Have you ever wanted to build your own camper? If so, you are not alone. There are tons of creative and handy people who construct homemade campers.
Some are small Teardrop style trailers, others are built on top of trucks, and others, like this one built by Instrucatables user anthonyschr, are built starting with the base of an existing utility trailer.
Stories like this one about families who build their own campers are inspiring. So inspiring that it got us thinking, what would it take to build a homemade camper? Here are eight steps for building your very own homemade trailer.
Step #1: Planning
To build a homemade camper you need to start with a great deal of planning. And if you want to build an off-the-grid set-up that offers full amenities without the need for hookups, you will need to plan even more. Start by making a list of everything you want in your camper. Make one list of the things you HAVE to have, and another with the things you would prefer but aren’t necessary to the function of the camper. Ask yourself how, where, and how often your will use the camper.
Step #2: The Frame
A custom built camper will need a frame. Anthonysch and his family chose a 4′ x 8′ aluminum trailer frame. This worked for their design. If you want something bigger or smaller you will have to adjust accordingly. Their first project was to replace everything on the old frame. They put in new floorboards, jack, coupler, taillights, etc. They also upgraded the axle, wheels and tires. A reinforced tongue and toolbox was mounted on the trailer by professionals.
Step #3: The Box
The body of the camper, or the box, goes on top of the trailer. For this camper, they built a 34-inch tall plywood box and attached it to the trailer. The box size is determined by the size of the trailer, and the items you want it to hold.
Step #4: The Look
This is where it gets fun. The possibilities for how a homemade camper can look are endless! You could paint it bright colors, cover the box with aluminum and make it sleek and modern, or use fiberglass for a clean and durable look. Every homemade camper can be customized to fit a particular style. For this camper they went for the natural look and chose to spray paint it with camouflage and stencil a bark pattern around the box.
Step #5: The Function
Functionality is key when it comes to a homemade camper. This camper includes three compartments inside the box. The first serves as a sliding kitchenette with a two burner cooktop, a simple sink, paper towel area, and a couple of drawers. They covered the counter with Formica that looked like stainless steel and was easy to clean.
The middle compartment holds the water tanks and pump. They installed a 20 gallon water tank that connects to both the kitchen faucet and the outside bathing house.
The final compartment is located at the rear of the box. A door was built to allow access to a spare tire and any other necessary tools. It works great as a storage area, with oversized Rubbermaid containers that slide in and out.
Step #6: Components
If you want to build a camper outfitted for off-grid camping you’re going to need a source of power. For this homemade camper they decided to use solar power in combination with two batteries. They mounted the 12 watt solar panel on a slide out in front of the trailer and placed the batteries in the toolbox near the front.
The solar panel supplies power to the water pump, the LED lights, and three 12 Volt outlets that they installed. If you are not familiar with electrical you may want to have someone do this part of the process for you. It’s important to get it right!
If you want to install propane as well, you could do that in one of the recessed compartments near the kitchenette. A propane tank can be used to fuel the cooktop and a camping water heater. It could also be used for basic heat if needed.
Step #7: The Extras
There are lots of extra items you can add to a homemade camper. For this camper the large extra item was a roof top sleeping tent! A custom rack on the top of the box and two sheets of plywood creates a base for the tent which opens up to almost eight feet. They didn’t do all the work themselves. Instead, they hired someone to do the framing, canvas, and mattress. They use two ladders to support the sides of the tent which makes a door.
Another extra item they added was a fold down table that attached to the box at the same end as the kitchenette. They covered the top of the table with a Formica for easy cleaning.
If you are looking for other extra accessories you might consider a 12 Volt fridge/freezer, and a portable generator. If you want a shower Cabela’s makes a free standing tent just for this purpose. Personally, I would add a bathroom with a porta potty in a separate tent far from the camping site. There are several great units on the market that are lightweight and some that even features a battery operated flush.
Step 8: Consider The Cost
This example of a homemade camper cost a total of $11, 438 to build. Nearly $4,000 was spent on the tent, and the trailer is not included in this price. Solar added about $1,000, but offers the ability to go off-grid.
Your costs will vary depending on your design and whether you do all the work yourself. If you like the idea of building something from scratch this project may be for you. For this family built trailer, it took a couple of years to complete. With their helpful hints, it might take you half the time. The key is staying focused and not getting discouraged when things don’t quite go the way you planned. A project like this is personal and takes time and patience. If you think you have what it takes, give it a go!
To read more about this trailer and see more photos, head on over to Instructables.com.
What do you think? Would you rather build a custom camper or buy a used one? Have you created a tent camper you would like to share? Tell us all about your projects in the comments below.
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