vintage trailer

How to Save Money on Solar Power for Your Tiny House, Camper, or RV

How to Save Money on Solar Power for Your Tiny House, Camper, or RV

PS - TinyCamp, the learning community for people ready to live a tiny life, is now open for registration until February 10th. TinyCamp is 3 months of community, live calls, support, expert guidance, resources and more. So if you need help designing your PV system, or your tiny home, trailer, or RV, and you have lots of questions about this kind of thing - TinyCamp is the place to get answers and personalized help for your unique situation!

If you’re thinking about using a photovoltaic solar power system for your tiny home, trailer, camper, or van, this post is for you.

I have given many presentations and talks about simple solar power (I've spoken at more than 25 tiny house workshops and events in the last 2 years),  and I get the SAME question every single time. Everyone wants to know...

Meet the Beemer (My 1957 Canned Ham)

Meet the Beemer (My 1957 Canned Ham)

You guys, I’ve been keeping a secret from you. 

I try not to talk about it, because it’s a bit embarrassing. I mean, I’m supposed to be “simple” living.

Let’s just get it out in the open:

I have another vintage trailer (a second one). Don’t tell the COMET, she might be mad I never really tied up loose ends with my first vintage love. 

It’s a 1957 Beemer, and it’s a lot like the shameful uncle no one likes to talk about. You know it’s there, but you don’t want to acknowledge it or think about it too much. 

Matt and I got the Beemer just a few months after we started casually dating. It happened in a whirlwind, it was my first “big” purchase as a real human, and I kinda didn’t tell my parents about it until I pulled into their driveway with it. 

This Couple is Living in a Vintage Trailer While They Build a Tiny House

This Couple is Living in a Vintage Trailer While They Build a Tiny House

Kathleen and Greg are a young couple living in a 1969 vintage trailer (same year as the COMET!) while they build themselves a tiny house on wheels. Kathleen and I connected a few weeks ago, and I was so excited to meet another couple who lives like Matt and I do! I asked if I could share their ongoing story here, and so here's what Kathleen has to say about their life in their trailer so far. You can read more about Kathleen and Greg and their tiny living adventure on their blog, "Tiny House, Tiny Footprint."

 

Tiny Changes

Since living in a 140-square-foot camper trailer, I have received a variety of questions. I thought it would be best to answer them here and help alleviate concerns for those who are considering tiny living. If you're nervous about embarking on a new adventure like this, I think it's important to remember that you can test it out and if it doesn't work out, you can go back to living how you were previously.

Vintage Trailer Hotel: Visiting El Cosmico in Marfa TX

Vintage Trailer Hotel: Visiting El Cosmico in Marfa TX

One of the awesome places we got to stop and stay at as part of our Tiny House Road Trip 2014 (Part 2) was El Cosmico in Marfa, Texas.

Marfa is a weird town. Matt and I were kind of not cool or hip enough to "get" it, it was a very ironic place. The pizza place on the corner (there's one corner, if you've ever been through Marfa you know what I mean) has a "CLOSED" sign perpetually posted in the window, even when they're open.

You can tell that behind the main street facade of hipster art galleries and $15-a-glass juice bars there was a real town that was probably pretty awesome at one point. We ate breakfast at a place called Buns and Roses, a flower shop combined with a donut place.

Our night spent at El Cosmico was pretty magical. It was my very first foray into any type of desert landscape. We ate grilled cheeses at the only affordable restaurant we could find, then went down the highway a bit to catch the Marfa Lights.

Trailer Babes: Interview with Sarah Mueller of TowLola

I found Sarah’s blog TowLola recently and knew that I wanted to share a fellow female trailer babes’ story with you. I emailed Sarah about being camper pals and to tell her how rad she is, and we got to talking about rallies, vintage trailer life, the hassles of towing, trying to become writers, and what it’s like to be a woman nomad in America. She said she was inspired by my COMET to look for a vintage trailer as her adventure-mobile, and I was so flattered! I asked Sarah a few questions about her decision to travel in a vintage trailer and her life with Lola, her 1960’s Fan camper. You can read the interview below. I hope this badass, amazing lady inspires you to get out there and do something awesome, even if that means just saying”Fuck it!” and taking the leap!

 

ME: What inspired you to buy a camper and hit the road?

SARAH:    I'd been living in a 3-bedroom house for about 4 years, working full-time in a day job I hated while I struggled to write and make art in my spare time. I'd always had this fantasy of just being able to "pick up and go."  I saved money for a long time, thinking I'd need it, but having no real plans. When my long-time boyfriend and I decided it was time to sell the house, I sat down in front of him at a pub and blurted "I'm going to buy a BUS." He and I are both explorers by nature, so he just nodded and smiled and asked how he could help. The bus idea went through several iterations (bus, van, housetruck, camper) and I shopped around for a rig for about 4 months. I spent nearly all of my free time on Craigslist. Finally, after moving in with my parents and being generally miserable and thinking it would never happen, I stumbled upon Lola. She was cheap and ready to hit the road, and resided in Elkhart, IN. The idea of towing anything terrified me, but by this point I was so desperate that I drove up and bought her before anybody else could. It took another three months to gather supplies, outfit the Jeep, and sell all my belongings. It wasn't any one thing that led me to my adventure, I guess. Simply the realities of my life combined with a desire to "get out there."

Where Do I Fit In?

Where have I been?It's a good question! I've been really busy the past two months, but haven't made a ton of progress on the COMET. Other vintage camper people out there, have you ever tried polishing the pitted, foggy aluminum back up to a mirror finish? It takes forever! It also requires a large angle grinder, which I'm embarrassed to say I can't really lift up in the first place (so it becomes Matt's job). We've been working on it little by little, but it takes many hours and is a crappy job. It's the one thing standing in between me and a beautiful exterior paint job (also Matt's forte because he used to do fancy pin striping and decals on cars).

SHAMELESS SELF PROMOTION ALERT: www.planetqueenvintage.etsy.com The reason I have been so busy is because I really need money to complete the COMET and I had to put a lot of time and energy into my Etsy shop, where I sell awesome vintage clothing. My shop is called Planet Queen Vintage (based on the T Rex song but also referencing awesome ladies that do cool stuff to positively impact the planet) and I would be so grateful if you guys took a minute to check out all the new stuff and hard work I've been putting into the shop the past few months. I added 100+ new items, took better photographs, and increased the overall awesomeness content. Bet you guys didn't know I run a business on the side in addition to the COMET?!

Installing the Fresh Water Tank Fill Spout in a Vintage Trailer Camper

Installing the Fresh Water Tank Fill Spout in a Vintage Trailer Camper

The fresh water tank (the only tank in the COMET - no grey or black water tanks) lives underneath the rear couch/bed. Originally it was under the dinette bench on the port side, but that meant that there was about 15 feet of tubing wrapping around the entire trailer to get from the tank to the faucet on the other side. We moved it to underneath the rear bench to be closer to the faucet. The fresh water tank is 15 gallons and I refill it about every 3-4 days. You don't really use a lot of water when you have to pump it by hand. And the hot water is just one of those black bag camp showers that I hang up outside. Here's how we installed the new fresh water tank.

Now, we actually installed the kitchen before attaching the water tank and hooking everything up, so that's where I'll stop for now. Basically, the tank got put into it's spot under the bench, it fit very snugly. We hooked up the fill line to the appropriate fitting that we had installed in the side of the tank, and the air vent line to the appropriate fitting. We put the fitting (barbed) into the bottom for the faucet line as well, but didn't hook it up until the kitchen was finished. So we'll look at the kitchen then get back to finishing up the water tank. Photos to come!

Adding Extra Strength Framing and New Paneling to Your Vintage Trailer

When Matt and I went to re-frame the rear wall of the COMET, we knew we had to do some re-design as well. First of all, at some point there is going to be a "bumper garden" (hehe, get it? on top of the bumper...) mounted onto the back of the trailer under the window. Ok, so it's like a way-glorified window box, but on a moving trailer, and made with polycarbonate so it's also like a tiny greenhouse too. Since there will at some point soon be soil and metal and plants hanging off of the back wall, we knew we had to beef up the framing. I wanted enough studs that we could lag into to support the bumper garden. The second part of the design had to address the really weird original framing, which had the rear bench (couch and also my bed) come down halfway in front of the rear hatch, which is the only place to really store anything large. Basically, the rear bench bisected the hatch, and I thought that was dumb, because I want full hatch access! So we raised the bench up 6 inches, so it now clears the rear hatch door and give us a little more storage. Here's how we did it! A little reference, so you can see how the original framing interfered with the rear access door.

Interior Floor Demolition!

This is what I was doing the last few days. Later on I'll post pictures of what it looks like now, with the new framing, insulation, and flooring. Basically the entire rear floor, under the bed/couch under the window, had been destroyed by a combination of water damage and termites or carpenter ants. There was no framing left in the rear 4 feet of flooring, it was just dust at this point. We ended up pulling out an entire wall's structural members and floor studs: there was a lot of day light coming through. This is the most structurally-intense renovation/repair I have ever had to do in a trailer, but it was similar in nature to the repairs I had done to fix water damage in other trailers, so progress has been going very quickly!

I'll walk you through peeling back the layers of rot. Don't let this discourage you  if you're considering repairing your own vintage trailer. If I can do it, anyone can. Oh, and a big thank you to my friend Matt for helping me out in these hectic weeks before Tiny House Summer Camp, and all the other weeks he's helped as well.