Introduction: Build a Custom Camper Gypsy Wagon!

Picture of Build a Custom Camper Gypsy Wagon!

Back in July 2017, I kicked off a gypsy wagon custom caravan camper build. I had previously built an award winning tiny home (Tinyhouseinthecountry). I needed a new construction challenge. The first tiny house was built super heavy and I have not moved it much. That's ok, since it was never the intent to do so. What I was looking to do now is build a much lighter, more versatile and portable gypsy wagon where no special vehicle would be needed to tow it. My goal in doing this was sell it and to be a model and proof of concept for the format. I also wanted to share the experience and create the Instructable you are viewing right now. It is my way of returning the favor since it was actually @jaylabrosse who with his really great gypsy wagon Intstructable inspired me to want to create something similar.

I was ultimately looking to incorporate my own style and really create a special custom RV that someone will explore this great country in or simply enjoy just as much sitting in their back yard. If you think that it takes some kind of construction background, special skills, or innate talent to build one of these...it does not. Be smart. Be practical. Watch a lot of YouTube videos. The information is out there. I'm documenting my build process here. I seek to outline my various steps pretty extensively figuring that more information is better than less. Find your own construction process and bring in experts where and when needed. Be safe and be meticulous. You can do this. I did. From scratch. No real plan. Just start working. Note: The first dozen steps are really all you'll need to create a highly customizable shell. All further steps are what I did to design and complete this as a luxurious small camper caravan and are purely discretionary. Final weight on this was right around 1750lbs. btw.

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My custom RV build began with a humble trailer...

Step 1: The Trailer

Picture of The Trailer

Every house needs a foundation. Tiny houses on wheels are no different. Instead of pouring concrete though, you simply need a trailer. Much like you wouldn't want to skimp on a regular house foundation, you don't want to do so with a tiny house either. I opted for a 2017 brand new Sure-Trac trailer for a local reseller. This is a standard utility trailer that people haul around riding mowers, motorcycles and furniture on. It's a single axle with large 15" rims. It can handle 3,000lbs and the trailer itself weighs about 750lbs with nothing on it. There is a layer of decking made of pressure treated wood. I liked the steel angle iron design as it would make it easy for me to attach things to it simply by drilling through it and bolting things onto it.

You may be tempted to get a much cheaper Harbor Freight trailer but, I would advise you not to. If you plan an moving your creation around at all, the Harbor Freight trailer will be very inadequate for that. It's got tiny wheels that are not meant to go faster than 45MPH. You don't want to spend a lot of time on the highway with that.

Step 2: Let's Get Going - Side Rails

Picture of Let's Get Going - Side Rails

The gypsy wagon build was ready to kick off. Monday...no better day to start something new. I had a 6 week timeline.
As eager as I was to start construction, I wound up doing a lot of painting on day one. After a few cuts of the 2x12 boards it was time to prime and paint them. I went with a glossy black to match the trailer frame. It all blended in pretty nicely. I also wanted to do some traditional (yet functional) gypsy wagon supports to go under the overhang. Ultimately, I opted not to do those since additional support was not really needed.

Once those were in place, I planned to get the 3/4" plywood panels for the front and the back of the wagon. Given the finite capacity of the axle and not wanting to get to close to the max weight, I kept track of the things I added onto the trailer. Nothing was added this first day, so there is no weight to keep track of. Actually not only was nothing added but, the back fold down gate was also removed, so in what only happened once during this build...the trailer got lighter. That gate was heavy...perhaps 100lbs? Maybe a touch more.

Step 3: Building Up From the Trailer

Picture of Building Up From the Trailer

Front and back walls are from 4 sheets of 3/4 inch stuff. Pretty decent looking...smooth. It was $29 a sheet, so not too bad. I also picked up some 10 foot 2x4s as they will form the roof supports with about a foot of overhang on either end. Getting the measurements that the trailer required mapped out on the plywood took a bit of thought. I really didn't want to screw up the cuts on the sheets of plywood.

Total height was 81" of which some will be lost to floor and ceiling but, I will still be able to stand up in there and I'm 6'3". Once I had the first one cut out the second one was really mostly just a copy of the first cut out.

Only difference is that the back of the trailer has a channel for the ply to sit in which is roughly 2" lower, so the back had to be cut more generous on the bottom.

The front is split vertically and the back is split horizontally. I have to mount some 2x4 on the back piece to that I can put full back wall up. Note that the cut outs for the 2x4 have been made and they slot right in there. Next goal will be to get the back wall up fully and to finish mounting the side rails...basically firm it up a bit from its current state.

Step 4: Framing Roof Supports and Front and Back Walls

Picture of Framing Roof Supports and Front and Back Walls

The back wall and the upper beams were on the agenda. I also wanted to lock on all the side boards which were still loose. I had left the back wall only half built and therefore I needed to add the top section to the horizontally split panels. To do so though, I needed to put on some back supports. This will ultimately form the rough opening of the door, so some thought was called for to figure out how wide I wanted the door to be. I opted for 26 inches. I don't want a disproportionately large door on a tiny wagon.

Had to keep everything straight. Especially true when dealing with what will be the door opening. Then I had to decide if I wanted the top beams to stick out on both ends (they are 10 foot 2x4s) by a foot or have them terminate in the front an only stick out on the back. I opted for the latter. Part of the rational was that creating a wind scoop like that in the front wouldn't help with gas mileage.

Since I already chose not to go with the flared sides, I at least wanted to keep the traditional overhang in the back typical of these kind of wagons. Up front the 2x4s end flush with the front of the plywood.

Step 5: Finishing the Framing Top Front and Back

Picture of Finishing the Framing Top Front and Back

The two side edges of the roof there are 2x4 beams that need to have a corner cut off to that the roof line can extend to the side edge of the wagon. It's a diagonal cut on the edge of the 2x4. Best suited for a table saw. Without these in place, I couldn't build up the side walls since the top beam forms both the edge of the roof and the top of the wall.

Table saw was really needed for this step to happen. You could try to do it with a circular saw but, good luck keeping all that straight and true. I also added in some more bracing for the front and back walls which starts to form the beginning of the side walls.

I used some hammer in metal strips as well for added strength.

Step 6: Side Framing and Back Door Cutout

Picture of Side Framing and Back Door Cutout

Time to close up one side wall with some vertical 2x3s as framing. Could really do the other side without making it really hard to get in or out of the trailer. That seemed like a good time to tackle cutting out the back door. The sides had already been created by the vertically mounted 2x4s on the back wall. I took into consideration that the floor is going to come up a bit more with whatever I add for flooring. I wanted the opening 1.5 inches off of the current trailer pressure treated deck. In a trick I learned on YouTube during the building of my last tiny house, I ran screws through the points next to the existing 2x4s (from the inside out). Same thing on the other side and then up top, two screws as well. Since that will get you the shape of the door on the other side, all you have to do is chalk line the 4 screws up and you get the shape of the door that needs to be cut out.

Remove the screws and drill a somewhat bigger hole in one of the corners. Then you are ready to use a jigsaw to cut out the door rectangle. When you complete that...you have a rough opening for the door and I could frame up the other side wall.

Step 7: More Safety Measures for Strength and the Interior Ceiling

Picture of More Safety Measures for Strength and the Interior Ceiling

The roofing beam 2x4s were locked into place with some metal hardware that is designed for this. Safety is always the key concern and since this was meant to travel down the highway at considerable speeds, you want to build as strong as you can. In the pictures you will see the various ways this was accomplished.

At that point it was time to continue work on the roof. I did this backwards and started with the ceiling under the beams. That formed the pockets in the roof that could be filled with insulation before the roofing material was applied. On the first attempt to get one of the ceiling panels in place (luan), it promptly snapped under the stress of pushing it up and into place from the inside. Subsequent panels were more amenable to being pressed into a curve. I believe you can spray some water on one side to get a bit more flex out of these for this purpose.

Step 8: Roofing Insulation and Ceiling Lighting Wiring

Picture of Roofing Insulation and Ceiling Lighting Wiring

I added glue under the roofing beams and used a compressed air finish nailer to attach the arched ceiling luan to those beams. Next step was to fill the cavities with foam board insulation.

There was only one problem. I wanted to spray foam these in but, I'm planning on doing some ceiling lighting with some LEDs. In order to get electricity to those I needed to run wire and drill some holes into the ceiling, so it wasn't quite time to permanently introduce the foam board yet. There are many points along the way where you have to think a ways down the road since you might be closing up a space or doing something that will make it harder for you to accomplish some other needed task later on.

I measured out 30 inches from front and back in the second roof cavity on both side and drilled four holes total.

I ran wire to all four of those holes. Ok, now I can foam in the panels.

Step 9: Final Steps on Completing the Roof

Picture of Final Steps on Completing the Roof

Working on the roof is hard because it's high up and hard to reach. I was lucky enough to be able to borrow some scaffolding. All of the work I did was alone so having some scaffolding was a huge help. For the roofing material I opted for aluminum panels. It's very light and all sheets weighed a total of 50lbs. I needed 3 of them (4x8) and overlapped them sufficiently to get my overall needed 10' length of coverage. I put the panels on straight the way I wanted them and affixed them with three screws.

From there the goal was to get some chalk lines onto the metal to indicate where the beams in the roof were. I did this by putting a screw into the middle of the beam on the front of the trailer and then running the line to the back end of the beam before snapping into into place. This was to make it much easier to hit the beam with mounting screws.

That was just the beginning though. I think that this was such an ordeal since it was just me to handle these sheets. There was glueing and siliconing involved as well and to do all that and get all the holes drilled in the right place took a good amount of effort. I tend to over engineer things a bit at times, so I used a lot of screws. You don't want these sheets coming off on the highway after all. They were measured out 10 inch increments to create a uniform look.

I got it all put together and I think that it looks great. I also know it's solid and will neither leak nor fly off. Love the reflection...Has a kind of aircraft feel to it. Roofing is done. Have a friend help you with this since it's painful to tackle on your own.

Step 10: Closing Up the Side Walls

Picture of Closing Up the Side Walls

I've found with this build that I really need to think a lot about the order of how I do things. Today I set out to get the walls put up but since I'm using non-pressure treated wood, I need to think about how to best protect it. Protecting it means painting it with special outdoor paint. I went with a Wedgewood blue. It would have seemed like the last thing that I would be doing in the build but it's actually pretty early on. Also when the walls go up, it's harder to drill the holes through the uprights for the wiring, so I needed to have a plan of what that would look like as well.

The sides are simply 4x8 panels of a thinner ply than what I used for the front and back walls. Always try for an exterior worthy plywood. They sell marine grade but that is likely too expensive and excessive for most people's needs. My mission was to seal everything as best I could, hence all the painting.

Step 11: Some Windows

Picture of Some Windows

I was at the two week mark of building and it looked like a Gypsy wagon. Between the roof, the walls, the paint and the windows, I'm pretty happy with the way it was coming together.

I marked off where the windows were to go. They needed to be up from the middle height level of the wagon, so I put them right above the 24 inch mark (1/2 way up). At that point I put a screw through the wall to mark the inside as that's where I would be cutting it from. This is the same procedure I used for the door cutout.

The windows were purchased on Amazon as shed windows (12x12). They are single pane but, the glass is tempered. They fit nicely into the existing side wall framing given their small size.

Step 12: Exterior Details

Picture of Exterior Details

The door and awning beams needed to be sealed. I went with a 'cedar' look. Aside from that, I worked on the side trim work. It needed painting for the bottom pieces. With that in place, it allowed me to work on the vertical strips. First I took a small brush and hit all the screw heads to make them less visible on the side since not all will be covered by strips.

Step 13: Sealing Up the Front

Picture of Sealing Up the Front

On the front of the camper there is the top edge where roof meets front wall (over the hitch). Here the ends of the 2x4s in their respective cutouts were still exposed. I sought to cover those up. To do so, I used the remnants of the plywood I had used to cut out the wall from since it had the exact arc of the roof curve. I traced that onto a remnant piece of plywood to cut out the exact shape I needed. After making that uniformly wide and truing up the ends, it became the perfect cover for the exposed 2x4 ends.

Step 14: Front Window Cutout, Fitting and Mounting

Picture of Front Window Cutout, Fitting and Mounting

Now for the front window I wanted something large for both light and for a means of getting out of the Vardo in an emergency. You always two means of escape. This window came from Ebay and is both a slide open as well as a pop out.

I measured out where I wanted to place it. Most importantly I figured out where the bottom would be. Working alone has some challenges and therefore I ran two screws on the bottom marker line so that the window could balance on that, which enabled me to trace the outline of the rest of the window. Drill a hole that the saw blade will fit into and start cutting. Once it was cut out, I ran some 1x3 on the inside so that there would be a more solid frame for the window. Sort of a reverse version of framing for a window.

Helpful hint: Saws can leave behind ugly marks on painted surfaces. You don't want to have to repaint something as a result of that. A way to avoid this is to put painters tape on the bottom of the saw.

The top piece that I had cut in the prior step was painted and attached. Window was ultimately mounted by drilling some holes through it exterior aluminum frame, applying liberal amounts of sealer around the edge and screwing it into place.

Step 15: Trim and Flooring

Picture of Trim and Flooring

With the front window in, there was a bit more trim to do in the front. The corners of the camper I took care of with 1x3s that I painted white. That made for a good look to pull together the rest of the exterior trim that I had put on the sides. Couple more thin strips and some framing around the window, and then that was done.

Finally time to move onto some interior work. the bare floor needed to first be sealed. For that I used a thick plastic membrane which I sealed around all the edges with flashing tape. The floor itself was a click together kind but pretty high end in that it's actual oak and not plastic or something cheap. It's a small space so installation was quick and end result looks pretty impressive. Keep in mind that if you put in a floor right at the onset of interior work, you really need to take proactive steps to protect it from that point on and for me that meant using some interlocking foam tiles. It's just so easy to put in when there is nothing in your way and you don't need to make any fancy cuts.

Step 16: Getting the Door In

Picture of Getting the Door In

Full disclosure: The door you see me installing here needs to be replaced. I thought the door was solid but, reality is that the interior of the door is a kind of press board that does not play nice with water. I'll likely post an update on the replacement once I do it.

Doors can be troublesome. You want them to work right and you want them to look good. Sometimes you just have to fulfill one of those criteria but, with a door, both need to happen. That is why doors (for me) take a long time since mistakes here are a costly thing. First I did a dry fit of both of the door pieces.

The lower part will have a flat shelf area on top of it and which will also serve to keep the top part from 'going past' the bottom part. That allows you to open the top with out opening the bottom. I had to get a nice flat surface on the bottom, so I cleaned up the edge on the exterior ply.

I had also ordered some stabilizer jacks to make the trailer less bouncy and they showed up, so I popped those under the back. After cranking up the front again, it now has most of it's weight on the two jacks and the hitch crank. That leads to a much more stable trailer.

You don't want to install a door resting on the bottom, so you need to lift up the bottom of the door a bit and I did that with some spacers. These were just two small pieces of the trim I used for the exterior. Next it was time to do the hinges or more accurately create the cutouts for he hinges to rest in. I did this with a file and it's pretty labor intensive but, it gets a good and controllable result vs. using power tools.

In the end it all lined up pretty nicely. Took a long time to do this but I was happy. Tackled the smaller and lighter top half of the door next and rounded the whole thing out with some nice white trim border.

Step 17: Two More Windows in the Back

Picture of Two More Windows in the Back

To finalize the work on the back, I needed to put in two additional windows on the sides of the door. These were the same as the ones used on the side walls. It looked a bit drab, so I carried the trim theme used elsewhere on the exterior to the back of the camper as well. Add in a couple decorative touches on the bottoms of the edge beams and that was complete too.

Step 18: Insulation and Closing Up the Walls

Picture of Insulation and Closing Up the Walls

With the exterior in good shape, focus shifted to the interior and getting the walls sealed up. What had to happen for that to occur was that insulation needed to be put in and more importantly there needed to be a plan for the electrical. It's critical that you get a good overview of where you want things to be so that the electrical can be run effectively. This camper was always slated to get a mixed use RV panel supplying both 110V and 12V DC power. You saw me accommodate for the lighting in the ceiling panels earlier...now I needed to map out the rest of the trailer for electricity delivery. Once a wall is closed up, you can't do any of that anymore.

Step 19: AC Unit Installation

Picture of AC Unit Installation

Next up was the installation of the AC unit. Originally this was slated to go into the front but, I opted to put it in the back instead. The front by the hitch seemed too risky since that where there is more wind, rocks, dirt and other stuff kicked up by the tow vehicle. The back location isn't as 'pretty' but, it made more sense from a design perspective.

I did my trusty 'send a screw through the back of the wall' method to get the point where I wanted this to go. Then I traced out the back of the AC unit onto what would become a template for the cut out. All very scientific. I did square the corners and made sure not to cut out too much. Can always cut out more.

Always scary to cut in the side of the Gypsy since there is no turning back once you do. AC unit slotted in pretty nicely. I was unsure how well it would hold in place since these are meant to be put into a window and not through a hole in some plywood. AC may not be needed for everyone but, it's good to have in the summer and certainly when traveling with this RV. Since the space is so small the AC cools it off super fast. Always want a bit of the tilt on the AC towards the outside, so that any condensation can flow away from the house.

The unit is in there rock solid and fully trimmed out. I have no concern that it might jiggle loose or similar.

Step 20: Daybed/Couch Platform Build

Picture of Daybed/Couch Platform Build

It took four weeks to get to this point. From the outside it looks done. On the inside, not so much yet. Goal was to forge ahead and get the bed platform done. Idea was to create a couch/daybed that could convert for both sitting and sleeping comfortably. There was also supposed to be ample storage space underneath to accommodate a composting toilet if needed or desired.

I had a hollow rectangular piece of aluminum that I wanted to incorporate. It's great in that it's really sturdy and super light at the same time. Therefore it lends itself well to this project. So I set about constructing the platform.

Everything was geared to the sizing of a twin XL mattress. That would allow me and other tall people to comfortably lie down (I'm 6'3"). I glued and screwed on the back. Had to raise it up by the thickness of the plywood to be the same size as the aluminum beam. I marked where the reinforcements were to go and drilled pilot holes to the other side to know where to send through the screws. Some liquid nails and everything came together nicely. Attaching the aluminum beam was a bit more difficult since a screw would only loosely grab the soft aluminum material. I opted to fill the beam with a piece of 2x4 where I intended to screw it in place. That works great for the ends but, what about the middle? How would I get a piece of 2x4 there? It's amazing how ideas come to us when needed. I drilled through on the back with a small drill just to the side of where I wanted the block to go. I left the drill in place and then all I needed to do was push the piece down the hollow aluminum until it hit the drill and could go no further. That way I knew it was in position. A screw through the plywood and through the aluminum set the top to the bottom and latched onto the wood block internal to the aluminum beam. Nice. I hope you can piece together what I didn't from the pictures provided.

On the inside I was originally considering hinges so that you can lift up the frame and mattress but, went for a much easier solution. I opted to have the rather rigid frame simply rest on top of some rails I created in the back. These mount like this in the back corners of the gypsy wagon.

Step 21: Close Up the Walls - Electrical Fully In

Picture of Close Up the Walls - Electrical Fully In

Time to fully close up all the walls. I got the wiring done. It was for two 110volt outlets. One is next to the bed/couch and the other one services the AC unit by the door. On the other side of the caravan, there will be one outlet in the kitchen area as well. There is also some low voltage wiring for the ceiling lights that leads to light switch by the door.

All the wires terminate under the bed where I intended to place the panel and battery. It's a pretty basic set up. It's a small space...there is no need to make it overly complicated. Once I finally had all that completed, I was able to put up the walls which are a tongue and groove pine board. A few cuts were needed around the windows but, it went up nicely.

Also time to paint the ceiling. Went with a dark blue/grey. It's called 'Starless Night'

Step 22: Electrical Panel Setup

Picture of Electrical Panel Setup

The panel I opted for was this one. It's perfect for such a small space. I used one of the overhangs under the bed to house all of this. This was where I had gotten all the wires to come together from the various points in the gypsy that were being powered.

Electrical can be dangerous, so I'm not going to offer up how to do this here. Please consult a professional since no two install will be the same. Please use this only as a rough guide for what you can do and how you should approach this from a planning perspective.

With that said, I have a battery capable of powering the camper for several days in regard to lighting, fridge, and USB charging capabilities. If you added in some solar panels, it could stretch that time off grid indefinitely.

The wires that I had put into the ceiling now were put to use since I popped in the LED lighting (4x).

Step 23: Kitchen

Picture of Kitchen

The pictures here are not entirely in sequence but rather provided to show the various step involved. Key to the kitchen was a piece of live edge butternut that I intended for the counter top. Beyond that a frame needed to be built to hold that top in place. Furthermore holes needed to be cut into the rather thick material for both the pump faucet and the sink (a salad bowl). It was all a bit tricky given the thickness of the wood but by improvised means it all came together in the end.

There is a good amount of storage under the counter behind two doors that I custom built for the that purpose. The counter top was also smoothed down with lots of sanding going down to a 220 grit for the final smoothing of the surface. I treated the wood with a food safe butcher block restorer consisting of beeswax and other natural oils. The end result is pretty stunning. There is an outlet right by the window in the kitchen, so a hot plate (induction) can be used to cook there. Water for the sink resides in the cabinet and is pulled up via the pump tap.

Step 24: Table and Seating Area

Picture of Table and Seating Area

This area is opposite the kitchen. Prep for this was raising and extending the over the wheel overhang to create a comfortable seating area. I put in some vertically slotted 2x4s to achieve the height and depth I wanted.

Table mount was a boat based removable system where the table sits in a cup integrated into the floor. That needed to be marked and drilled out and then the cup was mounted into the floor. The top of the table is a piece of live edge sycamore. After sufficient sanding and prep, I treated this with the butcher block conditioner just as the kitchen counter. Final step was to do a hinged cover for actual seat (to sit on top of the 2x4). Once that was done, all that was missing was a comfortable seating cushion which I later found at IKEA.

Step 25: Final Trim Work and Painting

Picture of Final Trim Work and Painting

At this stage I found myself dealing in lots of small projects. Some copper caps here and some door trim there. The windows all needed to be finished with some nice right angle and angle cut plastic pieces. That took a while to complete. Bottom line is that you can make this as fancy or non fancy as you want it. Whatever you do, it will be unique to you and your tastes, budget and needs. In the end I painted all the walls white as it gives the space a really clean look and makes it seem more spacious and cheery.

Step 26: Final Touches and Branding

Picture of Final Touches and Branding

Personally I never want to build anything generic. What I build has to be representative of me and an extension of who I am. I hope that this has been a helpful instructable for you. I'm working on producing a more in depth construction guide with video, slides and voiceover instruction. That will be coming soon. I invite you to check out TinyIndustrial.com for the latest on what I'm working on.

Please leave comments (if you have nice things to say). I'm here to help and answer questions you might have. Also taking orders for shells which will get you a trailer, four walls and a roof for you to have a head start on creating your own personal space for your own personal needs.

Best,

Chris

Comments

wrsexton (author)2017-10-03

Excellent design and execution! I would've kept that trailer ramp and made a back porch for outside enjoyment, maybe with a shed roof or awning. Would keep the trailer more secure when traveling or stored by having it cover the door. But that's an addition. The trailer is smashingly good!

TinyIndustrial (author)wrsexton2017-10-04

Completely agree with you. I would have loved to keep the ramp but, I opted to put in the AC unit, so the ramp can't really fold up properly anymore in the back because the AC will get in the way.

On my utility trailer, I got tired of unhooking the winch. Mounted a plastic tool box I had inside the bed of my old s10. Mounted the winch inside, after it was mounted to the trailer Frame. Waterproof with some extra storage around the winch. Maybe that's the way to go with the a/c unit. And a little extra duct work of course. Open the lid for air flow when it's in use. ??? Just a thought. Very nice job, especially alone. I've got a stripped down pop up camper trailer, with the out riggers already installed. I'd imagine it'd be worthy to hold the weight of something like this?
Thanks for the time to share this.

wrsexton (author)wrsexton2017-10-03

Actually just using 12' 2 X 4's and extending the roof an extra 2 feet would be easier and look natural. Cut the ramp to about 4 feet (save 30 of those 100 lbs) and have a nice sitting area.

TinyIndustrial (author)wrsexton2017-10-04

Nice idea on the longer 2x4s. Could have extended at least another foot and still had proper overlap in the roofing material. As I responded back to someone else, the ramp was not really usable anymore once the AC went in the back wall. Without the AC unit back there, it would be a good idea to do as you suggest.

quickbargain2002 (author)2017-10-08

For your outside power and water. Where do you get the hose connector to mount outside? It is a female hose connector correct? Also did you have a connector outside for 220v or is it a 110v and where would you get sometime like that?

Water is self-contained on the inside. There is a 2 gallon tank I installed. You could go much bigger if needed. The sink has a pump faucet and drains to the outside. You could capture that if need be.
In regard to power, 110 come into the wagon via a simply connector and the use of an extension cord. The cord plug into the outside and routes into the camper via this: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B009ANV81S
It's a pretty simple set up. When not connected to electricity the lights work off of battery. That also powers USB and 12 volt plug.
Hope that answers your questions.

Thanks, that lead me to more items on amazon that more closely fit what I needed. It's Tough to buy something when you don't know the name.

I am looking at 110volt/30AMP from the Campground so have to work with what I am provided. I also plan on using two 20 amp breakers and send the wiring out to two different circuits. I also plan on having hose line put into an outside hose connection then route that to sink, shower and toilet. Looking at a pre-filter, heater, maybe a pump when not connected. So many things to think of doing. I may have to stop by a campground and see what is provided to the customer.

Dr.Bill (author)2017-10-06

So you have a house battery, how long before you install a solar panel?

TinyIndustrial (author)Dr.Bill2017-10-06

Yes, there is a battery. Solar would only really be needed if you were to take it off grid for more than a few days. I've had no need to do that but, subsequent owners may want to go that route of putting in a solar system.

CraigC115 (author)2017-10-04

I like keeping the ramp to do double duty as I have trouble with steps these days. And can a person use sheet metal studs to reduce weight?

Dr.Bill (author)CraigC1152017-10-06

I would use metal studs or wood 2x2's.

I like your ramp idea too.

billandritsch (author)2017-10-05

I really like your trailer,the design fits our needs for a smaller trailer with appeal. What do you use for heat in cooler weather? Many of the Vardo builders are using small woodstoves but a small electric seems like it be suffient.

Thanks. A small space heater is completely sufficient to heat this. A wood stove...even a small one...would likely be overkill in this size space. If you intend to go fully off grid though, it's likely your best option though. One of those wall mounted sailboat ones...stainless.

quickbargain2002 (author)2017-10-01

Thanks for the build info this was a lot of work for one guy, but very nice build.
Had a few questions, where did you order your aluminum 4*8 roof material from and what thickness? How big was the basic trailer wood floor dimensions before any build being done, also does the trailer have brakes or are they not needed? I was also surprised you didn't use any type of house wrap, would moisture come through the walls or ceiling?

The roofing material is 4x8' sheets of aluminum (3x) from a local instance of "Metal Supermarkets" (over 80 US locations). The thickness is listed as 0.040 on my invoice which for aluminum appears to translate into '18 gauge.' The three panels are very light and don't weigh much more than 50lbs combined.

The trailer is a 5x8' Sure Trac utility trailer with 15" wheels, so the actual flooring in the camper is 40 square feet. But...with the extensions over the wheels you are gaining an additional 2' in width on the interior. That makes the overall interior space feel bigger and creates something more like 7x8'. Interior feels more like a square shape than a rectangle.

There are no brakes on the trailer.

No, no moisture gets in. If you wrapped it, you would need to side it or similar. That would add a lot of weight. Goal was to seal everything as good as is humanly possible to prevent moisture (especially while driving in the rain) from getting places where it shouldn't get to.

Thanks for responding, I will have to look into the outside materials. I am looking to build a 6*10 and your video helped me with the extra 2 feet width I would have 8*10. This looks like a lot of fun. I did have some concern if we need to worry about building code when building these? I mean some code is easy enough to understand. But was not sure about things like roofs etc. Was not sure if these are considered RVs or little houses, and what we need to worry about as far as codes?

MatthiasK20 (author)2017-10-03

What a great demonstration of sharing your idea, execution and the result. Great instructable, Chris, very inspiring, meticulous and high quality. As is the gypsy wagon itself - likewise its big sister, the tiny house. I was lucky enough to have thoroughly enjoyed a tour of both up in the catskills, NY. Chris truly did a great job of both constructs and is so passionate and committed about it. If only I could take one of them to Germany ... But there're trailers and plywood over here, too. Thanks ever so much for sharing your work, Chris. Awesome job!

It was an honor to have you visit and thanks for the kind words. I'm glad that you got to see it in person. Nice to hear that I might be 'inspiring' people to move forward with their own plans to build one of these for themselves...

Chachi1984 (author)2017-10-02

This is absolutely beautiful! I'd like to build my own Tiny Home and a Vardo Wagon seems like the perfect thing to build before venturing into something bigger. I've never built anything before but I'm a quick learner, how difficult would a project like this be for a complete novice?

This is a great entry level tiny house project! You will learn so much in building one of these. It's a pretty low level of commitment as well and if/when you do make mistakes, they won't be as costly or irreversible as they might be with a much bigger structure. Just know that there is a lot of support out there and the when you run into a problem there are folks like myself that are happy to lend assistance. I don't have a construction background...I would consider myself 'handy' but, it's even surprising to me that I was able to make something like this... Thanks for your comment.

SeanP113 (author)2017-10-01

What did the total cost come out too?

TinyIndustrial (author)SeanP1132017-10-02

It's hard to put a clear price tag on this. Some of the materials I already had. Some I could have sourced cheaper if I had had more time. There is also the factor of having to buy or rent certain tools that you may or may not have. The main costs were the trailer at $1250. Windows were about $250. Roofing was about $170. Electrical set up with the battery was around $300. Add in all the lumber, paint, flooring and so on and it starts to add up. I would say that given enough time and resources to find suitable products, you can easily put one of these together for $3K-$4K. All in, mine added up to more than that for the aforementioned reasons. I'm looking to do a more accurate breakdown of the financial accounting around this and maybe release that in another documentation of this build.

grannyjones (author)2017-10-02

Brilliant use of hurricane ties!

They really make things sturdy and prevent bad things from happening on the highway.

Two Paddles Design (author)2017-10-02

What a great build, thanks for sharing

Thank you.

hiestaec (author)2017-10-02

Love it, have you landed on a price for the shell yet and how long to have one ready? Would be a great way to jump start a build. Is there enough height to raise the bed and have table with seating underneath it?

TinyIndustrial (author)hiestaec2017-10-02

A basic shell starts at $5900. That includes a

- quality trailer (like the one I used...5x8')

- four framed and closed walls

- a roof

- a cutout for the door

This provides starting point for what you want this to be. Create your own vision. Other things can be added on by me at your request but, they will naturally add to the overall cost.

Doing what you suggest with the bed would likely not work unless you are a really small person. The bed can however be folded up though (front lifted to sit vertically) and you can create a seating area in it's place that is much larger than the live edge seating area I have in the build you see above. You could also simply build on a slightly larger trailer for more space (ie. 5x10')

Battlespeed (author)2017-09-30

Very nice. Did you mention what the tow weight is? I didn't see it.

1750lbs. was the final weight.

Thanks - I was just coming back to say I spotted that in the article.

I think just about anything but a Vespa could tow that, which is very cool.

DejayRezme (author)2017-10-01

Awesome instructable! Thank you for sharing :)

I posted it on reddit under /r/TinyHouses/

Thank you for posting! I appreciate all the sharing of this taking place.

Only In Ur Mind (author)2017-10-01

This is brilliant. This can be used for so many wonderful things like an amazing place to do Henna for a business. It's portable to go to festivals. And of course would also be perfect for camping. Thank you for sharing.

MikeD39 (author)Only In Ur Mind2017-10-01

What a cool use for this camper! You need one of these :)

Only In Ur Mind (author)MikeD392017-10-01

You are absolutely right. I do need one of these. It would be perfect!

Henna studio is a new possibility. Could definitely be used for that. Very portable...very good for festivals. My daughter wants to turn it into a haunted house for Halloween...

That would be a very cute tiny haunted house and she would remember that forever You did a great job from building to instructions. Thanks.

ClenseYourPallet (author)2017-09-30

Fantastic looking camper!

Thanks!!

TotallyTember (author)2017-10-01

So cute! I love the colors and finishing touches! BTW, your tiny house link brought me straight back to here. I am enamored with the Tiny House Movement, so I'll be looking that up! :)

Thanks! I checked the link. Not sure why that was happening. Looks like I was able to fix it though. Try it again.

jomorgan (author)2017-10-01

Thank you so much for documenting this build. Your wagon is certainly inspirational. All I now need is someone to be enthusiastic enough to build it for me in Australia. What a lovely way to see this country. Thank you once again.

TinyIndustrial (author)jomorgan2017-10-01

Fly me out to Australia and I'll build you one :)

sideshowsoddities (author)2017-10-01

Final weight?

1750lbs

Ghostrider513 (author)2017-10-01

Awesome build Chris. What size trailer did you get? A lot of folks may try to buy a Harbor Freight trailer. I wouldn't suggest that. This looks like a 4 x 8 or 4 x 10.

Second comment. They sell an exterior grade plywood designed for applications like this. ACX 23/32 is 3/4" plywood. The biggest reason to use the exterior grade is the glue used to hold the veneers that make up the plywood together. It's waterproof. The plywood won't de-laminate causing many problems later on down the road, including water rot, mildew and the like. If the structure didn't move and flex, like a shed or house, the paint would work great. I fear you'll have issues at some point. Gere's a list of plywood- exterior grade people can look over:

PLYWOOD - EXTERIOR PLYWOODExterior Grade Softwood Plywood is most commonly used in the construction industry for its structural qualities and price point. It is usually made from softwoods such as Douglas Fir or Pine. A structural exterior (water resistant) adhesive is used to adhere the veneer layers together. The higher grade panels are sanded on both sides and are sometimes referred to as Sanded Plywood or Sanded Panels.

When referring to thickness, exterior grade plywood is nominally smaller than the referred to dimension e.g.: ¼ inch panels are actually 7/32” or ¾” panels are actually 23/32” etc. See our list of available sizes below.

Species: Douglas Fir or Radiata Pine

Click here to view the ROSEBURG PLYWOOD AND COMPOSITE WOOD PANELS MSDS Sheet


ThicknessSizeGradeCutCore 1/2" 4' x 8' ACXRadiata Pine 15 / 32Veneer 3/4" 4' x 8' ACXRadiata Pine 23 / 32Veneer 1/2" 4' x 8' ABXFir 15 / 32Veneer 3/4" 4' x 8' ABXFir 23 / 32Veneer 1/2" 4' x 8' ABX - ClearfaceFir 15/ 32Veneer 3/4" 4' x 8' ABX - ClearfaceFir 23 / 32Veneer 1/4" 4' x 8' ACXFir 7 / 32Veneer 3/8" 4' x 8' ACXFir 11/32Veneer 1/2" 4' x 8' ACX Fir 15/32Veneer 5/8" 4' x 8' ACX Fir 19/32Veneer 3/4" 4' x 8' ACX Fir 23/32Veneer 1" 4' x 8''ACX Radiata Pine 31/32Veneer 1/2" 4' x 10' ACX Fir 15/32Veneer 3/4" 4' x 10' ACX Fir 23/32Veneer 3/4" 5' x 9' ACX Fir 23/32Veneer 1/4" 4' x 8' CDX Fir or PineVeneer 3/8" 4' x 8' CDX Fir or PineVeneer 1/2" 4' x 8' CDX Fir or PineVeneer 5/8" 4' x 8' CDX Fir or PineVeneer 3/4" 4' x 8' CDX Fir or PineVeneerAdditional Information: Exterior Grade - No 1 Glue

Finally, people can use vinyl siding over foam board. It's light weight and cheap to install. Or, they can use fiber-board siding. Heavier but very durable.
I want to make sure you know I really like what you have done here. This is really cool. I only make suggestions to help other builders have a better experience with their project. No NEGATIVE criticism. FYI, I'm going to build one of these myself. Thanks for the great work and ideas. Well thought out.

Thanks for your comment and all the detail you provide. This build is on a 5x8 trailer from Sure-Trac. I liked the 15" rims and solid tires. I would recommend going with a 5x10 to make it more of a 2 person camper (full/queen bed instead of twin XL). I agree that building this on a Harbor Freight trailer is only a good idea if you have little or no plans to travel with it. In other words, if you only intend to park it in the back yard. If you read the listing for the HF trailer, the max speed on it is 45MPH...just not safe on the highway.

Planestorm (author)2017-09-30

Just to let people know. Marine grade has no voids. All plywood is assembled with water resistant glues. Marine grade is not worth the price for this sort of project. I like your build.

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Bio: Corporate America escapee now doing more meaningful things like building tiny houses and helping others build them as well. Beyond that, I also coach people ... More »
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