Brinn has always wanted pop-up camper. I have never wanted a pop-up camper. Tent camper. Tent trailer. Pup. Fold-out camper. Call it what you will, it sounded like work to me. Why would I want extra work when we’re doing just fine with a tent? We have a large cabin tent for longer trips, and the smaller Columbia tent for quicker trips when we take fewer items. The canopy tent covers our chairs well enough that we can stay dry through a rain storm. For years, I put Brinn off that I just can’t see the reason to invest in a pop up. But then Ian got bigger and really got into camping, so we started going more. Like almost every other weekend from March through October. And Ian started packing more of his own stuff, and as he got bigger his stuff got bigger. And then I began dreaming of trips where we could roll into the campground with already made beds. What would life be without fighting with your husband in the rain while setting up a cabin tent, then sitting in a stuffy tent inflating air mattresses? How convenient would it be to not worry about checking the air pump’s batteries between trips? What if our camping gear didn’t take up half of the guest room anymore? And so I began the Craigslist dance of checking out camper sizes and prices, and I learned very quickly that the pop up pricing suited our budget much more than a hard sided camper would, and so Brinn finally got to go shopping and pick out his very own pop-up camper.
Brinn took his time and scoured all the usual sites (Craigslist, LSN, Facebook…) until he found a little Starcraft Venture in Kentucky. We made the drove on a chilly March day to view the 20 year old travel trailer, and found a delightful little camper. The young owner obviously hadn’t had the camper for much time at all, and had no idea how to assemble it, so he couldn’t answer any questions about it. Brinn pulled out both bunk ends, snapped in the supports, and went over the wood and canvas with a fine tooth comb. Obviously we found a few minor issues, as to be expected in such an old trailer, but we couldn’t find any major structural issues! As there was no where to plug in the electric, we took a gamble and trusted that it was all in working order. I even pointed out to Brinn that I had no need for electric. I couldn’t imagine using an air conditioner or refrigerator for the type of camping we do, and we have head lamps and lanterns for lights, so who cares if the electric works?
Let me tell you, I care! Since we’ve had our little pup, I’m embarrassed to admit to how much I have fallen in love with the air conditioner. I didn’t realize what a game changer it would be to camp in muggy July, August, and September without having to wait until midnight for it to cool down enough to even think about sleeping. The dogs can safely hang out in the cool camper while we go rafting or kayaking during a trip. I can leave a crock pot going inside the camper while we’re on the water so we can come back to a completely cooked meal! We didn’t find a major flaw with the trailer until we tried to turn on its interior lights, but surely that must have been burned out bulbs, right? Nope. We ended up just using lanterns the last two years, until this year when Brinn had to make some repairs for water damage. While he had the panels pulled apart, he found that some of the wiring had been cut clean through! Luckily we have an electrician on hand these days, and Jeremy came to the rescue to make repairs for us. Now we’re fully functional with all forms of electricity!
I think Chaco has been the biggest fan of the camper. She’s always enjoyed camping with us, but her little pop up has lifted her status in the canine world. When we take her for walks around the camp grounds, she holds her head a little higher as if to tell the other furry guests that she’s no longer a tent dog, she’s a camper dog now. She gets more enjoyment from the air conditioner than I would think a short haired dog would like. She’s also pretty taken with the fact that the kitchen table and benches converts to her very own bed.
Since Brinn found our little pup, we’ve taken it out roughly 30 times across the last two years. We’ve stayed in areas with full amenities, but also continue to frequent primitive camping areas. Even without the benefits of full electricity, the camper has made life tremendously easier. Before a trip, Brinn pops our little trailer up so I can make the beds on both ends. I stuff the cargo area under the bench seat with our pillows, and extra blankets for the dog bed. I don’t like to leave bedding out full time as my allergies can’t handle the mildew that occasionally accumulates. Our kitchen box and bathroom box now stay in the camper full time, so they no longer take up any space in the house. We’re also able to keep the assembly box (jacks, levelers, wheel chocks, and other fun stuff) in the camper, along with our general “camping” box, which contains dog runners, my homemade bug spray, head lamps, a hatchet, tarps, and other items that are handy to have in the woods. All of this storage has made a huge difference in the house, which helps me feel so much better. I hate clutter!
The pup came with a gas stove and a sink, but both took up quite a bit of room in the small interior. The whole camper consists of two full sized beds on either end, a table with two bench seats that can convert to a smallish bed (larger than twin size, but smaller than a standard full), a counter top across from the table, and a small counter beside the rear bed. The stove takes up almost the entire long counter, and the sink takes up the small counter beside my bed. After a couple of trips out, where we used neither of these appliances, they were pulled out and are now stored in our rear building. They can stay in storage until/if we ever sell the pup.
2018 saw many adventures in the pup. 2019 didn’t take us out as often, but Balto moved in during 2019, and we also spent quite a bit of time in barn construction. Now we’re several months into the Corona pandemic, and we’re thankful to have the pup so that we can get away from our home while able to practice safe social distancing.
So far this year we’ve been to Fall Creek Falls, Nantahala Tiny Homes and RV Park near the Nantahala River , and Gee Creek Campground near the Hiwassee River. The Nantahala trip was a short one, only across one night, but we were able to spend more time at the Hiwassee. We arrived early in the day on Friday, and didn’t leave until Sunday afternoon.
We spent all day Saturday on the Hiwassee river with some fantastic friends and had a great trip. Ian took a bit of a spill at the “Little Rock Island” rapid as the wave stopped his boat and he got stuck in a side surf. It held onto me and the dog barge (our tandem tributary) for a few seconds on my way to go collect Ian. Ian cried for a few minutes after he climbed into the ducky with me, but Balto gave him kisses and tried to help him feel better.
That evening, we let Ian stay up later than he should have, and he got entirely too tired. He got his favorite pajamas wet and moved solidly into overly emotional kid meltdown. Brinn and I decided Ian may do better to sleep with me, so we settled him under the comforter and he finally dozed off. Which means that I finally got to doze off…except a husky and cur dog decided they should get to sleep with us. Then that same cur dog woke me up to let him out to pee around 2:30 am. When you drink that much Hiwassee water all day, you just can’t make it through the night. After Mogwai completed his business, I put him in Ian’s bed with Brinn, and put Balto on the converted table bed, and slid back into my own bed despite the windmilling arms and babbling sleep talk. I found that great sweet spot, where you’re perfectly comfortable and drowsy and sleep feels wonderful, around 6 am. By 6:30 my legs were numb and I felt too hot. As I pulled myself to consciousness I found Mogwai lying horizontally across my legs, Ian smushed against my left side, and Balto smushed against my right side. I finally admitted defeat and got up to go read outside in the cool morning air. Balto and Ian immediately wiggled towards one another and soon it was as if I’d never been there at all. I think it’s safe to say that they are both huge fans of sleeping in the camper.
So now you’re finally caught up on our account of moving into the popup camper life. To Chaco, it’s a doghouse on wheels. To Balto, it’s an ice box to cool down husky hair. To Mogwai, it’s another bed to sneak into beside mom. To Ian, it’s a place to plug in his kindle and watch a movie for 5 seconds before he goes to sleep. To Brinn, it is the culmination of a very delayed gratification. To me, it’s the admission that I was wrong, and Brinn was very right.