By Alexis Stephens, co-founder of www.TinyHouseExpedition.com
The author Alexis and her partner Christian on one of the many adventures which have taken them over 45,000 miles with their tiny house
A tiny house on wheels is a comfy ticket to adventure, right? With the proper planning, it definitely can be. A common misconception is that all tiny house dwellers are nomads. For most, the wheels mean flexibility. You can move when need or desire arises. Some travel because of their jobs, like travel nurses. Others road trip in search of the ideal new city. There are genuine nomads or semi-nomads, like myself, who frequently travel as a lifestyle choice; think snowbirds or restless explorer types. No matter the reason for a move or full-blown road trip though, safety is essential. In this article we will show you how to tow a tiny house safely.
My partner Christian and I have made 36 states our temporary home over the last three years, racking up 46,000 miles with our tiny house. We have taken our tiny house to the desert, to the coast and up to 8,000 feet above sea level. It hasn’t always been an easy experience though. The most important lessons learned were along the lines of what not to do, like traveling without two spare tires and wheels. After all the ups and downs though, our message is that do-it-yourself tiny house travel can be done safely and enjoyably.
No matter how often you want to move your tiny house, here are seven things you need know before attempting to hit the road.
A tiny house on wheels has wanderlust allure. Moving around from place with one's home in tow really has its advantages. After completing their build, Cody and Randi Hennigan took their 20’ tiny house (under 10,000 lbs) on a six-month road trip before putting down roots in a new state. If however your dream tiny home has a triple axle trailer, it's not really intended for DIY road-tripping adventures. The @NerdsGoneTiny family hired a professional to move their 42’ tiny house from Texas to Oregon. Large tiny houses are a bear to maneuver and we don't recommend it for the inexperienced or faint of heart. Also, the bigger and heavier the tiny house, the less available parking and tow vehicle options you'll find. So, before you build or buy, do some soul searching and ask yourself: how tiny is right for you, and how important is travel?
When designing the layout, be sure to create safe weight distribution of the tiny home and its contents on your trailer. A good rule of thumb is a 60/40 split with 60% of the total weight placed between the center of wheels and front of the trailer (towards the tongue). Also, as much possible, be sure to equalize your weight from the left side to the right on your tiny home. An unbalanced trailer can result in unsafe swerving on the road. Sway bars won't fix bad distribution!
When it comes to learning how to tow a tiny house safely, you can never be too careful. There are many steps to properly hooking up your trailer to the tow vehicle. If one step is done incorrectly, it could result in a catastrophe. Every single time we are ready to hit the road, we go through our checklist. And when we stop for gas, we go through the checklist again.
Before you tow checklist:
Stay calm, cool and collected at all times. Think about towing your tiny like a form of meditation. Your goal should be to focus on driving with precision. Stress and distractions will occur. That’s ok; it's just background noise. To stay focused ground yourself in the repetition of safe driving practices:
Adventure begins when things go wrong. Like the time we got a flat tire on the way to Burning Man, or the time a wheel seized and we had to limp into a repair shop. What's remarkable about mishaps is getting to see the kindness of strangers. A stranger offered to help us fix the tire, and the shop allowed us to sleep in the tiny house overnight, even giving us power. One of the wonderful things about having your house with you in situations like this is the ability to step inside to make coffee while waiting for a repair specialist to arrive. The more you travel with your tiny house, the more likely you'll be to finding yourself in a temporary bind. My advice: stay calm. You WILL find a solution.
Things to always have on hand:
It's a fact that raveling tiny houses get dirty. After our first cross-country road trip from North Carolina to Colorado, our windows looked dingy and mud splattered. The bottom few boards of our siding were grimy, dark and sticky. After each following trip, the road grime slowly climbed higher and higher. Goodbye bright clear-coated cedar and hello rustic. At an open house event, a kid commented, “That must be a really old tiny house.” Our tiny home was only a year and half old at the time. Here's the good news though: it doesn’t take much to clean off the grime and restore a tiny house to its original glory.
I like to say that we start conversations and spread smiles wherever we go. The charm of a tiny house is contagious and attracts people like bees to honey. You will likely find yourself chatting with complete strangers at gas stations and anyplace you stop. You might even receive impromptu invites to park on someone’s property or to join them for dinner. My advice: say yes, sometimes. I've had the most remarkable conversations with people I would never have met otherwise.
Feeling ready to hit the open road? Now that you know how to tow a tiny house safely, you can tow your tiny house as much or as little as you want and have the time of your life.
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