As a traveling wedding photographer, I sometimes get things lined up on the calendar where I can make a 3000-5000 mile “circle,” rather than half a dozen little trips or flights. I had previously done my photoshoot road trips by myself in a good old-fashioned cowboy teepee. But this year I wanted to drag the whole family along…and it was time for an upgrade.
So early in the fall we bought a vintage popup camper, named it the #rollingteepee, and did a little remodeling. Then I “glamped” it up in the most impractical was just so that I could take Pinterest worthy pictures of it. You can see the before/after remodel processes here.
So we got everything ready to roll and headed out on a 17 day, 5000ish mile popup camper road trip! (You can still see the instagram stories highlight here: ROADTRIP). While we were traveling, my inbox was full of DMs of everyone wondered what the #rollingteepee looked like in REAL LIFE. I also got a ton of questions like, “Where do you go to the bathroom or shower?”, “Did your infant stay warm?” or “How do you stay organized?” And so, I promised everyone I’d do a blog about it all once I slowed down a smidge with wedding season. I wanted a very “minimal” approach to packing the camper. But I still needed enough to get a family of 4 through 17 days on the road. I packed enough clothes for one week for each person and then just planned to find laundromats along the way.
(Before we go any further and for the sake of keepin it real around here…there’s an affiliate link disclosure/explanation etc at the bottom!)
Packing and Organization…
With a popup camper, everything has to fit together like a puzzle in order for it to collapse down. And I REALLY needed everything to be “efficient” as we were popping the camper up/down every evening and morning.
The popup camper has compartments under the seating area’s where I stored stuff I didn’t need “easy access” to. And then in plastic tubs and a plastic drawer I put things I needed quick access too, like coffee, salt etc. (I shortened the drawer setup from a 3 drawer to a 2 drawer so it can be set upright on the floor even when the beds are slid in).
I ended up really loving the plastic drawers because it felt like an extended counter and I put my drying mat on it for my dishes.
I saw the idea for using these collapsing mesh hamper baskets as “trash cans” on Pinterest and it was brilliant. I did have to use little clips to keep the bag open. My second favorite “storage” feature was a canvas colored mesh pocket shoe organizer I grabbed at Walmart. I cut the bottom two rows of it so it would fit over the counter by the door. Then I took and stapled the two bottom row into one of the seat compartments. (You can kinda see it in the above photos.)
I love my Cordless Shark ION vacuum soooooo much at home! You better believe it was the first thing on my “packing list.” I used it every few days to keep the camper carpet clean and take a quick swipe at my ivory cushion covers. And big shout out to Nelson who used some of the “downtime” while I was off shooting sessions or weddings to clean the car (cause snacktime with two kids in a car is no joke).
Staying warm and camping with an infant…
One question I got the most was, “Did you stay warm at night?” YES! We were prepared with bedrolls rated for below freezing temps, a whole pile of wool blankets and this Carter Infant Puff Suit for Wyatt (who was 7 months at the time of the trip). And besides that, the camper has a built-in propane furnace with a thermometer we can set to kick on if it gets a little chilly. (We just used the the camper in November and the temp got down to 28 degrees and we were still quite comfortable.) For Wyatt’s “crib” I just brought along this Toddler Bed Rail I already had and it was PERFECT for creating a little area for him. That was before he was crawling but I’ve used the same setup since and it still contains him!
Also while we are on the topic of road tripping in a popup camper with an infant…I have to give a big shout out to these little portable highchairs that collapse down to nothing!
The next big question I got was “Does the popup camper have a shower or toilet?” The answer is no. For the shower: After some youtube-ing and google research, I bought this awesome popup shower tent, a USB rechargable shower head pump and my favorite…this Solar Water Heating Bag! I used the solar water heating bag to warm the water throughout the day (when we weren’t traveling on the road) and then dumped it into a collapsible bucket that I would use the shower pump with. It wasn’t a “nice, long, hot shower” by any means but it got the job done! And the solar bag really works! (We also borrowed the shower at friends/family a few times and got a hotel room one night when I needed fast internet for work.)
Toilet: For the times when “behind the bush” just doesn’t work (like campground areas or camping next to my client’s barn) we had this collapsable toilet seat and used these sturdy compostable bags (so that we could bury it if needed). We could set the toilet out in
Favorite Road Trip Purchase…
I think quite literally the BEST purchase for the popup was the BAL Trailer Leveler. After driving 8-10 hour days between places, some nights getting parked and setup seemed like a grueling task. And this little leveler saved us a couple of times when we would have had to keep going further to find a flatter place (because popups have to be SUPER level for everything to go up/down correctly.) Like this one LAST campsite available in Yellowstone…when we pulled up to it we realized why it was the ONLY one left…no one wanted it because it was on a hill. But Nelson did some fancy work and amazed all the campsite neighbors. (Hard to tell in the photo…but the tongue of the camper was cranked as low as it could go and was almost touching the ground at the top…and in the back we were up on the air.) A couple of other things we used regularly were this collapsing shovel and these LED Lanterns
How we towed…
Our “Tow Vehicle” was my 2015 Buick Enclave with a factory tow package. The popup camper is well under it’s tow capacity weight and it did FANTASTIC hauling this, even through the steep and winding roads crossing back and forth across half a dozen mountain ranges on our route. It got as low as 15mpg some places but the overall average for the trip was 18mpg…and that was driving the speed limit (which is mostly 80mph once you hit Wyoming). We also took it down quite a bit of gravel roads to get to my clients rural ranches. The camper has TINY little tires but they were brand new and held up fine!
Where and how we camped…
80% of where spent our nights was “dry camping” on free public lands that we found using freecampsites.net or the OnX Map App. (Other folks call this boondocking or dispersed camping, we grew up calling it “dry camping”.) I think we only paid for one campsite without hookups in Yellowstone. Our fridge ran on propane during the night and the power from the car during the day (which was no issue because we were driving 8-10 hour days.) We had two propane tanks just in case…but we never even came close to using even one up. And we used the battery for lights now and then but we also used our little LED Lanterns It was an exhausting and incredible trip! I think our FAVORITE was a little spot we camped at along the Big Hole River in Montana. I bet we go back there someday!
Popup Camper Road Trip | Rolling Teepee | Copyright Lyndsey Garber Photography
*Disclosure: Keeping it real around here. Sometimes (not always) the links in my posts are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase I will earn a commission. (Like a whopping $0.13 you all.) You will never get charged extra through affiliate links…and sometimes you’ll even get a discount! BUT you can always trust that I link these products or companies only because I BOUGHT them with real money and USE them in real life…and not because of any commission I may or may not receive from your purchases. Whether or not you decide to buy something is completely up to you.