Intro: EASY 3-PERSON CAMPER WITH OUTDOOR KITCHEN & SHOWER, BATHROOM, AND SUNDECK
THIS EASY TO BUILD CAMPER HAS FEATURES LIKE NO OTHER:
* Under 16 feet in length, which qualifies for a Permanent Trailer plate in California.
* LIGHT - It's right around 1800 pounds finished!
* TONS of storage: Two areas accessible from the outside, storage under both beds from inside, a large drawer, and a long shelf above the side bed, a "clean" storage area above the main bed for bedding and clothes, and space under the inside counter and drawer.
* A large fold-up outdoor kitchen shelf, big enough for BBQ, Stove, water station, and food preparation, all at the same time.
* A private Porta-Potty room.
* An outdoor private shower that's easy to set up or take down and store.
* A back porch big enough for two small chairs to enjoy on a rainy day.
* A 2-foot by 4-foot window on each side and a 1-foot by 3-foot window on the front.
* 1.5 inch thick insulation inside all walls and 3 inch thick insulation in the roof.
* And my favorite: The entire roof is a walkable Sun Deck with features to make it totally private.
Step 1: THIS CAMPER HAS a LONG AND GLORIOUS HISTORY!
Built on the 1750 pound capacity trailer from the local freight distributor...
It started out as a Kayak Hauler, but even then it provided a nice place to get myself and kids off the ground for camping. Yes, the kids slept in the tent on top, and adults in the middle enclosed area. It also had a 2' X 2' X 8' lockable storage area along the side.
Eventually, I decided I needed a Motorcycle and Camping Gear Hauler more than anything else, so I cut the top off the original design. This was when I had just bought a new house and was doing extensive clearing of the back yard. I used the trailer to move and haul away rubbish as well.
The last two photos show the removal of all the structure above the frame. The structure wasn't really as bad as it appears, but I had knocked it apart with the blunt end of a heavy axe prior to getting back down to the frame level.
Step 2: SO... LET'S BUILD THIS THING!
I didn't do it at the very start, but soon enough I found that I needed to move the axle back about 9 inches to get more Tongue Weight. More tongue weight keeps the trailer from swaying at highway speeds.
In the photo, you can see where the original mounting holes for the leaf springs are located (right and left ends of the red brace). I had a friend make two sections of U-Channel by welding two L-Channel pieces together (because they came together at the perfect width). You can just go straight to U-Channel if you can find the width required. The U-Channels, each with a leaf-spring mounting hole, are bolted to the frame at the proper distance, allowing the leaf-spring/axle assembly to be shifted towards the rear of the trailer 9 - 10 inches.
OK, WITH THAT DONE WE CAN START THE BUILD...
In the drawings, the RED pieces represent the original steel trailer frame. Start by bolting a 2 X 6 X 78 inch board centered across the front of the frame, and a 2 X 6 X 75 inch board across the back, both depicted in Mauve color. Note that this will give us a 74.75 Interior width after Interior Walls are added.
Assuming a 3/8" interior floor thickness: Set the top edge of these 2 X 6's 1.875 inches above the frame. This will allow the top of the Interior Floor to be level with the 2 X 6's when it is set above the 3/8" thick Exterior Floor Panel and 1.5" X 1.5" framing pieces added next.
(%Note: Adjust the 1.875" height offset to accommodate thicker Exterior or Interior Floor panels)
Place a 48 X 96 (4' X 8') X 3/8" sheet of pre-painted plywood over the metal frame. It should fit exactly to the edges of the frame, but trim if necessary.
Add 2X2's (actually 1.5" X 1.5" when finished) of proper length ( 2 EA: 96" and 2 EA: 45") to frame the piece of plywood just placed. Drill and bolt through the 2X2's, plywood, and metal frame to firmly secure the wood to the frame.
Add the Left and Right Outside Frame pieces as shown. Make these 124.5 inches long in order to add the Extension for the Back Porch and Porta-Potty Room.
Add the Back Cross Beam to complete the assembly as shown in the photo, also in Mauve. The top surface is aligned to the top of the 2 X 6's as sown. I used two 3-inch deck screws at each end to attach this piece.
Step 3: ADD FRAMING TO BACK UP WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN WITHIN THE INTERIOR SURFACES
For the rest of the build, the next step may be the Hardest Part, planning-wise!
We want to have support under the Interior Floor and behind the Interior Walls to give support to Interior Panels, Bed Framing, Shelving, and Storage areas. We also need to span the Seams between the plywood panels that make these up. We have to plan ahead because once covered over with the Interior Floor and Wall surfaces we can't go back and add them later. So, for the Floor...
In the first picture we see Framing in Blue that backs up the walls that will seal the Exterior Storage Areas from the inside of the camper. Distances are 24 and 20.5 inches.
A 2X2 at 47.25 spans the seam of the Forward and Middle Upper (Interior) Floor Panels that will span the framing later (48 - (1.5 / 2) = 47.25).
The stack-up of 2X2's where the rear interior wall will support that wall and the Pocket Door Guides added later.
As you add the Interior Floor Panels, you may want to trace out where the underlying support framing is!
A picture shows the Front and Rear Upper Floor Panels in place with exactly 48 inches between them.
The last pic gives you a clue as what is to happen next.
Step 4: BY NOW YOU SHOULD HAVE a GOOD IDEA HOW TO TAKE THIS PROJECT FURTHER
When time permits, I intend to publish a Complete Build Instruction with ALL Dimensions. For now, the remaining photos and pics should give you a great idea on how to finish this project.
I started by fastening the Lower Left and Right Wall panels, starting from the front but ignoring the Upper Clean Storage area protrusion for now. Panels are installed longwise so seam features run alongside the camper rather than up and down.
All exterior wall and door panels are made with LP SMARTSIDE 48 in. x 96 in. Strand Panel Siding. Each panel costs a little under $40. Floor and Exterior Roofing Panels are 3/8" Exterior Plywood. Interior Walls are 1/4" (semi-) Finished Interior Paneling. You can select totally finished paneling if you like the wood look they provide.
The first photo shows early stages of the framing. All the 2X2's shown will be covered over with interior walls and floor, and, in many cases, are there to piggy back on inside of the interior surfaces for the addition of bed shelf, walls and partitions for storage areas. Some of them also span the seams of the exterior and interior wall panels, providing a stud to screw them down to.
Ceiling/Roof Cross-Beams are of 1.5" X 3" finished dimension. This allows for exactly 3" of Insulation in the roof. I used Styrofoam Insulation that has an aluminum coating on one side. I faced the Aluminum outward, thinking it will do a better job of keeping the heat out that way.
BTW, in this build, we created a 1.5" thick Air-Space in the Floor area that is over the Steel Trailer Frame. If you are concerned about Cold, you might want to insulate that as well. Meanwhile, every Exterior Wall also has 1.5" thick insulation installed, just as the roof.
The third and fourth photo show some of the interior walls and ceiling panels that are in place, along with some initial primer painting. The fourth photo also shows the Sliding Pocket Door set to the side.
The fifth pic gives a detail look on how to build the Pocket Door with Hidden Casters. The Casters are readily available 2" casters available at your local lumber store.
Step 5: OUTSIDE FEATURES - PART 1
The Porta-Potty room has a hinged door. Inside, a Thetford Porta-Potty sits on a raised pedestal for comfort.
I tend to keep a couple gallons of water in here for the toilet and convenience for washing up.
The Frame for the outdoor Shower is stored in here as well during transport.
The third photo shows one of the fittings that the Outdoor Shower Frame is attached to. There's one for each side and the PVC Couplers of the Frame have a 1/4-20 Nylon Thumb-Screw to lock them onto the black posts with the groove turned into them.
The Sliding Pocket Door is shown in the Closed position in the fifth photo with the Lock Mechanism at top.
I threw in one more photo to clarify the Rollers of the Pocket Door.
Step 6: OUTSIDE STORAGE AREAS AND KITCHEN TABLE
Note that Outside Storage Areas are completely sealed off from the inside of the camper!
The Front opening could be larger, but I wanted more security for heavy items tucked in behind the front wall of the camper. I keep the spare tire, jacks, wheel chocks, extra propane, and a deep-cycle marine battery in the front area. as well as a brick I use as a Step to get in and out of the camper (it also adds tongue weight).
In the third photo, you can see that the Exterior Side Storage Area is visible and somewhat accessible from the front opening.
You'll see it in many of the photos to come, but the fourth & fifth photos shows the Exterior Side Storage Area Door with lock in place and the Ladder, used to access the Sun-Deck, hanging above it. A Bungee-Cord near the top and bottom of the ladder keep it from bouncing around in transit.
The sixth photo shows the beginnings of the Outdoor Kitchen Table. This assembly is attached with four Door-Hinges. Remember that we made sure a 2X2 was installed on the other side of the Exterior Wall Panel to catch the screws for these hinges! The 3/8" plywood table is framed all around underneath with 2X2's for rigidity. Gate locks are installed on the camper walls to hold the table in the down position for transit.
Jumping ahead... the seventh photo shows the completed camper, just to keep you interested at this stage of the build.
Step 7: THE SUN-DECK - ONE OF MY FAVORITE FEATURES!
Let's jump ahead once more to detail the Sun-Deck. We'll go back and catch some other features in a bit...
The first photo shows the Safety Railing set up. The 3-foot tall railing also serves to hold a Tarp all the way around when privacy or protection from wind is desired.
REMEMBER to use Primer and Hot Glue when assembling the Upper Frame for this important piece.
To mount the Safety Rail, I made 18 of the Delrin Blocks with Delrin Rods, seen in the second photo, to set the Vertical PVC pieces on. After all 18 are situated, the Railing Frame is lifted and set on top of the vertical pieces. The whole effort takes about 10 minutes to set up.
When the Safety Rail is in the down and stored position, it is held down by Spring Pins inserted into the Delrin Rods above the PVC Couplers. You can catch a glimpse of these if you look close enough.
In the fourth photo, you can see that a Stick holds the Side Window Coverings/Awnings up, while a Bungee-Cord holds it down against that stick and the wind. I have various sized sticks to use depending on how far open I want the window, and there is some further adjustment available for each stick size.
You can see, also, that the Kitchen Table is held up with Support Sticks, and Bungees hold it down against them to keep it from being lifted and possibly letting the sticks fall away. These sticks are stored in the open area between the Table Framing under the table when it is lowered and locked into place while in transit.
The fifth photo shows my completed Setup as situated for camping. I have since added a Lower Frame to the Outdoor Shower to keep the privacy curtain in place and away from the user.
The last photo shows how the entrance into the Private Area overlaps a bit to give even more privacy to the usable deck area.
Step 8: LET'S GO BACK AND TOUCH ON SOME ADDITIONAL FEATURES...
The first phot shows one of the big Side Windows in the slid Open position. Proper planning ensured enough room to open these panels almost completely clear of the window opening. The Exterior Privacy/Awning Panels are made from 1/16" thick opaque plastic panels I found. The sun looks very "cool" when seen through these!
The second photo shows the window closed. You can see the Handles come together in the middle, and that the Lexan Window Panels ride in a Track along the top and bottom edge.
In the second photo, you can also see the Storage Shelf located above the Side Bed and window. Plan carefully to allow this shelf to be at a usable height.
The third photo depicts what I like to call my "Clean Storage Area". This is where I keep linens and pillows for the bed, and clean clothes, as well as my prized vintage Pyrex coffee pot.
A few more photos are added here for... well..., just because.
Step 9: IT'S a WRAP!
BTW, I cut the 72" X 48" and 36" X 48" bed mattresses from a 72" X 84" Cal-King Memory-Foam mattress, leaving a piece of exactly 24" X 36" leftover. I cut and re-sewed the cover to fit each of the pieces I needed.
Some final additions are the Trim pieces at the roof-line and along the skirt. These further support the edge of the roof and provide a place for the Kitchen Table Supports to rest when in use. They also add a nice detailing touch to the design, especially when painted a darker complimentary color.
I added a Wire-Mesh screen to the front window to protect the aluminum mosquito-proof screen from rocks that may be kicked up by the tow-vehicle.
The trailer I used has a nice stiff suspension, and I have had no problem towing the completed camper on many trips, including an 800 mile round trip out to Arizona and back to So. Cal, with some light off-road towing to boot. With that said, the design is slightly top heavy, although not as much as you might think, and care should be taken when negotiating tight curves, towing in very heavy winds, or if swaying becomes an issue, although repositioning of the axle should eliminate that. The trailer is fairly light and larger trucks will hardly feel it out on the open road, so don't forget it's there!
That's about all I have to offer at this time. I promise to add to this a lot more in the future, and break down many more of the minor steps it took to get this far, as well as dimensions and materials used.
For now, take a look at a few more photos and, hopefully, you will be inspired to build this roomy, functional, inexpensive, and fairly easy to construct camper design.
HAPPY CAMPING, and don't forget to vote!
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