In parallel with the trailer frame fabrication, we ordered a custom axle from Redneck Trailer Supplies. It arrived right about the time we were ready for it, and I heaved a huge sigh of relief when it matched up perfectly to what we had made so far.
We had also bought 2,000lb leaf springs, U-bolts, and mounts from a friend who decided to go a different route with his trailer. Score! And we got a set of old Jeep wheels for free from another friend (we have lots, apparently!) who was ready to throw them away. Perfect! So of course, we had to bolt things together right away. Suddenly, it sort of looked like a trailer!
So, we tacked on the spring mounts to the frame. With the exception of tires, we’d built down as far as we could. It’s time to build upward!
These project tables were free so there's no guilt about totally destroying them! The white one we found in the woods on a Jeep adventure. Who leaves a table in the woods?! So as a bonus for cleaning up the environment, we got a free table! The other one...well we had to buy a house to get it. So it's either really expensive, or it was free. However you want to look at it.
Anyway, you can see some brackets on the frame that we haven't really talked about yet. It's tough keeping up pace with the writing, but also I kind of screwed them up. I've since fixed it, so we'll get there soon.
The tubing we recovered from the horse stalls at Rockingham Park is 1-1/2” square and 2” square about 1/8” wall steel. We don’t know how long it had been in service there for, but it had some light surface rust, as well as some patchy black paint. We devised the following process to clean up the tubes inside and out. First, a tube gets a bath in a rust remover product, Evapo-rust. It works reasonably well.
After a thorough rinse and drying, the ends get taped and the tube is filled with a primer designed for rusty metal surfaces (in case there was still some rust inside) and the primer is sloshed all around inside. The tape is removed from the tube ends and the excess primer is recovered for reuse. Then, the tube is left to dry for a day or two.
We addressed the remaining paint and rust on the outside of the tubes by using an abrasive wheel in the drill press.
This was of course a long process. But it gave us time to work out the design. So, by the time the tubes were ready for assembly, we were too. We laid out the ladder frame in accordance with the drawings we’d made and welded them up. Of course, the first one was in the wrong spot. Rocky start. But we caught it immediately and corrected it.
It hardly looks like anything now, but it was a lot of planning and effort to get us to this point! So much work has to go into defining our wants and our needs, deciding what we will actually install, where it will go and how it will all fit together. We had to consider multiple modes; over the road, it must be as small, light, and well-mannered as possible. Off road, it has to have ground clearance for obstacles, it must be sturdy to withstand a beating. In use, it has to be comfortable for cooking, cleaning, and sleeping. It has to be ergonomic, accessible, etc. And we had to figure all that out before we actually did anything that we wouldn't be able to undo. Hopefully this works!
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.
"It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to."
- Bilbo Baggins
We're just an adventure-loving couple with a puppy looking to share our stories with the world.