Camper Design – sleep 6, under 20′

18

My curiosity got the best of me after my tent camping trip this past spring. It was cold and miserably wet packing up (30-35 degrees, rain, sleet then snow). I tent camped because I can’t get the big camper into this particular state park. The big camper is fine as my wife, family, and I are travelers- not necessarily campers. We use the camper as our mobile apartment while using the Thousand Trails RV parks and my ability to work remotely from my office.

We’ve joked a time or two that we really look forward to the couple of weekends a year where we legitimately camp – cooking outside, spending all of our waking time outside, etc. So my curiosity sent me down the route of trying to find a camper that fit our wants. Ultimately, I didn’t find what I needed so I started to design what I wanted. It has been a fun activity- even if I never actually build this.

Here were my requirements:

  • Under 20′ (tip to tip- everything included (coupler, bumper, etc.)) due to storage lot constraints
  • No tent/canvas (ruling out hybrids for the most part)
  • Sleep 6 (4 adults and 2 kids); murphy bed is fine
  • Dedicated bed for me (I can never get comfortable on dinettes and want enough room for the wife and I to sleep comfortably together)
  • Has toilet (even a cassette toilet is fine); needs to be in its own room- it won’t fly to have to use a port-a-pot pulled into a hallway or something (my wife/mother-in-law were about at their limit w/ our pop-up and a shower curtain for walls around the toilet)
  • Sink (and water heater)
  • Furnace
  • A/C (roof mounted)
  • Microwave (convection would be cool)
  • Fridge w/ freezer that’s NOT on the floor (my pop-up was on the floor and I hated it)
  • Stove top is a nice to have, but not required as we camp with Coleman/propane stoves and over the fire

The sleeps 6 part is a curious one- we often times have just 4 of us (wife + me, our 2 kids (ages 10 and 2)). Often times we have 6 of us when my in-laws join us (2 couples; 2 kids). And the other use of the camper is when going camping with my Dad and friends- (3-4 adults who don’t necessarily want to share beds and 1-2 kids).

A couple of campers came close:

  • Vibe 6504
    • The Vibe is 5″ too long at 20′ 5″ (assuming that’s tip to tail)
    • IMO, Vibe seems to sleep 5
    • I was never crazy about having to climb over my bedmate to potty in the middle of the night/early morning
  • Lance 2185
    • Too long at 25′ 8″
    • Does sleep 6 (or 7 if you squeeze 2 on the dinette)
  • Rockwood Mini Lite 2306
    • Too long at 23′ 8″
    • Very low cargo carrying capacity at 956 lbs.
    • Sleeps 5 unless dinette can sleep 1

I posted my list of requirements on RV.net’s forum and someone said it was impossible and challenged me to cut out a bunch of paper or do a chalk outline in my driveway. Basically that I was trying to fit 10 lbs. of potatoes in a 5 lb. sack.

Since I’m a geek, Visio is my tool of choice. I started with a 17′ x 8′ box drawn to a scale of 1 inch equals 2 feet (1/24). I then started drawing shapes. I used an Excel spreadsheet to convert my original measurements to my scale measurements (e.g. 3 real inches = 0.125 scale inches). For the shower, toilet, sinks, oven, fridge, and beds- all were taken from measurements of products online.

I took what I thought were the positives of each model:

  • Bunks across the back for space saving and easy wardrobe
  • Not stressing that the bathroom sink isn’t in the bathroom
  • Using a murphy bed to magically make the camper usable during the day
  • Incorporating the dinette/slide/bunk bed idea from the Vibe
  • Flip-up countertop from one model and my current camper for extra prep space

I accepted a few negatives:

  • Fridge is completely inaccessible when the slide is closed
  • Fridge and dinette access are tight when the murphy bed is down
  • Murphy bed has to travel in upright position to close slides (is this OK?)
  • Appliances are in a slide (TBD if this is good or bad)

I accepted that I know nothing about trailer design:

  • I have made no provisions for where the axles/wheels/tires will be nor any intrusion into the living area for them
  • I have made the assumption that 3′ is enough for the tongue w/ propane, batteries, jack foot and coupler
  • Very little thought was put into inside cabinets
  • No thought was put into exterior accessible storage
  • Very little thought was put into things like water heater, furnace and water pump placement (though, the wardrobe and linen closet would be my first two suspects)

I accept that this is purely an exercise in creativity:

  • I can only imagine that there is exactly 1 person who would be willing to have a significant enough tow vehicle for such a small trailer (2 slides have to weight a lot).

It was fun to play with though. What input do you have on this floorplan/design? Would this work for you?

18 COMMENTS

  1. Hello, I love your design. I have a family of 5 and we live in a Tiny house when in the states. We have been looking for a travel trailer and its amazing to see how large these things get and still not the best use of space. Its been over a year since the post, any luck building one or finding one like your blueprint?

  2. I reached out to a couple of manufacturers that I am familiar with employees, but I couldn't get anyone to even take a look at these.

    I'd be curious if Recreation By Design (http://www.recreationbydesign.us/) might be willing to use them as a concept and build from them.

    But, our needs have changed and I don't have a use for something like this. We fulltime now and everything we own is in our 40' fifth wheel + truck.

  3. I love the idea you got something down that looks workable. Wish someone would take you up on it. Just what I would like for my family—2 adults and 2 kids and 2 grandparents.

    • I think the real challenge is I think that it would be fairly heavy. You’d need a stout truck for towing it. Given that a lot of people are looking to tow a short camper with a smaller tow vehicle, I think it wouldn’t miss the market on marketability.

      And, unfortunately, I’ve reached out to 4-5 manufacturers to give me input on if it has glaring issues or design problems and no one will respond.

  4. Amazing design and exactly what I am looking for!! The icing on the cake would be to furnish with any color other than BROWN. I would love a bunkhouse plus a queen bed with at least one slide out that is not huge. Why is this so hard to find???

  5. I really like this!!! Need a long enough bed for my husband, and space for two kids with a little extra sleeping space for flex. I found this post looking for 20 ft campers. Want a short one with useful space for National parks!!!

  6. I came across the Viking 17BHS which is pretty close with the one comprise, a full size bed opposed to the queen size murphy. Its not perfect like your drawing but it is also reasonably priced.

  7. My biggest issue is, people, and I believe you said it to, is you said RV, but all the links you have are to a travel trailer. im tired of searching for a nice smal RV, not a trailer that can fit 5/6 people and meet your requirements.

    • Interestingly, the term “RV” is misused. Often times when people say “RV”, they really mean “motorhome” (MH) or “drivable RV”. I’ve also read of people saying that “camper” only applies to towed vehicles.

      That said, the proper definition of RV is “recreational vehicle” and runs the gamut of motorhomes to fifth wheels to travel trailers and even pop-ups and A-Frame folding campers.

      If you’re specifically looking for a small motorhome, then you might fair better searching for “motorhome that sleeps 6” or more specifically the types of motorhomes (Class A, B, or C), such as “class c that sleeps 6”.

      Good luck in your search!

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