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Old 05-19-2017, 02:41 PM   #1
GunsAreFun
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Default Converted Cargo Trailer vs. Traditional Camper

Need you guys to help me sort this out. I apologize for the long post in advance.

I finally convinced my wife to get a camper. Max budget is $4,500 and max overall length is 25'. In that price range, I am mostly seeing mid-to-late 90's Jayco style trailers. For $2-3,000, there are some Prowler's from the mid-80's that appear to be well maintained or slightly updated.

The other option is to get an insulated cargo trailer with an AC/heat unit and outfit it for camping. I've seen these with 16-20' boxes, already setup to camp in the 4-4,500 range or empty shells in the $2,200 to 3,000 range. Most of these converted trailers are less than 10 years old.

The idea for this camper is for weekend trips, and week long vacations when we start having kids. We generally like doing active things on vacations: hiking, biking, canoeing/kayaking, fishing, maybe 4-wheeling so being able to bring that stuff along is important. We also want to bring our dogs along. I'll use it for during deer season as well (no utilities on our land).

Here's my pro/con:
Traditional Camper
Pros:
Turn key
"House-like" interior

Cons:
Mostly older models in this price range
Seems like they would be higher maintenance and harder to work on
Can't haul kayaks/canoes, ATV's, without spending $500-1000 on additional equipment.

Converted Cargo Trailer:
Pros:
Can haul all kinds of gear
Would be easier and fun to customize or repair
Multi-purpose

Cons:
Full bathroom would be unlikely, though I have seen some that have them
Might feel a little more cramped

In my mind, the versatility and cargo capacity of the converted trailer is the trump card. I'm not sure if the bathroom thing is that big of an issue because most RV sites have bathroom facilities. I don't know many people that have RV's, but I have always had an impression that most don't use their bathrooms anyway (is that true?).

Please tell me if I am missing something or not thinking right. Would love to hear from anyone that has tried the converted cargo trailer or has experience with the late 70's and 80's Prowlers.

I'm pulling it with a 2010 Tundra 5.7 w/ tow package for those that are wondering.
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Old 05-19-2017, 04:10 PM   #2
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Who needs a "house-like" interior" when "camping"?

Especially in your price range, IMO, the cargo trailer is the better option. You can always make a cargo trailer more "homey", but you can't convert a camping trailer to haul much of anything. Another factor is cargo trailers tend to be (or can be made to be) more secure than most camping type trailers. Yet another factor is frequency of use...A camping-only trailer might get used a few times a year, and the rest of the time is just money sitting there. Obviously, needs vary, but I'd think you might actually use a cargo type more often (good if you ever move, too).

I wouldn't suggest the only plan for toilets to be whatever is at a campground...Some are nasty, many aren't very secure, and there's an inconvenience factor. At the very least, I'd suggest one of those toilet seat/bucket attachment things; adding one of the tent-like privacy screen things (intended specifically for field toilet use) can be handy. After somebody does their business, the bag inside the bucket just gets tied up/buried (or otherwise disposed of properly). If you end up at a campground with better facilities, great...If not, this would still give you a cheap backup. Same goes for the screen used with a solar shower.

FWIW, my wife and I inherited a "camping trailer"...Even though it was nice enough and free to us, we sold it, and just use our horse trailer. It's not quite your situation, but it's nice having cargo hauling ability in the rear and the tack room up front for "camping".
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Old 05-19-2017, 05:10 PM   #3
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We bought an older prowler and have had it all over this country for the past 5 years. Paid $3500 and everything in it works. It is not the prettiest camper, but they are simple to work on and we enjoy traveling. Most things in campers are universal. There are a few companies that make the parts and everyone uses those parts to build their campers. There is not much you can not fix with some youtube videos and basic hand tools. Only thing to watch out for is rot. Older campers will have leaks! just make sure they are minor and keep them covered/inside when storing the camper. We will probably upgrade soon, but they can't be beat for entry level campers.
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Old 05-19-2017, 05:14 PM   #4
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Cargo trailers seem to be 7' wide while campers appear to be mostly 8'. So the camper may give you more space.
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Old 05-19-2017, 05:16 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ulfrinn View Post
Cargo trailers seem to be 7' wide while campers appear to be mostly 8'. So the camper may give you more space.
I would get an 8' or 8.5' wide trailer. 7' would be too hard to work with I think.
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Old 05-19-2017, 05:27 PM   #6
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I've seen gutted Airstreams for much less than you would pay for a cargo trailer though and the weight on them is significantly less. When I was thinking about this same thing I quickly discovered for what I could pull an Airstream with I would need a significantly larger truck for that same living space using a cargo trailer.
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Old 05-19-2017, 06:46 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ulfrinn View Post
I've seen gutted Airstreams for much less than you would pay for a cargo trailer though and the weight on them is significantly less. When I was thinking about this same thing I quickly discovered for what I could pull an Airstream with I would need a significantly larger truck for that same living space using a cargo trailer.
While I agree with the physics of what you said, I can't say that I've seen an airstream, including gutted ones, for less than $5k. Even if the body didn't need any work, it would cost a hell of a lot to outfit one.

That said, this is really a camper vs trailer question. If I go down the camper route, I'll just buy one ready to use, not completely remodel one. Also, many of the trailers I'm looking at have already had most of the work (insulation, AC, electrical, windows, some even with bathroom, etc.) done. I'd just be doing finishing touches.
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Old 05-19-2017, 06:59 PM   #8
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Get a camper, especially if you're going to have kids.
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Old 05-19-2017, 07:22 PM   #9
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Where is CPL Primeaux when you need him.
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Old 05-19-2017, 07:27 PM   #10
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Get a 20' shipping container and convert it to whatever. Make a roll on/off flat bed trailer for it. When not using the container/camper you have a trailer for whatever.
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Old 05-19-2017, 07:29 PM   #11
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Down here in Houston Texas you can save about 50% of your purchase price by buying a lightly used like new camping trailer.

Expand your shopping area and since its a trailer, you can make the trip worthwhile since you can tow it home.

Look, really look, way good deals are out there.
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Old 05-19-2017, 07:40 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VALMET_M76 View Post
Down here in Houston Texas you can save about 50% of your purchase price by buying a lightly used like new camping trailer.

Expand your shopping area and since its a trailer, you can make the trip worthwhile since you can tow it home.

Look, really look, way good deals are out there.
I always look in a wide search area for big purchases. I've actually never bought a vehicle in the state I lived in. Currently, I am looking in a out a 300 mile radius.
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Old 05-19-2017, 07:42 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ulfrinn View Post
Cargo trailers seem to be 7' wide while campers appear to be mostly 8'. So the camper may give you more space.
You can get cargo trailers wider than 7'.
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Old 05-19-2017, 10:00 PM   #14
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Used camper trailer bought in west Texas or the southwest, maybe southern California. Spend $3500 on the trailer, the other $1000 is for going and getting it.
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Old 05-20-2017, 08:27 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vedackster View Post
Get a 20' shipping container and convert it to whatever. Make a roll on/off flat bed trailer for it. When not using the container/camper you have a trailer for whatever.
I just bought one yesterday. I would not want one for a camper. Way too heavy to be mobile. 5,000 lbs+,with no rolling /running gear. And that is empty weight. For a permanent location,you could use one.
I think a fella would have a hard time finding a 20 foot +/- utility trailer for $4500 bucks. For the money you have,a camper trailer is probably your best option.You can always gut a camper trailer and mod it for your own use,like adding a larger door,or a ramp.
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Old 05-20-2017, 09:30 AM   #16
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What if you could own a trailer that would let you load and haul the container with a 3/4 to pickup? I've been contemplating opening a thread on this and so I will. Feel free to join that thread as I need feedback.
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Old 05-20-2017, 10:03 AM   #17
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No matter what you do with the trailer it will be roughing it compared to a purpose built camper. Get whatever is going to make the wife happy because in the end how much it gets used will be dependent on her.

I know a few people out here that use trailers for camping but these are guys that are filling them with atvs, dirt bikes or snowmobiles and are using the trailer pretty much as a place to sleep and thats about it.
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Old 05-21-2017, 07:02 PM   #18
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My in-laws just bought this one for $3,500. Took them about 6 months of watching and waiting. Had the cash ready and jumped on it as soon as it got posted on Craigslist. Drove about 3 hours to get it. Interior is very clean.

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Old 05-21-2017, 07:19 PM   #19
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In years past, I always went camping on my motorcycle and slept in a tent. Now I have an RV and I don't think I would want one that didn't have a bathroom. Last summer I took off for a couple of months and a great deal of the time boondocking while fishing. Having a full bath where I could shit shower and shave makes all the difference to me.

I don't know how far off road you intend to go, but if you are staying in campgrounds, the perceived difference in ruggedness and reliability is pretty much going to be a moot point.
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Old 05-21-2017, 07:38 PM   #20
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Why not look into the Car-go Lite campers.

http://www.microlitetrailer.com/
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Old 05-22-2017, 09:26 AM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PC1978 View Post
My in-laws just bought this one for $3,500. Took them about 6 months of watching and waiting. Had the cash ready and jumped on it as soon as it got posted on Craigslist. Drove about 3 hours to get it. Interior is very clean.

Sounds like a good deal. What year is that...mid 2000s?
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Old 05-22-2017, 12:34 PM   #22
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Go with the conversion. Even if you just add some lights, a porta-potti, and some folding tables and chairs.

If you decide you don't need a camping trailer any more, you can gut it and still have an enclosed trailer that's useful and has some resale value.
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Old 05-23-2017, 02:14 AM   #23
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Just buy a camper and be done.
Buy today, enjoy tomorrow.

A conversion will take time.
Might make a nice winter project if you find the right chassis.
I suspect the cost of improvements will nickel and dime you faster than you think.

If you're into motorsports, then cargo trailer turned toy hauler makes sense.
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Old 05-23-2017, 05:14 AM   #24
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I bought a 26' 2000 Jayco Eagle for $5000.00. It was and is immaculate. As soon as I bought it I got on the roof with a scrub brush, soapy water, Eternabond and Dicor lap sealant. It is all sealed up and weatherproofed. I have since installed a dual battery setup, solar, an inverter and replaced the old water hookups, vents etc. with new ones. It was a bit dated but it has since been brought current.

I have seen cargo trailer conversions that are pretty nice. I prefer having holding tanks, pressurized water that is hot, a large refrigerator/freezer a slideout, three beds, central/ducted heat and air, a stove, microwave, oven, satellite connection, shower, sinks, toilet, stabilizing jacks, 30 amp service connected to my quiet inverter generator and windows.

There are stealth campers that seem to love utility conversions. The big problem I see is that criminals love stealing and burglarizing box trailers. You could wake up connected to someone else's truck heading to a chop shop.

If you buy a camper PLEASE look for water damage. There are great videos on Youtube about buying a lemon camper and what to look for.

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