Toby the Turtleback Trailer Build Thread

When I found this 2015 Turtleback Utility model for sale on Expedition Portal, I knew it was the perfect platform for me to build off of. I contacted the seller, negotiated a wonderful deal and drove 36 hours round trip to North Carolina to pick it up. I'm the 3rd owner of the trailer and have big plans for it. This trailer is unique because it's basically a stripped down TB without the water, electrical, etc. giving me the perfect heavy duty platform to build off of. My #1 inspiration for the new layout is the Patriot Camper X1.

This is the trailer right after I picked it up

That night I drove from the middle of North Carolina to Chattanooga TN so I could pick up my new CVT Denali Extended Summit series tent. Dang this thing is HUGE!

All mounted on the trailer and headed home

Finally got it home and decided it was time to set the tent up and see how she looks

The trailer itself has a great set of 285/70r17 KO2s, but the first owner set it up with 8 bolt Nissan wheels so I picked up a set of 4 2016 Toyota Trial take off wheels which are sitting in my garage waiting on a set of hub centric wheel adapters from One bonus is I can get rid of my steel spare rim under my 4R now! Early next year I'll be doing a Icon stage II and 285/75r17 Nitto Ridge Grapplers on my 4runner. Not a perfect match with the KO2s, but close enough.

I've modeled the trailer up in Sketchup and now I'm designing my build. I like the rear kitchen in the turtleback, but I don't like that there is no way to incorporate a fridge into the kitchen's footprint. Therefore I'm using the X1's design and putting the kitchen/pantry/stove on the side and the fridge and sink in the front compartment.

If you've been living under a rock and aren't failure with the X1's kitchen design here it is:

First stop is removing the front side doors and the rear side cargo boxes off the trailer. It looks like the front door is just held on with a silicone style adhesive. I emailed TB and got a VERY polite and fast response, it's 3M 560 Sealant. They said heat isn't effective, Its best to use a guitar string to slip behind the door and cut it. If I can keep the doors and door frames straight and in one piece all the better.

The reason I'm removing the door is to make the front compartment wider. The box on the turtleback is only 4' wide, the patriot camper box is ~6' wide. The additional width will be used for the drivers side pull out kitchen and storage of a composting toilet on the passengers side. provided a quote to custom fab the 4 boxes exactly like I want. I was going to weld them up, but they would never be as nice and since I got the trailer for a good enough deal I'm going to splurge here and get some CNC cut, bent and tig welded 1/8" aluminum boxes made.

The main kitchen pantry/stove box is 46x23x14" so it should house a 2 burner partner stove perfectly while giving plenty of room for dry storage, plates, utensils, wine, etc.

Here is a mock up of the trailer with the 4 side boxes added.

First issue is the front boxes now lay outside the frame rails.

No worries, add bolt on kick outs. Still working their design, but easy enough to weld up and have powder coated. I'll probably cover the top with bolt on expanded aluminum. This does reduce my ability to jack knife my trailer. I can only turn it ~77* now instead of the factory ~84*. I hope this doesn't prove to be an issue, time will tell.


If I add the kickouts I may as well go ahead and add a much larger tongue box for storage. This is another one I'll have fabricate. It will house all the utilities like the tankless hot water heater, Propex Heatsource propane forced air heater, Honda 2000w gen set, climateright AC, and most electrical bits except batteries.

The water tank will be stored directly over the axle inside the main compartment, balance of the trailer shouldn't chance as the tank's water level fluctuates. I'll install baffle balls to keep the water from sloshing too much. I'm looking at a couple tank options that are 36x44x6" or 44x25x8", I want something flat that can be laid across the floor and covered with a false floor over it to minimize lost space. I don't want it under the trailer because I'd like to minimize the risk of it freezing on a cold night.

The batteries will be 235-250ah 6v Duracell deep cycle golf cart batteries in series. I'm not sure If I'll do 2 (series only) or 4 (series-parallel) of them. I'd like plenty of storage so I don't have to worry If I go a couple days without a charge. We'll typically camp for 2-3 days then move several hundred miles before stopping again. I'll be upgrading the alternator in my 4R soon, it already has a permanent 100w panel on the roof and I have 2x 100w folding Renogy panels I can hook up to the trailer while parked. This set up will provide about 180 usable amp hours without trashing the batteries, this will last us several days. with 300w of solar and ideal conditions that's about 8 hour to recharge, spread over several days and I bet the solar will keep up.

This pretty much brings me up to date with my design. Please feel free to post with any comments or suggestions. I'm looking forward to the feedback to help design the best trailer possible.
Last edited:


Supporting Sponsor: Turtleback Trailers
Just an idea, the Patriot is built for the other side of the road. In the US you might want to have the kitchen come out on the passenger side so you can deploy the kitchen when parked on the side of the road.
I'll be following, very similar to my scratch build. My kitchen galley will pull out to the passenger side for the exact reason dzrtdave stated.
Just an idea, the Patriot is built for the other side of the road. In the US you might want to have the kitchen come out on the passenger side so you can deploy the kitchen when parked on the side of the road.

After our conversion on the phone the other day I completely agree and I'm very glad you brought that up. I do plan on mirroring my build. I also LOVE your new side boxes and look forward to getting them from you for this build. They are exactly what I was looking for.

For an update to the thread, I've ordered both the 11 and 5lb propane tanks and mounts from Dave as well as a new set of turtleback mud flaps. He's also getting me a quote on his new side boxes. The wheel adapters should be here early next week, I'd like to get the new wheels and tire mounted up next week as well.
How was your experience with CVT in Chattanooga? Bout 3.5 hrs from me, i was thinking about a road trip.

Also, whats the max height of your Denali packed up? Im starting to push my garage height.
How was your experience with CVT in Chattanooga? Bout 3.5 hrs from me, i was thinking about a road trip.

Also, whats the max height of your Denali packed up? Im starting to push my garage height.
They were awesome! They let me roll my trailer into there ship and install the tent right there, they even gave me a helping hand when needed and used the forklift to set it on top of my trailer. I'll get you a height measurement once I'm home, but I can tell you it won't fit in my garage as is. I'm considering eliminating the tall roof rack and installing a lift system for the tent. Ideally the Denali should be 72 or 78" off the ground. It's variable because it comes with 1x 6" extension, but more can be added (72", 78" 82", 88", etc.). My options are as follows:

1. 4 linear actuators, straight up and straight down. This idea is sexy, but highly prone to failure and if internally mounted could mean water intrusion into the trailer, while if externally mounted there is a higher chance of actuator failure due to being exposed to the elements.

2. 4-8 pivot arms (probably aluminum tie rod sleeves with Heim joints at each end), I'm thinking 2' so I can squeeze a kayak or canoe under the tent while traveling if desired. This would be very easy to build and could be rotated into position by hand (although would require some muscle and wouldn't be easy). A few gas struts would greatly reduce the force needed to lift and could removed easily if one failed. One downfall is while traveling in the down position, the tent would be shifted either forward or rearwards. If I go this rout I'll likely build out the trailer and try to see which direction would best benefit my tongue weight. I'll have a lot of **** in the front of the trailer, but the rear houses the water tank which will get heavy if traveling full.
Last edited:
a couple of thoughts... I own an AT Horizon and have been camping with it for a year or so (30+ nights so far)...
Water.. we rarely use more than 12 gallons event with a hot water system and shower tent, 34g is a lot and a lot of weight.
Water in the main box takes up a lot of space and could be placed lower.

Total weight of the trailer loaded is real important - we take out up some challenging (east coast) trails but i wish it was lighter.

Tongue weight.. i am personally trying to move this to the center of the trailer (i.e. the water @ 19 gallons) and may do a an axle less suspension to move the water tank under the trailer and center to slightly forward of the wheels.

Battery power.. if you have 100w of solar and use all 12v you should be ok with a G31 100ah battery (weight again). I feel inverters and OBA belong on the truck and are used when running or at least idling.

the lower you can get the tent the better and the lighter the high side loads the better (awnings). helps keep everything on it wheels when you hit a stump or a rock... trailers tend to roll easier than you think.

If possible i would not use anything but gas lifting struts for stuff... simplicity here and having something go out and you can't get the tent in to position or the awning out kinda sucks..

my aim is to be able to pull in and level the trailer in a couple of minutes and leave (we base camp usually but do pull it up trail to do so) then when we get back (dark, etc..) get the kids to bed or start cooking in 5 min or less by just deploying the tent or the awning.

less worry and less hassle = more time for fun

my 2 cents..
That proposed layout will have a LOT of tongue weight. The 4R already looks to be squatting pretty good. Have you done the maths on how much weight you are putting up front?

Please keep us posted with the experience with American Truck Box. Their custom boxes do look very nice!

One other consideration is that we have some open space on the front of the AT flatbed which is handy for storing firewood, tarps and a few other bits that don't necessarily need to be out of the elements.
Thank you guys for your inputs, I'm still trying to decide the final lay out. The cheaper part of me is thinking I may put the two longer factory side boxes on the drivers side so they will be in the annex and replace only the passengers side with a larger kitchen box. I'm waiting on TB to get me quote on their new factory large size boxes, if it's reasonable I'll likely buy from then instead of American truck boxes.

For now I've been working on the raisable tent platform. The trailer wouldn't fit in my garage with the 10" tall factory rack and the tent was barely 70" not the ideal 72" or 78" for the CVT Denali. This design allows it to fit in the garage and still hit 78" tall when open. I'm not finished with it, but I'm close. I thought I would share some of my progress. I need to add 3 cross bars, stainless toggles to keep it closed, cross drill the bars to the linch pins that will keep it up and if needed install some gas struts to assist in opening it. My plan is to bolt the tent directly to the rack and skip the factory mounting rails due to their added height.

Last edited:
Got a little more work done on the trailer yesterday.

Started by installing new Stainless steel hardware, I went with extra long bolts so I could get a 2" smooth shoulder for the arms to pivot on. I'll cut the excess threaded portion off at some point.

I removed the 8 lug wheels and adapters, then replaced them with 6 lug adapters and wheels to match my Trail Edition 4Runner.

I welded on a stop to keep the upper roof rack from rotating too far forward. It works great, but I'm sure someday it'll collect some DNA.

I installed three 2x2 cross braces on the rack. I intent to bolt the tent directly to these cross braces and skip the factory aluminum tent adapter rail due to it being 1" tall and me wanting to eliminate height.

I also spaced out and reinstalled the aluminum runners to protect the top. I'll likely keep a pair of camp tables under the collapsed rack while traveling.

Finally I installed 4 linch pins which ensure the raised rack/tent doesn't collapse once in the up right position. I do not intent to drive with the tent in the up position.

I believe this ready for disassembly and a coating of monstaliner
Last edited:
In an effort to save a few $ I decided to keep the very nice Turtleback long boxes and place them both on the drivers side. So tonight I spent a couple hours removing the small side boxes and preparing to relocate the passenger's side long box to the drivers side. These boxes will serve as our clothes/kids toys,etc storage as they will be under the annex when the tent is deployed.

The passenger's side is all cleaned up and ready to mount my custom Truck box when it is delivered.

Finally in an effort to cover a few holes that where already in one of the side boxes I installed a bottle opener and a bottle cap catcher. It's not perfectly center b/c I was trying to cover the holes, but it doesn't look too bad.

As always, your work is fantastic. Great plan, superb execution.
Thanks Dan!

I didn't have much time to work on the trailer tonight but I got one of the struts installed, they are going to work perfectly. They are 8.25-14” and 200lbs each, but the force isn't vertical so this 1 alone makes the rack almost neutral, the second should offset the tent pretty well.

I finally got my rack finished with Monstaliner, installed and my tent mounted. I had the pull the trailer out of the shop while it was snowing an mount the tent using the tractor so I have NO photos of that activity! Towed the trailer back home and got it in my garage (Family's shop and garage ~3 hours apart). To get the trailer in my garage I had to install 15" steel wheels w/ no tires. Even with the lifting roof rack my old *** garage is too short. I'll be moving in 6 months, our next house will have an oversized garage so hopefully it'll fit without having to swap wheels.

In other news the struts work OK, once I get the tent lifted about 4-6" they take over, but that 4-6" is VERY heavy. I literally have to stand on the rear leveling jack, put the tent platform on my shoulder and lift with darn near everything I've got to get it open. So I need to add a second pair of struts towards the rear and see if that helps. My concern is that the more force I add holding the tent open, the harder it will be to close it. I can stand at the front and put it backwards, but once it gets to the point where the jacks don't do much it closes REALLY hard. Still need to perfect this system...

Since I posted last I've had an avalanche of parts show up. So far I've gotten my turtleback propane tanks mounted, mud flaps added, rotopax and Frontrunner Braai installed.

The following is in hand awaiting install

Alu-Cab Shadow Awning w/ mounts
2 Group 31 Odyssey's
Powermandia Turbo M235 dual battery charger
2000w Xantrex ProWatt Inverter w/ Remote on/off and Shore power auto transfer switch
MorningStar Sunsaver MPPT solar charger w/ remote panel
Victron 712 Smart Battery Monitor
Ton's of Blue Sea electrical bits
ARB 63qt all weather fridge
OXX BOX Coffee Maker
Propex 2211 external propane heater
L5 Propane water heater
Partner 22" stove
Water pump, plumbing bits, propane parts. etc...
Still waiting on my custom kitchen tool box to arrive

My Midgit Turtle covered in salt, snow and gravel...

All the goodies awaiting install.
Last edited: