Friday, July 30, 2010

Pop-Up Camper

Set Up In My Yard
We bought a Pop-Up Camper off of E-bay in November 2009, and I have had it set up in my yard about half the time since, tinkering around with it, making it more comfortable and homey.  Truth is, I've always wanted a pop-up camper.

Your basic pop-up has a very small awning, no shelving whatsoever, and the beds are darned uncomfortable  So I set to work to make ours more livable. I should also mention, when you buy a 16 year old camper, no matter how well it has been taken care of (and it was in great shape for its age), there are problems.  I'll tell you about those and what to look out for.

First off, it's not easy to buy a camper off of E-bay because most of the sellers live far, far away -- Arizona, California, New Hampshire.  And you have to arrange to pick it up.  I lucked out and found one for sale in Greenwell Springs, LA, about 30 minutes away.  We went, the guy set it up for us, and even brought it to us because we didn't have a hitch yet and he wanted his $2,500.

Kitchen shelves over the sink and stove
We set it up immediately.  Then the real adventure began!  It was filthy inside, so I removed all fabrics, washed, dried, hemmed and patched them, vacuumed everything else, cleaned all drawers and cabinets, and washed the soot off of all the vinyl windows. Then, noticing the lack of shelf space, I commenced to design and build some removable kitchen shelves, all held together with removable nails.  It goes up in minutes and really makes the space more livable, not to mention more homey. On it I put my tea pot, coffee pot, salt & Pepper, condiments, cereal, flash lights, cookie and crackers tins, etc.  Hooks on the uprights are perfect for storing coffee cups, pot holders, keys, etc.  All the food would have to be stored in the car without these shelves, as there is no counter space. The shelf breaks down into individual boards that store under the mattress while travelling. It's neat!

Next, as to bedding, we spent the first night in it and discovered the mattress was too hard.  So I purchased a queen 2" memory foam mattress, cut it to size, and the master bed is now almost as comfortable as our big king size bed at home.  Trying to save money wherever possible, I went to Family Thrift and purchased some lovely matching sheets sets, and blankets for both beds for just a few bucks.  They look like new.

Armrest, Plastic Drawers that stack on
the floor while travelling, and plexiglass
screen cover that lets light in while keeping
in the A/C or heat.
Third, I built an armrest that attaches to the left side of the couch, doubles as a handy storage compartment, and is also removable during travel.  I also found some plastic stackable drawers that fit perfect, and store on the floor while travelling.  Drawer space is really important to avoid clutter, and while our camper has more drawers and cabinets than the new ones, no camper has many drawers.

Fourth, we found the 6x9 awning a joke!  The slightest breeze and the rain comes right under it, and the sun is rarely right overhead, and when it rains it fills up with water and sags.  I used PVC pipe to build a frame to keep it from sagging, and designed two awning extensions that tripple the awning size, look good, and fit in the camper when packing up.  That took a long time to design, but I persevered and finally made it work.

Lastly, I hated how, when it's hot or cold out and you run the A/C, you have to zip up all the canvas bedroom window covers and the screen door needs to be closed.  You can't see out anymore.  The tent caves in visually and becomes a very tiny space. It's claustrophobic.

"With the windows open to view, the whole great outdoors is your living room, and the scenery is your framed artwork."

So in addition to the awning extensions covering the side windows so you can leave them open during a rain, I designed a plexiglass plate for the door to replace the opaque panel, which keeps the cold or hot air in, but lets you see out.  Now I just love it.  I can feel "outdoors" in all weather.

There are a whole lot of steps to "popping up" your camper, so after I practiced putting it up and down a few times, I generated a detailed TO DO list, 3 typewritten pages long, of which steps to follow and when.  It's a lot easier to do if you sequence your steps properly.

I was warned that there are always hidden problems when buying an old house or old RV and the same is true of the camper.  First, within days the door lock broke and had to be replaced.  Then the sink pump broke and had to be replaced.  Then, when I brought it back from Hattiesburg and set it back up to dry, a cable broke that lifts the roof up and down.  That had to be professionally replaced.  I had to fix several other problems as well, like the A/C condensation dripping off the roof and wetting the side canvas by the bed.  So I cut a piece of tarp just the right size, clamp it on, and the water drains safely to the ground.  The LP gas tank was on the wrong side, so I moved it to the easier side to reach.  We had to replace the crank handle for the wheel.  I built 2 insulator boards so when it's really cold out or wet, your feet and head don't freeze when you're in bed.

Other purchases:  port-a-pottie, pedestal fan, 2 x 4 outdoor plastic table, 3 folding chairs, 2 folding wooden tables for inside, 2 25' hoses, pots, pans, flatware, electric cords and plugs, fuses, bulbs, trays, outdoor carpet, outdoor lamp, assorted rope, clamps, tools, all bedding, linens, a cooler that fits perfect in the door well.  Most of this from Wal-Mart at reasonable prices.  This puppy came stripped bare, as do all new campers!  If I ever sell it, I will save someone many, many hours of shopping and agony to resolve all the issues.  That will make me happy!

Also, we needed a hitch, and lighting harness for the car -- another $250.

Adding it all up, we now have about $4000 in our camper and are ready to ride in style.  A new pop-up runs around $16,000, and they are stripped bare too!  And I've heard they also have problems right out of the gate.  So all in all, we got a great deal.


Beth Salmons said...

Would you mind posting pictures of the awning extensions you created?

Michele Fry said...

Sorry Beth, I no longer have the camper set up. I basically got some wide Velcro and glued it to the sloping top edges of the awning, and to the long edge of two 8x10 silver tarps (such that some of the tarp extends over the camper roof, using e6000 as the glue (Velcro glue won't hold). I put an extendable tent pole under the front corner grommets and guy wired them out, and tied a rope to the 2 back corner grommets on each tarp and ran them over the roofs and tied them off somehow to stretch them tight, I can't remember how. Set up the awning, Velcro the tarps on and stretch them out. I think I got the extendable poles at Wal-Mart. I could keep the windows open under the tarp even when it rained (of course not in windy weather), and enjoy the great outdoors. They should make this standard equipment!