Camping in a 5’x10’ cargo trailer is hardly “living the dream” – so how did we end up doing it? Here are our thoughts on the cost-benefit analysis and decisions that went into our plan for camping tiny.
Our initial plan was to take a train trip out West. It was going to be a large-scale exploration of America’s national parks as we went from Indiana through the western half of our country, including Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, and others. We were thrilled with the prospect of “riding the rails” and seeing the beautiful parks. However, this plan had several tragic flaws. Namely, we knew we wouldn’t be able to feasibly access all of the parks we wanted to visit based on the positioning of the train stations and the availability of public transit at said stops. And once we started to look at the train schedules, we knew it would be difficult if not impossible to fit our destinations within those windows. So, trains were out, but our plan to go out West remained.
Camping is Difficult
Yes, tent camping is fun. But it’s also cumbersome, and if you’re taking a two- to three-week trip in a variety of environments, it can wreak havoc on your body. Not to mention your relationship with your wife when you keep complaining to her about how terrible camping is. The prospect of freezing temperatures and significant rainfall also helped us quickly cross traditional tent camping off our list. So, we started brainstorming alternatives that would still involve spending time in the parks.
Vans are Expensive
We loved the idea of converting a van into a camper, and we’ve seen a lot of articles about this online. Everything from beat up 2000 Ford E350’s to 2016 Mercedes Sprinter vans. The designs were very impressive, and some of the “tiny” ideas that were incorporated into the spaces were genius to say the least. We considered doing this ourselves, until we considered the cost of ownership of a van. Whether we purchased a brand new $20,000 van or a fourth-hand one for $2,000, we determined the cost of ownership to be relatively high. From taxes and title fees to insurance and general maintenance, not to mention having another car in the driveway, we decided the van life was not for us.
Enter: The Trailer
When we first considered the notion of trailer conversion, we looked at everything from used U-Haul pull-behinds to old rusted horse trailers. We were sold on the idea that trailers provide portability, a dedicated space to camp and store our belongings, and a low cost of ownership compared to other options. Ultimately, we made the decision to buy a new cargo trailer from a local dealer and turn it into the tiny camper that we have today. See our article on choosing the right trailer for your needs and get started on your own!