Self-Sufficient Off-Grid Squaredrop Trailer

Pros and Cons of RVs

I am planning to do a lot of traveling in the next year. Initially I had planned to buy an RV but there are several problems with this plan.

I would need to get rid of my car as it is not towable. This means if I want to go to the store without packing up camp, I would need to buy another car which is a hassle and a whole ‘nother thing to worry about maintaining. I already have the most reliable and trustworthy car there is, so this is a big con for me.

Because of the cost, I would need to bet heavily on a used RV in order to make this happen. A lot could go wrong and I could easily end up spending too much money on maintenance and other issues. Also many of the amenities which would make an RV ideal come with big downsides. Buying something used and affordable means buying decades-old wiring, plumbing, septic, etc which is probably going to leak and need a lot of work.

Most people I’ve followed are using portable toilets instead of using the RV toilet which means you have an extra toilet for no reason. The same goes for the RV’s showers which frequently leak and cause even more problems. Basically everyone I’ve followed is using their own separate portable toilet and not using their RV’s showers at all. In my experience over the last few months of extended camping trips, it’s easy to find a shower at campgrounds or truck stops, and the playa french bath solves many problems, eliminating the need for daily showers.

Another thing is the electrical systems. RVs have terrible electrical systems and do not provide sufficient power and they always have integrated propane systems for refrigeration and cooking. I definitely do not want to use propane, and I have a JetBoil which I will probably continue to use for most of my cooking. But also I have a really great power system which I’ve spent years developing; it’s fully self-contained and more than I need. This means the amenity of electricity in the RV is yet another thing that I already have and don’t need to duplicate.

This got me seriously thinking about why I need an RV. It seems like in a perfect world, something like TransVan would be ideal; a small and simple, all-steel construction Class-C RV with basically no amenities and just a bed and a small restroom/shower in the back. I have looked far and wide for the last six months and so far I haven’t found one. I think this may be my next step after spending some time in the squaredrop.

Inspiration

Goals

I want this to be completely self-contained and self-sufficient so that I can go out to the middle of nowhere and basically live there indefinitely with little to no inputs besides food.

This means one of the most important things is solar. Having an 8×4 platform means I can fit four 2×4 solar panels on the roof. This has pros and cons. It will mean that I can’t make the trailer an aerodynamic shape. I’ve tried to research exactly how significant this will be, and there isn’t a lot of data available. Currently the plan is to make it a square prism, or a simple 4x4x8 geometric block.

I will eventually be adding a tongue-generator as well as storage above that. This will improve the overall aerodynamic shape of the trailer.

My Plan

I decided to use the popular Harbor Freight 1720lb super duty 4×8 trailer as the foundation.

I’m an odd person in that I don’t like to have windows in my bedroom. I always cover them in blackout fabric so that it’s pitch black; I like to sleep-in. When I sleep in tents, I wear a face mask. I really prefer complete darkness. I’m not including any windows in the camper, though I will include 360 degree cameras do I can still see outside if I need to.

I will start by putting a barrier over the bottom of the trailer. I have several ideas in mind and I’m not yet sure which one to use. I may use diamond plate. Above that, I will place insulation in between the cross-members of the trailer’s frame. Then I will lay down pressure-treated ground-contact 2×6 deck boards to create a strong foundation. Next goes a piece of pressure treated plywood.

I will then frame the walls and wrap them too in pressure treated plywood. Insulation goes into the inside of the walls, and then the inside of the walls is covered with paneling or maybe plywood.

Lastly I will primer the whole outside of the trailer and then cover everything in a nice thick coat of bed liner. This will form a strong protective seal around the outside to prevent any leaks or water damage.

Lastly, aluminum trim goes around the outer edges and more diamond plate on the bottom and front to protect against anything being kicked up by the tow-vehicle’s wheels in transit.

 

Early Vehicle Ideas

Blueprints

As you can see here, four side-facing murphy beds are at the rear of the trailer. These can fold up and down to allow lots of extra storage while in transit.

Two Ikea 2×4 Kallax shelves are mounted to the walls just forward of the beds. These allow plenty of personal storage for campers.

The very front wall of the trailer is covered with storage and appliances. These include a battery bank, a microwave, and a portable travel toilet as well as pantry space and a flatscreen tv.

 

 

Cost Projections

The biggest cost is the trailer itself at around $5,000 new. I am planning for a 7×14 trailer. This will also serve as storage and transportation for my DJ gear and other projects while not in use as a travel trailer.

Next is the power bank. I want to get a Yeti GoalZero 3000 for this project, at $3,000. This will be able to store the power I am expecting to produce from the roof-mounted solar panels while also providing enough continuous power for all the lights and appliances I am planning for. Several small redundant power banks will run things like lights and air circulation, just like I did with my grid at Burning Man 2018.

The solar array is less pricey than the batteries. Nine panels fit neatly on the roof. I plan to get these from the highly reputable company Renogy at a cost of just $1070.91.

Next is the beds. I want to get four memory foam twin-sized mattresses at a total cost of $1,134. I have back problems, so I prefer to only sleep on memory foam mattresses.

I also want to include a microwave. Using these to boil water and heat up hungry man meals is a simple solution which is well within the power production I have planned for the solar array. This will cost just $50.

In the future, I may add refrigeration.

Stealth Trailer Goals and Concepts

I would love to build something like this for Burning Man and other adventures. Here are some of my initial ideas…

Innovative Power Grid

There is no reason to have inverters running 24/7. There is no reason to duplicate the wasteful norms of on-grid houses.

Two or three full-sized solar panels on the roof and a single Yeti are more than enough power for reasonable use. There is no reason to install 120v outlets in the walls and waste several inches of empty space around the entire interior along with enormous power loss to inversion.

Quad Flip-Up Bunks

I really like the idea of multiple stacked murphy beds with the bottom two serving as optional couches. This means one to four people can comfortably share the space.

Our cruise ship cabins were like this a few years ago, and it was great. The beds stowed easily away when not needed.

Murphy Everything

I really like this image above. I would just eliminate the unnecessary stove, sink, and window. The front wall of the unit should contain numerous cupboards which open to reveal storage as well as appliances such as a small low-power microwave and a travel toilet. A large multipurpose surface should fold down to function as a table, desk, etc. Behind this should be mounted a large flat screen TV. A simple set of Raspberry Pi computers serve as shared NAS, workstations, and media center.

A simple privacy screen should separate this area from the bunk area for optional modesty. Additional crew lockers between the back of the unit and the bunks provide storage for campers. All of these things fold away into the walls when not in use.