Let’s begin with the idea. The conceptualization. No. Let’s start before that. Let us tell you about us. We love to camp. We are avid tenters. Not that we turn up our noses at trailerers or RVers or anything like that. It’s simply because our tent or hammocks are sufficient. We can throw everything we need (which isn’t much) into the back of our Jeep (which is tiny) on a Friday afternoon and disappear for a weekend pretty quickly.
That is just what we did this summer (2016). We had our first overlanding experience and it changed us. We had an absolute blast, of course. But there were a few purpose-built trailers travelling with us and that got gears turning in our heads. We could nearly eliminate setup and teardown times. The hammocks are great, but sometimes we have to get a little creative to set them up. We can put the tent up pretty quickly, but it’s never what I would describe as “fun” when we’re trying to do it in the dark. Additionally, we could keep a trailer packed with our gear and just hitch up and go. Lastly, keeping the gear in the trailer would move it out of the back of the vehicle, thus leaving more room for Loki to horse around or whatever he does back there.
We got home and decompressed and then started researching. What types of trailers did we like? What do we hate? What features do we want? What do we NEED? How much do we want to spend? Do we want to buy something already made? There were many angles. We looked at it in all sorts of ways. What do we intend to do with this thing? We went back and forth a lot on the two most common types of small trailers; a “storage box” with a rooftop tent, or a teardrop. Eventually we decided on a rooftop tent on a box. Then we changed our minds.
So, we set out to have a teardrop trailer. Build it or buy it? The two biggest strikes against buying a teardrop were price and unavailability of exactly what we were looking for. We agreed if we were going to spend upwards of $10,000 on a trailer, it better be what we want. So by this point we had seen more pictures of teardrops than we could count. We had a good idea of what has been done and we were starting to put our own twist on the typical designs.
To facilitate describing the finer points of the trailer design, I put pencil to paper. We measured the pieces of the puzzle that we already had. We pulled dimensions from the internet for things we wanted to add to our arsenal. I shuffled them around on paper until they all fit together nice and nice. Then we took two steps back and decided to shuffle everything up. We felt like the trailer was maybe a bit too tall, so we pulled everything down a bit.
So, we have come up with something somewhat unique, but it’s just what we want. We’ll have a queen size mattress, a grille, a fridge, a shower, and yes, even the kitchen sink! Support equipment includes a 20-gallon water tank and 30lb propane tank. We had to have good ground clearance, and we wanted it to be as short as possible (in length and height) to facilitate navigating tight trails. It must be beefy to handle the trails. It is an off-road trailer, after all.
So as we were working out the design, we started to acquire some parts we knew we’d need. We found a 12VDC/120VAC fridge/freezer on Craigslist for a song so of course we scooped that. We stumbled for a little bit trying to figure out where to get fabrication materials. It seemed like it was going to be fairly expensive. I was hesitant to buy materials until we had the design more developed. We came across another steal on Craigslist so we bought a bit more than we thought we’d need, which ended up being just enough. We got several lengths of square tubing reclaimed from the famous, historic, former Rockingham Park in Salem, NH. This would become our basic ladder frame for the trailer.