I mentioned in my last post that we recently bought a small camper. I have great memories from childhood of family vacations taken in a slide-in truck camper and later in a class C RV. I loved the adventure of traveling and exploring new places, and that’s something I carry with me to this day.
When we sold the house and downsized to an apartment, we freed up some time and money to start taking more weekend trips. Common destinations were beaches, theme parks, and areas of historical significance with interesting sights and/or museums.
With hotels often in the $150 to $200 per night range, we were still somewhat limited in the amount of traveling we could do.
I looked towards campers as a less expensive form of travel, however, with the price of gas it wouldn’t be much cheaper than driving a car and renting a hotel room. Especially considering the car gets about 28 miles per gallon (11.9 kpl) while the typical motorhome gets around 8 mpg (3.4 kpl).
Even so, I still wanted a camper. I like the experience of bringing your lodging with you, and also of sleeping in your own (clean) bed. I always felt a little sketchy about the cleanliness of hotel rooms, even when staying at nicer hotels.
Over the years I have browsed craigslist looking at all the different types of campers, and at different times yearning for different types and sizes of campers. Recently I learned of a small, light weight camper that could easily be pulled by a small truck, car, or in my case a Jeep Wrangler. It is called a Scamp. I found there were several manufacturers of small fiberglass campers like this over the years including Boler, Trillium, Scamp, and U-haul.
I was intrigued when I first saw one on craigslist. It was 13 feet (3.9 meters) long, which is really tiny in the world of campers. But even being so tiny, it had room to sleep 4, which is the same as many large motorhomes. It also had an air conditioner (a must have in Florida), a small refrigerator, a sink, and a stove. I wasn’t ready to buy at that time, but it definitely piqued my interest.
A few months later, after we bought our house and the dust began to settle from the move and some renovations, I started discussing the idea of buying a Scamp. My wife has never been too fond of camping, although she will go along with it once in a while. She also does not like the idea of having to deal with a mobile bathroom and what must be emptied from it at some point. Because of this, she has always been hesitant to go along with my dream of owning a camper.
With the Scamp, however, she was warming to the idea. The fact that it did not have a bathroom was a plus. And that it had a bed and air conditioning made it better than tent camping. We went to look at one in a neighboring town. We found it on craigslist and contacted the seller. He said someone already had dibs on it, but I asked if we could come see it anyway. The seller was wrapping up the sale as we pulled up, but the new owners said we could take a look at it. Seeing it in person sealed the deal, we wanted one.
The problem is that these tiny little campers are rare and in demand. I kept an eye on craigslist, and found another about a month later, but it was six hours away and someone else was already planning to look at it before I could get there. I found another 8 hours away in the same situation. It seems like they get scooped up as soon as they appear on craigslist.
I’m not sure if any of you subscribe to the idea of the law of attraction, but I like to think that it works. I focused on what I wanted and hoped that I would eventually find the perfect little camper for me.
Turns out that my brother-in-law came across one as he was doing some work at a clients house. This client had a Scamp sitting in the yard and he asked if he’d be interested in selling it. Turns out he was, and he put me in contact with him.
I ended up paying $6000 for a 1989 Scamp, which is about $1000 higher than most of that age, but it had recently been refurbished with all new cushions, new wall coverings, new curtains, new refrigerator, and a small flatscreen tv and dvd player. Plus, given how hard they are to find, I was ok paying a little more to get one.
The real bonus was that this one fit in our garage, whereas some of the newer models might not. That’s due to several reasons: the design changed sometime in the 90’s or 2000’s which made them taller, the newer ones have roof mounted a/c instead of the closet mounted one in the older models, and since it’s older, the axle is a little saggy making it just the right height for our garage.
The one we bought also did not have a stove, which is fine by us because we don’t want to cook in such a small space anyway. We may end up buying a camp stove at some point if we find the need to cook. So far we’ve been eating out or making simple meals like sandwiches.
One of the things I love about it is the minimalist feel. It’s so small that we can’t bring much more than the essentials. It feels very minimal compared to the huge RVs that are more common, but also when compared to tent camping. Tent camping requires quite a bit of effort, especially when setting up and tearing down. With our tiny camper, set up and tear down only takes about 15 minutes.
We like it so much that we’ve been camping every weekend since we bought it four weeks ago. This Scamp has turned out to be the perfect little camper for us.
After four weekends of camping, we took this last weekend off, because our daughter is getting burned out on beaches (I didn’t even know that was possible.) So we spen this last weekend at home and maybe did some upgrades in the camper.
One upgrade was to swap out the air conditioner. The air conditioner is a window unit that is installed in the closet and vented out the side. The previous owner installed a 5000 btu air conditioner, and we’re finding it’s just a tad underpowered when the camper is baking under the hot Florida sun. We’re upgrading to an 8000 btu unit that has a digital temperature control. The one we have now has dials that make it impossible to set it at a certain temperature. The new a/c unit is under $300, another plus for this style versus the typical RV/motorhome air conditioner.
I have the hard part of the install done, including cutting out part of the closet to make room for this slightly larger air conditioner. All that is left is to install a mounting rail to keep it from moving around, reinstall the shelf, and put on some trim pieces.
At some point I need to look at adding a battery so we can have power when we’re not plugged in at a campsite. The previous owner removed the battery, and I need to figure out how to add it back in, as well as add an inverter/charger. This will allow us to have lights, charge our phones, and run a small fan if we ever camp somewhere that doesn’t have power.
This dream has been long time coming, and we’ve really been enjoying it. I’ll share some of our camping adventures in the next post, and periodically as we do more traveling in the future.