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We’ve invested in a lot of camping equipment over the years and started taking more and more camping trips as our kids got older. But we knew eventually we needed to upgrade our camping set-up to help make it easier for our frequent trips. So we kept our eye out for the perfect piece for our project: A DIY pop-up camper remodel!
We’ve seen all sorts of beautiful scenery from the colorful Colorado Rockies to the breath-taking Ozark Mountains, nestled deep in the heart of Arkansas. But no matter how far we go, we just can’t seem to pack light enough to travel in just one car! We always had to take the truck, along with my SUV. One stuffed with gear while the other was stuffed with kids. 😉
We have big goals of seeing this great nation with our family so we wanted to find a pop-up camper that would fit our needs. As usual, our tiny budget was the problem. (“Boo” for living on one income!)
But, we kept our eyes open for several months until the perfect project piece reared its ugly head. (And I DO mean ugly!) 😉 When we found it, we waste any time getting started on our DIY pop-up camper remodel!
DIY Pop-Up Camper Remodel: Tips for Buying
If you’re like us and on a shoestring budget but still want to create memories that will last a lifetime, there’s a few things to know!
Don’t buy the first camper that pops up in your searches. Take your time and become familiar with the price of items in your area. We waited until after summer to buy our camper because they weren’t in demand as much, meaning it cost less!
Just because they say it’s a great deal doesn’t mean it is! Do your homework and know what you’re looking for! Think about the floorplan and if it’ll work for your family.
Buy good bones:
You can redo a lot of cosmetic things but rebuilding the camper itself isn’t fun. (Trust me…) Make sure there’s no water damage or leaks anywhere. Bounce on the floor to make sure it’s sturdy. Check the rollers of the beds. Make sure the pop-up can easily be lifted and lowered, without any issues.
Our camper needed the drawer slides screwed back in because the drawer wouldn’t slide easily. Luckily, Emersyn can work that screwdriver like a boss. 😉
DIY Pop-Up Camper Remodel: Our Story
We had been eyeing campers for nearly 6 months before we finally found “Mo, The Party Wagon.” (Yes, we named our camper! It’s a right of passage from tent campers to camper campers.) Mo was in our price range and appeared to have “good bones.”
We had set a budget of $1,500 and the sellers had Mo listed on Facebook for $1,200. We messaged the seller and got in line to see her. Thankfully, none of the other interested parties showed up and we ended up buying her on the spot!
To be totally honest, we didn’t know what we were looking for but my husband is pretty savvy when it comes to inspecting things and is incredibly detail-oriented, so it worked out fine for us.
Since we came in a few hundred bucks under budget, we decided that we could “upgrade” the camper a bit. We didn’t actually set out to redo the entire camper, but we just rock at shopping deals, so we were able to do so!
The Nitty Gritty of Our Remodel
The first thing we did after buying Mo was start the cleaning process. It was obvious she needed some TLC. She was dusty and smelly and I didn’t want anything to do with her in the condition she was in. We sprayed the canvas down with Dreft laundry detergent and let it soak in. Dreft is gentle enough for babies, so we figured it would be gentle enough for our Mo. While that was working, we got busy scrubbing every nook and cranny in the camper. Between some good ol’ fashion Dawn dishsoap and some Mean Green, we were able to get her in much better shape.
We vacuumed and scrubbed, ripping out each and every piece that we could remove and letting it sun out. We opened the windows for a few days and let good ol’ Mother Nature clear the air. Once she was clean, we got started on the painting!
Have I ever told you that I’m a mega-cheapskate. Like, I ain’t paying full price for darn near anything if I can help it and paint for Mo was no exception. I have a lot of paint laying around our garage, so I mixed and mixed until I had the navy color I was happy with! (Might I add, I mixed a bucket of blue paint that I picked up for free at a yard sale, with a bucket of black mistint that I got for $6! Plus, I have plenty of each color leftover!)
The grey paint was leftover from the exterior of our house so it was basically free paint, as well!
Since my husband has plenty of paint supplies, all I needed to purchase was a couple of paint roller brushes.
Once the paint had dried, I added some new knobs that I had leftover from our kitchen remodel.
We headed to JoAnn’s to find just the right fabric. We didn’t have a real plan in place but we knew our paint colors were going to be grey and navy blue. I wanted the upholstery to be something solid, that wouldn’t need to be updated as trends changed.
We bought a couple yards of black and white buffalo check because it was on sale but soon decided it was too “wintery” for our summer camping trips.
We headed back to the store and found the clearance bin! Lucky for us, there was some fancy-schmancy fabric that was originally priced $49.99 a yard marked down to $9.99! We scooped up the 7 yards that were available and prayed it was enough for our table cushions.
On the way home, we swung by Wal*Mart to check out their fabric and found the navy striped fabric on sale for just $1.00 a yard! Unfortunately, we needed one yard more than they had, but we decided to just make our curtains shorter and deal with it.
We bought a staple-gun from Harbor Freight for about $10 and got to work!
We weren’t sure if we should remove the current cushion cases or just upholster over them but in the end, we decided to remove them. They had a zipper closure but I knew I couldn’t replicate that, so we just did a few folds and stapled, learning as we went. (To be totally honest, we experimented on the first one then I went in to take a shower while my kids finished the other cushions. I was insanely impressed at how well they did!
If I had to do it again, I’d probably get a more bold fabric for the cushions but these work fine for now. I like that they’ll go with whatever bedding we choose and I won’t need to reupholster them every time the trends change.
I do love that we can change up the look of the camper easily by just adding a few bold throw pillows or changing up the bedding!
Table & Cabinet:
I didn’t know if I even wanted to mess with redoing the tabletop since we’d be using it a lot but ultimately, I decided to give it a whirl. I grabbed a few rolls of contact paper and was so glad I did. It didn’t take long for us to apply the contact paper and man, it made such a difference!
The sink cabinet was a bit trickier than the table was but with a little bit of patience, it turned out pretty good! Perfect? No, but good enough for us.
We almost sewed a cushion to go on top of the bench but ultimately decided that contact paper would be easier. We knew that a cushion would get stepped on and tossed around, when we tried getting anything out of the bench. I love the simplicity that the contact paper added to the bench area!
It was much easier to maneuver with two people, so grab a friend before you get started on this part!
The last step for us on our DIY popup camper remodel was redoing the floor. We went with super cheap peel and stick tiles. Because our floor was in good shape, we just laid the flooring right on top of our old linoleum, scraping up any imperfections along the way. We simply sprayed it down with TSP, let it air dry fully and then started laying the tiles. When needed, we trimmed the tiles with a sharp box knife or scissors.
We started at the doorway and worked our way in. In hindsight, we probably should have started under the table so our flaws could be hidden. 😉
While the tiles we chose weren’t a ton different, I feel like they updated the whole feel of the camper. Plus, they hide dirt waaaay better than the previous flooring.
Our flooring cost $.99/square foot and we bought 40 square feet. We had about 10 feet leftover so we were able to return those.
We also picked up a rug from the Dollar Tree to keep in front of our door. I do prefer the kids to kick off their shoes outside, but that’s still a learning process apparently. 😉
Once all the hard work was done, the fun began! We shopped our house to find all kinds of good stuff to make Mo feel more cozy. I knew I wanted bright colors and lots of details so that part was easy! As you know, there’s nothing I love more than yard sales so I tend to have quite a stockpile of treasures, just waiting for me to put them to good use!
I will be honest and say my very favorite part of the DIY pop-up camper remodel was adding the details!
The bedding sets both came from our linen closet! We use them when we have company stay the night but otherwise, they just stayed neatly tucked away. It only made sense to use them in our camper.
We picked up the baskets at a yard sale. They only cost $2 for the set and they are perfect for catching all of our small items in the camper, like keys and wallets. At night, I keep my wedding rings in one of them, so they are less likely to get lost in the camper.
I love the feeling that live plants give a space, so I always try to pack a plant to take along with us. This simple pot usually sits in my kitchen windowsill but it’s the perfect size to travel with us. I’m obsessed with how it brings a touch of nature into the camper with us!
While we don’t generally burn the candle in our camper, it’s also a mosquito repellent so I just bring it outdoors with us in the hot summer months. I love that it’s cute to decorate with indoors but actually functional, too!
Nothing! Every single detail piece came from our home so we spent no out of pocket money!
(Note: These aren’t the exact items since I thrifted everything. These items would give you the same feeling!)
And that’s it, folks! Our DIY pop-up camper remodel is complete!
We went from a junky, grimey camper to a fresh and fun party wagon! Even with all the upgrades, we came in over $100 UNDER our original budget!
To be honest, my girls (ages 12 and 16) did about 99% of the work. While I did most of the deep cleaning, they did the rest! I am simply amazed at how awesome they did. Not to mention, they did this complete transformation in under 5 days, just in time for our first fall camping trip of the year! That’s what I call a successful homeschool project! 😉
Next up, the outside!