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Amazing Cargo Trailer Conversion to Tiny RV

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How we turned an empty cargo trailer into the ultimate tiny RV camper for camping adventures.

After more than a year and a half we are finally ready to say that our cargo trailer conversion is done and ready for the road.

We knew what we wanted it to look when we started on this enclosed trailer conversion journey, but seeing our vision go from paper to reality is beyond exciting.

beach chairs and cargo trailer conversion

There’s a video with a complete tour that you can check out on our YouTube channel (link at the end of the post).

We’re also offering a 2D floor plan of our completed cargo trailer conversion.

Deciding to build a cargo trailer camper

We’ve been camping our whole lives, first with our families when we were growing up and eventually with our girls as they were growing up.

Actually, Roger and I met while camping with our families when we were teenagers so camping is sort of in our blood.

When we moved to Florida several years ago we bought a  pop-up and camped in that for a few years. Then we moved to Illinois camping took a back seat.

graphic with RV and pine trees

Once we moved to North Carolina, where we are today, we decided that we wanted to camp again.

This time though, we were going to create exactly what we wanted.

We’ve always wanted to build our own camper but we both had two very different ideas on how to do it.

I wanted to buy a cute little vintage trailer, and Roger wanted to buy a cargo trailer or utility trailer.

It took a couple of years to convince me but I finally leaned his way. The tipping points were water damage and a bathroom.

We looked at several old, used RV’s before we settled on the cargo trailer idea. Every trailer that we looked at had water damage, a common problem in older RVs.

We could definitely fix it but didn’t want to deal with those kinds of issues.

I wanted vintage and we looked at those too, but many smaller RVs don’t have bathrooms, or room for a bathroom.

Not having a bathroom was a deal breaker for me so, regrettably, we moved away from vintage trailers.

We also looked at new RVs. Actually, we looked at a lot of new RVs.

They just don’t build them very well anymore, and they’re pretty expensive.

We knew that we could do better so I conceded to the hubs and we went and ordered a cargo trailer.

Can you turn a cargo trailer into a camper?

Absolutely! It just takes work…a lot of work actually.

Before you get to work though, you need to get a cargo trailer.

Buying a cargo trailer

Before you even start your conversion though, you’ll have to find a cargo trailer.

There are a lot of different brands and price ranges so make sure you do a lot of research before you get a trailer.

Cargo trailers can be bought used or from a dealer.

Our trailer was ordered to our specifications from a trailer dealer.

We ordered ours with 3 RV windows installed, an RV door with a window, 7′ ceilings and gray colored metal on the outside.

Cargo trailers either come with barn doors on the back or with a ramp door.

We chose to go with barn doors.

Even with the addition of a few upgrades, we came in way cheaper than a typical RV. All we had to do was to build it up to fit our needs.

Easy, right?

outside view of gray landscape trailer with window

We waited 6 weeks for our trailer to be built and brought it home to begin it’s 2 year long transformation.

Cargo Trailer Floor Plan

This was an early layout of our 112 square foot space. It ended up looking very similar to this, except for the placement of the shower and toilet.

floor plan for inside of cargo trailer conversion

I had to concede my trailer choice for a utility trailer but Roger also had to make concessions.

He was fine slapping a mattress and a/c in there and calling it a day.

Ummm….that was not ok with me.

I agreed to a cargo trailer but it had to look good, like a real RV, and it had to have a bathroom. I wasn’t willing to give up on either issue.

Finally, after all of the planning we were ready to start building.

the back of the inside of the landscape trailer

Installing a White Tongue and Groove Ceiling

The first project that we tackled was the ceiling. We insulated it and installed tongue and groove planks.

We’re old pros at installing tongue and groove ceiling planks and have discovered that it’s important to find a good (and inexpensive) source for materials.

While we were installing the ceiling we also went ahead and wired the ceiling for 12 volt lighting.

A dog standing in a cargo trailer conversion

DIY platform bed with storage

Next, we built a simple platform bed with storage drawers underneath.

We built a similar DIY platform bed a few years ago for a guest bedroom so we knew that it was something that worked well for us.

There are slight differences but the concept is the same…box construction and spaces for storage.

RV platform bed

A shiplap wall was also built to separate the back barn doors and offer more stability for the bed.

Installing an RV Air Conditioner

We were anxious to go camping so our next project was the a/c. We decided to go with a dual hose portable unit so that we didn’t have to cut a hole in the ceiling (hello, water!) or the side.

Before we installed it we did a little experiment with a single hose vs. dual hose a/c. You can check out the video, here.

With the a/c up and running, we threw a mattress on the platform and took our first camping trip.

We learned a lot from that first little weekend away. It helped us to figure out what we needed and what we didn’t.

It also gave us the motivation to keep going.

Vinyl plank flooring installation

The next project was the LifeProof vinyl plank floor installation.

We discussed painting the wood floors but in the end, we went with  planks.

I’m glad that we chose them.

They look great and have held up well with the dogs (plus, I didn’t have to paint them).

vinyl planks being installed in an RV

While we were doing the floors, I got busy painting the walls. Oy…I lost count of the coats that I had to put up. I think it was 4 or 5.

In other words…a lot of paint.

It did wonders for the inside though. So light and bright!

bright white painted walls and window in cargo trailer

With the walls and floors complete, we moved on to framing out the rest of the king size platform storage bed.

We built the drawers for storage and moved on to the kitchen.

Building an RV Kitchen

In order to separate the kitchen from the bathroom, we had to build a wall. Then we framed out our cabinets and prepared them for the countertop.

frame for RV kitchen cabinets

We had gotten our hands on a 12′ slab of walnut for the countertop but it had to be refinished before it could be installed.

It took me two weeks of working on it every day to get it ready and waterproofed.

RV kitchen cabinet frame and countertop

Finally, the walnut butcher block countertop was installed with a new stainless steel sink and faucet. Doesn’t the countertop look pretty? Love the wood grain!

RV butcher block countertop with faucet

Running Electric in a Cargo Trailer Camper

Besides the 6, 12 volt disc lights on the ceiling, we also installed 2 sconces over the bed and a flush light over the kitchen sink.

You don’t only have to use RV lights in your cargo trailer, you can either DIY your own unique lights or install regular fixtures.

The lights we installed are just normal light fixtures that you would see in a house. I just added a 12 volt bulb to each one so that we could run it off of battery if needed.

white RV ceiling with disc lights installed

Roger also ran electric for the a/c, refrigerator, several outlets, including light switches next to the bed and by the door, and an exhaust fan for the shower.

Running the electric took a few weekends to complete but it went smoothly.

Next, we installed the plumbing for the kitchen sink, the toilet and the shower.

We didn’t add any tanks to the RV so we are not self-contained, but we can still camp at campgrounds with hookups.

Maybe someday we’ll add the equipment needed to go boondocking, but we’re just looking to get away for weekend trips.

Building an RV bathroom in the V-Nose

Building an RV bathroom from scratch is no easy task.

You need to consider plumbing, electrical and space.

the point, front, of the landscape trailer

This part of the build was tough. A lot of discussion and planning went into it so that we had a working shower that was watertight, and a toilet.

Not an easy task when you have to build everything custom.

We placed the shower in the v-nose (front of the trailer) and carefully built it from scratch.

Once the walls went up and the floor was in, we waterproofed everything with 7 coats of Red Guard.

waterproofing RV shower

Next, we installed the corrugated metal, the marble threshold and the shower head.

RV bathroom shower

Finishing up the Cargo Trailer Conversion

The cargo trailer was ready to use but we had some finishing touches to complete.

I installed our 3 new window coverings for privacy, room darkening woven bamboo shades.

I also built a pair of DIY storage ottomans.

The storage ottomans are triple duty, serving as extra storage space, seating for our drop-down table and a step stool for the bed.

2 navy DIY storage ottomans lined up against wall in RV

While I was busy with my projects, Roger was busy installing the new RV toilet and plumbing.

As you can see we don’t have a vanity and sink but the kitchen sink is sufficient for our needs.

RV bathroom

After we finished the plumbing we worked on the finishing touches which included cabinet doors and all of the trim.

Remember, every piece is custom and that includes the cabinet doors and ceiling trim.

What a difference they made in the space. The new doors and drawer faces brought everything together.

RV platform bed

RV Kitchen Backsplash

Next, I installed the removable wallpaper backsplash in the RV kitchen.

There are several options for RV kitchen backsplashes that are available. You could just paint the backsplash and be done or you could install removable tiles, tin squares or removable wallpaper.

The removable wallpaper I chose was super easy to put up and it will be easy to remove, when it’s time.

I also added 2 storage shelves from the leftover walnut butcher block that we used for the kitchen countertop.

As you can imagine available counter space is at a premium in a small RV. For this reason we chose not to install a stove.

Instead we use an induction cooktop that we bring with us, as well as a grill, so cooking a proper meal hasn’t been an issue.

RV bathroom

The last project was the trim around the ceiling and on the wall that we built to separate the kitchen and bathroom.

We had every intention of installing a door for the bathroom but decided that we didn’t want to close in our already tiny space.

Instead of a door we chose to install a DIY RV privacy curtain using a swing arm curtain rod.

privacy curtain in cargo trailer conversion

Decorating an RV

The final step was to decorate with a few well-chosen accessories.

When you travel with an RV everything needs to be secured or put away so you need to keep that in mind when decorating.

I wanted to make our trailer feel more welcoming and comfortable so I added a few pillows, a macrame wall hanging and a couple of faux plants.

view inside of small RV with white cabinets

Installing an RV awning

If you’re looking to have an awning on your cargo trailer there’s a few options for installation.

It can either be installed by the factory building the cargo trailer, a shop or self-installed.

We chose the budget route and installed the awning ourselves. It took the two of us about 8 hours to install.

I wouldn’t say that it’s a hard project to do but you are working high in the air with a heavy object so it is a two person job.

RV campsite

Even with the awning installed, we still have a few projects on the outside to finish up, like caulking the windows and door, but Minnie is more than ready for action.

We’d like to go boondocking at some point so we’ll eventually have to add a generator and black or gray water tanks.

Those projects are way down on our “someday” list and not something that we’re worried about doing right now.

How much does it cost to convert a cargo trailer into a camper?

Every cargo trailer is unique in design and build so price will vary from camper to camper.

Our build cost around $13K for everything. That amount includes the price of the trailer and all of our building materials.

The bulk of that amount was spent on the trailer, lumber, the a/c and the awning.

Of course all of the work was done by the two of us so there was no expense there. And it was all totally worth it in the end.

A brand new RV trailer would have cost so much more and it would not have been as custom, or built as well.

We’re thrilled with the way our RV turned out and so excited to go on lots of adventures.

Don’t forget to head over to our YouTube channel to check out the video tour and q&a video where we answer viewer questions.

And check out our 2D floor plan that we’re offering (after a ton of requests).

Cargo Trailer Conversion Sources



  1. what are the inside dimensions of the cargo trailer you used?

  2. Hello. I love your cargo trailer camper conversion! It is so bright and comfortable looking! We just picked up our cargo trailer Saturday. It’s a little shorter than yours at 14 feet so we are omitting a few things, but yours is definitely our inspiration for the inside design. I noticed that it doesn’t look like you insulated the floor or walls or added any kind of moisture barrier. I wondered if this has been an issue for you, or if you would add it if doing it again? We are on the fence about whether to remove the wood from the walls and floor and insulate or leave it as is. We do camp pretty much year round, so that might have a bearing on what we do, but I was just wondering what your experience has been so far? Thank you!

    1. Thanks Tracie! We didn’t insulate the floor or walls but we knew that we would only be camping during the warm seasons, and we live in the South. We haven’t noticed any issues with not insulating. We would have gone ahead and insulated if we were going to camp year round though. We are going to be starting a new conversion and will insulate this time. But only because we will be traveling to colder climates during different times of the year. Hope this helps.

      Best of luck with your conversion!

  3. The absolute best cargo conversion! We’re hoping to do a 12 x 7 one soon.

    I didn’t see any info on tanks though…..for the toilet, shower and sink. Could you direct me to that?


    1. We didn’t install any tanks. We have more info on that in our video on YouTube.

  4. Kimberly Janssen says:

    Fantastic build!! Start to finish, need to know total out of pocket–please!

  5. Ginger Gardner says:

    What was the total weight

  6. Thank you. This was the most comprehensive article I have seen on any conversion.

  7. Ed Patterson says:

    Just watched the video and Roger explained the hot water question. An electric 7 gallon water heater. Thanks for the tour. You’ve put a lot of thought into living in a small space.
    Great work.

    1. Thanks Ed! I appreciate you checking out our conversion! I’m glad that you found the answer to your question. We were originally going to go with a tankless but this one has worked out well for us so we stuck with it.

      1. Kristi,
        I’m going to build a 120 sq. ft. cabin and your conversion is an excellent model. I’ve been looking at a tankless until seeing your solution.

  8. Ed Patterson says:

    Great job on your project and congratulations.
    I did not phrase that question well. How do you heat the water for the shower and sink?
    Thank you,

  9. Ed Patterson says:

    How do you get hot water for the shower and sink?

  10. Have you had any issues with rodents getting into your camper?

  11. My cousin sent me your blog and I’m delighted she did. We camp in a Casita Independent Deluxe and love it. You all did a phenomenal job on Minnie. Congrats and will look forward to more of your adventures.

  12. Your cargo trailer built by far the best one I’ve seen. I’m homeless at the moment but temporarily staying at a friend’s while I recover from my foot surgery which gives me a chance to save my monthly disability check. I’m trying to decide which one I should save for a conversion as my home as my friend graciously offered her driveway for me to park it. Been watching hundreds of YouTube videos on van built, school bus and cargo trailer and there are so many great build but haven’t seen a great cargo trailer conversion for long term living until I saw yours. Your build is beautiful and check all the boxes I wanted and necessary for long term living. Although I still have a long way to go financially but thank you for the inspiration build.

    1. Thanks so much, Amanda. There’s really so much you can do with a cargo trailer. We really had no idea until we started building it. We are excited to build our next one, which will be a bit bigger. Best wishes to you.

  13. I am in awe of your talent and ingenuity; your trailer is absolutely gorgeous.

    May I ask what shade of white paint you used? It’s the perfect warm white I want for my own trailer renovation.

    1. Thanks so much Donna, I appreciate it! I used Benjamin Moore White Dove on the walls, ceiling and cabinets. I wanted the interior to look light and bright and this creamy white is perfect for that. It’s my favorite paint color.

  14. Approx how much did it cost for the conversion?

    1. We are estimating it cost us between $10K and $12K for the trailer and materials.

      1. Seriously? That is amazing! Thank you so much for all the details, you’re going to be the main guide I use for our trailer!!

  15. Beautiful. Name and address of company where you ordered cargo trailer.

    1. Thanks! The trailer is made by Covered Wagon, out of Georgia.

  16. Excellent! How do the dogs like it?

    1. The dogs love it! Can’t wait to take them on our two week adventure. 🙂

  17. Talk about a labor of love! I hadn’t realized you could custom order cargo trailers the way you did – but that’s such a great idea to get the shell you want so you can then customize the interior. I still can’t believe this was an empty box when you first started because after all of y’alls hard work it looks absolutely beautiful!!! Definitely better than how typical RV’s are decorated, not to mention functional and inspiring!

    1. Thanks so much, Katie! Your kind comment means a lot to me. Especially after following all that you and Eric have done over the years. You are both so inspiring and I always look forward to your next project. As for ordering a custom cargo trailer…yes, you can get as little or as much as you want added (always at a price of course). We could have added a lot more, like insulation or plumbing, but saved a ton of money by doing it all ourselves. Now we are ready for a new challenge. 😉

  18. Marlene Stephenson says:

    It really looks nice, almost as if you bought it already like that, you guys did a wonderful job. I know you will enjoy it a lot, happy camping!!

    1. Thanks so much, Marlene! I appreciate all of the support you’ve shown us during the past 2 years. Now we’re ready to camp and enjoy all of our hard work. xo

  19. I commented on your video, but also want to let you know here that I’ve followed each and every project you’ve done to transform this 100 sq ft landscaping-type trailer into a beautiful and functional home away from home. I’m proud of what you’ve done and can only imagine the pride that you and Roger feel every time you are near it. Congratulations – and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for you two next. Now relax and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

    1. Thanks so much, Pat! Roger and I are truly touched by your kind comment. We appreciate all of the support you have shown us during this very long process. I don’t think I could do this blogging thing, sharing our personal stuff, without good people like you following us and rooting us on. Thank you!!! xo

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