5×8 Cargo Camper

It’s like the little engine that could.  I originally purchased the trailer for either parking my motorcycle or hauling stuff around when needed.  I got the smaller sized 5×8 cargo trailer because at the time I had a smaller vehicle and needed something towable for lightweight stuff.  Nothing special at the time.. just a trailer.

One day my wife and I were planning our next camping trip, we have a 9 person tent that could accommodate a nice queen size inflatable mattress and had used a Mr Heater Buddy which works great for those chilly nights and mornings.  We had a couple of days off together and wanted to take that opportunity to schedule a short outing.  The weather started to get really cold that week and we were looking at 30 degrees and well, that’s pretty chilly!   We did experience some 40 degree cold nights and fall camping at this point but my wife wondered what the limit would be and feared that we would get frozen out.

Our Camping rig
Our Camping rig

So out of the blue I suggested we try camping out in our little trailer!  It couldn’t be worse than tent camping!  Well it wasn’t, it’s great!  Since the purchase of the trailer I had acquired a fullsize Ford Bronco and a Nissan Frontier pickup so towing is no longer a limited function!  I had a professional install a manual vent on the roof of the trailer and put together a makeshift locking setup for the inside of the trailer so I can secure the door while inside.  It’s wide enough to fit a queen sized mattress (we actually opted to put a full sized mattress inside) and had plenty of space to bring chairs, small fold up table, sleeping bag, lights, goodies, etc..

So this works fantastic for a fall camping!  We’ve camped in 20 degree snowy weather and have kept the inside a toasty 72 degrees during our nights.  I haven’t insulated the inside of the trailer or done any major modifications to it other than the roof vent which was kept open for oxygen.  The heater uses propane and needs some ventilation in the cabin space.  I did purchase a carbon monoxide detector for peace of mind. The detector remains at zero with the vent open and still toasty warm inside. 🙂  So it really works out great.

Summer camping 2014
Summer camping 2014

Now that we have fall and winter camping figured out it takes care of that.  But now for summer.  I really don’t want to experiment cutting holes into my trailer incase I screw things up, so installing a window is a no go for me.  I played around with the idea of installing a portable AC unit but I have had bad experiences with them and I feel they’re expensive for the poor performance and in the long run, expensive to replace.  So with a couple of free days looming in the horizon we could spend at a campsite, I didn’t want to have a miserable night in the heat of June/July.  We did that once last year in our tent and it wasn’t so fun, it was really hot and the bugs were relentless as they usually are in the forest.  As a fall camper, I’m not a big fan of the summer camping, but I wanted this to work so we didn’t limit ourselves (like most people do) to just a couple seasons of the year for camping.

Outside of the trailer.
Outside of the trailer.

I don’t have pictures of the process of my build but I can show you the outcome of what I put together (with the help of my wife by my side).  I went to the local Home Depot and purchased a thick piece of plywood. I believe it was 3/4 inch.  Then I pulled out my new trusty friend, the circular saw and started measuring out the one side of the barn doors opening and cut out a portion to fit just right.  After some trimming, ok lots of trimming, I managed to get the fit pretty good.  Afterwards I cut smaller squares for the edges as shown in the image.  I put in a spacer on the 2 squares on the left side so that the main board sits flush on the edge of the doorway.  The top one keeps it from falling in and 2 squares on the inside of the trailer’s outer edge keeps it from falling out.  There is a lip along the inside of the door that is latched that also helps it from falling out.  I also created a spot for the door to latch to onto the main board that keeps it all together.  My explanation is terrible but hopefully the image shows it best.

The inside
The inside

Once I had the board secured and sorted out I measured out the freespace in the middle to get an idea of how much room I had for an AC unit.  At that moment I was hoping I had enough room for the unit I was doing all this work for. lol.
I looked up a couple of the cheapest 5000 btu units available and found one, the frigidaire 5000 BTU air conditioner unit seems to be the perfect fit!  It was small, lightweight and CHEAP!  We went and picked it up, pulled it out of the box and plopped it down on top of the board, penciled an outline and cut away the new space for this unit.

And for the final test installed it and plugged it in, BINGO!  Works great!  I also purchased a strip, because who knows what else I can plug in while we’re camping.  So the electric strip does add another dynamic we’re not used to while camping and an extension cord that can handle at least 15amps.  I found this one and really like the fact that it lights up when plugged in to show you got some juice.

I pushed and poked at the unit installed to make sure there weren’t any major weaknesses as I didn’t want this thing falling on my head in the middle of the night, but it doesn’t budge at all, it’s pretty solid.  Another proud moment as both my wife and I looked at our creation and now excited to try and camp out with it!

We did camp out and it worked flawlessly, we went to another campground with electric hookups and didn’t have any problems keeping the little trailer nice and cool.  By the end of the night my wife complained that she was cold. I’ll make sure to bring a hoodie next time. 🙂

Camping with Air Conditioning - 5x8 Cargo Camper
Camping with Air Conditioning – 5×8 Cargo Camper








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[…] We couldn’t wait to try it and had our maiden stay at Turkey Swamp park for an overnight.  Was a luxury stay compared to the cargo trailer I had recently rigged up with ac. […]