Tag Archives: campers

Thank You TIMBUCKTU RV!!

What a wonderful surprise! I came across an outdated catalog for Timbucktu RV in Worcester, MA that my father had given me when I started getting into vintage trailer restoration, and found that the catalog had ALL of the camper parts that I needed to replace in The COMET. I picked out a few things in the catalog and called Timbucktu RV in Worcester, explaining my project and what parts I was missing. They said I should come on down to the store and see what I could find that I needed. I ended up leaving with everything I needed to begin repairs on the COMET. The people at Timbucktu RV are so helpful and friendly, and engaged with the project, which was wonderful. I got lots of good advice from the people at Timbucktu RV, who have been repairing campers, motorhomes, and trailers for many years. The store and catalog both have a GREAT selection of parts – hitches, jacks, lights, even water tanks and toilets – all the larger items that not all RV stores stock in their stores. It was great to be helped by a person that new what they were selling and understood what I was trying to do with The COMET, as opposed to guessing what I needed and ordering it online, hoping that it would be the right part when it got here. Timbucktu RV has experience in all things camper related, and they even have a couple of vintage Airstreams on the lot. I fell in love with a little Globetrotter in the parking lot. They also have an extremely rare vintage Airstream diner, complete with glittery vinyl seating and bar. It’s one of 8 ever made. It was gorgeous! They literally have everything under the sun camper-wise, and every part you could ever want – new or retro. And all of the appliances that they offer would be ideal in a tiny house on wheels! I now have a new jack, roof coat, a rocket hand-pump faucet, a new inlet, replacement teardrop running lights, a solar-powered vent fan, and about a dozen other things I needed, thanks to Timbucktu RV (1047 Southbridge Street, Worcester, MA)! Timbucktu is in the process of moving their inventory and getting a new website, so when that gets updated I will add that information as well! For now, please call 508-459-1132 for a catalog.

Thank you Timbucktu RV, for your amazingly generous contribution to The COMET!!

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A very exciting time: a call for Vintage Campers, Vardos, Caravans, Buses, Vans and Tiny Houses

Good morning!

It is a very exciting time to be working on The COMET. As I mentioned yesterday, The COMET and I will be making an appearance at the Tumbleweed Tiny House Workshop in Boston next month, as well as Derek DEEK Diedricksen’s Tiny House Summer Camp weekend in July. Now I am planning an event at a campground in Brattleboro, VT that honors vintage campers (and in the COMET’s case, looks to the future while honoring vintage trailer past) and tiny houses. It really is a dream come true for me. It’s almost too exciting! If you are in the Northeast and have a vintage trailer or are a vintage trailer enthusiast, please get in touch with me via the CONTACT page, as I am looking for more vintage campers/converted vans/gypsy caravans/custom buses/unique mobile dwellings of all types to come to this event in Brattleboro. People who bring a vintage camper/van/caravan/etc will get a special discount at the campground. Similarly, if you have a tiny house on wheels that you would like to display at this rally/event, please get in touch with me! It’s going to be great to have vintage campers next to tiny cabins. Anything unique and on wheels!

I want to see more Cramps themed campers....photo taken from Hicksville Trailer Palace website

Also at the Hicksville Trailer Palace. One of my favorite vintage camper photos.

 

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The COMET and I will be at the Tumbleweed Tiny House Workshop in Boston next Month!

Hey everyone!

I’m very excited to announce that I will be speaking at the Tumbleweed Tiny House Design/Build workshop with Derek “Deek” Diedricksen. The Tumbleweed Tiny House Company’s workshop is in Boston, MA and is 2 days, May 19th and 20th. I will have The COMET with me (someway, somehow, I will be towing – and parking it – around Boston!) and will be talking about the project, vintage campers as Tiny Houses, solar electricity in your tiny house or converted camper, and green + recycled building materials. It’s going to be an awesome weekend. There will be some other guests announced soon as well.

Go to the Tumbleweed Tiny House website, http://www.tumbleweedhouses.com/workshops/boston/, and sign up for the weekend workshop soon!

Also, go to relaxshacks.com and sign up for the other workshop that The COMET and I will be at – Tiny House Summer Camp weekend in Vermont, July 6-9.

Can’t wait to show you all The COMET’s progress up close and personal, and meet some of you in person.

If you are planning on attending either of the workshops this summer, let me know in the comments!

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All-DC Solar Power System in The COMET

Here’s a follow up to the last post, where I talked about how to calculate your (kilo)watt usage and shared my own table showing what electricity-using appliances I will have. Here’s why that “AC or DC” column is important.

These are the actual modules that I have. 3 x 185W modules. Thanks Cotuit Solar!

I want to design a PV system for The COMET that is DC-only, and has no AC inverter (which turns the DC power from the panels into the AC power that comes out of your wall sockets). The reason is because of the nature of inverters for PV systems: inverters are the single most expensive component of a PV system. They also are the point at which 20% of efficiency from what the panels are actually producing gets lost. That means it takes 20% of the energy you are producing with your panels to power the inverter. That’s a lot of lost energy, especially in a small system! So I am devising a unique system that requires no inverter.

Here is a diagram of how the system will look. Modules, charge controller, battery bank, then DC load or outlets.

In order to do this, I need to convert ALL of my electricity-using appliances to run on DC power (see previous post for details, but basically everything in The COMET runs on DC anyway, except the laptop computer, which I will buy an DC power adapter for ($20 as opposed to $2000 for an inverter). It isn’t unusual for camper and RV appliances to be wired for DC and use only DC, so that’s another reason this conversion will be feasible. I’ll also need to make sure everything is running at 12V – meaning I will need a 12 V battery system.

DC plug

I have seen some grid-tied systems that use this principle to power what DC appliances they have (check out this Instructable as an example). For example, charging all of your fans, lights, cell phones, ipods, and basically other electronics with car chargers, with power from the panels using no inverter (and maybe even no battery if you only want to access the free power during the day). However, my system will be very unique in that it is off-grid and completely DC. I’ll have wall outlets like everyone else – they’ll just be DC and look like the ones in your car!

Small 150W inverter for just-in-case AC scenarios.

The one thing I am worried about with this system is not having the flexibility to use anything with an AC plug. Who knows what will come up, there may be a day when I need to test something or use an AC plug to power something. Of course, I can only plan so much. For this scenario, I will have a small car inverter (probably somewhere around 300 W) that can plug into the DC wall outlets when I need it (or maybe it’s mounted in the wall somewhere, but I see it as being more of an emergency use kind of thing).

I’m still working out the kinks, but this entirely DC system will save me a lot of money and be much more efficient than an inverter system. I’ll keep you updated as I experiment with this concept!

 

Totally unrelated, but I just wanted to point out how awesome the Habitat for Humanity ReStore is. I went to the one in Worcester on Saturday, because I was driving by, and they happened to have a few click panels of cork flooring. I picked them up for a $1 and will hopefully be able to use them in the bathroom!

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Bedford and Ole Bill

As promised, here are some pictures of the wonderful vehicles I saw in London last week. None of them are campers per se, but still totally awesome and would make great camper conversions I think!

 

Here’s a blue and white vintage Bedford that’s been turned into a food truck. Bedford also made awesome campers/motorhomes. Only in Europe!

 

Also outside of the British Museum, right near the blue Bedford, was this awesome green vehicle. In the wonderful camper eye-candy, super inspiring book “My Cool Caravan” (by Jane Field-Lewis, available from Amazon here), which features photos and stories of European campers, my favorite camper in the whole book is built from one of these vehicles. It’s so industrial looking, totally unique. I’ll have to look up what kind of vehicle it is and let you know.

 

And here’s me with Ole Bill at the Imperial War Museum. It’s a double decker bus. But if you for some reason could get your hands on one, it would make an amazing camper conversion vehicle with a deck on top!

 

There it is! The cool vehicles I saw in London. I saw some neat campers too, while on the train outside of the city, but unfortunately couldn’t get any pictures :(  My dad says that I just love European campers because they aren’t what I’m used to, but I have a feeling they might just be more wonderful than the campers we have in the States. The exception being Airstreams! They don’t have Airstreams in Europe, and they are a hot commodity over there. I know this because an older couple that lives down the street from my parent’s house in rural Massachusetts were selling their old Airstream trailer out in their front yard, and someone from Sweden found out about it, flew over here to look at it, had it put in a shipping container and brought back to Sweden with him so that he could restore it and re-sell it. Apparently the cost of flying over here and shipping a 25 foot trailer to Sweden was worth it, which makes me think I should be restoring campers across the pond….

XOXO

Mariah

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The Blastolene “Decoliner” – camper eye candy

Here’s this week’s camper eye candy, and also Camper of The Week!

Meet the “Decoliner”

The Decoliner is made from an older camper chassis, but has been completely re-built. It features teak decking, portal windows, and flying bridge which can also drive the bus! Ah-mazing!

Check out this awesome video about the builder and his Decoliner: The Blastolene Story.

The Decoliner is probably one of my favorite custom mobile homes out there. Also, I love the name of the guy’s hot-rod building company: Blastolene! So cool!

If you have a suggestion for an awesome home-built camper/RV/crazy thing on wheels, let me know about it and I’ll feature it here!

Also, as a side note to my readers:

I’m going to be traveling for the next few days until Friday of next week, and will only have limited internet access, so won’t be able to post as often while I’m gone. I’m hoping I see some little European campers, and if I do, I’ll take lots of pictures to show you all :)  And when I get back, I’ll be back with a bang! We’ll have some fabulous guest posts when I return and some great DIY projects, so stay tuned, ok?

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G Green Design Center in Mashpee

Friday, two days ago, was an amazing day. I drove a couple of hours out to Mashpee, MA to meet with the lovely people at G Green Design Center, an eco-friendly and people friendly one-stop shop. I went there to meet with the manager, see some samples, and get some info about which materials might be best suited in The COMET. G Green Design Center has everything from countertops and flooring, to bedding, rain collection systems, paint, and upcycled handbags. If it’s green, they’ve got it. The showroom is gorgeous and super fun to explore. One of my favorite things about sustainable building materials and interiors, and especially things made from recycled materials, is the visual texture of those products. I love when you can see the little bits of broken mirror that went into the recycled glass countertops, or when you can feel the variation and softness of the cork flooring. I think visual and textural things like that are really engaging, and definitely something I want to incorporate into The COMET (like the UltraTouch denim insulation, for example, you can see little pieces of blue jeans in it and that is so neat!).

recycled tableware, plates made from plant starch

I spent hours and hours looking at Marmoleum and cork flooring options, feeling the super soft UltraTouch denim insulation and sheeps-wool insulation, and lusting after the BioGlass countertops (way out of my price range, but so gorgeous). It was incredibly rewarding to touch and see these things in real life that I had been researching and looking at pictures of for the last 8 months. It’s such a different experience than shopping online, and really nothing compares to having the most knowledgable and invested people helping you choose the right thing for your home. Paula, whom I met with, was incredibly helpful and answered all of my questions with ease. She took the time to show me everything in the showroom, which was awesome.


The other great thing about shopping at a place like G Green Design Center is the comfort of knowing the quality of the products you are looking at. And not just durability or performance, but also the social and environmental responsibility of the product. When you see something online marketed as “green” or “eco-friendly”, you’re not exactly sure in what way or how “green” that thing really is. At G Green Design Center, you know that each item has been rigorously researched and personally chosen by the owner, an that it made it into the showroom because of it’s high integrity as an eco- and people- friendly product.

A cross-section example of Paperstone

We were looking for a few specific things for The COMET. I know I need flooring, countertops, some wood-like material to build a convertible table out of, fabric, paint, insulation, and some paneling in order to complete the interior. All of the countertops were beautiful, but I learned that some require more maintenance than others, which is a consideration I needed to factor in. Also, the recycled glass and cement countertops were heavier than the Paperstone and Richlite countertops (both of which are made from compressed recycled paper), and weight is definitely important when we’re talking about a mobile house.

I love the layers and stripes in this countertop

I looked at the sustainable flooring options: cork, Marmoleum, bamboo, and wool carpet. I had always liked the Marmoleum, and the Marmoleum Click line is good for a mobile situation and is DIY: super easy to install. Both the cork and the Marmoleum natural linoleum came in click panels, so basically it’s a matter of what colors I like!

This would look great with some LED lighting illuminating it from underneath

We touched all of the different types of insulations and spent a good amount of time with the tableware and other accessories. I got some really good ideas for finishing touches in The COMET. And G Green Design Center has it’s own paint mixer, so you can get any color of paint under the sun mixed into the no-VOC paint right there!


It was great to talk to some like-minded people in the green building business. We talked about how small spaces, tiny houses, and mobile living is a great way to make these green building materials, which are still relatively expensive, attainable for everyone on a budget. Maybe you couldn’t afford to put a 20 foot slab of BioGlass countertop in your home, but in a tiny house, 3 feet of countertop is suddenly do-able.

We also talked about how green building and green interiors have influenced our lives way beyond our built homes. I was saying how all of my research into green building practices has lead me into the world of sustainable homesteading, self-sufficiency, and has lead me to rethink my diet. Another girl working at G said she too had that experience when she began working at the Green Design Center: she bought all of her family recycling bins and a tabletop composter, and it’s totally changed their daily behavior.

If your in the area, I highly suggest you check out G Green Design Center in Mashpee, MA. It will be well worth your while!

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Part 2: Advice For Buying Your First Vintage Camper – “She has good bones!”

“She has good bones!”

That’s what I said when I bought my first vintage camper. She did have good bones, but I think if I had known the tidbits of information I’m about to divulge to you, I would have had a better idea of what I was really in for! So, let’s get to it!

This is Part 2 of a post about what to look for and what to avoid when checking out potential camper projects. See Part 1 for advice on how to find your own vintage camper project!

*Disclaimer! I am most familiar with 1950′s and 1960′s camper construction. This guide will be particularly helpful to people looking at camper trailers from that era. I’m sure these tips can be applied to most campers, but my experience is largely with 1950′s + 1960′s ones (which means you’ll see wooden frames, gas lights, and non-standard wiring…yay!)

Because I have yet to tear open (with care and love of course) The COMET, some of these pictures will be from other campers I’ve done. however, most of them will be of The COMET, because she’s a good example of what you might encounter when you go check out a potential camper. You can guess what is happening behind the scenes (seams?) by what the camper looks like on the outside. I hope these tips help to diminish the surprise of opening up a wall you thought had a little bit of water damage to find that entire half of the frame is rotted!
There are ways you can begin to tell what’s happening within the camper from the outside surface, without removing the walls.

First, let’s talk about things you should look FOR in your potential camper. I’m talking about things of value and things that can be salvaged. Even if you don’t like the look of, say for example, the original gas lamp, you can still probably sell it and use the money for lumber! I’m also talking about things that should be in good shape because they are a pain in the butt to fix, unless you have lots of time and skill.

Original gas lamp inside The COMET

*PS – Know the towing capacity of your vehicle and ask the seller what kind of hitch the vintage camper has…these weren’t all standardized back then. Make sure your car can tow the camper…if the seller doesn’t know the exact weight, that information is pretty widely available online for certain makes and models.*

Good things you might find in the camper you’re looking at to convert/fix:

Original window in good condiiton

Original windows/window hardware: Vintage camper windows can be hard to come by because most of them are no longer made and the ones that exist are few and far between. You can get replacement windows by contacting vintage trailer restoration places and asking them to remove some from their “parts” trailers that they keep around for that purpose (. However, they will likely charge you a “pulling”
fee on top of the cost of the rare window. If you’re lucky you might be able to find a local junkyard with old trailers to part out for windows. But your best bet is having all of the window frames and hardware in the camper when you find it. Broken glass is easy to replace, so don’t worry if glass is broken, just make sure the frames and bits are there.

Camper people love vintage light fixtures.

Light fixtures: From a vintage enthusiasts standpoint, original light fixtures are awesome. They look great and can usually be re-wired easily if for some reason they aren’t working. If you decide to replace them with something new, you can usually sell the originals.

Hydro-Flame!

stove and sink - matching pink!

Original appliances: If you’re going to do a green/off-the-grid overhaul, it isn’t necessary to have the original appliances. But if it does, it’s a plus because you can either sell them as a set (especially if they’re teal or pink!) or convert them or just use propane to use them. I have an early 1950′s camper and I was pleasantly surprised to find that the stove works great! They were made to last in those days…if you end up with a newer model camper, I’m not sure how well those appliances will do on full-time use.

Things to watch out for:

Water damage, under the wood wall panels

dry rot in The COMET...a good reason to replace the wall!

Water damage: For the most part, older campers from the 1940′s-1970′s have wooden frames, with aluminum exteriors, some thin insulation, and 1/4 inch ply interiors. When you see signs of water damage on a wall, it can mean water damage, dry rot or mold in the wooden framing underneath. So most likely you will have to replace not only the wall with the visual water damage but also anything below the highest point of water damage in the frame. The most common place to find water damage is underneath a window or around the ceiling vent openings. This isn’t impossible to fix, but just know that the framing will need to be replaced if the wood under the wall panel is soft, or you’ll have nothing to nail the new wall panel into. It’s usually a process of removing anything soft or rotten, chiseling it down to solid wood, and putting in a new piece.

Tail lights in good shape

Modern towing hook-up next to the original 5-prong hook-up

Electrical: It isn’t that electrical is hard to fix, it’s just that you have to remove all of the walls to get to the wiring. Remember, these things were built from the ground up, so in order to get to the wiring, you have to take everything apart. If you’re planning on doing this anyway, it’s no big deal. But if the interior wood in your vintage camper is in good condition, you probably don’t want to remove the walls just for fun (those original wall panels will crack and break when you try to pry them off…they’re OLD!).

There are two separate electrical systems involved in the vintage camper: the tow wiring and the interior electric. The tow wiring controls the running lights, the directionals, and the break lights. It may also control your camper trailer’s brakes IF the vintage camper has electric brakes. Most likely, your modern vehicle doesn’t have the same tow hook up that your vintage camper does (the wiring was not standard back then, and the tow wiring has changed). If possible (and this is assuming you are really interested in this camper and aren’t sure whether or not the tow wiring works), I would suggest bringing a modern 7-prong female plug (or whichever plug will complement/match your male socket on your vehicle) and cutting off the original 4-prong socket in order to re-wire those towing wires into the modern female plug. This is a “best-case scenario”. It is likely that the colors of the wires on the original tow wiring kit are random – like I said, not standard colors like modern wiring kits. It might take some trial and error, but you may be able to test and see if the tow wiring works (also, this will only work if there are bulbs in the rear lights and the running lights – and that also assumes that the fixtures aren’t rusted out completely and totally trashed.) If the tow wiring DOES work, it will save you a lot of time and headache and you hopefully won’t have to remove any walls to replace the wiring. But if you DO have to replace the tow wiring kit, it isn’t the end of the world.

Took off the ceiling! (Another past camper)

The interior electricity is usually supplied by a 120V plug accessible from the exterior of the trailer. If you have access to electricity and an extension cord, plug in the camper and try plugging something (cell phone, lamp, anything) into the interior power outlets (like you have in your house). There’s a good chance these will work if the camper is in decent shape. If a light works, even better! If not, you’re going to have to test the wiring throughout the interior of the trailer, which might mean removing walls. Or if you’re planning on replacing the electrical system anyways, this won’t matter either because those walls are coming off one way or another!

uh oh!

We can fix that.

Separating aluminum siding:
This is a really common problem found in older vintage campers. Oftentimes old age and general use (weight) will mean that the aluminum sheathing in the rear two corners of the camper, towards the bumper, will have separated. The trim that covers the seam between the two aluminum sheets will most likely be pulling up and away from the corner. It is very unlikely that you will be able to get those two pieces of aluminum to line up in a nice seam again: The structure and the frame of the camper has warped and settled over time, and likely won’t get small enough for you to force those aluminum sides together without some serious frame work. Fortunately, I had yet to deal with this common issue, until now. The COMET has this problem and so I will have to experiment with the best ways to repair the corners and cover the exposed wooden framing from the elements. Most likely it will mean adding on more aluminum – patching up the gaps. I will have lots of tips on how to do this when I get to it!

Hole

Holes in the exterior sheet metal:
Hopefully the exterior metal siding of the camper won’t have gaping holes in it. Dings and dents can be filled and sanded and painted over…but large holes are a little harder to fix. Like with the separated aluminum at the corners, these will have to be patched. Depending on your skill and the hole, it will be more difficult to make this look good. The COMET has one hole on the outside where it looks like something sharp snagged on her side. Hopefully I’ll be able to rivet on a patch and smooth it out with filler. Same as above, I’ll have a tutorial for this when I do it.

This is a great cross-section of the "belly of the beast".

Undercarriage issues:
Oh, the mysterious undercarriage. You probably don’t even want to get down there and look around, but you definitely should. If the undercarriage, (which is usually laid down in this order: steel trailer, roofing tar material, wooden frame, insulation, subfloor, floor) seems to be in rough shape, it can be VERY difficult to repair. It can be a pain in the butt mainly because the campers were built from the frame up, and so going back in and retroactively trying to repair and replace something that is now under 3000 lbs.  of wood and metal is not easy. If you get under the trailer and see that the black tar paper (roofing underlayment) is sagging, that can be repaired. It isn’t fun but you can use large washers and screw into the wooden frame, pulling the sagging tar paper under the carriage back up into place. If there are holes, the roofing tar paper will need to be replaced. You don’t want more critters making nests up there or water getting into the insulation and subfloor area. Depending on where the holes, tears, or cuts are in the original tar paper under there, they can either be patched and re-sealed or just sealed up. In my first vintage camper I had to replace half of the tar paper on the undercarriage because it had sagged so much it was completely falling apart in the rear of the camper. This meant jacking up the camper just enough so that I could slide new tar paper under the frame but above the steel trailer frame/chassis. It was a b*tch to do, and a 3 person job, but nothing is impossible.

Rats/mice:
There’s a good chance, depending on where your camper was stored, that there will be some evidence of “mice activity”. If it’s not out in the open, you may find pockets of mouse nests in the insulation under the floor or in the walls. It’s not the end of the world, just be careful and make sure it all gets cleaned up. Replace any and all insulation that has mice or rat feces in it.

This list will probably become longer and more comprehensive as I encounter new problems in each camper I work on. But please feel free to contact me with questions! I really want this blog to serve as a resource for people looking to get into alternative, mobile lifestyles. I want it to be helpful! So if there’s anything you’d like to see on here, please don’t hesitate to let me know. AND DON’T LET THIS LIST DISCOURAGE YOU! Vintage campers are a pleasure to work on. We’ll be able to appreciate it more when I list my Top 5 favorite things about The COMET, tomorrow!

Stay Tuned!

XO

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Part 1: Advice for Buying your first vintage camper

Buying your first vintage camper project (and most of them are projects!) can be really fun and exciting, but it can also be a little stressful. There are so many variables, and for a lot of people it is a big investment. The next two posts, Part 1 and Part 2 of “Advice for Buying Your First Vintage Camper”, are meant to de-mystify the searching for and purchasing of that big vintage chunk of aluminum for first timers.

I learned to start small...

I want to give other people looking to purchase and restore, re-do, fix up, or completely green-ify and convert campers a resource or a “buying guide” for picking out your first camper project. Here is my advice for what to look for and what to watch out for when buying a vintage camper. In Part 1 of this post, I’m going to talk about the preliminary search for your camper. Part 2 will detail what to look for specifically when you are physically checking out the camper for the first time. Often times, first time buyers of vintage campers find something that looks really good on the surface, but has underlying problems that can get in the way of completing the project. Depending on your skills, different campers are going to be more or less difficult to fix. That is not to say that anything is impossible for anyone, of any skill level! I love using vintage campers because the systems are simple, and the small scale means even if you have to replace ALL the plumbing (or anything else) that’s really no big deal. You know when you look at a schematic or a diagram, and it’s just a couple of inches of line between the fuses and switches in the picture? Well, that’s basically a scale diagram when you’re talking about campers.

And I’ll just say, when I got my first camper, I knew NOTHING about construction or restoration on that scale. I’d barely lifted a hammer until then. I ended up finding a LOT more that needed to be replaced than I had originally thought, and I ended up re-building the entire back half of the camper and replacing the undercarriage. There are so many resources out there to help you get your vintage camper structurally sound and safe (consider me one of them! Feel free to ask me questions). So although you should pick a camper that is realistically doable for you and your time/skills, anything is possible.

Mariah's First Camper: The 1959 Beemer that started it all.

*As a note: this “buyer’s guide” applies to camper TRAILERS, not Class C or Class A motorhomes or anything else with an engine. I’m talking about what to look for in the body of a camper trailer, not what to look for under the hood of a Class C. Of course, these tips can be helpful when looking at those types of RVs, but you’ll have to factor in the engine, too.*

So when you’re looking for a camper, there are a few things to consider. Of course, you want to figure out what age, style, condition, and price you are looking for. You can spend maybe $1200 on something that tows well and is in decent fixable shape – you won’t have to put as much $ into the project compared to if you bought a junker for $500 that needs a complete overhaul from the carriage up. But that’s a trade-off, so figure out what kind of condition you are looking for within you’re price range.
Do you like a particular era? 1950′s? 1970′s? Or maybe a style stands out to you: silver bullet type, bunk-over-tongue shape (like The COMET), or a canned ham? My suggestion: see what’s out there before deciding you must have a particular year and model/make (unless you have unlimited funds to transport the camper of your dreams to you). Most likely the camper of your dreams is out there, but it may be half-way across the country and it’s expensive to have them towed and expensive to drive that far to pick it up. So I suggest seeing what’s out there before deciding exactly what you want. I always wanted an Airfloat (extremely rare, round portal windows, totally glamorous – see above) and still do, but the campers I end up with just keep falling into my lap and then I fall in love with them. So be open-minded. Check craigslist in your area, check Ebay, check TinCanTourists. Drive around!! Some of the best vintage campers are NOT online because it’s still in the hands of the original owner and he doesn’t know how to use craigslist or a digital camera. I’ve seen wonderful campers on the side of the road, so just keep your eyes peeled. I really think that when you find the right camper for you, you will know.
Another tip for searching for your vintage camper project, which may seem counter-intuitive: If you see a craiglist ad for a camper with no picture, it can be the same deal as the guy who doesn’t put his trailer online. Maybe he doesn’t know what he has, maybe he doesn’t have a digital camera – but those listings can lead you to the best camper treasures (sometimes). I’m not saying take advantage of these guys, just know that checking out a camper for sale by someone with no digital camera and no email can mean you found something very classic, and is worth checking out!

Another thing to consider when searching online for campers: “Vintage” is a buzz-word, meaning that it has cache right now and can be used to describe something old and make it sound fancy. On that note, search for “old campers” instead of “vintage campers” when looking on craigslist or Ebay. You might find something from the era that you like, that IS totally vintage, but just doesn’t use that word. Most likely someone trying to sell something that they categorize as “old” will be less $ than the same thing that someone is selling as “Vintage”.

Okay, are you ready to start searching? Any questions? Please contact me!

Part 2 of this post, where I go into detail (with lots of pictures!!) about what to look for and what to avoid when you are actually looking at and “inspecting” a potential camper project, will be posted tomorrow, so keep reading!

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Camper of the Week

I’m going to start doing this little feature called Camper Of The Week, and here’s the first one! I spend countless hours looking at potential green-overhaul campers for sale on Tin Can Tourists, Craigslist, Ebay, and other vintage camper enthusiasts sites (more resources of that nature to come!). Each week I’m going to share my favorite find that is 1. a reasonable (maybe even cheap!) price, 2. a fixer-upper but not totally disgusting, and 3. looks like a cool camper to live in (and has a bathroom!).

1963 Avion, $1900

This week I found our Camper of the Week on Tin Can Tourists, my favorite vintage camper website (tincantourists.com -  they have a great classifieds section). This camper trailer is a 1963 Avion. Looks like an Airstream, right? Well this little trailer is great because it has the same classic silver-bullet look as the Airstream, but you won’t pay the premium price for the brand name. (Try finding an Airtream for less that $5K. I have a friend that spent a week digging an old Airstream literally out of the ground and still paid over $1000. Anyway, I digress!) I picked this camper because I think it’s a great size for fulltiming. The description says that it’s in “FAIR” condition, but by the looks of the pictures it seems totally usable and fixable. It also has a full bathroom! Essential.

The camper is in Michigan and the seller is asking $1900 for it. To see more pictures and the full listing (more description, how to contact the seller) go here: http://www.tincantourists.com/classified/showproduct.php?product=4976&sort=2&cat=3&page=3

**The way I see it, when you’re looking for a camper to convert into an off-grid green machine (solar panels, rainwater collection, composting toilet, etc), you want to find something that is in good enough condition, but not so good that you feel bad about tearing out the walls to get to the wiring and everything else. You probably don’t want something in vintage mint condition that you’re going to drill holes into for mounting solar panels…it’s best to save your money and get something that needs work anyway, if you’re going to be doing a conversion.**

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