The Struggles of Vacation Prepping: Renovating an Old Camper

During repairs…ready for a powerwash!

During the cold winter months in Sweden, we dream of two things:

The first is finding new ways to adventure and enjoy the icy surface that is a Scandinavian wonderland. The days are short, but the further north you go, the brighter the landscape due to snow. The snowfall in the eastern parts of Sweden below Stockholm is minimal. This makes the winter seem long during the darkness and the need to get outside is necessary. That’s probably why skiing is a Swedish family rite.

My first Swedish ski adventure!

The second is to actually dream of an escape to a tropical destination or any place warmer than this! But, of course – we have current restrictions. So, dreaming of future possibilities becomes a plan for spring.

Our prepping plan last winter 2020 – steps toward making our summer camping a reality. Camping is the best social distancing escape. This was also inspired by the arrival of the seasonal Swedish Camping Magazine, advertising the country’s many campgrounds. Plans for HögaKusten, Sweden’s High Coast over the Baltic Sea were in place. We mapped out our trip with multiple stops and 4 to 5 campgrounds over the course of 7-9 days.

Planning…

Many cosmetic changes were needed in our cosy home on wheels – a 1984 Solifer camper (‘husvagn’ in Swedish) after purchasing in 2016. There were two dinettes in the layout and that wasted a lot of space. Since there are just two of us, the smaller dining area was all we needed. We usually cooked and ate outside for every meal.

A cosy bed and lounge for watching movies!

We turned the larger table and benches into a California King-sized bed, complete with quilted topper. We put in new, durable carpet, paint and a bit of our own ‘flavor’. My husband added the wifi, tv and stereo with strategically-placed speakers to make it a full living room experience.

Tiny kitchen with hidden sink, mini-fridge and electric + gas cooktop.
Bathroom (no toilet – just running water).

Late winter 2020, we noticed a soft spot around the back window. We held our breath as we peeled back the layers. We knew that it must be water damage and that uncovering mold would be a tragic turn. Lucky enough, there was minimal mildew and no actual mold (the nose knows!). The wood framing around the window was rotted out from soaking up heavy rains. The styrofoam around it and the outer wall kept the water from seeping into the floor and surrounding areas. Just the bottom of the wall was affected, which was a small relief. It was like a disease that was growing – we only hoped we stopped it in time.

The next step was demo – I took this upon myself, complete with safe breathing mask, gloves, knee pads and my favorite little time-saving tool. It took me most of a long weekend, crouched in this small space alongside a soundtrack of happy tunes. I hacked and pulled and scrubbed the entire surface.

These old campers are have an outer layer of aluminium and in our opinion, it’s not the best idea to make screw holes into it. That was done to install the handles in the front and back. Of course, those handles came in handy when pushing and pulling this thing into place when we can’t back into a spot. Could there be another way?

Swedish recycling centers have a separating system for all materials; burning or melting them down for reuse, energy or heating supply. There are no resources for finding and using old materials – unless you can find them yourself.

We chose to keep and use what we have for now, and researched the best way to put this poor soul back together. Moving forward with the idea that the wall should be sealed from the inside, we shopped for waterproof sealant and plywood.

After re-building the wood frame around the window
(ready for another scrubbing)

My husband Andy measured and cut the new pieces of wood framing out of new scraps we used for our garage roof. He pieced it in around the window, attached with new screws (the old ones were rusty) and sealed it from the inside.

New plywood ready for primer and paint.

We finished the wall with a new piece of plywood and completed it with 2 coats of mildew-resistant primer and 2 coats of paint. We also had to repair parts of the floor and seal all of the corners.

After painting…

We were so excited to clean up and put the seating area back in place.

Camper construction has come a long way, with advanced and sustainable materials that have been tested to ensure durability in all weather conditions. We hope to upgrade to a polarized camper with a working bathroom on the next round.

After repairs…new wall, new upholstery and curtains.
No more water leak!

After all this work (2 months of demo, building, painting and drying), we are ready for Spring 2020.

Here we come Höga Kusten! See my next post for our 10 day adventure – across four campgrounds, historic locations, and high altitude views of the Baltic Sea.

Thanks for following! Do you have any camping adventures to share? Feel free to tag your site in the comments – let’s build a community around the world!

-Gina

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