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Pop-Up: Shake-Down or Our First Trip

Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean. — John Muir


For our first trip we decided to stay close to home just in case we needed to run back and pick something up. We chose Jordan Lake State Park since it is only 35 minutes from home. The site we selected was the Crosswinds Campground in Loop B. As with all sites in the NC State Parks system it was clean, well kept and had plenty of separation from the adjacent sites; though the bath house was a bit distant.

We had been tinkering on the PUP for 2-3 weeks and I had tried to foresee all that we would need. So we loaded up and left out on Friday afternoon for the campground. I was surprised how well the camper towed behind the Xterra. I’ve pulled may trailers over the years, ones that towed well and ones that bounced around like they were kites. Let me backup a bit…

I left work at 12:15pm to finish packing and head to the campground. I was on the interstate when my little commuter car cut off due to a mysterious electrical issue. I was still 40 minutes from home when this happened. This is why I have AAA though. I called T to let her know then called AAA. They dispatched a wrecker at 12:40. An hour later the wrecker arrived and I had them tow the car the 5 miles to my in-laws. T and the kids met me there so that I could resume my trip home to finish packing. The kids stayed with the in-laws since they were coming to meet us at the campground for dinner anyway. T and I went home, finished packing, hooked up the camper and were on the road by 5:15pm.



We arrived at the campsite 10 minutes after my in-laws and the kids. I backed in and we started setting up. When we went to pop the top we realized that the awning was missing. Hmm… The gimp strip that holds the awning bag to the aluminum channel on the roof was still attached to the camper. The stitching had completely failed. T and her father decided to go look for the awning on the toll portion of the interstate. My son and I started setting up the camper and getting settled in. When the search team returned they had the awning stuffed in the car. It had torn off and slid down the interstate at 70mph. The bag and awning both suffered irreparable road rash.



Even with the rough start to the trip we ended up having a fantastic time. We ate well, swam in the lake, hung out on the beach and generally relaxed. I was relieved to find that I slept well too. Sunday arrived and we lingered through the morning but had to be home just after lunch. The drive home was uneventful. We declared the weekend a success and were sold on the PUP.


A little bit about the camper

“Life is a blank canvas, and you need to throw all the paint on it you can.”
― Danny Kaye

This past June we purchased a 2009 Coleman Destiny Sedona pop-up camper as a replacement for two tents. Though the tents are nice Eureka family tents the camper is light years more comfortable. So lets talk about it a bit…

The Sedona is the smallest camper in the Coleman Destiny lineup. When closed it is an 8′ long box, 13′ with tongue and rear bumper. Once opened and setup it is a mere 16’9″. This is tiny in the grand scheme of pop-up campers. The average appears to be 18′ – 21′.


The image above is the layout of the camper. It is sufficient for our family of four when we use the single bed for one kid and convert the dinette for the other. Our goal has not been to spend time in the camper but to experience our surroundings and adventure out so a small camper is fine for now. I cannot fathom why folks drive 37′ RVs to a campground and only get out to connect the power, water, sewer and CABLE. Seriously, what is wrong with this picture.

Our camper is equipped with the standard sink, inside stove, propane furnace, 3-way refrigerator and air conditioning. A full length single bed, a short single bed (convertible dinette) and a double bed. It’s a basic model with a few upgrades but they are the right ones. It even came with a bag awning. We simply couldn’t pass it up at the price.

We consider it a great start but there are many changes, modifications and improvements that we want to make so that we can get the most out of it. I’ve decided to keep a running list of them in the right hand sidebar of the blog and as I, eventually, write about them I will link the post from the checklist. I’ll kick it off right now.

At the time of this post we had already taken two weekend long trips so I am playing catch up. I’ll post about each trip shortly. Since purchasing the camper I have been exploring the forums, pinterest and web to see what others have done to their campers. After our first trip is became obvious that we needed more storage about the sink so I explained to T what other had done to address this issue. We decided that we should head down the same path. I picked up all the necessary parts at the hardware and big box stores and got to work. This is what we have started with though I have already modified it a bit.

This is just the first change. There are more to come so stay tuned…


And now for something completely different...

Life is an adventure, it’s not a package tour. –Eckhart Tolle

Since before my wife, lets call her “T”, and I were married we have always desired to have adventures. Little adventures and big adventures. I met here just a couple of months before I took the “grand, winter castle adventure tour of central Scotland” with my father as an extension of a business trip. T and I have been married since 2002 and now have a 10 year old girl and a 9 year old boy. I’ll call them “D” and “C” respectively. We desire to give them ” adventures” that they will remember and wish to share with their children in the years to come.

When the kids were younger we tried to take them to as many of the local parks and age appropriate activities as we could. In fact I think they have been to almost every city, county and state park in the area by now. We have extended our adventures many ways over the years; staying with distant family and friends, the occasional stays in hotels or B&Bs. T even took D to Germany to visit her best childhood friend when D was just 4 months old. We have decided that it is now time for the adventures to grow.

T and I have been casually looking at campers almost since we met. We’ve often talked about getting one but have always come up with some excuse or another. The usual one always seemed to be that we didn’t have a car that could tow one. I’ve always had a small SUV and she is extra crunchy so shes had a gas sipper. These just wouldn’t handle it. About 3 years ago I took a new job that is 40 miles from home. I drove my little SUV for the first 4-6 months and paid for it in gas. We decided that I needed a commuter car. At about the same time some long time friends decided to sell their old Civic so I jumped on the deal. Two things came out of this. I now had a car that got 35mph and I could get a replacement for my SUV that could handle a trailer. The tow vehicle hunt had begun.

It took me a couple of months to figure out what I wanted and to find it. We eventually ended up purchasing a 2004 Nissan Xterra. This would allow for a 5000lb towing capacity which was more than enough for our needs. I began casually looking at campers on Craiglist. I thought that I needed a small camper with bunk beds for the kids and a double or queen for us. I even found several but didn’t want to spend the kind of money they were going for. So I kind of shelved the idea for a while.

Early on in our relationship, T and I had stopped at an RV dealer while visiting my parents. We looked at an overpriced pop-up camper but they just weren’t on my radar at this time. I was stuck on a teardrop style camper which would not work with the kids or a small box. About this time my brother was going through a career change. He’s a creative guy and decided to start a new business. That new business is building a high-end custom teardrop camper. He and I had multiple conversations about the best camper solution for a small family and we kept coming back to the pop-up. So it was decided, we needed a pop-up. Back to Craigslist I went.

I looked and I looked. I found one or two but there was always something that kept me from taking the leap. It was too far away or too expensive or too this or too that. I was making excuses. We decided to take the kids camping the old fashioned way… in tents. It was a great trip and we all had a wonderful time BUT I decided that I was done sleeping on the ground for fun. Two or three weeks later T was driving to work and saw a Coleman pop-up for sale at the end of someone’s driveway. She apparently stopped and took a look at it too. Later she called me an told me about it. I was working from home that day so I took a break and drove over to look at it. It was closed up and the owner was not home. That afternoon she called the owner and we arranged to look at it. It was in great shape and only 6 years old. I threw out a low-ball offer and it surprised me when they bit. T and the owner ran to the bank and closed the deal. We had a our new camper.


2009 Coleman Destiny Sedona with AC. The smallest standard box for a pop-up the is made. It’s a great place to learn and to start.

Just a note: For many years my DadofallTrades blog has been about woodlore / bushcraft, outdoor skills and gear. It’s been mostly idol for the last 2-3 years though. Going forward it will be about our adventures in our new camper and otherwise. I have archived my old blog posts to the Old Blog page if you are interested in talking a look at those.



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