Continuing my series on tiny trailer living, today I’m going to address another common question: how do I handle having so little space? This can be broken down into two subjects, living space and storage space.
The simple answer is, when your living space is tiny, you change your definition of it. It comes to mean the space outside your camper as well as within it – there’s a reason why it’s so common to see people with tiny campers have awnings and extensive outdoor setups.
If the weather’s good, I do many activities outside. I cook outside, eat outside, and relax outside. Last winter I finally gave in and spent more money on a very comfortable camp chair, and now that I have the teardrop I’m even more glad that I did. I also treasure time away from camp, engaging in activities that let me stretch my legs like sightseeing hiking, and tours.
Most RVers try to follow good weather, but when you’re cooking and spending a lot of time outside, it becomes critical for a good camping experience. In the general sense, this works out to moving north and to higher elevations in the summer, and south and lower elevations in the winter. For example I spent much of this past summer in Oregon, Washington, and Colorado. Now that it’s edging into winter I’m working my to Arizona and southern California.
But even with the best planning, the weather is a fickle thing and inevitably you’ll end up stuck in rain or disagreeable temperatures. Or you may need or want to travel to the wrong part of the country during the wrong time of year for an event or emergency.
I’ve found that in the short-term, say in the event of a day or two of rain, that being stuck indoors is not much of a challenge for me. I have food on hand that doesn’t require cooking and a pass-through door in my squaredrop that lets me access parts of the galley where I store food without having to go outside. I’m content to laze in bed and work or read if the weather is foul and have enough headroom to do simple exercises in my rig to keep from getting stiff or sore. It’s not ideal, but it’s workable.
It’s also worthwhile to pick up the skill of paying closer attention to the weather. Even on rainy days, most of the time it doesn’t rain all day. I have a weather app on my phone that predicts the hourly forecast, and if it’s due to rain I keep an eye on that and look for the windows when it isn’t raining to do whatever it is I might want to do outside. Another facet is simply listening for the brief absence of rain on the roof to run to the bathroom.
Heating and Cooling
It is possible to get A/C and heating for tiny trailers, and if you suspect you’ll be camping where it’s hot, it may pay to invest. Even when you aren’t spending as much time inside, being a comfortable temperature makes sleeping so much better.
My Hiker has circular vents at the front where I can hook up a portable A/C and heating unit from outside and duct the air in – this would require having an electric hookup and the unit would have to be stored when not in use. I don’t actually own the unit, called a ClimateRight, but I have the setup done in case I want to invest later, and in the meantime I can open the vents for additional airflow. I also kept my Little Buddy propane heater by Mr Heater from the Casita, and it works just fine. I just never leave it running while I’m sleeping not that that’s really necessary. With a space as tiny as mine, running it for a half-hour makes it plenty warm inside.
Other teardrops might have a small A/C, usually mounted in the wall between the living area and galley, and small electric heaters can be used inside if you have electric.
But the best way to stay cozy when sleeping in a teardrop is to have warm bedding. It’s a small enough space that just your body heat warms up the inside considerably. Invest in a good sleeping bag, or buy a 12V electric blanket. Either will keep you plenty toasty.
Even with the best attitude, being stuck indoors during poor weather grows old eventually. Fortunately, having teardrop means your home is separate from your transportation, and there are plenty of indoor places where you can hang out for periods of time to escape bad weather. Here are a few of my favorite places to go when the weather has me bummed:
- Coffee shops and restaurants
- Museums & other attractions
- Movie theaters
- Run errands (laundry, groceries, etc.)
- RV park clubhouse or other people’s RVs
- Moochdocking/driveway surfing
Libraries and coffee shops give me a change in scenery to work away from home. Restaurants, museums, and movies are good food and entertainment options on a rainy day. Errands might not be fun normally, but doing them on bad weather days gets you out of the camper and since they need to be done anyway, you might as well do them when the weather isn’t cooperative for funner activities.
Some RV parks have an indoor public space for hanging out, usually called a clubhouse. I rarely stay in parks these days, but I do often boondock with friends with larger rigs than mine, and on bad weather days it’s not uncommon to gather in the largest person’s rig for a work party or movie.
Another possible solution is to park in a friend or family member’s driveway, which is often referred to as moochdocking. This typically gives you at least partial access to a climate-controlled house, but you still have your own bed and private space which is nice for both you and your host. Of course, you don’t want to impose on anyone or overstay your welcome, but I’ve found this an ideal way to visit family and close friends no matter what the weather’s like.
The key to managing storage well in any RV is to find good ways to utilize what you have. And what you have in a teardrop is a rear galley, probably with large drawers and cabinets. Don’t be afraid to alter storage spaces to fit your needs by adding or removing shelves and putting in more partitions. This is the most common problem I hear of when people complain about their storage. They have the room… they just haven’t modified it to best suit their needs and leave a lot of dead space that could be used with the right system in place.
In the Hiker Trailer, the galley is flat and not very deep, more like a large cabinet than a typical galley found in a teardrop with a sloped back. There are three shelves, but that’s not nearly enough partitions for the size stuff I carry in the back.
And I do carry a lot in the back. Many teardrops have sinks and cook surfaces in the back but one of the things I really liked about the Hiker is that it did not come with these by default. As a full-timer, I didn’t want to waste precious rig space for preparing food, so instead I have a table and portable stove that live in the back of my truck and have my kitchen entirely outdoors, and the back of the squaredrop is just for storage.
To organize the back, I bought a lot of storage bins from Walmart, not the prettiest solution but relatively inexpensive and easy to change if I decide to down the road. I bought different sizes, so that I can make good use of my space, and all my bins are clear so that it’s easy to see what I have in each one.
I also store a lot of stuff in my truck, which has a camper shell in the back – I always tell people the truck bed is my storage unit. I honestly could put a lot more in the back than I do, but I like it that way.
And one more thing. As a solo person, I did not have to devote the entire interior of my camper to bed space. Instead half of my interior is bed, and the other half is…. yes, storage. Right now I keep all of my clothes inside, all my electronics, and other things I need frequently. Things are still coming and going from the various storage places in my rig, as I figure out what I need where. But it’s coming together.
I hope this article helps you make the most of the living and storage space in your teardrop. Happy travels!
Previous posts on teardrop living:
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