Small full-featured hard-sided stock trailers modified for slow off-pavement trips: surprisingly rare

profdant139

New member
We do a lot of off-pavement boondocking in the national forests in our 2012 Fun Finder X-139. It is very small -- the box is 139 inches long and seven feet wide. They no longer make this model, and that is why I am posting this message: what do we do when this little guy wears out?

It has everything we need and nothing we don't. The queen bed makes into a dinette. There is a toilet with a shower, fridge, freezer, and stove. (We almost never use the air conditioning because we rarely have hookups.) . There is a 30 gallon fresh water tank, 25 gray, and 25 black. With Navy showers and careful water management, we can go a week without dumping the tanks. (The gray tank fills long before the black tank does.) . And we can easily replenish the fresh water using our plastic jerry cans, even when we are camped in a remote location.

The big advantage of this trailer over an RTT or expedition unit is comfort: we often camp in the snow and rain, and we are perfectly comfortable, with no worries about the fabric getting wet and mildewed. This is not quite a four season trailer (although I am working on further insulation for the underside), but it is a "three and a half season" unit, good down to about ten degrees.

This is what the floor plan originally looked like:


Click For Full-Size Image.

I then replaced the flimsy stuff on the back wall with floor to ceiling cabinets, made with light birch plywood.

We upgraded the axle to 3500 lbs., and flipped the axle for great ground clearance -- the trailer has more clearance than my Tacoma! We often tow on rocky forest roads, and this trailer goes into some very sketchy places. Not fast, though -- we crawl along at between five and ten mph, to avoid damaging the frame. The frame is pretty good (so far), but it is not designed for zooming at high speed across really rocky terrain.

So given those slow speeds, we rarely camp more than ten miles from the pavement. Not a true expedition trailer, but close enough for our needs. We use the trailer as a base camp and then take day trips in the truck to various nearby trailheads for day hiking and snowshoeing. By leaving the trailer in place, we can take the truck on really difficult roads (I'm looking at you, Colorado) and then return to the trailer in the evening.

We also added heavy leaf springs and shocks. The beefy undercarriage is very useful not only on rough forest roads but also on the crumbling highway system.

If you are interested in reading about our modifications, here is our blog about the trailer:

Trailer mods

If you are interested in descriptions of the trips we've taken (mostly in the Western US and Canada), here is that blog:

Trips we've taken

I'm sure other folks have modified a stock trailer for similar types of travel, but we almost never see trailers anywhere near our campsite. We do see truck campers, though. And we rarely see the small RTT trailers or expedition units. My guess is that we are not far enough back in the boonies to reach the type of terrain that is reachable by the true expedition units, so that is why we don't see them -- they are in the way outback!

If you know of a similarly-equipped small hard-side trailer that is currently manufactured, please let me know!
 

profdant139

New member
You asked for photos – be careful what you wish for!

The main reason for having such a small trailer is to make it easier to boondock, especially in forested or rocky areas. The trailer can fit in between tight trees or rocks, and it has a small turning radius.

This is boondocking on the Salmon River, near Stanley, Idaho:


Click For Full-Size Image.


This is in the Western Sierra, near Giant Forest:


Click For Full-Size Image.

This is boondocking in the Eastern Sierra, north of Bishop:


Click For Full-Size Image.

This is boondocking in Sequoia National Forest:


Click For Full-Size Image.

This is boondocking near Crested Butte, Colorado – note the high ground clearance:


Click For Full-Size Image.

The interior shots are much less interesting. Much of the cabinetry is custom, but nothing fancy – just Baltic birch plywood, which is thin, lightweight, and strong. I replaced a lot of the cheesy MDF stuff, which is thick, heavy, and weak.
 

john61ct

Adventurer
Very nice!

Note in the "real off-road boondocking" forums, 7' wide would be considered huge.

Plenty of BLM / forestry land trails, even 5' up high means stopping to cut limbs maybe 10+ times per mile.

And 12' long's pretty luxurious too by those standards, especially living solo.

But everything's a trade-off, comfort & convenience vs getting farther away from civilisation's just another one. . .

Just for comparison, this is considered a "big XL" version, but of a completely different concept of course

next evolution, love this one https://expeditionportal.com/forum/threads/sawtooth-unlimited-off-road-pop-top-camper-trailer.183743/page-5
 
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profdant139

New member
John -- yes, I know this is not a true expedition trailer. It is, at best, an off-pavement trailer. But we often get to places where there is no one else camped for many miles around, so we delude ourselves into thinking we are having real adventures. ;)

And the InTech is interesting, but there is one major problem for me -- the interior height is 5'6", and I am 6'3". When we are camping in snowy or rainy weather (which we often do), and we can't spend more than a few hours a day outside as a practical matter, the trailer has to meet certain minimal standards of interior comfort. Otherwise, it's more of an ordeal than an adventure!

The other issue is making sure that one's spouse is happy -- if she were not willing to boondock, that would be a huge loss to me. She is very tough, but she is not a martyr. ;)
 

john61ct

Adventurer
I did not at all intend to denigrate, and completely understand happy wife happy life

Just saying I was surprised to see those dimensions called small in an off-roading context, and pointing to designs that would get (other folk) further out into the wilderness.
 

46flattie

Observer
Maybe look at a Scamp camper...no experience personally, but seems like they have a model about the size of yours.
 

dreadlocks

Well-known member
yeah I had height concerns too.. I'm 6'4".. I bought their bigger trailer thats like 7ft high ceilings inside, unfortunately they dont make it anymore.. I rented a cricket and gave my self a concussion on the low hight door carrying a pot of boiling water to the sink, that really made me want a full height door, damn the cost.

Unfortunately on any trails around here the height is more restrictive than width, im cutting far more limbs to get under than I am to get through.. so there is something to be said about low rooflines, plus they get great fuel economy when they can draft behind your vehicle.

The sol has a 6'6" interior height: https://www.intechrv.com/sol.php, the big bay window is pretty awesome from the one I saw in person.. but not really setup for trails, would need a lift at least.
 

TwinStick

Explorer
This thread is right on the money. We currently have a 2016 Starcraft AR One EXTREME. We do love it. It sits up high, tows fabulous. But we just today, looked into trading it on a 2019 Starcraft Launch 16RB EXTREME. Only to find out they are no longer available & that THOR just bought out Starcraft, have discontinued them. I just sent them a letter asking them to re-release that model. I'm sure they wont listen to me. I prefer our current hard side but my snoring & not being able to face each other at the dinette while playing cards & such has become an issue. Some small ones are great for 1 but for 2 ----not so much. This would have been perfect for us.

 

Grassland

Active member
A trail marker outdoors model in the 6x12 to 6'8"x12 or x14 might do for your, but no plumbed toilet in any version.
Or Escape 17B has the bathroom in a well built Boler style trailer, in between a Casita and Oliver build/quality wise. 17a also available with no bathroom.
 

profdant139

New member
John, I did not interpret your comments as derogatory at all! I would be the first to admit that my "small" trailer is huge by true expedition standards -- that's why I sort of asked permission before even joining this forum!!

But my point is that there are many of us who can't (or won't) go for the true expedition equipment -- instead, we settle for camping off the grid, off pavement, but not really the backside of beyond. So there is a need for rigs like mine -- minimally adequate all-weather comfort, off-road capable, "small" by travel trailer standards. There are such things in Australia, but not many choices in the USA.

The Scamp/Casita type trailers are suitable for this market niche, but headroom and tank capacity are both lacking.

It is surprising that there is such a gap in the market between true expedition trailers and big travel trailers -- maybe there is not much demand for "boondockable" hard side trailers.
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Mike.rider

Observer




We run a jayco 17BH with a similar use case. Park some place a few miles off pavement. Use the trailer as base camp.

It has worked very well. I do find i air down the trailer often, I do want to add some shock as well to help better react bumping down the FS roads


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profdant139

New member
MIke, have you added any other modifications to the stock trailer? For example, I see you are camping in the snow -- is the underbelly enclosed?

It looks like you have room in those wheel wells for bigger tires -- we are using the new Endurance Load Range D in a bigger size than the stock tires were, for a little better ground clearance. Bigger footprint, too, for better "flotation" in mud and sand and snow.
 

Mike.rider

Observer
MIke, have you added any other modifications to the stock trailer? For example, I see you are camping in the snow -- is the underbelly enclosed?

It looks like you have room in those wheel wells for bigger tires -- we are using the new Endurance Load Range D in a bigger size than the stock tires were, for a little better ground clearance. Bigger footprint, too, for better "flotation" in mud and sand and snow.
The trailer has the Baja package from jayco, comes with a flipped axle and larger all terrain tires.

The underbody is fully enclosed, and it came with larger tanks.

It handles adverse conditions relatively well for a cheap price tag.

The trailer is 3500lbs gross so it floats well enough even with the 10” wide tires. (They are c load range. Typically the only reason I drop air pressure is to smooth out the ride.


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