How to Build a Stealth Cargo Trailer

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In these tough economic times, people seek alternative housing options. Creative thinking and using what is available enables people to survive without permanent housing.

Converting a cargo trailer into a stealth living space is one popular option. No one looks at a cargo trailer parked in a semi-industrial area or a blue-collar neighborhood. Even the all night box stores do not notice a cargo trailer parked on the outer limits of the parking lot. Security assumes that the owner is a construction worker doing a little shopping before going home.

Items you will need

  • Cargo trailer

  • Insulation

  • Paneling

  • Flooring

  • Lumber

  • Porta-potti

  • Bathroom cabinets

  • 12-volt appliances


Step 1

Determine the budget. Generally, those who are considering living in a stealth cargo trailer do not have a large budget. "Recycle, reuse, repurpose" is a mantra to the budget-impaired. Thrift stores and freebie ads online and in the local newspaper extend a limited budget.

Step 2

Locate and purchase a cargo trailer. Choose according to the towing capacity of the tow vehicle and the size and condition of the trailer. Spend a little more on a trailer in decent condition with no leaks rather than going cheap and having major repairs to contend with before the renovation.

Step 3

Decide what is necessary for stealth living. Generally focus on a place to sleep, cooking and food storage, sanitary needs, entertainment and general storage. In addition, consider power needs.

Step 4

Draw up a simple floor plan with measurements. A 5x7 cargo trailer provides far less space than an 8x10 size. Plan accordingly.

Step 5

Plan to store belongings that will not fit in the trailer. A small storage space or a family member’s garage provide an option for items that are too big, heavy or fragile. Get renter’s insurance for personal property, no matter where it is stored.

Build the Living Space

Step 1

Provide two exits to the trailer for safety. A side door and the back doors are adequate. Install small windows and/or skylights to provide light and ventilation.

Step 2

Using polystyrene insulation, glue it with contractor's glue to the interior walls and ceiling, in between the studs. Then cover with paneling. Install flooring. Laminate flooring is pretty but not waterproof. Sheet vinyl is easy to clean and sturdier than stick on tiles.

Step 3

Following the plans, build a bed platform of 2x4 lumber and a sheet of plywood or install a futon. Attach it to the floor and wall so it does not slide around. Drawers under a platform bed provide extra storage.

Step 4

Install the kitchen area. A counter top with a sink, a microwave, a hot plate and a mini-refrigerator or icebox provides basic kitchen needs. Bathroom cabinets are shallow and provide drawer and shelf space. Use latches to close the cabinets so the contents do not fall out during travel.

Step 5

Build a privacy area. Whether installing a tiny RV-style wet bath or a Porta-potti closet, privacy is essential if there is more than one person sharing a space.

Other needs

Step 1

Research power options. A generator provides power wherever the trailer parks, but is noisy and requires fuel. Solar panels provide some power but are expensive and fragile. A heavy-duty power strip and contractor’s extension cord provide power from any standard outlet in friend’s driveway or at a campground.

Step 2

Conserve energy. Install 12-volt appliances and lighting wherever possible. A quick search of the Internet provides many resources for 12-volt appliances, including coffeepots, heaters, refrigerators, electric blankets and more. Low voltage LED lights save on power while providing light.

Step 3

Plan for outdoor living. Camping stores have a multitude of products for stealth living. With an easy-up type awning, a fold up table and lawn chair, the stealth trailer becomes a comfortable living space in a campground or in a remote parking area. Do not forget sunscreen and mosquito repellent.


About the Author

With degrees in fine and commercial art and Spanish, Ruth de Jauregui is an old-school graphic artist, book designer and published author. De Jauregui authored 50 Fabulous Tomatoes for Your Garden, available as an ebook. She enthusiastically pursues creative and community interests, including gardening, home improvement and social issues.

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