As a kid, I spent a lot of time outdoors with my family enjoying the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest. We just didn’t sleep there. Our days of exploring usually ended in the comfort of a cabin or a lodge.
But Chris’s childhood excursions were all about camping. His parents owned many travel trailers over the years, and they took their kids camping almost every weekend in the summer. In contrast, my first and last camping experience involved an old saggy cot slowly unraveling beneath me while I listened to cows stomping and snorting just outside of the tent all night. Good times!
So I was a little apprehensive when, several years ago, Chris wanted to buy a travel trailer. He was interested in a 1966 Airstream Caravel. Oh boy.
Meet The June Bug
The trailer, dubbed the June Bug by her former owner (yes, the trailer is a “she”), lived in Texas. Chris took a leap of faith and purchased her based only on photos and information from the owner. The owner graciously offered to tow her to Salt Lake City and leave her in a storage yard for us.
I was worried about what such an old trailer would smell like. Mold? Mildew? It was probably pretty gross.
Chris unlocked the trailer for the first time and stepped inside while I hovered safely outside.
My first question was, “How does it smell?”
“Smells pretty good,” he said. And he was right. The trailer really didn’t smell like anything. And it seemed nice and clean.
I was sure that hooking the trailer up would be a huge project. I settled in for a long wait.
But Chris had the trailer ready to go in 15 minutes.
And we were off on a trip to the Four Corners area. It was one of the most carefree vacations we ever had. Having the trailer seemed to give us so much freedom and so many options.
So now I love our little June Bug. And this year is a big one for her: She turned 50. And like most 50-year-olds, she had a few character lines.
So we treated her to a little makeover. We had the damaged aluminum panels replaced, and we had the exterior professionally polished.
Camping in the June Bug had been a fair weather activity as the windows always leaked a little in the rain. So we also had aluminum rain guards installed over the windows.
Rain guards like these were standard issue on many Airstreams older than the June Bug, but by 1966 the design had changed. So I love how these rain guards add to the vintage charm by making her look like an even older model.
Why Choose a Small Trailer?
Our Airstream is only 17 feet long, so we are able to camp in campgrounds and sites that prohibit longer trailers. It’s easy to maneuver and easy to hook up to the truck and tow – no extra sway bars needed.
But having a tiny trailer also means having to be very organized. I still have a lot to learn, but I will share with you what I have learned so far about tiny vintage trailers.
Her New Look
Recently we took the June Bug on her first excursion since her makeover. We camped at the beautiful Deception Pass State Park.
There were a few bugs to work out at first. Remarks like “Look at those tall trees!” quickly turned into “Do you smell propane?” and “Why is that leaking?” Apparently a few things had rattled loose during the makeover.
Tiny Trailer Tip: Always bring your toolbox.
But soon we were able to get to the really important task: Dressing up the the June Bug.
I was worried that the trailer might look too flashy and obvious after being polished. But in fact the opposite has happened: The polished aluminum is so reflective that she almost disappears into her surroundings.
Want to see the inside? Come on in.
But first please take your shoes off.
Tiny Trailer Tip: Tiny trailers can get dirty fast. For the campground, bring shoes that are easy to slip on and off, and leave your shoes outside the entrance on a large indoor-outdoor mat. But also bring a broom for the inevitable sand, dirt, or pine needles.
The Floor Plan
Except for a few minor tweaks, the June Bug’s floor plan is pretty original. A pullout table went missing somewhere along the way, but there is still a small dinette table.
There is plenty of storage space in this little trailer – more than we actually use.
Tiny Trailer Tip: Clean the trailer thoroughly before storing it at the end of each camping season.
Still worried about hidden molds, I once scrubbed every inch of the trailer interior. And I give the interior a thorough cleaning at the end of each season so it’s ready to go for the next season.
We haven’t made any huge improvements to the interior. The previous owner revamped the tiny kitchen to resemble a rustic cabin kitchen. It’s cute but I’m torn. We need to either take the look further or revert to a classic vintage trailer vibe.
We want to refinish the wood underneath the upper cabinets and on the wall – and elevate the microwave to gain more counter space. And speaking of counter space . . .
Tiny Trailer Tip: Do as much food prep as possible at home in advance, and store the food in stackable containers to save fridge space.
I plan ahead and chop, dice, even cook whole meals at home in advance. The tiny trailer kitchen is really best for storing food and heating it up, not for creating meals from scratch. Plus once I’m there, I’d rather be hiking than cooking.
The kitchen had a tiny bar sink, making it difficult to wash dishes, so we installed a larger sink.
But we still want to replace the faucet with a larger one that has a sprayer.
Tiny Trailer Tip: Bring easy-to-clean cookware. “Roughing it” doesn’t need to include scrubbing baked-on food over a tiny sink.
One of our improvements was this couch, which pulls out to an almost-queen-sized bed.
Tiny Trailer Tip: Skip the high-thread-count sheets, but bring good pillows.
Glamping is all the rage, and I’m always tempted to bring nice sheets for the bed. But with this bed/couch setup, I would be spending way too much time fussing with sheets. Here again, I’d rather be hiking. So I bring sleeping bags instead – and really comfy pillows.
The “Dining Room”
We like to eat outside and rarely use the little dinette area. But occasionally it comes in handy. At some point I will make new curtains – ones that look more cheerful and let in more light.
You can see here some of the overhead storage and also the under-bench storage.
It’s a real bathroom, but it’s pretty tiny. There is nothing glamorous to show you here. It’s nice to have a bathroom in such a tiny trailer, but for showering I often prefer to use the roomier campground showers.
Tiny Trailer Tip: Keep a small caddy stocked with everything you need for your shower so you can just grab it and head to the campground shower. Another small caddy can hold toiletries you may want to use outdoors or in the trailer: Sunscreen, bug spray, moisturizer, etc.
Our Rolling Cabin
With Chris’s background in trailer camping, he knows what to do and is very organized and prepared. This makes our camping experiences so carefree and pleasant – for me anyway. Things would not go nearly as well if we were both rookies at this.
To me, the Airstream feels like a tiny vacation cabin – with the best location any cabin can have: Anywhere we feel like going.
Disclosure: Affiliate Links are used in this post.
Because things can shift while the trailer is moving, shatterproof, easy-care plates and glasses are the way to go. But to me, food never tastes as good on disposable plates. So for camping we use Corelle dishes. I love that they are good quality and made in the U.S.A. Having the right accessories can really make trailer camping fun.
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