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Alberta Bound?

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  • Alberta Bound?

    Any one have experience with working in Alberta and also living in a camper (pickup ) or a trailer for the winter months. I know this is off topic but i think im getting layed of from the die shop and i need a adventure. I thought of buying a trailer (any built for really cold weatheer) and just parking it near work and living in it for a year. How long and what type should it be. I am taking my wife audrey so its gotta be warm and a bit nice. Thanx Mike aka(madman)

  • #2
    Well, Alberta isn't a whole lot different than northwest montana (where I lived some years back.

    I spent 4 years living in a 1973, 24' camper (think it was a Red Dale). Montana gets damn cold, and it can be damn hot. I went and found 2 older, used coleman heaters (10,000 btu) and installed one. heat was never a problem, iirc I paid $150 for the pair. I kept a 2 of the large propane tanks (about the same height as a C25 bottle) and on average got a monts worth out of them, used to cost out about $60.00 per month to heat the trailer. I also had the 2 smaller tanks that came with the trailer as spares. tanks go dead at 2 am and it's not plesant spending hours in the sub zero temps till the propane place opens. I also kept a small electric heater for such emergencies, some nights it was much nicer to flip a switch and let the place warm up to 50-60 degrees instead of getting outta bed at 2-3 am in sub freezing temps =)

    I disconnected the standard trailer water system and set up 5 gallon jugs under the bed with fast disconnect hoses, I kept 4 jugs rotating every 3 days. The reason I did it this way was because the regular tank can and did freeze on me even with great heat. the jugs couldn't. (this was due to a poorly designed tank holding setup that didn't allow for room temp air to circulate around the tank)

    Get a 50 amp DC converter (easy thru any ham radio shop or e-bay), if whatever trailer you decide on doesn't have a converter(it should). run yer fridge on electric, gas is a waste here. I'd also suggest you avoid using gas water heaters, standard equipment in many cases. (thats just a personal feeling)

    In the years I lived in that trailer I ripped out the bed setup that was the combo couch and built in a desk and cabinets. I carpeted the floor, as I hated the cold floors in the winter. I kept a supply of heavy plastic for sealing up the windows to stop drafts. was was the kitchen table that converted to a bed eventually got turned into a real bed with a real matress. the desk served me well as a table.

    I bought the old trailer somewhere around 1995-1996 and it served me well. it was a junker when I got it, and it was better when I sold if off just before 2001.

    Trailer living takes a bit of forethought and some serious will. it gets to feeling cramped and near drove me nuts a few times.

    Now that I reread yer post and noticed yer bringing yer wife, I don't think I'd wanna have less that 36-40 feet worth of 5th wheel camper... I say 5th wheel because it's a nice way to tow a rig and also it generally gives you a large "bedroom" but regardless.

    Trailer rules:

    Keep tarps and roof sealent handy.

    Keep spare waterline and fittings handy.

    Get the best heater setup you can afford, I don't care how a trailer is rated, your gonna appreciate being warm when it's cold as hell out.

    Always have a backup plan, IE: generator, portable heater etc.

    Always chain down yer tanks and lock compartments

    Skirting makes a big difference in keeping yer place warm and rodent free.

    As for manufacturers... I couldn't say. theres many. If i'd have had the money back then I'd have gone airstream, but the red dale was too good of a bargain to pass up.


    • #3
      Not just skirting, after you put on the skirting surround it with some straw bales and change them in the spring.

      You certainly won't have trouble finding work Mike. Everybody is hiring and I mean everybody. When we visited family earlier this summer there were bumper stickers on the back of the busses and police cars advertising for applicants. My daughter took these pics in Hinton where they live. These are just the signs for zero experience jobs and many of them are starting at $9 to $10 per hour with benefits as well.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Evan
        My daughter took these pics in Hinton where they live.

        Isn't Hinton where they have the paper mill that doesn't stink?


        • #5
          Camper Living

          Have a friend who has been living with his wife in a camperized school bus on Vancouver island (outside Victoria) for the last twelve years. He did a magnificent job on the conversion beforehand and they have been happy with their adventure. But, even in Canada's mildest climate it was a problem keeping warm in the winter. His solution, in addition to skirting, was installing an insulating envelope made up of insulating board and plywood. Their power comes from a single extension cord (about 150 FT) run from a neighbouring home and it is only a 15 Amp circuit. A hose also supplies the water from the same source. A holding tank is pumped out occasionally. The fridge and stove are both on propane. It is an enviable location out in the middle of nowhere and it is a very economical style of living. Don't think he has any thoughts of leaving that location any time soon.

          Have to agree with Evan's thoughts, there is a job for everyone who cares to move there. Most of Newfoundland"s employable now reside in Ft. McM. working the tarsands projects.

          Couple of other ideas:

          Internet,Hosting,Phone,DSL.Cable,Business,Residential,Fiber,Dialup,Consulting,WordPress,VPS,SSL,Domain registration,Reseller,Website Design

          Good luck and have fun in your adventure.........a beatiful province!!


          • #6
            Alberta is similar to Montana on climate. -50 C to +15 C temps are common from Halloween to St Pat's day. The coldest month is generally January. There are trailer parks that allow all season 5th wheel travel trailers in them, but they seem to be further from major centers. Long term stays are becoming more common as our economy heats up. Used to be campground stays were limited to 14 days (back in the days of free camping). Pay campsites are getting expensive for full service too. Some full service campgrounds are getting dangerously close to long term room rates for fleabag no-tell motels. Depending on where you land, rents and real estate can be at an all time high. Which part of Alberta are you headed for? The populated areas in Alberta range from the 49th parallel to 56 degrees. It is a 12 hour highway highball trip diagonally across Alberta's populated areas from Medicine Hat (just inside the Alberta Saskatchewan border) to Grande Prairie (just shy of the B.C. border). If you are prepared to spend 45 to 90 minutes commuting, you can rent in a farm community super cheap and drive to work in a major center like I do (rural central AB. to Calgary). It is more common than you'd believe and carpooling may be an option. Personally, I would shy away from a travel trailer for long term >3 weeks - too crowded. SWMBO and I spent several months in one 20 years ago and she has only consented to use one for recreation in the last 3 years.
            There is lots of work available out here for those who are willing to do it. The big issues are logistics and family. Relocation is always painfull. (Been there too many times).
            P.M. me when you get closer to making the move and I'll help you all I can.

            P.S. the odorless pulp mill isn't...
            Last edited by cam m; 08-16-2006, 10:51 AM.


            • #7
              man if you can convince your wife to live in a pick up truck camper over the winter by packaging it up as an adventure, you should be making the big bucks in sales

              are you thinking about this because there aren't good what T&D or machinists opportunities in Ontario or you just want a change (or both)? All I keep reading about is how tough it is to find housing out there. Granted the camper removes some of that, but presumably you'll want a hookup - how easy is it find this?

              Evan, there may be tons of jobs, but has that translated into higher (hire) wages? My 15 year old's making $10/hour washing dishes full time (40 hours a week for the summer) ....there's not benefit to leave Ontario for those rates.
              located in Toronto Ontario


              • #8
                There are several types of pulp mills and how much they stink depends on the process and how modern they are. The worst are the kraft process mills that make brown paper for paper bags and such. They use sulphite pulping and the chemicals smell really bad. I was flying over Vancouver Island in my Cessna 140 once and without realizing it I flew through the plume of the Crofton kraft mill. I damn near puked all over the panel.

                The newer mills have excellent process control. The smell comes from the part of the process where they recycle the chemicals for reuse. The "black liquor" is distilled from the pulping solution for reuse at the head end. If it overheats it burns and makes the familiar "smell of money". With good process control this hardly ever happens and you only get a whiff now and then. It also helps that Hinton is a very windy town.

                Another process is called thermomechanical pulping which uses far less chemicals and relies on boiling and grinding the wood fibre instead of breaking down the lignin chemically. We have one of those in the next town north of me and I used to service equipment there. It produces almost no odor at any time but the product it makes isn't usuable for all types of paper because of the short fibre length it makes.

                I believe the Hinton mill is a standard bleach process sulphite mill but with really good process control. You can smell it faintly from time to time so it isn't a thermomechanical mill.
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                • #9

                  Wages are rising with labor shortage. In our busiest centers, McD's is well over 14$/hr. Rent is way up too, though.

                  T & D, CNC, and manual machinsts are in high demand and, from what I hear, rates are climbing too. We are not quite a technological back water either. For example, several local companies are producing items from forgings and billets with 5 axis CNC.


                  • #10
                    There is plenty of money to be made in Alberta. Minimum wage doesn't exist. Everybody is paying much higher than minimum even for zero experience. My son in Calgary has his own business doing drywall taping and would hire a couple of more guys today if he could find somebody. How much he pays depends on how good you are. He could work 24/7 if it were possible and expects to pull in around 3 to 4 100K in the next year. He's planning on providing specialized plaster trim for upscale houses and I am going to be doing some experimenting with producing aluminum molds for casting the trim using my CNC mill when I get it running.

                    Finding a place to live is difficult and the higher wages are reflected in higher living costs, especially accomodation. With a trailer the best bet is to find a farmer not too far from where you work and make a deal to park on his farm, maybe in exchange for some work in lieu of rent. I've never known a farmer that didn't need an extra hand at times and especially somebody that knows how to fix things.
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                    • #11

                      If there is a shortage of unskilled labor, you can bet the skilled jobs are in demand too. I had coffee yesterday with a guy who had a heated discussion with his boss at 10 a.m. and had 4 unsolicited equivalent job offers by 3 p.m.

                      BTW, I've been in Alberta all but 4 years of my life. History is repeating itself.

                      The late 70's and early 80's were almost as good as now. The mid 80's sucked. Global politics, domestic politics, high interest rates, and economics ravaged AB's economy in 85 - 87. Mortgages were handed back to banks for 1$ rather than renewed and jobs were hard to come by. The cycle has repeated itself 4 or 5 times in the last 100 years or so. The teens and 20's were good, the 30's deperate, the 40's OK, the early 50's fair, the 60's ok, the late 70's through 82 good, the mid 80's not so, the 90's we were on an upswing that continues today. Locally, we realize it's not permanent we're just riding the wave and trying to sock a little away for the next inevitable slowdown...

                      Last edited by cam m; 08-16-2006, 11:30 AM.


                      • #12

                        Pulp Mill stench. I lived in Kakabeka Falls commuted to thunder bay daily and that bowwater pulp mill shoulda been shut down. It stank like sh../ When the wind was wrong you could smell it over 20 miles away. As far as living in a pickup camper i think i would have to get a trailer and hinker down. Housings bad i hear but i need a adventure so off i will go. Thanx for the time everyone and tips.


                        • #13
                          Mike....Don't forget the obvious. Anyplace you park your trailer has to have a sewer hookup.
                          If you skirt it all in you aren't going to be moving it to a sewer dump.
                          If you go up north you will need it skirted in.
                          My son works in Ft. Mac and tells me how ugly it gets up there with the wind chill.
                          I've looked into this as I have a standing job offer as a weldor up there.
                          A single bedroom in a basement with a shared bath with as many as 5 others goes for around $600 a cooking facilities.
                          A couple of places my son called for trailer parking are $750 a month and more....problem is they all had waitng lists.
                          If you need to go there the best bet is to get with a union outfit that supplies you with free camp. All you need to bring is a TV and your cloths.
                          A good friend of mine just moved out to Sudbury. He makes nearly as much money as he made in BC/Alta but he also is renting a small hobby farm (30 acres or so) 8 miles from town for $750 a month. Same place here woould be $1600 or so.
                          Real estate in Alta and BC is insane right now. We have junker houses selling here for $150G. A couple years ago they would have sold for $40G.
                          The Albertans have raised our real estate(BC) prices through the roof.
                          The Alberta money is fine but the cost of living is steep.
                          My daughter just moved back to BC for $4 an hour less and she is still money ahead. She saved $1200 a year on vehicle insurance alone.
                          I'd make sure all my ducks where behavin themselves before I went wandering out there.
                          I have tools I don't even know I own...


                          • #14
                            some of those jobs are advertised at $7 bucks per hour whats that in British pounds about آ£2.5 or 3 I would not knock my melt in for that crap-pay system watch what your doing son remember the grass is always greener untill it's under five foot of snow.Alistair
                            Please excuse my typing as I have a form of parkinsons disease


                            • #15
                              Alistair, that pic is a year or two old. Wages and demand have gone up since then.
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