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Today we’re taking a peek inside a reader’s tiny western camper that will transport you to another time and place. I could even see this used on the set of the show Deadwood.
After moving to Colorado in 2017, Lorene and her husband, Doug, discussed buying a 5th wheel and touring the country but weren’t quite ready. That’s when she decided to renovate a tiny vintage camper all by herself as a creative outlet.
With the guidance of friends and family, she transformed what was once a simple hunting shack – stripped of all plumbing and electricity – into a tiny western camper. Best of all, she was able to use mostly leftover, reclaimed, or salvaged materials.
This camper is super tiny, only 8’×11′, which is why she was affectionately named “Bitty.” It doesn’t have a shower, but a small closet was cleverly turned into a tiny bathroom using a portable camping toilet, hidden by a shower curtain.
I love how Lorene didn’t let anything get in the way of her camper remodeling dreams. For example, when she couldn’t park the camper at their house due to HOA restrictions, she graciously accepted her brother-in-law’s offer to keep it in his backyard. She was also able to borrow his power tools to get the job done. This just goes to show that when there’s a will, there’s a way!
Tiny Western Camper Remodel
TYPE OF RV
1971 Rancho El Rae
Year and a half
Tell us a little about yourself and what inspired you to renovate a tiny camper:
I am recently retired from a 40 year career in advanced practice cardiology nursing and have always been interested in interior design. After shopping for a camper, I found the interiors a little less than appealing. I decided to try my hand at renovating a vintage trailer in anticipation of maybe doing a larger one if I liked it. I absolutely loved the journey. Bitty, my 11 ft 1971 Rancho El Rae became my project and my friend for a year and a half.
Although I like to camp, hike, ebike and be outdoors, I like the challenge of trying to design for ease of use with a little glamping style.
How often do you travel?
Recently not much, but have started camping again close to home for now. I don’t live on the road yet, but hope to travel more in the future after my next renovation of a larger camper we can live in.
How would you describe your decorating style?
Rustic modern, but Bitty begged for something more Western.
What’s your favorite aspect of interior design?
Seeing the vision in my head come to life in the design is my favorite. I also like learning new things and working with my hands, tackling new challenges.
Did you draw inspiration for this western camper remodel from anything or anyone specific?
I absolutely drew a lot of inspiration from this remodel from others you have posted on your blog. It is fun to see the ugly ducklings transformed into homes that reflect the personalities of the owners.
What are your favorite places to source products and decor?
Habitat for Humanity Restore is my favorite. I also pick up things at thrift stores, flea markets, Facebook Marketplace and then splurge on items I can’t live without.
I salvaged the corrugated metal from the neighbors chicken coop rooting extras and from Uncle Benny’s local salvage yard.The rusted, twisted metal piece gave me a battle, but I finally won.
What do you love most about your western camper?
I love that Bitty is unique, and that my 92 year old Dad (and brother) found it in them to construct the oak bar for me. It is exactly as I had envisioned it. I did learn that a saddle is too big for a barstool in this tiny space and that too much makes it feel more crowded.
What project made the most difference?
Since she was stripped of her plumbing and electricity when I bought her, the replacement of those simple amenities was a must. But, the most difference was showing myself that I could do this renovation by myself. Well, almost all. I picked the brains of lots of friends (including those at Colorado Camper Van) and YouTube video makers, bloggers and websites.
What was most challenging about this tiny camper remodel?
Electrical, electrical, electrical. Prewiring is beyond me so my friend Bobby from work offered to help me prewire the trailer in exchange for taking his 2 daughters shopping for prom outfits. Both of us win.
With 110v, 12v and Solar power, the learning curve was steep. My brother in law was a great consultant to get me over this building hump.
What’s the most meaningful item you incorporated?
The oak bar came from a tree in my Dad’s back yard. He felled the tree and planed the plank a number of years ago and had it in his shop. I asked if I could use it in Bitty and he offered to make the bar for me. It means a lot that at age 90 he was willing and able to do this for me. It was also meaningful to make new friendships here in Colorado after just moving here. Neighbors would stop by while I was working on her to chat and check on her progress. In this small town, it seemed everyone knows where Bitty lives.
What’s your favorite splurge-worthy item that was incorporated into the interior?
The splurge item was the western bedding set from Wayfair that I snagged at 80% off, but fit the bill perfectly. I used the bed skirt to make the roll up curtains and used leather fringe to tie them up. The other splurge was to install a hot water heater for instant hot water. A splurge for sure in this tiny place. I was amazed I could get a hot water heater, clean and gray water tanks, a water pump, storage for drinking water, my coffee pots (both electric and French Press), a pan, and my portable stove in that tiny space under the sink.
What piece of advice would you give someone about to embark on a tiny camper remodel?
My advice is to have a plan and do your research. Working in a “home” that is bumpin’ down the road provides opportunities to be inventive about keeping things in the camper from moving around and keeping things simple. Well, easier said than done in the design world in a moving target, but super fun.
What’s your least favorite aspect of traveling in your camper?
No shower for sure.
Where would your dream RV vacation be?
A slow trip in the 5th wheel to see small town America.
Are you planning any future projects?
I am currently building a She Shed in my backyard to house all my tools etc. and to have a place to work from to start my next camper redo. My husband and I are on the hunt for the perfect 5th wheel camper to start renovating this fall. I’ve narrowed it down, but just have to find it.
Thank you Lorene for sharing your tiny western camper with us! We can’t wait to see what you do next!