December 28th, 2016  |  Published in News Room

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.

Safety First

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:

  • A weather-band radio to keep updated on conditions
  • Extra blankets and extra warm clothing
  • A three-to-five day supply of bottled water – at least one gallon per person per day.
  • Extra high-energy food
  • Sleeping bags rated for zero-degree temps
  • A white-gas camping stove that doesn’t require propane
  • A shovel for digging out
  • Batteries for radios and flashlights.
  • A weather radio to receive emergency information.
  • Before you leave for isolated areas, let someone know your itinerary and estimated times of arrival.

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