As many of our readers know, I’m a huge fan of custom-built campers. Not only do you get something far more personal than what you’d get with any of the plain white boxes getting churned out of Indiana, but many custom campers are built on solid foundations. In looking for a custom build, you might also find something pretty affordable, like this 2016 Haulmark Transport 5×8 trailer, which was converted into a highlighter yellow camper. You get almost everything you need for a cozy camping weekend for just $12,999.
Many readers have been asking for more custom campers and your wish is my command! A wonderful thing about custom-built RVs is that you never really run into the same thing more than once. Over the past few years, I’ve seen everything from a school bus camper built with a firepit on its roof to all sorts of old buses turned into brilliant cozy homes on wheels. Recently, I wrote about a Gillig Low Floor with slides, a gigantic bathtub, and a wine cellar. You’ll never see creativity like this with campers built in a factory. Not even independent manufacturers go that hard.
Another fantastic thing about homebuilt campers is the variety of donor vehicles used. Of course, I’ve long fallen head over heels for bus builds, but they’re hardly the only ones. People will convert cars, minivans, airport catering trucks, box trucks, ambulances, military trucks, milk tankers, or really anything you could fit a bed in. Another variation you’ll sometimes see is a converted cargo trailer.
This 2016 Haulmark Transport trailer isn’t the first converted cargo trailer I’ve seen. In fact, I usually run into at least one of these a week, but I haven’t run into one that looked this convincing.
Years ago, I remember reading a joke online about how there are cargo trailer companies that sound like Hallmark, the greeting card company, and Wells Fargo, the scandalous bank. In the trailer world, you have Haulmark and Wells Cargo. It sounds like the trailer companies are playing on the names of Hallmark and Wells Fargo, right?
Wells Fargo certainly thought so when Wells Cargo tried registering its name with the Patent and Trademark Office in 1955. Wells Fargo opposed the registration, arguing that in the past, it used the Wells Cargo name for freight transportation services and that there might be some confusion. Wells Cargo was created by Maynard W. Wells in 1954 and Wells named the company after himself.
Meanwhile, Haulmark Industries Inc. was formed in 1977 and so far as I can tell, Hallmark the card company didn’t have a problem with Haulmark the trailer company. Though Haulmark did get heat from Pace American Trailers for using the name Race Trailers, a name that was in use by the former company.
Anyway, Haulmark was founded by Lewis Michael “Mike” Arnold. Born in 1939, Arnold served in the Army in the mid-1960s before coming home and opening Mark Line Industries Inc. in Elkhart, Indiana in 1968. He reportedly believed that it wasn’t right to ask any of his employees to do something that he wouldn’t do himself. In 1977, he expanded into building steel-framed cargo trailers. Haulmark started in a small shop before eventually growing into one of the top-selling utility trailer builders in America.
This Haulmark Transport Conversion
Today, Haulmark sells a lineup of different trailers that are still built out of metal like they were so many years ago. This trailer comes from Haulmark’s Transport series. These trailers feature steel framing. Walls made of PlexCore–a type of dense wood panel that resists moisture and promises far better durability than plywood–are mounted to those metal frames. Protecting the PlexCore is an aluminum exterior wall. Up at the top of the trailer is a one-piece aluminum cap that promises longevity. The roof is rounded up front and uses a front cap made of TPO.
In other words, this unit should be a bit more durable than the typical camper coming out of Indiana right now, which usually comes with paper-thin walls, fiberglass sheets for exterior protection, and roofs with rubber membranes to keep leaks out. Cargo trailers can eventually leak, but at least you shouldn’t run into the kinds of catastrophic failures that come with common travel trailers.
The seller states this one has gone through extensive modifications to become a camper. It features two large windows, which offer more than enough natural light that the interior won’t feel like a prison cell. On the roof sits a vent with a fan for ventilation and a cargo rack for a generator, gear, and additional solar panels.
Speaking of solar panels, you get two 100-watt Renogy solar panels, one of which can be adjusted toward the sun. The electrical system in this camper is pretty comprehensive. You get 200 Ah batteries, a 2000-watt Renogy pure sine inverter, a refrigerator and freezer setup, and a 30 Amp charge controller. It gets better from there as the trailer also features residential-style outlets, USB ports, a 12V port, and the electrical system goes through a fuse box so you don’t burn your gear up. There’s even a shore power connection on the trailer so you can feed from power at a campground. The seller notes that the electrical system has kill switches for storage or if you need to do some work.
Inside, the trailer is minimalist, featuring a removable bed, television, lights, and a cabinet to store your stuff. On the wall sits a charge controller monitor and the aforementioned kill switches. There isn’t a bathroom, but you do get a cassette toilet.
Something I like is that the trailer was built with expansion in mind. The hole is already there if you want to add a roof air-conditioner, but you can just as easily plug a portable air-conditioner into one of the trailer’s outlets. The cargo rack adds space for more solar panels, and there’s plenty of room to add stuff like a portable kitchen. Or, you can temporarily remove the bed and use the trailer as a cargo trailer.
Another neat note is the fact that the hatch locks from the inside and from the outside, so you do have some security while you’re camping. It’s unclear what kind of insulation you’re dealing with here, but the cargo camper definitely has custom interior wall panels. And did I say it comes in highlighter yellow (or green, depending on your eyes)?
At least in my eyes, the $12,999 price seems pretty attractive, too. One of the cheaper hard-sided trailers on the market right now is the Runaway CoolCamp, which starts at $5,995, but what you get is a smaller box with literally nothing in it. This is like one of those CoolCamps, but you can stand up in it and go camping in it today if you wanted to. Oh, and it could still haul a dirtbike if you needed it to.
This trailer should still be pretty light, too. These weigh about 880 pounds empty and I bet the modifications didn’t add more than a few hundred pounds. If you’re smitten by this highlighter camper, it can be yours from the Facebook seller Dayton, Ohio. Now, pardon me, I must see if I can find the least camping-related vehicle turned into an RV.
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