warm (68-70deg) and comfortable all night long on this trip.

I ran the heater all night on both nights, and throughout much of the day too. Without the heater running full-time, we would have had to bail out and go elsewhere. If the heater stops, temps inside drop fast with the top up. No heat will also create problems with water lines freezing, etc.... With the heater on, we had running water and no worries.

A friend camping with us in another SMB was using the espar diesel heater and it worked quite well too. Warm with zero trouble.

IMHO, the key limiting factor is battery life. As long as you have power to run the heater, you will be very warm and comfy.

I probably could have run the heater all night on the house battery, but did not want to push my luck given the cold and having my kids with me. On both nights I broke out my honda eu2000 generator and ran it all night long in eco-mode. The run time on a full tank is 12 hours and with a 50ft extension cord, you can't hear the generator if you tried.

And FWIW, after running the suburban for two full nights and probably 4-5 hours each day, I'd only used a bit less than half the propane in the tank (7gal). Pretty good.

Good luck.
2006 SMB 4x4, EB-51, 6.0psd
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Old 07-11-2010, 10:49 PM   #4
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Re: Winter camping

OK, sounds like you gotta run the heater. What if you left for the day and went skiing. Would you return to a giant block of ice? Is there any way to keep the water supply from freezing while gone all day?
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Old 07-12-2010, 07:03 AM   #5
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Re: Winter camping

Originally Posted by gregd
OK, sounds like you gotta run the heater. What if you left for the day and went skiing. Would you return to a giant block of ice? Is there any way to keep the water supply from freezing while gone all day?

in my experiance,
living in my vw van and then my truck camper...
ya gotta leave it on at least low other wise
the interior WILL be a block of ice and will take a long time
to heat back up
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Old 07-12-2010, 11:07 AM   #6
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Re: Winter camping

Those are common questions. Here are some links that discuss similar questions. There re more if you search the site





2006 Ford 6.0PSD EB-50/E-PH SMB 4X4 Rock Crawler Trailer

Sportsmobile 4X4 Adventures..........On and off road adventures
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Old 07-12-2010, 02:10 PM   #7
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Re: Winter camping

You can keep the interior warm enough when you are away skiing with a catalytic heater. They last a long time on those little propane bottles, have no flame and go out if tipped over.

I have camped quite a bit in the Colorado winter. Outside holding tanks - add rv antifreeze and they will be ok but the valves will freeze and crack. I used to wrap them with insulation and have even added heat tape plugged into my generator depending on how cold.

Heat at night for people doesn't take a lot if you have the right sleeping gear. We have camped no heat at night, pop-top down and warmed the whole thing up in the morning just boiling water for coffee.

If you use a porti-potty, anti-freeze in both compartments. Real cold, open cabinet doors so the water lines get heat. Or thaw them out with a hair dryer but that is not the way to go - takes a long time - I know.

We would leave a trailer up at Steamboat Springs and just come up on weekends. The trailer wouldn't thaw out totally until we were about to leave on Sunday. Talk about a block of ice!

Seal off the windshield - giant heat loss. Diesel will freeze up but you should not have that problem with the diesel available in the area you are camping in.


2008 2500 Sportsmobile West conversion, badged Mercedes, 22B package, accessory group, adjustable idle control, sway bar upgrade, koni shocks, daily drive.
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Old 07-13-2010, 09:31 PM   #8
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Location: Western Colorado
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Re: Winter camping

We camped a lot last winter here in the desert SW. We had temps in the single digits on several occasions and were quite comfortable. We have the Suburban propane heater and had it set, even while we were out snowshoeing. A few things we learned with our EB50 setup for winter camping.

Keep the cabinet door under the sink cracked a bit to let heat into the area of plumbing etc.

Use Reflectex in the penthouse area to help insulate.

Crack a window to help with the condensation buildup.

Your external grey water tank valve will freeze in whatever position it's left in.

Also add Reflectex underneath plumbing lines that are on the floor.

Have fun and solitude in empty campgrounds everywhere!!

Desert Solitaire
2003 7.3L EB 4x4
Timberline 4x4 conversion
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Old 03-30-2023, 11:26 PM   #9
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Location: San Francisco, CA
Posts: 3,238

Thought about starting a new thread but this one deserves some revisiting.

As we have been on the road this winter for about five weeks, so far, and about another six to go, in record snowfall and nasty weather, I wanted to share and explore winter camping ideas, products, experience.

We left San Francisco February 17th, 2023. This is the winter that has set records all over the west for snowfall and dangerous rainfall.

Temps for us have hit minus 2 F. Highs around 42 F. lots of time with overnight lows around 10. Elevations over 9,000 feet across California, Nevada, and Utah. Multiple National Parks, many, many ski resorts, campgrounds, friend's driveways, and boon docking. Off-grid and shore power.

Rig: E350 EB, Cargo 7.3 Diesel, Colorado Camper Van High Top Pop Top,
Walk Through Layout w Gaucho behind the driver seat.
2 x CRL awning windows, Agile 4x4, DIY build.
Espar D4 heater, 4 gallon electric water heating,
412AH SOK 12volt Lithium house bank, 400w solar, 2 x Victron Orion 12/30 DC to DC chargers.
20 gallons fresh water tankage, 11 gallons holding tank.
1 TF130 fridge
1 NLuna 50L Chest Fridge used as a freezer.

Pop Top Shell - CCV's optional insulation package
Canvas - CCV stock Four Season three layer construction
Walls / Doors - Thermozite and 3M Thinsulate combinations, multiple layers
Floor - Van Tred Mat / 1/2" Baltic / closed cell vinyl floor / Material 24" wide rugs for aisle.
Windows - custom snug mount inserts of Reflectix/Coroplast/Trunk liner for all windows aft of the B Pillar. Reflectix single layer inserts for front doors and windshield.

Supplemental heating - 1200 watt electric heater, used if shore power is available. Otherwise, the Espar D4 is very sufficient with the top up.

Moisture Control - 2 x Koonie 10,000 mAh cordless fans to help circulate the air and heat. Faux chamois for wiping down the canvas and windows.

Stove - inside use - Iwatani Butane single burner.
outside use is 2 burner Partner Steel.

Sleeping in the penthouse bed with top up every night - 2 persons, individual sleeping bags to allow for individual temperature control.

Some of the things to discuss-
Snow loads and snow clearing, getting the top down
Wet clothes
Food storage
Cooking (additional moisture control)
Cleaning up
Personal hygiene
Waste disposal
Plumbing freeze protection
Under carriage protection

Winter camping is awesome when configured properly and common sense is applied!

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Beastie 3: 2002 7.3 EB Cargo: Agile TTB, CCV High Top, Custom Walk Through, Lots of stuff added.
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Old 03-31-2023, 09:19 AM   #10
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Join Date: Sep 2013
Posts: 666
Awe crap ! I'm just dripping with jealousy Ray ! Wish I was experiencing too ! Just awesome - and I'm guessing you were pretty much "solo" wherever you camped ? I'm just stoked for ya ! Continue your safe travels - in the most awesome rig I've seen "virtually" yet !
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