Travel Trailer Homesteading
Prior to even beginning the substantive portion of this article, I must inform you that I am far from the or even a definitive authority on the subject of Travel Trailer Homesteading. For that kind of insight, I refer you to either James Dakin over at Bison Survival Blog or M.D. Creekmore over at the Survivalist Blog, as both of these gentlemen are currently living the life that I will be attempting to describe to you here. My intention, with respect to this article, is to provide you with a basic understanding of the concept, as well as to throw my two cents in on how I would do it if it were me.
Travel Trailer Homesteading is exactly what it sounds like. The individual lives full-time in a RV-camper on a plot of paid-for land out in the boonies, thereby side-stepping the debt that usually comes with home ownership. They may or may not be attached to municipal utilities, depending on the situation. Many, such as both of the gentlemen listed above, choose to live completely off-grid: they haul their own water and generate their own electricity using small-scale micro-solar setups. Heating is done with a wood stove. Cooking as well as the refrigerator are run via propane. Of the two gentlemen listed above, one drives a paid-for vehicle, while the other has dumped his car outright and rides a bicycle everywhere he goes.
The biggest attraction to that kind of life, for me anyway, is that one can live comfortably on next to no income at all by avoiding our modern societies greatest trap: debt. Your land is paid-for, your home is paid-for, you have either a tiny electric bill or none whatsoever, and ditto for all the other utilities as well. A single person or even a couple, it seems to me, could make a real go of it living that way.
My greatest concern would be the feasibility of going that route with a bigger group. I, for instance, have 3 individuals in my immediate household and family in the double-digits that will be here in the event of a very serious crash. Some travel trailers may say they comfortably sleep a decent number of people, but a lot more goes into life than just having a place to sleep. It would quickly get crowded, and crowded people get cranky. The situation would be an ugly one. However, with a little ingenuity and a little more money, one could feasibly amend the travel trailer homestead concept to make it work for even a larger group.
I would simply build on to the existing trailer. Take the front door off its hinges and build a cabin around it the way some might add a deck to the front. What used to be the front door to your trailer is now just an open walkway leading into another part of your cabin, and you use the trailers facilities to act as your cabin’s kitchen, bath, and one bedroom. The newly built portions could then be partitioned to make a decently-sized common area and several small but private bedrooms, so everyone in the group has their own personal space to retreat to (even a tiny 8′ by 6′ room is better for the sanity than just being in each other’s faces all the time, and would be almost a requirement in the event there are married couples among those you might find yourself sheltering post-crash). Insulate very well and it could be really cozy. A little more work could even add a 2nd half-bath for less than $400 if you’re willing to settle for the cheapest toilet, sink, fixtures, etc. that they sell at Lowe’s.
Personally, I would also think about adding more solar and converting my refrigerator off propane with a mind to the future when Peak Oil makes petroleum-derived fuels prohibitively expensive. Refrigerators are energy hogs, but my biggun in my kitchen is something like 27 cubic ft. and I could run it with about 700 watts worth of panels, so the little ones have to use quite a bit less juice. Post-crash, you can cook on the wood stove or over a campfire, but having a fridge to help preserve your food longer will be priceless.
Anyway, there is my take on the subject. I realize that the changes I’m talking about would cost more money than the extremely frugal way most are currently living that lifestyle, but it could be saved for and even done a little at a time to help absorb the cost. Heck, if it was me, the extra solar capacity alone would be worth taking a temporary job or eating out of my storage food for a month or two to pay for it.
A great source of information on this topic is the book Travel-Trailer Homesteading Under $5,000 by Brian D. Kelling