The Return of Spartan Luxury
You asked for it, and here it is: the sequel to Spartan Luxury and Update to Spartan Luxury, with additional detail provided from interviewing Charles, the owner of this surprising little rig that’s built to boondock in more remote areas. I have to admit, I figured that this quirky little trailer, being not much over six feet square, would be akin to a broom closet inside, as far as living space goes. I figured that a converted cargo van would be a mansion in comparison.
Wrong again. It’s quite the other way around. Yep, the exterior has a kind of ramshackle practicality that doesn’t build much expectation for the interior. Yet once the door to the inside is opened, the aura of the interior layout and storage is so plentifully sensible that you immediately have a sense of homeyness. You have to step in and explore.
This trailer used to be built straight-up on its 4×6 trailer, and Charles quickly found it to be inadequate. What is before you now is Trailer 2.0, and adding overhang to the sides has transformed it into a surprisingly workable full-time rig. I can assure you that if you walk past it with a “boy, this guy is really having to scrape by” perception, you’ll lose that when you look inside. It works. There’s space for all the vitals and then some. There’s no need to suck in your stomach and shuffle sideways anywhere, to walk hunched over, to hold onto things while you step over obstructions, or to bash your knees on anything. And the interior is real wood, not faux-veneered chipboard.
Charles has been full-timing in it for 4-1/2 years, having finally escaped a wheelchair after more than 22 years. A disabled Vietnam veteran, he told me that in order to stay on his feet, “there’s still more to do” as far as surgeries go. His days vary. Some times he walks fine, while others require a cane, or crutches, or the wheelchair. He’s a hardy, pleasant and likable soul who never complains, but just states how things currently are. Unattached, he goes where he likes when he likes, and when he isn’t camping near friends as he is now, he’s up in the hushed solitude of the mountains. He has no blog and at this point no onboard Internet access, which makes sense when you spend a little time with him. He’s more interested in living life than in writing about it. He has little, yet neither complains nor brags about it. He’s a man’s man in the very best sense of the word, without the bravado or attitude.
This is one post which relies heavily on photographs and their captions to fill out the story. Overall though, the trailer’s floorplan allows for the bed to be crossways in the front, with no supports needed in the middle to chop up storage space below it. A sliding screened window is fixed to the front wall for light and ventilation. Just below it is a handy long shelf for incidentals. Above it is a slanted roof that cuts air drag when towing. The foot area of the bed is topped with two shelves, one for the TV and one for the satellite box. A large ice cooler is stowed under the bed with plenty of room for a porta-potty and other equipment. The center of the bed is open to the floor for getting up.
Stepping a bit to the rear, whether you are in the dressing room or the galley depends largely on which way you’re facing. A good-sized floor-to-ceiling clothes closet is on the driver’s side, and further to the rear is a sink with shelves above and below. He picked up the sink in Mexico, and its installation is a project still in progress. On the passenger side is a floor-to-ceiling pantry with a microwave on the top shelf, and then further to the rear a gas range with a toaster oven above. More shelving is below. A dutch door at the rear includes a whimsical half-moon window that can be closed off with screen for bug-free ventilation, or a slab of insulation for cold nights. Heat is supplied with a catalytic propane heater. A fixed skylight in the center of the roof makes a big difference in the feel of the interior. Along with the plumbing for the sink, Charles is planning to install the hardware for an outdoor shower that can use any available water source. Charles claims that, stocked properly in the right location, he can stay out for a month at a stretch.
Overall, Charles has taken a practical approach to accomplishing what he wants to do with this thing. Instead of bulking up on holding tanks, deep cycle battery banks, big inverters or solar, he powers his electricals with a 3,200-watt gas generator. Given the premium on space, that’s a really good idea with such high-demand appliances as a microwave, toaster oven and air conditioner. Whether or not this or that person might want these things onboard in their own situation is immaterial – Charles does, he’s here, and the way he chose to make these devices work for full-time boondocking is the least expensive and most direct way to get the job done. Bang.
I find it difficult to wear my Critical Hat with this thing as far as off-roading goes. Sure, the tires are skinny and will sink into soft sand. Sure, the extra width and high center of gravity mean that when off-road you have to be careful now and then so as not to risk tipping it over onto its side. The trailer itself is truly minimal cost and, as-is, may not be the best for deep sand or extremely rough trails, but it’s light enough that the Jeep will get it there anyway. Besides, the risky situations truly are both “now and then” and purely a matter of choice, so big deal. When you look at any prefab alternatives that would have an easier time of it, they are a lot less comfortable and a lot more expensive. In its own way, as a bucks-down, go-anywhere, comfortable micro-coach, this combo is clearly a winner. It’s the 95% solution to camping on all available Federal lands campsites.
Dreaming of boondocking someday? Do you like four-wheeling, or simply the idea of towing a lightweight but comfortable trailer into areas that common RVers will never see or experience? Prefer the inexpensive approach, or a manageable project that can reflect your own personal preferences in materials and features? Then throw this approach into the mix and tailor it to your own needs, like Charles did.