Adaptive Camping - Chapter Two

I decided it was time to look for a tow behind camper that was not a pop-up. There are plenty of choices when it comes to accessible campers. I guess the top of the list are the luxury motor homes with three or four slides and all the bells and whistles. Maybe if I hit the Mega Millions Lotto.

Fifth wheel campers are nice but did not seem practical to me since I would not be able to access the area above the hitch which is usually the master bedroom area. Toy haulers are very popular since they have the fold down ramp in the back and a place to store scooters and wheelchairs. Unless you find one specifically for wheelchair users they still don’t have wide interior doors and walkways. Of course there are companies that will build campers to your specifications with any and all adaptations required. Unfortunately most of those were out of my price range.

I knew going into the project that I would need to find a good solid pre-owned camper that I could modify to make it fulfill my needs. I quickly became frustrated because so many of the available pre-owned campers were not in my budget. In talking with some of my friends I came to realize what I was really looking for was not going to be a nice new shiny camper with no scratches or dents, but one that had character and would look at home next to a campfire surrounded by me and all my “camp tramp” musician friends. Thus was coined the new term for what I was looking for, a “TRAMPER”.


After searching craigslist for months and keeping my eyes and ears open I finally found a 2004 Coachman Catalina in good condition with a floor plan that seemed easy to modify. It was in my budget so I bought it and began modification project number two of my new TRAMPER!

The changes to the interior of the tramper were a bit challenging. I enlisted the services of our local RV dealer’s service department. I had them remove part of a wall to make the central walkway wider and remove the door and one wall of the bathroom so I could access it from my wheelchair. Essentially this made the entire master bedroom and bathroom into one large area. This works as long as I am camping alone or with my family members.

I was able to get the exterior door replaced with a wider door and reversed the direction it opened so I could run the ramps parallel to the camper rather than have them sticking out perpendicular to the camper. To make the transition in and out of the camper to the ramps I needed a level platform outside the door to attach the ramps to. In order to keep cost down, I enlisted the help of a buddy named Steve that owns a metal shop. We designed and built a 48" x 48"square platform with adjustable legs mostly out of scrap 1" inch square tubing and expanded metal. We removed the steps from the camper and mounted the new platform to the brackets that the steps were attached to. This platform hinges to fold up against the side of the camper in front of the door when stored for traveling. It is very easy for me to manipulate by myself!


After experiencing issues with the weight and difficulty handling the ramps I used for my pop-up camper I decided I would need to go a different route if I wanted to be an independent camper. Those ramps were just too heavy and bulky for me to manage and I needed them to be even longer to reach the floor level of my new camper.

This brings us to the next and final chapter to this story. Click here for Chapter Three, “Ramps to Nowhere, and Ramps to Everywhere.” Stay tuned!


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