Originally appeared in the U4WDA Compass Magazine, Spring 2006:
Trail Trailer Construction – Part 1 (of a 3 part series)
By Kurt Williams
I love camping, anywhere, anytime, any conditions, I just plain love to camp. That being said, I despise having to get ready to go on camping trips, be it just a single night camping trip, or an extended length trip. “Did I remember the can-opener?”, “Hope I have matches!”, “Did the water get loaded?”, and every other last minute scenario drive me nuts. Loading for a trip is just one hurdle, I equally despise unloading at the end of the trip, a necessity as I don’t like to leave my Landcruiser completely full of expensive & bulky camping gear.
In addition to my hatred for the load/unload, there lies the issue of space management. Even with only two passengers, the rear area of my Landcruiser is overwhelmed by camping gear, not easy to load/unload or access gear at camp. What happens when I bring a couple friends along? Not only is my cargo space drastically reduced, my mean load has now doubles as well. Those with smaller rigs or larger families can realize my pain.
I don’t like to go “wheeling” with all my camping gear, if it is wet & muddy the gear gets soaked, if it is hot & dry and I am worried about my 40 quart cooler melting in the sun. With a trail trailer, I can leave it locked and secure at a base camp with all non-essential gear set-up for camping or stored securely in the trailer. Not all trails & camping utilize a “base camp”, thus a major design requirement of the trailer would require it to go anywhere the Landcruiser could go if needed.
All this sums up the need for a dedicated “Trail Trailer” that would contain every possible camping need, thus preventing any forgotten items. It would stay loaded, secure, and ready to go. NO MORE wasting my time getting ready!
The project started some years ago with the carcass of a fiberglass Landcruiser tub that sat at the old shop (Cruiser Outfitters in SLC). The owner Darrell had kept it around for such a project but realized it would never come to light under his busy schedule; this is where I came in. Using the frame of an old FJ55 Landcruiser, I hastily constructed a makeshift frame, still utilizing the original semi-float Landcruiser rear axle. This would allow me to get it mobile, and move the project to the side of my house, where it would spend its next few years in the baking in the sun and freezing in the snow.
The year’s end of 2003 re-kindled my need for the trail trailer, I had a goal to camp at least 20 times in the coming spring/summer/fall seasons and I knew my Achilles heel with respect to camping as previously mentioned. I inventoried my parts, jotted down some ideas, and got to work.
PRELIMINARY SPECIFICATIONS & DESIGN:
Every good product/design starts with some solid research and brainstorming. With an end goal in mind, I started looking at similar products on the market, why waste my time building one if an affordable option was readily available. Too my surprise, there were quite a few readily available options currently on the market, however fully outfitted they ranged in price from $3000-$12000+ depending on options, needless to say WAY out of my student budget. Plus, what a better way to spend the cold winter than adding another toy to the fold!
The trailer MUST be capable of handling any trail I plan to take it on, that’s not to say I plan to pull it on every hard trail, but I want to leave my options open. The trailer must utilize the same size tires as my Landcruiser, once again all about leaving me options. It must be relatively watertight, capable of staying secured, lightweight and track well behind the Landcruiser. I must be able to intentionally jack-knife the trailer, without damaging the Landcruiser or trailer. It needed to have a low center of gravity and no taller than the back of my Landcruiser. It must ride nice in order to protect its cargo (such as eggs) from shock damage. After all, if I am going to do it, why not do it right.
OUTFITTING THE TRAILER
With a lot of ideas, yet little time & resources (money) to accomplish them, I turned to a respected group of friends to help prioritize the things the trail trailer needed. I posted a couple of online polls posing questions like “What items would you add?” & “What do you take camping”, etc. I netted a wide range of potential additions to my trail trailer, ranging from complex stereo systems to onboard refrigerators & stoves.
My wish list started to grow:
Optima yellow top to manage power needs when not in tow
Hard mounted & plumbed propane
Food preparation area (cutting board)
Lighting for both the contents as well as the surrounding camp area
Lantern mast with additional fittings for a BBQ
Fuel & water of the way place to carry water
Utensils, condiment, napkin/towel holders
Spare tire mounted on back
120V generator hard mounted
Stay tuned for the next installment. The next Compass issue will detail the construction portion of the trail trailer, as well as what items I chose to initially stock it with. Until then, start building yours!
Pictures to come...