Camper Design – sleep 6, under 20′

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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?

8 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.

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