Converting a Utility Trailer into an RV to house us and the Motorcycle
We wanted an inexpensive RV to not only sleep in on our travels but to house our motorcycle as well. So, we set out to convert a utility cargo trailer into a camping trailer.
We purchased a 16 foot, single axle Wells Cargo trailer with 16 inch wheels that weighs approximately 1,200 pounds and had the dealer install a side door with a keyed lock and a crank up roof vent. At the back, a pair of double rear doors opened wide to provide light and fresh air. With a bit of measuring and fitting, I sewed together a roll up vinyl/screen “door” for the rear entrance which we attached using existing screws on the top and velcro on the sides. This served a dual purpose as a wall and a window when the rear doors were open. I also sewed a screen for the side door to keep out those pesky bugs.
We didn’t put any insulation in the walls as we weren’t planning to use the trailer in the winter but we did glue aluminized bubble insulation to the ceiling. Easy to clean vinyl flooring covered the base of the trailer and hold-down cleats screwed into the floor served to hold the motorcycle securely in place.
I chose a colour scheme for the inside of yellow, green and gray and purchased a length of yellow and green striped outdoor cushion fabric for the wall coverings and pillow covers. We found a futon that fit perfectly crosswise in the front of the trailer and covered it with a lime green sheet. To store our clothing and miscellaneous items we installed a wooden shelf at the front and added lights underneath for lighting during the day and night lights for reading at night. Initially, an umbrella served as our awning but after a couple of years we replaced it with a canopy to give us more covered outdoor space. Finally, with plastic boxes for storage we were set to go.
This served us well for several years while we explored British Columbia’s back roads and trails on our motorcycle. But after a few years we gave up the motorcycle and decided to improve the trailer.
An old desk we already had was re-purposed as a kitchen cabinet which we painted grey with bright yellow drawers that were fitted with magnetic catches to keep things in place. A bar sink purchased from Home Depot was installed in a hole cut in the top and a marine hand pump purchased on the internet was attached for drawing water from the container located under the sink. Finally, we glued metallic tiles to the wall above the desk to form a backsplash along with battery operated lights for illumination. A soap dispenser completed the installation.
There are actually two containers in the space under the sink, the one that provides fresh water and the other for grey water storage. They are attached to the hand pump and drain with food grade plastic tubing. A curtain across the front of the desk made from outdoor cushion fabric hides all the plumbing, but allows easy access for filling and emptying the containers.
The existing wooden shelf we modified to create an area for the mini bar fridge (purchased at Costco) with a shelf above for sundries. Mesh netting keeps everything secured on the shelf. The fridge can be used as an icebox, and if we have power available we can use an extension cord that we run through a small porthole cut in the side of the trailer. A string of theatre lights around the inside ceiling was added to provide a nice ambiance.
To increase our storage space, we added a narrow cabinet on the side wall and painted it yellow and white with a grey curtain to hide the porta-potty. We then hung a small folding table on the opposite wall which we could take down and set up for food preparation and eating. A flip up table was attached with a piano hinge to the wall beside the cabinet. This gave us another handy surface but stored out of the way when not needed. We also moved the futon from the front to the rear of the trailer.
We decided the plain exterior needed enhancing to make it look more like a conventional travel trailer so we painted black “windows” on either side and grey and silver pin striping.
We still have work we want to do. This will include installing two windows that open and relocating the spare tire from inside the trailer to the front hitch. Also, we want to add a roll-out awning to replace the umbrella and canopy that we have used in the past.
The cost to complete this utility trailer conversion was between $5,500 and $6,000. Some of the items we already had and repurposed but they could easily be picked up at a garage sale or online.
It has been a very comfortable and easy to tow trailer that we have taken all over BC, to Alberta, Washington and as far away as Arizona. We are looking forward to many more memorable trips.
Published: January 19th, 2017
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