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Straw bale as Insulation around metal camper?

 
sarah miller
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I have an old pull-behind camper i am living in, off-grid. Want to insulate it because oh my GOD it is colder than outside even, and was thinking strawbales stacked up the sides and stuffed underneath.
My uncle is concerned the bales will get wet, grow weeds, and rust the metal siding of the camper.


Any ideas for or against this idea?


Thank you all so much.
 
Christopher Kyprianos
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Hi Sarah,

I'm no expert when it comes to trailers or straw construction bail construction, but it would seem that there is modest common sense approach to what you are thinking about.

First, let's think about some of the facts. Straw is an excellent insulator, so there should be some benefits from using it. If straw gets wet it will hold the moisture too. It sometimes can attract pests and other vermin seeking shelter so there are obviously pros and cons to the application you are suggesting.

It may be a good idea to leave an air space between the straw bails and your camper for airflow. That would help to dissipate condensation and keep critters from nesting too close to your camper. I would "guess" that it is the wind that is one of your major issues, maybe more that the temps, so by creating a barrier of straw you should benefit. I myself would not stuff it under the trailer, just around the parameter up as high as the window bottoms at most.

Allowing your trailer to breathe some may help with it being colder inside that outside. It sounds like the cold air and moisture is trapped inside. Maybe using your exhaust fan to help vent some of that out will help. Also on that note be very careful placing straw near the exhaust vents for your heater and hot water heater. These will also need fresh air to function correctly, thus having the space between the straw and the trailer will serve to feed them.

I am also thinking that placing a trap over the top that covers the trailer, but one doesn't flap in the wind will offer a place to set some more straw bails. Maybe if it were larger it could be wrapped over the top to protect the straw and then tucked into the opposite side like a bed sheet to hold it down. Heat raises so like keeping yourself warm in the winter, putting a hat on your trailer may help. You may need to figure out the weight factor and be sure it will hold the weight. Maybe only using partial thickness will be better, say 1' thick or so rather than stacking a load of full size bails on the roof. Don't forget there may be a snow load on top of the straw. That way there would not be too much weight and you would gain some benefit from the insulation qualities.

I also think that your uncle has a point about vegetation growth. Perhaps it would look like an earth berm shelter in a few years. I don't know, is that a bad thing? As for the siding rusting, most trailers have aluminum siding which does not rust, but again air flow would be important to prevent the actual frame of the trailer, which is most likely steel from being compromised not to mention the plywood flooring and interior sheathing.

Remember, you are doing an experiment, so like all experiments it should be watched closely. If something seems to be going south on you those straw bails came be removed faster than they were put into place. I am also thinking that in the summer the straw may offer some protection from excessive heat. Another side benefit... Talk with more folks and get their ideas and go from there. See what the general consensus is and go from there. I would be curious to learn the results.

Stay warm. Best of luck!
 
Carolyn Elliott
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Location: western Washington
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Have you considered using something other than straw in the same way, like plywood for example? My biggest concern with straw would be mice -- they would be hard to get rid of once you have them, and they could chew on important things.

Try doing a google search for "camper winter living" or something similar and there are a lot of articles to find. There are websites dedicated to rv living -- you might benefit from browsing through a bunch of them and bookmarking the most informative ones for future questions. I had some but I don't have access to my bookmarks and I can't remember any of them... but I did a quick search and there are a lot of possibilities. Here's one blog post for example:
http://thenewlighterlife.com/skirting-the-rv-our-options/

Also, a feather or wool comforter is warmer than most other options, if you can get one.
 
R Scott
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Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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Many around here stack bales around their single wides, NEVER underneath (rodents). Mainly as wind protection. Come spring, they get used as mulch or bedding for the animals.

 
Christopher Kyprianos
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R -

Do they leave some distance between the trailer and straw bails and do they cover the bails with anything to prevent them from getting wet?
 
R Scott
Posts: 3305
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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They usually leave a small airspace, small enough the snow will bridge the gap. They may stack it tight if only covering the skirt.

Most don't cover it, as any cover is noisy in the wind and usually rips long before Christmas. We get enough dry spells in the winter that a cover would hold more moisture than it prevented, that may not be true for other climates. Most stack them on something to prevent wicking from the ground.

 
I agree. Here's the link: https://richsoil.com/wood-heat.jsp
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