Tent camping is usually fine for summer and clear weather, but it has some distinct disadvantages, including the lack of a sturdy door that locks. Camping trailers are a viable alternative but can be amazingly expensive. If you’re looking for an alternative, then let’s discover how to build a camping trailer on your own.
It Begins with the Trailer
Building a camping trailer is, in the truest sense of the word, building an extremely tiny house. Chances are, you won’t be using it as a permanent residence, but it should provide the basic amenities: a place to sleep, a place for sanitary functions, and a place to prepare food. Storage, heating and cooling, lighting, and perhaps even power for small electronics is a definite plus.
Even if your project is an extremely small RV trailer for just one person, it requires a good, over-the-road, foundation trailer that can easily support the weight of your tiny house, er, camping trailer. There are several ways to do this, but the easiest is to purchase a pull-behind, flat-bed trailer that has the weight hauling specs you need, plus the overall floor space.
The trailer should have a prop for when it’s not hitched to a vehicle, plus chassis provisions for running wires for tail and brake lights, in addition to other needs.
When you purchase your frame or flatbed trailer, be sure to tell the seller why you’re buying it. Chances are, he or she will have experience with this kind of project and can point you to the trailer frame you need. Think of it as being the foundation of your trailer.
Some Basics for How to Build a Small Camping Trailer
The floor of your trailer can be made from exterior grade, one-inch plywood. It delivers a good ratio of strength vs. weight and is already treated to be water-resistant. You will want to do some additional waterproofing, especially on the underside.
The next step is to make a wooden frame using two-inch by two-inch by however long pieces of lumber. The process is much like that used in framing up a house. Be sure to set the bottom rail of each wall in from the edge of the floor by the edge-width of your siding so that it can rest on top of the floor piece.
Design in a place for a door, and perhaps for windows. You’ll certainly want some kind of ventilation. An air conditioner would be nice, but an operable window doesn’t require power. Something to think about.
The roof can be flat. That is handy if you want to use it as the base for a rooftop tent, which can be handy for extending your camp living space. Or it can be a low gable, which works a little better for shedding rain or other kinds of precipitation.
Note: If you plan to take your DIY camping trailer grey camping, remember that snow has weight. That’s something to consider when putting on your roof, and when thinking about the weight the trailer foundation frame will need to support.
Plan in a ventilated lockbox outside the living space of your camping trailer for a vital, and fairly expensive item: your electric generator. An electric generator can be powered using your vehicle motor or solar cells.
If you plan to go solar, you’ll want some way to secure your panels so they don’t walk away from your campsite. Placing them in frames on the roof can be one solution
Wiring for DC (direct current) is a little different from standard house wiring. You’ll need a heavier gauge wire. Or you can simply use an inverter box to control input from batteries, converting the power from DC to standard AC (alternating current) electricity such as is used in your home.
How to Build a Teardrop Camping Trailer
A teardrop camping trailer is named for its shape. The bulb part of the teardrop is tall enough for an adult to stand up in it. From there, it tapers off into a sort of hatchback shape that houses an outdoor kitchen.
The advantages of this design are that it’s lightweight so you don’t have to have quite so sturdy or heavy a frame to hold it up, and it’s an aerodynamic design that’s light enough to pull behind a medium-sized standard vehicle. The design is set up to take advantage of every inch of space.
The disadvantage, of course, is that it’s quite compact. You’ll need to focus on a minimalist approach to your camping gear, and tidy up your camping habits.
Essentially, the teardrop trailer begins in the same way as the box or house-shaped trailer. But instead of framing up the sides like a lightweight house, the sides are cut from layers of plywood, creating the classic teardrop shape. Window and door holes are cut in the sides before they are applied to the structure.
A central divider and struts are placed between the two side pieces, holding them together and simultaneously creating the roof supports. The pieces can be held together using a combination of screws and gorilla glue. The interior shelving provides added support, as do the double layers of the ceiling and roof cover.
If you don’t feel quite up to reverse engineering your own teardrop trailer, you can purchase a kit that will have patterns and directions for construction.
DIY Camping Trailer
The trailer underpinnings are essential to your DIY camping trailer. However, it’s possible to construct from scrap.
If you know of a good, used vehicle scrap yard, or luck into the chassis for a pre-electronics truck or older car, you can use the framework to create your own trailer. It helps if you have some background as a mechanic, and know-how to weld if you’re going this route.
Since there are a wide variety of ways to go about making your own camping trailer, it’s difficult to give a step-by-step how-to.
However, the basics will remain as follows: supporting frame, with wheels and road legal equipment such as lights, and perhaps even brakes. Then the floor, followed up by the sides and finally the roof.