Lance and Kristin took an inexpensive Palomino pop up camper and made it into a perfect getaway space for their little family.
Kristin grew up traveling around the country with her family–first in a 1977 Volkswagen van and later in a 1984 Starcraft pop up camper. Last winter her husband, Lance, got the idea that he wanted to buy a pop up camper, so he started searching for deals on Craigslist. Because of her childhood camping experiences, Kristin wasn’t necessarily opposed, but she was a little wary of the cost. Kristin is a serial DIYer, so Lance knew the way to get her on board was to show her that pop up camper makeovers really are “a thing.” 😆 Once she saw all of the possibilities, Kristin was sold.
Lance and Kristin both work for different school districts, and last year their spring breaks fell on different dates. Kristin was at work one day, when she got a text from Lance. He had taken their then-10 month old daughter on a spring break road trip to purchase a pop up camper. Kristin says his exact words were “Well, I didn’t buy her a pony, but I did buy her a Palomino!” –a 1996 Palomino Colt, to be exact.
They started working on the camper that summer, and it was a SLOW process. Everything takes 100 times longer when you have a small child running around. (I feel ya, Kristin! 😉 ) Kristin and Lance tried to get in little bits of work during nap times and after their daughter went to bed at night. They took advantage of a visit from Kristin’s parents, which gave them the help they needed to finish the bulk of the work.
The camper wasn’t in bad shape, it just needed a little love. It had your typical 90’s decor and was starting to show some wear. Kristin and Lance started by giving the whole thing a thorough cleaning inside and out and patching the worn spots in the canvas. They also had to make some minor repairs, like caulking the seams and repairing some minor water damage to the wood veneer inside. They repaired a rusted wheel well with a little Bondo and got to work on the demo phase.
Kristin and Lance painstakingly removed all the cabinet doors, seat backs, table, and countertops. Since they had no intention of using the kitchen, they also took out the whole sink unit. This freed up some much-needed extra counter and storage space. The table and countertops were the usual peeling Formica over particle board, so Kristin and Lance replaced all of those with spruce, which they stained and finished with several coats of polyurethane. Lance removed the fridge and furnace grate covers then sprayed them with stainless steel appliance epoxy. Don’t they look amazing? That looks like a brand new fridge!
To prime the cabinets for paint, they used Zinsser BIN oil-based primer that was left over from another project. They followed it up with Dutch Boy Mold and Mildew Resistant paint in White. Lance and Kristin gave everything two coats of water-based Minwax Polycrylic to protect the new white cabinetry. They opted to use this over polyurethane, as that can sometimes yellows over light paint. The bottom door panel got a coat of bright green paint to add a little pop of color.
They used click-lock vinyl planks–which they found on clearance–for the flooring. Kristin reports that they were easy to cut and install, and they look very similar to real wood. To finish off the job, they added quarter-round molding. It did interfere with the cabinet hinges in some spots, so cut a small channel to accommodate the hinges in those areas. Other than that, the molding worked perfectly, and it really gives the cabinets a professional look.
Kristin lamented that the worst part of the entire makeover for her was the sewing. 😆 She is not an experienced seamstress, and her sewing machine is not “the greatest.” This became the most frustrating and labor intensive part of the project for them. Kristin made canvas duck cloth covers with velcro closures to cover the cushions. Even though she claims not to be an experienced seamstress, I think they turned out amazing! They can be easily removed for cleaning, too.
Kristin used Covington Carson Fiesta outdoor fabric (available here) for the curtains. She used an elastic bungee cord as a curtain rod and clipped each panel to it with Ikea Riktig clips. Using fabric scraps she already had on hand, Kristin re-covered a few of the dozens of random throw pillows she had around the house and added them to the camper. I love it when you can re-use items from around the house, and those throw pillows are too cute!
Lance and Kristin kept the original bunk mattresses for the time being, though they plan to replace those as soon as they can. They put interlocking foam tiles underneath them to help add some comfort. For additional ideas on making your camper beds more comfortable, see our post here. Then they purchased inexpensive sheet sets from Marshall’s and bedspreads–which were also on clearance–at Boston Store.
Lance and Kristin finished the camper just in time to take two brief camping trips last summer, and it has held up well. They did discover that camping with a 1-year-old is no easy task. They are hoping things go a little bit smoother now that their little one is two.
It will all be worth it, Kristin. I promise. One day you will blink and your little one will be off to college. She’ll have fond memories of camping in your Palomino pop up camper, and so will you. You’ll relish those chaotic trips and wish you could get them back… I mean, or so I have heard. 😉
A big thanks to Kristin and Lance for sharing their makeover journey with us. If you’d like to see more camper makeovers, be sure to check out our Reader Features here.
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