Saturday, July 31, 2010

Step 1, finding a trailer.

The basis for any teardrop or tiny travel trailer is a trailer. Not having a budget to buy a new one or the skill and equipment to make one, the obvious solution was to buy used. Now a trailer is always abused and neglected, so I was not aiming to pay a lot since most of the hardware would probably have to be replaced. Wheel bearings, suspension and the whole electrical system is usually shot.

I was lucky enough to find an old boat trailer on Kijiji for $150. It was a bit small, but it was a good basic start to what I was planning to do. I set out to have a look at it and brought some money for a deposit just in case. It was as I expected, a total mess. Broken suspension blade on one side, rotted it out homebuilt wood box and suspicious electrical everything. A deposit was given and arrangements were made for future pick-up.

My Highlander doesn't have a hitch so I had no other alternative than to go get my new found treasure with my son who has a hitch on his Camry. Defying death I stepped into his car and went back to get the trailer a few days later. Apart from the "enthusiastic" driving of my son, the trip was made even more interesting by a nasty piece of steel that we hit on the highway, slashing the left rear tire. We were on a schedule for the pick up and changed the tire in record time, including putting some air with a bike pump in the spare of the Camry.

We got to the location, paid the rest of the amount and hooked up the trailer. The ball on my son's hitch was too big but thankfully the previous owner gave us is smaller ball to put on our hitch. Here's the reason why you always pick up a used trailer during the day, odds are the lights won't work. My hunch was right, not a damn thing was working! We headed out trying to avoid the highway as much as we could since city cops usually don't really care about vehicle condition or compliance. Ok, they do as well but not as much as highway cops.

We made sure to avoid sudden stops since we had no brake lights on the trailer and drove really slow to avoid testing the 5 tie wraps and wood block holding the left rear suspension together. If you ever drove on the streets of Montreal, you know that is quite the task. We managed to make it home without killing anybody and avoided by miracle getting any kind of attention from Montreal's finest. As my son put it: "That was fun, let's not do this ever again!".

The rest of that day was spent taking all that was trash off the trailer and it left me with this:

- Frame
- Axle and hubs
- 1 rim

I also had to register the trailer so it had a plate on it prior to picking it up. This was the easiest part of the entire adventure. We live in a Province who's administration just loves red tape. In this case it was very simple, show up, ask for a less than 900kg homemade trailer plate, pay $67, leave with plate and registration for life!

Next step, prep, paint and extend the frame.

Keep posted

Gerry :)

Monday, July 26, 2010

Why building a tiny or mini camping trailer in the first place?

The question bares to ask, why build a mini camping trailer? Me and my wife love camping but sleeping in a tent with the risk of getting wet every time it rains and having nothing more than nylon between us and the bears is not that exciting.

The big fifth wheel trailers or motorhome RVs are way out of our budget. Besides we just don't get the approach of "bring your house behind your car in the woods" type of camping. So what we did was to sit down and figure out what were the bare essentials that we wanted in a camping trip. The answer was a dry place to sleep.

A bit of research brought my attention to Tear Drop trailers. Those small bedrooms on wheels have been around since the 20's and most of them to this day are homebuilt jobs. I have tools and some decent skills and I figured I could pull this off on a budget.

The first step was the debating/designing stage. Although I find the classic Tear Drop shape to be very cool, my better half felt she would feel too cramped. So after some (hmm hmm) discussion, we finally agreed on the posted design.

CAD model made with Google's Sketchup 7

While not a Tear Drop per say, it is still the same basic set-up of a cabin with a bed and a galley (or kitchen for you non-tear drop folks). I still wanted more than just a box, so I went with a Shasta Airflyte inspired design. This also allows me to make the trailer wider and higher than a traditional teardrop. The dimensions will be 110" X 62" floor and it will have a height of 56" inside the cabin.

The goal is to make this project as cost effective as possible. So join us in the build adventure and eventually in our camping adventures to come.

Gerry :)