City Living In A Pop Top Camper

With house prices in Auckland City (New Zealand) going through the roof, 22 year old Lily Kemp decided to get a bit creative in order to escape the rent trap. For her, inspiration struck in the form of a vintage pop-top camper which she found on TradeMe (similar to ebay) for only $1,000. 

POP-TOP-CAMPER-POP-UP-TABLE

The camper is parked in the backyard of a flat in a central city suburb, where Lily pays just a fraction of the rent that those inside the house do. Such low rent means that she has been able to take a couple of months off of work over the summer to enjoy a nice long break and truly spend some time relaxing.

POP-TOP-CAMPER-KITCHEN

The camper contains almost everything that Lily needs, including a galley kitchen, fridge and gas stove. Although she is able to use the kitchen inside the main house, she seldom does.

POP-TOP-CAMPER-SOLAR-POWER

The whole pop top camper is powered via a very simple PV system, which Lily picked up on TradeMe for only $60. Amazingly, this is able to power all of her electrical needs, charging her cell phone, battery bank and powering a fan and the LED camper lights.

POP-TOP-CAMPER-BED

Most important to Lily is the fact that she now has a space which she can truly call her own. A place to decorate to her style and where she is answerable to no one.

LILY-OUTSIDE-HER-POP-TOP-CAMPER

For the foreseeable future Lily plans to keep living in her camper and says she absolutely loves it. Her next plans are to replace the old canvas and to winterise the camper.




Posted on by Bryce Posted in Tiny House Tours

About Bryce

I'm a film-maker with a passion for small space design, permaculture, and downsized, eco-friendly living. Join me on my travels as I meet people from all over the globe who are living big lives in wonderful tiny houses!

41 Responses to City Living In A Pop Top Camper

  1. Luciano Castro

    Hi bro,

    I’m excited about this idea, I’m studying the possibilities of living as Lily Kemp and reduce my expenses of rent.

    Where can I find the rules that define where I can park an RV/motorhomes in New Zealand and how long I can stay parked in certain places?

    Is there a club of people who live in RVs/Motorhomes in New Zealand? Where can I get more information about this lifestyle and rules in New Zealand?

    Thanks

  2. Victoria Gallogly

    Bryce!!!
    This has been a great video you have shared, and thanks Lily for opening up your home and story. I think it is a fabulous effort, you have made campervan living look luxurious and cute. I live in Auckland too and have the same idea, save a bit of money on rent and be able to live where ever we want around Auckland (possibly get out of the center sometimes for a break from the hustle and bustle). I have question about how she kept the van warm in the winter with just the canvasing on the side??

    Thank you,
    Tory

  3. Hannah Rohe

    Hey! My partner and I are renters in Auckland, and are really excited about getting stuck into the research towards building our own tiny house once I am out of UNI at the end of this year. I’m an actor, currently doing some research about the housing crisis for our graduation performance. Is there any way I could get in contact with Lily – or anyone else in Auckland who has found creative ways around the rent trap up here – to hear more about them and their stories?? Please feel free to email me.

    • mango

      what is your email address?

  4. Allisha

    hello I REALLY want to do this i have been working to save money to fix a pop up tent that i bought for 700usd but I have no idea how to replace the canvas? its torn and it rarely rains in Southern CA but it can get a bit chilly, Can someone please give me a clue on how to replace the canvas?What canvas to use? Im really at a loss

    • Bryce

      Hey Allisha. There are many companies that do this professionally. Get in touch with manufacturers of pop top campers in your local area, and they will be able to help point you in the right direction.

  5. Jen

    Hi Bryce,

    I’ve really been enjoying your videos, all are great… but this one is my favourite – I’ve watched it several times.

    I currently live in Ottawa, Canada – we don’t have the climate here to be able to live in a camper more than a few months… no matter how winterized… but, I’m heading to California in the Fall and if I’m really lucky, maybe I’ll find a great vintage pop-up too.

    Thanks for all you do with your site!

    ps I can’t wait to see your finished house too!

  6. Mary

    I believe our greatest assett is good health as so many people have said down the ages.
    Investing in that is more important than saving money.
    By all means get a nest egg together but don’t do it at the expense of your health. Many occupations have built in energy and body cripplers that can creep up insiduosly and it can be so hard to get off that tread mill.
    Bryce you are on to a winner. I love all you are your contributors ideas.
    There are various web sites that will indicate free range camping places and hints on stealth camping so they maybe a help to people without access to free or cheap land.
    The process of building and gathering rescourses for building a tiny home will empower the person enormeously.
    Wishing evryone who does this that it becomes a haven for body and soul.

  7. Derae

    I was thinking one way to winter-proof the caravan would be to sandwich some kind of insulating foam (pool noodles/hydroslide mats) between two layers of canvas. Of course a little wood stove would be a great idea, as has already been mentioned.

  8. wendy-aussie

    Hi Bryce, I’m interested in the solar panel she is using, any idea of the power rating of it? Brand name? Would love to try it out in our window at home to help start our tiny living transition 🙂

    Thank you,
    Wendy

    • Bryce

      Hey Wendy! Sorry, I don’t know the exact brand. It’s quite a small unit though, and to get away with this (as Lily does) you have to be incredibly spartan with your appliances. I would recommend first working out what electrical items you need to power and then work out the size of your panels and batteries accordingly. Solar panels are now getting extremely affordable, and I think it’s always a good idea to over spec your solar system.

      • Melody

        Thank you Bryce for all the information and instruction you give. Off the grid is what I would love to do. Husband and I have already lived in a caravan, so we know how to downsize. Now Tiny House here we come.Regards Melody

  9. Nicky

    Hi Bryce, I’ve been watching ‘tumbleweed’ tiny houses in US for years, and really excited that someone (you) is starting something similar over in NZ. Like Michelle earlier, I’m keen to sell the house (kick the big mortgage for good). I would luv to have a small/no debtlife and have a section with a tiny house…however, buying land in NZ we still need 50% deposit…so if I manage to find a cheap section somehere in the countryside, then I doubt any bank would help finance a new tiny house?…just wondering in your line of work if you could put feelers out for ways in which someone who has say 80% amount of money for land and tiny house build, to get loan to cover the rest..otherwise it will take another 10 yrs to save…have you heard of anything or any builder who would perhaps package a land/tiny house together, to make borrowing from bank easier…(whether as a personal loan or mortgage..), just might help more people than me into this great lifestyle! PS. good on Lily, good to see the young one’s out-smarting the rest of us!, thanks for any advice you have for now Bryce, cheers Nicky, Waikato

  10. Alexander López

    Winter readiness is a very serious matter, and I think a visit in the cold season would be worthwhile. But there is another thought abougt Tiny House living I can’t get out of my head.

    How do Tiny House owners avoid odors when cooking inside such a small space?

    • Bryce

      In our home, we have positioned the stove next to a window, and also have an extractor fan above. It’s very important to put fans in a Tiny Home. It’s a topic we will be covering in more detail in one of our later videos. 🙂

  11. Mark Frost

    Greetings from Canada.

    Lily, great job on the caravan. Any thoughts on posting a blog so we could follow along with the joys and challenges of living in a caravan?

    All the best

    Mark Frost,
    Delhi, Ontario , Canada.

  12. Brady

    Greetings,
    Here in Phoenix, Arizona, I wish that I could live in such a nicely made space! It has been known to get as high as 52 degrees Celsius (125 Fahrenheit) here! Solar works wonderful though. I was born in Sydney and I will return in a few years I hope. Her voice in the short interview makes me soooo homesick. Haha! I have heaps of books I need to read also. Where could one put them? The way she downsized is very smart! Forgive me if I’m too forward, but there is something about this beautiful woman and her love of learning that certainly tugs at my heart strings.
    I could easily see how lucky her future husband would be waking up next to her for the rest of his life 🙂

  13. Robin

    Bryce: you appear to be the spokesperson for Lily so I’ll direct my question to you.

    I think it’s fantastic what Lily has accomplished. Is she taking a Gap Year and then will be back to working full-time?

    I am only asking because with Millennials there is such a denial of “Saving for old age” and I personally know a ton of Millennials that work only enough to pay what they need and the rest of the time they are “having fun”, rather like the Ant & Grasshopper tale. Before you know it, you’re 30 years old with no savings to speak of, when you could have been putting aside savings for years.

    I am NOT knocking Lily nor her choices; I applaud them. But, I read in so many of these articles how the man or woman works the minimum amount of hours possible to only finance trips and micro-brewed beer. There is zero though put into saving for the future or for illness, which strikes at all ages.

    Cheers to you and Lily. <3

    • Bryce

      That’s a good question. From my perspective, downsizing is actually a great way of helping to prepare for your retirement. For example, if you are able to construct a small place to live, that is free of debt, then you are in a much better position to save for retirement etc than someone who is still putting that money into paying rent, and therefore funding someone else’s retirement.

      I personally think that the ideal model for Tiny House living is to build your Tiny House to escape the rent trap, then save the money to eventually buy land mortgage free, then move your tiny house onto that land and if you wish continue saving to construct a larger home.

      Plus, it also really depends on what you consider a good investment. We are lead to believe that savings, shares and investments of all sorts are solid choices for our futures, but it’s really not always the case. Here is New Zealand in recent years there have been many cases where finance companies made bad investments and thousands of New Zealanders who had placed their retirement savings with those companies lost everything.

      I think in many ways, the best thing that you can do for your retirement is to try to remain free of debt, to live within your means and simply, and then to invest the money you do have into creating a healthy and happy lifestyle.

      Cheers, and thanks for your comment!

      Bryce

      • NE_Surfer_Girl

        Suze Orman actually talked about Millennials recently on her show/pod cast, and she stated that 70% of working Millennials are saving for retirement and they start saving at age 22! (earlier then any other generation)

        As a working “Millennial” myself, and a tiny/small home owner, I can tell you that I too started saving for retirement at age 22, and currently (age 28) I have over $150k saved for retirement. Although I did spend a bit more on my small house then Lily did, I think keeping living expenses low are definitely a key way to help save money for retirement. Especially when renting and average home buying prices are so high. I live in the US, so I’m not sure how that compares to NZ investment options, but I think investing wisely in the stock market now is a great thing for us, since we have the time to recover if our investments go down and we benefit from all the years of compounding interest. 🙂

        I know it may seem like we live paycheck to paycheck, but I think most Millennials are actually very savvy savers. 🙂 (You might just not see us post about it on Facebook/Instagram/Twitter. haha)

        Cheers!

  14. Cole

    This is a nice idea. But the Council changed the rules a while back, stating that if any structure whether moveable or fixed, is being used for permanent residence (greater than a few weeks. Don’t know the exact time frame), then they require a resource consent for the structure. How well they enforce it is a different story though.

    • Bryce

      Yup, there are restrictions agains full time caravan living in Auckland (although as you say, unless there are complaints from neighbours it is not really enforced and plenty of people do live full time in caravans). In Lily’s case, she travels often, going south of the country for work, and often north to visit family, so if you are moving often it’s a different story.

  15. Stewart Bowland

    Absolutely fantastic. So happy to see young people avoiding the typical debt cycle that I unfortunately find myself in. Bravo.

  16. leon evangelisits

    well done Lily , an inspiration to how i would ultimately like to live ‘grid free’.
    Very poignant comment! “remembering how at peace you always feel during camping trips!’

  17. Sharon Huxley

    Love the idea of having one’s own space to do exactly what you want, I also love to look at the vintage campers. It shows how you can live with so much less than you think. I would love to see Lily’s camper winterised as well.

  18. Emma

    Cool, that’s a really nice in between for when you are young and first leave home. i’d love to see it winterised!

  19. Sarah

    What about in the winter?

    • Bryce

      If I was looking to winterise something like this, I would do it in a similar fashion to a yurt, using an additional lining of wool inside, and then a small wood-fire inside.

  20. Viola Woolcott

    I so admire you for your passion which I share. One day soon I be doing the same 🙂

  21. Diana

    I have done almost the exact same thing. I have a camper van I am remodeling. Its sits on an acre of property I own, completely off the grid. I use solar power for the fridge and my electronics. I use solar lights callec Luminaids for interior lights ans propane for the outdoor kitchen. I haul my own water and harvest what little rain water we get here in the desert. I left my job and plan to devote the next two years to setting up my homestead before returning to what I hope is part-time work.

    • Bryce

      This sounds fantastic! Congratulations, and best of luck with the next phase of your journey. 🙂

  22. Gina Kemp (Grandma in England)

    Absolutely fantastic, Lily. I/we are so proud of our lovely granddaughter. So talentend and so artistic. We wish her every success in her venture and best wishes in wherever she decides to travel and whatever she decides to do.
    Grandma & Grandad in England xx

  23. Ann

    Good for you Lily. Happiness isn’t measured by the size of your house or your possessions. At a young age you’ve figured this out and can enjoy the out doors doing that which you like unencumbered. I like your house.

  24. Tiffany mees

    Where does she shower?

    • Bryce

      Inside the house where she is renting the land.

  25. sarushka

    where is the bathroom? 🙂

    • Bryce

      Inside the house where she is renting the land.

  26. Michele

    You start designing tiny houses, Bryce, because I’m getting geared up to buy one!! 🙂

    • Bryce

      Hey Michele! Hopefully the plans for our Tiny House will be up soon! Stay in touch and let us know how your progress is going. 🙂

  27. Quinn Nguyen

    Hi Bryce,

    I would like to know if this is the same pop up camper that Lily owns http://losangeles.craigslist.org/sfv/rvs/4851390001.html

    Thank you,
    Quinn

    • Bryce

      It looks quite similar, but I don’t think it’s the same one. I’m pretty sure that Lily’s camper was made here in New Zealand.

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