Complete Guide to Shipping Container Campers

JANUARY 15, 2020 BY RYAN STOLTZ

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shipping container campers

Campers and recreational vehicles (RV) are an exciting and cost-effective way to experience life on the road. One of the only drawbacks revolves around the fact that prebuilt vehicles limit opportunities to modify the design. In the event that you are able to make some chances, the process is often tedious, time-consuming, and expensive.

Fortunately, alternatives exist. A shipping container camper provides a more malleable design than conventional RVs, allowing you to make as many changes as you want, add accessories, or even create a multi-story structure.

 

Below, we’ll explore just how to convert shipping containers into camper vehicles.

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What Are Shipping Container Campers?

Shipping container campers are recreational vehicles that use modified containers as their living space. These vehicles may have the container attached to the bed of the truck or a separate container home towed with a trailer.

Containers come in standard ISO sizes. Whether you're using a small 10-foot container or a full-length 40-foot unit, both will be 8'6" tall. This gives shipping container campers more ceiling height than typical RVs.

Storage containers have a high-strength Corten steel body and thick corrugated steel walls, making them a sturdy option for building your living space. Your RV will have a unique, aesthetic exterior that'll stand out.

You should note that conventional campers weigh less and contain a more aerodynamic design than shipping container campers, allowing them to move faster. A loaded container weighs about twice as much as an RV and will need a more oversized trailer frame with a powerful engine.

different types of campers

How Are Campers Made from Shipping Containers?

Container campers use recycled Conex boxes as their living area. Building a camper requires the following steps:

  • Manufacturers will first select an appropriate-size container and cut out windows and doors.
  • After making the skeleton, they mark the fixtures and lay the utility lines (electricity, plumbing).
  • Next, they add insulation to the container, which also helps conceal the wiring and the piping.
  • After insulating, they install the bathroom fittings and accessories.
  • Lastly, they put the furniture and a layer of paint to improve aesthetics.

After building the living area, the manufacturers will decide on which method they want to use to convert the container into a trailer. Most will either weld the container to the frame for a permanent structure or keep a tie-rod at one end. That way, you can remove the container and place it on a foundation when it’s not in use.

 

inside container camper

How Much Do They Cost to Buy or Build?

The price of shipping containers range from $3,000 to $8,000. That doesn’t include the cost of modifications and the accessories. If you DIY the process, you'll likely spend around $20,000 to $25,000. Alternatively, if you buy pre-built container campers with trailers, they'll cost you anywhere between $30,000-$50,000.

Where Can You Buy a Shipping Container Camper?

Most container campers are made-to-order, so it is pretty rare to find a manufacturer that mass produces shipping container campers. Of course, it’s not entirely impossible. Companies like ESCAPE provide container campers for all sorts of climates. You can also get in touch with a shipping container architect and an RV-conversion company to create your own design.

See also: Complete guide to shipping container hunting cabins

Containers Made for Towing and Stowing

Let's look at some camper vehicles that use containers in their design.

1. Vista C: The 'C' model is one of Escape's latest offerings in the Vista series. It uses a 20-foot container mounted on a flatbed chassis. The camper includes a rooftop area, a water heater,  a full-size fridge, countertops, and a storage cabinet. Modern features such as keyless entry and solar-powered electricity make it one of the most sought after container campers on the market.

Vista C: The 'C' model
Escape Vista C

 

2. Independent Container Camper: Graham B, a tiny home enthusiast, built a converted container on wheels using wood and other sustainable materials. The 160 square foot space included a full-fledged kitchen, bathroom, toilet, bed, and a flat-screen TV. He then listed and sold the place for $28,500.

tiny camper container
Source: Independent Container Camper

Bonus Tip - Tools to Carry in Your Camper

If you're planning to buy or build your own container camper, the following tips will help make your camping life easier.

  • Tents: A reliable tent can help you set up camp in areas where your campers can't reach, helping you experience nature at its finest.
  • Knife: Knives are a must-have, whether it's for chopping your food or building a fire.
  • Flashlight: When you're setting up camp in remote areas, light from your vehicle may not be sufficient. That’s why it’s important to invest in a good flashlight that'll help you get around in the dark.
  • Handheld Generator: If you're out in the wild, your phone and flashlight may run out of battery. Generators can help keep your gadgets running in emergencies.

 

FAQs

Can a Shipping Container Be Made Into a Trailer?

You can attach wheels to shipping containers or fix the container on a dolly to move it with a trailer. Most containers on wheels are either fixed to the trailer or are towed by a pickup truck. These are the only two ways to convert containers into a trailer.

How Much Does a 20 ft. Container Cost?

A 20-foot shipping container can cost anywhere between $2,000-$5,000. The cost of a container depends on its condition, modifications, and accessories. New or one-trip containers can be twice as expensive as used containers.

How High Is a Shipping Container When on a Trailer?

Containers are 8 ft 6 in tall, while trailers have about 40 inches (3 ft 4 in) height. Therefore, a shipping container on a trailer can be about 12-foot high from the ground level.

Can You Tow a Shipping Container with a Pickup Truck?

You can fix a shipping container to a dolly or a wheel-based system and tow it with a pickup truck.

 

Need to rent or buy a container? Request a Quote Today!

Conclusion

Shipping containers are an excellent alternative to traditional campers, especially if you want to build a custom design. You can buy a pre-built camper or make your own RV from a shipping container. However, container campers can be heavier and move slower than a conventional camper.

Mobile Modular Portable Storage is the leading supplier of new and used shipping containers for rent and sale. Contact us or give us a call at 866-459-7600 to know more about container solutions.

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