This weekend was absolutely perfect! The hubby and I packed up our three dogs and our pop-up camper and headed out of town for a quick Friday night through Sunday afternoon trip. We went to one of our favorite places, called Collins Lake. It’s one of our favorites for a few reasons – one, it’s relatively close being only an hour or so away, two, we’ve been going for several years so we are familiar with the campground layout and where our favorite fishing/swimming spots are, and three, we are always able to get lakefront campsites. Lakefront camping is awesome because you have less neighbors and you’re right next to the water when it’s time to go swimming or fishing. Also, being able to sit with a cup of coffee right outside the camper and see the sun rising over the water in the mornings is divine. These short trips are the perfect getaway that don’t take too much planning or effort while still making it so we can come home refreshed and ready to start the week (well, sort of).
Menus for weekend camping trips can be tricky. A couple years ago I would always make the mistake of bringing way too much food usually meaning much of it went to waste. More recently I’ve figured out a pretty perfect combination of items to bring so that there is plenty to eat without any waste. This camping menu is for two adults, who eat a mostly vegan/vegetarian diet. You could sub out the meat-substitute items for meat items if you prefer, but if haven’t tried vegan hot dogs or burgers yet I highly recommend checking them out. This menu utilizes things like hamburger buns for breakfast, so make sure you don’t skimp on the quality of the bread. We like to buy the artisan rolls and use them for burgers and then use them for toast the next morning with avocado. The only thing we had left at the end of our trip was hot dog buns and hummus, which we ended up not even opening, so all in all I’d say this menu was a success.
Weekend Camping Menu for Two (meals below)
1 package of Beyond Meat burgers (includes 2 patties)
1 package of Lightlife Jumbo Smart Dogs (includes 5 links)
1 package of artesan hamburger buns (includes 6 buns)
1 package of hot dog buns (includes 8 buns)
1 package of brown rice cakes
2 ears of corn
1 summer squash
1 can of vegetarian baked beans
1 melon or melon platter
Salt and Pepper
Dinner 1 (Friday night):
Smart Dogs + condiments
Baked beans (store leftovers for Saturday’s dinner)
Breakfast for both days:
Toast hamburger buns, top with avocado and salt and pepper
This weekend was our very first trip in our new pop up camper! We went to the Sly Park campgrounds in Pollock Pines, California. The trailer worked out beautifully and we couldn’t have chosen a better weekend to escape the heat at home. We had a great time boating, fishing and hanging out with family and even learned a couple of things along the way too. Sly Park is located on Jenkinson Lake in Pollock Pines. It’s a little over an hour away from Sacramento in the mountains which makes it a great place to take a weekend away from the summer heat in the city. Jenkinson Lake is owned by El Dorado Irrigation District and provides drinking water throughout parts of the county. Because of this irrigation distribution, dogs and children in diapers are not allowed in the lake. There is also no personal watercraft allowed (ie: jet skis, wave runners, etc.) This keeps the campground fairly quiet and I would think keeps it a bit less crowded as well. There were many stand up paddle boards and kayaks, however, and plenty of fishing boats out on the lake. The water was gorgeous looking from the shore and on the boat. The blue-green color made it look almost tropical, especially compared to some of the other lakes near Sacramento. We ended up catching and releasing around 12 small trout on Saturday which was crazy, and if you look super close at the image below you can see one of two bald eagles that we spotted while we were out too.
There are 9 miles of hiking trails around Jenkinson Lake. I really, really wanted to do the hike out to the waterfall which is halfway along the 7 mile trail that goes around the entire lake. Unfortunately, since it was a short weekend and we ended up in or around the water for most of it, we didn’t end up hiking. Luckily, this beautiful place is pretty close so we could drive up just for the hike if we wanted to. The staff at Sly Park was super friendly from what little interaction we had with them. They have over 190 campsites around the lake with a camp host for each area. Many of the sites are water view, which if you have a chance to visit and snag one of these sites I definitely recommend. There are no hookups in any of the sites, but we didn’t let that bother us much. Luckily our little pop up trailer has an auxiliary battery for lights, water storage tanks for washing hands and dishes and my husband’s mom brought us a generator for powering the outlets (which we really only used to make coffee in the morning). We did not have the generator on the first morning we were there (we thought the battery might power the outlets), but thankfully there is a small market right outside of the park that sells coffee. If we were only going up for the day there are ten day use areas to choose from. We really liked the day use area near our campsite (called the Sierra Point day use area) because it sits on a long peninsula that juts out into the water. We spent most of our Saturday afternoon here visiting with family who had come up to picnic and bring the kids swimming. The boating was super fun too. My husband’s brother brought up his fishing boat and took us and our pup Nixie out on the water. It was the perfect weather for it, not too hot or cold, and Nixie did really well for it being only her second time on a boat. Here she is in the cuddy area posing for a picture 🙂
The campsites in our area were larger than we expected. Especially when they told us we could only have one motorhome/trailer in our site. We could have easily fit another small trailer, but it is what it is. If we would have had guests that were tent camping it would not have been an issue. The site was fairly level and was indicated as such on their website when I made the reservation. We were close enough to the vault toilets and a couple water spigots which was nice. If you don’t know what a vault toilet is, it’s basically a permanent port-a-potty. It’s a little creepy because it’s basically a giant hole in the ground with a bathroom sort of placed over the top of it. Thankfully they were fairly clean and it didn’t end up being as bad as I thought it would be. The site came with a fire ring, a standing barbecue and two picnic tables. There would have been plenty of room for us to have several guests in our site, but again, no other motorhomes or trailers were allowed and that’s what most of our family uses to camp. I loved the smell of the pines trees which filled the campsites and surrounded the lake. Looking up at the sky at night was also amazing. You could see so many stars and it was so dark inside the trailer once we went to bed that you could barely tell if your eyes were open or closed. We also appreciated how quiet the campground was after 10pm. We laid in bed and all we could hear was the whistling of the wind through the trees.
Obviously, since this was our first trip in the trailer we haven’t done any sort of renovating to it. It truly doesn’t need any work other than aesthetically. We were super comfortable in the larger bed, which we are thinking now might be a king size instead of a queen like we originally thought. I haven’t been able to find a floor plan online for this particular year and model anywhere so we just need to measure to figure it out. I was able to find places to put all of our camping gear even though we were worried about the minimal storage space. We did learn a few things while setting up and taking down the trailer. Since we had only taken it down the one time when we bought it we had to try and remember all the steps and pieces that went into assembling it. Overall it went fairly smoothly, and we didn’t yell at each other at all HAHA. Sorry, that’s sort of an inside joke based on past trips and watching other people set up campers. Seems like there’s just certain things sometimes that cause people to bicker and fight a bit (if you’ve ever been camping at all you probably know what I’m talking about), luckily that wasn’t the case for us on this trip. The pump sink (which I forgot to mention in my introductory post) worked great for dishes and washing hands and brushing teeth. The pop-up has two portable 5 gallon water storage tanks that sit inside under some of the seating. We were able to fill one of those up and use it for the weekend. The biggest thing we actually learned was remembering to remove the water from the trailer before packing up and leaving. This trip we accidentally forgot that we had left water inside of the seating. Fortunately, we remembered on the way home and we were able to easily pop-up the trailer just enough to climb in and grab the water and wipe out all the water that had spilled. Had we not remembered it could have meant some seriously devastating dry rot to the inside of the trailer.
We had such a great time at Sly Park and are already looking into booking another trip here. The pricing was super reasonable for what you get and with it being only about an hour away it was easy to pack up and leave on a Friday night after work and enjoy two nights away. We feel so blessed and grateful to have our new trailer. It worked out perfectly for us and is a great balance between tent camping and having a full on RV. I can definitely see us taking many more trips not just to Sly Park but to other areas as well, maybe even out of the state! Let me know below what your favorite camping spots are and if you use a tent or a trailer. We have been looking for new camping spots within California especially that we can take quick weekend trips too. We feel so fortunate that there seems to be an abundance of them fairly close to us, and we can’t wait for our next adventure!
Camping has been a family staple for me as long as I can remember. In fact, one of the first trips I ever took with my husband when we met was one of the most remote camping trips I’d ever been on. It was pretty much love at first trip! My parents also used to take me and my siblings camping and same with my husband and his parents. Since we’ve been together, we’ve done many camping trips together ranging from BLM hardcore camping to setting up a vintage trailer on a lake with full plumbing and showers. Each trip has helped us to create such wonderful lasting memories, as each one will do in the future. Our more recent trips have gotten more and more organized as we’ve continued to learn what is important to pack and what is okay to leave behind. We have been camping in my in-laws 1959 Shasta trailer for the last few years. Before that we had tents and have even slept in our car. But since our last trip in May, the poor Shasta formed a leak. The trailer is obviously super old and in need of some serious renovation. It’s completely original and unfortunately has developed some wear and tear over the years. We had to tarp up the trailer this last trip since we experienced some heavy rainfall, lightning and even hail. Funny enough, people still walked by our little trailer and would tell us how cool and cute and even “how beautiful” it is. These remarks always make us want to renovate the little Shasta to not only make it more functional for the future but to make it a cool little piece of vintage camping history. In order to do that though, the trailer needs to be gutted, which means we wouldn’t have any options other than a tent for foreseeable trips. This was when we decided we should look into getting a camper of our own. This isn’t because I necessarily dislike camping in a tent, but when you camp with three dogs for a week at a time, a tent can become a bit uncomfortable. So, we started out on our journey to find the perfect camper for us.
When we started looking for a camper we knew we had to find something we could park at home so that it would be easily accessible at a moment’s notice. Sometimes camping trips just happen and it’s easiest if we don’t have to go somewhere else to pick up our camper before heading out. The Shasta we were using previously is parked at my in-laws house and unfortunately isn’t always in the most accessible place, so this was kind of our learning curve in knowing we wanted something parked at home even without any RV access. In order to fit something in the garage, we either had to find the tiniest trailer around or look into buying a pop-up camper. The tiny tear drop trailers weren’t really going to work for us – again three dogs and two humans would equal no leg room. There were some lo-liner vintage trailers that may have fit in our garage, but we felt that since we already had a vintage gem in need of work that a pop-up camper would be the best option. You can read more about our process and considerations for buying our pop-up camper in my post Buying a Pop-Up Camper: What to look for. I looked for several weeks (and let’s be real had actually been looking for months) on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace and even some RV dealership websites just to see what would pop up over time (no pun intended). The RV dealerships were too expensive for sure so eventually I just stuck to Facebook and Craigslist. Luckily, there seemed to be quite a few options in our price range and people were very responsive in letting us come to view their trailers.
We looked at a few campers that fit our requirements before finding the one we ended up settling on. It had been posted on Craigslist for a week before I messaged the owner asking if they had photos. In the end, I think this was lucky for us because I don’t think many people bother with Craigslist posts that don’t include photos of the item for sale. Instead of waiting for photos to be posted, I realized the trailer was fairly local to us and decided to set up a time to go see it instead. When we got there, I was floored by the condition and the care given to this trailer that was over 20 years old. The owner was the original and only owner of the 1996 Jayco J-1007 that we went to go see. He brought it with him through a couple of interstate moves and had used it to take his family camping over the last 23 years. You could tell the trailer was loved because the condition was impeccable compared to the other trailers we saw of around the same age. The trailer had been garage kept as well which kept the exterior in pristine condition. I was so excited to find something so nice and in our price range. I think the owner knew too because he said that someone had recently told him that he could have sold it for more if he wanted to. I think the fact that he knew we were going to use the trailer instead of just trying to flip it to make a buck made him feel okay but offering it for a lower price. You could tell he had loved this trailer. He spoke fondly of all the trips he went on with his family and reminisced about all of the beautiful photos he could have posted in his Craigslist ad. In the end, he even mentioned that he was happy it was going to go to someone who would actually use it. We were thrilled to carry on this little trailer’s life and ended up naming him Randall in honor of the original owners. This wasn’t the owner’s name but the name of the street which we went and purchased the trailer from. I think it’s a fun nod to our camper’s history, and let’s face it, it’s just fun to name inanimate objects.
So let me tell you a little bit about this camper and why we love it so much. It is a 1996 Jayco J-1007. It’s one of the mid-size pop-up campers that Jayco offered in this year which was a selling point for us since we knew we wanted to fit it into our two car garage. When fully extended it’s about 22 feet long and sleeps up to 8 people which is quite a lot compared to other pop-up campers. We love that it has a queen size bed on one side of the pop-outs. The Shasta had a teeny tiny bed that wasn’t even a full size so the prospect of having some wiggle room is definitely exciting. The other side is a full size bed. There are also two areas that could serve as dining areas. One is the familiar booth layout with benches on either side and the other is a U-shaped seating area with a table in the middle. Both tables are removable so you can use them outside or not at all. I foresee us using the U-shaped area as more of a couch than a dining space, or setting up the table for game nights when we have guests camping with us or nearby. Both dining areas fold down into decent sized beds as well. I love that the tables can be moved outside. One of the tables even attaches to the outside of the trailer so that it’s like an entirely separate dinette area. There’s not a whole lot of storage in this camper, but we knew we could make it work. I hope to be able to do a post eventually on how we end up organizing the trailer as well as tips for what essentials to keep and what to toss. Some of our other requirements were a stove that was indoor/outdoor, which it has, and a refrigerator which it also has. This will make cooking and storing food so much easier than it has been in the past with ice chests and ice boxes. There is an awning that rolls up and stores inside of a case on the outside of the roof of the trailer. It’s fairly easy to set up and will make the perfect place to hang our string lights. We have a pop-up shade tent too, but this will make it even nicer when we end up in sites without alot of shade. The feature that we hadn’t really thought about was the heater. However, after seeing that it had one my mind reeled with the possibility of coastal camping trips or camping trips later in the year when it gets a bit chilly. It will definitely be a nice amenity to have even if we don’t use it often.
Overall, I am so frickin’ excited about Randall (and his name if I’m being honest). I think what I’m most excited about is how clean and ready to use the camper is. We are actually going on our maiden voyage this weekend (more on that in another post later on). I definitely have plans of makeovers and glamping it up, but knowing I can use it without having to fuss over it first is so nice! I can actually take my time to do a budget/thrifted makeover and find things that I really like and want to use for Randall’s new look. I feel like everything just worked out perfectly from the condition, to the price, the amenities and that fact that we (more like my husband) were able to get it up our super steep driveway and into our garage without too much effort. Sometimes things just fall into place and it’s such a wonderful feeling. I can’t wait for our trip this weekend and to use Randall for the first time. Stay tuned for more pop-up camper posts and exciting adventures in the world of pop-up camping!
My husband and I love to camp. There’s something so relaxing and freeing about getting out into the wilderness for even just a night, and living in California affords us so many options for places to go. The past few years, we haven’t gone camping as much as we have wanted to. We take a week long trip in May every year, but other than that we haven’t been able to make it out much. Between buying a new house, issues with the camper we were using previously and other scheduled trips we just didn’t have time to get out into the wilderness. This year though, we decided we wanted to try and get out more. What better way to do that than to have a camper trailer that was accessible to us at all times and ready to go at a moments notice. So we started shopping. We learned alot about what we needed and wanted throughout the process. Firstly, we knew that we needed something that we could fit into our garage since we don’t have RV parking at our house. We didn’t want the extra expense of storage and we didn’t like the idea of having to go somewhere else to pick it up before we were able to head out. This basically made it next to impossible to buy anything but a pop-up camper trailer, also known as fold out camper trailers or tent trailers. This realization didn’t bother us one bit. Once we knew what we could fit, we started thinking about all the other things we needed to consider and look for when shopping for our pop up. So, I thought I would use our experience to create a new section on my blog – Pop-Up Camping. This post will outline what to look for, and future posts will tell you about our adventures in pop-up camping including trips, set up and tear down, organizational tips, makeover stories and more. I hope you enjoy! Now let’s get into the things you should look for when buying a pop-up camper.
This first consideration may seem like a no-brainer, but the first thing you need to think about before even looking at pop-ups is your budget. Sure, it can be super fun to look at dealerships and websites and dream about your new pop-up, but if you’re limited on price it’s better to know before you start drooling over what you can’t afford. When we bought our camper, we knew we wanted to stay around $2,000. Once looking online we figured this gave us enough money to get something nice but older and hopefully something that didn’t need any mechanical work and only minor cosmetic work if any. We wanted something functional and mechanically sound so that we could take it camping as soon as possible. If you have more to spend, consider looking at options below your budget that will give you money leftover for supplies if you need them. We had to look for a few weeks to find something that fit our needs and our budget, but once we found what we were looking for, it was totally worth the search and the wait. Keep in mind that pricing may vary depending on your area. Many campers I saw in other states were quite a bit cheaper than in California for whatever reason. I even saw some that were under $1,000 in certain states. This may be because of the wage limits or cost of living, but just wanted to throw that in there since $2,000 may seem like alot more to people who live in other more reasonably priced areas.
Size matters when it comes to pop-up campers – especially if you have parking restrictions, a large number of people to sleep, or a smaller vehicle for towing. For us, the sleeping capacity was not as important as our ability to fit the trailer in our garage while also still affording us space to reach our washer and dryer and fit my hubbies motorcycle. However, we did want to make sure that there was enough sleeping room for us, our three dogs, and an extra bed for friends and family when necessary. We have a larger SUV so weight was not something that was a huge factor, but if you have a smaller 6 cylinder vehicle or similar it’s important to also factor in how much your vehicle can tow. Camping World’s website has a great feature that will help you determine what you can tow based on the make and model of your vehicle. Check that out here. Another important consideration is parking space. Measure out where your trailer is going to live and make sure that whatever trailer you purchase will fit into that space. We found that the most important dimension to check was the trailer length, since most pop-up camper trailers are right around 7-8 feet wide. Sleeping capacity could also be something that you may need to consider. If you have children or often take people with you on your camping trips it’s important to make sure everyone has somewhere to sleep. Most pop-up camper trailers feature full size (or comparable) beds that pop out on either side and one dinette that folds into a bed. Sometimes there are other seating areas (like in our new trailer) that also fold down into beds. The dinettes are sometimes smaller twin beds, but I have also seen pop-up camper dinettes that fold down into full-size beds as well. Overall, you want to make sure that you have enough space to fit everybody comfortably – pups included!
Amenities are things I would consider to be wants more than needs from a camper. For example, one of my amenities that I knew I wanted in our new trailer was that the stove would move from the inside of the trailer to the outside for outdoor cooking. Now, this wasn’t necessarily a make it or break it feature (since I could always purchase a small outdoor camping stove as well), but it was something that I looked for when looking at trailers. Other amenities to think about would be things like, do you want your trailer to have a refrigerator? Does it need to have a toilet or shower? Do the amenities run on propane or electricity or only full hook-ups? All of these items will make a difference in your experience camping if they are things that you are either used to having or want to have on your trips. For us, we knew we wanted a refrigerator but also knew we didn’t want a toilet or a shower in our camper. We typically stay in places that have full plumbing and showers available and so we didn’t want the unnecessary hassle of having a black water tank on board our trailer. Plus, the idea of having a tank of waste kind of grosses me out. We figured that by eliminating the need for this amenity we could also lengthen the life of our trailer by having one less item that may require ongoing (and stinky) maintenance. One of the last amenities we thought alot about was the amount of storage available in the camper. Since we had been using another camper trailer, we already have a stock pile of camping supplies that we knew needed to fit in our new trailer unless we were willing to downsize. In thinking about it, we realized we could probably part ways with some of our supplies since we don’t use them and that we could simplify our needs to fit into the storage area available without sacrificing what we need. Each family’s needs may be different depending on the type of camping they do and what’s important to them during trips. I find it best to make a mental list of what those amenities are either before or while shopping for your new camper trailer.
Once you’ve decided all of your restrictions and desires you can start the fun part – looking for your new pop-up trailer! There are many things to look for and many questions to ask the seller when shopping for a new pop-up trailer. First, check all of the canvas and make sure there are no tears, rips or holes. The canvas can be one of the most expensive things to replace on a camper so it’s important to make sure that the one you’re buying is worth the money you’re paying. If there are tears in the canvas and you don’t mind spending another couple grand to replace it be sure to factor that into your offer price. Keep in mind that smaller tears can be patched, but I haven’t done this myself and so cannot attest to the level of complication or the skill needed to do that. Ask the seller where the unit has been stored, if they are the first, second or third owner (or whatever!), and ask them how long the trailer has gone unused. This question is important because I’ve actually heard that the worst thing you can do for a camper or rv of any kind is to let it sit unused. Have them walk you through all of the amenities to ensure that everything works. Plug in the electrical, check the pilot lights and overall have the seller show you that everything works. You’re not being a dick – you can trust people all day long, but it’s important to protect yourself especially in the case of the seller not knowing that something may not be functioning as it should. Also be sure to check the structural integrity of the trailer. Check for dry rot in the subfloor, any possible leaks or sagging in the top, and make sure that the lift system for setting the camper up is functional. When we bought our trailer, the seller even walked us through taking the entire trailer down so that he could show us that everything was in working order. A pop-up camper is an investment, and it’s important to do your due diligence to make sure everything is in working order before purchasing, otherwise you’ll just be stuck with something you won’t be able to enjoy as you should. A great resource can be found on ThePopUpPrincess.com where they have a three page PDF document of questions you can ask your seller before purchasing.
I think that’s pretty much everything you need to look for when purchasing a used pop-up camper. Stay tuned for more posts about camping with a pop-up trailer such as camping adventures, how-to posts and makeover process posts. Let me know in the comments below if you like to camp with a pop-up trailer and if you have any suggestions on fun posts for the future!