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He Built a Custom Mini Camper on a Harbor Freight Trailer!

This was a contribution from one of our visitors. Thanks, Gary! He built his own mini camper. Here are the details that he sent me. It was a 4 x 8 Harbor Freight trailer that was extended to 5 x 8.

The walls are 2 x 2 with Styrofoam insulation. The roof is flat rubber. He added an RV door, windows, and a vent on the roof. Inside there are two bunks and a port-a-potty. It is a perfect simplified mini camper.

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He built a custom travel trailer using a 4 x 8 Harbor Freight Trailer!

He Built a Custom Mini Camper on a Harbor Freight Trailer!

He Built a Custom Mini Camper on a Harbor Freight Trailer! He Built a Custom Mini Camper on a Harbor Freight Trailer! He Built a Custom Mini Camper on a Harbor Freight Trailer!

What do you think of Gary’s mini camper?

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Alex is a contributor and editor for TinyHouseTalk.com and the always free Tiny House Newsletter. He has a passion for exploring and sharing tiny homes (from yurts and RVs to tiny cabins and cottages) and inspiring simple living stories. We invite you to send in your story and tiny home photos too so we can re-share and inspire others towards a simple life too. Thank you!
{ 31 comments… add one }
  • Daniel
    June 5, 2011, 11:32 pm

    Well, it is better than sleeping in a tent – especially in rainy weather. I don’t like waking up cold and damp and finding a raccoon eating my breakfast.
    I am working on designing (and hopefully actually building) a mini camper. This one is inspiring. However, I would use a different trailer.
    I like a trailer that is sold by Northern Tool & Equipment. It has an actual 5′ x 8′ bed that is all steel (no wood). The Northern Tool trailer is 14 inches wider than the one from Harbor Freight which would make it more stable – especially when the camper is getting hit by a side wind. Remember that this camper is taller than it is wide and does not have anything holding it to the ground.
    Also, the Northern Tool trailer has wider tires. I’m not comfortable with the idea of hauling the weight of a camper on those skinny Harbor Freight tires that are not much wider than bicycle tires.
    There appears to be a chemical toilet in the camper. I greatly prefer a sawdust toilet because it results in a compostable material. Look it up on the internet. I recommend using fresh sawdust from a sawmill. Keep the sawdust in a plastic container so it doesn’t dry out.
    I would also allow access to the space under the bottom bunk. You can put your camping gear in large plastic containers and slide them under the bunk.
    Here is one final note. Some people may not know that you can order plywood that is larger than 4′ x 8′ through most home center stores or lumberyards. I’m going to get a sheet of 3/4″ exterior grade plywood that is 5′ x 10′ to use for the floor. I’ll cut off the corners of one end of the plywood to make the pointed front end (on the trailer tongue) so the back corner of the vehicle doesn’t hit the trailer when the vehicle is turning.

    • jerryd
      February 4, 2014, 7:56 pm

      If you need larger pieces of plywood you can scarf them together from 4×8 sheets.

      I grind a 4-1 scarf/ bevel onto the edge then epoxy them together. My biggest sheets so far were 32′ by six foot I use to make 32′ cat, trimaran hulls from like the 34′ tri I’m building now .

      It’s a great, strong way to build tiny homes on wheels as weighs, costs less too.

    • Jeff
      March 1, 2020, 1:28 pm

      Daniel, did you ever build a tiny house on that Northern Tool trailer you mentioned? We’re looking for examples of micro tiny homes that can be built on such a small trailer that might be towed by a mini van or SUV. We found this design: http://www.doityourselfrv.com/ironton-trailer/ But don’t know if anyone’s actually built it.

      • Ron
        September 11, 2020, 6:08 pm

        Has this been done that you know of yet?

      • Sean
        November 30, 2020, 2:55 pm

        Hi Jeff, using a northern tools 5×8 trailer I built a tiny grasshopper camper that I can pull easily with my little Kia soul. Its been from Florida to michigain, and I take it to the beach all the time!
        Northern tool trailers make great platforms!

        • Peggy
          April 9, 2021, 11:46 am

          Want & Need Advice on At Least ENCLOSING My 1720 Harbor Freight Utility Trailer.
          Emergency Situation 🤷🏼‍♀️

  • June 6, 2011, 11:07 am

    Thanks for sharing your ideas Daniel!

  • naser
    September 12, 2011, 7:06 am

    it esy to make thank you

  • Alex
    September 12, 2011, 1:52 pm

    Thanks for reading Naser!

  • william
    October 10, 2011, 12:19 pm

    where did you get the dr looks really nic great job

    • ImReady
      June 14, 2013, 9:40 am

      I”m pretty sure he meant the door. I was wondering where the door came from too.

  • Alex
    October 10, 2011, 4:21 pm

    William-what do you mean by dr? Not sure on that one. Thanks for coming by!

  • Stacie S-H
    December 31, 2012, 12:22 am

    Is there a pro or con to having wide or skinny tires?

    • Byron
      February 6, 2014, 11:32 am

      For a trailer, I would be more concerned with the weight rating and wear rate. Personally, I prefer the heaviest weight rated tire I can find to fit my trailers. Typically an E rating. All this information, wear rate, weight rating, and the like is on the tire, but your limited in choice by your wheel size.

  • Tim
    February 4, 2014, 5:58 pm

    If William means door for ‘ dr ‘ it says in the article from an RV. However I would suggest as an alternative any door from a caravan would do.

  • Kari L.
    February 4, 2014, 6:08 pm

    Would love to see more info on the “build” such as materials, weight… etc..

  • Sammie
    February 4, 2014, 6:25 pm

    Nice! I like it! I admire people who want something and just build it themselves. That’s why I like Tiny House people!

  • Comet
    February 4, 2014, 9:39 pm

    We have two Harbor Freight trailers in use. One is the 5×8′ that we use for general hauling mostly for our large motorcycle. The bike dry weighs in at 850 pounds. Add on the weight of the ramp–WHY does HF not make a RAMP for these things???—we have to lug and the tool kit and spare tire mounted in front (also HF) and we have to be at about 925 lbs.

    We have towed this behind a Mazda MPV van and a Honda CRV for a few years now. We have not had one problem even thru high mountains; extreme wind and thunderstorms; bad roads and the aftermath of Hurricane Irene when we had to go the width of NY State to return a bike. My car had a flat due to storm debris but the trailer was perfect.

    We have also used this for general use and have had no issues. Be aware there ARE two different size tires that this comes with as far as I know so pick the one best for you. We have covered thousands of miles with this one and a smaller one–more anon!—and have not had any wear or other issues altho we do have the mounted spare just in case.

    For the smaller tow-behind-the-bike trailer we took a smaller HF trailer and cut it down to match the rear width of our bike with full dressed saddlebags. This also comes with a choice of tire sizes and we picked the ones rated for highway speeds and conditions. We cut and welded the frame and sanded off the HF red and repainted. Used a car-topper camper shell and outfitted the interior with wood battens to make channels and cut-to-fit slide in wood panels to divide the space as needed. We have towed this from Upstate NY to Boston for our “maiden voyage” and the trailer traveled perfectly–altho things got a bit shook up inside leading to the compartment system! Then we trailered to Buffalo from the Eastern NY border and onwards to West Virginia and Ohio—again; no worries. We hit all sorts of weather and some pretty severe road conditions and some of the twistiest roads we have been on–and we travel to FIND twisty roads! In addition we have used this for plenty of shorter trips and it could be used for general hauling if we removed the carrier top.

    The tires that are rated for highway speeds are easily avail at Walmart etc–this is one reason to check the size before buying—these are not interchangeable! You don’t want to be stuck in Podunk with no tire avail for days. You also don’t want to have more load than the tire can handle. I don;t think the width of the tire has anything to do with this—car tires do a very different job and are wider for a number of reasons including weight. See how narrow an older sports car tire (think MG or TR7) is or even early VW tires—and bike tires–different needs mean different shapes.

    I have nothing but good things to say about the HF trailers. I would not exceed the weight limits without beefing them up but as far as tracking and handling go they are better than any boat or horse trailer we have ever pulled. The only thing we don’t like is the factory paint but this is easily fixed.

  • Comet
    February 4, 2014, 9:41 pm

    Oh and one more thing—the springs on the HF trailers can be altered to change the ride—you can easily remove one or more to make the ride less or more sprung. There are many on-line comments on why and how to do these mods.

  • David Ridge
    February 4, 2014, 10:49 pm

    I like the bunk bed idea but what about the kitchen and the rest of the house? There was not even a link to view the whole thing.

  • Dominick Bundy
    February 4, 2014, 11:09 pm

    I see only one window.Why is that? It needs more windows. for cross ventilation if nothing else..

    • Gary
      February 4, 2014, 11:45 pm

      Updates to trailer. The trailer does have windows on both sides and a rv vent on the roof. An air conditioner has been added and a composting toilet.

  • Shar
    February 5, 2014, 1:21 am

    Thanks for the helpful ideas, Jerryd and Comet! I like this post because I’m currently preparing to build a micro-camper too. I have no garage, I’ll be starting the build as soon as the snow is gone. Nice to hear about other people’s successes!

  • Marcela
    February 8, 2014, 10:55 pm

    If the microcamper is for a single person, I would just simply put the bunk above a working desk/dining table and a 2-cooking burner next to sink and above a refrigerator efficiency “kitchen” (they actually come in such a configuration!). I definitely would not leave the toilet so grossly “exposed”, even if it is just for a single guy. Storage is definitely a problem in what I have seen on the photos… So… Space for a computer. Shelf space for clothing under the bunk bed. Kitchen sink dual purpose (dishes and oneself). And definitely a wider gauge of wheel base camper – this is way too sensitive to side winds!!!

  • Mike
    June 3, 2014, 10:24 pm

    Like the trailer you built. Would like to know more about side walls and building of the camper. Thanks

  • Barbara
    March 23, 2015, 8:50 am

    Hi,I have a 4/8 trailer from HF can I make it 7 or 8 by 8 .I want to make wider.thanks

  • gary hartman
    April 24, 2019, 11:03 pm

    There are 2 windows one on each side. Door and windows are new rv surplus I bought in Elkart Indiana.I believe the gross weight of trailer was 1740 pounds. Actual weight finished was 1320 pounds. There was also an RV roof vent. There is storage under bottom bunk. Top bunk folds down to make back for couch. Small air conditioner was added thru wall in front.

  • Mavrick
    August 7, 2019, 7:49 pm

    Not so crazy about the superstructure but I really like the expansion of the basic trailer in width and length.

  • Fran
    December 12, 2019, 2:00 pm

    One question, all the weight is on one side for the beds. What’s to counter the weight on the other side? I keep seeing it tip over the way it is.

  • P. Oed
    March 15, 2020, 7:48 pm

    The trailer is not up to the task. I had one and they are flimsy, flex to the max as well as hop all over the road. It is top heavy and will probably roll in the first gust of wind. Top speed is 50 so how will you ever get any where. Looks OK on first glance, but it just will not do the job. Trust me. A $350 trailer is not a good platform for an RV.

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