A tiny house on wheels is a comfy ticket to adventure. Right? With the proper planning, it definitely can be. A common misconception is that all tiny house dwellers are nomads. For most, the wheels mean flexibility. You can move when need or desire arises. Some travel because of their jobs like travel nurses. Others road trip in search of the ideal new city. There are genuine nomads or semi-nomads, like myself, who frequently travel as a lifestyle choice. Think snowbirds or restless explorer types. No matter the reason for move or a full-blown road trip, safety on the road is essential.
My partner Christian and I have made 36 states our temporary home over the last three years. To date, we have racked up 50,000 miles with our tiny house. We have taken our tiny house to the desert, to the coast and up to 10,000 feet above sea level. It hasn’t always been an easy experience. The most important lessons learned are what not to do, like never travel without two spare tires and wheels. After all the ups and downs, our empowering takeaway is that do-it-yourself tiny house travel can be done, safely and enjoyably. No matter how often you want to move your tiny house, there are many things you need to be aware before hitting the road, even if you hire a professional driver.
7 Things You Need to Know Before Traveling with Your Tiny House:
Just because it has wheels does not mean it is road trip-ready.
A tiny house on wheels has wanderlust allure to it. It is very appealing to think you take your home almost anywhere. After completing their build, Cody and Randi Hennigan (The Best Little House in Texas) took their 20’ tiny house, under 10,000 lbs, on a six-month road trip before putting down roots in a new state. If your dream tiny home needs a triple axel trailer, it is not intended for road-tripping. The Nerds Gone Tiny family hired a professional to move their 42’ tiny house from Texas to Oregon. Proof that big tinies can be moved. Though they are bear to maneuver on the road; not for the inexperienced or faint of heart. The bigger and heavier the tiny house, the less available parking and tow vehicle options. Before you build or buy, you need to soul search. How tiny is right for you, and how important is travel to you?
Travel prep begins during the design/build phase.
When designing your layout, you need to plan for adequate weight distribution. A good rule of thumb: the 60/40 split. 60% of the total tiny house weight should be placed between the center of wheels and front of the trailer (towards tongue). Also work to evenly distribute weight left to right, as much as possible. An unbalanced trailer can result in unsafe swerving on the road. Sway bars won’t fix bad distribution!
Be like Santa, and check your tow prep list twice.
When it comes to traveling with a tiny house, you can never be too careful. There are many steps to properly hooking up your trailer to the tow vehicle. If one step is done incorrectly, it could result in a catastrophe. Every single time we are ready to hit the road, we go through our checklist. And when we stop for gas, we go through the checklist again.
Before you tow, truck and trailer checklist:
- Proper tire pressure
- Secure attachment to the truck, including hitch lock and emergency break-away system
- Working trailer brakes (7-pin connector and electronic brake system in the cab)
- Working trailer lights
- Correct mirror placement
Practice the 3 C’s.
Stay calm, cool and collected at all times. Think about towing your tiny house like a form of meditation. Your goal is to focus entirely on driving with precision. Stress and distractions will occur. That’s ok; this is background noise.
To stay focused ground yourself in the repetition of safe driving practices:
- Check your mirrors frequently.
- Change lanes gradually. Never jerk the wheel.
- Take slow, wide turns—like a waltz.
- No rushing necessary; you’ll get there when you get there.
No adventure is complete without an occasional misadventure.
The adventure begins when things go wrong. Like the time we got a flat tire on the way to Burning Man, or the time a wheel seized up, and we had to limp it to a repair shop. What’s remarkable about both mishaps is the kindness of strangers we experienced. A stranger offered us help to fix the tire, and the shop allowed us to sleep in the tiny house overnight and even gave us power. The wonderful thing about having your house with you is you go inside to make coffee while you wait for the mobile repairman. That’s exactly what we did the last time we got a flat tire. The more you travel with your tiny house, the more likely you are to find yourself in a temporary bind. My advice: stay calm. You will find a solution.
Things to always bring:
- Spare tire and wheel set
- 1, 12,000 lb bottle jack (more depending on weight of house)
- Tire iron to remove lugs
- Jack stands/stabilizers
- Wheel levers
- Coupler lock
Your tiny house will get filthy.
Traveling tiny houses get dirty, no matter how frequently they hit the road. After our first cross-country road trip, from North Carolina to Colorado, our windows looked dingy and mud splattered. The bottom few boards of our siding were grimy, dark and sticky. After each subsequent trip, the road grime slowly climbed higher and higher. Goodbye bright clear-coated cedar and hello rustic. At an open house event, a visiting kid commented, “that must be a really old tiny house.” Our tiny home was only a year and half old at the time. Good news: it doesn’t take much to clean off the grime and restore a tiny house to its original glory. Read this post about tiny house road life realities, including road grime.
You will make new friends.
I like to say, we start conversations and spread smiles wherever we go. Tiny house charm is contagious. It attracts people to you and your home, like bees to honey. You will find yourself chatting with complete strangers at gas stations. You might even get an impromptu invite to park on someone’s property or join them for dinner. My advice: say yes, sometimes. I have the most remarkable conversations with people I would never otherwise met if it wasn’t for their tiny house curiosity.
Feeling ready to hit the open road? With the right preparation, you can tow your tiny house as much or as little as you want and have the time of your life.
You can do it! Follow these traveling tiny houses for inspiration and moral support:
- Tiny Hell on Wheels, a new nomadic couple and their pets (a mini-pig and Great Pyrenees): https://facebook.com/tinyhellonwheels and https://instagram.com/tiny_hell_on_wheels
- Tiny House Twin Travels, a nomadic family with adorable twin toddler boys: https://instagram.com/tinyhousetwintravels
- Operation Atlas, a nomadic married couple that move their tiny home every 3 months: https://operationatlas.blog and http://tinyfriendly.com
- Artisan Josh, a single man in a micro house on wheels (66 sq. ft.): https://instagram.com/artisan_josh
- BA Norrgard and John Breen, a snowbird couple that splits their time between Minnesota and Texas: https://instagram.com/banorrgard
- Tiny Firehouse, the mobile home of the founders of the United Tiny House Association who travel to several tiny house festivals every year: https://www.instagram.com/tinyfirehouse and https://facebook.com/tinyfirehouse
- Shorty Robbins, an adventurous grandma and her teenage granddaughter that bring their Victorian tiny home to Civil War reenactments and tiny house festivals: https://instagram.com/shortys_tiny_house_nawaka and https://facebook.com/shortystinyhousebuildandbeyond
- Andrea Burns, an occasional traveling single woman: https://instagram.com/cheshireandrea
- Tiny Traveling Theatre, a couple and traveling arts and education project: https://tinytravelingtheatre.org
- Tiny House Expedition, likely the world’s most traveled tiny house on wheels: https://tinyhouseexpedition.com