Our Li’l Camper

Here are the specs of our main camping accessory: the camper itself.

Inside features: always-up queen bed w/single bunk over, 2-burner propane stove, 3-way “dorm sized” fridge, AC, single sink, thermostat-controlled propane heat, 2-seater dinette (converts to small sleeper space), small closet, wet bath, propane water heater, water pump,  under-bed storage with exterior access, galley-style push lock cabinets, interior cabinet with exterior access, microwave/convection combo oven, and two standard 14”exhaust fans (which we just upgraded to a better model of “Fantastic Fan”).

Outside features: stabilizer jacks in front, scissor jacks in back, another exterior only access cabinet, single propane tank mount, battery mount, hand crank tongue lift (with a wheel), single axle 13” wheels plus spare tire underneath, electric trailer brakes, fresh, gray and black water holding tanks, sewer hose “keeper,” water hook up and fresh water tank fill port, 30 amp electric twist lock marinco connection and last but not least, an exterior hot/cold water hookup for a special fit quick connect hose (handy to hose off a dog, feet, or other icky stuff).

It is constructed from mostly aluminum–frame, floor, exterior, cabinet frame and all. The pipes are PEX and pretty much the rest is Azdel, which resists mold and doesn’t “swell” if it gets wet. I always joke that I could take my camper to the recycling center if it got damaged beyond use, but I really don’t like thinking of that.

What we love:  the 13’ camper is just right for us. Besides being lightweight and easy to tow with our 2008 Wrangler and our 2007 Nissan Pathfinder, It has a full-time queen size bed (QB) and a single bunk(B). The single bunk serves as a “shelf” for our dog crate set up.  As I said, it works for us. The shelf can support 125 pounds and our dogs and their crates weigh less than that. Our dealer installed d ring hooks for us to anchor the crates in place for towing, but the dogs never ride in there.

The dogs at rest. We can store their toys (and our “Frosty” collection) above, as well as extra clothes or blankets. At night, they sleep in bed with us, of course.

The queen sized bed seems larger than it is since the front of the camper bows out a little; you don’t feel boxed in. We have taken the mattress from the bunk bed, covered it in a homemade extra long sleeping bag-style pillow case, and put it between the mattress and the front of the camper.  This gives a little cushion if you want to lean against the front of the camper to read or converse with visitors who are seated in the full-time 2 person dinette. The mattress that comes with the QB is pretty thin to save weight, so we added a memory-foam topper, and it’s pretty darn comfortable.  In the 13 footer, you do not have the luxury (and I do mean LUXURY) of being able to walk around the bed to get in, out, or make it up. If you are the inside sleeper, you might even need a helmet, “noodle,” or chiropractor.  Did I mention there was a bunk…well, as lovely as the bunk is as an extra sleeping space, or shelf, its drawback is that it pokes out (as you can imagine) partially over the QBB. Trust me, it hurts when you bang your head on it.

We liked this model for a lot of reasons, but one of the big ones was that we needed a full-time dinette and a full-time bed. We did not want to have to break down the dinette to have a sleeping spot every night. The dinette can be broken down to make a small sleeper area, but ours stays in dinette mode all the time.

As mentioned in the list of features, there is a propane heater, water heater, and 2 burner stove. We are sure these items are lovely and work great, but in 4 years we’ve never used them. We heat with a small electric space heater, shower in the bath house at the campground, and heat water in the microwave to wash dishes and cook outside (sometimes in cast iron, but more on that later). The fridge also has a propane option, but we have only used it on electric and 12 volt. It does work very well and actually holds a ton of stuff. We “tetris” load it in a very space efficient manner with containers that stack well together.

We have also taken advantage of the airline galley style cabinet doors and have purchased several “over the cabinet door” hangers for towels and such. We have also placed a number of “Command Hook” hooks around for hats, jackets, leashes, etc.  For our miscellaneous items, we lucked into the perfect size plastic container at the Dollar Tree. I mean not only were they a good fit, they were a DOLLAR (plus applicable sales tax). We were not as lucky finding bins that maximized space in the closet. Those came from the Container Store and were many multiples of a dollar, but hey, they fit well.

We absolutely love the awning. Many big-rig-ers are surprised to see that our little camper has an awning. It is easy to roll out and roll back in, too. We just have to make sure we roll it in if the wind gets too strong; heavy winds will rip yer awning off in a New York minute.

Our favorite feature, at least top 5, is the windows. They push out, and pneumatic rods hold them open in a couple of positions. That means when it is lightly raining, you can still have the windows open, and we love having the windows open, especially in the fall. Part of the top 5 factor for the windows is the screen/shade combo. They are easy to operate, they don’t flop about, and the shade blocks ALL the daylight when closed. That’s important when you are a vampire (real, not sparkly).

As Mailey is fond of saying, our camper “has everything you need, and nothing you don’t.”

Camping With Older Dogs, Part 1


Whether your older dog will enjoy camping, and the activities associated with it, depends on a few factors. Over the next several posts I will address the joys and concerns of camping with older dogs.


How old is your dog?

Dogs reach “senior” status between 5 and 10 years of age. The larger the dog, the sooner they would be classified as senior. A Great Dane is senior by age 6, because many only live to 8 or 10 years of age. A Chihuahua, however, may not be considered senior until age 12, as they can live into their 20’s.

The dog’s general health is also a determining factor.

The old adage that “one dog year is equal to 7 human years” is only partially correct. Experts agree that the first year of a regular-sized (15-65 pounds adult weight) dog’s life is equal to 15 human years, and each year after that is equal to about 4 human years. Adjust up or down, depending on your dog’s size.

What is your activity level while camping?

Are you the type of camper who likes to be on the move? Do you hike a lot? Bike? Climb? Or are you more of a relaxer? You may wish for your older dog to accompany you on all of your physical exploits, but it may not be feasible. She may only be good for a few short walks, one hike, and then mostly relaxing by the campfire with you. You may need to make adjustments to your activity itinerary if you are taking an older dog, or have a safe place to leave her behind.

What is your dog’s normal activity level?

Even older dogs may still be considered spry for their age. As the one who lives with your dog, you are best equipped to know how much exercise he or she needs, and can tolerate, per day. Is she sore the day following a long run? Did she used to play fetch for hours, but now grows tired of it after 10-15 throws? These are the things to look for so that you will know when she is getting tired.

Dogs are stoic by nature, so they don’t always slow down when they are getting overheated or tired. It’s our job to monitor their activity and slow them or stop them when they need a break. Heat and humidity play a large factor in this. Even agile adult dogs expend more energy in the heat, though they might drop from heat exhaustion before ever willingly stopping the game.

Here is an article about recognizing heatstroke in dogs.

What type of activities will you be doing on your trip?

Has your dog ever done this type of activity with you? You may want to bike that 7-mile trail, but if you’ve never taken your dog biking before, it would be best to try a short jaunt around the neighborhood with your bike-leash apparatus before going into the woods. Some dogs are great at running alongside a bike, and some are terrible.

We recommend a product that attaches the dog safely to the bike, as opposed to just tying a leash to you or allowing the dog to run off-leash. The former can be seriously dangerous, and the latter is likely illegal and, unless your dog is really well-trained, may result in a lost or injured dog. It is also not a welcome sight to others who may use that trail who are nervous around dogs or have dogs who are nervous around dogs. Use a leash, please.

(Want to learn more about why you should obey leash laws, and when you can disobey them?)

If you will be hiking on rocky or uneven terrain, or ascending and descending in steep areas, your dog may need some conditioning to do these hikes with you. Don’t assume. Trust me, it sucks to be at the bottom of a huge ravine with a 70-lb dog who cannot make it back to the top without help. I learned this the hard way with my Doberman years ago. I ended up carrying her to the top of Tallulah Gorge. That trip taught me a lot, let me tell you.

Swimming is a bit easier on an older dog’s joints and bones, but it, too, has some hazards and cautions. I’ll address this more thoroughly in a future post.

Has your dog had a senior checkup lately?

We get senior bloodwork done on all our dogs when they reach “that age,” and we do rechecks every 2 years if they haven’t had any problems. That way, we have a baseline and we will know if something is ”off” down the line. If you are planning any strenuous exercise with your dog, it’s best to have your vet in the loop.

Coming Up Next: More Things to Think About When Camping with Older Dogs