Tiny Cargo Trailer Conversion – Rear Door and First Camping

This post covers the final touches to the conversion and my first overnight in the trailer. I had shared in another entry that I was going to create a rear slide-out to increase my legroom a bit. However, I decided against it for two reasons: First, the slide-out takes valuable space inside during transit and would need to be secured to prevent damage. Next, when the trailer is being used for its primary mission of hauling cargo, I’d have to store the bulky slide-out someplace that’s out of my way and where it would be safe from the elements or theft. I decided to stay with my original plan.

I don’t think I had shared my original plan, not on this website, anyway. My first thought about including a camper door and a window was to employ a teardrop door that’s installed on a wall which folds into the ceiling. A fold-up wall would allow the camper utility to ride in the trailer full-time without sacrificing cargo space on the floor, but allow the trailer to quickly convert for camping. The only drawback, and it’s small, is that most cargo must be removed so that the wall can be dropped into place. This photo shows the wall in its travel or cargo position. I use bungee straps to keep the wall from bouncing over bumps. The photo below shows the wall lowered and secured in place for camping.

To be clear, the trailer’s cargo door is still in place and fully functional. Remember, I want this trailer to serve as cargo trailer first, but then have the hidden capability to serve as a camper. This photo shows the cargo door fully opened and held in place by its factory retention chain. The pull handles on both the cargo door and the fold-down wall prevent the door from being closed while the wall is down. Sure, a malicious actor could find a way to block the teardrop door, but the wall pulls inward to lift into the ceiling, completely bypassing the teardrop door. The wall’s fit is snug; so it seals adequately against bugs and rain. I’d add gaffer’s tape to the seams on a rainy weekend, just for extra measure.

It didn’t take long for me to take the micro-camper on its first overnight trip. In fact, getting it done before ARRL’s Field Day was a top priority, that and getting the bulky teardrop door and its padded shipping box out of my garage! Once the door was done, tested, and ready for action, my next task was to find an air mattress that would fit inside the trailer’s rather compact interior. This mattress is a perfect fit, even leaving room to clear the spare tire and my duffle bags. It includes a blower motor that can both inflate and deflate the mattress and an internal hand pump to fine tune the mattress pressure. The only downside to the fit is that the mattress blocks some of the screen window’s opening. That’s not a showstopper, though!

My first night was much better than expected. I had been having sleep problems and expected to be awake in the middle of the night. My plan was to get up and operate the club’s radio station as part of our Field Day efforts. I went to bed around 11pm and it was around 85°F. I had always said that camping does not appeal to me because I despise the thought of laying in bed, sweating, and wishing that I was asleep. But it wasn’t bad at all since I had the roof fan blowing at 50%. Not only did it provide a good breeze, it also covered any ambient noises that might have disturbed me. I found myself incrementally decreasing the fan’s speed as the temperature slowly dipped to around 68°F overnight. I was even cool enough to enjoy the comfort of my sleeping bag!

I awoke to the faint sound of the first cars entering the park as it opened at around 7am.  Notice that I said “faint?” The wall and ceiling insulation did a great job of minimizing sound intrusion! Other than adjusting the fan from time to time, I slept like a rock all night long… I needed that! With the fan set to low speed, I could hear sounds such as insects, passing cars, and a morning generator that was 100ft away. However, it all sounded far away and was minimally intrusive. For reference, the road in the background is the way in and out of the park. So, every slow-moving vehicle passed within 20 feet of me and was barely noticed.

The only downside to sleeping in this trailer has to do with its size… or mine. I’m 6’0″ and the trailer’s floor is about 6’2″ at the center. I bumped the wall a few times and found my feet pressing against the door from time to time. I was still quite comfortable. A small trailer like this may be a perfect option for someone who’s 5’10” or shorter whose tow vehicle is limited. It is not a great option for taller people; nor is its 44″ wide interior great for more than one person. The converted trailer weighs 760 lbs (345 kg) and the tongue weight is 100 lbs (45 kg). The trailer weighed 600 lbs (273 kg) when new; so, my conversion project added 160 lbs (73 kg), which includes the spare tire, a steel jack stands, galvanized steel E-tracks, and 15 lbs of E-track accessories. That’s not bad at all!

This concludes the tiny cargo trailer conversion! Remember, this is a “hard-sided tent,” not an RV. Camping with that in mind, especially when the temperatures are pleasant, makes it much easier to manage my expectations. It’s fantastic for a weekend getaway, but I don’t think I’d camp more than a few days with it.

Thanks for following the build! Click here to return to the first article about this build if you haven’t seen it already.

Ready to Camp… or to Think About It!


About Scott

I grew up near Houston, TX and served in the U. S. Coast Guard for over 30 years. I have an electronics background and continue to work in the electronics engineering field. I taught myself the basics about automotive systems as well as how to perform some of my own maintenance (cars and bicycles). I became involved with Amateur Radio and computers in 1995. The explosion of technology has made my job and several of my hobbies quite interesting. My hobbies include Volkswagens, bicycling, photography, electronics, amateur radio, web management, and reptiles. Visit my websites to learn more.
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