Introduction: Toy-Drop Camper
Runner Up in the
Outside Contest 2017
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!
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
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
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
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"
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
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.....
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!
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!
Step 9: Re-home It...
This step is being added as an update to the original article, and is being added several months after the completion of the trailer. If you might have noticed, I had built two of these tiny toyhauler trailers (both are featured in Instructables articles). The other is a 7x14 dual axle trailer. Since we really didn't need two similar types of trailers, we decided to sell this one and keep the larger version. It was a difficult decision, as the smaller size of this trailer made it easier to tow, park, and move around the driveway by hand.
Anyway, this trailer has found a new home in the Louisville, KY area and will be used to haul paramotor flying equipment to fly ins, where the new owner (who was tired of sleeping in tents) will enjoy the luxury of a real bed!
My next project? I am really thinking that a 6x12 trailer could be the ideal size!
We have a be nice policy.
Please be positive and constructive.
Comment on JULIEB265's tip: Thanks for the tip. I did consider adding more outlets. However, since I didn't pull any of the paneling off the walls for the build, installing outlets isn't super easy. The trailer does have 3 outlets. One right next to the AC unit near the floor. One is above the kitchen counter. The third is under the cabinets and powers the refrigerator. Since phone chargers and the like don't pull very many amps, it's really easy to buy a device that plugs into an outlet and provides USB ports as well as additional AC outlets. This was determined to be an easier way to "add outlets" than actually adding more outlets.
Regarding the induction cooktop, I actually have one and love it. We took it on our first trip with us in the camper and used it a couple times, but kept wishing we had a microwave (mostly to heat things up). So I installed the microwave but we kept the induction cooktop in the trailer with us as well. Thanks for the comment/tip. I am sure I will build another one sometime.
You've obviously sold this trailer already, but I was wondering if you had thought of installing one or two more outlets. I know that some people enjoy watching TV even when camping or on vacation. Also, it's the tech era. Will you put outlets with USB capability in your next build so as to charge phones, tablets, and cameras? Those were just a couple of things I would have added. One other thing, I only have a microwave too, except for a wonderful appliance called a NuWave Precision Induction Cooktop (PIC). It uses induction to cook with precision because you can set the PIC to the temp you want. There's a timer too. It only uses pots and pans that are magnetic. It would be a great addition to any tiny home. You just plug it into an outlet and can put it away when not in use. Thanks for the great pics and ideas!