fall camping - what to use for heat?

Discussion in 'Heating / Cooling Systems' started by Spridle, Sep 19, 2011.

  1. Spridle

    Spridle Active Member

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    We have one fall camping trip planned and it looks like all electric sites are booked where we are looking to stay. We have a one year old and a five year old with us so I need some heat. The pup has a furnace but I could not get it to light the one time I tried and currently there's no battery anyway. I could attempt to get that system running before 10/7 but there's lots of other things to do on the camper before the trip (like fix a major water leak in the roof seam). To be honest I was thinking more along the lines of yanking the heater and gas stove to maximize weight and storage space, not fix the darn thing.

    What about one of those portable heaters? We have an older Coleman catalytic heater that's never even been out of the box? Is that relatively safe for sleeping? I've seen several of you mention the mr. Buddy heater. Should I look at that?

    I know you have to be careful with any of these solutions, especially with children. But it seems there must be some option that will allow us to camp with the kids. We don't need it hot, just enough to take the chill off. The five year old has a habit of kicking all covers off and/or working her way out of the sleeping bag and the baby gets REALLY cranky when he gets cold at night. Not good for camping neighbors. As long as they stay warm it's a quiet night for all.

    Sorry if this is one of those newb questions that gets asked ten times a week
     
  2. studio960

    studio960 New Member

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    Wow, if there is any way possible to fix your original heater unit it would be best and safest.

    Most all propane heaters like Mr. Buddy, etc are NOT carbon monoxide (CO) safe for indoor use!!

    I do think I saw one model from Mr Buddy (???) that was intended for indoor use, but whatever you decide, be SURE it is CO safe. . .
     
  3. Unstable_Tripod

    Unstable_Tripod Well, there's your problem!

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    Many people do use the Buddy heaters (open flame) or the WAVE heaters (catalytic) for heat while sleeping. However, the manufacturers of these products have warnings printed on the packaging that say not to operate them while sleeping.

    The big issue is that these heaters use air from inside the PUP for combustion and then emit waste products back into the PUP's interior atmosphere. A regular PUP furnace uses outside air for combustion and emits waste products outside.

    In all cases the heaters need propane. With any heater you need to open at least two windows an inch or so to allow ventilation and reduce condensation.
     
  4. studio960

    studio960 New Member

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    Your pup may have a CO monitor alarm but with no battery in your pup it will be disabled. If you do use a Mr Heater or whatever, it would be a good idea to also get a 9 volt battery operated CO alarm.
     
  5. Flyfisherman

    Flyfisherman New Member

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    I've used a MrBuddy heater for over 10 years ... and will do you just fine.

    Use common sense - I vent mine by cracking the door panel at the first setting (maybe an inch opening) and that's at the bottom. Then I unzip a little corner in the bunk end - that will provide plenty of air.

    Be careful where you set the heater as the front part gets hot. Make sure nothing gets draped over it (like a towel), or that the front (the hot part) is not too close to a wall.

    Follow the directions.
     
  6. Spridle

    Spridle Active Member

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    Thanks for the feedback. I believe that coleman is a catalytic, which I did not understand meant basically no CO, only oxygen depletion. I may pull that out and see how it works. I just want to get through this one trip and then worry about a more permanent solution next year.

    We would not have made it out so much or so far this year without a pup. But the pup itself has proven to be a bit too close to the end of its life and we are still struggling to get it to tow smoothly. I don't mind putting time and money into it, but before I make a decision on fixing the propane and adding all the electrical bits I'd like to add, we need to make a decision on keeping it or looking for something newer and better balanced.

    In a past life I did vehicle restoration work. So it's easy for me to get caught up in the "well I'll just fix this and then that will be it". I've been doing that since the day we got it back in May :)
     
  7. GOTSMART

    GOTSMART New Member

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    I WOULD FIX OR HAVE FIXED THE FURNACE THAT IS IN PLACE......BY FAR YOUR SAFEST BET AND PROBABLY WONT COST AS MUCH AS A "BUDDY" HEATER. [2C]
     
  8. Sushidog

    Sushidog Active Member

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    I use a little 3,000 BTU Coleman catatytic heater. I have been using it for several years in my little Aliner. It acutally produces too much heat for fall, mountain camping (above freezing temps) in my little, well insulated camper, but should have just about the right heat output for a cloth sided PUP. Compared to a blue flame heater like a Buddy, it produces almost no carbon monoxide like you state. This is important to me because I camp with a bird (I've had her for 25 years.) She is the proverbial "canary in a coal mine" as even a small amount of CO, unharmful to humans, could adversely her.

    Any combustable heater must have an oxygen source proper ventilation. Humans need it too, regardless of type heater used, to avoid condensation as well as CO2 buildup and oxygen depletion. I always crack a window 1 1/2" - 2" and leave a top vent cracked an inch too - to promote natural convection air flow. A traditional PUP has much better ventilation than mine, so this is probably not as critical on your camper. This air flow keeps my Aliner dry and comfortable inside. A single 1lb propane tank lasts us about 7 hrs. If I had it to do over again I'd get the smaller, 1,500 BTU Coleman, so I don't have to get up early in the morning to swap out a tank. It goes without saying to make sure your CO and propane detectors function properly before use.

    Chip
     
  9. CampingGators

    CampingGators Awaiting the day...

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    We just always used an electric heater - small, just plugs in. It has a fan, so the coil never gets red. It worked very well for us in Virginia. We did not have any heat built in to the camper. I would never use anything gas in the camper, other than a newer stove. I met a girl years ago who had been in a tent fire. She was burned all over and her 2 year old brother died in the fire. Not worth it in my book! [SUN]
     
  10. JamesRL

    JamesRL New Member

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    Well the original poster mentioned that where they were camping all the electrical sites had been booked. We bought an electric heater as well, typically we don't need heat till September and by that point, there are usually some electrical sites available even last minute.
     
  11. Travelhoveler

    Travelhoveler New Member

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    I'd fix the furnace. Chances are it's just a clogged line or needs a little cleaning. You won't be tied to boring places with hookups, and it's vented to the outside, so it's safer than standalone heaters which really aren't supposed to be used in enclosed spaces.
     
  12. Spridle

    Spridle Active Member

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    It's not that simple to get the heater going. I'd need a group 27 or 29 battery and the time to mount a battery box, including terminating all the connections on the tow vehicle for battery charging. Not to mention buying the hooks for the propane bottle and a dual stage regulator. Then there's the issue of weight. This thing tows like absolute crap when it's near it's weight limit or slightly over. Adding a hundred pounds in battery and propane will make sure my tongue weight is good but I'll have to pull a hundred pounds of gear from the camper and put it in the car. This last trip out was our best trip yet and we think we've got it just about figured out, but it's still a trial and error process and when it's over heavy it's a very scary drive.

    I cleared the propane system out and got gas at the stove and the furnace but could not get the furnace to light. I may have just been doing it wrong or it may have a bad thermo couple or the gas valve itself could be shot. It has not been fired in at least ten years, maybe never. So when we are talking safety there is something to consider there as well. It's all good to point out the dangers of portable propane heater but there's not guarantee that the propane system and furnace don't have pinhole leaks or other issues that could get us all killed. I'm pretty risk averse by nature. But you gotta live your life too.

    I do appreciate all feedback and welcome any other suggestions. I'm going to put a little bit of time into the furnace and see if I can get it to light. But if not then I think it's just get through this one trip with the coleman and worry about the rest next year.

    One specific question on the furnace. How many pounds of propane will that typically go through in a night? I'm wondering if I get one of those ten pound plastic propane tanks if that will get us through three to five nights of camping or if that's pushing our luck. Getting the group 29 box on there with a typical 20 pound propane tank is very very tight.

    If the furnace is just flat out dead I'd still like to mount a 10 pound tank or there about, pull the furnace and just have a flexible fitting where the furnace was to hook up a portable heater. As many of you have said, electric is not always available and it's nice to be able to at least take the chill off in the morning as everyone is getting dressed.
     
  13. Unstable_Tripod

    Unstable_Tripod Well, there's your problem!

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    A PUP furnace will consume about one pound of propane for every actual hour of operation. So, since they don't tun constantly, you need to figure how many minutes per hour it does run and then do the math.

    BTW, how old is your rig? Most recent PUPs have furnaces that use an igniter and do not need to be manually lit or have a pilot light.
     
  14. JeepMama

    JeepMama New Member

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    For your kids, I would put them in footed blanket sleepers, with warm socks and thermal underwear. If you can't find thermal underwear, then just put them in turtlenecks. Plus if you have one child sleep with each parent, you have body heat to share.

    We haven't tried camping without hookups in cold weather yet, so I have no advice for the heater issue to offer :)
     
  15. Flyfisherman

    Flyfisherman New Member

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    Are you saying your 3000 btu Coleman catalytic heater produces less CO then the MrBuddy heater ...? I'll dispute that ... Also, the dangerous side of that Coleman catalytic heater is oxygen depletion. At least the MrBuddy heater has a low oxygen shut off sensor.

    The Consumer Product Safety Commission did an analysis for that 3000 btu catalytic heater back in 2003 and they recorded the levels of CO produced. More importantly, they point out the danger of oxygen depletion, which is so often overlooked in a CO debate. Here is their summary ~



    "The following is a summary of CPSC staff’s findings on the testing of the catalytic heater:
    · The peak CO concentration ranged from 68 ppm to 125 ppm and the steady state CO
    concentration ranged from 67 ppm to 109 ppm. Assuming a limited exposure time of up to 6.5
    hours at these CO concentrations, the catalytic heater does not appear to pose a serious CO hazard
    to healthy adults when the CO concentration is considered by itself.
    · When the catalytic heater was operated in a closed room (ACH ~ 0), the oxygen was depleted
    from an ambient concentration of 20.9 percent to 8.8 percent. Because the catalytic heater can
    deplete the O2 concentration to such low levels, the heater poses a serious risk of hypoxia. The
    degree of hypoxia is further exacerbated by the moderate CO concentration and by an increase in
    the carbon dioxide concentration that accompanied the depletion of oxygen.
    · As the oxygen decreased in the chamber, the catalytic heater became less effective at converting
    the propane and oxygen to carbon dioxide and water vapor. This was reflected by an increase in
    the hydrocarbon concentration in the chamber, which ranged from 1,050 ppm to 13,440 ppm (5 to
    64 percent of the lower explosion limit of propane in air). The unreacted propane further
    increases the degree of hypoxia.
    · The heater’s catalyst did not appear to degrade over time. This observation is based on operating
    two identical heaters on 100 disposable 1-pound bottles of propane (approximately 650 hours)."
     
  16. Orchid

    Orchid Sharp Shootin' Grandma

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    I second this advice. And the best cold weather sleeping bags you own. With one parent with each child, you could probably keep them covered most of the night.

    Trying to get the original furnace fixed seems like the best heat option.

    Please do not use any other propane heat inside without a carbon monoxide detector. In the event of carbon monoxide poisoning, you will not be mentally alert enough to recognize the danger.

    About 28 years ago, before the age of detectors, carbon monoxide nearly cost the lives of myself and my then 1-year-old. We were very sick and the baby was having seizures. I was so thinking impaired that I didn't even think there was a problem. Very scary stuff.
     
  17. roughin-it

    roughin-it New Member

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    All that "air" won't do you any good at all when the carbon monoxide is bonded to your hemoglobin and you arn't delivering oxygen your the tissues in your body. That is a sleep you don't wake up from. 10 years or 1 single camping trip doesn't make any difference. CO has no smell and has an affinity for hemoglobin 210 times that of oxygen and even if you do wake up and find that you have been breathing CO, it can take between 12-24 hours for that CO to release from the hemoglobin and clear your system enough for your red blood cells to begin carrying Oxygen again. It's a great way to kill yourself. No pain at all, you just either pass out or never wake up.

    Fix your furnace.
     
  18. Travelhoveler

    Travelhoveler New Member

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    I agree with many of the others. Fix the furnace as it is vented. You don't need huge batteries or lots of propane as a furnace fan uses little electricity and not much propane at all, especially in average fall weather conditions.

    There's no way I'd take the risk of using a portable propane heater in a pup, no matter what other's purported claims of experience indicate.
     
  19. Flyfisherman

    Flyfisherman New Member

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    Sure sounds like some more "chicken little" rhetoric.
     
  20. Flyfisherman

    Flyfisherman New Member

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    And you don't have to, this is still America.

    Of course, there is that principle of experience vs psedo intellectual assumption, the latter being contempt prior to investigation.
     

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