My husband, Fred, and I have finally finished our ultimate small toy hauler camper. We didn’t want to build it, but we couldn’t find anything like it that already existed on the market. We wanted a small toy hauler RV with a dedicated garage and living quarters. The existing toy haulers on the market that are small don’t have a dedicated garage. Further, the toy haulers that have a dedicated garage are too big for our liking.
Fred and I have owned Class A and Class C motor homes off and on since the mid-1990s. We raced asphalt stock cars for about five years during that time, so we pulled trailers with our RVs. Those motor homes weren’t built for towing extra cargo. We knew if we were going to continue to camp with toys, the rig needed to be suited for pulling.
For example, take a look at this photo of Evette standing in front of this Fleetwood Southwind Class A motorhome that was built in the 1980s. Notice how there are about 10 feet of overhang behind the rear axle; this is not good when you attached another 6,000 pounds of cargo to its bumper. This motorhome was only designed to carry itself and nothing more. However, it’s not uncommon to see people driving down the road in an over-loaded RV still today.
Our First Try at Camping With Motorcycles
In 2012 we purchased an Apache truck camper that we hauled with a 1-ton crew cab dually pickup truck. Our motorcycles were pulled behind it in a 7′ wide by 14′ long Hallmark cargo trailer. The rig’s width and height was average for RVs at around 8′ by 10-1/2′. The overall length was about 41′.
This truck camper was a real hassle to load. Because we didn’t have a dedicated truck for it, we got to where we dreaded going due to the difficulty. There were other issues, as well:
- It had a wet bath
- The dining table was very uncomfortable for more than one person
- The gray water holding tank was too small
- It was challenging to climb into the bed
We used it for a couple of seasons, and then it sat idle for a season, so we sold it. However, we kept the 1-ton crew cab dually pickup truck.
Our Second Try at Camping With Motorcycles
In 2014 we bought a 26′ KZ Sportsman 5th wheel toy hauler. It was the shortest camper we could find that had a dedicated garage and living space. It was 8′ wide and 12′ tall (including the air conditioner), so it punched a big hole in the air. Plus, the overall length increased to about 50′. Fortunately, we had a 1-ton dually pickup truck for pulling it. However, due to this rig’s larger size, we noticed a substantial power and MPG loss. We used it for a season and then sold both the camper and the 1-ton dually truck.
Our Third Try at Camping With Motorcycles
The following year (2015), we decided to go camping with our motorcycles from a different angle. We bought a smaller 1/2-ton four-wheel drive extended cab pick up and a Coachmen Clipper camper. We hauled our motorcycles in the back of the pickup and pulled the camper. This rig was a pleasure to drive. Not only was the truck smaller, so was the camper. The camper was 7-1/2′ wide, 17′ long, and 10′ tall (including the air conditioner). The overall length of this set up was about 46′.
So far, this combination was our favorite, but it had some drawbacks:
- The motorcycles were always outside in the elements
- Loading the motorcycles could be difficult
- The payload capacity of the pickup was nearly at maximum (motorcycles, tools, etc.)
Every time we used this rig, we would discuss scenarios that would make our camping experience more enjoyable. We used this set up for three seasons before we sold the Coachmen Clipper camper. However, we kept the 1/2-ton pickup.
Searching for the Ultimate Small Toy Hauler Camper
It wasn’t too long after we sold our Coachmen Clipper before we started looking for a replacement. But we didn’t want just any replacement. It needed to be the one. The ultimate one. How does a person find the ultimate small toy hauler camper? They go to RV shows. When the RV shows don’t have it, they search for it on the internet. When I typed “toy hauler” in Google’s web browser search bar, it returned 21,800,000 results. That tells me the subject is popular. Indeed with that amount of interest, I could find the ultimate toy hauler camper.
As I scrolled down page 1 of the results, I saw links to RV manufacturers and dealers. I recognized the brands in these links and would classify them as your typical “stick and tin” campers. These RVs usually have a light-weight steel frame that is inset from the perimeter of the trailer. The walls typically use 1″ x 2″ or 3″ wood studs. The siding is usually light-weight corrugated aluminum. They’re built this way to keep the weight down, as well as the cost. Fred, and I had owned “stick and tin” campers before and I didn’t want another one.
When I navigated to page 2 of this search, I came across a toy hauler manufacture link that wasn’t typical. Aluminum Trailer Company (ATC) uses aluminum for the entire structure of their trailers. Their slogan is “Built To Last.” I knew I found the ultimate toy hauler manufacture. Upon further investigation, ATC doesn’t make a small toy hauler with a dedicated garage and living space. With any of their models shorter than 28′, the toys had to be removed before you can use the bed.
Fred contacted several trailer manufacturers to see if they would build the trailer we had in mind. They either declined to make it, or their price was severely out of our budget. We knew, at this point, what was going to happen. If we were going to have the small toy hauler we wanted, we would have to build it.
Analyzing Our Priorities for the Build
Our method of determining the size of our idea of the ultimate small toy hauler came from experience. Although the various camper setups we’ve used over the years had drawbacks, we gained valuable knowledge from them. We knew we wanted the smallest package possible that would satisfy several criteria. The trailer needs to be:
- 1/2-ton towable
- All metal substructure (no “stick and tin”)
It needs to have a:
- Dedicated garage and living space (motorcycles do not have to be unloaded to sleep or sit down for a meal)
- Full bathroom (no wet bath)
- Kitchen with sink, cooktop, exhaust hood, microwave, and 2-way refrigerator w/freezer
- Water heater
- Air conditioner
Plus, it needs to have enough storage for food, clothes, and motorcycle gear.
Planning the Build
To help keep our budget as low as possible, we decided to buy a quality cargo trailer. We couldn’t make one as cheap as we could buy one. However, we wanted a 7′ wide cargo trailer, not one that’s 8′ wide. We liked the way we could see down the sides of our Coachmen Clipper without needing mirror extensions. That clipper was just over 7′ wide. The largest 7′ wide trailer still standard without being a special order is only 16′ long. The clipper was 17′ long, and it was only living quarters, no garage. However, a 16′ V-nose trailer has another foot or so that a regular flat-nose trailer doesn’t have. So we ended up buying a 2019 7′ x 16′ Pace V-nose cargo trailer. A bonus is the height, which is only 9-1/2,’ including the air conditioner. Smaller overall size equals less air to push. Less air to push equals better MPG.
This blog post sets the stage for part 2, a more in-depth look at the build itself. We put a lot of thought into packing all the needed components into such a small trailer. There’s no doubt that we could not have built the ultimate small toy hauler camper if we hadn’t experienced what we did.
Fred and I worked on this project for nearly 1-1/2 years in the evenings and weekends. We used every tool in our tool belts to finish this project (welding, sheet metal fabrication, machine work, sewing, etc.). This build most likely couldn’t have happened if we didn’t have a fabrication shop. We modified or made nearly everything we put in this trailer.
Head on over to Part 2 to read the rest of the story. Or, visit our YouTube channel to see the development of our ultimate small toy hauler camper.