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We are an active family. From CrossFit, to camping, to hiking and many things in between, we try to get outside as often as possible. And while I absolutely love camping, we only have a 4-man tent for our family of 5. You do the math. It’s a bit of a squeeze and often results in more frustration than relaxation. We recently decided to look into travel trailers and spent more than a few days browsing the RVs at a local dealer. I also spent way too much time looking through Pinterest for anything RV-related.
After lots of time and research, we came to the realization that we’re just not an RV family. Every time we would walk inside, we would wish they had more windows. I felt so closed in and that’s not what my outdoor-loving self wanted. Rob suggested we look at some pop-up campers instead. Honestly, my first reaction was “No way, they’re too small”. In my defense, the only ones I had seen were the A-frames and those actually are too small for our family. But back at the RV dealer, we found the larger campers and I was instantly in love. They were so open and airy and roomy. And most importantly, the kids would have their own beds. Finally, room to sleep!!
And with that, we became the proud owners of a beautiful new camper. To say we were all excited is quite an understatement. When we told the kids we had purchased it, they literally screamed and jumped in the showroom. If it wasn’t so adorable it would have been embarrassing. Just a mere day after taking ownership, we were driving through the mountains for our first camping trip.
So, what did we think of our first time camping in a pop-up house on wheels instead of a 4-man tent? Well, let’s just say we have no plans to go tent camping in the foreseeable future.
Just look at those beds! The 2 big kids had their own queen-size bed to share (did I mention the mattresses have heated covers?!) and if I wasn’t too scared that the 3-year-old would tumble out, she could have easily fit up there too. Their bed is on the far side of the camper from us, so plenty of room to not hear their late night giggles or arguments. They’re also right next to the potty for late night trips. No more stumbling through the dark over rocks and dirt roads to visit the vault toilets. That’s worth its weight in gold all on it’s own. Our bed is slightly larger than a queen-size, also with a heated mattress pad. While the beds are no Tempur-Pedics, they’re better than a tent floor.
The camper has a roll-out u-shaped dinette area that turns into a queen-size bed. That’s where the 3-year-old gets to sleep. And while eating at the campsite picnic table isn’t terrible, sometimes they can be pretty grody and who wants to eat in the rain? We had a few little rain showers (more like sprinkles, but still) while we were camping, and it was so nice to be able to eat inside and not get wet.
Which brings me to the kitchen. You know I would be spending a lot of time cooking. It’s my thing. So to have a kitchen space where I can feel right at home, cooking regular food in the great outdoors was just amazing. I seriously couldn’t get over it. Every time I did something mundane like stir eggs in the skillet or wash a dish in the sink, I’d turn back to Rob with a look of awe on my face and say something like “I’m doing this. And we’re camping!”. We decided to go for the “high-wall” camper model so I wouldn’t break my back leaning over knee-high counters and I have to say it was completely worth it. It felt like I was in a tiny version of my own home. Well, I guess it is my own home, just a tiny version 🙂
And because all the windows make the camper so open, I didn’t feel separated from my family while I was inside chopping veggies for dinner while Rob and the kids were outside starting the fire. And probably my favorite time in the kitchen was Easter morning. The nights/mornings were pretty chilly (understatement!) so when we woke up, nobody wanted to go outside and cook over the fire, much less eat out there. So in the picture above, I’m sleepily (yet happily) cooking up eggs for the family with the morning mess of unmade beds and random food all over the counter. That is probably one of my favorite pictures. It captures the reality of our camper life.
As far as kitchen organization, I was thoroughly impressed at how well all of our stuff (not even just the kitchen stuff) fit perfectly into all the cabinets and drawers throughout the camper. There was a place for everything. For the food, we wanted an easy and portable solution so we could take the non-refrigerated food to the car each night. No point in tempting the bears, right? We did leave some food in the fridge overnight, but had no critter problems. For the food on the counter, we found some great baskets at Home Depot. I loved that they looked nice (not like they belonged in a garage attic-space), they had handles, no lids (no need for them, just extra stuff to deal with), and most importantly, straight sides. Angled sides on storage bins drive me crazy, can’t stand it. We used 2 for all the food, they fit perfectly on the counter and were easy to take in and out each night.
And yeah, for you eagle-eyed people, there is definitely some non-paleo food in there. Sometimes we splurge and this weekend was one of those times. While some treats were questionable, all meals were paleo. I plan on putting together a post in the next month on food prep for camping. I learned a lot of new stuff on this trip that would be a great supplement to my past Paleo Camping post.
Now, I wasn’t completely sold on the idea of doing all my cooking inside. After all, we’re still camping, so I wanted to spend some of my cooking time outdoors. Enter the outdoor kitchen. This was another thing that sold us on this particular camper model. While the indoor kitchen is great for cooking during rain and frigid temps, the outdoor kitchen is great for any other time. Especially when making the 50/50 Burgers I brought along. No grease splatters inside my new camper, thank you very much. And yeah, Rob totally caught me with a mouth full of food. Hey, a girl’s gotta eat, and it doesn’t matter if the food is still cooking. No rules when you’re camping.
Let me tell you, our kids were so thrilled to have this camper. When they got tired of being outside, especially when it got cold and drizzly, they went inside to play Uno or read a book. When they got tired of being inside, they’d go out and explore or play with some newfound campground friends. A cute little boy named Junior came over and recruited them into his “kid-hunting” club and they spent most of their days playing in the mud and snow piles. I suppose the wet and muddy shoes were worth it, though Rob and I didn’t think so.
And it wouldn’t be a true camping trip without a breakdown from this little one. This particular freakout was because she had to stay behind with me while big brother played with “kid-hunter” Junior and and big sister took a little hike with dad. Hanging out with mom must be pretty terrible if this is the response. Though she did calm down a minute later, although it did require a bribe of some sort of treat. It usually does. This kid knows how to pull the strings.
Our nights were filled with quiet time around the fire. Just kidding. The kids were annoying but at least there were no mosquitoes. Gotta love that dry Colorado air. Camping in Minnesota is a whole different story. We bought some bug repellant but I’m pretty confident it won’t get much use this year.
And my kids don’t really hate camping like they appear to in the picture above. I asked them to sit really still since it was dusk and I had to leave the shutter open long enough to get a decent picture. Apparently, sitting still = not smiling. But once we brought the sausages out to cook over the fire, they were all smiles. Especially when they got to cook their own. They claimed that they cook far better sausages then mom or dad, which is fine with me. They can have all the responsibility they want. And I’ll admit, they did cook some really great brats.
So here we are, the happiest little family at the campgrounds on Easter weekend. With all the camping we’ll be doing from now on, you can bet I’ll learn some great tips (and remember some forgotten ones) to share with you all. The food prep I did for this weekend was very helpful so be on the lookout for a food prep post that can be helpful for camping as well as your week-long meal planning. And you can also count on some camper tips once we get the hang of this thing.
PS: In case you couldn’t tell, I’m in love. So, so in love. This camper is my new baby.