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Picture of Retro-Style Camping Gear Trailer

This is a small enclosed trailer I built to haul my family's camping gear.

The outside is completed with materials pulled from a junked 1970 Starcraft tent trailer, which gives it a unique old look.

In this instructable I hope you'll find some ideas, techniques, or maybe just a little inspiration for your next project. Thanks for taking a look!

Step 1: Design, Specs, Cost

Picture of Design, Specs, Cost

My goal was to make a small, lightweight trailer that could be pulled safely behind a car or minivan at highway speeds.

A lot of this was worked out along the way; I didn't have a definite plan for any of this - other than the general size and function.

Here are some of the finished details:

  • From tongue to tail, the trailer is 9 feet long. The cargo box is 50" wide, 60" long and 24" tall.
  • The completed trailer weighs 580 pounds empty, with a tongue weight of 68 pounds (or 11.7%).
  • The roof lifts open with gas struts to aid in lifting and holding it open.
  • The two hinges located at the front can be easily disconnected, so the trailer can be used as an open-topped small utility trailer as well.

The trailer pulls beautifully. I load it with some of the heavier objects in front of the axle, which raises the tongue weight percentage a little, maybe to 13 or 14% - which is still right in the sweet spot for stability.

Where I live, trailers under 750 pounds do not require licensing.

I spent about $1300 on materials and built this over the course of about four months working nights and weekends.

That looks nicely done. Have you seen the popular tear drop type campers?

A cheaper way to get a camper trailer is to buy a dead Ford ranger pickup from scrap , cut the frame and weld a tongue, add a bed lid or used camper shell.
seamster (author)  Yard Sale Dale2 hours ago
Thank you. Yes, I'm familiar with teardrop trailers. Someday I might build one : )

At one point I was considering building a trailer from an old truck bed just as you describe, or even just buying an old one as a starting point. But ultimately I decided to go the route I did, for a variety of reasons : )
Really nice job. I love this.
seamster (author)  JenniferV783 days ago
Thanks! We've really enjoyed having it so far. Very useful! : )
RaimondsL7 days ago
great great great
ferrotype17 days ago
In love with this project! While I know my way around my shop and my step-dad's, I have never heard of spar urethane.
What is it and how is it different from say, Thompson's Water Seal?
seamster (author)  ferrotype17 days ago
Awesome, glad you enjoyed seeing this! : )

From a quick google search, here's something I found on spar urethane:

It's basically an outdoor, weatherproof urethane finish you can put on wood things that will be outside. It's notably thick, and when you put on several coats of it, you end up with a yellowy, plasticky finish on the wood.

It's very different than Water Seal, but I'm not familiar enough with either to get into the specifics. I've used both on different things, and never been terribly impressed with Water Seal - it's not long lasting, and doesn't create a plasticky barrier the way urethane does. Hope that helps, at least a little!
My goodness, thank you!
Your answer went above and beyond what I thought I would get.
The link is fantastic.
I am in the process of a stair rebuild for my backyard and want this to last. Currently stone is not an option.
Waterseal has left my vocabulary.

I will spar urethane every board (before assembly) and again on all connections as if it was wood glue.

seamster (author)  ferrotype16 days ago
Definitely do your own research on what might be the best product for your specific use though - don't just take my word ; ) There are so many products out there, it can certainly be daunting. A bit of research online can help you identify your best options. Good luck!
With your advice, I was able to find an exterior commercial paint with sand. I am off to Sherwin Williams now to purchase the correct wood sealer as a primer. If I get more than 6 years out of this set, I will be happy.
I did not make the original.
I see the use of the urethane more at camp, where I need that plastic water protection and there is no foot traffic. I have a few perfect places.

Thank you for the conversation and kindness. My best experience here on Instructables. You are truly wonderful. =)
If you are thinking of steps or stairs outside there are better products. Urethane is plastic in a dryer solution. It comes out smooth and hard, add water or snow and you have a great slippery surface. as kids we used similar for the bottom of our skim boards, worked great, steps and stairs not so much. Ask in your paint store or local hardware for a better product or look for a floor paint you can add a non-slip surface to, sand in a can with binders. I don't believe urethane is what you want on outside steps or stairs. Considerable safety risk.
dave_cody16 days ago
Really nice work, and all the better for the backstory. Inspirational stuff, and I hope it brings your family many years of happy camping.
hossgifford17 days ago
I really LOVED reading the story of your trailer, and am grateful for the amount of effort you've put into documenting everything, including the backstory. And specific props to you for the precise positioning of the bolts to allow the weatherstripping to be compressed, but not over compressed. It's attention to detail like that which makes a project like this especially worthwhile.
seamster (author)  hossgifford17 days ago
Well thank you! It was my pleasure to share a little of the process I went through to make it. Happy that you enjoyed it! : )
dr4playr17 days ago
Very well done! Excellent work, patience and craftsmanship!
djngmacc17 days ago
Big thumbs-up!!
Chaoslord6617 days ago
Cool little trailer! Nicely done!
That turned out awesome!