5 Tiny House design tips for travel

Are you already planning roadtrips for your future tiny house? Well, listen up kids, because I have a few tiny house design ideas for you! Read on for 5 tips on how to design your tiny home for travel.

5 Tiny House Design Tips for Travel:

1). Think about your overall weight

Seriously, think about it. My tiny house weighs 10,100 pounds when fully loaded with fresh water and my belongings. That’s 4.5 tons! The average tiny house of my size weighs about 8,000 pounds, so my girl is a bit chunky. I won’t go into why she weighs so much (a girl has her reasons), but it’s impossible to put her on a diet now. My trailer axels are rated for 10,400 pounds, so I am cutting it close. That being said, 10-15% my tiny house weight rests on the hitch of my tow vehicle.

tiny house design

My tow vehicle is a Ford F-250 diesel 

If you are building off of a set of reputable plans, be sure to follow the materials list. Or, if you like to live dangerously, at least consider the weight difference between your chosen materials and the materials typically used in tiny house construction. The lighter and smaller the tiny house, the easier and cheaper it will be to tow.

2). Think about your weight distribution

The overall weight of your tiny house design is important, but don’t ignore your weight distribution. Tiny houses tend to be tongue heavy. This is due to the fact that many designs have the loft and kitchen over the tongue. Make sure your tow vehicle can support the overall weight AND tongue weight of your trailer. This is very important. I purchased a weight distribution system, which I suggest doing regardless of your tongue weight. It has helped immensely with towing.

Our Weight Distribution System
Our Weight Distribution System

The sweet spot for tongue weight is between 10-15% of your total weight. My tiny house tongue weight is 1500 pounds. Again, cutting it close. For more towing gear, check out the “towing” section of our materials list.

3). Create a space that is easy to secure for travel

Who wants to spend more than 30 minutes setting up every time they park? Not me! I designed my interior to have shelves with ledges, hook & eyes, or bungie cords. All of my belongings can be secured in 30 minutes or less. Consider your light fixtures carefully – will they swing? Hanging plants, sports gear and musical instruments should have clamps or bumpers to prevent damage or spills. See the clasping surfboard rack (which we use as a snowboard rack) and uke bumpers in the photo below for reference.

Thinking ahead before hitting the road will save you a few headaches. . . (and broken possessions)

Tiny House design

Click here for more interior shots of my tiny house

It’s also a good idea to design your tiny house to be both off-grid and on-grid. This will increase your flexibility when finding parking options. For example, because my tiny house design can be off-grid, I parked on Crown Land in Canada and at BLM campsites in the USA. Thank you very much: composting toilet, fresh water tank, grey water tank and solar power.

tiny house height

4). Build within highway restrictions

Make sure your tiny house design does not exceed 13’6″ tall and 8’6″ wide, including fenders, solar panels and chimney pipes. As far as I know, there is no restriction for length. If you build wider or taller you will be forced to get a special permit to tow in many states. Also, you may end up with a convertible tiny house.

Even if you build within the parameters, you still need to keep an eye out for low bridges, wires and branches. I’ve also seen many tiny houses built on very low trailers to increase living space. While this is a great idea, it will make towing more difficult.

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tiny house design

5). Attach outdoor lights for night driving

Aside from the standard lights required for towing, I suggest attaching a few mounted solar lights to your tiny house. Not only will this make your home look super cool on the road, it’s a safety factor.

*Bonus Item: Every tiny house design has at least one of these. I have two!*


More Tiny House Travel tips:

More Tiny House design tips:

13 thoughts on “5 Tiny House design tips for travel”

  1. We are thinking about buying a tiny house in Europe and traveling around in it, how many people actually drive their THOW’s?

    1. Contemplate trying to get around with such a rig on 2000 year old streets….and paying $5-6/gallon for fuel when you’re burning a gallon every 12 km or so. There are reasons they don’t do one ton pickups much in Europe, to put it mildly.

  2. What do you think is making yours much heavier than average? Any one thing in particular? I see a lot of tiny houses with bigger/heavier appliances than yours which to be honest I want as well. I am getting ready to build within the next 6 months and also plan on moving it a lot so weight is a concern.

    1. I don’t believe they are heavier–there are reasons that tiny house builders are using two/three axles and 5000 lbs/axle for these. It’s a simple tradeoff between wanting a home of extraordinary beauty, and the realities of a home on wheels. I’ve given a few hints in comments below on some of the things driving the weight, and you may do well to think about whether it matters that your home is on wheels at all–or whether your area might allow a tiny home in a decent place. (look at where you see trailer homes for an indication of this, then talk with county zoning)

  3. One other thought for weight management; one of our hosts’ colleagues at Tumbleweed made his tiny home out of SIPs, which are “structural integrated panels” , more or less a sandwich of chipboard and styrofoam. Doing this more or less allowed him to eliminate almost all of the studs in construction, saving about 25 cubic feet of wood or half a ton of weight. It adds up.

  4. Love it! Saw the TV episode when you had it built, you should be so proud of yourselves. Great Job! Going Tiny is not for everyone, but I do hope to join the ranks once I retire. I would love to travel around the U.S. and visit all our beautiful sites. Your both so fortunate and daring.

  5. Good stuff–big contributors to weight as far as i can tell are siding, roofing, and framing. If your siding can double as sheathing (I did this with my sauna), or if you can use steel instead of asphalt roofing, or if you use lighter framing appropriate to an RV (2x2s are very common in buildings of this size, as are 2x3s), you save a lot of weight. Big beams are beautiful and dramatic, but are also heavy.

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