Ideas to Renovate a Small Travel Trailer Camper

by Dodie Nelson
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Small travel trailers have hit the road again. A vintage trailer camper combines retro style with a less expensive mode of recreational vehicle. For many owners, half the fun of owning a camper comes from renovating it. Turn a little travel trailer gem from the 1930s, '40s, '50s or '60s into a vacation vehicle that will have other travelers honking their admiration. True trailer aficionados update their campers with an eye to both comfort and retaining the original feel of mid-20th-century travel fun.

Restore Versus Renovate

Decide whether the project's goal is restoration or renovation. Restoration returns the camper to a state as close to the original as possible. Renovation retains much of the trailer's charm but adds personal and modern touches. The market value of a vintage camper can be greatly reduced by renovating it. Buyers of restored small trailers are looking for campers with original equipment, colors, appliances and furnishings. Modern touches, even those in keeping with the camper's original era, diminish its collectibility.


Paint quickly refreshes a trailer camper. Stay true to the camper's decade with colors from the period. Consider bringing the outside paint palette inside. Small travel trailers run from 14 to 16 feet in length, so choose an interior color that opens up the space. Save bold colors for accents; paler shades will be easier to live with over the long haul. Add pizazz with broad alternating stripes in harmonizing hues. Select washable paint for easy cleanup. Avoid painting original woodwork and metal even in renovations.

Refrigeration and Plumbing

Install a more efficient refrigerator and toilet. Avoid absorption refrigerators if possible; they are more expensive than standard refrigerators and use more energy. Find a unit with as many power options as possible: more options, more travel flexibility. Look for a toilet with a full bowl flush even when using alternate power sources. Anti-germ toilet seats lessen the growth of fungus and mold. Flexible rubber tubing moves with the road and is less likely to break or leak.

Convenience and Connectivity

Add a microwave for quick meals. Save space with a flat-screen monitor that does double duty as a television. Appliances in the same bright color liven up the trailer's interior. Stainless steel appliances can make the interior seem larger. A hodgepodge of colors and finishes closes the space in and detracts from an overall look. Install new work surfaces with easy clean finishes. Buy a router to link devices and eliminate cord clutter.

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