You desperately want to put your own personal stamp on the decor of your RV, but after purchasing your camper, you don’t have a lot of cash leftover. You also want to get out there now–not months from now.
How do you take the interior of your new to you camper from “so my parents” to “this is us” without spending a bunch of cash and time? Read to find out how.
How To Keep A Truck Camper Renovation Affordable & Simple
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Our Truck Camper Before We Remodeled It
We bought a twenty-year-old Northstar pop-up truck camper for a sweet deal. We fell in love with how convenient it was on the very first trip, but we never did fall in love with its dated interior. After using it a few times, we realized a few things about the layout we didn’t love so much either. But, as usual, money was tight and time was short.
Those last two things didn’t stop us, though–well, at least not me; it took a bit longer to get the hubby on board with remodeling it. I jumped in with two feet by spending an afternoon tearing out all the elements that were bugging us the most; after that, I was forced to tap into my thrifty knowledge to keep the remodeling costs as low as possible.
One week into the truck camper renovations, the hubby sprung a last-minute trip idea on me. His idea left me with two weeks to put the camper back together.
Below is what I learned about remodeling a truck camper on a tight budget, both money-wise and time-wise.
12 Tips To Help Keep A Truck Camper Renovation Budget Friendly And Simple
1. Use What You Already Have
White was not my first color choice for our truck camper’s walls, but we had an almost full gallon of white paint left over from another project, so white is what the walls became. Once I was finished painting the walls with a coat of primer and three coats of white to cover up the blue and pink sponge design on the wallpaper, I fell in love with how much brighter it made the truck camper. Sure the light grey I originally wanted would have shown less dirt, but going with white cost me zero dollars and turned out great.
By the way, I am a paint snob, I will only use this brand of primer, and I will only use Behr paint (found at Home Depot). They have never let me down, whereas other brands have. I also find that I use less paint when I stick to these brands and get a higher-quality finish.
The vinyl plank flooring that we used was another item we already owned. We had several boxes left over from reflooring a rental home.
2. Use Your Creativity
You probably noticed from the pictures that we converted the dinette into a daybed. We did this because I suffer from chronic insomnia and wanted a place in the tiny truck camper where I could rest and watch something on my kindle fire (with earbuds in) without disturbing my husband’s sleep. Having four different pieces of worn-out foam that shift every time you move is not conducive to a good night’s rest.
However, we still wanted a table of some sort to eat a meal on, play a game at, or use to hold our drinks. We would love a Laguna table leg with a cool tabletop, but ouch! The price was way out of our budget.
So we searched Youtube and Google for ideas of how to make a cheaper alternative. Nothing we found would work for our space, so we started looking through the piles of random stuff lying around Jack’s shop.
In it, we found a folding table (like this one) that we had used in our minivan build, and our truck topper build to hold our Coleman camp stove when we cooked outdoors. My husband used the legs and some wood he had lying around to make a table that fit around our daybed. He made it in such a way that it could be stored under the bigger bed when not in use.
3. Shop Clearance
Accent pillows can be expensive! And the bigger they are, the more expensive they get. I found both of the larger tan pillows on clearance for 75% off in the picture above. They create just the right amount of back support for us when we are using the lower bed as a couch during the day.
4. Shop Discount Stores
The curtain on the window behind our daybed is from a locally owned store that buys returned items from different retailers by the truckload and sells them at a BIG discount.
When we were getting close to completing stage one of our renovations, my husband and I stopped at Big Lots, where we purchased matching quilts for the beds, a throw cushion with a fun saying (you can get throw pillows with camping sayings on Amazon for a reasonable price), and a letter board. All the things to give the truck camper a homey feel and a splash of our personality.
5. Shop Dollar Stores
I saw YouTubers use contact paper on walls and thought it looked a lot easier to apply than traditional wallpaper. When I saw contact paper at Dollar Tree, I was skeptical about the quality, but it went on with only one minor tear, and after several trips, it is still holding strong–not bad for a whopping dollar-a-roll investment. You can get the Con-Tact brand on Amazon, it is thicker, but the price is much higher than we paid; it will probably hold up longer, though.
I wanted a few inspirational sayings or art pieces to add to the hygge feel I was trying to create. With it being a pop-up camper, wall space to hang things is minimal, and what does exist can only take something thin; otherwise, we would constantly be bumping into it. I searched up and down the aisles at Dollar Tree until I found this placemat seen above with a saying I love and in a color that was perfect. It fits perfectly above the fridge, reminding us to treat campers we meet with kindness–even if they blast their music (yes, there is a story there).
6. Shop Amazon
We decided to get a narrow twin mattress (here is the one we ordered – it is super comfy) so that it was just wide enough to sleep one person comfortably but not so wide that it took up more of our walking space in the truck camper than the original dinette once did. The new setup ended up with us gaining two inches of walking space down almost the truck camper’s entire width, which means we can now walk around each other sideways when before it was a one-person-only walkway.
Narrow twins are not a popular mattress size. You can get a similar size at an RV retailer, but an RV mattress is shorter than a conventional mattress and costs more. As a thrifty lady who stands just a few inches short of six feet, I decided against going the RV route and turned to Amazon, where you can find just about anything you want. The mattress was very affordable. Another bonus of shopping on Amazon for our mattress was that I could use gift cards earned through point rewards programs to help pay for it.
7. Do It In Stages
You might have noticed that a few times throughout this article, I have referred to this being stage one of our truck camper renovations.
We plan to do more work to the camper as money and time allow, but for now, we wanted to take care of the areas that made the biggest difference to the overall feel of the camper and its function.
Stage two included adding a grey water tank, replacing the twenty-plus-year-old fridge with a new 12-volt chest-style fridge under the bed, and we updated the cabinet hardware. We also replaced the wood rot in the door and where the canvas was attached to the ceiling.
In stage three we want to update the countertops.
In stage four, we will be adding a water heater, an outdoor shower kit, and a better system for our greywater.
In stage five, we want to tackle the exterior of the camper by first doing repairs to the dented front end and then applying an exterior wrap or paint job.
Finally, in stage six, we will add a simple solar system to take advantage of free camping without worrying if our battery will die before we want to call it quits and head home.
By doing the work in stages, we can not only save up and pay cash, but we can also use the time to fully research our options and look for a good balance between price and quality, figuring out where we can save and where we would be better off paying for a higher quality product (and how to get that higher quality item on sale of course!).
8. Keep Your Eye Out At Yard Sales
I am a huge fan of community-wide yard sales. In a few hours, I can hit up dozens of yard sales, finding great deals on items that cut our living costs in various categories, including remodeling.
People will sell small amounts of new building materials for next to nothing; that can be just the exact amount you need for your truck camper remodel. Including peel and stick tiles, carpet and vinyl remnants, wallpaper, and even almost full gallons of recently purchased paint ( check date it is usually on the can).
Keep your eye out for gently used window treatments, bathroom sinks, kitchen sinks ( small bar-sized ones are perfect for truck campers), baskets to add storage, faucets, brackets, and more.
9. Thrift Stores
If your town has a Restore, check it out to see its prices. Jack and I go to them all over the nation and find that in some towns, they are super cheap; in others, their prices are like those for new items and their items are not. They are great places to find odds and ends for your remodel.
Don’t forget about Goodwill and your local thrift stores as well. They can be great resources for finding tiny, lightweight, and flat wall art to add a bit of personality to your camper.
10. Shop On Facebook Market Place
I have updated this post since it was first written, and we now have newly updated knobs on all our cabinetry that was purchased for a fraction of the retail cost thanks to a Facebook Market Place find.
11. Consult Youtube
Youtube is a great way to learn how to DIY something cheap!
12. Think Outside The Box
There is no better way to save money than creative thinking! In a small space, you can risk trying something unconventional as it isn’t going to take too much time or money to redo it if it doesn’t work.
Here are a few ideas I saw for using items in unique ways to update a truck camper while I was researching how to renovate our own.
- Contact paper to refinish countertops
- Vinyl flooring as a backsplash
- Using command hooks to hold up curtain rods in tight places or on walls with no support for screws.
- Covering cushions using inexpensive Mexican blankets, or cotton drop cloths instead of expensive fabric
- And here is one I did. I used a pillowcase we already owned to make a curtain for the small window facing the truck’s cab.
3 Places To Find Inspiration For Remodeling The Inside Of The Camper
1. Go Down A Hashtag Rabbit Hole On Instagram
Instagram is a neverending resource of inspiration. Start with the #truckcamperremodel and #truckcamperrenovation.
2. Search Pinterest
Enter truck camper remodel into the search function on Pinterest and dig in. Another search to try is truck camper remodel interiors.
3. Search Youtube
A few searches to try on Youtube are DIY truck camper remodel and pop-up truck camper renovation.
4 Things To Consider Before You Make Any Modifications
Remember your truck bed can only carry so much weight. Know your cargo capacity, and stay safely within its limits. Don’t forget to keep in mind how much your fresh water tank weighs when it is full.
A few ways to dump some weight are to replace cabinet doors with curtains or netting and tear out appliances you can live without such as the microwave.
Your home is going to rock and roll with the truck down rough roads. Those knocks and bumps can be hard on things inside your truck camper. When choosing materials to renovate make sure to consider if they will withstand a rough life.
3. Storage Space
You want your renovations to add storage space if at all possible. Never do you want to take away precious storage space.
Tiny spaces appear bigger when you stick to bright and light colors.
What The Camper Looks Like After
The last three pictures above give you a peek at what our camper looks like after stage one of the renovations. For a better look, take a look at this video tour I posted on Instagram (and be sure to follow us on Instagram while you are there). You can also see more pictures from the start of the renovation to its finish in the story highlight I created on Instagram.
More Truck Camping Articles
Are you looking for an alternative to busy and expensive campgrounds and one-night Walmart stops on the way to your destination? Check out our post about our first time using Boondockers Welcome.