It was a cold, early winter evening in southeast Idaho. The outside temperature was about 10oF and was anticipated to fall below zero by dawn – still many hours in the future. It is nights like these where, as an experienced winter RV’er, I know I need to keep the furnace running frequently to ensure the camper’s underbelly does not freeze up as I live in my camper all winter and maintain it as if it were the middle of summer. That is to say, I run all my systems including water and plumbing all winter and it takes a strong furnace and underbelly heat to keep things flowing.
Then it happened…
A Power Failure – forcing me to do a “quick assessment” of how independent I can be in my RV camper – especially in the dead of winter
The entire neighborhood was dark. My development is a mix of cabins and RV campers (a mix of motorhomes and towable trailers.)
I know that for my neighbors in cabins, a power failure meant no refrigeration, no light (other than flashlights) and most importantly NO HEAT. A long power failure would definitely force my cabin-dweller neighbors to abandon their homes (as would be the case for many home-owners in the area.) They could probably make the night, but likely not an additional night without the restoration of electric power.
As a new resident of this region, I was unsure as to how common power failures are and how long they last. There was no “weather” occurring in the region, so the failure could not be blamed upon a storm.
RV Life and Independence…
So, here we are, low outside temperatures, about 10 hours of darkness before dawn – and not much anticipated temperature relief even with the rising of the sun. After all, this is the Teton Valley of southeast Idaho. Elevations exceed 6000 ft. in the valley, and the surrounding mountains reach in excess of 13000 ft. Certainly one of the most amazing places to spend time – especially in winter – but not a real hospitable place when the power is out!
I knew the outlook for my neighbors in their cabins, but what about me in my RV Camper? I took a quick assessment of my situation and here’s what I discovered:
Heat – the MOST basic necessity for surviving winter in an RV Camper
Heating a RV Camper – My furnace runs on 12 volt power, so, I have heat as long as my campers batteries hold up AND as long as I have propane. Since I’m here for the winter, I have a 120 gallon propane tank sitting outside my camper. When it’s full, I can get at least 6 weeks of propane from it and probably more if I am careful with its use. As to the batteries, I have solar panels that can recharge them, and if it’s too cloudy or the limited winter sun isn’t enough to power the panels, I have a generator to do the job.
My generator will run for approx. 6 hours on a full (one gallon) tank of gasoline and I always carry a spare 2.5 gallons. (Don’t forget to use fuel extender to keep gasoline from going bad that you are storing.) So, if I ran the generator non-stop, I’ve got enough gasoline on-hand for about a full day. Since there’s often some sun every day, the solar panels can carry the burden of keeping my batteries charged. Of course, the generator could run indefinitely as long as there’s access to gasoline. This is the generator I purchased – and why I chose to go with it.
Refrigeration – next to heat, it’s vital to have
We all know that residential refrigerators require “household current” (110v electric) to operate. RV’s have the distinct advantage of running on propane (and 12v) or 110v electric. This means when a power failure occurs, your RV fridge will continue to work as long as you have propane AND some battery power.
As detailed earlier, most RV’ers who have solar power, a generator, and a good supply of propane can have refrigeration for quite a while (weeks or longer.)
Let there be LIGHT(s)
Your lighting in virtually all RV’s runs on the 12v (battery) system. So… as long as the batteries have some power in them, there will be light. Even a power failure in the middle of winter can’t prevent you from seeing your way around inside your camper.
For now, I’m relying upon a connection to city water. I have water filtration inside my camper (I have an article coming soon with some recommendations of what to consider and what to avoid), but my camper also has a freshwater tank. In the case of my camper, I can store 82 gallons of freshwater. I also have Sawyer water filtration that can filter river or lake water if necessary.
Corona Virus (COVID-19) and Independence with an RV
With heat, refrigeration and light, one can be quite independent in an RV Camper for quite some time. As I write this, the coronavirus is threatening to impact the lives of many Americans. If the power grid were to fail, everything considered I’d certainly rather be in an RV camper than in a standard home for the reasons detailed earlier. As you can see, maintaining a basic lifestyle can be maintained in an RV for quite some time.
Closing thoughts on Independence in an RV
RV life certainly has its challenges. Purchasing a well constructed, real four-season camper is a great start along with necessary tools including solar panels, a generator, and additional propane storage.
Whether its a garden variety power failure that lasts a short time or something far more serious, having solar panels, a generator, and additional propane storage will enable you to survive and thrive on your own for an extended period of time in your own RV camper.
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