the U4WDA Compass Magazine, Spring 2006:
– Part 1 (of a 3 part series)
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
“Hope I have matches!”, “Did the water get loaded?”, and every other
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
like to leave my Landcruiser completely full of expensive & bulky
to my hatred
for the load/unload, there lies the issue of space management. Even
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
when I bring a couple friends along? Not only is my cargo space
reduced, my mean load has now doubles as well. Those with smaller rigs
or larger families can realize my pain.
like to go “wheeling”
with all my camping gear, if it is wet & muddy the gear gets
if it is hot & dry and I am worried about my 40 quart cooler
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
in the trailer. Not all trails & camping utilize a “base camp”,
a major design requirement of the trailer would require it to go
the Landcruiser could go if needed.
sums up the need
for a dedicated “Trail Trailer” that would contain every possible
need, thus preventing any forgotten items. It would stay loaded,
and ready to go. NO MORE wasting my time getting ready!
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
his busy schedule; this is where I came in. Using the frame of an old
Landcruiser, I hastily constructed a makeshift frame, still utilizing
original semi-float Landcruiser rear axle. This would allow me to get
mobile, and move the project to the side of my house, where it would
its next few years in the baking in the sun and freezing in the snow.
end of 2003 re-kindled
my need for the trail trailer, I had a goal to camp at least 20 times
the coming spring/summer/fall seasons and I knew my Achilles heel with
respect to camping as previously mentioned. I inventoried my parts,
down some ideas, and got to work.
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
depending on options, needless to say WAY out of my student budget.
what a better way to spend the cold winter than adding another toy to
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
must utilize the same size tires as my Landcruiser, once again all
leaving me options. It must be relatively watertight, capable of
secured, lightweight and track well behind the Landcruiser. I must be
to intentionally jack-knife the trailer, without damaging the
or trailer. It needed to have a low center of gravity and no taller
the back of my Landcruiser. It must ride nice in order to protect its
(such as eggs) from shock damage. After all, if I am going to do it,
not do it right.
With a lot of
little time & resources (money) to accomplish them, I turned to a
group of friends to help prioritize the things the trail trailer
I posted a couple of online polls posing questions like “What items
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.
list started to
top to manage
power needs when not in tow
preparation area (cutting
both the contents
as well as the surrounding camp area
fittings for a BBQ
water of the
way place to carry water
mounted on back
Stay tuned for
installment. The next Compass issue will detail the construction
of the trail trailer, as well as what items I chose to initially stock
it with. Until then, start building yours!
the U4WDA Compass Magazine, Summer 2006:
– Part 2 (of a 3 part series)
In the last
edition of the
Compass, I detailed my wants and needs for a trailer with off-road
and camping in mind. I developed a preliminary set of specifications
the trailer must satisfy, as well as rather intensive list of the
that the trailer. My goal was to incorporate as many of these
on a limited budget.
build is bound
to be different, thus I will just cover the basics rather than the
specifics of my particular build.
A stout yet
lightweight frame is key. Don’t be afraid to add extra frame support,
little weight addition is well worth the piece of mind you will have in
your trailers durability. My trailer is constructed from the back half
of an FJ55 Landcruiser, including the rear leaf springs. This in
to a few miscellaneous pieces of steel for the tongue and frame support
makes up a rather stout frame. Frame options are infinite, using an
frame can save you from mounting suspension, but making a custom frame
from square or round tube is easy enough. Base your decision on
parts and material as well as your fabrication abilities, after all
is the most crucial part of the trailer.
are as many options for your trailer build as there are for your 4x4.
leafs, torsions, even trailing arms. Inventory your available parts,
once again your fabrication skills. Leaf springs will most likely be
easiest option, trailer supply shops stock all different varieties of
as well as the hangers, shackles, and perches to mount them to your
and frame. Other considerations include SUA versus SOA (spring-under
spring-over), how much load you intend to carry, length of springs,
to choose from. You could use a duplicate of your rigs rear axle,
you with an extra set of spares in case of breakage. Or you could
a wrecking yard axle from a camper, etc… In my case I chose to buy a
dedicated trailer axle, the price was right and with hubs and a
lug pattern, I was only out $125. Not bad considering the amount of
it saved scouring the yards or tracking down the needed parts. Axle
and flange patterns are important factors to consider. A matching lug
can save you the need for a second spare, or give you a couple more
for your rig. Axle width is a very important factor; you don’t want the
track of the trailer wider than your rig! You can get a bit fancier
the axle options, brakes, torsion axles, etc. Stop by your local
supply shop, many times they will have them in stock and on display for
your inspection… Bring a tape measure!
Ball or Pintle?
If you have ever seen a Pintle work, you will see the obvious benefits
the Pintle will provide in off-road situations. Though the initial cost
is much higher than a simple ball hitch setup, the payoffs are well
the ~$100 investment. In the case of my trailer, I was able to source a
military surplus rotation Pintle receiver hitch that allows the lunette
(the loop on the trailer) to rotate 360° (allowing the trailer to
barrel roles if needed). A trip to your local trailer supply shop
yield you several different Pintle (and ball hitch) options to choose
The body can
easily take the most amount of work, the largest chunk of $$$ and the
time. You can simplify the work by using all or part of pickup truck
tub, or existing trailer body. Alternatively you can start from scratch
and fabricate a body of your own. There are countless ways to do it,
things to consider, and countless options to include. Do you want it to
be water-tight? How much cargo do you need it to carry? Do you want it
to hold fuel, water, propane, etc? How do you want to finish it, paint,
rubberized liner, truck-bed style liners? Spend a minute sketching what
you want on paper, it may save you some frustration down the road.
Whether it is
meals, or a complex menu… I wanted to have the cooking means necessary
with little forethought. This isn’t easy for your average guy; rather
usually take a box of donuts, a 12-pack of Mountain Dew and some potato
chips. The nice thing about all of the extra room a trailer provides is
the ability to just take it all. Weight really isn’t an issue for local
trips, and it is better to have it and not use it, then to need it and
have it on the shelf at home. I carry a complete set of pots &
ample silverware, condiments, the cooler, a dry foods box, a 6’x3’
table, tents, camp chairs, water containers, and even a napkin holder!
Choose your stock as you wish, with the extra cargo space, your options
can vary widely from your conventional packing arrangement.
Stay tuned for
installment. The next Compass issue will discuss the use of the
initial impressions, and things I would change/modify. Until then, keep
working on yours!
the U4WDA Compass Magazine, Fall 2006:
– Part 3 (of a 3 part series)
In the last
edition of the
Compass, I described some of the considerations you should keep in mind
during the construction and outfitting of your trailer. For the most
my trailer is nearly complete (is a project ever complete?), thus this
last installment will detail my initial impressions, things I would
things I plan to add, etc.
trail-trailer is considerably
lightweight, even when completely loaded for a weekend’s adventure.
it does slow down travel. Consider your camping needs for the trip, and
decide if the trailer is really needed. I still find myself packing
in the back of my Cruiser for a quick overnighter, saving myself the
of pulling the trailer. That said it tows great, both on and off road.
With a dozen plus trips with the trailer, I can’t think of anything I
do to the suspension/frame/axles of the trailer, they seem to do
with the trailer:
Its back there
and you will
surely remember it. The trailer will quickly become an anchor in the
if you don’t plan accordingly, spotting for the trailer is ever
Tight trails don’t leave much room for backing, though it hasn’t proved
to be much of an issue to date. The key is to remember that extra pair
of wheels out back, just as soon as you think you are up and over a
or rock, that third pair of un-powered tires strikes up against it… a
wheel speed goes along way to keep your forward momentum. In February I
was on my way home from Moab via dirt roads north of Arches National
With snow on the ground and the sun out, the road was sure to be muddy…
needless to say I have an entirely new respect for “not passable when
signs. The trailer made my 30 mile trip take nearly twice as much time.
The load in the trailer sank the tires into the deep mud (more like
and instantly I was using the lockers and plenty of throttle just to
it up a slight incline. Take situations such as this into consideration
when planning your route!
would I change &
hope to change?
I plan to
really water &
dust proof the trailer. For the most part it keeps the moisture out,
while traveling in storms, but keeping water completely out has been
what challenging. Dust on the other hand has been impossible to
it seems to find its way in everywhere. A couple of hours of work could
go a long ways to fix both these problems… one of these days. My
in the trailer could use a bit of help to, I have made some huge steps
in regards to this with the purchase of some large plastic storage bins
that will help stow gear in a more efficient manner.
my initial goals?
Yes, for the
I can take a lot more gear on extended wheeling trips, literally it can
carry enough gear for four people when necessary. I can keep the
gear loaded in a locked trailer at home, and I secure gear at camp
I’m out on the trail. I can keep all my “regular” camping items in the
trailer, ready for a short notice trip. I have the option to implement
things never possible with just a 4x4, such as on-board propane, 120V
via a small generator, etc.
Look for the
on a trail near you. I hope I haven’t bored you to death with my
excessive analysis. I’ll probably give you a brief update in an issue
two; I have some future modifications and additions in mind.
Notes & Pictures