Cargo trailer into a travel Camper – Design, build & Parts list
How did we build our own self contained travel home with no build experience and very minimum tools? Find out everything about our most ambitious build to date! It took us about four and half months to complete and two months of research at the beginning. You should know that this build was entirely based on our trial and error method. So, during this journey we had so many fails, frustrating moments but learnt so much in the process. Here we have shared some of our little behind the scenes story, design, list of all parts used in this build and some pictures. As we were not really planning to blog about this, we didn’t take good pictures during the build. But we have listed all the parts and tools we used to help you on your own build. Cargo trailer into a travel Camper – Design, build & Parts list
How the idea started?
It all started in Jan 2017 when we decided that our next epic roadtrip will be to Prudhoe Bay in Alaska from Ohio. Its about 10,000miles (roundtrip) that includes driving through several states on lower 48 for about 1500 miles, crossing the border into Canada, driving through Canadian Rockies, the world famous Alaska Highway and finally enter Alaska.
We made a rough plan considering the distance, places we wanted to visit and average miles covered per day. We soon realized it will be a month long trip. The very first thing that came into our minds was the stay and the hassles that came with it, such as planning the complete trip based on where a feasible hotel or BNB was available. Keep in mind that most of the place we wanted to go were in the middle of nowhere with no major towns/cities for miles. And not to mention, Alaska and Canada are know for their wilderness, less travelled paths and rugged beauty of nature. By staying in hotels, we will miss the whole experience of staying in wild, camping and enjoying the real nature.
As we had some experience with car camping and driving through wild, we decided to tow a small trailer that can carry our necessities.
Contents – Jump to the info directly
Wall, floor & Ceiling
Layout & Spatial organization
Vent, Fan and windows
Water, shower & Plumbing
Solar & Electrical
Mechanical improvements in trailer & Car
Completed Pictures of the build
PRE BUILD PLANNING:
First thing to finalize is the size of the trailer. You should decide it based upon the number of occupants, your personal needs during the travel and the tow vehicle capacity. In our case, our Nimo (NIssan MuranO) can tow upto 3500lbs. We first looked at at those 4×6 teardrop trailers. It seemed perfect to have a bed, some storage and a mini kitchen. We can easily tow it with our Nimo and it did cost very less (even new). Everything in our essentials criteria checked except the Toilet and shower. When travelling through wilderness in cold month, its not easy to find toilets or bush every time nature calls. So, we started looking for used travel trailers. Either they seemed to be very expensive for us or it did not have a shower & toilet and weighed under 3000lbs.
While looking for travel trailer listings, we also came across the listings of cargo trailers at good price range and within the load capacity. Suddenly, we thought why not build it instead. Then we did some research and found that many people have converted empty cargo trailers into a nice little home with all the facilities. We liked the idea and jumped into it right away.
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Cargo trailer into a Cozy Camper – Design, build & Parts list
After some research and visits to local dealers, we bought 6×12 Titan Series V-nose from stealth Enterprises from a dealer in Indianapolis.
We did not add any customizations to the trailer because adding them ourselves seemed cheaper than made to order.
GVWR – 2990 lb or 1356 Kg
GAWR (each axle) – 3500 lb or 1588 Kg
Cargo weight should not exceed 1810 lbs or 821 Kg
POWER TOOLS WE USED FOR THIS BUILD
- Jig saw corded – BLACK+DECKER – https://amzn.to/3nIE77u
- BLACK+DECKER Electric Drill, 1/2-Inch, 7.0 Amp corded – https://amzn.to/372foUX
- BLACK+DECKER cordless drill – https://amzn.to/35XZfRq
POWER TOOLS WISH WE HAD (would make the build much easier)
- Circular saw – https://amzn.to/2IQjibN
- 18g brad nailer – https://amzn.to/2HpAJPu
- Cordless impact driver – https://amzn.to/373SkFH
- Cordless impact wrench – https://amzn.to/3kSF6jL
Other hand tools and items used during this project:
- Pry bar – https://amzn.to/2USWWsz
- Screw driver set – https://amzn.to/2UTyOpt
- ½ inch Torque Wrench – https://amzn.to/3pRM9wS
- ⅜ inch Torque Wrench – https://amzn.to/35XTbZ1
- Locking pliers – https://amzn.to/3ftASOz
- ½ inch Deep impact socket set – https://amzn.to/33p2vTV
- Bolt Cutter – https://amzn.to/2ViT5VE
- Adjustable Wrench – https://amzn.to/3nZLPKO
WALL, FLOORING & CEILING
The inner dimension of our trailer is 5’9″(W) x 11’9″(L)+18″ V-nose x 5’10″(H). The trailer came with a 1/2″ OSB cladded on walls and 3/4″ OSB for floor. The ceiling had exposed metal frames and one ceiling exhaust at center.
Dismantling & Insulation:
First step is to remove the OSB on wall. This exposed all the metal frames and we even found several air gaps between the metal frame on wall and floor. So, we sealed them with waterproof sealant before insulation. For Insulation, we used 2″ foil faced Polyiso Foam Insulation between the metal frames and sealed the gaps with spray foam sealant. Then we noted that the metal frames seem to be transferring the exterior temperature inside. Actually it was way more hotter or colder to touch than the exterior. So, we decided to insulate that too. Best option is to clad it with wood strips. But then, we will loose an inch inside. Every inch matters in this tiny tome. So, we used foil tape insulation that are used for plumbing to cover all the metal frames. on wall and ceiling.
RV Sealant – https://amzn.to/3oheNFW
Johns Manville R-13 2″ x 4′ x 8′ Foil Faced Polyiso Foam Insulation – https://www.lowes.com/pd/Johns-Manville-Common-2-in-x-4-ft-x-8-ft-Actual-2-in-x-4-ft-x-8-ft-AP-Foil-1-R-13-Faced-Polyisocyanurate-Foam-Board-Insulation/3851107
GREAT STUFF™ Window & Door Expanding Foam Sealant – 20 oz – https://amzn.to/3pF1X67
Tape insulation – https://www.lowes.com/pd/Frost-King-0-125-in-Foam-Plumbing-Pipe-Wrap-Insulation/1069439
Before boarding up the the wall, you have to lay floor, add electrical wires that needs to run inside the wall/ceiling and add necessary wall openings for water & electrical inlets.
On top of the existing 3/4″ OSB board we laid underlayment sheet and then 1/4″ thick underlayment Ply + Finished with Vinyl stick-on flooring
Wall Layers :
Insulation + Foil tape on metal frames + 1/2″ OSB (that came along) + 1/4″ Luan Ply + Primer and Paint
Ceiling Layers :
Insulation + foil tape on metal frames + White Melamine panelboard
Cargo trailer into a Cozy Camper – Design, build & Parts list
LAYOUT & SPACIAL ORGANIZATION:
6X12 is a small footprint to work with. But if you prioritize your needs and organize the traffic flow you can accommodate everything you need. Here is the plan showing our design of the space.
The front V nose added about extra 18 inches to the 12ft trailer. We made use of that extra space to add shelves in front. We use it to keep fresh groceries, clothes and camping gears. Apart from that we have lots of storage under the seating areas. The whole seating area is raised from the floor adding even more storage for easy grab items on both sides. These seating converts in to a full size bed. i.e 4′ x 5′ 8″ exactly. Its a little short for Naveen since he is 5’11” tall but he manages. If we get a chance to redo, we would definitely design the bed a little bigger.
VENT, FAN AND WINDOWS
The trailer came along with an exhaust opening on roof , we replaced it with a 12V vent fan. It comes with a three speed speed setting and a built in thermostat to maintain desired temperature. Best part is that you can reverse the fan direction according to your need and climate. You can either use it as an exhaust to take out hot air from inside or bring in fresh cool air from outside.
Windows: We installed two windows in our trailer. One on the side door and other on one of the rear door. When camping, if we let the two windows open, it brings in cool fresh air and allows perfect cross ventilation.
PARTS LIST FOR WINDOWS, VENT, FAN & HEATER
- Trailer Camper Window 14″ X 21″ for 1-1/2 Walls – https://amzn.to/35UZTPp
- RoadPro RP8000 10″ Indoor/Outdoor Dual Power Fan – https://amzn.to/372d7cn
- Fan-Tastic RV Roof Vent –https://amzn.to/33rEmfK
- Mr. Heater Buddy Indoor-Safe Portable RV – https://amzn.to/3fquxmN
- Pro Flex Crystal Clear RV Flexible Sealant – https://amzn.to/3liiLfB
Kitchen is one of the vital space in a camper. Our cozy little camper has a 26 gallon fresh water tank, 4ft long kitchen counter with storage, 110v fridge, sink, hot & cold water supply, shower and portable grey water can.
PARTS USED IN KITCHEN
- EdgeStar CRF321SS 3.1 Cu. Ft. Dorm Sized Energy Star Compact Fridge/Freezer – https://amzn.to/2J2O9kO
- Top mount Stainless Steel 2-Holes Bar/Prep Sink – https://amzn.to/338h6D7
- Kitchen Sink Drain Removable Deep Waste Basket/Strainer – https://amzn.to/3fmYpR4
- 2-Handle Bar/Prep Kitchen Faucet – https://amzn.to/2UTcmwW
- Peel and Stick PVC Instant Marble Decorative Self-Adhesive Film – https://amzn.to/3foLTR1
- Rev-A-Shelf LD-0220-50SC Pair of Soft-Close Pivot Hinges – https://amzn.to/2URnRou
- Slim Slide Out Storage Tower Unit – https://amzn.to/370znU1
- Korlon Stainless Steel Built in Pump Kitchen Sink Dish Soap Dispenser – https://amzn.to/398MlC6
WATER TANK, SHOWER & PLUMBING:
Water, one of the important resource to be a happy camper. In a day, you will be using fresh water a lot more than you think you will. Drinking, cooking, cleaning, washing dishes & showers. With a rough calculation in mind we ordered 26 gallon fresh water tank. As filled water tank will be quiet heavy, we positioned it over the wheel axle and under seating storage. From there all the supply lines run under the kitchen storage to sink and to the shower. Everything is positioned on one side of the trailer. Also, since we will be traveling to cold regions a lot, we decided not to run any plumbing or mount tank under the trailer.
PARTS LIST FOR SHOWER, BATH & TOILET
- Pop Up Privacy Shower Tent Portable – https://amzn.to/3foHX31
- Shower head kit – https://amzn.to/3kSi3FF
- Body Wipe by ShowerPill – https://amzn.to/2HvtCoU
- Aqua-Soft Toilet Tissue for RV and marine – 2-ply – https://amzn.to/395Y5oF
- Porta Potti White Thetford – https://amzn.to/3pRz86v
- 24″ x 36″ LH Drain Tub – Camping World
- Drain pan (portable grey water collection tank) – https://amzn.to/39uLjjR
PARTS LIST FOR WATER SUPPLY RELATED
- Barker Manufacturing Company 11917 26 Gal. Water Tank Kit – https://amzn.to/3kOelNu
- SHURFLO Strainer – https://amzn.to/3fO13zt
- SHURflo RV Water Pump – https://amzn.to/39sv7iX
- Camco Water Tank Filler with Shutoff Valve – https://amzn.to/2J1bK5G
- 25ft TastePURE Drinking Water Hose – Camco- https://amzn.to/35RFquY
- Camco (40055) RV Brass Inline Water Pressure Regulator – https://amzn.to/3kTO9B7
- Camco (22484) Water Bandit -Connects Your Standard Water Hose To Various Water Sources – https://amzn.to/3pQq2qH
- City Water Flange – https://amzn.to/2HOW3hA
- Bosch Electric Mini-Tank Water Heater – https://amzn.to/2Jo44dZ
- Camco 40043 TastePure RV/Marine Water Filter – https://amzn.to/3lWxbmO
- Coleman Water Can, 5 Gallons, Blue – https://amzn.to/3pRfeIS
- 5 Gallon grey water can – https://amzn.to/3fMaEH8
PARTS LIST FOR PLUMBING
- SharkBite PEX Pipe 1/2 Inch, White – https://amzn.to/3kSQJHt
- 1/2″ Fuel Check Valve, Inline – https://amzn.to/33axwuR
- Pipe Crimping Tool – https://amzn.to/2UPiN3M
- Bosch Electric Mini-Tank Water Heater Tronic 3000 T 2.5-Gallon (ES2.5) – https://amzn.to/2Holne3
- JR Products (JFE13-A Black Key Lock Gravity Water Hatch – https://amzn.to/3foQR0d
- JR Products 160-85-A-36-A Black City Water Flange with 1/2″ MPT – https://amzn.to/334rrjp
Drinking water: Fresh water is not always drinkable. So, we usually carry individual 5 gallon water cans specially for drinking and cooking. These cans can be easily refilled in any Walmart or local grocery store.
Grey water under sink:
We do not have a fixed grey water tank. Instead, we use a portable 5 gallon water can that is kept under the sink. As soon as it gets filled up, we would dispose it off at possible locations. This way greatly reduces the unnecessary weight during the travel and did not need any plumbing under the trailer.
We built a full height partition on one side of the shower (towards V-nose) and left it open on other two sides. These two sides are draped with double shower curtains. The main reason for this design is to reduce weight and it will also allow shower to be little spacious for arm movement when using it. The wall on two sides are finished with FRP wall panel and edges are sealed with waterproof, mold resistant caulk.
To build the shower area we framed a cradle and inserted the 2x3ft shower tub. This shower tub directly drains down to the ground. Since we cannot drain the grey water directly to the ground, we use a catch pan (usually used to catch oil in automobiles) to collect the grey water.
PARTS LIST FOR Shower walls
- 4 ft. x 8 ft. White .090 FRP Wall Board
- Mold resistant caulk & sealer
- FRP adhesive – Waterproof and weatherproof adhesive
- PVC FRP Corner Moulding White
SOLAR & OTHER ELECTRICAL :
This category took us long time to figure out, our exact power needs, whether we need both 12v and 110v circuitry, the pros and cons and how to store it and where. We have 2 x 100 watts solar panels that is more than enough for 6 nos 12 v ceiling lights, water pump, fan and to charge our laptops, phone & tablet. Also, our trailer is equipped to connect to the power in campgrounds and charge the batteries and use 110v for fridge and heater. Following are the parts we used.
SOLAR RELATED PARTS LIST:
- HQST 100 Watt x2 – 12V Polycrystalline Solar Panel – https://amzn.to/3m17bqI
- Renogy 2 Sets Solar Panel Mounting Z Bracket – https://amzn.to/3kOQBJ2
- MPPT Charge Controller 30A Solar Charge Max Input100V Input + MT-50 Solar Panel Charge LCD Display – https://amzn.to/336KFVP
- Renogy CNCT-MC4Y Branch Connectors Solar MC4 Y connector in Pair MMF+FFM – https://amzn.to/3735MJX
- RENOGY One Pair of 10ft. 10AWG Adaptor Kit Solar Cable – https://amzn.to/370nwFK
- Renogy 30A Set w Holder ANL Fuse – https://amzn.to/339nsCq
- Link Solar Weatherproof ABS Solar Double Cable Entry Gland – https://amzn.to/35YES6J
- Solar Lights Outdoor 28 LED Wireless Waterproof Security Solar Motion Sensor Lights – https://amzn.to/338eu8B
BATTERY & OTHER ELEC. PARTS:
- 6 volt deep cycle battery – https://amzn.to/3oaK5OG
- 10AWG Power Cord w/ 30 AMP Power Grip Male Standard Plug & 30 AMP Female Locking Connector – https://amzn.to/2UOzoF9
- Battery Copper Cable Wire – https://amzn.to/2Jl2lGn
- Battery Switch – https://amzn.to/36jGBn6
- 50 Amp ANL Fuses – https://amzn.to/33qjl4Q
- RV Converter/Charger 45 Amp – https://amzn.to/3lgB2dv
- Battery terminal kit – https://amzn.to/37yV523
- Power 1000W Pure Sine Wave Inverter – https://amzn.to/2URlu56
- Fuse block – https://amzn.to/3pR2TnW
- Bussmann CB185-50 CB185 Series Automotive Circuit Breaker – https://amzn.to/2J38jv2
- Pico 4539C 2/0 AWG Battery Cable 3/8″ Tubular Lug Ring/Eye Terminals – https://amzn.to/2UQGYir
- Heat Shrink Tube 5 Colors 8 Sizes Tubing Wrap Sleeve Set – https://amzn.to/2UToJZD
LIGHT, SWITCH & SOCKETS:
- 12V Universal 3 in 1 Cigarette Lighter Socket + 3.1A Dual USB Power Adapter Charger + LED Digital Voltmeter for Car- https://amzn.to/2USCQyl
- 20A Car Truck Round Rocker Toggle LED Switch 12V – https://amzn.to/3lTMRra
- 12V LED Dome Light Fixture – 4.5″ Cool White – https://amzn.to/2IQrSY4
- Triple SPST On-Off Switch – https://amzn.to/37mWU1A
Useful ELECTRICAL Tools:
- 12V Circuit Tester – https://amzn.to/2KxCETq
- GFCI Outlet / Receptacle Tester – https://amzn.to/35Ttl8m
- Wire Stripping Tool / Wire Cutter – https://amzn.to/2IZwICd
- Wire Crimper – https://amzn.to/3nNsxYR
- Digital Multimeter – https://amzn.to/2UQAJLt
MECHANICAL UPGRADES IN TRAILER & CAR
Most of them suggested that you do not need brakes in 6×12 trailers. But we trusted our instincts and added the tire brakes. Also, Nissan recommends trailer brakes if the trailer weighs more than 1000 lbs. This addition helped us a lot during our trips, especially those 10% grades in Canadian Rockies! Another must addition to your trailer is the sway control bar.
For car, we added Rear Air Spring. It levels your vehicle when towing for a safe & comfortable ride.
PARTS LIST FOR TRAILER UPGRADES:
- Self Adjusting Electric Brake Kit – https://amzn.to/3leeSIM
- Wheel Bearing and Corrosion Control Grease – https://amzn.to/33t51J1
- 7 Way Plug Junction Box – https://amzn.to/3qdRUF9
- Transmission Oil Cooler – https://amzn.to/33s4mY9
- Brake Controller – https://amzn.to/2Vf6Chd
- Pre-Wired Brake Mate Kit – https://amzn.to/2HOUFeS
- Backup Trailer Wheel & Tire – https://amzn.to/2KS356s
- Trailer Hitch Lock (Proven Industries Lock) – https://amzn.to/36k9q2T
- Trailer latch lock – https://amzn.to/3o7wSGG
- Heavy Duty Grease – https://amzn.to/2KUYbpr
- Grease Gun – https://amzn.to/2KRfis5
CAR UPGRADES FOR TOWING:
- AIR LIFT 60774 1000 Series Rear Air Spring Kit – https://amzn.to/3lVS55r
- Trailer hitch for Nissan Murano – https://amzn.to/3fNhWdK
- CURT 23518 Black Trailer Hitch Lock, 5/8-Inch Pin Diameter, Fits 2-Inch Receiver – https://amzn.to/3lQZHpY
- Reese Tow power 58117 Hitch Ball Lube – https://amzn.to/3kUGz9n
- CURT 22272 Rubber Trailer Hitch Cover, Fits 2-Inch Receiver – https://amzn.to/35Rnlgy
- Sway bar – https://amzn.to/39q7w2w
- 4 pole wiring harness – https://amzn.to/3odyNcR
- Trailer Hitch Ball (10,000 lbs) – https://amzn.to/3qcWyna
Cargo trailer into a Cozy Camper – Design, build & Parts list
Finished Trailer Pictures
The total build came to $11,000 (approx.) including all the tools and the trailer cost. Our fully loaded trailer weighs 2800 lbs. We tried to put up as much details as we can in this article “Cargo trailer into a Cozy Camper – Design, build & Parts list”. We might have missed some too. If you are looking for any specific information for your own build, drop a comment below or write to us at email@example.com. Happy travels!! 🙂
January 2, 2022 @ 5:49 PM
What a awesome build! I will be stealing many of your ideas. YOU ARE A CLASS ACT! It is commendable that you went to such great lengths to share your build (Text/photos/Parts/Tools/Wow)! Best of health during your travels!
January 2, 2022 @ 6:18 PM
Thank you for your kind words! 🙂
August 30, 2022 @ 12:05 PM
This is amazing, obviously I cannot do this – but I enjoyed your Project thoroughly. You both are so very creative and kudos to your time management skills. Despite this not being your full time job, it is unbelievable to see how you manage work life balance.