Guest Post 2013 6 x 12 Cargo Trailer Camper/bug out/suite build – By B. Winger
At first, we wanted a vintage canned ham trailer, but most needed too much rebuilding, then we thought about building a teardrop, but after seeing cargo trailer conversions we were sold!
We started out with a 6X 12’ cargo trailer that we bought for $1200, brought it home took out the thin plywood it had on the interior, and started from there.
Our budget was $2000, and since $1200 was used for the purchase of the cargo trailer we had $800 leftover for the actual camper build and thought we wouldn’t be able to get much accomplished, but to our surprise, we were able to do it all, as we wanted… By the way, the tags are permanent and registration title and tags were only $15…
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Couple’s Stealth Tiny House Built in 5 Weeks for $2,000
Read the rest of the story and take the entire tour of this stealth cargo trailer tiny house below:
The trailer was in good shape and also had brakes installed when we bought it, however the thin plywood wouldn’t work so with the blank interior we fitted 1” foam insulation from top to bottom including the ceiling, added a 30 amp electrical system that can be hooked up to any 30 amp RV hookup, generator, or with a simple extension cord to the house, it has 4 double wall electrical plug-ins, 2 light switches, and also features 3 separate breakers to isolate items such as the 5500 AC unit on its own circuit, and the microwave circuit, and the lights circuit. The electrical was easy, and essentially has 3 circuits to handle individual loads, however, the entire trailer with LEDs and low watt Microwave, and 5500 BTU AC barely works the generator. Everything electrical can be used simultaneously without overload (Try that in a conventional RV using only a single 110-volt power source)
We installed LED lighting throughout with a total of 7 very bright efficient lights. And I used a very powerful used computer CPU fan for the bathroom closet exhaust system and had the intake fresh air to the bathroom piped in with a flapper valve underneath the chemical toilet, so when the CPU fan is turned on the lower intake flapper valve opens automatically and creates a fresh air system. Having Native Hawaiian blood myself, we also chose to Tattoo the bathroom exterior wood by burning in a Hawaiian motif into it. The interior of the bathroom closet was wallpapered using old #00 and #1 comic books we had in an old box collecting dust….I hope none were worth too much money, because now their bathroom reading material permanently!
We used a corian brand countertop that we found at a local used bldg supply house (most of the materials used were purchased this way except toilet, TV, and AC unit) and fit almost perfectly in the trailer.
After finishing the electrical, and insulation, we put a vapor barrier on the walls and ceiling along with painted (scratch and dent paint at Home Depot) wallboard and created an airtight trailer interior. I had gotten the aluminum diamond plate sheet from doing some help for a neighbor, and we installed that as the backsplash for the kitchen area.
At this point I had several pieces of wood left over from another project and underlayment wood, so we then fabricated cabinet structures and installed nice used cabinet doors also bought from used bldg supply for $1 each and paid 50 cents each for the nice German made hinges. Once the cabinets were finished we fabricated a bathroom closet and also insulated that to be soundproof, used old comic books as wallpaper, and installed the toilet.
The flooring was epoxied, and sealed then vinyl flooring was installed, and then all the trim was installed on everything to finish it off. For added sound deadening we added carpet remnants picked up for free in the sleeping area.
We then built a lightweight PVC bed frame with 10 legs and plenty of under-bed cargo space, that also folds up and gives way to 48”x69” of cargo space in the back if transporting a quad or other stuff.
Video: How this cargo trailer was converted into a camper/stealth tiny house
We found the windows at a Used RV center for $15 each, and we welded reinforcement angle to the steel framing as to not weaken the structure by installing windows. The doors were all filled with spray foam for added insulation, and an added window installed on the side door.
After realizing the camper was almost too airtight, we installed a roof vent and added a vent under the cabinet that piped in the fresh air. Carbon monoxide monitors were installed, and finally, a nice unused bed from an old fold out couch was used, along with a memory foam topper which fit like a glove.
We came in at our budget of $2000, and took a small trip across the country in it, staying at several RV resorts, KOA campgrounds, and national forests. The camper worked flawlessly and stayed warm in colder temps and cooler in hotter temps. It only weighs 2000 lbs, thanks to my former aircraft fabrication skills, and carefully thought through design. The camper is literally almost soundproof, and even with the TV or stereo up full volume is hardly heard outside of the closed camper. Both I and my wife fit perfectly in the camper along with the dog. I am 5-10” and the wife is 5-0”. Next will be a solar system, and after the initial trip, I have since installed a tongue mounted generator. The water is handled by a 5-gallon gravity system, with a 5-gallon grey water catch can underneath the stainless sink that was purchased for $2 at the goodwill thrift. I also got lucky with a 25 ft 30 amp RV cord I found at another thrift store brand new for $10….
Overall it took 5 weeks to build, and $2000, if you don’t include the TV, and generator OR LABOR, haha…..It can be done on a budget, we did it. The labor was intensive, but fun, and reminded me of fabricating private jet aircraft interiors, which I have done a few of.
If we do it again I will next purchase a Car hauler cargo trailer 7’X16’ variety, and fabricate a full bathroom next time, install a bigger water system along with pumps and larger capacity tanks, and for sure a solar system or quick erect wind gen…
We have a new RV or SUV awning idea, we may trademark and patent soon, and certainly will be installing it on our next build.
Hope you all like our build and hope it inspires more people to fabricate a DIY camper…We had loads of fun, and even more fun using it. We have only used it a couple of times but loved it, we didn’t want to come home, and instead wanted to just keep camping….thus the idea for a bigger car hauler build conversion now….
The trailer WAS up for sale on Phoenix Craigslist for $4800(sold) Even though we only spent $2000 to build the trailer, much labor and planning went into the build, so overall we saved money building it, and in doing so will pass on the savings to the new owner.
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