Let’s Camp!

by Jenni

What combines my love for Travel, Decorating, the Great Outodoors, Tiny Homes, and All Things Vintage?

A vintage travel trailer!

Isn’t there just something so appealing about a tiny little home on wheels? Now that our duo is a trio, our days of international travel are on hold for a while; and going backpacking with a baby is probably not on the roster, either. A trailer allows us to still get out on the open road of adventure and exploration, in relative ease and comfort.

So this fall and winter we “Goldie Locksed” our way through dozens of trailers online and in person (“this one’s too big…” “that one’s too small…” “this one’s in too many pieces…”). There are so many cool vintage trailers out there in various states of disrepair. The little “canned hams” (like Shastas) are so cute, but most of them are too liliputian to hold a full bathroom, which we decided was high on our wants list. The Airstreams have major cool factor, too, but they’re pretty spendy and we didn’t want to sink our savings. The trailer that really captured our attention was the Aristocrat, designed in mid-century by a guy named Irv Perch. Irv was an areonautical engineer and he incorporated airplane construction elements in his trailers, quite cutting edge at the time. We drove up and down the highway looking at Aristocrats until, right in time for Christmas, we found the one that fit us juuust right.

Meet “Finn”, our 17′ 1970 Aristocrat Lo-Liner S/T.

Meet "Finn" the Aristocrat trailer

Every old trailer deserves a new name. Finn may not look like much now, but Seth and I have big plans to renovate him together–new wheels, exterior paint job, fresh upholstery fabric, cushions, and curtains, and a few decorative touches to make him our own. (Not to mention some not-so-fun-to-me stuff like the new water tank and pipes we already put in and replacing some dry rot walls. Good thing my husband is a handy man, because that stuff intimidates the happy camper right out of me!) Curiously, a previous owner (PO) thought it a good idea to spray paint “Harley Davidson” on the front and the back of the trailer. Maybe he always wanted a Harley, but his wife wouldn’t let him, so he pretended his trailer was a hog? Well, that’s definitely got to go. And we’ve found a man in CA who makes reproduction Aristocrat emblems so that Finn’s dignity can be restored.

Poor Finn's backside. Lower emblem should read, "You're Following An Aristocrat"

We bought this trailer because it was functionally camp ready and we love the floorplan / layout. There are 2 separate sitting areas (couch & dinette), 3 sleeping areas (fold down couch, fold down dinette booth, &  fold down bunk above the dinette), kitchen with original working appliances, bathroom with shower and toilet, vanity w/ 2nd sink, closet and a surprising amount of storage throughout. One thing I love about RVs is how cleverly they maximize a small space. There are also windows on all four sides, which helps it feel more spacious inside.

Here are some “before” shots of Finn’s interior. He’s super clean and has nearly all original fixtures, but if you look closely at the walls, the PO’s texturing job is a mess and needs refinished. Facing rear of trailer:

(left to right): couch, closet, vanity sink, door to bathroom, kitchenette

Yes, those cushions are totally original! The fabric is fun in a funky kind of way, but it is worn and faded in spots and I’m not keen about sleeping on 40+ year old foam, so we’ll get new cushions & upholstery. The floor is also original and I’m voting for it to stay. Facing front of trailer:

(left to right): kitchenette, fridge over radiant heater, dinette, entrance door, couch

We really wanted to take Finn on a maiden voyage to get a feel for him before starting the renovation. So one weekend in January, we towed him down to Trout Creek on the Deschutes River, just 23 miles from our driveway. The weather was cold but beautiful and we had the campground practically to ourselves. This was also William’s first ever camping trip. It was just a one-nighter, but we fit in a nice evening hike upriver, plenty of hearty fare and hot cocoa, and of course several games of Gin Rummy at the table.

starting the hike, with William snug in the Moby wrap

Trout Creek is also a rock-climbing destination

back toward camp as the sunset begins

a glorious Deschutes canyon sunset

back to our little home on wheels

my boys ready for some cards

Fortunately, we brough very warm clothes for William because after returning from our hike, we discovered that the heater turns on but doesn’t work well and it stayed quite cold in there. So now we can add one more thing to the Trailer Reno List: fix the heater! William was terribly cute and perfectly content all bundled up, with fuzzy socks as mittens and his snow suit so thick his arms stuck out like the little boy from “A Christmas Story.”

bundled baby boy on his first camping trip

 All in all, Finn’s maiden voyage (manly voyage?) was a memorable success. I’ll post again soon with some visual inspiration for choosing a decorating theme for Finn!

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