By Randy Vining
I’ve lived on the road more than 20 years, in and on a string of vehicles: motorcycle, car, van, pull trailer, 5th wheel, and now a specially engineered Featherlite cargo trailer. I’ve always had a yen to be invisible, or at least inconspicuous. I speculated that this would broaden my range of overnight parking. I also wanted to design and build my own rig. Having boondocked more than 7,000 nights, I convinced myself that I could build a vastly more efficient camper. I’m fascinated by the challenge of living super-efficiently in a small space. For years I lived in a van, and found it to be a good compromise between comfort and stealth. I’ve successfully camped undetected in Key West, San Diego, and San Francisco.
Now I’m trying a new experiment. I am finding that the cargo trailer retains stealth, and is far more comfortable than a van. I can stand up in it, for one thing. And I have 80 square feet of floor space to work with. Its six windows look like vents when I am in stealth mode, but open fully when I am not. Two large, 18×24 inch roof vents provide light and ventilation, and will open in 4 directions to draw in and suck out air. The ladders on top give the illusion of a work trailer. But in fact, they conceal 4 solar panels which provide all the power I need for satellite TV, lights, fridge, and satellite radio. Two group 27 batteries have proven adequate. To conceal my satellite dish when mounted, I cover it with a black garbage bag. The signal comes right through it.
A toilet with good holding capacity is a critical element for comfortable living. Mine has a capacity of 30 gallons, and will serve for a month or more without dumping. Then a macerator pump empties the tank in 3 minutes via a garden hose. I use 7-gallon water containers from Walmart for fresh and grey water tanks. They work better than fixed tanks because they can be taken out and emptied or filled.
I make a simple and effective shower stall by slightly opening my rear doors. A container of water, a pump, and a kitchen sink sprayer complete the system. Many times, just a pan and a washcloth work fine.
The total cost of my rig, fully outfitted, was $7,000. The trailer cost $4,000 new. I paid the premium price to get the super lightweight, all aluminum, Featherlite trailer. It’ s 500 pounds lighter than its steel-framed equivalent. Solar panels cost $1,200, batteries $120, stove, sink, fridge, and catalytic heater total $600.
I’ve enjoyed the process of engineering my new home, especially the challenge of utilizing limited space.
My chosen range of travel is the Western states, Canada and Mexico. Often I camp with friends, and members of the Wandering Individuals Network. (www. rvsingles.org). Poetry and philosophy are my hobbies, and I’ve attempted to celebrate and give voice to our lifestyle in the poem A Codger’s Affirmation, which can be found at www.mobilecodgers.blogspot.com. Please note that I use the word “codger” in humor and semi- seriousness; believing that we efficient, effective road people have much to teach the world, and perhaps, in time, will do for that word what Bill Gates has done for the word “nerd.” There would be no global warming, energy crisis, overpopulation, or debt crisis if folks lived as simply as we. I see us as heroes as described by Joseph Campbell in The Hero’s Journey.