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My Tiny, Bug Out, Off Grid, Boondocking Camper/Trailer/Home

 
pollinator
Posts: 313
Location: South Central Michigan Zone 6
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dog forest garden fish hunting tiny house food preservation
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Thought I'd share my bug out trailer conversion with everyone.

This is the far better solution to the "tiny home" than building an actual tiny home in my opinion.  Either a camper or a converted stealth cargo trailer like this. I also have a thread about my other tiny home, the kind you think of when you hear that name. And it still sits where I built it, because no home mover will touch it since a neighbor built a house on top of the only access I had to the part of the property with the TH on it. Too steep of a hill to get it out the other way. Not cool, but i was young and not as intelligent, and if i could do it over i would have just bought a camper. I got caught up in the craze though.

I bought a 7x14 2019 Mirage brand enclosed trailer in July of 2019. Paid 4k total after everything. I put about 1500-2000 into it. Hard to tell after all the screws, extra trips for wire and connectors etc etc. Things can add up I know, but overall the build and price was very easy to manage for a first time RV'er and camper owner. I suspect it will last me 20 years or so if I dont upgrade before then.

I kept things simple and to the point, and found a good balance between comforts of home, and simplicity/cost efficiency.  

Dimmer switches, LED lights in and out.
Big Buddy Heater
4 GC2 Golf car batteries.
50 amp name brand converter.
2000w inverter
2000w generator
30amp solar charger wired to my trucks alternator. (Battery bank charges as I drive down the road)
Zero plumbing or tanks (no winterizing or dumpstations)
Thetford porta potti. Curtain for privacy.
Plenty of cabinet and storage space for my wife and I.
Beds are 30" wide custom made, half lux foam and half natural latex.
Beds lift up and are all storage underneath. Spare tire, generator, heater, water, extra propane, chairs, fire grill and others stored under the beds.
12v sockets throughout trailer, as well as 120v plugs. Plugs can be powered by shore power or inverter.
12v TV
Maxxair fan with the nice low profile rain proof cover.
Real mini fridge (because I had it already, waiting to buy a quality 12v fridge/freezer. For now I like how the fridge is a good counter height. And I have a counter top velcro'd on.
Single burner stove
Fire extinguishers
Magnet bug screens for both doors
Stands for the ramp so it acts as an elevated deck


Dry  weight is 1500 pounds. I figure I'm at around 2200 fully loaded, still need to hit a scale to know for sure. Towing with a 1500 silverado 5.3L getting 10mpg on flat ground. I do not like to be towing at anywhere close to my capacity, so this lightweight trailer, coupled with electronic brakes and a good brake controller has me feeling pretty comfortable towing it. No sway unless an ambulance passes me going 20mph faster, and even then it's barely noticeable.  I put a lot of effort into weight distribution throughout trailer, and each side of trailer is within 20lbs of the other. I dont think I need to worry about weight distribution hitches or anything, but a final weigh in and knowing tongue weight will confirm this. If it's not needed, I'd rather have the mobility than lose the ability to go thriugh a wash or make a tight turn. We like to be in the boonies.

Now for the guts:
I left the half inch plywood on the walls at the manufacturer's recommendation.  Over top of that I have half inch of polyiso and 1/4" lauan which is stained a pecan color. That half inch of plywood underneath makes for easy installation and hanging of anything you want later on. Double the insulation on the ceiling. That 1" air gap between the inside of the skin and the plywood will help a lot with air flow behind the insulation, as moisture will inevitably be a problem. The only real way to be moisture free is to have it spray foamed, and I just didnt have that kind of money to spend. I dealt with plenty of condensation issues with my old tiny home also.

Everything is glued together, and I siliconed the seams and corners, as well as went completely crazy with 20 cans of expanding foam. Now the whole structure feels solid and very well sealed. I need to add some floor vents to remedy how air tight it is. I used a combination of weather stripping and neoprene pipe wrap to solve the last condensation issue around the metal frames of doors.

As far as resiliency goes, I have an extra portable 800w inverter for either the truck side or camper if the cobra brand 2000w inverter that's in there takes a crap. I have a smaller 8amp battery charger that I can run off the 800w inverter if the main 50amp converter/charger dies or malfunctions. So I have 3 ways to charge batteries. I also have a portable battery jumper that can be topped off or charged up by the trailer battery bank, it also acts as a portable 12v socket. I have a 12v compressor, and backup 12v compressor, as well as a full size home compressor with 25' air hose (my go to if I have an emergency flat, or to blow out the trailer of dust or blow off shoes or clothes). A scissor jack and a bottle jack, and I'm thinking of bringing a floor jack on longer trips. I have backup solar lights and battery powered lanterns. A dozen ways to charge phones or devices. Come along, tow straps, rope and plenty of straps and tethers.

Next week 1/24/20 we are leaving Mid Michigan and making our way down to texas, through Quartzite, and onto vegas for a couple days, before spending a week in southeastern California. Not our first long trip, but the first long trip towing a trailer and boondocking almost the whole way.

It was really fun to build, I had a blast. My wife loves it, and i can also use it for the farm and work, where my truck doesnt have the room.

If anyone has any questions feel free to ask, I'm posting this for inspiration and to help others.
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yeah that's great, very cool,
but you might want to put enclosure over batteries and vent it to outside, the gas coming off lead acid batteries can kill you
 
Travis Schulert
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Posts: 313
Location: South Central Michigan Zone 6
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dog forest garden fish hunting tiny house food preservation
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bruce Fine wrote:yeah that's great, very cool,
but you might want to put enclosure over batteries and vent it to outside, the gas coming off lead acid batteries can kill you



Do some more research there. That is not true. I did mine, and this is totally safe, it's set up based on what the Electrical Engineer who designed the first hybrid engines set up his own battery bank.

You can decide for yourself if very minute amounts of hydrogen are going to kill you. Hydrogen immediately dilutes itself and spreads itself as quickly as possible. The tiny amount off gassed from these batteries is negligible compared to the smog and off gassing of my car, home, work etc. Plenty of people worry about it and that's fine for them.
 
bruce Fine
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secret to towing trailer without it swaying is tongue weight
you want lots of weight up front and it will not sway
ask m=e how I know
been there
don e that
got a bunch of those tee shirts
rolled a truck and trailer over after a big rig cut me off and my truck and trailer swayed out of control
tongue weight or gooseneck set up, not what you have, will put and end to trailer even trying to sway
 
Travis Schulert
pollinator
Posts: 313
Location: South Central Michigan Zone 6
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dog forest garden fish hunting tiny house food preservation
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bruce Fine wrote:secret to towing trailer without it swaying is tongue weight
you want lots of weight up front and it will not sway
ask m=e how I know
been there
don e that
got a bunch of those tee shirts
rolled a truck and trailer over after a big rig cut me off and my truck and trailer swayed out of control
tongue weight or gooseneck set up, not what you have, will put and end to trailer even trying to sway



You be careful out there buddy.

Too much weight up front and you got a another issue all together. 13-17% tongue weight is most peoples goal.
 
bruce Fine
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travis I just want you to be safe nothing more nothing less
ive pulled those two axle trailers more than a million miles in past 30 years up and down the highways of our great country moving everything from full grown palm trees with all the roots to new trailers stacked four high. wore out 4 new pickup trucks and a conversion van. one trip that comes to mind was to mcallen Texas to get a stolen boat and van. there were 4 illegals living in the van at the impound lot, I had to buy the trailer hitch and wheels back from the junk yard next door. when I got to the inspection station in the middle of nowhere Texas the dog jumped in the boat and hit on something, guys with chainsaws were coming at the boat till I showed them a letter from senator graham's office saying they would do whatever they could to help us recover the boat and van. took 3 days to get it back to south Florida.
sometimes after hitting the road if there was sway in trailer cuz it was not loaded right I would stop at a Home Depot and get a bunch of bricks to put up front, swaying stops and I'm good to go for a couple thousand miles
I still have 8 of those trailers--no  b.   s.
just ignore me if you want
you have a very cool set up, enjoy it and have safe travels
 
Travis Schulert
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bruce Fine wrote:travis I just want you to be safe nothing more nothing less
ive pulled those two axle trailers more than a million miles in past 30 years up and down the highways of our great country moving everything from full grown palm trees with all the roots to new trailers stacked four high. wore out 4 new pickup trucks and a conversion van. one trip that comes to mind was to mcallen Texas to get a stolen boat and van. there were 4 illegals living in the van at the impound lot, I had to buy the trailer hitch and wheels back from the junk yard next door. when I got to the inspection station in the middle of nowhere Texas the dog jumped in the boat and hit on something, guys with chainsaws were coming at the boat till I showed them a letter from senator graham's office saying they would do whatever they could to help us recover the boat and van. took 3 days to get it back to south Florida.
sometimes after hitting the road if there was sway in trailer cuz it was not loaded right I would stop at a Home Depot and get a bunch of bricks to put up front, swaying stops and I'm good to go for a couple thousand miles
I still have 8 of those trailers--no  b.   s.
just ignore me if you want
you have a very cool set up, enjoy it and have safe travels



Came at you with chainsaws? Senator Graham really bailed you out with that letter!
 
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Location: Quincy, ILL for now.
tiny house wood heat homestead
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Love it! I want to do the same thing some day.
 
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Location: Hemingford Nebraska
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This is awesome, much like what I've heard Jack Spirko talking about with his Bug Out Trailer series. No recommendations here, just pure appreciation. I was going to recommend a small solar array but it's much better to park in the shade than cook in the sun.
 
Travis Schulert
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dog forest garden fish hunting tiny house food preservation
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Erik Pehoviack wrote:This is awesome, much like what I've heard Jack Spirko talking about with his Bug Out Trailer series. No recommendations here, just pure appreciation. I was going to recommend a small solar array but it's much better to park in the shade than cook in the sun.



Yeah I was planning something like this for a few years now, but the bug out series definitely helped, and the Steven Harris videos he has on his website helped with the power system for sure. Even though that guy can be difficult to deal woth to say the least. He actually lives near me.

And after my research into it, the conclusion I came to, was that solar, when i add them, will be mainly for topping off batteries when trailer is not in use, so it doesnt have to remain plugged in, but I can never rely on a couple solar panels to actually charge and top off batteries on a day when I'm using them.

For instance, if I go to the desert it will be in the winter so the angle is so low I wont hardly get anything from them, and if i use it in summer, I'm almost always going to be looking for shade.

I have the battery bank plugged into the truck when we're driving to charge it from the truck while going down the road. And a generator to charge it if stationary for multiple days. It would take only a few hours to go from 50% to full while driving the truck or running generator,  but would take many days of solar to actually top them off if they were at 50%. So it's an investment that I dont see as necessary right now. And really my conclusion is that there are very few places that a solar panel would really ever be worth the money and cost. At least for me and my purposes.  It's easier to use 25 cents in fuel to charge the batteries with an inverter generator, than it would be to spend $300 plus on a solar setup that wknt do what I need it to.
 
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Nice rig!

I would want those batteries enclosed, if nothing else to prevent physical damage and use the space above them. Once that's done it's a piece of cake to vent to the exterior.


I had *almost* enough power to keep a 110L Waeco fridge and basic lighting going with 140W of solar when I was living in my bus. But, this was a folding panel, with a long cable. It could be in the sun while I was parked in the shade, and I could set the angle. If I was doing it again I would aim for about 300W min, but having it detachable was key.
 
Travis Schulert
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D Nikolls wrote:Nice rig!

I would want those batteries enclosed, if nothing else to prevent physical damage and use the space above them. Once that's done it's a piece of cake to vent to the exterior.


I had *almost* enough power to keep a 110L Waeco fridge and basic lighting going with 140W of solar when I was living in my bus. But, this was a folding panel, with a long cable. It could be in the sun while I was parked in the shade, and I could set the angle. If I was doing it again I would aim for about 300W min, but having it detachable was key.



I'm aware that there is a risk when it comes to the batteries. Everyone needs to do their own research. I learned from a few very smart people, who all unanimously agree that there is very little actual danger posed by these. Setup like this, in a child free household
1. The hydrogen off gassed from healthy batteries is so minute it wont ever be enough to harm you. The nature of hydrogen is that it attempts to spread itself as far away from other hydrogen atoms as quickly as possible. You will know if there is a battery malfunction, long before you die from hydrogen inhalation. Much of these dangers are presented by the battery companies, who then offer an AGM that cost almost twice as much as an alternative.  
2. I dont have kids who would be the only reason it is unsafe to have a battery bank like this. If one day that changes I can box it out and vent it, or go to agm's.
3.setup like this I'm much more likely to tend to them, test them, check fluid levels, and be able to tell immediately if there is an issue starting, if they are sealed up hidden from you, the problem may get much worse before you notice anything.
4. The box they are in is rock solid, they arent going anywhere.
5. The trailer will get a wrap around counter in the nose, which will include over the batteries. They are uncovered for the photo.
6. Golf car batteries are designed to be bounced and banged around by drunk golfers everyday. They can handle the smooth ride of the trailer.


Ultimately after my whole journey here of being immersed in everything cargo conversion, I have come to think that there is a lot of hype when it comes to battery safety. I put the "safety" into weight balance, and resiliency while on the road, a way to get out of anything, and always have the safest road experience for myself and everyone else. I'm far more worried about an accident, what could happen as a result of an accident, and mine and everyone elses safety on the road.
 
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