Winter Camping, what can I expect?

MeaganS

Member
Mar 21, 2019
29
I am considering a multi-day trip that would include 5 nights where temperatures get down to low 20s, high teens. During the day it will probably be more around 40s and 50s. We will be dry-camping or boondocking, but will have a generator we can run during the day to recharge the battery.

We have PUGS for the bunkends and dinette. Assuming we did reflectix and thick curtains in the windows, what temperature can I expect the onboard furnace to be able to maintain overnight? We aren't super "rough-it" types and really like to be comfortable. Plus we'll have our kids with us.

I'm trying to figure out if this is feasible or if we should abandon this trip idea or suck it up and stay in rv parks with electric so we can have space heaters too.
 

gladecreekwy

Super Active Member
Sep 25, 2016
1,735
Jackson Wyoming
You’ll be just fine. Where we camp it’s regularly below freezing in the mornings even in summer. ( last weekend is was 19 deg when I woke up ) and we have no issues. We don’t like the furnace running constantly all night so we use a warm two person sleeping bag and turn it on in the morning to warm things up. With a generator to keep your battery charged you can run the furnace as much as you want. Extra propane would be a good idea.
 

jmkay1

2004 Fleetwood/Coleman Utah
Oct 10, 2013
7,475
Northern Virginia
I've camped in the late fall where temps get down to upper 20. I use good blankets and/or sleeping bags. Now because I didn't want my battery to die or run out of propane on my 4 night trip I only turned my furnace on at night and kept it at 50. (I do not have a generator). The furnace has no trouble keeping temperature but it will turn on more often because it can't hold temp for long. For me 4 night dry camping keeping temp at 50 turning on only at night outside temperature breezy 30 degrees. I used up my entire propane tank and group 24 battery down to a tad below half. Not quite what your asking, but gives you a better idea what to expect. It's very doable but sure won't be like a warm toasty house.
 
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Dingit

Super Active Member
Mar 8, 2017
2,017
We use sleeping bags and only have the furnace on while we sleep if it's really cold--set to like 50 or something. Someone, preferably not me, has to turn it up before I get out of bed. :)

If you haven't upgraded your thermostat, consider it.
 

CamperChrissy

Active Member
Nov 25, 2016
656
Chicago suburbs
We've found that we stay a little warmer when we zip two sleeping bags together to make a big one. Plus if our kids have their own sleeping bag, they all somehow roll out of it during the night and then are cold!

The other thing to consider is what your mornings will be like when you get up and out of the sleeping bags. Are you ok with it being quite chilly inside your camper while you are getting dressed, etc.?
 

MeaganS

Member
Mar 21, 2019
29
So I guess I'm not really worried that we will survive. I know we will survive. I'm wondering how comfortable we can expect it to be with that setup. I am fine to run the furnace all night and make sure we have propane and battery power for that to happen. But are we going to freeze anyway? That's my main question. With that setup, what temperature can I expect to maintain if it is that cold outside. 50s? We don't have a bunch of high quality sleepingbags. Just blankets and basic sleeping bags.
 

McFlyfi

Super Active Member
Aug 1, 2014
806
Thousand Oaks CA
When I've experienced cold temps, I set the thermostat at about 66 until bedtime, then I set the thermostat at around 50 like the others have mentioned. Once the temp decays to 48, the furnace will kick on and heat the pup to 50. The furnace will cycle about every 20 minutes, keeping the temp between 48-50 all night. Then crank it back up in the morning to about 66 before getting out of bed.I have a cheap, thick, Coleman sleeping bag that I use unzipped as a blanket.
Setting it higher will obviously cycle quicker, use more electricity and propane.
Keep it at 70 all night? Possibly, but you won't get many nights like that.
When you are there, experiment. See what it's like when you set the t stat to 55 and go from there the next night.
 

gladecreekwy

Super Active Member
Sep 25, 2016
1,735
Jackson Wyoming
So I guess I'm not really worried that we will survive. I know we will survive. I'm wondering how comfortable we can expect it to be with that setup. I am fine to run the furnace all night and make sure we have propane and battery power for that to happen. But are we going to freeze anyway? That's my main question. With that setup, what temperature can I expect to maintain if it is that cold outside. 50s? We don't have a bunch of high quality sleepingbags. Just blankets and basic sleeping bags.
The furnace will keep you warm
 

BillyMc

Super Active Member
Mar 25, 2018
2,463
South Carolina
If you haven't upgraded your thermostat, consider it.
I've seen a lot of suggestions to change out the thermostat in campers. The first time I used it the furnace didn't cycle properly. There was at least 20 degrees between where it shut off and came back on. Mechanical thermostats have an anticipator that needs to be adjusted after installed that apparently the manufacturers nor the dealers do. If it cycles too quickly set it higher. If it stays off too long set it lower. Somewhere between 0.4 and 0.6 is where you will probably find that sweet spot. The on/off switch is a little hard to move, but nothing my wife or myself can't handle.
 

tenttrailer

Art & Joyce - Columbus, O
Jul 18, 2013
3,758
Thornville, OH
We had about the same setup with our canvas popup. Temps for our many late fall and early spring camping was about the same as you mentioned. Snow on canvas many mornings. We would run the furnace at night from about dusk until about 10 am. DW liked it 68 degrees inside.

Furnace did fine keeping up. Furnace fan was running about 50% of the time when outside is in low 20's. We had one G-31 battery and it would drop to about 12.1V after the second night and need recharging battery and a 20 lb (not 15 lb exchange) propane tank was good for 4+ nights. All lights in the camper were changed to LEDs and we were not running the furnace from about 10am until dusk.
 

Rusty2192

Super Active Member
Jul 30, 2014
1,171
Kentucky
One tip is dress warm at night. Sweat pants, sweat shirt, and warm socks go a long way to staying warm at night.

Sounds like the furnace should be able to keep you plenty warm. If you want to be extra safe, it might be worth getting 2-3 cold weather sleeping bags to zip onto your existing ones. If you could maybe fit the youngest kid in with you and then the 3 older ones in together, you could get by with 2 cold bags plus 2 warmer weather ones, which you already have.

I have a standard Coleman sleeping bag and then picked up a 20-40 degree bag on sale at Amazon. When it’s cold I’ll zip the two together with the 20-40* bag on top and my son and I will both sleep in it. On a trip earlier this year it got down to around 30* at night. I kept a space heater set at 50 since we had electric hookups and the bag combo was actually too warm at some points during the night. It was essential on a different trip roughing it in the tent at 25*. That combo plus another old canvas style Coleman on top kept us snug as bugs when tucked completely inside the sleeping bag, head and all.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00363V3OK/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1
 

gladecreekwy

Super Active Member
Sep 25, 2016
1,735
Jackson Wyoming
I've seen a lot of suggestions to change out the thermostat in campers. The first time I used it the furnace didn't cycle properly. There was at least 20 degrees between where it shut off and came back on. Mechanical thermostats have an anticipator that needs to be adjusted after installed that apparently the manufacturers nor the dealers do. If it cycles too quickly set it higher. If it stays off too long set it lower. Somewhere between 0.4 and 0.6 is where you will probably find that sweet spot. The on/off switch is a little hard to move, but nothing my wife or myself can't handle.
I highly recommend the thermostat upgrade. Very simple swap took about 10 min. It’s much easier to keep a constant temp and the backlight makes it readable in the dark.
 

SHFL

Active Member
Jan 6, 2015
537
Florida
Should MeaganS winterize the pup before the trip?
Or will running the furnace keep the water tank warm enough?
...I live in Florida...
 

jmkay1

2004 Fleetwood/Coleman Utah
Oct 10, 2013
7,475
Northern Virginia
Should MeaganS winterize the pup before the trip?
Or will running the furnace keep the water tank warm enough?
...I live in Florida...
Personally I winterize and just use a water jug inside the camper, that way I don't have to worry about my lines freezing. Even if the water jug doesn't freeze the lines under my camper are all exposed to the cold. Besides my camper would already be winterized at the first sign of freezing weather. Yes, you are correct though, that would also be a problem if camping in the cold.
 

gardenbliss

Super Active Member
Dec 9, 2013
1,298
San Diego
Has far as I can read, no one has mentioned yet the value of a good winter wool sleeping hat. after the heater gets turned down at night, tuck into the warm blankets/sleeping bags/ what have you and pull on your warmest camping hat. bring the covers up to your nose and the hat down over your eyes. This will keep you warmer on the coldest of nights (along with the other aforementioned safeguards like reflectix over the windows and PUGS. Another tip is to bring a hot water bottle and pre-warm the sleeping bags.
 

Econ

Super Active Member
Aug 18, 2019
1,514
Deep South
The on/off switch is a little hard to move,

Its been 18 months since doing this so the memory is foggy. Take the cover off the Tstat. Our Atwood on off switch points straight up. Locate the numb that makes it difficult to move. Take a fingernail file and strike the numb once. Keep filing til you like the ease of turning the T stat switch on
 




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