Introduction: How to Build a DIY Micro Camper

I would like you to meet Bob! He’s our 40 sq. ft. Micro Camper.
While I designed him to be light weight he is also very rugged and well insulated. This model was built out of a reused 5×8 40-year-old cargo trailer that had seen better days.

I figure I could build one on a brand new trailer for only about $800 more. That being said, reusing what I could and even scoring some reclaimed T&G cedar for the back and the loft we only spent around $800 for the entire build which we completed in our spare time in about three weeks.

(updated interior pics on the last page)

Specs.
Steel single axle trailer.

aluminum side walls.

2×3 framed construction.

real r-13 insulation everywhere.

birch bead board interior with 1in pine trim

3ft Ceder loft platform with inclosed sides to hold gear.

reclaimed RV door, I cut down to fit.

reclaimed RV crank out windows.

birch ply floors with enough room to squeeze a queen matress in there.

Corrugated tin roof and 1/2″ OSB to keep the weight down.

twin deep cycle 12V batteries to run 5 Led lights and a 110V AC outlet that can be run by an inverter in the front storage box.

Pluses of the unit.

It’s simple and easier than setting up a tent.

coast is very low compared to other trailer manufactures.

I can stand in it. unlike a teardrop. ( but I still love teardrops)

It’s unique, I get complements all the time.

easy to tow. I use a Nissan Xterra and just completed a trip with Bob, 2,400 miles from Colorado to Arizona and back.

It’s nice and warm and you can bet with that roof pitch it wont have water sitting up there! You can go camping and have a real mattress to lay on at the end of a long days hike! And come on, it looks like a Tiny House…. just smaller!

I’m offering micro campers and tiny houses, custom designed for people as well

Step 1: Find a Trailer. (such As This 40 Year Old Cargo Trailer)

Step one. find a cheap used trailer. it can be anything you want, a old
camper that's rotten, a jet ski trailer, cargo... anything really.

Step 2: Gut It! Take Apart! (remove to Stuff You Dont Want Leave the Stuff You Do)

I gutted the inside of the trailer and cut the back and roof off. making a hollow c shape to build a new structure in.

Step 3: Frame Up New Walls.

I used 2X3 studs to frame out the entire inside. then built a quick and dirty roof with enough space for me to stand up in.

Step 4: Add Windows and Sheet the Roof

I added reused RV windows from an old camper. sheeted all the openings that didn't have aluminum sides. and added a tin roof.

Step 5: Finish

I insulated the walls with r-13 added a reused RV door that i cut down to size, trimmed it out in reclaimed T&G ceder, added LED lights, a deep cell battery, a 110v power inverter. I now have full power hook ups. a folding outdoor camp kitchen, and a real mattress! The rest was just finish work and paint. and there you go in my spare time i built something even better than a camper and lighter to tow as well. in just three weeks.

Comments

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nyxit (author)2017-07-11

this is so cool! love it!

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nae919 (author)2016-12-28

Any thoughts on the weight of this camper? I really like it!!

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rossthebuilder (author)2016-09-29

I would really love some detailed instructions on the electrical. I am rebuilding a 1966 camper and the whole system in it was shot. (i.e. whole new electrical system)
is a battery and inverter all you need? how do you charge your battery?

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M2aestro (author)2015-07-08

I have been considering such a thing. However, I believe that drag inherent in such a design is $$ down the drain, and that one could save so much on fuel expenses with a design that would have less wind resistance than this (but perhaps and Xterra driver doesn't care?) that alternate shapes should have been evaluated. A neighbor built one for his mother using sheet aluminum, possibly not too much more time (pop rivets, etc. plus incorporated a couple windows), and I have seen various v-nosed and tall tear drop shapes that, while not having so many cubic feet of volume per unit of deck space, should suit my needs much better than this sort of high-drag box. Having heaped that on the design, however, I'd suggest that the basic trailer could be modified to put a vee nose on this thing, with some utilities in that nose on the tongue of the trailer, for what that might be worth.

Paul

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fredellarby (author)M2aestro2016-08-20

Slamming someone who is providing ideas is rude and unnecessary. Perhaps, much like yourself..

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SandiM10 (author)fredellarby2016-09-19

i agree with you fredellarby, not needed lets see your design Paul when you maybe make one and see if it get any critizimes hey buddy,..

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M2aestro (author)fredellarby2016-08-28

Yup, I accept the criticism, for I was most undiplomatic in my comment about the aerodynamics of the product...and perhaps that aspect is not of much concern to this enterprising builder, who has certainly crafted a visually attractive package. BTW, he is planning to make a V-nosed conversion, not necessarily as I suggested, but likely something he had considered from the outset. From what I read, the interior was designed to be very efficient with the space available, and that becomes somewhat more difficult as one approaches other geometries with curved surfaces and vee noses.

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jeff96 (author)M2aestro2015-07-09

Paul, your feedback seems a little harsh. Instead of criticizing, why not build something better and show us.

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ChilliWillee (author)jeff962015-07-16

I don't agree Jeff, Paul brings up valid points and makes suggestions on how to fix them. As I was looking at it and reading the description a lot of the same shortcomings came to my mind.

Constructive critisism is always good, it's not like Paul just said "It's a piece of junk and a waste of time." Now that would be uncalled for.

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jeff96 (author)ChilliWillee2015-07-16

Yes, there are some valid points in his feedback but "$$ down the drain" and "but perhaps and Xterra driver doesn't care?" is out of line. I wasn't disagreeing with the feedback regarding the v-nose idea.

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ChilliWillee (author)jeff962016-09-06

Haven't been on here much for a while, as you can see. Agreed, some of it was too antagonistic. Glad to see everyone making nice now. ;-)

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M2aestro (author)jeff962016-08-28

Yup, Jeff; my comments were heavy on the keyboard; and that about mpg being important to an Xterra driver came from my gut reaction to the low mileage that the rugged Xterras deliver, a highway efficiency even lower than the abysmal mileage delivered by my Tacoma 4WD.

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jeff96 (author)M2aestro2016-08-30

@M2aestro No harm, no foul.

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e-foo (author)ChilliWillee2015-07-16

I agree with both of you. The tone was immediately judgmental is the problem, with the comment about an Xterra driver. You could insert any model of vehicle and I think most of us would still infer negativity, given the statement. Rereading it without that makes for a much more constructive, positive response however.

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Dustman0042 (author)M2aestro2015-07-17

Paul, I do plan on building a V nose. but this shape was already part of this trailer in the form of the orginal sheet aluminum box from the cargo trailer i built it from. i was on a time crunch to get it done for a trip to arizona so i wasnt planing on modifing the shape to much.

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gilcks (author)2015-07-02

AWESOME! ! Looks like cooking and cooling up by hitch.

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M2aestro (author)gilcks2016-08-28

I would be uncomfortable with cooking near my propane tank unless the tank were removed for cooking time and had a sufficiently long hose.

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Dustman0042 (author)gilcks2015-07-07

yes that the magic box that houses all the utilites

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tom.hobart.3994 (author)2015-07-03

By using a boat trailer to create a nosecone/storage area, I regained 4mpg over your flat front style.

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I have a design that I am working on for someone else, that has a v nose with battery and propane storage. hoping this will help with the wind drag. nice work, i like the concept.

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caarntedd (author)Dustman00422015-09-20

Are you guys (in the U.S.) allowed to store propane in an enclosed compartment on a vehicle?....with batteries??

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M2aestro (author)caarntedd2016-08-28

That too struck me as a dangerous practice, and possibly not legal. Even with many louvers a slight leak could trap a critical vapor:air ratio and become a real bomb. Any specific suggestions out there for how to fix that while still providing a vee-nose? ....perhaps with bottom open frame and side of vee vents?

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pics

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The bed also folds up out of the way if I need to use it as a cargo trailer.

I liked the fold down table so much, I added one to the outside as well.

The whole thing is 12 volt and the batteries are in the nose along with all the shade hardware.

There is a steel slideout that extends 8' out the back for a shade space with no poles or guylines in the way!!

author

Boat Trailer! Brilliant! Simple, level space to make a bed, built to hold significant weight, love the storage space off the V front too. How's the insurance for one of these things?

author

None required as it is considered a cargo trailer.

Permanent tags were $135, so no more registration fees either!!!

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AmandaG118 (author)2016-08-14

My husband and I haul off old crappy travel trailers (for a small fee) and we tear them down completely to the frame. Sometimes we make car haulers, done a horse trailer once or twice, and you can even custom build your own 'new' travel trailer onto those! They already have septic and water hookups! :)

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ewbray (author)2016-08-14

Reading your
instructions, I realize that “air resistance” traveling down the
road is a large consideration when constructing a camper. Then it
sudden hit me! I just bought a medium size portable ‘crate’ for
our newest member to the family, a new dog! It folded up to fit in a
box that was 38x25x4 inches but when it was unfolded it was a ‘dog
crate’ that is 36x23x25 inches with a locking gate.

So, why not just
up-size the same concept and use piano hinges to collapse the camper
and then carry the collapsible camper on a flat-bed trailer with your
supplies either in your vehicle or in in “Pelican” containers on
top of the “camper” with your boat {upside down} on top of it all
for aerodynamics?

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plasma1 (author)2016-07-19

Just wanted to suggest something besides a metal roof, it all looks really good, but a white rubber roof would work very well for this project. Most travel trailers now days use them, they are very light weight, easy to install, durable, does not absorb heat like a metal roof would and cost effective. There are several manufacturers for this type roof GAF being one. Just my two cents.

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badkim (author)2016-07-17

Great Instructable! I did have some questions about the electrical, more specifically the initial installation and wiring from the battery to the panel/ inverter and then to lights and switches. Are you an electrician or did you have access to specific books and or other resources? What type of interior outlets did you use? What gauge wire?

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marco aurelio (author)2016-04-22

Nice.

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kirk thill (author)2016-04-21

I have a perfect trailer for this project. The sides are metal, so I just need to build some short walls. I was also thinking about making the roof foldable, to cut down wind resistance when driving. Also, I would use an inflatable mattress. It's light and you could store more stuff inside, and just leave it outside during use.

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rydermann (author)2015-07-02

Any idea what your finished trailer weighs? Do you think any 4 cylinder car could pull this?

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ToolboxGuy (author)rydermann2016-01-13

It all depends on what you load into it, and how you drive. I used to have a 4 cylinder pickup truck (Ford Ranger 170hp), and filling its box with sand was a really bad idea for the shocks, but it got up the hills with little difficulty. Just don't expect to pass anyone. Besides, a build like this is definitely not aerodynamic, so going at lower speeds is a very good idea all around.

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Dustman0042 (author)rydermann2015-07-02

im gonna try and get it on the scales here soon. but judging by
how well it towed for our 2,400 mile trip i'm guessing around only 900
Lbs a good four clyinder should have no problem with it.

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sharkstudio (author)2015-12-03

nice

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KyleG26 (author)2015-11-07

Beutiful!

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TeresaM7 (author)2015-10-30

I want so badly to get an old horse trailer and do something like this to it. My fiancé and I do Living History, and a small horse trailer would be perfect for all our gear, show equipment, costumes, plus sleeping space. Just biding my time until I get some things paid off (yeah for new homeownership, right?)

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cracked footed troll (author)2015-08-04

you could've cut time and weight significantly more using metal studs not that time may have been a big issue for you, if you ever start a build to order you could probably finish one out in a week which would balance out cost of using metal studs, good job on your build

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theoddballkid (author)2015-08-01

Sweet!

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Gee-Whiz (author)2015-07-03

Amazing item! Was bragging to boyfriend about this and he came across a great camper (this one uses a boat for top of trailer so it's aerodynamic AND functional): http://portland.craigslist.org/mlt/cto/5084475156.html. Am very curious about weight when you get it weighed, my little car won't handle much beyond 800 pounds, maybe less. Again, great job! (Oh, BTW two twin beds make a Queen so you might "murphy" them from each side?

author

Actually in the U.S., standard twin beds are 39" X 74", extra-long twins are 39" X 80" and queens are 60" X 80". I've been researching this for a van conversion. I recently saw a "split queen", which is sold as 2 pieces, each 30" X 80", available from an adjustable bed company, but it's pretty expensive.

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Dustman0042 (author)Gee-Whiz2015-07-07

Yeah! next build the side walls will be taller so i can work some magic with fold up furanture.

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saladgyrl (author)2015-07-20

I love this. I like the idea of it looking like a little house especially. The fact that the roof slants this way means very low probability of any leaks ever. I'm considering revamping my little utility trailer into a simple camper similar to this. Great job! Do you know what it weighs? Thanks;)

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Dustman0042 (author)2015-07-17

If you think this had to much wind drag..... you could always check out my bigger one!

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lady_gunslinger (author)2015-07-09

any instructions on installing the electric parts ? Ummmmm .... Me = novice. LOL

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its actually a very simple set up with only one branch circuit for DC and one 110V AC line. i will more than likely do a wright up about it in the near future.

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brad403 (author)2015-07-02

Nice !! Did you cut bird mouths for the rafters and how much roof overhand is there . Its hard to tell if it has some overhang over the walls?

Thanks,

Robert

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Dustman0042 (author)brad4032015-07-07

there is only a 1inch overhang of the roof just enough to keep the water off the walls while reducing wind drag. and with such a small overhang. a birds mouth cut was not nessacery for me.

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brad403 (author)Dustman00422015-07-08

Thanks for your response. I'll be following you on instructables.