campers

Where Do You Park It? How to Find Land for Your Tiny Home or Trailer

Where Do You Park It? How to Find Land for Your Tiny Home or Trailer

(Before we dive into finding land for your tiny home - Just a reminder that the next session of Tiny Transition and Downsizing, the 8-week E-Course that completely changes your relationship with "stuff" and helps you get ready to live tiny, start on June 28th! You'll be in a supportive, fun group of kindred spirits on the same journey as you when you join. You can register right here!)

 

What’s one of the best things about having a house that’s built on a flatbed trailer?  The ability to up and move it whenever you want, of course. 

Want to go to the mountains for the winter?  Go. 

Always dreamt of living at the beach?  Done. 

With a tiny house, when you want to move, there’s no searching for homes in the new city while trying to sell your house in the old city.  You just hook it up and move!

But with that wondrous advantage of flexibility, comes the reality that when you have a tiny house, you don’t really have a permanent place to live.  Unless you already own some land, you will have to find a place to park it.

The requirements will vary based on the particular design of the tiny house. 

How to Stay Warm in Winter When You Live in a Van or Trailer (plus: alternatives for toughing out the cold weather)

How to Stay Warm in Winter When You Live in a Van or Trailer (plus: alternatives for toughing out the cold weather)

Ah yes, winter in the Comet Camper. Many people have asked how we stay warm and how we deal with our 3 season abode!

I recently received a question from a reader about what I do in the winter since living in the COMET. 

I figured some of you probably have the same question, so I’m going to talk a little bit about how we’ve lived the past 3 winters. If you’re thinking about living in a trailer or a van - I’ve got some good tips for you.

First off - our primary “home-base” area is Massachusetts and the New England area - yeah, it gets COLD. As I write this it is 0 degrees! (I’m inside - I’ll tell you more about why in a minute)...

Thank You TIMBUCKTU RV!

What a wonderful surprise! I came across an outdated catalog for Timbucktu RV in Worcester, MA that my father had given me when I started getting into vintage trailer restoration, and found that the catalog had ALL of the camper parts that I needed to replace in The COMET. I picked out a few things in the catalog and called Timbucktu RV in Worcester, explaining my project and what parts I was missing. They said I should come on down to the store and see what I could find that I needed. I ended up leaving with everything I needed to begin repairs on the COMET. The people at Timbucktu RV are so helpful and friendly, and engaged with the project, which was wonderful. I got lots of good advice from the people at Timbucktu RV, who have been repairing campers, motorhomes, and trailers for many years. The store and catalog both have a GREAT selection of parts - hitches, jacks, lights, even water tanks and toilets - all the larger items that not all RV stores stock in their stores. It was great to be helped by a person that new what they were selling and understood what I was trying to do with The COMET, as opposed to guessing what I needed and ordering it online, hoping that it would be the right part when it got here. Timbucktu RV has experience in all things camper related, and they even have a couple of vintage Airstreams on the lot. I fell in love with a little Globetrotter in the parking lot. They also have an extremely rare vintage Airstream diner, complete with glittery vinyl seating and bar. It's one of 8 ever made. It was gorgeous! They literally have everything under the sun camper-wise, and every part you could ever want - new or retro. And all of the appliances that they offer would be ideal in a tiny house on wheels! I now have a new jack, roof coat, a rocket hand-pump faucet, a new inlet, replacement teardrop running lights, a solar-powered vent fan, and about a dozen other things I needed, thanks to Timbucktu RV (1047 Southbridge Street, Worcester, MA)! Timbucktu is in the process of moving their inventory and getting a new website, so when that gets updated I will add that information as well! For now, please call 508-459-1132 for a catalog.

All-DC Solar Power System in The COMET

Here's a follow up to the last post, where I talked about how to calculate your (kilo)watt usage and shared my own table showing what electricity-using appliances I will have. Here's why that "AC or DC" column is important.

I want to design a PV system for The COMET that is DC-only, and has no AC inverter (which turns the DC power from the panels into the AC power that comes out of your wall sockets). The reason is because of the nature of inverters for PV systems: inverters are the single most expensive component of a PV system. They also are the point at which 20% of efficiency from what the panels are actually producing gets lost. That means it takes 20% of the energy you are producing with your panels to power the inverter. That's a lot of lost energy, especially in a small system! So I am devising a unique system that requires no inverter.

Bedford and Ole Bill

As promised, here are some pictures of the wonderful vehicles I saw in London last week. None of them are campers per se, but still totally awesome and would make great camper conversions I think!  

Here's a blue and white vintage Bedford that's been turned into a food truck. Bedford also made awesome campers/motorhomes. Only in Europe!

 

Also outside of the British Museum, right near the blue Bedford, was this awesome green vehicle. In the wonderful camper eye-candy, super inspiring book "My Cool Caravan" (by Jane Field-Lewis, available from Amazon here), which features photos and stories of European campers, my favorite camper in the whole book is built from one of these vehicles. It's so industrial looking, totally unique. I'll have to look up what kind of vehicle it is and let you know.

 

And here's me with Ole Bill at the Imperial War Museum. It's a double decker bus. But if you for some reason could get your hands on one, it would make an amazing camper conversion vehicle with a deck on top!

 

There it is! The cool vehicles I saw in London. I saw some neat campers too, while on the train outside of the city, but unfortunately couldn't get any pictures :(  My dad says that I just love European campers because they aren't what I'm used to, but I have a feeling they might just be more wonderful than the campers we have in the States. The exception being Airstreams! They don't have Airstreams in Europe, and they are a hot commodity over there. I know this because an older couple that lives down the street from my parent's house in rural Massachusetts were selling their old Airstream trailer out in their front yard, and someone from Sweden found out about it, flew over here to look at it, had it put in a shipping container and brought back to Sweden with him so that he could restore it and re-sell it. Apparently the cost of flying over here and shipping a 25 foot trailer to Sweden was worth it, which makes me think I should be restoring campers across the pond....

XOXO

Mariah

The Blastolene "Decoliner" - camper eye candy

The Decoliner is made from an older camper chassis, but has been completely re-built. It features teak decking, portal windows, and flying bridge which can also drive the bus! Ah-mazing!

Check out this awesome video about the builder and his Decoliner: The Blastolene Story.

The Decoliner is probably one of my favorite custom mobile homes out there. Also, I love the name of the guy's hot-rod building company: Blastolene! So cool!

If you have a suggestion for an awesome home-built camper/RV/crazy thing on wheels, let me know about it and I'll feature it here!

Part 2: Advice For Buying Your First Vintage Camper - "She has good bones!"

Part 2: Advice For Buying Your First Vintage Camper - "She has good bones!"

"She has good bones!"

That's what I said when I bought my first vintage camper. She did have good bones, but I think if I had known the tidbits of information I'm about to divulge to you, I would have had a better idea of what I was really in for! So, let's get to it!

This is Part 2 of a post about what to look for and what to avoid when checking out potential camper projects. See Part 1 for advice on how to find your own vintage camper project!

*Disclaimer! I am most familiar with 1950's and 1960's camper construction. This guide will be particularly helpful to people looking at camper trailers from that era. I'm sure these tips can be applied to most campers, but my experience is largely with 1950's + 1960's ones (which means you'll see wooden frames, gas lights, and non-standard wiring...yay!)

Part 1: Advice for Buying your first vintage camper

Part 1: Advice for Buying your first vintage camper

Buying your first vintage camper project (and most of them are projects!) can be really fun and exciting, but it can also be a little stressful. There are so many variables, and for a lot of people it is a big investment. The next two posts, Part 1 and Part 2 of "Advice for Buying Your First Vintage Camper", are meant to de-mystify the searching for and purchasing of that big vintage chunk of aluminum for first timers.

I want to give other people looking to purchase and restore, re-do, fix up, or completely green-ify and convert campers a resource or a "buying guide" for picking out your first camper project. Here is my advice for what to look for and what to watch out for when buying a vintage camper. In Part 1 of this post, I'm going to talk about the preliminary search for your camper. Part 2 will detail what to look for specifically when you are physically checking out the camper for the first time. Often times, first time buyers of vintage campers find something that looks really good on the surface, but has underlying problems that can get in the way of completing the project. Depending on your skills, different campers are going to be more or less difficult to fix. That is not to say that anything is impossible for anyone, of any skill level! I love using vintage campers because the systems are simple, and the small scale means even if you have to replace ALL the plumbing (or anything else) that's really no big deal. You know when you look at a schematic or a diagram, and it's just a couple of inches of line between the fuses and switches in the picture? Well, that's basically a scale diagram when you're talking about campers.

Sustainability on Wheels: Campers and the Tiny House Movement

"Vintage campers will save the Planet."

That's a pretty bold statement. I do think vintage/used/old campers can play a role in the way people begin to think about their housing in relation to the environment, social responsibility, and sustainability. Vintage campers make ideal Tiny Houses. First of all, they are tiny (of course) and on wheels - two basic characteristics of most tiny houses. Even a large camper is a tiny house! Also, I think it is always better to re-use an existing structure than it is to build from scratch (the exception being if the existing structure is unhealthy or toxic in some way...moldy, asbestos, etc.) Using an existing trailer camper cuts down on waste and keeps these usable little homes out of the landfill. Often, there will be valuable materials that can be salvaged from the existing trailer. Of course, there is personal preference and style to account for: campers don't look like miniaturized log homes or mini-mansions, they look like campers (though I have seen a camper re-done with shingle siding!). I'll admit they aren't perfect for everyone, but it's definitely a really viable option for the future of housing.Another thing to consider is cost. To build a tiny house from scratch will cost much more than retrofitting an existing structure (in most cases - depends on what you want to do of course). I've gotten campers in towable, totally restorable condition for less than $500. Sometimes a retrofit is a pain in the neck: campers are built from the bottom up, so it can be difficult to replace and repair things in the undercarriage area (but it has been done!). However, I think in terms of cost efficiency and eco-friendliness, making a tiny house out of an existing trailer is the best bet. Even if your tiny house was built out of entirely sustainable materials (which would be very expensive), it would still be using resources that an existing trailer has built into it. Buying the separate parts to build a camper would be much more expensive than purchasing one used. Also, campers just look awesome!