Category Archives: Outdoors

Pop Up Camper Remodel: Repairing a Coleman ABS Roof

How to Repair Your Pop Up Roof

UPDATE:  You can find a more detailed version on this post here on my new blog, The Pop Up Princess.  You can find information about where we ordered the roof seal and how we installed it there.  You’ll also find all our pop up camper related projects on the new blog.  Thanks for stopping by!

When we bought our pop up camper, we had been looking on Craigslist for quite some time for just the right deal.  I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted in a pop up, but I knew one thing — I did not want a Coleman with an ABS roof.  We obviously threw that right out the window when this little Coleman Santa Fe came along.

1999 Coleman Santa FeBecause our Santa Fe was in such fabulous condition for the price, we jumped on it.  I had read horror stories about the Coleman ABS roof situation, but I was confident we could head off any problems.  What is an ABS roof?  Well, in the mid-90′s, Coleman had this fantastic idea to make a one piece, ABS plastic roof on some of their higher end pop up trailers.  The idea was good, no seams for water to leak in, etc., but in reality, the ABS roof didn’t hold up on most trailers.  The sun really dried them out, and there was some severe cracking and delamination on many campers.  Coleman had to replace quite a few roofs.  The pop up camper division of Coleman/Fleetwood eventually went out of business, and now it is impossible to have your roof replaced.  Seems like a deal breaker, right?

Cracks in Coleman ABS Roof

I thought so, too.  After a lot of research, though, I realized that you could still repair that ABS roof, and, in many cases, the owners of the repaired Coleman ABS roofs were happier with the results than had they gone with a traditional pop up camper roof.  We had minimal cracking in our ABS roof.  There were a couple of medium sized cracks on one corner, a few small hairline cracks along the lip of the roof, and some spidery cracks under the awning rail.

After a lot of research, we decided the best method for repairing the roof, and preventing further cracking in the future, was the ABS MEK patch method, followed by a good coat of UV protectant bedliner.  The Pop Up Portal was an invaluable resource for all things repair related, and there is a good amount of information there about the MEK repair method.  If you have a pop up, and you haven’t checked the Portal yet, you are missing out!  So, what is the ABS MEK patch method?

Coleman ABS Roof RepairMr. TypeTwoFun started out by drilling a small hole at each end of the crack.  This is supposed to help keep the crack from spreading.

Repairing a Coleman ABS Roof

Then he used a cutting wheel to clean out the crack.  He wanted a nice clean surface for the patch to adhere to.

Now, I don’t have a picture of the next step, because the stuff Mr. TypeTwoFun used to patch the crack is pretty toxic.  He had to use a respirator when he was applying the stuff.  We basically took equal parts of MEK (Methyl Ethyl Ketone) and white ABS plastic pellets and mixed them together in a glass jar with a lid.  MEK is a solvent that breaks down plastic, and it is pretty dang toxic.  Make sure you wear gloves and a respirator when handling it.  You can buy ABS pellets on eBay, but we just took white airsoft bb’s, which happen to be made of ABS plastic, and used them.  It takes about 24 hours for the MEK to melt down the plastic, but then you’ve got a nice liquid patch for your cracks.

Coleman ABS Roof RepairWipe down the cracks you are patching with a bit of MEK on a clean rag.  The MEK will eat into the plastic a bit and give you a nice surface for your patch to adhere to.  Use a Popsicle stick or paint stirrer to patch your cracks and then let them dry.  Again, use the respirator and gloves when working with your MEK patch “goo.”  Once you’ve got your crack patched to your satisfaction, you can sand it down a bit with some fine grit sandpaper or steel wool.

Coleman ABS Roof RepairOnce we had all of our cracks repaired, we used some steel wool pads in our sander to sand the whole roof down.  We wanted to make sure that we had a nice clean surface for our bedliner paint to adhere to.

Coleman ABS Roof RepairIt’s a little hard to tell from the picture, but when you sand, it will leave your roof looking a little dull.  That’s what you want.  Make sure the whole surface has been sanded evenly.

MEK ABS Roof RepairWe then used drop cloths and painters tape to protect the areas we didn’t want to paint.  Once you’ve got your camper taped up, you can don that hot respirator again and break out your MEK.  You want to wipe the whole roof down with MEK.  We used clean, old t-shirts cut into rags.  Make sure you protect your hands with gloves and check them periodically for holes.  (The MEK ate through Mr. TypeTwoFun’s gloves!)  :(   Once your roof is wiped down, it should shine like you see in the picture above.  Now you are ready to paint on your bedliner.

We used a product called Grizzly Grip, which can only be purchased online.  It is supposed to be incredibly durable, and it is a favorite product among Coleman ABS owners.  We purchased the 4×8 kit in Snow White.  Our camper is approximately 6.5′ x 8′ and we had PLENTY of product to finish the job.  We actually had about half a jar left over.

Grizzly Grip Coleman ABS RoofThis step was pretty toxic, too, so I stayed away.  I did manage to snap a picture of Mr. TypeTwoFun finishing up the first coat.  The paint goes on with a foam roller, and you want to apply a light first coat, wait 2-4 hours, and follow with a heavier top coat.  Same rules here — gloves and respirator — and don’t get it on your skin!  It is supposed to cure within 24 hours, but ours was still tacky 24 hours later, so make sure to allow for plenty of dry time.

Coleman ABS Roof RepairRemember that corner crack from before?  You can’t even see it anymore!  The roof looks amazing.  It’s now bright white, and it looks brand new.

Coleman ABS Roof RepairThe spidery cracks underneath the awning rail are gone, too.  You can see that the Grizzly Grip did leave a slight bit of texture, but I don’t really mind it.  It seems strong, and I am hoping it will last the life of the trailer.

ABS Roof RepairHere’s one last look at my brand new roof.  Isn’t it pretty?  Obviously, if you have a Coleman ABS roof with major cracks and/or delamination, the roof repair might not be so simple.  If you’ve just got a few cracks in the ABS plastic, like we did, this may be the repair to go with!  We’ll report back on how it holds up over the summer.  Now who’s ready for some camping?   :D

Pop Up Camper Remodel: Adding More Storage

I don’t have a lot of progress to show you on the camper this week. Mr. TypeTwoFun changed out the fresh water tank, because the old one smelled awful (even after we disinfected it) and had a hole in it… something the previous owner forgot to mention.   :-(

Changing out the Freshwater TankWe got the new tank at Beckley’s Coleman Pop Up Parts, and they have been great so far.  They were able to find an exact match for our old tank, and it fits perfectly.  While Mr. TypeTwoFun was changing out tanks and fixing plumbing issues, I was working on the curtains.

Taking the measurements for all the pop up camper windows.

I have some of the curtains made, but I’ll have to show them off next week, as this is a pretty big project.  I also have to figure out a better way to attach them to the track, because those little tabs are a pain, I tell ya!

Last weekend, when we installed our new cabinet, I forgot to show you the awesome mod Mr. TypeTwoFun did for me.  Remember that ugly torn wheel well from the before pictures?

Pop Up Camper RemodelWe think the previous owners tried to use the rubber wheel well as a shelf, and the weight of it made the housing rub against the tire.  Our solution was to build a metal housing over the wheel, then enclose it with MDF.  Now I have an awesome new shelf.

Wheel Well Storage

I love it!  This cabinet was really unusable before.  If you set anything on the rubber housing, it would rub against the wheel.  Now I have a shelf that holds quite a bit.  I grabbed some plastic shoe box bins and chalkboard labels from Target, and it makes things so much easier to find.  And isn’t it CUTE?  I can even fit my tackle box first aid kit in there.

Utensil StorageWe made the shelf pretty shallow, so we could use the cabinet doors for utensil storage.  Just add a few Command hooks to the doors, and viola!  Easy and convenient cooking utensil storage.

Command Hook Storage Container

I love those Command storage products so much, I even snagged a basket for the inside of the cassette toilet cabinet.  It works perfectly to hold our cleaning supplies and toilet chemicals.  The Santa Fe is pretty small, so I have to make sure there is a place for everything, and that it tucks neatly away when not in use.  With five family members in a small pop up, it can get a little crowded.   :-D

Pinterest has been a great resource for pop up camper ideas.  I even have a pop up camper board that I save all those awesome ideas to, and you can follow it here.  How about you?  Do you have a Pinterest pop up camper board?  I’d love to see it, so leave it in the comments so I can follow you, too.

Well… Mr. TypeTwoFun won’t let me leave curtain panels on the kitchen table for much longer, so I’d better get going.  Have an awesome week!

Pop Up Camper Remodel: The Countertops

One of the first things I wanted to replace on our pop up camper was the countertops.  They were stained, the plastic t-trim was chipped and peeling off in places, and they were just plain ugly.  We really contemplated how to fix these for a few weeks.  We thought about replacing the Formica.  It seemed simple enough, but then what about the t-trim?  We’d have to replace that, too.  It wasn’t something we really wanted to do.  We were stumped for a while.

Coleman Pop Up Camper RemodelWhile I was in Home Depot one day, I came across a sad, lonely looking box of Rustoleum Countertop Transformations.  Apparently, Home Depot is no longer carrying this product, and there was one box left on clearance.  You can still get it online at Amazon and in store at Lowes, if you aren’t lucky enough to pick up a clearance box at HD.   ;-)

knew that we would not be able to use our existing countertops with this product.  The plastic t-trim wouldn’t take the paint well, and if I removed it, there would be a channel left in the edge of the counters.  It is a good thing Mr. TypeTwoFun is so handy!  We removed the countertops and used them as a template to cut new countertops out of MDF.

Pop Up Camper Countertop RemodelWe used 3/4″ MDF for the galley kitchen and table top.  For the long counter and cassette toilet cabinet, we used 1/2″ MDF.  Mr. TypeTwoFun took a router to the edges to give it a custom rounded look.  Then we gave everything a good sanding.

Pop Up Trailer Countertops

I was a little concerned that the MDF would soak up too much paint, so we decided to give the new countertops a good coat of primer.  We used the same Glidden Gripper that we used inside on the wall board.  I really like this stuff.  I may like it more than my go-to Zinsser — and the clean up is so much easier.

Rustoleum Countertop TransformationsBy the time we got around to applying everything, it was dark.  We didn’t get many pictures of the process, but we did snap this one of the chip application.  Basically, you paint your base coat on really thickly, then you apply a wetting agent, which comes in a spray bottle.  At this point, your countertops are ready for the chips.  You use a spreader to apply these plastic chips on top of the wet paint.  Apply them really heavily, because once you sand them off, if there are places that you missed, you’ll see it.  You can touch up your application before applying the top coat if you need to, but we found that you could see a difference in our touch up spots.  It’s always better to do it right the first time.  Now you have to wait at least 12 hours, but no more than 24 before you sand and apply the top coat.

Once you’ve waited for the paint to dry, you use a plastic scraper to get off all the excess chips.  Then you use a diamond embedded sanding pad to sand the countertops until your arms feel like they might fall off… and then you sand some more.  When you’ve got the right texture (there is a sample provided for comparison), you mix the topcoat and apply it with a foam roller.  Rustoleum has a really good video tutorial on their website, and we referred to that quite a bit throughout the process.  We used a small kit, which covered all of our counters well.  We had a little basecoat paint left over and just enough topcoat for the job.  There were tons of plastic chips left over.

Rustoleum Countertop TransformationsHere is a shot of the finished product.  This is the 3/4″ MDF table top we cut.  It looks like a real countertop.  We are pretty pleased with it.  All that sanding really made a difference.

Pop Up Camper RemodelAnd here is the long counter installed!  We built a new cabinet out of MDF, because the original one had been damaged by water and dirt from a torn rubber wheel covering.  Mr. TypeTwoFun fixed the wheel well and installed this new cabinet with the beautiful new countertops.  It is starting to look like a brand new trailer.

Pop Up Cassette ToiletHere are the countertops that we installed on the cassette toilet cabinet.  The lid was a little tricky, because when flipped up, you see the underside of the counter.  To make sure the lid looked nice on the bottom as well as the top, we gave it a coat of semigloss paint, and then we sealed it with Parks Super Glaze.  This stuff is awesome, and gave the bottom of the lid a nice durable finish.  We plan on doing this to the bottom of the table top as well.  Ugh…  Ignore the crooked Velcro on the lid…  that will slowly drive me insane, and will be fixed soon.   :-D

Pop Up Camper Cassette Toilet

Since we built our own cabinet out of MDF, we had the chance to make a few changes that would bring our little pop up into the modern age.  We changed out the outlet for a USB outlet.  Of course, we can only use the outlets when we camp places with electrical hookups, but I knew that the main things that would be plugged in to those outlets would be chargers for phones, mp3 players, and tablets.

Pop Up Camper ModificationsNow I only have to pack a few USB cords, and we’re set.  We also changed out all of the brass hardware for pretty brushed nickel, which complimented the new cabinet color nicely.  We added some shoe base molding at the bottom of the cabinets, and all we have left is to touch up paint.  Then the cabinets are finished!  Yay!  Let’s take another look at that transformation…

Pop Up Camper Makeover

Ahhh… so much better.  Now I can work on the fun stuff — curtains and cushions!   :-)

 

 

 

 

 

Pop Up Kitchen Makeover

Our little pop up kitchen was in desperate need of some TLC.  The 90′s were calling, and they wanted their light oak cabinets back.

Pop Up Camper Kitchen BeforeWe had already replaced the flooring in the camper, and our little fridge got a makeover a few weeks ago.  I was really wanting the cabinets to pop against the floor, so we decided to paint them a creamy off-white color.

We gave the PUP camper cabinets some major pizzazz with some primer, paint, and new hardware.

I started by cleaning all the cabinets really well with a TSP type cleaner.  Make sure that you don’t have any exposed wood or MDF or the TSP will make it swell.  Once I cleaned the cabinets, I used wood filler to fill any gaps or holes and gave them a light sanding with a sanding sponge.  Then I gave them a coat of Zinsser primer.  Once the primer was dry, I gave everything two coats of Rustoleum spray paint.  I really don’t like brush strokes, and since I was pulling everything out of the camper, I used spray paint.  Would I do it again?  I’m not sure.  There are places where the spray paint left some streaks.  It also took a lot of spray paint to paint all those cabinets.

Painting the pop up cabinets

I love the end result, though.  It makes it worth all that hard work.  I removed all the ugly brass hardware and replaced it with pretty brushed nickel pulls and hinges.  It really makes everything look sleek and modern.  Bye bye, 90′s!

New Pop Up Kitchen CabinetsWe left the swing galley handle brown because I dreaded the thought of painting it.  It actually ties in well with the new countertops, which I love!  More on those really soon.

Pop Up Camper FaucetWe replaced the kitchen faucet with a brushed nickel one to match the new hardware.  We actually used a bathroom sink faucet.  I love it, but the faucet itself is a little too high for the swing galley bar.  We have to actually unscrew the neck of the faucet and set it in the sink when we lower the galley.  I don’t mind, though, because the newone is so much nicer than the old one.

Pop Up Camper Kitchen Makeover

What an amazing transformation, huh?  We loved the new kitchen so much, we loaded the kids up for a quick trip to try it out.  We headed to a nearby campground to make a quick overnight stay.  We still need a new freshwater tank, so we didn’t use the water from the tank, but the kitchen area was an awesome place to brush teeth, take out contact lenses, and get ready for bed.

Lost Dutchman State ParkWe didn’t have our cassette toilet or running water, but we still had a great time.  We can’t wait to finish this thing so we can go out and have more adventures.   :-D

Pop Up Camper Remodel: The Appliances

This weekend felt like one of those times when you work your butt off, but don’t have much to show for it.  We really don’t have a whole lot of visible progress to show off, but we got quite a bit done.  Mr. TypeTwoFun’s dad came into town, and that man is a genius, I tell you.  He helped us get all the electrical back in, and we even did some plumbing.  The hot water heater is back in, as is the water pump.  Woo hoo!  Now we need a sink.   :-D

Pop Up Camper Digital ThermostatHe also helped us change out this nasty relic for something a little more modern and easy to read.  It is a little change, but adding a digital thermometer to the pop up camper will make adjusting the temperature so much easier–and it looks prettier, too.

Pop Up Camper Remodel GalleyWhile they were working on all the complicated stuff, I took on a few little projects.  Remember when my galley kitchen looked like this?  Ugh.  How ugly is that fridge? And the heater vent was a little rusty and had seen better days.  That brown would definitely stand out against my new cream cabinets.

Rustoleum Appliance EpoxySo I removed the fridge door and gave it a good cleaning.  I used some adhesive remover to take off the sticker on the front, and I gave the whole thing a light sanding.  Then I used this appliance epoxy to give it a pretty new coat of paint.  I’ll admit, it was kind of tricky.  Mr. TypeTwoFun was better with it and had to fix a few splatters I made.  The paint comes out a little differently than regular old spray paint, so I’d recommend trying out on something disposable first.

While that was drying, I took my heater vent and scrubbed the whole thing down with a wire brush.  Then we gave it a couple of coats of cream spray paint to match the cabinets.  Much better.

Pop Up Camper Fridge InsulationBefore we put the fridge back in, we wanted to insulate it a little better.  We went to Home Depot and bought the Styrofoam insulation that is shiny on one side.  We cut it to fit the opening where our fridge was going, and used metal tape to make a box out of insulation, and we set the fridge inside it.  I forgot to snap a picture of that, but it basically just insulates the fridge a little better.  We’ve heard these pop up fridges aren’t the best at keeping things cold, so we wanted to see if we could improve the performance of ours a bit.

Pop Up Camper FridgeThen we installed the fridge.  That was a pain, but I think we got it all level and set up right.  So, now I was ready to put the fridge door back on, and I was really wanting a chalkboard door.  I love the look of chalkboard, but Mr. TypeTwoFun didn’t want something that permanent on the fridge.  What if chalkboard paint goes out of style or I get tired of it?  Then we are stuck with it or will have to repaint the whole door.  Dang it!  He’s right… for once.   ;-)

Pop Up Camper FridgeWe came to a compromise, and our solution was chalkboard vinyl.  I simply cut it to fit the inner part of the fridge door.  If we decide to remove it later on down the road, it is easy.  Doesn’t it look cute?  It works every bit as well as the chalkboard paint I’ve used on past projects.  It’ll be perfect for keeping stock of what is in the fridge and what we need to pick up.  I can also use it for our camping menu.  And check out that heater!  The vent looks a million times better, too.  It’s amazing what a little paint can do.

 

 

 

 

Pop Up Camper Flooring

We had a pretty productive weekend.  Mr. TypeTwoFun was on fire!  He got all the flooring in the trailer laid, and he ran a 10 mile training run for his upcoming marathon.  What an animal!  I’d like to say I helped with the flooring, but I really just checked his progress here and there.  On one of my trips in to check on him, I discovered he had finished the whole floor.  That is my favorite kind of DIY project–the ones where I “supervise” and he does the work.   ;-)

Ultimately, this is the flooring we used.  We knew we wanted to go with vinyl flooring for the pop up camper, but weren’t sure which brand and style to choose.  Mr. TypeTwoFun liked that it was a bit thicker than some of the other vinyl planks we were looking at, and I liked how pretty it was.  It almost looks like hand-scraped wood planks.

And this is the color we used.  It really is so rich and pretty.  I almost feel like it shouldn’t be in a camper.  It’s almost too pretty.  Almost.

The flooring went in pretty easily–the planks just snap together, much like laminate.  We staggered them for additional strength and visual interest.  Mr. TypeTwoFun did about half the floor after work on Friday and finished it up in a few hours Saturday morning.  It took about 3 1/2 boxes total, and at $58 a box, it wasn’t exactly a cheap way to go.  I’m sure that if you didn’t remove your cabinets, you would use a lot less.

But look at that finished project!  It was so worth every penny.  I absolutely love the way it turned out.  Remember how awful that vinyl looked before?

This was the first thing you saw when you walked in—stained and ripped linoleum.

And now we see this.  Isn’t it pretty?  Too pretty?  Nah!

Here’s another view to show you just how nice it is turning out.  You can see that we have some of the cabinets painted and installed, and I’ll save that whole process for another post.  They are turning out really pretty, as well.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to show them off next week!

Demolishing the Pop Up Camper {Let the fun begin!}

We got quite a bit done on the pop up this weekend…  and quite honestly, that’s a little scary.  You might remember that when we put the camper down last weekend, it looked like this.

Well, we took the plunge and started tearing things apart.  Mr. TypeTwoFun was really good about labeling everything so we could put it all back together again.

But to be honest, I really am a little scared at this point.  And look at that dirt!  I thought the camper was pretty clean, but as we started tearing things apart, I realize how dirty these things can get.  It will be nice to know the whole thing is clean and in good repair when we’re done, but holy cow!  What a job!

We got all the cabinets out, the vinyl flooring out, and cleaned and primed the walls for paint.  It looked like there may have been a little bit of water seeping in around the walls, so we cleaned the floor with bleach and will have to figure that problem out so it doesn’t happen again.  The wood floor was in great shape, though.  We did get it painted, but it was too dark for good pictures.  We’ll have to share that next weekend.

But here is the color scheme we are going with.  This is the part I like!  I’m hoping to use most of the old curtains, and just make a cute new topper valance with the pretty Waverly fabric.  I did get a couple of the cabinets painted a pretty creamy white, too.  We changed out the ugly gold hardware for pretty brushed nickel.  More on that to come.

We’ll find out next week if we can put our big puzzle back together again…

Our New Little {Project} Pop Up Camper

Whew!  It has been a loooong time since I’ve been around here, but in my defense, it has been a long time since I’ve had a good project.  Honestly, I just haven’t felt excitement for a new project.  We had such a fabulous time on our camping road trip last summer, that all I’ve wanted to do is plan this summer’s trip.  So that’s what I have been doing. I soon realized that if we were going to do another long trip, we’d need some sort of camper.

I scoured Craigslist for the better part of a year looking for just the right one.  I knew that we really didn’t have the budget for a brand-new, fancy camper, although I really wanted one.  And as much as I’d love to take on one of those vintage Shasta campers, we just didn’t have a place to store it.  We decided to look for an older used pop-up camper–one that wasn’t too hammered, but old enough that I could make some changes and not feel guilty.  I’d seen some awesome pop up camper makeovers, and I started to get excited.  A couple of weeks ago, we found a little 1999 Coleman Santa Fe in super shape at a crazy good price.

It is a little on the small side, but it will accommodate the whole family AND it will fit in the garage.  That was important, because we didn’t really have any other place to store it.  There is a full sized bed on one side, and the dinette folds down into a wide “twin-ish” sized bed.

There is some additional storage under the table when the dinette is in the bed position.  The cushions are actually in really good shape, but I will eventually recover them, of course.   :-D

Here’s the kitchen.  We’ve got a little mini fridge, 3-burner stove, a sink, and a heater.  What a luxury all that will be after tent camping!

We even have a little cassette toilet for those late night potty breaks.  It will be nice not to have to get out of bed and run to the campground bathrooms.

And look at that storage!  Woo Hoo!  I’m sad that our brand new chuck box will be left in the garage this year, but I won’t miss setting it up.  We’ve got all the storage we need right here.

Mr. TypeTwoFun and I have a king sized bed on our end.  How sweet is that?  It really is a great little camper and in awesome shape to boot.

So, naturally, we got right to work gutting the thing.  The first thing to go is that fake light colored wood finish.  We took out one cabinet to use as a test subject.  I’m thinking a light creamy white finish would be perfect.  And to go with it, how about some pretty vinyl plank dark wood grain floors?

Ew!  Look at that grime!  I thought the camper was pretty clean, but when we started taking things out, we found that one of the wheel wells had a huge hole (which had been patched before) and road grime was everywhere.  So, add that to the list of fixes.

This week I’m going to try to get a good start on that guinea pig cabinet, and hopefully, I can share some tips with you soon.  I’ve painted laminate before with good results, so I am pretty excited.  Stay tuned… this is going to be fun!

My Chuck Box Project

I have been M.I.A. around here for quite awhile, but there is a really good reason for it.  Around March, my kids (and husband) decided that they wanted to take an adventure road trip for summer vacation this year.  I was initially skeptical.  I am not really a risk taker, and I typically don’t do anything that would be considered outdoor-sy.  I thought I was adventurous when two years ago, we took a 10-day road trip to the Redwood Forest, but we stayed in hotels or with my brother the whole time.  This year, in order to do everything the kids wanted to do (white water rafting, alpine slides, kayaking, hiking), we were going to have to camp…

…like “in a TENT” camp.  Generally, this is the reason I am not an outdoor person.  I’m not fond of tent camping.  I don’t like using campground bathrooms, hate living out of totes and boxes, don’t like trying to find a clean place to prepare food and put in my contacts–I basically don’t like not having a kitchen and bathroom available.  Since my kids were adamant about this vacation, I starting figuring out how I could camp and still be comfortable.

That was when Mr. TypeTwoFun suggested we build a chuck box.  If you are anything like me, you have no idea what a chuck box is.  Well, it is basically a portable camp kitchen.  You can store your cookware, utensils, plastic and foil items, lanterns, etc. in it for easy access.  The idea was so appealing to me that I spent the next couple of months researching how to build one.  I couldn’t find anything that fit our needs, so we basically drew up our own plans.

This is what we ended up with.  It was the very first project we made that didn’t come with clear-cut construction plans.  We did everything on our own.  Are there things we would have done differently?  Absolutely!  Did it make camping a thousand times easier?  You bet!

We built the whole thing out of 1/2″ plywood.  We knew it was going to be heavy, so to cut down on weight, we used these stacking cubicle drawers from Wal-Mart to store our foil, Ziplocs, trash bags, cooking utensils, etc.  I used my label maker to label the plastic items so kids would know where to put things away.

One of my favorite features of the chuck box, is this nifty paper towel holder I got off Amazon. We set up our camp sink right next to the paper towel holder, and the counter surface of the chuck box was perfect for putting in contact lenses, washing faces, brushing teeth, and getting ready for bed at night.  There was really no reason to visit the public restrooms except to use the toilet.  This made getting ready in the morning easy, too!  It was a lifesaver with young kids.

I also had a cubby space for my dishwashing tubs and mixing bowls, as well as all our dishes and cookware.

No paper plates here!  The kids had to wash dishes after every meal.  It was funny how often they wanted to eat sandwiches and cook easy meals.   :-D

At the very top of my chuck box was my utensil organizer.  I had everything I needed at my fingertips.  I even had kitchen shears and vegetable peelers.

Best of all, I had a place to prepare meals, and since we put about 3 coats of Helmsman Indoor/Outdoor sealer on it, clean up was a snap.

When we left for our activities each day, or went to bed at night, we’d just close up the box.  If we wanted to, we could padlock the hasps, but we only did that rarely.  This trip took quite a toll on  our “little” chuck box.  It got pretty beat up (gives it character, right?), so we decided to start putting bumper stickers on the front to remember the places we’d been.

Although we did everything we could to cut down on weight, this thing was heavy.  It was a beast to set up each time, believe me, it got used!  It was the center of our camp at every site that we visited.  It was extremely handy, and I don’t think I would have gotten through our camping trip without it.

Because Mom got to camp in relative comfort, everyone was happy.  I can honestly say this was the best trip we’ve ever taken.

And with the chuck box project out of the way, maybe I’ll tackle a few of the other ones laying around here… or maybe we’ll just go camping again.   ;-)

Outdoor Pillows {On the Cheap}

I’m sure you’ve noticed the super cute outdoor pillow on my lounge.  Let me tell you, not only are these pillows super cute, they are also super cheap.  I was shopping for outdoor pillows and could not believe how expensive they were.  I couldn’t fathom spending that kind of money on outdoor pillows, especially since there was a 65% chance they’d end up in the pool at some point, so I made my own.

I headed down to JoAnn’s and picked from their large selection of outdoor fabric, which happened to be on sale.  Score!  I really probably only used 1/2 a yard for two pillows, but I bought several yards to make other outdoor accessories.  Now you can only spot clean this fabric, because it has a special coating that makes it stain and fade resistant.  There was no need to make removable cover, so I didn’t need to buy zippers or velcro.

I wanted my pillows to be a little more substantial than just some fabric and fiberfill.  So to give these pillows some weight, I took some old towels (one per pillow) and folded it to the approximate size I wanted.  Then I measured my pillow and added 2″ all the way around.  For example, since my towel measured 15″ long and 10″ wide, I cut the fabric 19″ long x 14″ wide.  This accounts for the seam allowance and any fiberfill you might add to “poof” out the pillows.

After my pillow pieces were cut, I pinned everything right sides together and stitched up the four sides, leaving a pretty big opening to turn it right side out.  Then I serged all the edges, although you could just clip the seams and corners, and turned it right side out.  I put my folded towel inside and filled any gaps with fiberfill, making the pillow as fluffy as I wanted.

After the pillow looked the way I wanted it to, I pinned the opening and whip-stitched it closed.  I had to play with the towel and fiberfill a bit to get it to look the way I like pillows to look, but that was really the toughest part of this project.  The fabric was $9.99/yard, and I used about 1/4 yard per pillow.  I had the old towels and fiberfill.  These pillows basically cost me $2.50 a piece, which is a far cry from the $20 ones I was looking at.  The project was SO easy and SO cheap, I almost feel like it wasn’t a real project.

Simple and cheap, but they add a lot to the space.  Go ahead!  Grab some old towels and make a few yourself.