A pop-up camper makeover that puts the FUN in FUNCTIONAL


Matt and Abbey Fraser’s outdated 1994 pop-up camper is now a fresh, bright inviting place to stay. Total renovation costs were $200–$300. 

GROWING UP IN CROSSLAKE, MATT FRASER HAS FOND MEMORIES OF GOING CAMPING WITH HIS FAMILY. He and his wife, Abbey, who grew up in Breezy Point, knew they wanted the same outdoor camping experiences for their own children, Ruby, 3, and Leo, 1.

But first, they needed a camper.

“We looked for over a year because we didn’t have a lot to spend on a camper,” Abbey explains. “Matt had really high expectations and a list of non-negotiables — no leaks, no cracks in the roof. He was very particular, and we only wanted to spend a few hundred dollars. The layout on the inside was important to me.”

Matt and Abbey, both 2006 Pequot Lakes High School graduates, live in Fargo, North Dakota. In March 2017 Matt spotted a 1994 Palomino Mustang pop-up camper for sale in Wahpeton, North Dakota, an hour away. The owner had kept it in a pole barn for a long time and despite its age, the camper was in good condition. They bought it for under $1,000.

The Frasers then went to work. They developed a plan to clean, repair, paint, and replace fabrics and the flooring. The entire process took two months. First they deep cleaned the camper and Matt made some minor repairs to the floor boards and tail lights.

The inside was badly outdated. Matt’s mom, Mary Fraser of Crosslake, had bought Abbey a sewing machine a few years earlier for Christmas, but Abbey hadn’t learned to use it yet. She was determined to figure out the machine and sew her own cushion covers and curtains.

“We Googled, we watched tons of YouTube videos. I’d never done a project like this,” Abbey says. “We decided we can do it and save ourselves some money, so we’re going to figure it out.”

The “After” photo. After renovating the camper, Abbey Fraser purchased decorative items from her local dollar store to complete the look. 

Matt and Abbey Fraser’s outdated 1994 pop-up camper is now a fresh, bright inviting place to stay. Total renovation costs were $200–$300.Abbey wanted outdoor fabric for the seating because they have two dogs and two children. She was able to find “ugly green” seat cushion fabric on clearance at a local fabric store, using a store coupon for further savings.

“It was hideous,” Abbey says with a laugh. “But it was basically the only thing we could afford.”

For their funky floral fabric she shopped online during a sale and ordered enough to complete the seat backs and overlay around. They would put the kids to bed and stay up late sewing cushion covers.

After washing the old curtains in her washing machine, she then measured, cut and sewed twin sheets, bought on clearance at her local Wal-Mart, right over the top. For the tie backs, she again sewed the fabric right over the top of the originals. She then purchased matching fitted sheets for the beds.

The couple painted the wood paneling inside the camper a bright white color, sealing it with a polyurethane top coat — all on sale. They did five coats of paint, which took only an hour in the hot sun. They bought peel-and-stick vinyl flooring that they installed themselves. It was one of the more expensive materials they used during the remodeling process, but they liked the durability of it.

As a finishing touch, Abbey went to her local dollar store to purchase useful and decorative items for the camper.

Mustang Sally, as they lovingly named her, was finished. In total, the remodeling project cost about $200–$300.  While their Fargo home has mostly neutral colors with natural wood, Mustang Sally was meant to be both fun and functional with bright colors.

(Left) A “Before” photo of the wood paneling in the kitchenette in the Frasers’ camper. (Right) The “After” photo. The couple painted the wood paneling a bright white color, sealing it with a polyurethane top coat. 

“We wanted it to function well as a camper but we wanted to have fun with it, too,” Abbey says.

The Frasers were happy with the finished result. They were able to use the camper at the Crosslake campgrounds one weekend last summer and hoped to do more camping this summer since their children are getting older. The camper has a double dinette and is spacious, yet light enough to be pulled behind their vehicles.

“The outside doesn’t tell the story — it’s from the 90s, it’s brown. Frankly, it’s just ugly on the outside. But then people come inside and say ‘Oh my gosh, I can’t believe this!’ I think that’s a cool thing.”

Their DIY camper makeover has inspired others. A couple of their family members and friends, including Matt’s parents, Tony and Mary Fraser, started their own camper renovation projects.

Abbey’s advice is to not be intimidated by a project like this, even if you haven’t attempted anything like this before.

“In the beginning, it was super intimidating. I didn’t know how to sew,” Abbey explains. “But there are a lot of resources out there and it can be done. If you look hard enough, there are deals to be had. Sometimes you have to think outside the box when gathering resources. The packages of sheets we used were only $7 each and one sheet made several curtains. That helped us save a lot of money.”

Camping is about making fun and memories. Abbey says their camper reflects that sense of whimsy and fun. She says she’s had Matt pop the camper up in their driveway so she and the kids could play in it.

“It’s so cute, it’s like a dollhouse,” Abbey says.