How and Why We Decided on a Pickup Truck and Cargo Trailer as Our Home

How and Why We Decided on a Pickup Truck and Cargo Trailer as Our Home

After living in a truck camper for just over 6 months, we spent some quality time looking into all the various options and configurations of living in a vehicle on the road.  The basic options we considered were: (1) sprinter van (2) truck and trailer (3) truck camper (4) pop up truck camper (5) rv.  We decided on a truck and trailer setup because it gives us the best compromise of all important components we were looking for.  If you are considering living on the road, compromise is a really important thing to keep in mind right from the beginning. You will always have to settle in some way on some things, so its all about finding the balance that works best for you.

Many people experience construction and renovation in their homes while still living in it. While on the road, the chaos is taken to a whole new level.

We are excited to document our journey and our build process here to share with you!

Using Weighted Scoring to Guide Our Decision

::NERD ALERT::

Feel free to skip over this section if it’s boring to you, we included it for those other humans who might find it useful to try and see what a very messy emotionally charged decision looks like from an analytical perspective.

We actually made a weighted scoring chart to compare our options across the most important aspects to us. It’s not the only thing we relied on to figure this out, but it is an organized way to try and think through a lot of different alternatives in simple terms.  Here’s what it looks like:

vehicle-scoring

We first made a list of all the things that were really important to us in our setup.  Then we gave those things a score from 1-10 on how important that thing was to us.  Once each category was scored (safety/ability to off-road/etc.) we added up all the scores, and divided the category score by the total to get a percentage for that category.  We then scored each option (sprinter, truck/trailer/rv/etc.) on each of the categories from 1-5, with higher scores being better.  We then multiplied the scores for each category for each option by the overall category weight and added them up to get an overall score by category.  It was  pretty eye opening once we did this to see how strong the case was for a truck/trailer setup for us.  If nothing else, it helps me feel like we made the right choice.

We have a 7X12 foot trailer that is (for us) spacious and will eventually house our kitchen, office, shower/bathroom, and couch/extra bed for visitors.  Our truck has a topper that houses our bed as well as a bunch of storage so if we want to detach from the trailer for a while and adventure to 4wd places, we can downsize for shorter periods and go play in the wilder places.  We ended up buying a new trailer, that at this point is just a glorified cardboard box.  When we close the doors, its pitch black even in the middle of the day because we don’t yet have solar on the trailer to get lights, so we sit in there with headlamps on, it always makes me smile and laugh.

Getting the Topper

When we sold our truck camper, we were in Breckenridge, CO in September.  It was snowing at night and we realized that the only thing we had to sleep in was a tent.  At the time, Chris was sick with bronchitis, and we were lucky enough to have wonderful friends happy to take us in for a few days while we scoured Colorado for a truck topper.  Truck toppers can be challenging to find since there are so many different shapes and sizes, but the wonderful world of craigslist helped us to find a few options we thought might work for us.  We knew we wanted an extra tall topper because we were planning to build storage under the bed, and Chris is 6’1’’ so head room was essential.  We found a topper just outside of Denver for $800, and fell in love immediately.  In this transition, our friends in Breckenridge had a shed they let us store all our belongings in for almost a week.  They also donated to us our first bed for the truck, which we slept in with all of our belongings for about two and a half weeks before finally buying a trailer.

dsc_0280-1

Living in the truck with the amount of stuff that was planned to fit in a trailer was a serious mental challenge.  Some days were better than others, but the constant organization that literally took up half of the day every single day was exhausting.  It was also incredibly freeing and a great way to gain perspective on the things that truly matter in life; people.

img_5578

Getting the Trailer

We spent a long time trying to decide what kind and what size of trailer we wanted.  RV style trailers were something we wanted to avoid for a few reasons; (1) we expected to be in freezing temperatures and leave the trailer, unheated for long periods of time and that would mean every time we did that we would have to winterize the plumbing system.  Not gonna happen. (2) things break in RV’s, and they are usually hidden somewhere that is difficult to access.  Its not fun to constantly have some pending fix to do on your rig.  (3) RV’s are already built, there’s less room for your own ideas and layout decisions.

So, we decided on either a cargo trailer or a horse trailer (yes, a horse trailer).  Cargo trailers are pretty cheap and rectangular, making the build a lot easier than a van would be.  Horse trailers tend to have windows already built in, and sometimes have two separate spaces which can be nice.  There were a lot more options in cargo trailers than horse trailers, so that ended up being what we went with.  After looking at probably 30 or so different cargo trailers, we decided on a white 12X7X7. img_1225

White makes an enormous difference in terms of temperature control in warm climates, we really couldn’t budge on that.  After stepping into over 30 trailers, it was really clear that white does a significantly better job at reflecting heat than any other option,  even silver.  

The 6ft vs 7ft width is a HUGE difference when it comes to how crowded the space feels.  The extra headroom from a 6’6’’ to a 7’ trailer was awesome for Chris.  12ft was plenty since we had our bed in the truck, so its was just a living space.  We also were dead set on the drop down back door vs the barn doors because we wanted to turn that drop down door into a patio space for outdoor cooking/hanging out/etc.

img_1229

img_1227

This is the first of many posts including the challenges of a childhood dream.  Taking a cardboard box and making it a dream fort that travels!  If you have any suggestions or comments on our build please don’t hesitate to leave a comment or e-mail us at outdoorsisfree@gmail.com, we are open to ideas and would love to hear yours!!



14 thoughts on “How and Why We Decided on a Pickup Truck and Cargo Trailer as Our Home

  1. Wow, what a thorough job of researching this, you guys! I think it will be quite helpful to others. You have a totally blank slate “tiny house” to build out as you want it. You may need some windows in the trailer–I see them on Amazon but maybe craigslist would work for that too.

  2. Hey, guys!

    It was so awesome to meet you yesterday and to have the chance to hang out and talk story a little bit. Thank you both for your incredible help and calming presence when Pelado had his encounter with the motorcycle- you gave Kathy exactly what she needed to get through the ordeal.

    Yolie and I are so glad we met you and we’re really looking forward to more time together- you guys are amazing and inspirational, and such good souls.

    Namaste-

    Scott and Yolanda

  3. I have been living full time now in my 6 x 12 x 7 cargo turned STEALTH camper trailer nearly 6 years, and LOVE it!! Will send you more info and pics later, but will tell you now that I doubt you will ever regret this purchase! You are starting with a blank canvas, and can turn it into a very comfortable and cozy home.

  4. I considered a 7 foot wide one, too, but went with the 6 foot wide one. The narrower one has a narrower axle which makes it easier to fit into tight spaces and it tracks better with my truck.

  5. Hi guys, Just two words for you: I love you! (ok three)
    You are the reflection of myself. In my early years I was a truck driver and
    against all odds ; “I miss the road”
    I have an oldie but goody 1988 Chevy G30 Mini (40k on the truck) hard to manage at
    today’s gas prices.
    I’m an old man now, with unbroken dreams; I have a new wife that follow me
    to the end of the world. Perfect time to fulfill my old dreams of to live free
    right?.
    Well my only daughter priced me with (a long time expected) two beautiful
    granddaughters that I love more than anything in this world!!!!
    But anyway even if is to late for me now (and don’t get me wrong I won’t
    regret it) I’ll quit on my dreams for the love of my girls.
    You’re doing it at the perfect time, You’ll have time to settle down but trust me on this one; you will always miss it.
    Carlos.

  6. I think the possibilities are unlimited for the build! A fantastic fan is one, windows and insulation for sure. A small office space. cabinets,shower bath, design the interior to fit you, just awesome!

    1. Thank you Steve! We think so too! We have a Maxxair in now, two windows, office is pending finish, cabinets and sink are in…as is insulation. We will have to post our progress soon! Thanks for commenting!

  7. Love your scoring matrix. We just started full-time in a pop-up pickup camper. It has issues though and we know that with a bit of time we will need to move to something else, we are just trying to decide what. Do you still think that a hardside would be just as off roadable as a truck/trailer combo? That seems to be what is in you scoring matrix but we had in our minds that a trailer would be less off-roadable so a negative in our “matrix”. Also any regrets in your choice so far. We are leaning to a cargo conversion so let us know if you have found any gotchas.

    Thanks

    1. Hi Tom and Jen! I think we have gone many places with our trailer that we wouldn’t have with our hard top slide in camper. But if you have bikes or anything that you scout first…park…get some exercise and find the perfect spot that’s ideal. You can also unhitch and take the truck to explore. We have had to do some very unhappy turn arounds with our trailer but that still beats any day the feeling of possibly tipping over. I also enjoy being able to leave the trailer behind at “camp” and explore with just the truck to find badass hikes and such.

      1. Thanks. We are more and more leaning to a cargo conversion. Will have some time at a fixed location this fall so need to decide by then, until then though we are constantly debating. The true answer is of course there isn’t a perfect solution otherwise, just choose the compromises.

        1. Nothing is permanent. I would say don’t hesitate and do what comes natural or easy to you (what may just fall in your lap). Why your out on the road is never about the vehicle, but the memories, the people and time in nature. Wish you luck in your decision!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *