Camper or trailer option for dodging disasters


I’ve been thinking about natural disasters and how mobility could mitigate the impact. Specifically, I like the idea of converting a worn in box truck into a stealth camper. Besides the recreational aspect, having an affordable house on wheels to relocate for a week or month might come in handy.

Any existing threads on this topic or has anyone built something like this?

Here’s a link to one I like. It’s not prepper outfitted, but shows the general idea:


  • Comments (23)

    • 2

      You’re thinking of using a truck like that as your long term residence? I can see how that could save money if the rent is high in your area. Main downside is the instability, constantly searching for ways to avoid detection and fines.

      What’s your main motivation for something like this? Trying to save money on rent? Wanting to spend a lot of time camping? If it’s just to be able to evacuate during disasters, there are options that don’t require a lifestyle change.

    • 2

      If I was him, I would create a fake plumping company name and get decals on the outside. It gives a sense of purpose and authority being parked in the location you are at. He could not place a phone number on there because you don’t NEED to have one, but if you did want one, I would put down 216-641-9887. It’s a phone number that will always ring and will never pick up. People will give up when waiting for you to answer and you will be left alone.

      Interesting and smart idea to live out of that type of van. It would be a good stealth BOV, but I would do some modifications like raise it up for more clearance and ability to go offroad more.

      • 2

        a fake name is a good idea, I have actually been camping in an old beat up highway maintanance transit that belonged to a factory site I use to work at, in a van like that you can park anywhere because anyone who sees it thinks it is meant to be there

        I actually want to get my own van for camping/bug out, if I di the first thing I will add to it is highway maintanance transfers

    • 2

      @eric I was thinking of it as a supplement to my main residence. For example, if the area flooded, the family could relocate nearby temporarily in more comfort than an emergency shelter. Other than that, it would be for camping. 

      • 4

        That works if you expect to find a safer area within a short drive away. There’s two main issues to watch out for, both related to your camper/truck being halfway between a vehicle and a house.

        The truck is much less sturdy than a house, so has less resistance to the extreme weather you’re concerned about. This means you need to move further to completely escape that weather.

        The truck gets much worse gas mileage than a car, and gas is often in short supply during a major evacuation. So make sure you store enough gas to reach your destination without relying on gas stations.

    • 3

      Do a google seartch for STEALTH CAMPERS, there is a huge sub culture of these folks living the mobile life but very low profile ( basically full on mobile homes and campers, but the windows are in the ROOF and not on the side of the vehicle).

      Sherm, instead of a Box van look at refrigerated vans. These vehicles are fully insulated, some folks buy them and rip out the refridgeration unit and fit them out as a camper, they are as at home in Montana as Arizona.  Most campers are only realistically 2 season vehicles, which means if you want to live in one full time you have to move south, but a fully insulated vehicle can function better, for longer much further north.

      FYI  I only drive a van, they are far more useful than cars.

      • 1

        I like that fridge truck idea, that would save some insulating. Yeah, I love the stealth campers. There’s one I might link on here a guy made out of a Fed ex step van. He kept all plumbing inside and insulated the Dickens out of it, so wouldn’t freeze or get too hot.

        I’m definitely interested in winterizing, I live in Minnesota.

      • 1

        Unfortunately with the rise of house prices some of these RV and stealth campers are probably also being seen as the only source of housing for many.

    • 3

      The little bit I know about mobile domiciles and evacuations comes from last year’s wildfire evacuation.  There’s probably little doubt that those with homes on wheels were more comfortable than those in cars or tents.  Large shopping centers made their parking lots available to evacuees, as well as fairgrounds.  There are drawbacks to a chassis mounted home, the primary one being, if you have to go somewhere, you have to uproot your entire residence, unless you are towing a car behind.  You may need to go to a dump station, in which case you’ll lose you’re spot in the “refugee camp”.  You need to stuff EVERYTHING you’ll need into the residence, requiring it to all be unpacked and set out in the weather, susceptible to theft, when you need to live in it.  Unless you’re towing a separate utility trailer.  If you have a travel trailer, pulled by a truck with a canopy, this is not quite such a problem.

      After a lifetime of camping with various configurations of shelters, my vote would go to a modest travel trailer, if I didn’t have livestock to deal with. 

      Evacuation is an ugly experience at its best.  Good to think about the what ifs in advance.

      • 3

        Another thought that occurs to me is the cost of licensing a commercial type van, and requiring a CDL to drive it.

      • 2

        I didn’t think you needed a CDL for box trucks. I like the trailer idea too. Get one with a tall ceiling and lots of insulation, and a toilet you dump as you go instead of plumbed.

        As for the unpacking part, I was thinking of it as an extension of the BOB concept, where it could be packed and ready for an extended stay. I might be dreaming on that front tho.

        I hadn’t considered claiming a spot in a camp and then losing it driving around.

    • 3

      Another example in a FedEx truck:

      BTW I’ve started experimenting with living out of my electric car and I can tell you that having climate control running all night long is a game changer.  You may want to revisit this idea once electric vans become popular.

      • 2

        Yeah, this is one I saw. He’s got all the plumbing inside for freeze protection, and a cool double door from cab to cargo area.

        So you can run ac or heat all night with your electric car? 

      • 1

        That’s right. I was in a campground recently in 25ºF weather and the car was a perfect 68ºF all night long, wihout running the engine (because there is no engine).  I have a twin-size bed in my car and surprisingly I sleep as well if not better in it than in my home.

      • 1

        That’s pretty good! I guess that’s not a significant load for such a large battery. What car is it, if you don’t mind saying?

      • 2

        It’s a Tesla Model Y.  When I bought it I had no idea it would be such a great tool for camping.

      • 2

        I looked it up and saw the mattresses that fit in there. That with the climate control makes it pretty comfy. If you had to guess, how long could you run the AC/heat without recharging from full?

      • 1

        It depends on the ambient temperature and I don’t have enough data yet to make a good guess.  There’s a conversation happening right now on this very topic in the Tesla Camping Facebook group.  It’s a good resource, with 10K members, if you’re curious to learn more.

    • 2

      I have had many friends who lived in campers and horse boxes, the main problem in Britain is finding somewhere to park up with out getting continually moved on.

      • 3

        Right, that’s why there’s interest in the stealth properties of the truck, to avoid getting “the knock” from police.

      • 1

        see my highway maintenance post above

    • 3

      My husband and I have been converting a church mini-bus into a camper for us to travel in over the summer while working. It is a Ford E350 V-10 van originally, that had the bus shell added later. It is about 21 feet long and still fits in most parking slots.

      Here are some things we have learned, hope it can help some.

      1. Don’t let rust scare you away from buying a vehicle, it is much easier to fix than you might think, especially if you are not worried about it looking pretty
      2. A van or a bus has curved walls, making carpentry work much harder. A box van like in the video would be much easier to build.
      3. You need a way to vent to prevent condensation, requiring an opening in the back and another in the middle or front. Just having front windows open doesn’t cut it, if you don’t have any back windows you will need to cut a hole in the top and add a vent fan. Also easier than you might think, but the biggest trust exercise in a conversion. However a fan on top is a big give away for being a conversion.
      4. Getting specific parts or sizes right now is challenging. We have had to have personal calls and conversations with manufacturers and found it helps to be friendly.
      5. Finding a shop that will work on a “well its not a van but not an RV” is soooo much harder than ever expected. Because it is bigger than a regular van some shops can’t lift it and because it isn’t really a RV, RV mechanics will not work on it either. However the E350 is a very common vehicle in the Americas so if a shop can fit it, then odds are a mechanic has worked on that model before. When selecting a Make/Model consider how easily it will be to have a shop work on the vehicle if needed.
      6. Having legal passenger seats with seatbelts is a huge bonus. It was very unexpected to say that the hardest project we had in the bus was buying and safely adding a legal passenger seat. When we got the bus it only had the driver seat.
      7. One blogger I watched who lives in a van full time says he put an orange cone outside his van and a worker vest and hardhat in his front seat, to make it look like it was just a utility work van.
      8. If you want to keep the build simple, instead of building from scratch often IKEA has good solutions
      9. When you buy a porta potty, pay more for one with a spout/funnel to pour the waste out.
      10. Anything is possible with the will, YouTube, and finding people that know more than you.
      • 2

        Sounds like a fun project and good camping or emergency bug out vehicle.

        I had always wondered why vans and buses had vents on the roof but now you have explained how it is for condensation.