Friday, April 13, 2018

Stocking a tiny vintage camper

Camping season is nearly here!

Still no cell phone.  Have to admit the technology break has been kind of nice but I miss taking pictures. It's been a doozy of a week: a dead goose, a dead duck and a skunk in a Havaheart trap among the highlights.  Hopefully next week I'll be back to taking pictures and we'll be back to our regularly scheduled programming.

I was recently asked by a new camper owner what exactly we keep in our camper. The Metzendorf has a tiny 12 foot long body and hardly any storage.  Still, if you pack it right it has plenty of room for what we need.  This is what I passed on as a general list of what's worked for us so far.

First thing to pack: a sense of humor.

Storage - nearly nil. Those bottom two doors are mostly decorative.

First, we are not exactly neat people but we found out the hard way that it's a good idea to make the beds and have the place look presentable when you open the door in the morning.  Vintage camper people are really friendly and at Cook Forrest we had a Scotty owner come by and ask to see the Metzendorf at 9 in the morning. It was a wreck.  Lesson learned.  A place for everything and everything in it's place, right?

The Dollar Store was my friend when stocking the camper.  They seem to sell things that are just smaller sized (like dish draining racks).  You can find a ton of good things there for cheap.

I went to the Dollar Store and picked up a handful of storage containers for the camper cupboards.  They sell square shaped ones that stack nicely and fit in the small space.  It is really handy to organize this way and you can fit way more stuff this way than you would think. I labeled ours so we can just grab them.

In the trunk we store: a small tool kit, bungee cords, duct tape, rope, tarp, extension cord, power strip, fix a flat, wheel chocks, level and leveling jacks.  There is a spare tire carried in the tow vehicle. We should probably get a set of stick on tow lights in case of emergency.

One of our wool point blankets being enjoyed in the off season.

Bed linens: for each of the beds we carry a fitted sheet, a wool blanket, and a light blanket.  Also sleeping bags but these are probably overkill.  The throw pillows in the camper and double as sleeping pillows.

Bath stuff:  towels, washcloths, hair dryer, flip flops for the shower.  You will need some kind of caddy to carry this stuff to the shower room (again, see Dollar Store).  Most showers have small private changing room with a bench attached to the stall.

We have a huge bungee cord with clothes pins that you can hang between two trees to dry things like towels (this contraption cost less than $5 on Amazon).  Good for towels & wet shoes.

Toiletries: it might seem wasteful but stock up on trial sized everything (shampoo, toothpaste).   The Dollar Store sells packs of 6 toothbrushes for $1, making them disposable.  We don't have unlimited storage and you'll want to keep space and weight in mind.  Also, it's a lot easier to haul travel sized things to and from the bathroom then a bunch of full sized bottles.  All of our toiletries, for three people, fit into two small containers like you would store leftovers in.  Toothpaste, shampoo, deodorant, mouthwash, soap, razor, comb, everything.

A doormat outside the camper steps keeps dirt from being tracked in, mine was $4.99 at Aldi's.  we will probably spring for a larger one at some point, I've seen them go pretty cheap at Lowe's and Wal-Mart in the fall.

Small dustpan and hand broom, they have these at the Dollar Store.

Most places have laundry machines.  Measure out enough detergent for a load and put it in a tiny jar.  Quarters for the washers and dryers.

First Aid kit.  Don't forget tweezers if you pick up a tick.  Stick a couple of pairs of earplugs in here just in case of dogs barking or loud drunk neighbors. This is also kept in a storage container.

Sunscreen and bug spray.

With all of these things, remember that you only need to put in the camper what you'll need for a long weekend.  You don't need to pack an entire box of band-aids or q-tips, you just need a couple.  Things stay organized in the storage containers.

A roll of toilet paper in a zip lock bag and a travel pack of Kleenex. Wet wipes for hands.  This year we'll have a pop-up bathroom outside; I've read that lining the potty with a garbage bag and adding scoops of kitty litter works well.  Chuck the bag in the camp dumpster as needed.

We keep a water jug with a spout and tiny bar of soap right on the picnic table for washing hands.

For the fire: I have a metal ammo box that I store some fire starters in (these are just empty toilet paper tubes stuffed with dryer lint - you could set a rock on fire with these).  Long lighter.  Heat-proof glove. Every place we've camped so far came with a fire ring and grill that fit over it. We have a small hatchet.  Most places you can find someone selling wood and kindling either at the campground or nearby.  Or just bring your own and avoid the hassle. I've seen where some people mount a box on the camper tongue to haul firewood in.

Speaking of fire: we have a smoke detector in the camper and a small fire extinguisher that stays by the back bed.  Because face it, if there's a problem in one of these canned hams you are dead otherwise.  It was less than $10 at Wal-Mart.

Kitchen: Coleman stove plus extra fuel.  Dish washing rack (from Dollar Store).  Cast iron skillet. If you have the wind gaurds up on the stove your actual cooking area gets pretty small - make sure you can fit your pans into the space. 

Everything here fits into my chuck box: saran wrap, aluminum foil, paper towel roll (again the Dollar Store sells small versions of these) hot dog sticks, silicone spatula, basting brush, slotted spoon, cutting board,  kitchen shears, grill tongs, grill spatula, pot holder, oven mitt, 2 sharp knives for prep, cork screw/bottle opener, can opener, veg peeler, tea kettle for boiling water, French Press for making coffee, enamelware pots for heating soup etc, coffee cups, red plastic cups (to hide booze in State Parks), paper plates, paper bowls, disposable silverware and straws. Zip-loc baggies for leftovers.

We do disposable as much as humanly possible, I don't go on vacation to wash dishes.  But the chuck box also has a couple of sponges (I cut a big sponge into "disposable" pieces), a scraper for the skillet and a tiny container of dish soap - most places will have a dish washing area.

We keep food in one cooler and drinks in another.  No real reason except it's easier to find stuff.  You can freeze some of your water bottles to keep the coolers cold.  If you use ice, put everything into ziplock bags. It's pretty gross to wake up to water-logged bacon.  A picnic basket holds dry goods.  We don't really use the icebox in the camper because it's a pain to have to keep going in and out to get stuff when you're making food.  We store the coolers/basket outside during the day and put them in the van at night (animals).

Our icebox has a pin latch to keep it from opening while you're traveling.  If yours doesn't it's probably a good idea to rig something. We've had cupboard/closet drawers come open while driving.  Don't know how to fix that. 

Food: remember again that you aren't going to be gone forever.  I measure out coffee grounds into baggies, small baggie of sugar, coffee creamer cups, zip-lock bag of cereal not the huge box, that kind of thing.

Every campsite so far has had potable water but we carry a couple of gallons just in case.

Cell phone charger. You can buy solar-powered ones for about $20 but we haven't bothered. We should.

For the awning: extra tent pegs and a rubber mallet. Solar lights for putting by the stakes so you don't trip and kill yourself on the rope at night.

Such a treat.

For comfort: fly swatter, 2 small battery powered fans, space heater, battery powered radio, deck of cards, field guides, hammock.  You can buy a really nice rip-stop hammock on Amazon with quick set up straps for under $35.  Folding chairs.  I mounted stick-on press lights inside the closet and cupboard. I need to hang a small mirror for stuff like putting in my contacts.

Extra socks for everyone and long underwear. A knit hat.

For toddlers: a Pack N Play to put contain the little guy while we set up camp.  New toys (a bag of stuff from the Dollar Store - tiny dinosaurs, magnifying glass, bug net etc).  A ride-on toy. Favorite bedtime book. Favorite blanket and pillow.  Baby carrier.  This season little man will be dressed in brightly colored, see it from a distance clothing for safety.  Next year I'll put a whistle on him and teach him to blow it if he's scared or lost. 

Wal-mart bags for trash.  Campgrounds have dumpsters and those hooks you see at the sites are so you can hang things without animals getting into stuff.  Or you can hang a lantern there.

A couple of small lanterns and a flashlight.  Keep one by the bed.  It is REALLY helpful to put a lantern outside at night - if you have to go to the shower/bathroom area it can be damn difficult to find your own campsite if the trails wind and it's pitch black.  Turn it on when you leave and you can look for your lantern on the way back.

We've starting collecting the free campground maps you can get when you pull into the parks - on these we list what spaces have good views, phone reception and the ones that are next to a swamp (ew) or have poision ivy (worse).

It sounds like a TON of stuff but it's really not.  The chuck box holds a lot.  Other than that the "dirty" outdoor stuff mainly goes in the trunk.  The bedding and the camp stove fit under the dinette benches.  Linens and clothes in the closet.  All toiletries etc above the kitchenette.  Tiny toys/toddler stuff in the kitchen drawers. 

Spring is such an exciting time, camping season is just around the corner.


  1. We have a campervan, a converted van and I agree keeping it all neat is the key to having good trips.

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