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Camper Winterizing

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The writing below was taken from the story of the guy who full times in his Sunrader. It describes how to winterize your camper so the pipes, etc don't freeze while you continue to live in it during the winter.

Allen

XL. Space-age plastics

Old Orchard Beach, Maine. October 16, 1986.

God bless velcro, mylar and Krazy Glue.

I’m no great fan of plastics, but I have to admit a grudging admiration for these three space-age polymers.

With the first two, plus a few other materials of more traditional cut, you can fabricate any number of accessories that make life on the road more comfortable.

The third example of humanity’s ability to twist molecules into different weights and properties, Krazy Glue, I put on the list only because I never would have believed that a product with such a stupid name could be so handy – in some cases, unequalled – for making quick and permanent repairs.

Velcro . . . I’m sure the word is a trademark registered by someone who would insist it be capitalized as a proper noun. I use it as a common noun, uncapitalized, only because I can’t think of any other brief generic term for mated polyester fabrics, one faced with microscopic barbs and the other with microscopic loops, that adhere to one another physically without bonding chemically. As intricate and complicated as the physical mechanics are, velcro makes living in a truck a lot simpler.

That’s why I’ve gone out today and bought about 75 linear feet of velcro. Look for the kind that comes in three-quarter-inch-wide sticky-back rolls. Most fabric shops carry them. About a buck a linear foot.

With my five rolls of velcro, I have made mountings for a six-section mylar skirt that insulates the underside of the truck and for seven fiberglass patches that insulate vents on the side of the truck. I still have several feet of velcro tape left over for various applications inside the truck.

Mylar is no doubt another trademark word that otherwise translates as flexible, transparent, extruded polyethylene sheet fabric. To me, it’s plain old uncapitalized mylar. How can anybody own a word and tell us how to use it? I can understand a manufacturer insisting that a trade name not be used on a competing generic equivalent, but why get pushy with the rest of us? After all, the trademark word got into common use in the first place because we all asked for and bought the product by name. So make some more millions, trademarkers. Sorry about putting your words in common use, but your products do have a lot of them.

Anyway, four-mil-thick mylar is great stuff for weather shielding because it insulates well, is easy to tailor and handle, is easy to store when not in use and is cheap enough to replace if damaged or lost. Two 10-by-25-foot rolls – about 12 bucks – have been enough for a double-layered skirt that encircles the perimeter of my truck.

The purpose of the skirt is simply to keep air from moving beneath the truck. I learned early in my truck dwelling life that it takes so little heat to warm the cabin, I would be nearly as well off sealing the cabin’s envelope against convection loss by putting up a thin, inexpensive barrier against air movement as I would by trying to prevent radiant heat loss with a heavy, expensive jacket of insulation. That assumption turns out to be correct. I will learn in the coming winter that the skirt keeps the floor of the cabin at least 20 degrees warmer than the outside temperature. An unexpected advantage, I will find, is that the skirt’s transparency captures heat on sunny winter days and pushes the underside 30 to 40 degrees higher than the outside temperature, usually enough to melt any ice or snow that has collected on the skirt, unfreezing it for easy removal.

Making the skirt is fairly straightforward, but it does involve some tricky parts that take time, so I’ve described the process – and the simple technology for using the same materials to create a truckside canopy as well as some vent covers and an interior insulated curtain – in an appendix with the same name as this chapter heading.

It’s easy enough to insulate a conventional house that sits on a conventional foundation or even a motor home that will be parked for the offseason in an RV campground, but without a velcro-and-mylar skirt, it’s virtually impossible to insulate a dwelling that sits on wheels and is likely to move every day.

I’d manufacture and market the skirts myself, but each has to be tailored to the vehicle it insulates. And somebody already has trademarked the materials involved. So I offer the simple technology I have developed with these materials to the world, free of charge, in the name of the geniuses who invented velcro, mylar and, just because I like their style, Krazy Glue

The skirt is basically a folded length of mylar that attaches to the truck with strips of velcro. The barbed or rough strip is mounted on the truck, the looped or soft strip of velcro is mounted on the mylar (the soft strip folds easier with the mylar). Where the two sections of skirt come together, the rough strip goes down one section to the ground, the soft strip goes down the other so that they can be quickly spliced together.

The reason for making the skirt in six sections rather than one is that a 50-foot length of skirt would be hard to handle, difficult to store and nearly impossible to fit correctly. You need a little room to bunch or stretch the fabric, and that’s easier with sections. It’s also easier to replace one section if the skirt is torn.

I am fortunate in my assumption that a strip of velcro glued to the truck will hold fast against the weather and the frequent stress of having the mated fabric peeled away when removing the skirt each day. I don’t know what kind of adhesive is on the back of these strips, but I will find that the original velcro will hold firmly to the metal and fiberglass truck body through years of heat, rain, wind and ice, no matter how often the skirt is pressed on and pulled off. The only section of exterior velcro mounting that will loosen at all is under the gasoline fill spout where dripping gas dissolves some of the adhesive.

Mounting the mated strip of soft velcro to the mylar skirt takes a little experimentation. I find that the strip will hold to the mylar if I put duct tape along the top of the skirt and then staple the velcro strip to the tape every six inches or so. Plain old duct tape and a common Cub Swingline stapler. The only thing I worry about is that the staples eventually will rust through, but that won’t happen for years.

The trickiest part of making the skirt is to get the right contour along the top. On the passenger’s side, for example, the skirt has to go beneath the water heater vent, which would melt the plastic fabric, but above the wheel well, then below the cabin door and passenger’s door but back to the top of the fender so the grille vents can be covered. From trial and error, I learn it is best to unroll the mylar completely, fold it once lengthwise and attach the two open edges temporarily to the side of the truck to get the proper length to the ground. I want about a foot of mylar to overlap on the ground so the skirting can be weighted against wind, so I use masking tape to attach the mylar to the side of the truck at a height that will leave an extra foot on the ground all the way around. Then I cut along the top of the mylar, loosening a section at a time as I contour it above or below whatever protrusions or recesses I want to cover or leave open. As I cut the mylar, I seal the cut edges along the top with duct tape folded over both edges. As I finish each section of skirt, I tack it back to the truck temporarily with masking tape so I can continue on to the next section. When all the sections are done, I trace the outline of the finished skirt onto the truck and mount the rough velcro strip just below that outline. Then I attach and staple the soft velcro strip to the taped edges of the mylar.

The skirt takes only a few hours to make. It winds up costing a little over $60, about 10 bucks a section. I don’t know what a similar commercial product would cost because I’ve never seen anything remotely resembling a velcro-and-mylar skirt on either the automotive or the building supply market.

Even in the worst weather, the skirt takes less than five minutes to attach and can be peeled off in a fraction of that time.

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Do you have a link to more of these writings? Does this guy have a website?

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No he was just a regular member of this site and the Yahoo Toyota camper site. He hasn't visited this site in over a year. I don't quite understand the skirt thing. Maybe someone else will chime in and explain

Linda S

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Yeah I didn't catch that it was an excerpt of another article. That said no Mylar on earth is going to stop plastic pipes from freezing in Maine in the winter. My Nissan Sunrader was from Alaska and it had heaters on all the tanks and the oil pan. A skirt might help hold in the heat from those but not going to keep it warm enough all by itself.

Linda S

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Depends on how far inward the pipes are. Frost can't travel more than a foot or so horizontally underneith with the skirting in place

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Still doesn't make sense to me. In an unheated house everything will freeze. Seems to me walls are more of a barrier than a thin piece of plastic even if it is Mylar

Linda S

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Linda think wind chill. 

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I'm from New York. I know wind chill. I went to a college with and elevated outside walkway 1/4 mile long surrounded by open fields. Student radio station broadcast the wind chill on the walkway every day so you knew if you were going to die trying to get to class or not. Sometimes it was negative 20's. But if I'm in a tent, no wind and it's 8 degrees outside, my water bottle will be frozen in the morning for sure. Solid

Linda S

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The floor of Toyota MH leaks a lot of heat. The skirt will trap the heat and keep the pipes warmer. Your not trying to keep the pipes at +60 just above +35. It works down to about +5, straw bales will work a lot lower. Sooner or later its heat tape and heat pad  time if your talking -20.

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Gee thanks. Now I have to drive to Tahoe and skirt my Sunrader and sleep underneath it so I can see how warm it stays. Always another project. Extreme LOL

Linda S

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Sure make sense to me, you would have a super insulated roof over your head!!! A new use for a Sunrader.

Tent camping along the DMZ in Jan and Feb, you get real good at WARM. If you pack snow around the edging of a tent you'll make a huge improvement in warmness. 

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Hey like I said, New York kid. My brother and I slept in igloos in the side yard insulated with newspaper. FUN. No more. Old now. Need warm

Linda S

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5 hours ago, linda s said:

Hey like I said, New York kid. My brother and I slept in igloos in the side yard insulated with newspaper. FUN. No more. Old now. Need warm

Linda S

And my TV, microwave, waterheater, stove top, shower, etc:P

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