It all started on a camping trip in Moab. Our kids were 4 and 2, and while everyone loved camping, my wife and daughter decided (or perhaps demanded) that it would be better to sleep up and off the ground next trip. So, we bought a popup camper. Here’s a look back at 99 nights under the canvas during our 5 years of ownership.

First, a quick backstory. My wife’s grandmother used to escape the Nebraska winters by heading to her permanently parked RV in Arizona. When she passed away, we decided to buy a camper with the inheritance. This provided a great remembrance opportunity, as we frequently reminded the kids of that funding source while telling fond stories about their great-grandma and her “trailer.”

Our maiden voyage was originally planned for a KOA with electric hookups. As an Eagle scout, this was a bit disappointing to me, but I figured we should take it easy that first trip in case of any mechanical problems. After one quick drive around the “RV resort” parking lot, we decided to head for the hills and ended up at this amazing dispersed site in Dry Fork Canyon that backed right up to the creek. The kids were so exhausted that they slept in until 8:30am that first morning, thus causing Mom and dad to love camping even more!

Our dog really seemed to like the comforts of a popup too! His special spot was on the sofa, right next to the kids.

Several camping rituals soon came to be. Like most people living in Steamboat Springs, we would try to stretch out the warmer weather fun by heading for the desert upon the first mountain snow.

This spot inside the Colorado National Monument was both dry and sunny while things back home were covered in white.

In full disclosure, that escape plan didn’t always work. Here we are surrounded by snow at Dead Horse Point in Utah. Thankfully it got up to 70 degrees the next day and everything melted away quickly.

We really enjoyed camping with friends. Sometimes they had their own camper, other times a few kids came along and slept in ours since the sofa and dinette both converted to extra beds.

One of my favorite trips was when we experienced some of the worst weather to date. It rained almost the entire Memorial Day weekend, but we enjoyed great times with great friends sitting around the table playing games, making crafts, and doing balloon animals.

The weather was usually more cooperative, like when my sister’s family came to visit and we all enjoyed this lakeside campsite in the Flattops Wilderness before the women went home to sleep on a mattress while the men and kids all stayed in the popup. In the five years of owning our popup camper, we got to camp with a lot of family, including my parents at Steamboat Lake, my mom (after my dad passed away) in the San Juan mountains at 10,500′ elevation, both of my sisters and their families, and my sister-in-law.

We were fortunate enough to back the popup camper into some amazing locations. Some were more traditional campgrounds, like this spot inside Arches National Park.

…or this site in the Grand Tetons.

Other spots were much more removed from blacktop roads, like Wire Mesa in southern Utah.

…or the shoreline of Lake Mohave. After we moved to Arizona, we really enjoyed the more year-round use of the camper.

Sometimes the roads were rough (which is why I flipped the leaf spring for 4″ of additional clearance on the camper).

…other times, the road was still covered in snow and completely impassable.

And so it was bittersweet to watch our popup drive away hitched up to someone else’s vehicle after 99 nights of us camping in it. I almost wish I would’ve slept in it at the storage lot last night to reach number 100! I’m excited for many more camping adventures in our new hard-sided trailer. It carries more water capacity for my wife to take a “navy shower” on longer trips, has bunk beds for the kids and their friends, and will soon be fully decked out with solar panels and other mods I have planned for extended boondocking.

So here’s to the next 100 nights of camping…with a toast to my absolute favorite trip thus far: the Gates of Lodore in Dinosaur National Monument. This photo was taken just a stone’s throw from where our popup was setup. You just can’t experience that in a Marriott!