You wouldn’t normally think of a 5th wheel trailer as a tiny house, but when I was invited over to Matt and Kathleen’s Forest River Cardinal trailer which is parked behind a friend’s home, I was astounded at how cozy and “house-like” it felt. The couple, who downsized from their home in Seattle to this 30-foot trailer about a year ago, have turned it into a little mobile retreat.
A few years ago, a trip to India opened the couple’s eyes to an alternative way of life and they decided to sell their home in Seattle and most of their belongings. Kathleen said they were both “ready for wheels on a house” and wanted more time for themselves and each other. Matt works as a freelance multimedia designer and Kathleen is an acupuncturist, so their jobs can go on the road with them. Their cats, Mojo and Chloe, also travel along with them and seem to love their new, sunny home.
The couple’s travels have taken them to several RV parks and campgrounds in the West and they spent last winter on a relative’s ranch in Arizona. They currently live in the large acreage behind a friend’s home and pay $500 a month which includes their utilities and Internet access. Since this winter will be colder than the one in Arizona, the 10,500 lb trailer has currently been fitted with a plywood skirt to protect the tanks and pumps. Matt mentioned that the skirting keeps the bay and bottom of the trailer about 4 to 10 degrees warmer than the outside air.
The reason the couple chose a fifth wheel rather than a wooden tiny house on wheels is simple: Matt is 6’2″ and needed the headroom. This particular trailer was also rated one of the highest in insulation value. The couple purchased the fifth wheel from Fife RV in Washington for $14,500 and it contains a slider for the living room, a cozy kitchen and dining area, a stand-up work station for Matt, a shower and separate toilet, full bedroom, and they keep it warm with the propane/electric furnace and small space heaters. Gray and black water is first sent through a grinding pump before being pumped into the home’s septic system.
Kathleen said that while it can be difficult to keep the trailer warm and that cleaning out the tanks is not fun, she loves the freedom of the trailer.
“I love the mobility and the idea of being totally self contained,” she said. Matt added that he also loves that there’s no wasted space and he totally digs the trailer’s “Command Center” where they can keep an eye on the level of the tanks, the lighting and battery system.
“We were a bit worried about what people would think of us,” Matt said. “But the response to our decision to move into the trailer has been overwhelmingly positive.”
Photos by Harry Thomas
by Peter Paviowich
The Half Shell is a new non-cabover design for Casual Turtle Campers. Meant to be even lower profile and lighter weight than the original CTC design, this model can be outfitted any way you like – from a simple shell to fit the smallest pickups to full-size, fully-furnished campers with finished interiors. Its signature domed roof gives headroom where needed and creates a comfortable space, especially for its size. The Half Shell design is full of potential for simple, lightweight truck campers intended for those not interested in what is available at the RV dealer.
This particular build was designed to best fit a Ford Ranger or first generation Toyota Tacoma sized truck, though it will fit some others. The utilitarian, minimalist interior features a three-piece, removable, queen size bed platform (shown with a full size mattress). When not in use as a camper/sleeper, this Half Shell can be used as a dry, secure, and very capable cargo hauler. Its upper door is 50″ wide, accommodating panel products and sheet-goods. All connections to the truck bed take place within the bed rails, resulting in a clean installation.
Somewhere between a traditional topper and a small truck camper, this Half Shell is for the adventurous lot.
- Ultimate dimensions: 7’2″ long, 5’7″ wide, 40.5″ wide at base
- 455 lbs
- 25 cubic feet of storage below bed
- Three opening windows
- Reasonable delivery options available.
For more pictures and info, check out http://casualturtlecampers.com/new-model-the-half-shell/
Please email Peter at email@example.com to discuss this particular camper or something similar/different for your truck. We are currently taking orders.
by Derek “Deek” Diedricksen
Been very busy working on not one, but five projects lately, including a pretty bizarre and fun tree house for a client in Boston, Massachusetts that you might see soon. Some of these other builds, and more, will be toured at my November (15-17th) Tiny House Building and Design Workshop in Massachusetts, where we’ll all build TWO cabins together, and see the very first-built Tumbleweed.
THIS particular little dwelling on wheels though, camper-like in stature, is something I’ve dubbed “The Cub”. It will soon have a very small exterior bathroom on the trailer tongue. In the photos you see, it features a small sleep bunk (I’m 6′ 4″ and have slept up there), a translucent storage wall, and a front wall (the same) that flips open to transform the entire structure into a porch, or a mini-stage, for backyard parties. It could even be used as a camper/flea market kiosk. “The Cub” overall, is just 5′ by 8′. Tiny. Dang Tiny.
Eventually, aside from the bathroom I’ve already planned, I’m going to add another small, hollow, storage bed-couch combo down below, and most likely add some shelved storage that will double as steps to the bunk, a place to hide goods, and a small cook surface (not the part you’ll step on). The bathroom, I might add, will be accessed from the outside of “The Cub” by a different entrance, seeing as this structure is so small, and you wouldn’t want to be enclosed with a toilet in only 40 square feet.
Oh yeah, I suppose I should mention that I already hauled this, with a mere mini-van, to Vermont and back, a 9 hour round trip. At one point, using terrible GPS directions to get to the Yestermorrow Design School for a speaking engagement, we were led over a mountain pass all on a dirt road…. and the van handled it no problem, which is surprising, as the van is a Chrysler. I’ve weighed this lil’ sucker on a scrap-yard scale too, and it clocks in at 1520 pounds- light enough where I was able to hitch it solo without a jack. In hindsight, I could probably even build this a little lighter, while not sacrificing strength. Speaking of which, construction-wise, all the plywood is screwed and glued to the framing, which also makes use of angle-brackets and knee-braces. The front, windward, wall is also double layered for strength, and insulated. The other walls could be insulated down the road if desired, easily. No plumbing- you’d have to carry water in, or hook it up via a simple hose, if you wanted a small sink inside. I figured we’d just go with a 5 gallon camping tote for the time being.
Additionally, I plan to pull out the tiny side table and other loose items, and to replace them with built-ins, thereby lessening the need for tethering items down. All in all, this wasn’t really built so much for travel, but more for the utilization of a wheeled loophole, but built-ins are always a good idea anyway. One item I recently picked up is a little $4.99 Ikea 3-in-1 shelf unit, that I recently shot a short review video on. I’ll soon install this, alongside other compartments.
Anyway, I hope to have another update post for you guys down the road, AND a tour video, once this little camper is officially done.
Other points of interest:
- The ceiling, aside from the white beams, is all FREE barn wood
- The back bead-board wall is wood from a home almost 100 years old that was being thrown out (my neighbors place, who know I LOVE salvaged wood).
- The orange wall-hanging which many have commented on favorably- it’s a 1970s stereo cabinet door, found street-side, which I painted. Nothing more.
- The green wall hanging with a fossil on it – yup, found on the side of the road during a trash day.
- The table- same thing….
- Green vase- grabbed it curbside too (sensing a theme here?)
- Large painting (which was actually just being stored there for a bit)- $2 at a yard sale.
- The bunk railing- threaded pipe from home depot ($20 or so).
- Front door, from a salvage yard (I needed a non-standard, narrow, size- $75
- The large back window- another free street-side find.
- The other two windows are micro-Andersons- I splurged here- they were about $65 each.
- The trailer- brand new and rated for over 2000 pounds- $529
Video of the IKEA shelf…. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IJ37jSBtDs0
MORE TO COME!
Derek “Deek” Diedricksen
On a recent trip to Yosemite National Park, the parking lots were dotted with some very colorful little campervans that reminded me of the long-term travel vans in Europe, Australia and New Zealand. It turns out that the Kiwi company that rents out the graffiti-inspired vans Down Under now has rental options in the U.S. The individually painted vans are available in several cities around the country for both short and long road trips.
Escape Campervans are available in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Miami and New York and each are hand painted by local artists. Prices are quoted for trips from 3 days to 85+ days. A young British couple we met in Yosemite were driving their Escape campervan from Los Angeles to New York for three months and the longer you rent, the cheaper the cost. Only a $200 deposit is needed to reserve a camper van.
The U.S fleet of Escape Campervans are economical Chevy Astros, Ford E150 and Dodge Caravans. Each of the campervans sleep two to four people and include beds, bedding and comforters, picnic chairs, sinks and running water, cooking and eating utensils, heat and AC, stereos, propane stoves, and ice boxes for food. Some of the vans include pop-up roofs with sleeping areas. Optional items can be rented including picnic tables, snow chains, rooftop storage boxes, GPS systems, tents, awnings, solar showers and child seats.
Photos by Escape Campervans