Finished the Camper (Practically)!

This past week a lot of progress has been made on the camper – thanks in large part to my dad who helped me with resealing, caulking, and such.  As it stands, the camper is at a place where I am more or less comfortable with it, so any major renovations (such as removing water damaged wood panels) can be saved for later.  So, here’s some pictures to prove the progress!

Here’s the old webbing –  you can see it on the seam of the exterior of the cabover section. IMG_7038

And here’s what the new webbing looks like.  If you happen to need any for chair repair, camper seals, etc. follow this link: Two-Inch Latex Elasbelt Webbing for Chair Repair – 40′ Roll

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We sprayed some rust converter on the big ol’ rust spot on top of the truck cab – it turned black, so no more rust progression, just truck character.

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Here’s my dad helping redo the seals and caulking on the exterior seam of the camper.  We found some dry rot in the right side of the camper, but since it isn’t where the hydraulic system attaches and would be a long process to redo the whole top half of the camper, I’m just going to leave it there for now and not do too much wild off-roading.  IMG_7031

Product placement? Possibly, but in any case here’s the sealant used on the camper for recaulking the windows and sides. IMG_7041

Here’s the camper dinette cushions all reupholstered with a neat blanket I found at Goodwill (washed it prior to use).IMG_7036

Here’s the interior – almost done!  I just need to put in sheets on the cabover bed and any dishes/clothes/supplies I might want in the storage spaces.

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Just for fun, here’s a couple ceramic bowls I picked up at a street fair ($10 for both!) to put in the camper.   IMG_7042

So, all in all, the camper is pretty much set to go.  The fridge still only runs on electric and not propane, though it can be used as a glorified ice box or dry goods storage when not plugged in.  The water system was tested and works, though the water tank has a small leak toward the top.  I plan to either replace it or simply remove it and use the space to store containers of water, utilizing a simple gravity fed sink system or attaching a hose.  The cabover panels’ latches have been reinforced and are nice and stable now and the vents are also resealed.  All that’s left to do is get the truck’s transmission double checked and repair a cracked headlight casing – then on the road!

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Project Progress: Cleaning the Camper and More

I am pleased to say that progress is being made on the camper and truck project (with quite a bit of help from my dad on the truck and resealing portions).  We got it out of the driveway today and on its way to the mechanic to check a couple things.  The camper top lowered very nicely and the truck started without a problem.  Below are some photos of the things done in the past day or two.

Cherry tree drawer liners.

I made some drawer liners for the plastic drawers.  They look nice and cover up some of the dirt I couldn’t wash out of the drawer bottoms.  The paper was at JoAnn’s and is basically wrapping paper held on with double sided tape, but it makes the drawers look much more cheery.

New rubber webbing.

Here is a picture of the first section of rubber webbing replaced on the camper.  In addition to the plastic strip holding it down, the webbing is stapled to the door frame.  This stuff goes all the way around and the old stuff is Pirelli rubber webbing, but I found some on Amazon that was basically the same product and significantly cheaper.  This will seal out the bugs and the cold while allowing the top to raise and lower.

New window shades.

New shades on the side windows.  These are from Home Depot and cut to fit, about 52″ across if I recall correctly.  They’re spring loaded which is neat, but I may end up adding a removable layer of fabric to block out the light when all is said and done since these are more like shades than light blocking curtains.

New dinette cushion covers

New fabric covering the dinette cushions, as well as new wood backings for the foam.  The backs are forest creature themed and the seats are a nice tree green.  The fabrics are also from JoAnn’s.  To attach them to the wooden backings I used a staple gun – simple, no sew, and efficient.

Cleaning cabinets

Cleaned out cabinets and encountered some fun blue soap stuff on the tubes for the hydraulic fluid.  Should clean off pretty easily.  I found more of it below the sink and was able to scrape it off with a spatula and clean out that space.

Cleaning the inside.

Drawers taken out of their places and being cleaned. I swept the camper and washed surfaces with warm water and a gentle soap.

Taking apart the foam cushions.

A before photo of the backings for the dinette cushions – these were tossed because some of them were moldy.

Back door

And the back door.

Things left to do on the camper include some resealing on the windows and vents, finishing the webbing, and checking the water tank.  If there’s extra time, we’ll take a look at the fridge and check to see if it can run on propane again, rather than just 110 volt electricity.

Today the truck got its brakes checked and is at the mechanic now to look at the alternator belt and the A/C.  Things are getting done – fingers crossed – this project might get mostly done before too long!

Why I’m Doing It

Some folks might wonder why I would want to live in a camper, especially right after college.

I have been interested in small houses for a couple of years now (thanks to my dad, who introduced me to the idea) and because a tiny house is too expensive for me right now, I started looking at alternatives.  Ideas ranged from van dwelling, to a teardrop camper, to RVing.  As you can see, I leaned more towards a mobile dwelling because I want the ability to travel with ease.

Camping at Lost Lake

In the end, I decided on a truck and camper.  This seemed like a viable option because if something goes wrong with either the truck or camper, one or the other can be replaced without losing your entire rig.  I liked the layout of the truck campers and the potential for a 4WD truck if one got into some sticky situations.  Truck campers are by no means stealthy, but they have standing room and other amenities often built right in.

I was lucky enough to find a truck and camper for sale together on Craigslist of the kinds I wanted.  The truck turned out to be a diesel which meant that it gets about 17 miles to the gallon even with the camper fully loaded on the back.  To me, this was a good compromise between comfort and miles per gallon – not as high as a camper van, but not as low as a big RV.

The challenge of getting rid of enough things to fit only the necessary items in my camper is ongoing, yet refreshing to realize what I actually need and use.  This culture runs rampant with consumerism and materialism; ideologies encourage us to define ourselves by what we buy.  Small living offers an exercise in defining ourselves more by what we do and with whom than by what we own.  With a small space, I am forced to minimize and save money by not buying extraneous items.

Overall, at a young age I now own my own home (even if the home is a truck camper), have the ability to travel, a low cost of living, and potentially no landlord.  Even with the work still to do on the camper, that sounds like a decent setup to me.

Interior Prior to Work

Following are some initial photos of the camper before much work has been done on it.  You’ll have to excuse the clutter – all the parts for the camper are being stored in it currently.

The first photo is of the view out the door – you can see a storage area on the left and the fridge on the right.  I made some blue curtains to replace the old ones

Back door view

Here’s a clearer view of the fridge and part of the stove (the cover for it is being cleaned). The fridge currently works on electric only, though it’s supposed to work on propane as well, so it may end up as a glorified ice box for the time being.

Corner of stove and fridge

A view of the outside of the door – it is in a nifty two halves so the top part can be left open for some air flow, and also to make life easier when the top half lowers down.

Back door

The bed – I splurged on the base foam and got some high quality stuff that’s 3″ thick with a 1″ mattress topper that I will trim to the correct size.  I’m not regretting the spendy foam – it’ll make a much more comfortable bed than what was there before.

Cabover bed

On the right is the side dinette – luckily the cushions are reusable there, they just need to be cleaned, some new backings, and recovered.  That’ll save me some money on buying foam.

Dinette and bed

Hopefully that gives everyone an idea of the layout of the camper – my apologies for the poor photo quality – once it’s cleaned up a little more and I’ve done some more sewing I’ll get some better light in there.  Thanks for reading!

My Blog Resources

Prior to making the decision to buy an Alaskan camper, I did a lot of research on tiny and alternative living while focusing specifically on mobile lifestyles.  From van dwelling to fancy RVs, there are lots of options and information out there for folks who look for it.  Here are just a few of the ones I really like:

Cheap RV Living is maintained by Bob Wells, a fellow who’s been living in vans and similar vehicles and converting them to his specific needs for many years.  He’s the go-to for a lot of information about the lifestyle and also has numerous guest posts from folks who live a less materialistic lifestyle.

Exploring Alternatives is a blog maintained by a young Canadian couple living out of their conversion van and travelling while working.  Both their jobs center allow them to work remotely via their laptops and live out of their simply (but very nicely) converted van.  Many of their posts explore aspects of their lives and travels from a minimal wardrobe to where they park each night.

Do it Yourself RV has tons of information about RVs, conversions, and plenty of DIY stuff.  The particular page linked to here has information on converting a mini van to a camper for the weekend or longer trips.  Mini vans make great campers for an individual person because even though they are small, they have good gas mileage.

These are just a few of the resources I’ve referred over time, but some of the ones I’d recommend.