How To Winterize Your RV

Is it time to winterize your RV?  If your season is done, as is ours, then it’s probably time.

End of Season

Our camping season is finished.  Unfortunately, we didn’t get to finish out as we usually do.  The state park we go to does it up during weekends in October.  There’s a haunted house.  They arrange a parade and trick or treating.  They organize arts and crafts centered around Halloween.  The campground is always full and our kids look forward to it.  It’s usually our last trip of the year.  We had it all booked for the year but decided last minute to cancel.  What had been forecasted all week to be a few showers suddenly changed to weekend long rain when a front shifted a bit south.  We were bummed, but we knew that a whole October weekend in the rain wasn’t for us.

We have never cancelled a trip before.  We’d brought it home and got it prepped and ready to go, so some time and effort was wasted.

But all was not lost, because we needed to winterize.  We normally would have done it after the end of the trip, so at least the tow home wasn’t all for nothing.

Here are some of the things you need to know to winterize your RV.

Empty All Tanks

Make sure that all of your holding tanks are empty.  This includes your fresh water tank as well as your gray and black tanks.

Empty Your Water Heater

Most RVs come with a six gallon water heater.  You want this empty for the year.  Turn your water pump off and open up the hot water faucets.  This will depressurize the lines.  Then find your water lines.  Near the water heater will be three valves.  Switch the position of each of them.  This will cut off the water supply to your water heater.  Next, go outside and open the drain valve to your water heater.  This will empty out the water that’s inside.  We leave the drain valve off.

Empty Your Water Lines

Get rid of as much water as you can.  If you have an air compressor, get it set up.  There’s a connection somewhere on each camper.  Open up all your faucets (don’t forget your outside shower if you have one).  Make sure your pump is off.  Turn on your compressor.  This will push water out of the lines.  You can also look for labels for your low point valves.  Open these up to drain them.  Close them when you’re done.  Go inside and pull the flush on your toilet to get that water out too.  Remove the air compressor.  Turn off all of your faucets.

Note: Some people skip the emptying of the lines, and just move to the next step.  I’ve done this and have never had any problems.  It’s personal preference, though many in the RV world have strong opinions.

Run RV Antifreeze Through The Lines

Next you want to fill your water lines with antifreeze.  You want the kind that’s safe for RV.  It will be pink.   Locate

image from morguefile courtesy of xololounge

your water pump.  There will be a hose that runs to the water holding tank, and another that you can pull out to the camper.  Each will have a valve.  Reverse both.

Then, take the hose that you can pull out into the camper and stick it in your jug of antifreeze.  Turn on a faucet and then go turn on your pump.  This should start drawing the antifreeze out of the jug and through your lines.  When anitifreeze starts coming out of your faucet, turn it off.  Then turn on every faucet and repeat.  Make sure you get your toilet as well.

Now that this is done, all of your lines should be filled with antifreeze.  Walk around and look at every single point where water comes out.  Shower hoses, toilets, make sure you’ve had pink come out of them.  Miss even one thing and you could be in for an awful surprise next spring.

And, remember earlier how you flipped the valves around your water heater?  That means that you just saved yourself six gallons of antifreeze from flowing into the tank!

Flip the two valves back into their normal position.  This way, in the spring, the pump will draw off the holding tank as you’ll want it to do.

Put Some Antifreeze In Your Tanks And Traps

Pour a couple of cups of antifreeze down one of your sinks.  This will get it into your gray tank.  Pour some into your toilet and flush so that there’s a little in your black tank.  You shouldn’t need any in your water holding tank if you’ve emptied it completely.

Now, make sure that you pour a little in every sink so that there’s some antifreeze in each of the traps.  Finish off by pouring a little bit in the toilet.

Clean Out All Food

If you leave any food in your camper, get it out.  During the season, we’ll leave some stuff in a storage bin.  But, for the off season, everything comes out.  Also, anything that might have food particles should come out.  Camping stoves and camp pie makers.

Get Rid Of Potential Rodent Beds

During the winter, rodents will look for somewhere to stay warm.  We take out any towels, paper towels, kleenex, etc.  There’s no need to make your camper any more attractive to them than it might already be.

Remove Cleaning Supplies and Liquids

We take out all cleaning supplies and liquids just to make sure nothing freezes and breaks.  You can put a lot of the stuff from the last few categories into a bin that you can unpack in the spring.

Check Your Caulk And Seals

Take a look around places where water might get in.  Chances are you won’t be seeing your RV all that much during the winter.  A small leak can add up to big problems.  Fix any areas where things look cracked or rotting.

Remove Your RV Battery

Once you have your RV in place, disconnect and remove the battery.  We put ours in the basement.  First I check the water levels, and fill with distilled water if needed. Then we keep it connected to a trickle chargers.  RV and marine batteries should not be allowed to fully discharge.  It will dramatically reduce their longevity.

Remove All Batteries

Your main battery isn’t the only one to remove.  I find that it’s helpful to take all batteries out of the camper.  Remote controls, flashlights, smoke alarms.  I take them all out and put it in a storage bin that goes in the basement.  Leaving them in during cold weather seems to shorten their life.  Not to mention, they often leak if they’re left in.

Open Your Fridge

Make sure your refrigerator and freezer are not sealed.  Otherwise, if there’s any moisture, then you’ll end up with mold and mildew.

Consult Your Owners Manual

These are the steps that we take, and that I know are pretty common.  You’ll want to take a look at your manual before you’re done.  They might have something specific to your model.

Keeping your camper safe and snug over the winter is important.  It doesn’t take that long to do.  By following the proper steps, you’ll ensure that your RV will be ready to enjoy next spring.

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

10 Thoughts On Our First Week Long Camping Trip of 2017

We generally do a week long camping trip twice per summer.  One is always over the 4th of July week.  We wrapped up our trip and it was a success.  I thought I’d share some of our (mostly) ups and downs, as well as a few laugh out loud moments.

The Popularity of Outdoor Activities Is Increasing

Driving on the freeway to get back and forth to the campground showed just how popular outdoor activities have become.  Michigan is always home to great summer activities and always has been.  However, even versus a few years ago, you can see a tremendous uptick.  The number of campers and boats shows that more and more have climbed out of the hole of the Great Recession.

Fireworks Don’t Work At 11:30

We’ve stayed at this campground before, but this was our first time staying for the 4th.  We were pretty excited when we found out that there was a fireworks display scheduled.  Everybody headed down to the lake shortly before dusk, which was around 10pm.  We waited, and waited and waited some more.  We’re quite a bit north and it was clear sky, so it didn’t get pitch black until past 10:30pm.  We figured they’d start then.  Nope.

It was a full hour after that before they started.  By that time, our kids had enough and were already in bed.  Our son was half asleep and enjoyed listening to them, anyway.  But, really, who in their right mind starts a fireworks display at 11:30pm?

A Bigger Gas Tank And Engine Saved A Stop

Most of our longer trips seem to be around 250 miles away from home.  With the old Buick towing, we would always have to stop for gas.  It was around a 20 gallon tank, and generally got around 10 MPG when towing.  I got a truck with a 26 gallon tank, and we averaged 12 miles per gallon, so we ended up saving a stop.  When towing, finding a gas station that’s RV friendly always adds another layer of complexity, so I was happy to avoid that part!

The Unlucky Made The Best Of It

Remember above how I said camping is more popular than ever?  This is especially true on the 4th, when just about every site in the state is booked.  We were able to snag two adjacent sites for our entire time, and they had a lake view to boot!  Others weren’t so lucky, but made the best of it.  Many people were able to get a stay at the park, but had to move sites at least once.  I saw one camper in at least three different spots.  Yikes!

Saving $80 Was Cool

We got a note a few weeks before our trip that the campground had been having sewer troubles.  They had a line break on three separate occasions.  During these, people that were camping couldn’t use the bathrooms or showers.  They had to use port-a-potties or pit toilets.  They allowed people to either cancel their reservation or offered a $10 reduction in fees to take the chance on staying.  Since we knew everything anywhere else was booked, we took the chance.  Thankfully, the bathrooms worked perfectly, so we saved $80 by taking a chance!

It Finally Got Easier With The Kids

When we started camping with our trailer, the kids were 3 and 1.  That was tough. Someone was always napping or eating or melting down and both needed pretty constant supervision.  The kids have grown, but even last year, neither was riding a bike without training wheels.  We always knew it’d get easier where they could be more independent, and this year it hit us that we were finally there.  Nobody needed a nap, they were flexibile with the meal times, and were able to do a lot on their own.

4th of July Trips Are Bad For My Awning

During the first year we had our trailer, the awning broke during a freak thunderstorm.  It almost happened again.  This time there was no thunder or rain, just wind.  We were sitting at the beach when it got really cloudy and dark and the wind started picking up.  In the five minute walk back, it was so bad that when we turned around, all we saw was a cloud of sand.  We ran back to the site and my in-laws and wife (who had walked back a few minutes earlier) were holding down the awning as it was bouncing around furiously.  Through the wind, we were able to get it rolled up, but it really seems that thing is cursed on these 4th of July trips!

Staying Healthy Worked….Sort Of

I wrote a couple of months ago that I knew these trips would put my fitness success at risk.  Between exercising less, eating more extravagent meals, and indulding in more alcohol, these trips had potential of derailing a lot of the success I’ve worked for.

Well, while I didn’t do great, I don’t think I did half bad.  I definitely found I was more strict at the beginning and

Image from morguefile courtesy of kzinn

less so at the end.  Still, I did pretty good on portion control and cutting back on my liquor intake throughout.  Snacking was the only area that I lost a little willpower on, but it was still better.  Plus, I ran three times during the trip.  Overall, this wasn’t perfect but it could have been a lot worse!

We Need New Meals

We’ve developed some pretty cool meals.  We have a good mix of campfire, grill, and comfort food meals.  But, many agreed that we’re starting to get a bit repetitious.  We never had a bad meal that I can remember, but very little of the dinners were exciting.  It’s time to shake things up, I think!

Tomato Plants Can Double In Size In A Week

We bought two little tomato seedlings at the farmers market back in May.  They grew quite a bit in the weeks before our trip.  Still, we were shocked when the doubled again in size in just the week or so that we were gone.  And it didn’t even rain!  The watering all came from our neighbors who helped us out.  Now, we have lots and lots of tomatoes on the way!

Readers, have you done anything fun so far this summer? What fun have you had or do you have planned?  Let me know in the comments below.  Thanks for reading.

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Camping 2016 Season By The Numbers

This past weekend, we took our final camping trip of the year, and capped it off by getting the RV trailer shut down and stored for the winter.  We had a great season and I thought it’d be fun to recap by sharing some numbers:

137
# of Days in the Active Season – Our first night of camping was May 26th and our final day of using it was October 9th.

9mb-2015-06-fire
# of Camping Trips Taken

34
# of Nights Camping

6
# of Michigan State Parks we camped at

2
# of parks that were ‘new’ to us this season

2
# of Tow Vehicles we used to tow our trailer

1,888
# of Miles Towed to get to and from our trip

478
# of round trip miles to the campground furthest away

1
# of times we camped there

60
# of round trip miles to the campground closest

4
# of times we camped there

3
# of total sleeping configurations (seven trips had our family of four, one trip had my wife & I as well as my sister-in-law and her boyfriend, and one trip was a boys weekend with just my son and I)

3
# of times our outside rug got flooded during thunderstorms

21
# of days we got to spend at a beach while camping

5
# of birthdays we got to celebrate while camping

1
# of 30-amp extension cords that partially melted from overheating

2
# of bottle of anti-freeze I thought I had when getting ready to winterize for the season

0
# of bottles of anti-freeze I actually had

Infinite
# of memories created this season

198
# of days until the first day of camping in 2017

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

A Week Long Camping Trip At A New State Park

=Since we started camping in 2012, we’ve camped exclusively at Michigan state park campgrounds.  For the most part, we’ve found a good rotation of campgrounds that meet our needs.  These include electrical hookup, within 4-5 hours of home, and a nice beach, especially for our week long trips.  We typically do two week long trips per summer.  For the past few years, we’ve stayed at the same two campgrounds for those trips.  This year we thought it might be time for a camping trip to mix it up a bit.

Our Old Favorites

One of our campgrounds was Ludington State Park, on the shores of Lake Michigan.  It’s one of the most popular campgrounds, as it has access to Lake Michigan as well as an inland beach, lots of biking and hiking trails, and a pretty nice town nearby if you don’t mind the 15 minute trip each way.  I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with it as it’s pretty far away, it’s where our awning blew apart in a windstorm on one of our first trips, and we’ve always had bad luck getting sites, even though we’re online trying to book at 8:00:01 in the morning six months in advance of our reservation.

Still, everybody loved it until last year when we went and happened to stay during the one week of the year where the high temp rarely crossed 65.  Of course the campground had nothing to do with the weather, but we agreed that it might be a good opportunity for a reset.

So this year, we decided to stay at a new (to us) campground, Burt Lake State Park.  It’s about a four hour straight shot north of us, and it was definitely a great experience, though there were as always highs and lows.  Here are a few thoughts:

First Impressions Aren’t Everything

We actually stayed at a different campground about 45 minutes away earlier in the year, so we decided to go check it out.  We even went to our sites.  At the time, they didn’t look so big and we thought that we’d be squeezed in, but actually they turned out to be very nice sites and we had plenty of room.

Rules are sometimes suggestions

One thing we’ve learned is that while the rules are pretty much the same across all state campgrounds (how many cars you can have on your site, quiet hours, etc.) , at some parks they seem to be suggestions.  We saw sites that had more than the normal two cars allowed per site.  We saw quite a number of sites with RVs that were larger than the stated limit.  There were cars parked where they probably shouldn’t have been parked.  Most were little infractions, but when we started noticing how many there were, it became alarming.

There goes the neighborhood (Part I)

When we first arrived, the neighbors right next to us were this older couple, probably in their 80’s, in a small pop-up that they actually towed with their car.  They were so cute as they sat in a screen tent passing time by reading or playing cards.  When they left on the third day of our trip, we said goodbye.  Later in the day, this massive 45-foot motor home drives by and my mother-in-law joked that it was probably our new neighbor.  Except it was no joke.  They squeezed onto a site that we later looked up that was supposed to hold no more than a 30-foot long motor home or RV.  Our fire pit was on the corner of our site, so we had this wall right next to us.

To make matters worse, when I was sitting with my back to their motor home, I suddenly noticed a rather offensive odor.  Turns out they had no sewer cap and hadn’t done a very good job rinsing out the drain line.  Disgusting.

There goes the neighborhood (Part II)

They finally left on our last full day, so we waited to see who would arrive.  We joked that it couldn’t possibly get any worse.  Well, turns out that it’s time stop making jokes.  This time a 40-foot trailer showed up.  Behind the trailer was a small trailer holding two jet-skis.  Behind that was a pickup truck towing a 25-foot boat.  Somehow, they squeezed all this in.  When a ranger happened to drive by and we pointed it out, they basically told us that they couldn’t do anything about it.  Weird, because at other parks rules are…..enforced.

My big mouth and bad eyes

One day after the kids went to bed, my wife and I went for a stroll.  We always enjoy looking at other sites and seeing how people setup camp to enjoy their time.  We walked by one site that had a nice big food tent, with five bulb lights hanging that were incredibly bright.  I started cracking jokes about how they could see the site from space, and even went on about how they were getting ready to host a ‘Hootenanny’ later that night.  My wife was cracking up so much that she couldn’t tell me that a lady was sitting at the corner of their nearby camper, and she didn’t look very amused.  Oops.  Well they do say it’s harder to see around dusk!

The importance of a checklist

Around the middle of the week, a family across the way was packing up to go, and we noted how they did a great job with everybody helping.  All seemed well as they were pulling away until the unmistakable crack of something going terribly wrong could be heard.

They only went a few feet and came to a quick stop, but the damage had been done.  They had put up their TV antenna, and forgotten to put it down.  The antenna went straight into a tree branch.  It was all bent up and pulled sideways.  We have a checklist that I use every time when setting up, and a different one every time we’re tearing down.  We’ve been doing it long enough that we don’t follow it step by step, but I do make sure to verify every single item on the list before going into motion.  I’m really glad I do!

Lighters, kindling, and darkness don’t mix

On our last night, we didn’t get a fire going until after it was mb-2015-06-firedark.  My father-in-law was getting it started and was looking for the lighter, which we keep in the kindling bag.  He couldn’t find it and went and got another one.  We had switched fire pits (because of the huge load of equipment as noted above) so we figured it had probably fallen out around the other pit, and that we’d find it in the morning.

About 15 minutes after the fire stared, a sudden whoosh told us otherwise.  The lighter had mixed in with the kindling, and…became kindling.  Luckily, they don’t put very much fluid in those things.

A Great Camping Trip At A New Park

All in all, we had a great time.  The weather was about near perfect.  It only rained one day.  This, of course, happened to be the day that we had a previously booked boat rental.  Still, we still ended up having a great time.  The rest of the week was hot and sunny, so we gobbled up lots of beach time.  It’s always fun finding a new place and having a great family trip.

Readers, how have your summer trips gone this year?  

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.