From wilderness backpackers in pop-up tents to campers who find cooking and sleeping in an RV more civilized, winter camping is gaining momentum. There is nothing quite like having almost an entire campground to yourself to hike, cross-country ski, view nature, and enjoy the serenity of the location.
Winter camping takes more prep work than warm weather outings, but outdoor enthusiasts say it’s worth it. Just remember, before heading to your favorite campground, check ahead. Campgrounds in higher elevations often close as early as mid-September until springtime.
Here are some tips to consider before heading to the great, but cold, outdoors.
Before beginning your trip, check with your RV dealer or the many various RV associations for insulating hoses and water sources to properly operate in freezing temps.
Your RV may be well-equipped but in the winter, prepare for a scenario where you could be stranded due to winter storms. In that case, a portable generator is indispensible. “A generator can keep the RV batteries topped off and allow you to use the RV furnace and keep your cellphone and laptops charged, something you will appreciate in an emergency,” said Dorrance Noonan of A-iPower, a manufacturer of portable power equipment.
When in a cold or freezing environment, it’s natural to want to seal your space tightly to keep out drafts. BUT, portable generators exhaust carbon monoxide (CO), a tasteless, odorless, and deadly gas. That makes it extremely important to keep your generator running away from your RV with the exhaust pointed in the opposite direction. Never run your generator when you or someone else is sleeping.
Always have a working carbon monoxide (CO) detector in your RV. This is important not only when using the generator, but in other instances when the lethal gas is present. Because CO is odorless, colorless, and otherwise undetectable to the human senses, people may not know that they are being exposed. To that end, NEVER use a generator, grill, camp stove, or charcoal burning device inside or in any partially enclosed area; keep these devices at least 20 feet from doors, windows, and vents.
At high levels, carbon monoxide can cause death within minutes. Symptoms of overexposure to carbon monoxide include headaches, fatigue, dizziness, shortness of breath, nausea, and confusion. If you suspect you may be experiencing carbon monoxide poisoning or your detector sounds an alarm, head outside immediately for fresh air and call 911.
Never transport your generator in the back of your RV or your SUV if you are towing a camper. The best way to transport your generator is to have a platform built on the back of your RV.
OSHA recommends that gasoline and other generator fuels should be stored and transported in approved containers that are properly designed and marked for their contents, and vented.
Before running your generator, always read the owner’s manual for proper operation and safety tips.
Choosing a Portable Generator for Your RV
The more watts your generator has, the more items you can power at the same time. To know how much you will need, calculate all the wattage requirements of all the accessories you plan to operate on generator power. Typically, wattage is listed on the device, on the back or on the bottom. If not, a simple formula for determining watts is multiplying volts x amps. The total will tell you the model of generator you need.
Another important factor to consider is how long you will be running your generator. The generator run time is found on the generator spec sheet and owner’s manual. Run time is determined at 50% load levels and the power used directly impacts the run time. The more power used, the shorter the run time and the sooner you will have to refuel.
“During cold weather camping, you won’t need to power your air-conditioner, so a generator with about 2,000 starting watts should suffice,” Noonan said. “Typically this is found in inverter generators, which are lighter, easier to transport, and run quieter than the larger portable generators.”
Noonan explained that inverters are more fuel efficient than regular generators. “An inverter produces electricity on demand, based on what you are powering. That results in a slower engine speed with less noise and lower fuel consumption,” he said. “Users appreciate how inexpensive inverters are to run. For example, A-iPower’s 2,000 watt inverters can run about 7 hours at 50 percent load on just a gallon of gas.”
Noonan advises that when choosing an inverter, look for one that has enough receptacles for all the items you plan to run. Inverters that have USB adapters will allow you to charge a battery or cellphone. A-iPower inverters also come equipped with a built-in parallel kit, allowing two generators to connect for nearly double the power.
Always Be Prepared
Just as with natural disasters like hurricanes or extended power outages, a snow emergency kit should include:
’Tis the season for winter storms, high winds, heavy snow, and freezing rain. Already in the last two months of 2016, thousands were left without power from California to the Midwest to New England as a result of weather events. How long power failures last depends; you may be without power for a few hours, a few days or longer.
“Weather can’t be controlled but homeowners and businesses need to be aware of the importance of emergency planning before a weather emergency. A family communications plan, a preparedness kit and a portable electrical generator on hand when it will be needed most is a big part of such a plan,” said Dorrance Noonan, CEO of A-iPower, a manufacturer of portable power equipment. “Generators can keep the lights on, food cold, pump water, and run essentials such as cell phones, televisions, laptops, sump pumps and well pumps.”
Portable generators come in many models with power levels to fit a variety of applications. Noonan advises when choosing a portable generator, homeowners should look for these features:
Enough power. Choose a generator with enough wattage output to power the appliances you’ll need in an emergency. Look for continuous running watts rather than surge wattage ratings.
Sufficient electrical outlets. A portable generator should have enough receptacles for the devices a homeowner wants to run. Models that include a multi-outlet cord offer greater convenience.
Run time. Look for a generator that will run through the night on a single tank of gasoline for greater convenience.
Portability. Choose a generator equipped with wheels and handles
When the power goes out, a homeowner’s first thoughts are to get the lights back on as soon as possible. As with any connection to a voltage supply source, caution is urged. Noonan advised that when using a portable generator; observe the following important safety rules:
If you have recently purchased a generator or it’s been a while since you’ve used one, reacquaint yourself with generators features and operating instructions.
NEVER run a generator inside the house or a garage. Running engines give off carbon monoxide fumes, which can be lethal. Think of a portable generator like your car, and run it in a well-ventilated area, not a closed space where fumes can accumulate.
Install and test battery-operated carbon monoxide alarms and learn to recognize symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning: headache, nausea, dizziness, shortness of breath, weakness and fainting. If you experience any of the above, immediately get outdoors and call 911 for emergency medical attention.
Never back-feed your home’s electrical wiring system by using a cord with two plugs. This can be dangerous to you and your neighbors and deadly to a lineman. Either plug appliances directly into the generator with power cords that are in good condition or have an electrician install a certified transfer switch.
Be careful when refueling the portable generator. It is best to allow it to cool down between fills.
Have an Emergency Preparedness Kit Ready
Although a portable generator can keep your home running during an emergency, there are other things need to be considered when severe weather strikes.
Government emergency management offices provide information on what to put in an emergency supply kit. readily accessible, comprised of the following: