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Living In A
By :Bob Wells
For three years I lived in a home-built camper on my 1/2
ton pickup. But the camper was heavy and I had everthing
I owned in the world in it, so it was terribly over- weight.
I decided to replace it with a trailer. It had the advantage
of getting the weigh off the truck, and onto it's own set of
wheels. My first thought was to look around and buy an
older used Travel Trailer (TT), but that had lots of
- It would be very heavy. It would be very hard to find
a TT that weighed less than 4,000 lbs, and that was
just too much for my truck to pull up the mountains
where I worked.
- I didn't have much money, so anything I could afford
would be very old and require lots of work.
- I didn't want or need all the things in an RV like
sewer, water, hot water heater, furnace or bed. They
just take up space and weight and give me nothing in
- They have zero stealth (the ability to park overnight
without being noticed)while a cargo trailer without
windows has excellant stealth.
- I am much more comfortable in a small space. To me
it just feels right!
I realized what would work perfect for me was a cargo
trailer that I converted to a little home on wheels. I
thought 5x7 feet would be too small, and 6x12 would be
too big, but 6x10 would be perfect. So I started the search
for a new or used one. There were very few used ones for
sale where in Fresno, CA where I was for the summer,
and when I did see them they were nearly as much as new
ones. I found a 800 number for TrailersPlus and called
them. The sales person was extremely helpful and we
talked for awhile untill I decided what I wanted. I offered
cash on delivery and they accepted. I got a 6x10 Load-
Runner trailer for $2400 plus tax and license. I picked it
up at their Fresno branch. I highly recommend them since
they have branches in 35 cities nationwide. Here are the
advantages this model had for me:
- Side Door and Barn style Back Door
- Over 6 feet tall inside so I could stand straight-up
- 3/8 inch plywood on the walls so I could attach
things to it
- 3/4 inch plywood floor with undercoating so it
wouldn't rot out
- Tires upgraded to radial including a spare
- LED lighting which will virtually never burn out
- Stabilizer jacks on the back
The first thing to think about, if you already living in your
vehicle, is where will you get power for the tools you
need? My campground didn't have power, but that wasn't
a problem for me. On the left above you see my Ryobi 18
volt cordless tools with their 12 volt charger. I have been
using these tools for over 10 years and love them. They
are only available from Home Depot. On the right you see
my 110 volt power tools with my Honda 1000 generator
to power them.
In the two pictures to the left you can see how I built the
bed and the front shelves. The legs on the shelves are
2x2s. They are screwed into the wall with 3 inch deck
screws since they have to go through 1 1/2 inch of 2x2, 1
inch styrofoam, and 3/8 inch of plywood on the walls.The
plywood is 7/16 and notched to fit around the 2x2 legs.
The shelves are 10 inches apart to fit Sterilite plastic
drawers. The bed is made with 2x4s. It is 30 inches wide
and 74 inches long. My feet actually go underneath the
shelves, gaining me a lot of room. I wasn't sure how this
would work out, but I love it and highly recommend it as a
space saver. I used 3/4 inch plywood on top for the bed.
You don't see them in this picture but there are 2x4 legs in
the center. I would usually use gussets to strengthen the
legs, but because the bed is screwed into the wall in the
front, and into the shelf unit in back, I didn't think it
needed them, and I was right. The bed is high enough to
put plastic totes underneath for storage. The front wall of
the trailer is curved so that added quite a bit of
complexity. The plywood had to be cut curved to match
the wall. I used a jig saw to cut the curve and the notches.
In the pictures below you can see the finished product:
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Finding the joy in Green Living.
|The trailer in the desert after the conversion.
PICTURES ABOVE The first thing I did was install the insulation.
Insulation is very important because in the winter it keeps heat in, and
in the summer, it keeps the heat out. I used 4x8 sheets, 1 inch thick on
the walls, and 3/4 inch think on the roof. The reason I used 3/4 on the
roof is that is flexible so it conformed to the curve of roof. I used
three layers on the roof giving it 2 1/4 inches total. On the walls I
used 1 1/2 inch drywall screws with washers on them to attach the
insulation, and on the roof I used 3 inch sheet metal screws with very
large washers on them to screw into the ribs on the roof. This
styrofoam had a shiny, aluminum foil covering on one side and I liked
it to because it reflected light, so I didn't add paneling over it. If you
prefer it to look more "finished" it would be very easy to add
paneling on top of the insulation. My trailer came without finish on
the plywood floor, so I stained it with deck stain. Once that dried I
added two coats of Spar-Var Marine Varnish on top of that to protect
the wood. If I had to do it over again I would do the floor first.
The space for my feet.
The front shelves and bed.
The bed and window I installed later
Storage under the bed, here you also see the middle leg.
In these pictures you can see the shelf unit that is in the back left of the trailer. It is pretty
simple. The two end pieces and shelves are 3/4 plywood. I used 2x2s as cleats screwed into
the end pieces and the wall to hold the shelf. I cut the shelves to size and screwed them in. I
sized the shelves for storage underneath and tall items on top, including my printer.
Pictures of storage shelves done.
For some reason I don't have any pictures of building the counter-top on
the right rear of the trailer, but here are pictures of the finished product.
I had enough storage, so I wanted a work surface to cook on. I found
these Sterilite plastic drawers at Home Depot and built the counter
around it. There is a 2x2 cleat screwed into the wall and a piece of
plywood at the back with a cleat on it. The counter-top is screwed into
the cleats. In the middle are four, 2x4 legs with a shelf in it. I painted
deck stain and Spar-Var on all the plywood except the counter-top
which has deck stain and polyuerethane for toughness and shine.
Above left: I have a 12 volt compressor cooler/freezer made by Dometic/Waeco. It is
on the floor under the counter-top toward the front by the door. There can't be any legs
up front since the lid is hinged on one end and I need to be able to get into it. Above
right: Rather than waste the space above the counter-top, I put up peg board. The things
I use everyday are on there. On the counter-top you can see my Coleman two burner
propane stove. I use it every day to cook a meal. The front of the counter-top is curved
so I don't hit it every time I come in the front door. To cut a curve you get a long piece
of string and hold it down on the counter-top on one end, and holding a pencil at the
other end you draw a circle. Make the string longer or shorter until you get it just how
you like it. Cut it with a jigsaw.
These are the tools I used to convert the trailer.
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