The Cargo Trailer Conversion Begins

Bigger than I expected my trailer bros said I’ll eventually be glad to have the extra space.

Our cargo trailer finally arrived and the conversion to a camper is underway. In case you don’t keep up with the blog, we bought an all-aluminum cargo trailer and are converting it into a camper.

So far the conversion is moving along, but not without a few hitches. Here’s my list of conversion mistakes so far, so you can avoid what I did wrong.

Ordering Too Much Stuff In Advance

All the things I bought for the camper conversion, before the trailer actually got here, are not well suited to the space we have. The couch is too big, the A/C unit is trying to do a job it isn’t made for, our shower tub was too big, and the desk we got for a table probably isn’t going to work. I had to buy a new shower tub and now we’re stuck with a 100 gallon stock tank that we can’t return. Wait until you have the trailer to work on and can see the shape of the space.

Not Enough Truck

Size matters. The Tundra parked next to our old Tacoma. The Taco just didn’t have enough juice for towing, despite being way under the rated capacity.

By far the biggest mistake I made was discovering right away that just because a truck is rated to tow a certain weight, doesn’t mean it’s fun. Our Tacoma Limited was rated to safely tow 6,600 pounds but to me that seems like borderline false advertising. Towing just 3,100 pounds, less than half of its rated capacity, our Taco swayed and surged like a drunken sailor on the highway. The engine strained constantly at high RPMs to maintain highway speeds and that was on relatively flat ground. The Tacoma is made to tow jet skis or a teardrop camper out to the beach on weekends, not big trailers. That’s with the optional towing package, a brake controller, and Toyota’s Trailer Stabilization System installed. My opinion was towing with the Taco would be an ongoing compromise with safety and stability, especially if we ever drove in the mountains.

We probably could have fixed the Tacoma with some suspension work in the back. Instead we decided it was better to bite the bullet and trade for a Tundra. That was an expensive mistake that also cost us a model year. But there’s no comparison when it comes to towing a big trailer. The Tundra, with a 5.7L V8, barely knows the trailer is back there. Bizarrely, the much beefier Tundra is still competitive when it comes to gas mileage. Lesson learned there.

Factory Insulation

Positively get one of these. It’s a wireless camera you can put on your trailer and see behind you when backing up, even in the dark. These things are worth their weight in gold.

We ordered the factory insulation thinking it would save me a step. Bad idea. The factory insulation on our Pace American cargo trailer is laughably thin and not very useful. Yes, I would have needed to take the paneling down inside, but I would’ve had better insulation as a tradeoff.

If I had taken down the paneling, I could have also run some of the electrical wires at the same time. Instead we added conduited wiring over the top of the paneling and thin insulation, which means we’re stuck with it now. I do have to say one thing about our wiring. Though it doesn’t have the cosmetics I might have liked, it’s brutally solid, waterproof, and safe. It’s somewhat ironic that our trailer wiring is better than most of the campground systems we’ll be plugging it into. And we got it done in a day.

More updates as the build continues.

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