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North Dakota Winters

(First Time Living in an RV in ND's Cold Weather)

North Dakota winters … and I'm going to live in a pull style older bumper pull trailer. I live in north Idaho. I have a 1991 454 3/4 ton truck, that will be pulling the trailer over there and MAYBE stay there so I can get back and forth to work. I understand the wind blows and can expect -50 below temps. this winter. I see almost everyone running diesel pickups. I know how to winterize my truck, and winterize my trailer, kinda. I will not have hookups. So, I can skirt the trailer, and add heat under the trailer, by running a generator 24/7, while I'm away at work. Straw bales under the sides, tinfoil the windows add insulation to windows, etc.

I'm just worried about the tanks. I can place heater tape and insulation to the tanks and exposed lines, but when I have to go dump the tanks, how can I go dump my tanks without them freezing in that temp? I know at that temp the built-in heater will not keep up, so I will supplement with other electric heaters. Please give any advise. The trailer is a 1973, so I know the insulation isn't the best, but that is what I have to try and make $$$ to support my family.

Coleen, the RVing editor comments:

We haven't spent a winter RVing in North Dakota, but we have in both
South Dakota (Hill City) and Alaska. And, we've lived in Fargo and Dickinson, ND, in traditional houses, so I do have firsthand experience with ND winters.

You didn't say what part of ND you are going to, but I question those minus 50 degree temps. I don't think we ever saw it that cold in all the years we lived there.

As for dumping your tanks, you may want to use a blue boy portable tank. Empty into the portable tank and take that to the dump station. That way, you can leave your RV parked. Moving your trailer each time would mean that you'd need to undo much of your winterizing first, dump, and then go back and winterize again. I think it would be better to leave your trailer in place for the season.

Do you plan to come home midday to refill the gas tank on your generator? Depending on what kind you have, it may not run your full workday without running out of fuel.

There are several articles on the website about our cold weather RVing experiences and how we prepared and handled things. Also, answers we've given to others who've asked similar questions. Here's a link to that section:

Cold weather RVing.

Report back later on and let us know how things went with your first camping experience with North Dakota winters.

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Comments for North Dakota Winters

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Keeping Lquids to Not Freeze - Winter Camping
by: mike

First off, I agree with the portable waste tank. If you can drip your gray, go for it.

The big problem is sewer pipe. Keep it short, and wrap with insulation and "Frostex" (it's a silver heater wire that stays 60 degrees). Put it under any insulation. It's available at Lowe's or Home Depot.

Second, cut a 3 inch hole with hole saw in black water tank on the top. Mount a new connector. Go to a horse supply place and get a bucket heater, and put it in the new connection and connect to electric. WALA! Your black water stays liquid. Let tank fill up and dump at leisure and it's liquid. Turn the heater off if the tank is empty because it will melt the tank {the old ones}.

You haven't even addressed the trailer and keeping warm. I did Michigan 10 years ago with -30. I was blowing thru 60 pounds of propane every two days. Trailers are R-11 insulation - if that. Buy yourself some foam insulation boards and put around trailer. Cover up with "Army duck canvass" and wrap trailer, except door. Amazing - will keep you 50% warmer and less fuel or electric and a 100 pound (or 2) tank of propane.

It is cheaper to rent a house.

Oh, and don't drip faucets. It makes icebergs in the sewer hose and blocks it.

I, Mike, am a 30 year RVer-mobile home setup co. owner in Michigan. I used to get frozen to MH pads repairing.

by: john j

Sub zero temps in an older travel trailer are not pleasant, with drafts and constant fear of freezing water and sewer lines. If you're working the oil patch, I'd pull up and hit the oil fields of TX for the winter. They're hiring, only less $$ than ND. In April, head back up to ND for the bigger $$$.

I spent time in zero temps because I had a "4 season camper." Expect something to freeze because you missed a little spot or something came loose in the cold wind. Nothing froze in the RV, but if it could freeze outside, it did! My walls even got ice in them (frozen condensation).

If you must stay the winter, winterize your water system and carry in your water. Use plastic dishpans and a porta-potty. Some companies even have facilities for employees.

Me, I'll be working in TX for the winter and back to ND in April.

Winter RVing in NoDak
by: Dave & Ruth

Our RV pipes all froze up in a colder than usual winter in Northern Plains of South Dakota. We changed over to PCV pipes and clear tubular hoses on the inside of the RV on the floor to keep them from freezing, as it really didn't matter (just there to sleep and eat when you are working most of the time).

You are probably near a "man camp" near Williston or Watson City with the oil boom. If it gets too cold, consider winterizing your RV with anti-freeze. Limit use of your pipes. Use restaurant, gas station or other business bathrooms as much as possible. Limit your needs to sleeping and winter "camp-style," and perhaps an electric blanket or down-sleeping blankets. Use an electric skillet to heat water, cook, and quick rinse.

Keep it simple and cheap or you really are not making smart money while you suffer the cold weather work places.

ND Winters
by: Diane


I am guessing that you are heading or will be living in the Williston, ND area where our oil boom has attracted many, many new RVers like yourself trying to make it work while they make some good money over the winter.

We've been very lucky this fall/winter (Oct. thru Dec.) with unusually nice temps - but the truth is it can get pretty cold at times. When they say 40 to 50 below they are talking wind chill factor. What they fail to mention is that those extremes can come and go in maybe a day or two with weeks of other tolerable cool weather. Usually when even the locals (myself) say it's cold we're talking about 5 above to 10 below zero. And other weeks we may not see it dip below zero.

Many RVers are implementing the same methods you mention and seem to be doing just fine.

Best Brand of RV's?
by: kjun

What RVs are the best to buy for this type weather?

Coleen, the RVing editor replies:

I don't think the brand really matters. And most certainly, you cannot equate the price of the RV with the quality of the RV.

If you are looking at moderately cold temperatures, you'll find some RVs have winter packages. Some come with heated tanks or heat blankets on the tanks. Some have better insulation or better windows than others. Those things will help for moderately cold RVing. But, if you are looking at using your RV during extreme cold, I don't think any RV is going to come out of the factory ready for that.

We've wintered in cold -- as in 20 or 30 degrees below zero -- in South Dakota and in Alaska. We've done that in a Holiday Rambler and in a Forest River Wildwood. They both worked fine and they are brands I'd recommend. We took extra steps in both to make living in them through those frigid temperatures comfortable.

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