Bruce and Kim Scott have modified their Northern Lite for extreme cold weather boondocking. Take us into the frozen north! This is winter truck camping, Upper Peninsula style.
Let us start off by saying that we use all of our truck camper systems in the winter. We use the refrigerator, cook, wash dishes, use, the bathroom, and the shower. We camp just like we do any other time of the year. We can come back after a long day in the cold, get a hot meal, a hot shower and then climb into a nice warm bed. We are able to go out for two weeks in the winter and not fill up the holding tanks in our Northern Lite. This is the story of how we go truck camping, in comfort and style, during the winter.
Interior Mod: Add an Electric Furnace
My Little Brother (Big Brothers, Big Sisters), Tanaka, and I installed an electric furnace in our camper. When we’re winter camping and we have electric hook-ups, we can run both the electric furnace and/or the propane furnace. When we’re plugged in, the electric heat is our main heat, and the propane is just our backup. In freezing temperatures, whether we have electric hook-ups or not, we always run the propane furnace and water heater to keep things from icing up.
Interior Mod: Basement Thermostat and Fans
The propane furnace is ducted to the basement to keep the water systems from freezing. But when running electric heat we needed to get the warm air into the basement, so I installed a small computer fan and flex ducting below our kitchen pantry. The camper already has a passive cold air return duct and I installed another computer fan there to increase the air flow back to the camper.
Above: The remote temperature and moisture sensor in the basement is viewed on the weather station (on left). The thermostat (on right) in the basement is set and forget, it takes care of itself.
I installed a thermostat in the water pump area of the basement. The thermostat determines when the fans need to go on and circulate the air in the basement. If the basement temperature gets below the set point on the thermostat, the fans automatically turn on to prevent the tanks from freezing.
We have a monitor in the camper that tells us the temperature and humidity inside the camper. With the three remote sensors we get the outside, the basement, and the refrigerator temperatures, but that’s a different story. We keep a close eye on those numbers to give us piece of mind that our basement plumbing doesn’t freeze.
If we know it’s going to be really cold outside when we go to bed, we turn the propane furnace on to make sure the basement doesn’t freeze overnight. If it’s not in the single digits, I’m okay with just the electric heat running.
In the above photo the monitors are: 1. Upper left is the weather station (with three remote sensors, outside, basement and refrigerator), 2. Middle left is the propane thermostat, 3. Lower left is the electric thermostat, 4. The four meters on the right show AC and DC volts and AC and DC amps. The small box below the four meters is the charge wizard for our power converter.
Interior Mod: Cabover Fans Running 24/7
Besides the two computer fans that push warm air into the basement, we added two additional computer fans in the bulkhead wall separating the bedroom from the main camper interior. I mounted the fans as high in the camper as I could get them. Of course I contacted Keith Donkin, General Manager at Northern Lite, to give me his input. I showed him the two locations I was thinking about and he said there was nothing in the way of those mounting locations.
The fans are facing forward so they will gently move the heat along the ceiling and follow the curve down in front of the pillows where it was getting cold. During cold weather camping these fans are on all the time. Having even this small amount of moving air helps regulate the temperature and humidity.
At one point we took a thermometer and measured the temperature between the pillows and the front wall with the fans on low, high, and with the fans off. There was a significant difference in temperature under those different conditions. The biggest thing is to keep the warm air moving.
Interior Mod: Overcab Mattress