Compact Layouts for Families of 5?

Converting Cargo Trailers into TTTs

Compact Layouts for Families of 5?

Postby bandgazebo » Mon Jul 31, 2023 4:23 pm

Hello, new here! I've been lurking and consuming old posts for a few months now, but I finally convinced the spouse we want to go for it and now we're in very very early stages of planning our first build! Probably won't start building until next year, but I'm definitely obsessed with the planning right now.

We are super minimalist tent campers right now and honestly don't even mind tent camping that much, so I'm still looking to do a minimal build. We are in Utah though and often camp at higher elevation in places with afternoon storms, so having something insulated and more weather friendly is appealing if only to extend our season a little. There's also that fear of bears, haha! We don't need a lot of luxury, just trying to do a little more comfort that's a little easier to get out and go for a weekend. People are telling us that we should just get a pop-up tent trailer, but those don't solve any of those problems. I'm also a little too perfectionist to just throw some cots in an insulated box, so if I'm going to do it...I'm going to do it right!

So does anyone have links to other builds that people have done for a family 5? Especially if it's pretty efficient? I've been playing around in sketchup and I have a couple ideas for a 7x14 (or even 6x12 if I hope my girls don't grow much) that I'm liking, but I would love to see how other people do 5 in a compact space. I'm skipping the kitchen and shower, but hope to include a toilet and fridge at least. I've only seen one or two other examples and I feel like I've seen every youtube video tour there is. We are towing with a Tacoma or maybe an SUV in the future if we replace our minivan, so I don't want to go very big, but even if we had a more powerful rig I'd still want to stay small to be able to store on our side yard and many places we camp limit to under 20 feet.
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Re: Compact Layouts for Families of 5?

Postby Grummy » Thu Aug 03, 2023 1:17 am

6x12 or 7x12... Well, I would definitely get a ramp door trailer and build an "add a Room" out of it as it can easily be made to fit cots. Not only cots, but bunk bed style cots if you would like.

This "add a room" could be made as a soft top, soft side, or, with some vision, a hard (but lightweight) hardshell "clamshell" can lay down over the door when closed, but tip up into a hard roof when open. Then you only need soft side walls, making the whole deal a little more weather friendly.

So, that setup can take care of 3 kids easily... I think the best bunk beds that would work are called disc-o-beds?

Now, you don't want to make the kids inaccessible, so, put your adult bed in the front of the trailer. If your 7 wide, you can easily sleep crossways, and have your cabinetries and counters and the like in the middle of the trailer, leaving a nice walkway from your bed to theirs and everything in between.

If it is a 6 foot wide, you either have to sleep the long way from front to back, leaving a walkway on the entry door side for exit/ability up front (the kids bunks out back would have their own exit) OR, sleep crossways, but install a "concession Window" in the drivers wall as a "tip out" section to make the width of the trailer wide enough to sleep comfortably. A Lengthwise bed will burn a lot of a 12 foot interior.

I can tell you that a crosswise 54-60" wide bed can give you plenty of cabinet space between the front bed and the deck area beds, including a porta-potti "room".

Let us know what you decide and when you start building, send pictures ! BTW, there are a few companies making 6-1/2 foot wide trailers which makes sleeping crossways a whole lot easier !
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Re: Compact Layouts for Families of 5?

Postby S. Heisley » Thu Aug 03, 2023 9:57 pm

The sleeping space takes up the most room in most small trailers. Assuming 2 adults and 3 children, I would build bunk beds, one bunk (two beds) on one side and a full-size bed with a small bunk over top of that. A full-size bed is 54" wide, 6" smaller than a queen size. Bunks can be as small as 22" wide, so, if you go this route, you'll need a 7' wide.
7' =84" 54+22= 76" 84-76= just 8" (-probably less because that because 7' includes sides and I haven't here) which would be enough to make beds with some difficulty unless you use sleeping bags. Thus, you'd have to climb into bed from the end of the beds. No worries about someone falling out of bed onto the floor, HaHa!

Alternately, you could build two bunks (two beds each) along the sides and one more elevated single bed above the kitchen frig and counter. This might allow you to use wider bunk beds, around 28" for a 6' wide. Just keep in mind that you need at least 15" to be able to walk and turn in the aisle. Also, if you build the fifth bed over the counter, you won't want any bed linens dangling over any cooking area.

You could also put a full bed across the back and then put one bunk (two beds) on one side in an 'L' shape to the full bed; and one single bunk, the fifth bed, either on the other side or over the counter area. I don't think I'd do a bunk bed that has three beds. I think it might be too cramped.

If you go with the cargo trailer that uses the tongue area to create the enclosed pointed area, you could put your toilet in there and have curtain to pull in front of it.
You'll figure it out.
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Re: Compact Layouts for Families of 5?

Postby rjgimp » Fri Aug 04, 2023 2:09 am

I have seen a couple builds with three bunks stacked. One essentially on the floor. Second at about waist height. Third about chest height.

If you're thinking cargo trailer conversion or something similar I would definitely go at least 7x14.

I hope to make it to a Procrastinators Anonymous meeting someday...
just as soon as the steering committee gets around to scheduling one!
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Re: Compact Layouts for Families of 5?

Postby dinapsoline » Tue Aug 15, 2023 8:29 pm

I'm in the exact same situation! Hope OP returns with an update because I'm feeling pretty exasperated in my search for a suitable RV. There are so many manufacturers, how is it possible that none of them have thought to fill the gap between family-using-tents and full mobile home rolling down the road? Popups are the worst, you still have all the setup and takedown problems of a tent and now you've gotta tow something behind you! Hardsided RVs seem ok, but they devote at least 50% of their interior volume to trying to recreate the inside of your house instead of just giving you the necessities -- somewhere dry and comfortable to sleep at night.

I've looked at stuff like the Opus 15, Lance 2185, Intech Flyer Explorer, and they're all ok... but with absolutely wild pricing for what you're getting. Someone just make a teardrop that's like twice as long as ususal! Just give me two king beds with an exterior kitchen!
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Re: Compact Layouts for Families of 5?

Postby TheOtherSean » Wed Aug 16, 2023 9:03 am

dinapsoline wrote:Hardsided RVs seem ok, but they devote at least 50% of their interior volume to trying to recreate the inside of your house instead of just giving you the necessities -- somewhere dry and comfortable to sleep at night.

As I understand it, this is partly for financing reasons - with a kitchen and full bathroom, an RV qualifies as a home for lending purposes, so longer-term loans with smaller monthly payments become available.
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Re: Compact Layouts for Families of 5?

Postby RBB » Wed Aug 16, 2023 9:40 am

I have similar design requirements. I had a design early on that would sleep 5, had an internal bathroom, and a outdoor kitchen. Like you, I have been tent camping almost exclusively for the past 20 years... I have all the gear, so i dont need a fancy kitchen or anything INSIDE the camper, but as our family is growing, it would be nice to spend less time setting up camp, and more time ENJOYING camp!

Here is a quick video tour of the design I came up with at the time:

    Twin Bunk Beds
    Full size Queen bed
    Dinette folded down for a 5th sleeping berth
    Storage above Queen bed would flip down for an additional bunk if needed.
    Walk in wet bath
    Room for mini fridge under front bunks.

This was a "Build-from-Scratch" Canned Ham concept... roughly 158" long x 80" wide x 81" high.

Someday I might build this...

Currently, I am building a 4 berth "Standie" for the family! Follow the build here: and eventually I will be putting videos on my YouTube Channel!
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