By Ben Nitkin on
For a while now, I've been interested in making a camper trailer. Something hard-sided for winter camping, but lots of ventilation for summer. It'd have to be light enough to tow - under 1000 pounds or so, and cheap enough to build without worrying about expenses.
Now that I have a job and a workshop, I can! It's kinda exciting.
I browsed through Teardrops & Tiny Travel Trailers quite a bit for inspiration before settling on a final design. The design I settled on is a clamshell, a little like those old VW camper-busses. The entire roof opens up, and can be either screened or canvassed in, depending on weather (the miracle of velcro). In the back, a set of double-doors open to a small galley (about 14" deep), enough for basic food preparation and a campstove. Forward of that, the cabin will house a full-size mattress, a little storage, and not much else. One door on each side opens to provide access to the sleeping area (each around 30x30").
I looked into integrated sinks and cooktops and the like, but they all added cost and limited options. By starting with a no-frills camper, I have room to customize it to suit me as time goes on.
This past winter, I spent a while making plans - I'll probably write about that some other time. This past week, I started framing the thing, and that's way more fun. It's framed like a house, more or less. I'm using 2x2 for studs, instead of the normal 2x4 or 2x6, and my spacing is all over the place - 15" in the front, and wider on the sides and back.
I'm also using glue and dowels for joinery. With the loads that wind will put on this thing, I'm not confident in nails alone, and the metal brackets usually used for framing are for 2x4's, anyway.
Unlike many of the builds on tnttt.com, I'm building the trailer on its own. Once the exterior is complete and the whole thing is weatherproof, I'll carry it outside and bolt it onto my 5x8' chassis. Building the box off of the trailer keeps things light - I can rotate the entire carcasse to provide easy access to any face. And I don't have to worry about tarping it in bad weather!
I started by making the front and side faces, then joined them with little wood blocks. (The blocks help a lot with structural integrity). The back was last. Two 2x2 beams form the edges of the countertop; a third defines the bottom back edge of the trailer. (The top-back is open to make better use of the articulated roof).
More recently, I added angled pieces to the top of the frame to force rain to drain out, and started skinning the outside with 5mm underlayment plywood. The next step is insulating the walls and starting on the roof!