Meditation Retreat Gypsy Wagon

Meditation Retreat Gypsy Wagon

Tim Kasten wrote to me recently about his Meditation Retreat Gypsy Wagon, so I asked him to send me some pictures and tell us his story. I’ll let Tim take over from here:

I dreamed for a number of years of building a gypsy-style caravan on a 4-wheel 14-foot-long wagon chassis that I bought from Shiloh Wagon Works in Minnesota. Health problems eventually forced me to concede that I wasn’t strong enough to build it alone and that I would have to scale back the design considerably if I wanted to be able to tow it with a small car and maneuver it by myself.


The result was this little wagon built on a 4×8 utility trailer from Tractor Supply. I don’t know its exact weight, but I’m pretty sure it’s under 600 pounds. I tow it easily with a Toyota Matrix.

I realized I could compensate for the lack of interior space by using French doors to open the side of the wagon to the outdoors. I have a folding foam mattress which serves as a couch and for sleeping. Shelves at the back of the wagon accommodate a camping stove and storage nets. A plastic bucket is the bathroom when the woods or a fast food establishment is not available.


The wagon was built by Creative Carpentry and Construction of Montpelier, Vermont consisting of my friend and neighbor Myron Dorfman and fellow crew members David Vissering, Zach, and Derek. I want to give particular credit to David Vissering who appreciated the balance of strength, lightness, and beauty I hoped to achieve in the design and added his own beautiful touches along the way.

The construction took 140 hours, not including painting and other finish work. The walls consist of 1″x1.5″ pine studs one foot on center sheathed in 3/8″ plywood. (It became apparent later that 1/4″ plywood would have been sufficient for strength.) We used lots of Gorilla glue and stainless steel screws. The outside is sided with pine bead board. The floor, roof, and walls are insulated with 1″ pink board.

The bottom of the wagon is 3/4″ pressure treated plywood and the floor is tongue and groove Douglas fir. The roof is 1/4″ plywood bent over 1″x2″ purlins topped by a waterproof membrane and galvanized metal roofing. The pink board between the purlins is covered with birch veneer. I found an old pair of cabinet doors in a salvage warehouse and reglazed them with tempered glass. The windows are inexpensive cellar sash that I cover with 1/8″ Lexan when I’m on the road. My friend Rosana Vestuti painted the wagon.


I use the wagon for meditation and made a portable altar for my Buddhist practices. (I have taken to calling it the “Wheel of Dharma retreat wagon” and plan to paint some auspicious emblems on the outside.) I took the wagon down to Cape Cod in September for a solo retreat.

One of the joys of owning such a beautiful wagon is the delight it brings to people along the way. Even people camping in big RVs told me how charmed they were by it. Perhaps the wagon will benefit others by reminding them that we can live and travel quite comfortably on a much smaller scale. The other joy, of course, is to be warm, dry, and cozy while drinking tea and listening to the night rain drumming on the metal roof.

Tim Kasten




by Kent Griswold (Tiny House Blog)

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joseph kenyon - October 11, 2009 Reply

I really like this! I saw several other caravan and gypsy wagons youve highlighted before and Love them all. However this one I think is special in that it is smaller, lighter, and more easily moved by 1 person. Now in comparison, to move my tiny house, even several feet or across a lot I would need a truck or tractor. But this is super simplicity and great as a camping trailer (or as he states- meditation cabin). Nice one! Oh and I like her choice of colors used to paint it

Moonlit Minds « Moonlit Minds - October 11, 2009 Reply

[…] Meditation Retreat Gypsy Wagon […]

Lellewynn - October 11, 2009 Reply

this truly is a beautiful vardo! he’s successfully brought my 4×8 tiny house dream to fruition. This let’s me know that a person can successfully live/camp in 32sqft. I love it!

Paula - October 11, 2009 Reply

There’s such sweetness to this. You’ve done a fine job. Very fine.

Superdog - October 11, 2009 Reply

What a find. I’ve been looking for something like this and wondering if it was doable. Finally something you can stand up in yet be towable, cheap, not too complicated to build, and beautiful. I may have to give it a go. Thanks for posting!

txdakini - October 11, 2009 Reply

What a beautiful design and result. Congratulations to you! I love the simplicity of it, and it really is charming. As a Buddhist, this would make a great meditation “hut” even if stationary.

Happy traveling!

Om Mani Padme Hum

Bob - October 11, 2009 Reply

A campsite with out a campfire is one without a soul
My friend has one of these
It has helped us keep warm on many a cold night.
you could say it save our bacon and cook it:)

ej - October 12, 2009 Reply


Rob - October 13, 2009 Reply

Excellent and elegant build!! Looking at it sparks my own imagination. I wonder how some of the new small-boat building techniques might be adapted in order to decrease weight, while increasing strength. Like using stitch-and-glue pre-cut panels for panels and curves, to form a “mono-coque” lightweight framing. Unfortunately this will need more non-green products for construction.

Om Benzra Satto Hung

    Timothy Kasten - March 29, 2011 Reply

    Hi Rob,

    Thanks for your comment about my wagon. Vajrasattva is one of my main Dharma practices. (I was just looking at my post on Tiny House Blog from almost two years ago and was moved to respond to the mantra you signed off with.) I brought the wagon on a visit to my teacher, Lama Norlha Rinpoche, and was happy he gave it his blessing. It has certainly been a source of happiness to me.

    Om Benzra Satto Hung


Meditation Retreat Trailer | - November 2, 2009 Reply

[…] Detalhes da construção deste trailer aqui: […]

Jason - November 2, 2009 Reply

Very, Very nice! Now I just need to learn wood working!

Jean Commito - December 9, 2011 Reply

Hi, Tim, your wagon fits you well. You’ve come a long way from the old van! I think of you often and am pleased envisioning you in this space.

Tina Larkin - December 6, 2013 Reply

Just saw this on Dec 6 2013. Absolutely perfect!!! Must build one for my 4 cylinder car, too, Thank you for posting this!

AnneMarie George - September 4, 2018 Reply

Just saw this and it’s exactly what I’m looking for. My homemade woody teardrop has served me well for 3 summers of travel, 25000 miles, but as my bones are aging, hers are also. Was thinking something like my teardrop, only I could stand in it. This is perfect. Do you have any further info or pictures. Have forwarded this to my son who will spend the winter tightening up and sprucing up my Honey Bee Hive! But this would certainly be an improvement. Love it. Safe travels.

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