The ins and outs of heat sources

I’ve been assured the welding job to be done on the Travco before November 8 was started yesterday.

After another month of restless waiting, I am again thinking about the customization to be done over the next 6 months or so. We vintage RV owners kid ourselves things will be done without a hitch and in a reasonable amount of time, and come in under or on budget. LOL.

But I can dream. A couple innovations have caught my eye. One is for the kitchen. As I’ve noted in a previous post the propane stove top in my Travco was ruined by rust. I don’t expect to be able to repair it. Not sure that I want to replace it with a similar unit. I use the propane burners for cooking breakfast only, and the oven only for extra storage.

An all-in-one type insert was brought to my attention through the ladies of Girl Camp Canada. It’s a mini kitchen: single sink with two electric stove burners beside it and a mini-fridge with icebox below. This sounds pretty cool and space-saving to me.

It brings up a few conundrums for me as a first time restorer. Would this unit be hard to wire/plumb into the R/V? Would it draw too much power? And on a personal note, once it is installed, will I find the single sink and half fridge too small to be practical?

Danby all in one unit
Danby combo kitchen as seen on Kijiji Toronto, Ontario, Canada

This change got me thinking about a more luxurious option. If this triple-unit saves me a bunch of space, could I possibly eliminate the propane furnace and swap out for a fireplace or woodstove? I’ve seen many Pinterest pins and Youtube videos on the installation of a “mini-stove” in tiny houses and RVs. Lots of questions to be answered about this option, though.

I grew up in rural Eastern Ontario Canada and have lived in homes with both fireplaces and woodstoves. The dry heat appeals to me, as RVs often seem innately damp. As well, to me camping isn’t camping without the scent of a campfire. Watching the coals glow, toasting marshmallows or hotdogs and hearing the crackling flames is the highlight of my camping experience.


Hobbit stove
Restored Hobbit mini wood stove in a 1972 Airstream trailer. (Pinterest)

This brings us to the issue of safety. I have no desire to take my Travco out on her maiden voyage only to have Camp Wannahockalogie go up in flames. Not only would I have lost a lot of cash and sweat equity, that bus only has one door. Not exactly good for emergency escapes.

The walls, ceiling and floor around the unit would have to be somehow fireproofed, especially where the chimney pipe goes through the roof. It would have to be properly ventilated and sealed against water leakage. And how high would the pipe stick up? It may get snapped off by a low branch or bridge.

chimney vent on boat
Chimney vent on a boat (Pinterest)

The mini wood stoves aren’t a cheap option either. You can get a portable military “tent stove” for well under $100 but at that price, I’m concerned about durability. The cast iron, enameled units with small windows so you can see your fire are pretty expensive. Up around $600 to $1,000 and higher. Apparently there’s a unit they install in boats that is supposed to work well.

Green woodstove
“Little Cod” marine wood stove by Glass door costs an extra $150. Unit costs $1,535 CDN, plus stovepipe.

The major unknown for me is movement. This isn’t a tiny house or cottage. There’s going to be a whole lotta shakin’ going on while the RV is on the road. If I go to all the work to repaint and decorate this beast, there’s no way I want a stovepipe collapsing in a shower of soot in the middle of the floor.

Maybe there is a propane option which would be simpler and safer? My only issue with this is the end cost. Using up more fuel and having to go find a place to purchase a refill is inconvenient. As well, it wouldn’t last very long if you were boon docking.

There’s a pretty informative article on propane vs. wood for tiny houses, but it’s not exactly what I need to know.

I’d sure appreciate some advice from any of you who have attempted or seen these conversions. I’ve found that my readers are the best source of sage advice, ideas and innovative suggestions. So let me have it. I have a few months to ponder my decision and I want to make an informed decision.

PS: For those of you who have been following this blog, I realize I can’t use my blowtorch fire starter inside the Travco. Damn.





3 thoughts on “The ins and outs of heat sources

  1. Karrot

    Love your blog! Love your trailer name!!!!! Camp Wannahockalogie – lol

    Here’s what I found about the fridge-stovetop-sink combos when I dialed down into the specs of the units out there as there was on locally for sale. It weighs over 100lbs so it will be too heavy for me, unless I want to drag the front passenger end of my ’61 Stasta Compact down the road, lol. The vintage combo kitchen units by Danco may come in at a lighter weight.

    The woodburning stoves are so beautiful – cast iron ones sometimes are heavy weights as well. I agree I like the campfire feeling over the propane, thus my love for vintage charcoal on the BBQ grill rather than propane

    Cheers, Karrot


    1. Joanne Fralick

      Hi Karrot:
      I’m getting mixed responses on the wood stove idea. Main concerns are cost and safety.
      Regarding the kitchen combo unit, it would actually lighten my load. I could take out the full size fridge and the propane stove/oven. My beast is on a five ton truck chassis so 100 pounds is not an issue 🙂


  2. Hello! We’ve been using a wood stove in our 1966 Airstream for almost 2yrs and love it! Its hard to beat the warm dry heat and the ambience!

    After struggling with sourcing flue parts for our stove and a lack of general info on wood heat in small spaces we started a website devoted to the subject:

    All the best as you find a heat source!




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