Introduction: Toy-Drop Camper

Picture of Toy-Drop Camper

Tiny is the rage right now. People want to live in tiny houses and then escape them in their tiny teardrop campers. But what do you do if you want to take your not-so-tiny Harley with you on vacation?! Then of course you need one of these: A tiny toyhauler! Or as I like to call it, my Toy-Drop camper.

In Dec 2016 I posted an instructible of my 7x14 toyhauler that I had built from a cargo trailer (Search Instructables for "Mini Toyhauler Camper" to find it). I still have it and we still love it, but I couldn't help wondering how I could do more, by doing LESS! That's right, I wanted to build an even smaller camper that would still carry a full sized motorcycle and let 2 people camp in comfort. This instructible outlines that effort.

My goals were pretty simple... To take a smaller trailer (6x10 in this case) and turn it into the nicest little toyhauler I could for the least amount of money. The emphasis was to be on simple and cheap, but all the while trying to make it as nice and functional as possible.

My earlier Instructable covered many of the decisions one has to make when undertaking a project like this. For a full discussion on the options and features of a project like this, please refer to that Instructable. I won't duplicate all that discussion here. For this one, I will just talk about what I did.

Let me know if you find this valuable by liking it and making comments. Thanks, and enjoy!

Step 1: Bought a Trailer!

Picture of Bought a Trailer!

I found this 6x10 V-nosed trailer on Craigslist at a great price. Finding it is what really sparked this project. I added the spare tire on the front to get it out of the trailer. It has a side door and a rear ramp door, which makes it much easier to load a bike or other toys.

Step 2: Installed a Window

Picture of Installed a Window

I wanted a window, so I found this RV window on Craigslist for about $60. The worst part is you have to cut a hole in the side of your trailer! I just cut the hole to size (being careful to put it between the metal "studs"). They basically sandwich the trailer wall between the inner and outer part of the window. Add wooden spacers between the trailer skin and the inside paneling so that you can tighten the window without just pulling the skin too close to the inner wall. (Won't include a detailed tutorial on installing the window. I am sure there are a hundred of them on Youtube you can find).

Step 3: Painted the Walls and Installed Flooring

Picture of Painted the Walls and Installed Flooring

I painted the existing walls and then put down a piece of vinyl flooring that I bought in the remnant bin at a local discount flooring store. The trailer already had metal tie-down rings in the floor, so I had to remove those before laying down the vinyl. Once the floor was in, I simply reinstalled them. I used vinyl flooring adhesive to stick the floor to the trailer subfloor.

Step 4: Built the Bed

Picture of Built the Bed

I used the same method as on my other DIY Toy Hauler. I welded up a frame of lightweight thin-walled steel tubing and covered it with relatively thin (3/8" I believe) plywood. The mattress was purchased from Craigslist from a guy who was parting out a popup camper. I got the mattress first and then built the bed around the dimensions of the mattress. Oh, the zip-off cover came off easily, which allowed me to run it through the laundry before putting it in the camper. One nice feature of this bed design is that it keeps the mattress clean until you need it.

Step 5: Added the "Kitchen"

Picture of Added the "Kitchen"

I made the kitchen functional but simple. The sink and "water system" are identical to my earlier Instructable DIY Toyhauler article. I used a plastic picnic jug with spigot mounted over the small stainless sink. I wasn't able to find an inexpensive RV sink so I improvised by cutting a drain hole in the bottom of a suitably sized stainless salad bowl! The sink drains onto the ground via a flexible line. If the campground prohibits this, a plastic bucket or tub can catch the water for "proper" disposal.

As for cooking, we find that if we have a microwave, we can cook about anything we want. I bought a $35 microwave from Meijers and custom made the cabinet and shelves from pre-finished shelf boards from Menards. The counter top is some old tile-look laminate flooring I had laying around the garage. A dorm sized refrigerator is mounted under the cabinet, held down by a ratchet strap over the top to keep it from moving.

Step 6: Insulated the Ceiling

Picture of Insulated the Ceiling

After camping in the trailer in the Texas sun for a couple of days, I decided to insulate the ceiling. The sun heated the metal to the point where it was like having a radiator inside the trailer, and the AC unit had no chance of overcoming the heated roof.

I chose the cheapest and simplest solution I could find. I bought 1" thick styrofoam sheeting ($5.99 a sheet from the local home center) and cut the pieces on a table saw to snugly fit between the steel rafters. They are glued in place with construction adhesive. That's it! No painting. No finishing. No nothing! The foam looks fine, it insulates well, and if I damage a piece it's a simple matter to replace it.

Update: The construction adhesive did not bond well to the foam panels, so that obviously didn't work. A commenter suggested using expanding foam crack sealer. I tried that and it seemed to bond the foam panels up VERY well. Thanks for the tip. I now have a ceiling that looks decent, insulates well, AND stays in place!

Step 7: Added Electricity.....

Picture of Added Electricity.....

On my other toy hauler project I went all out on the electricity, installing a breaker/distribution box and then running three separate circuits. On this one, I opted for a much simpler approach. I bought a very heavy duty (12 ga wire) extension cord rated at 20 amps and connected it to three outlets (in a series), all connected by 12 ga wire. Thus, I have a single circuit capable of delivering up to 20 amps of electricity to the three outlets. I did not install a breaker because every campground I have stayed at has a 110v outlet to plug into protected by a 20 amp breaker. Thus, if I would ever happen to exceed 20 amps, the campground breaker would trip. I placed one outlet where the portable air conditioner can plug into it, another outlet under the cabinets for the mini-fridge, and the 3rd outlet above the counter for the microwave and whatever else. All the lights are battery powered LED for simplicity.

I installed a small door for the electrical cord to exit the camper (available online or at your local camper dealer), and then created a small "box" for it to coil up in just under the bed. This area also houses an exhaust port for the portable air conditioner (so I made it with a removable cover held on by velcro strips. Any time the AC is being used, the cord will be pulled out of that area and plugged in so there will be no interference.

Also be sure to install a smoke detector since you do have electricity and will be cooking, heating, etc in the camper.

Step 8: Added Finishing Touches!

Picture of Added Finishing Touches!

The last step is where you really turn it from a "trailer" into a "camper". Adding some small accents like rugs, a mirror, etc make a big difference. You can see in the pictures that I also added some additional shelving that we determined was needed after we camped the first time. A spare tire holder allows us to carry the spare with us, but not take up valuable camper space. Anchors were added to the wall to keep the portable AC unit in place while traveling. Also, I added anchors for a motorcycle wheel chock, allowing me to bring a bike along. Other things I plan to add include screen cloth for the back and side doors, and some sort of window shades. Again, once you get to this point, everything you do just makes it seem more "homey".

Would love your comments and feedback!

Comments

TomA116 (author)2017-09-28

say thank you Bruce, I have been trying to talk my wife into letting me do something like this for quite a while. There is times we don't take the boat with us and really don't want to take the motor home so with your very good and precise article I will be able to show her what it could look like, you did great!

BruceP28 (author)TomA1162017-10-03

Thanks, Tom. My other article has a little more detail in it and a lot more discussion on all the decisions I made and why I made them. If you haven't already looked it it, you might find it helpful. Right now we have BOTH trailers! The larger one is needed because my powered parachute fits in it, but the smaller one is just so darn hand to move and around and use for hauling stuff.

TerryN4 (author)2017-09-19

Sorry, but #12 wire is only good for 20 amperes of current, not 30. It would have to be #10 to do 30 amps. Nice outfit though and you have thought it through thoroughly and done it up very nicely. I auctioneer part-time and have thought about doing something similar for a mobile office/clerk station, with ability to sleep in it when necessary.

TomA116 (author)TerryN42017-09-28

We camp all the time in a 30' motor home most camp sites we go to have 20 and 30 amp plug ins, to this day I have never used the 30 amp as my MH does not draw over 17 amps with air on full blast, just grab your cord if it is hot then you might consider going heaver

BruceP28 (author)TerryN42017-09-21

You are probably right. I do know that every campground I've stayed at has a 20 amp breaker on the electrical box I plug into. I will make the edit. THanks.

msloan3 (author)2017-09-19

I've used large Gap insulfoam spray for Adhesive with Insulboard...Once attached you'd have to use Acetone to get it off... Just fit your board and Spray then immediately seat the section in place. Also, Foam board can be cut and shaped easily with a Box cutter or Razor just like drywall... Run a cut through sufficiently deep on it then snap it... Quick no saws and mess from foam dots flying everywhere...

BruceP28 (author)msloan32017-09-21

Got some foam as you suggested and glued one piece on today to try it. Seems to bond very well. I do have to figure out how to hold it in place awhile, though. The bond isn't instantaneous.

DavidE341 (author)msloan32017-09-20

Best tip I've found for cutting foam board is to get a 6" drywall taping knife and sharpen one (curved) edge. Then use it as a draw knife to cut the foam. Much larger and stronger sharpened edge. Most of the polyurethane adhesives should work (as well as the foam-in-a-can) as long as the metal roof is clean first (use acetone or TSP).

BruceP28 (author)msloan32017-09-19

Thanks. I will have to get some and try it! The construction adhesive sure didn't bond to it!

seamster (author)2017-09-15

This is such a great idea, but still pretty simple and approachable. Thanks!

BruceP28 (author)seamster2017-09-21

Thanks. I am a big fan of "simple".

Pa1963 (author)2017-09-19

Awesome build. My only issue is with storing the potty so near to your kitchen area. Kind of icky.

BruceP28 (author)Pa19632017-09-21

Its only there when transporting. It's also completely sealed.

BruceP28 (author)BruceP282017-09-21

When we use the trailer, we put it in the back corner.

wrsexton (author)2017-09-20

Excellent conversion! Do agree the wiring is inadequate gauge. Just run one thing at a time!

Should you decide to rewire, add a fourth outlet for your electronics chargers and you're all set! Good job!

BruceP28 (author)wrsexton2017-09-21

As long as the campground has a 20 amp breaker on the box, the wiring should be completely adequate. If I were to make a change, it would be to add a 20 amp breaker inside the trailer, but it would be redundant. (and honestly, with what I have, I won't be pulling over 20 amps.)

vettebob (author)2017-09-19

This is a really nice unit, and well done. I think I would have made the front addition slighly larger. I also would have added a 12 volt electrical system, had a charging connection to the tow vehicle, and used some efficient and cheap LED lighting inside. But yeah, I like it! Might have to make something like it to haul my giant scale R/C planes around and take my daughter camping.

How much did the trailer itself cost you to buy?

Nice job!

Vettebob

BruceP28 (author)vettebob2017-09-21

I considered all the things you are talking about but decided to forego the onboard battery because basically all I'd be using it for is powering LED lights, and today's AA and AAA battery powered LED lights are cheap and easy. I couldn't justify the cost of the converter and battery, as well as the work to install it all for something we honestly will probably use a couple times a year to camp in.

BruceP28 (author)vettebob2017-09-21

Bought the trailer on Craigslist for $1500.

DavidE341 (author)2017-09-20

I think this converted cargo trailer (and your previous version) are just terrific! I also saw something today that would fit right in with your minimalistic kitchen: our big-box store has a Copper Chef Pro single-burner electric inductive cooktop/pan combo on sale for $50. Only heats up the pan so you can do any pan-related cooking (fry, saute, steam, warm) in a small area with very little fire hazard with a very compact footprint.

BruceP28 (author)DavidE3412017-09-21

I actually have one. However, when we camped we found that we kept wishing we had a microwave to heat leftovers, heat breakfast rolls, etc. We will take the induction burner along, but probably will never get it out.

pgagen (author)2017-09-20

Very good build and nice idea. You could have a sheet of metal, supported a couple of inch above the roof, or solar panels to stop the heat getting at the roof which would help too. Land Rovers used to use this technique for use in central Africa.

vettebob (author)2017-09-19

They make a Hot Knife that can be bought cheap that works great for cutting foam, or you can easily make your own hot wire cutter to use with a battery charger.

msloan3 (author)2017-09-19

BTW Awesome cool...

BruceP28 (author)msloan32017-09-19

Thanks. I am a strong proponent of the best solution being "the simplest one that works".

DanielJ195 (author)2017-09-17

What did you use for the toilet?

BruceP28 (author)DanielJ1952017-09-19

We have a portable toilet made by Thetford called "The Curve" that we really like. It's larger than most portable toilets so it sits more like a "real" toilet. It has a built in water tank and holding tank, and even has an electric pump in it for automatic flushes (no manual pumping of water). We put it in the back corner of the camper and then bring it to the front at night. We generally only use it when we wake up in the middle of the night and have to go, but for that it's awesome. Otherwise, we use the restrooms at the campground we are staying in. Thanks for the good question.

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