My Tiny Camper, Home Away From Home

My camper is very simple in nature: Just a 5/8″ BC plywood box on a Harbor Freight 4′ x 8′ utility trailer. As you can see from the photos though, I’ve made it into quite a utilitarian little home-away-from-home.

The basic premise was to build a getaway vehicle for my frequent snowboarding expeditions, which typically take me anywhere between 400 and 2400 miles away from home (one way). You can see from the photos that the snowboards stow away flat on the passenger side wall; there is a full-length shelf on the drivers side wall; plus, ample cargo space in my 2008 Toyota Yaris for incidentals. What you can’t see in the photos, is the full-width storage compartment in front of the bed, that doubles as a shelf/headboard combo.

Recently, I’ve made the camper a bit more “home-y” by adding a painting, some candles (great to read by, plus they add a little bit of warmth, as well as sweet scents to the air), several lanterns, and a small library of classic novels to pass the time.

Thanks for checking it out! I’m quite proud of my work, although I have to admit that it’ll probably never be “done”. That’s one of the perks of working with wood- it’s infinitely amendable, and can be cut, nailed, glued, and screwed into any shape, and I can add (or delete) features as I gain experience spending quality time in my tiny space.

Thanks for the inspiration…! -Bud


Laura is a contributing writer for Tiny House Listings and she walks the walk. She lives in a 120 square foot cabin in Asheville, NC that she and her partner Matt built themselves. You can learn more about Laura and Matt at their website 120squarefeet.com.

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Category : Blog

10 Comments → “My Tiny Camper, Home Away From Home”


  1. Petra S.

    Dec 13, 2013

    Would love to do something like this for my 2007 Toyota Yaris – 2 door hatch-back. I see your car is similar, but a Versa. How much weight can your car tow & how hard was it to have the tow bar installed? I’ve stopped a couple of places to inquire about the tow bar, but was warned away from doing it because of the sub-compact status.

    Reply

  2. Dawn Dickson

    Dec 13, 2013

    I want one!!!! This is awesome, seriously.

    Reply

  3. Ralph Sly

    Dec 13, 2013

    You went much further than many do; you started and came up with a finished product. I intend to give too much lip service with a project never to see it completed to a good usable product these days. Not so in years gone buy but maybe I am biting off more than I can chew these days. I don’t think it will be long now before you start to realize the benefit of being able to stand erect in something and would suggest even a small pop up sky light or area down the center, cheap and easy to build. Put a portable toilet at the end of the bed and you have all the comfort you need for short term camping, Cute and easy to tow and fairly stealth. Good Job.

    Reply

  4. erik

    Dec 13, 2013

    this is purely awesome!
    i love it!
    how do you handle condensating water and fresh oxygen in there?

    gotta look for old boat trailers now.
    thx for the inspiration!

    Reply

  5. Bud Stratford

    Dec 16, 2013

    Petra, my car is actually a 2008 Yaris 2-door hatchback; it has a towing capacity of 2000 lbs. (the trailer only weighs about 800 lbs., fully loaded). I had the hitch (and the required wiring) installed at U-Haul for about $310.00. It was pretty easy, since U-Haul did all the installation; all I did was write the check.

    Erik, condensation has been a bit of a problem; moreso than I originally imagined it would be. I’ll be installing a roof vent soon ($50 at Campers World)- that should do the trick.

    I’ll be posting updates at my blog, http://www.thesolitarylifeof.blogspot.com as I make changes, and learn lessons from my frequent expeditions with the micro-camper.

    Reply

  6. D.Whit

    Dec 21, 2013

    I think your small build serves your purposes well and you grasp the economics well also.

    I read your blog and one thing I wanted to mention was your entry about the blunt nose effect of the trailer on your Toyota fuel numbers.
    Your deflector idea is on the money but I think you shortchanged yourself there.
    The angle of the deflector appeared good without using a poor man wind tunnel.
    ((standing in front of hooked up units with a smoke and a box fan))
    I agree with your fugly descript, but why not build full angled sidewalls from the current corners on the angle of the frame tongue to center and cap with your deflector cut down to size ? Pretty much the same as what you have done already with triangle cut wood adding inner stability and reinforcement. Possibly piano hinged on curb side to use for storage and maybe the lower compartment hiding a propane tank and removable pass thru line for a small Mr. Buddy heater in the big room ?

    You definitely show that you get it with the flexibility available to modify a small trailer for a personal use. Yes , cheap wood is very forgiving and strong if understood and braced.
    you understand it.

    Maybe consider some cheap cheap rubber spring blocks in the Yaris rear suspension while you tow to keep the tail a bit more solid and counter the bobbing. You can jerk them out for regular driving. ten dollars if that. free at most junkyards when buying something else.

    Reply

  7. Bud Stratford

    Dec 25, 2013

    Hello D! I will be amending the front of the trailer again, quite soon. Once again, I’m very glad that I built this out of wood for this reason; amending the design is extremely easy to do. I’ll be putting a post up on the blog within the next two weeks, for the new nose design.

    I did originally have a Little Buddy heater in the camper, but I was [maybe a little too] worried about carbon monoxide buildup in the camper. The Little Buddy does have tip-over protection and an oxygen sensor… but no carbon monoxide sensor. I think that what I’m going to end up doing, is buying one of those small gas generators at Harbor Freight ($125 or so), and putting an electric space heater inside. In the meantime, I invested in a heavier sleeping bag that’s good down to 0 degrees (F), and it works quite well.

    I’ve also added a roof vent, and gas springs to the rear door. I’ll post those up on the blog this week sometime.

    The Yaris is currently averaging 29.06 mpg, towing the trailer at an average speed of 55 mph. I’m extremely happy with that…!

    Reply

  8. George Torres

    Jan 13, 2014

    Wow, I can believe that I was thinking on doing something like this with my enclosed trailer. Why I’m responding to this tiny house trailer? Well, Bud, I have the same trailer that I bought at Harbor Freight Tools :) I built my to carry my Carpentry Tools and also drove it from CA to VT. Warning: You do have to change the tires and put Radial car tires, I found that out the hard way, anyway; I am’ now selling mine because I now have a BIGGER TRAILER for all my tools. If anyone would like to see pictures of it, just email my at georgtorres90@hotmail.com and I can send you pictures of it, the trailer is back in California, good job.

    George

    PS: There is no mistake on (georg) it is spell without the “e” at the end of George.

    Reply

  9. Bud Stratford

    May 28, 2014

    Hey George/Georg! I currently have almost 10,000 miles on the camper, on the stock Harbor Freight tires that come with the “heavy duty” trailer. I’ve pulled it in all sorts of weather conditions (between snow and -45 degrees F, to Arizona sun at 105 degrees F), and the tires have not posed a problem at all.

    The only thing that I did to the trailer, that isn’t “stock”, was to methodically re-pack the wheel bearings with Lucas brand bearing grease (I believe it’s called “Tacky Red”, or something like that). Besides that, the trailer is bone-stock, assembled right out of the box, with no alterations whatsoever.

    I’ll update if my tires ever do pose a problem…!

    Reply

  10. 2BarA

    Jun 07, 2014

    Clever build and it looks cozy. I have slept in an unheated camper van in well-below freezing weather and am never cold when sleeping. I use two down-filled duvets and wear down booties. I gave up on sleeping bags years ago as they don’t allow much movement. You might try this before investing in a warmer bag. Continue to enjoy your camper and the freedom, comfort and thrift that go with it.

    Reply

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