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Old 03-26-2010, 05:08 PM   #1
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Cargo Trailer conversion to camper

Are their any resources concerning converting a cargo trailer to a camper?
In particular I would need help with the electrical system: 12v converter inverter
And water tanks./ storage tanks.

I think tanks may be a problem(where are they going to go?) but the electrical system should be easier to install.

My main concerns is the electrical system. I need everything from the beginning:
Parts, how to calculate draw and usage requirements, safety requirements, ability to charge the battery from shore power or a generator.

I think I can rig or figure something for the water/waste storage (but Iíd still love a reference)

We have to fit 2 adults(parents) and 2 kids (1 of the kids is adult sized.) in this thing.
We know itís going to be cramped. I am thinking a 6X10 will give us JUST enough room.. And still fit below the 400 pound tongue weight limit our vehicle has.

(ah, I didnít understand payload capacity and tongue weight until last week when we got our hitch put on our car. Both of us are starting this learning adventure from scratch. Neither me nor my husband has ever owned a hard side camper, rv or popup.)

These videos show people doing the conversation- but not the needed details:

Cargo camper conversions:
YouTube - The BOONDOCKER - Cargo/Camping Trailer
YouTube - camper conversion 0001
YouTube - CaptainOfTeamRONIN's Channel


Home made:
YouTube - Big Al's Homemade "ALVAN" camper caravan


thanks for your help
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Old 03-26-2010, 08:00 PM   #2
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Memories

Reminded me the time I bought an old school bus to convert. It sat there and sat there for three or four years. I came home one day and it was gone. When I went into the house my wife said I sold your damm bus now if you want a motorhome go buy the dam thing. That was four motorhomes ago. Wise woman.
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Old 03-26-2010, 09:13 PM   #3
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mcantu, honestly it can be done, but I feel with all the money you are going to spend that you could find a great used trailer that would keep some dollar value for future trade up. I would be afraid that what you want to build would not bring what you have in it. I would figure what it is going to cost and buy a used trailer for that dollar amount, the big plus is you can spend the time camping with your family instead of your time building your own trailer. Good luck on your decision.
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Old 03-27-2010, 01:43 AM   #4
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with basically 3 adults and one child you are going to be cramped and as your youngest grows you will soon out grow the camper quite quickly and have something that you can't sell, you will basically have to give it away or convert it back into a cargo trailer.

I thought about building my own a few years ago and with the cost involved I found out that I could buy a used camper that would do everything I asked now and in the future for less money.

Again 6x10 isn't much space at all and once you get beds for everyone you're not going to have much room for anything else. The thing about campers is they gain weight everytime you take them out which also means they get smaller each time. This is because you start collecting equipment and goodies. I would recommend looking for used pop up to start with since you mention the low tongue weight limts. A single axle pop up with an 8 or 10 foot box will sleep 5 people in comfort while giving you storage space.

Yes they are tents on wheels but you would be surprised how well the furnance works in them (I've owned a pop before) and cooling actually works as well - yes during the heat of july the AC runs and runs but they do work at keeping them cool. They aren't all that hard to set up - first couple of times you start second guessing your purchase but you get into a routine and it really doesn't take long at all to set up and tear down after a few times going out. You develop a routine...
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Old 03-27-2010, 09:59 AM   #5
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Get a pop-up first. I will tell you what I told my daughter. You need to spend a good year in an RV first to see what you need, what you don't need and want you want. We will be spending this summer converting a school bus that we bought last summer to haul our stuff out to NM from NC (cheaper than renting a cargo truck). We will then do a few repairs on the Class C we are living in now for make it work better for my daughter. After she spends a year or so in it, she plans on looking for a school bus that has been partially or fully converted that she can just remodel a little to suit her needs and wants.


If you want to convert a cargo trailer or what ever into something to suit your special needs then you need to read a conversion forum for a while (like a year or so). You will not save $$ converting something into an RV. You will not get any of your $$ back out of it once you sell it (no market). This is something you do because a commercial built unit simply will not work for you OR because you simply like doing things like that.

Read this forum for lower cost conversions that you can adapt to cargo trailers if you want.
Skoolie.net Ľ About

other DIY resources:
How to Convert a Bus into a Motorhome - Conversion (this site has books as well as a page with lots of links)

If you do not know much about carpentry, electrical wiring or plumbing, then I would suggest that you pick up some basic DIY type books from Lowes/Home Depot book dept that cover's the area(s) you need help in. BTW,you might check out Amazon's used lists when you find a book that you would like to buy.
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Old 03-27-2010, 11:05 PM   #6
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thanks!

I appreciate everyone's input.
I originally considered the conversation because I stopped at the dealer, and he said the hard side campers started USED at $11,000.... and I thought I could swing a basic set up for 3,000 with a conversion.

Every time I mention the idea of a popup (in my family and friends) .. several people start running around, foaming at the mouth saying how horrible they are, and I should never buy one.

Looking at Craig list- everyone wants more then $3000 for their popup. Anyone who wants less says it sleeps only 3 (need 4+), or there are significant rips or water damage.

Where I live campers, Rvs, and the like are popular. I have a feeling it might be a sellerís market.
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Old 03-28-2010, 09:20 AM   #7
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I don't know why anyone would have an issue with a pop up unless you are camping in an area that has bears. Many of us started with pop ups and I know we had some really great trips. Go with what ever fits you life style and budget...ignore the "friends".

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Old 03-28-2010, 10:36 AM   #8
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Nothing wrong with a pop-up. With a family of 4 the 2 queen sized beds will get everyone space. If you went with a pop-up, get one that has the front storage trunk. This way you don't have to put as much stuff on the floor when packing up. We had our 99' Coleman for 6 seasons (250 nights). In 05' we were going to buy another new Coleman pop-up, but happened to stick our heads into a Aerolite Cub hybrid, and that is all she wrote. After this season we will have 300+ nights in our 05' Cub. There is so much room in there and cabinet space. You can find used ones under $10k......Ours is a 24' model with a small slide. Starting in 05' the Cub's went to 8' wide. I think the 01's to 04's were 7-1/2' wide. Before that they were only 7' wide. Being 8' wide really opens up the aisleways. A friend of ours had a older Aerolite that was 7' which made for a narrow hallway.....
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Old 03-28-2010, 10:58 AM   #9
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Mcantu,

I got my 18' TT for a grand. She is older, for sure, being built in 1985 but she was in absolutely beautiful condition. It took me a year of Craig's List searching, every day for hours and looking at some real dumps but preserverance paid off. I am making little mods to her, but I didn't really need to. The interior doesn't even look like it was used.

Don't get discouraged, if you do not mind older, there are good TT's out there and you don't have to spend a lot. BUT the key to this is patience. You could get lucky, and have one pop up, on the List, tomorrow but do not expect that and if you can afford to wait and shop, you can find a real gem.

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Old 03-28-2010, 12:50 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mcantu View Post
I appreciate everyone's input.
I originally considered the conversation because I stopped at the dealer, and he said the hard side campers started USED at $11,000.... and I thought I could swing a basic set up for 3,000 with a conversion.

Every time I mention the idea of a popup (in my family and friends) .. several people start running around, foaming at the mouth saying how horrible they are, and I should never buy one.

Looking at Craig list- everyone wants more then $3000 for their popup. Anyone who wants less says it sleeps only 3 (need 4+), or there are significant rips or water damage.

Where I live campers, Rvs, and the like are popular. I have a feeling it might be a seller’s market.

Man I wish you were closer. I have a really nice pop-up that I just put up for sale yesterday. It belong to my parents, and hasn't been used much and it in perfect condition. It sleeps 4 adults and 2 children.

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Old 03-29-2010, 01:48 AM   #11
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You can find used trailer for cheaper than 11 grand. I have found a ton of them for less, yes sometimes you find junk that someone is trying to unload but you can also find gems. I picked up our current rig for 3 grand and it's been fully remodeled inside. Had some water leaks that were repaired and then they repaired the damage inside. I got new carpet, new Hardwood floors, new paneling and replacement cabinets. No leaks, no smells and no soft spots. As said I had to do some searching but they can be found. I found a guy that in his retirement he buys old trailers for a song then spends his afternoons redoing them and putting them up for sale. He said that it gives him something to do.
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Old 06-29-2010, 02:02 AM   #12
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Nice video.Thanks for sharing..
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Old 07-05-2010, 07:46 AM   #13
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On the other hand , I started with a commercial TT ... Jayco FS .. 15K all up .. and 3 years later it's worth less than I owe on it ... The paper thin roof (TPO) has been nothing but problems .. Expensive problems , now that it's out of warranty ... Just a Huge Money Pit !!! Maintenance nightmare !!! Never again !!!!!!!!!!! (note: this is not yer' grandpa's Jayco ...things have changed up there )
Now I've come to my senses and am considering a cargo conversion ... with a METAL roof ... just for the wife and I , no kids , no worry of up grading ... and all the stuff I want in it ...
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Old 07-06-2010, 06:23 AM   #14
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Here's a good site for cargo conversions ... much detailed info and pictures ... MikenChell Teardrops
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