Monday, February 10, 2020

On-the-Road Tiny Trailer Storage Strategies from the Pros

"Happy Thanksgiving from Florida!" (Kevin Mcintyre, 2019)

Tiny trailer builds are always fun to inspect because the details are so deliciously different. One "deliciously different" detail that always prompts discussion, though, is where do you store everything when on the road? Some tiny trailers have raised beds, with storage beneath. Some tiny trailers have rear galleys; some don't but have cabinetry in the front of the cabin. Some (or many) tiny trailers have beds on the floor, with hardly any storage at all.

With the great variety of tiny trailer builds and floorplans, it's a wonder that any useful advice can be provided regarding strategies for organizing gear. "Figure it out!" might be the best advice. Two constants, though, lead us to listen to the experience of owners of tiny trailers who get out there on a regular basis. One constant is that no matter what camper layout, there isn't a lot of room. The second constant is that easy access to equipment (both to get it out and to put it away) is key to not booby-trapping your camp space with gear that you used a half an hour ago but now is just in the way and taking up space.

Efficient Use of Space

"You're taking too much." The best way to utilize what little space is available is to take only essentials, along with those few luxuries that make your camp special for you. One good suggestion is to make a list of what you pack, and then when you get back home after the trip, take note of what you didn't use. Was it essential?

Multiple Use Clothing. Some clothing is moisture wicking and dries quickly, its fabric smell resistant, allowing multiple uses and, therefore, fewer clothes. Some pants that have leggings that unzip, transforming into shorts. (I don't own a pair but have always thought the idea was innovative.) My main method of space-saving with clothing is to dress in layers. A wool tee shirt doesn't get clammy when hiking or bike riding, which keeps me warmer. Then a mid-weight wool undershirt, a flannel shirt, a down vest, a light-weight down jacket, and an anorak windbreaker will clothe me from warm to very cold weather. I put on as many layers as I think I need--and take layers off as the day warms. I don't need to bring my heaviest (and bulkiest) down jacket--unless, of course, I just feel like bringing it. 

"This is ours and loaded #1800 axle and 246# tongue.
That is fully loaded 20 days on the road, full fuel tanks and water, bikes, etc." (Todd Mowrer, 2015)

Trip Length.
 One good suggestion for the efficient use of space was to take clothes for one week for a two-week trip, and then find a laundromat at the end of the first week. Simplify your dress code. "Camp hair? Don't care! Have a baseball cap handy!"

"Two months on the road, and we lived out of plastic drawers.
Used blue painter's tape to mark everything so we knew what was where." (Seth Rice, 2020)

Built-in Trailer Storage Space. Whatever built-in space your trailer has, think long and hard about the most efficient use of that space. It's always there and doesn't interfere with trailer functions, which is what a plastic bin sitting on the bed does. My trailer has a small upper shelf with closing doors. We've found it to be a great place for "quick meal" essentials: tea and cups, paper plates and bowls, vitamins, and a few spices. A single man with the same build uses that space for clothes, rolling them like backpackers to fit the narrow 7x7 inch shelf space that runs across the front of the trailer. Tiny trailers with rear hatches and galleys, of course, come with planned space for storage and/or kitchen.

One rear galley layout. (Chris Walters, 2014)

Easy Access

Match Space and Organizer. There's no one right answer here, but figuring out a way to organize your stuff in the space available really boils down to a concept you like--and then some physical organizer. Experienced campers suggested tote bags, plastic bins, and stacking drawers. These organizers can be in the vehicle--backseats or hatch area--or placed on the camper bed or walkway. One camper, as an example, uses containers to sort clothes by use: one bin each for bicycle clothes, warm weather, and cold weather clothes.

Cloth storage bins used in the Green Goddess, wall hooks on left.
A bit of the top storage cabinet can be seen above the light.

Prioritize. First-used and often-used should be placed on top or in the front. Rain gear needs to be handy but not as handy as sleepwear--unless you're camping in a rain forest. My wife and I have tea every morning, so that's always stored close to hand. Our cooking appliances (such as teapot and toaster oven) are permanently stored in hatches beneath camper seats. When we reach our camp, we get out what we need for the next few meals. That way seating and bed set-up aren't always being dismantled.

Tongue Box. Although tongue weight is a consideration, mounting a box on the trailer's tongue can be a really useful space. (Be aware of what the stock tongue weight is on your trailer. You'll be adding to that with a box and whatever you put in it. Also, tow vehicles and hitches have different tongue weight capacities.) I added a tongue box to my trailer and use that for stabilizing and security equipment, for extension cords, and for the trailer's awning tarp.

The tongue box option of one camper. (Christine Hammond, 2014)

Wall Nets and Hooks. My wife and I added four web net pockets to our camper--two to the inside of the front cabinets, and two on the sides of the wall next to our heads when we sleep. The nets on the inside of the front cabinets are used for various, occasional items like facial tissue, sunscreen, tissues, wet wipes, and sundry. The nets beside our sleeping spots are for a book, tissue, eye glasses, flashlight . . . things like that. We have also added hooks (4 metal/4 plastic) on the wall opposite the entrance door for a variety of light and heavy items, such as coats, pants, and dish clothes and bath towels. I'm continually surprised and appreciative of how these simple organizers clean up the clutter. 

Green Goddess solo organization, with bins, bags, and net pockets on the wall.
To set up the dinette, I move the piles, fold back the mattress, mount the table, and then return the storage.

Ultimately, storing your stuff that you take camping has to be an individual choice, based on personal needs and the particular trailer build. Finding the way to utilize the build you have for maximum efficiency and enjoyment is part of the camping adventure.

Simply put, storage is a challenge for tiny trailer owners--one met with ingenuity and resourcefulness. An issue that parallels storage challenges is the need for organization and good camp routines, an issue I've addressed in an earlier article, "Keeping Organized in a Tiny Trailer." Many times the process of organizing camping gear actually begins prior to the trip with how all that stuff is stored at home. Is it thrown in the closet or stored in organized bins? Tiny camper owners clean and prep their trailers in different ways, discussed in the article "Stocking Your Tiny Trailer (or Otherwise)." A third article that shows some good organizational photos is "Emergency Tiny Trailer Bug-out Readiness."

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