Nature photographer Diane Higdem recently got in contact with us to share her newly remodeled camper. She gives the full story below of how she found the tiny camper, as well as more details on all the new renovations.
I’m a wildlife/nature photographer and most times, I’m out there on my own. As 58-year-old single woman, I’ve been pretty happy with my setup in the back of my 2013 Ford Explorer and currently, a 2006 Volvo XC70 wagon. I keep the back seats folded flat with a camper cushion and sleeping bag on one side and my bins with clothing, gear, camping goods, and food on the other half. This worked for a couple of years, but lately, it’s getting a bit old; getting dressed in my sleeping bag in the back of a wagon. So, the search began.
I researched all the possibilities. Class C or B RVs? Eh… another engine to maintain, insure, and license. A truck and camper? Nah—see the previous. A trailer? Yep. I’d be able to unhitch and drive around in the woods, go exploring up in the mountains and return back to base. I decided that, with the tow ratings on my Volvo, I could go as high as 16′, but decided to play it safe and make it easier on the car and look for a 12-footer at most.
With a budget of perhaps $1500.00, I figured the older the trailer, the cheaper. Whoo boy, was I wrong! This recent trend to revamp the wonderful little canned hams put purchasing one out of my plans. So, I turned to the internet. I found converted horse trailers and cargo trailers and finally decided to find a flatbed trailer and build one from the base up.
Being pretty handy with tools and woodworking, I figured the one area I’d need help with would be the electrical. I scanned many sites, including this one, for insights, tutorials, videos and more to learn how to build my own. When I finally was ready to make the move, I went onto our local Craigslist, scrolling through the flatbeds, hoping to find one ten to twelve feet long, when all of a sudden… there it was! A box on wheels!
I immediately reached out to the gent and tried to talk him into letting me come “right now, cash in hand.” He stuck to his guns and said he’d let me know the next day if the fellow he’d promised it to bought it or not. Turned out not, and the next afternoon, I was headed north. My heart skipped a beat when I saw her. She was so tiny!
As I walked around it, Delman, the 79-year-old gentleman that was selling it, entertained my 86-year-old dad. He joined me when I opened the door and stepped in. It was everything I could ask for!
A hot water heater and a single burner (cut down by hand from a triple), both propane, a water pump, 40-gallon holding tank and 23-gallon black tank, a sink with hot and cold water, a shower and toilet, twin-sized bed, small table, and an icebox and built-in shelves lining both sides.
Sound like your typical trailer? All this packed into a space that’s 6’x8′ and maybe 1100 lbs. You read that right… 6’x8′! I laugh and tell people that “You have to go outside to change your mind!” Del told me that the trailer was built by his 91-year-old friend. The fellow had decided to sell his property, get rid of his stuff, build this little trailer and head to the East Coast to live with his daughter and her family.
The daughter, upon learning of the living in a teeny trailer while driving that distance, said hell no and bought him an airplane ticket and drove his truck back. Del adopted the trailer for a couple of bucks. The inside was in place but not “finished.” Now, I’m an artist, and love to decorate and saw the empty box as a blank canvas. Oh man—I was gonna have fun!
We closed the deal and Delman delivered it the next day. The next two months were a blur of running to the local big box hardware store to get the bits and pieces to create my vision. I started by purchasing a length of upholstery fabric to start the color scheme. I used that fabric to create the padded headboard and curtains for the “bedroom.”
I used materials like peel-and-stick aged oak-look flooring as the backsplash and the rest on the floor, aluminum linoleum trim to finish off the backsplash, magnets for the cabinet doors under the sink as well as the door for the bathroom, and painted the countertop and tabletop with copper hammered metal paint finished with three coats of Varathane.
I even painted the icebox door with chalk paint. The toilet and pan had yellowed like they typically will, so I gave it a strong cleaning and spray-painted everything with a white enamel spray paint for plastic surfaces.
As mentioned before, I knew the electrical would be my weak spot. Everything worked—the three wall outlets ran on 110 and the overhead lights and permanently mounted cigarette lighter on the counter were 12v. However, when I checked the exterior lights, the driver’s side blinker wouldn’t work. I tried replacing the whole unit, but no luck. I decided to bring the trailer to a fellow that works on RVs and specialized in the electrical systems.
Three days and $800 later, I had a new fuse panel and all new wiring, both inside and out, as well as new running lights. He said he was amazed that no one had blown up or burned to death. The old fellow that built it was rather clever and did a lot of jerry-rigging.
Today, I consider her mostly complete. As with all projects, there are the random odds and ends that I’ll always add, remove, or change. She’s been painted a blue similar to my car for now. I was thinking of painting her like an old Brownie camera. Her name is Mer Lycka (meer lee-ka). The Volvo is named Lycka which is Swedish for happiness. The trailer is more happiness, but I call her Boxy Roxy.
I’ve designed a fold-down porch roof for the back to pop up over the door once parked. The electrician discovered that it was actually built on a pop-up tent trailer frame, complete with attached jacks and the sewer system.
I only had time to take her out once last summer and hope to take more trips to Yellowstone and many other places before I put her away for the winter.
Thanks to Diane for sharing her renovations with us! If you have an RV you’d like to share on Do It Yourself RV, we would love to see it. Check out our submissions page for more details.