Nov 172011

I mentioned in passing in the rv series about certain types of rv’s that were not conducive to minimalist living due to their size or construction. Well, I’d like to revisit that notion and talk about about an ultra minimalist form of living that is only now starting to make some headway in this country.

We ‘Merican’s luv our living space. The bigger the better. Extra bedrooms, two car garages, massive walk in closets, and big yards. We love it so much that we will sacrifice way more of our time and money to get and maintain that space than is necessary. And if we are engaged in the standard consumer lifestyle that dictates buying more and keeping more, we need that space for all our stuff. But for those of us who have seen the light, and are steadily getting rid our stuff, we are faced with more and more empty space and no need to keep nor maintain it. Basically smaller is better. Less to care for, less to pay for. It then becomes a question of how much space do you really need and how much you can live with, or without.

In my own personal case, I can live with very little space. That is why I have lived in an rv or a boat for many years of my adult life. Right now, I rent an apartment. Total square footage…about 200 sg.ft. I could easily cut this in half and still be quite comfortable. Were it not for the two furballs I have in tow, I could get by with 100 sq.ft. and be quite happy. Less to maintain, less to clean, smaller utility bills. Rv’s fit nicely into my lifestyle as do boats but even then, an rv over 20 feet is still way more than I need for day to day living. Which brings me to the main subject of this post…micro campers.

Micro campers comprise a unique niche style of rv for the minimalist mindset. Ranging in size from about 8 ft. to 18 ft. these interesting little rv’s are compact and small, but can carry as many amenities as their big counterparts. Depending on the model and size you can have all the comforts of home, full bath, galley, comfortable sleeping arrangements, and enough storage for your 100 things or less. The only thing you are lacking is a lot of walking space, or in some cases none, and headroom. Micro campers also have the added bonus of being light enough that you can pull one with a much smaller vehicle. So no need for some fuel guzzling obnoxious pick up truck. For those of you who can remember, think of the old Scotty trailers you used to see running around and you have an idea of what I am talking about. The nice thing is now with advances on design and use of energy efficient and space saving appliances, you can have a micro camper with some pretty nice features and not be burdened by maintenance issues. The cost of a micro camper is way less allowing you to get into a newer or if you dare a new model for what you would spend on a 15 year old large rv.

Teardrop Trailers…a few years back when I still watched tv I caught a show about unique rv’s on a travel channel. One segment came up featuring teardrop trailers and I was immediately hooked. Teardrops are small campers, starting as small as 8 ft. in length. They were started around the late 1930’s as a project featured in magazines that anyone with a reasonable amount of construction ability could build one. The premise is very simple. Take a 4 x 8 trailer bed. The same size as a standard sheet of plywood. Add a sheet of plywood for the floor. Cut two sides in the shape of a tear, cut some doorways into them, add a roof section, add a large lift up access door in the rear, and you are done. Later, after the war when there was a huge surplus of aluminum scrap from old aircraft laying around, it was very common to cover the outside of your teardrop with aluminum for protection. The lay out inside was simple. Sleeping quarters big enough for two average size people, maybe a small shelf or two, while in back where the large door was, you could modify the inside and add a small galley area or what ever you wanted or needed. While there is no standing room, you still have a comfortable sleeping area and the ability to do some cooking outside.

The whole teardrop concept has had a revival over the past few years and you see them now and then running down the highway. Several manufacturers have popped up with ready made units varying in size from a storage only small teardrop to full 18 footers with standing room and more enclosed amenities. My personal favorite, if I ever decide to get one is these guys right here…


Tap the picture and go to the link or try this one….Little Guy to see the full lineup. I could easily see hooking up one of these to the back of a jeep and traveling the country for a few months or years and being quite comfortable. Figure about $5,000 and up depending on the model. If you are of the DIY crowd though, plans can be found online to build your own for about $3,000 depending on how fancy you want to be. It would be very easy to configure a teardrop to be nearly free of the grid. You could power all your needs with a car battery and a solar panel. Led lights inside, ice box instead of a fridge, use the rv park bath facilities so no need for sewer. Use your imagination and you can have a nice comfy little home that costs virtually nothing to maintain. A good resource is here…Teardrops

If you want something with a bit more room, as in being able to stand up there are large versions of teardrops like this one…


While currently out of production, the T@B model can be found used online if you look around. New they sold for anywhere from $9,000 to $20,000. There are other models similar to it out there. Take a look around and see what you can find.

Teardrops are the extreme when it comes to minimalist living. The downside, other than more restricted space, is many rv parks, especially here in the Keys forbid long term stays in anything this small. Forget the fact they take up less room and use very little resources, some parks have minimum size rules so it is something to consider.

So, you like the idea of smaller is better? But you don’t like the idea of living in an rv? Is there a solution? Well, yeah.

Tiny Houses…Tiny houses are growing in popularity and demand, especially in areas where the local governments and zoning boards don’t have their heads stuck up their asses. Tiny Houses look like real houses, complete with gabled roofs, small porches, and judicious use of interior space. These houses are extra small with square footage running from 80 to 200 sg.ft. There are some large versions out there but for this post I will concentrate on the smaller stuff.

Tiny houses are almost exclusively custom built. There are plans available on line for a variety of shapes, styles, and floor plans. A good place to start is right here…Tiny House Blog. Tiny houses are like rv’s in they utilize all available space in a small area. Tables fold into beds or out of the way. Kitchens are compact but usable, some even feature a loft for sleeping quarters. And all hand built so you are not dealing with shoddy assembly line construction. Tiny houses can be built for a lot less than a standard house, some as low as $20,000. And if one were to be a little innovative, a tiny house that is virtually free of the grid at least in terms of energy could easily be built.

From the Tiny House Blog, here is a typical example of a tiny house. Click the picture to see more…


I could easily foresee building something like this, utilizing solar for electricity, maybe a compost toilet to save on waste and creating a simple Tiny House development on a piece of land that would hold 5 or 6 of these things. Take a small lot, add in some utilities like water and maybe sewer if necessary, no electric, and you would have a nice little housing development. But, as with anything, there are problems…namely government.

Government, especially in the local form, never does anything innovative or thinks out of the box. Zoning boards rule the roost and most municipalities have strict zoning laws demanding minimum square footage for living space. Individual developments have Home Owners Associations which are the bottom of the barrel. Also take into account that builders, developers, and utility companies are deep into the pockets of politicians. Allowing a parcel of land to be developed is their baby and no tree hugging ruck sack living hippie is going to spoil the party with space saving, energy efficient, and innovative living space. So, the way a lot of people are getting around all that bullshit? Build and license the tiny house as an rv. See how everything goes in a big circle? By building your tiny house on a trailer and licensing it as an rv you have a bit more leeway as to where to park it. Build something really unique and most parks will be glad to welcome you into the fold. It’s an unfortunate set of issues but it can be worked around. As more people get onto the less is more bandwagon, as the economy continues to tank, as we become more aware of our energy use, the tiny house movement may take hold.

Or we could take a cue from the Japanese…Cubicle hotel

It all depends on how much space you need. Ok, that for real, wraps up this series on alternative housing as it pertains to minimalism and rv living. Hope you enjoyed it and found some value in the information. Feel free to add your two cents in the comments section. And remember, less is more.

Capt. Fritter

  4 Responses to “Minimalist Living in the Keys…RV style…micro campers and tiny houses…”

  1. excellent overview.
    the tiny house gets my vote.
    have you seen the one that a couple built
    called innermost house?
    talk about workmanship.
    it’s in the woods in northern california.
    i aspire to a tiny house someday.
    maybe by the time i can do it there’ll be
    places to put them.
    that might be your next entrepreneur project!
    a beautiful “tiny house” park!
    tammy j

    • Very nice. A bit too clean for my tastes but still they have the right idea. Problem is, as I said in the post, is government. They are not prone to new and innovative ideas. At least not until they figure out how to control it, over regulate it, and make money from it.

      With today’s technology it would be very easy to design a tiny house that was energy self sufficient, recycled waste, and used very few, if any resources. Perhaps someday.


  2. You’ve probably stumbled upon this but here it is anyway: