You don’t have to do away with all your creature comforts when venturing outdoors during an overlanding trip. You can pack more things and even bring some amenities by towing a camping trailer.
Camping trailers are perfect for those who want to explore the great outdoors without having to worry about finding an ideal place to pitch tents and set up a functioning camp. With an overland trailer, you can bring all the comforts of home with you on your travels.
You can buy a fully-built camping trailer or customize your truck or SUV with a rooftop tent if you have the means. But if you’re quite handy, you can build your own DIY overland trailer.
Going the DIY route can help you save money compared to buying pre-built camping trailers. You can even customize it to fit your vehicle and specific off-road needs.
Why Build an Overland Trailer Yourself
There are many reasons why people might choose to build an overland trailer themselves. Perhaps the most obvious benefit is that it can be much cheaper than buying a pre-made trailer.
Also, building your own trailer allows you to customize it exactly how you want. You can choose the materials and features that best suit your needs and preferences.
Finally, building your trailer is a great way to learn about trailers and overlanding in general. It’s a challenging project, but the result can definitely be worth it.
Before we go into the process of DIY trailer, let’s check out some facts and figures first.
How Much Does It Cost to Build an Overland Trailer?
A pre-built off-road trailer can easily cost between $8,000 and $50,000. Even with tool rentals and materials, building one for less than the cost of the cheapest store-bought off-road trailer is possible.
How Much Do Overland Trailers Weigh?
The average overlanding trailer weight is between 1,200 and 1,350 pounds.
Can You Overland with a Trailer?
Absolutely. As long as you’re familiar with a trailer’s inherent limitations. For instance, you can expect to rock climb complex terrain while towing a full-size road trailer.
What Are the Types of Overland Trailers
When it comes to choosing an overland trailer, there are several different types to choose from. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular types of overland trailers:
- Towing: These trailers are designed to be towed behind a vehicle. They are typically larger and more spacious than other types of overland trailers.
- Caravan: Caravans are a type of towable trailer that is commonly used in Europe. They are often smaller and more compact than other types of overland trailers.
- Pop-Up: Pop-up trailers are a type of towable trailer that can be collapsed for easy storage. They are typically smaller and lighter than other types of overland trailers.
- Teardrop: Teardrop trailers are a type of towable trailer that is designed to be aerodynamic. They are often smaller and lighter than other types of overland trailers.
- Military/Utility: Military/utility trailers are a type of towable trailer that is designed for use by the military or other utility organizations. They are often larger and more rugged than other types of overland trailers.
- Non-Towing: Non-towing trailers are designed to be carried by a vehicle. They are typically smaller and lighter than other types of overland trailers.
What Makes an Ideal Overland Trailer
Now that you know about the different types of overland trailers, it’s time to start planning your trailer build.
Overland trailers should be designed for some serious off-roading. They should be built tough to withstand the rigors of backwoods travel, yet they should still be lightweight, maneuverable, and easy to tow.
Here are some of the key features that make an ideal overland trailer ideal:
Construction: Overland trailers are built tough to withstand the rigors of off-road travel. They feature heavy-duty frames and suspension systems, as well as reinforced sidewalls and floors.
Maneuverability: Overland trailers are designed to be lightweight and easy to tow. Many models feature aluminum construction, which helps keep the overall weight down.
Off-Road Capability: Overland trailers are equipped with all the necessary features for off-road travel. They typically feature high ground clearance, all-terrain tires, and the ability to go where you go.
Cargo: When it comes to cargo capacity, you’ll want to consider both the size and weight of your gear. For example, if you’re carrying a lot of heavy equipment, you’ll need a larger trailer so that the weight is evenly distributed. On the other hand, if you’re carrying lighter items, you can get away with a smaller trailer.
Weight: As far as weight is concerned, you’ll want to make sure that your trailer doesn’t exceed the capacity of your vehicle. Most overland trailers have a maximum capacity of around 2,000 pounds.
Stability: Once you’ve loaded your gear into your overland trailer, it’s important to secure it so that it doesn’t shift while you’re driving. The best way to do this is to use straps or bungee cords to secure your gear to the walls of the trailer. You can also use ratchet straps to secure heavy items in place.
Security: Your trailer should keep you secure from the elements and wildlife. There’s little point in towing an additional load if it can’t keep you safe from the sun, rain, and vermin.
Comfort and Amenities: Overland trailers can offer a spacious interior that is perfect for long-term expeditions. Many models feature a kitchen area, sleeping quarters, and plenty of storage space. Other features like a built-in toilet and shower can also make life on the road much easier.
Building a DIY Overland Trailer
Building your own overland trailer is a great way to get exactly what you want out of your camping setup, and it can be a fun and rewarding project in its own right. In this section, we’ll show you how to build a DIY overland trailer from the ground up.
If you’re ready to get started, explore the steps below.
Parts and Materials
- Trailer Body: You can purchase a used trailer or find one for free online. Be sure to inspect it thoroughly before making your decision. It should be in good condition with no major rust issues. You can build your own using plywood, fiberboard (MDF), and plastic laminates.
- Trailer Chassis/Frame: This is the most important part of the build. It needs to be strong and sturdy enough to support the weight of your gear, plus any additional weight you may add during your travels. The frame will also determine the size and shape of your trailer. You can fabricate your own using square tubing, angle bars, and c-channels.
- Axles: There are many different axle options available, so do some research to find the best option for your particular build. Be sure to factor in the weight of your gear when choosing axle capacity.
- Wheels and Tires: Again, there are many different options available. Choose a wheel and tire combo that will be able to handle the weight of your trailer and gear, and that will also provide good ground clearance.
- Suspension: This is an important part of the build, as it will determine how well your trailer handles on rough roads. There are many different suspension options available, so do some research to find the best option for your particular build.
- Electrical System: This is another important part of the build. You’ll need to wire up your lights, brakes, and any other electrical components you plan on using. Be sure to follow all local laws and regulations when wiring your trailer.
- Plumbing: If you plan to put in a kitchen or toilet, you may also have to route some plumbing. Plastic tubes are usually used.
- Storage: This is entirely up to you. Some people prefer to keep their gear inside the trailer, while others like to have it all packed up and ready to go. You can add shelves, cabinets, or racks. Choose a storage solution that works best for you and your particular build.
- Other Construction Supplies: Depending on your build, you’ll also likely need the usual construction supplies like primer, paint, screws, and sealant.
You’ll need the following tools to build your overland trailer:
- Oxygen/acetylene torch
- Reciprocating saw or oscillating multitool
Your first line of business is cutting and welding the overland trailer’s frame. Following that, you’ll need to add cross-members, which provide additional support for the frame.
After the frame is complete, you’ll move on to building the trailer’s walls and roof. Finally, you’ll add the trailer’s flooring, which can be either plywood or aluminum.
1. Plan Your Trailer
Take note of all the things you want from your trailer. There are plenty of designs and plans already available online. Just search for “camping trailer design plan,” and you’d be amazed at how many interesting designs there are for you to use. From here on out, what you need and how you’ll assemble your trailer will depend on your plan. The rest of the steps outlined here follow the general idea.
2. Lay Out the Chassis
If you’re building a towable trailer, you’ll need to build on top of a chassis. Following the plan, you must lay out the frame, wheels, and suspensions.
3. Cut and Weld the Frame
Cut two lengths of square tubing to the desired width of your trailer. These will be the main beams of your trailer’s frame. Next, cut four lengths of angle bars to the desired length of your trailer. These will be used as cross-members to support the frame.
4. Add Cross-Members
Cut four lengths of angle bars to the desired length of your trailer. These will be used as cross-members to support the frame. Weld the cross-members to the main beams of the frame. Be sure to weld them securely so that the frame is strong and durable.
5. Build the Walls and Roof
Cut the plywood or MDF to the desired size of your trailer’s walls and roof. Weld or screw the walls to the frame. Be sure to seal all of the seams with silicone or another sealant to keep out moisture.
6. Sort the Plumbing
Before you fix everything, route your plumbing pipes if you plan to add some amenities that need them. Perform leak and pressure tests to make sure all the joints are properly connected. It will be a pain to find leaks once you’ve covered the pipes up.
7. Wire Up the Electrical
The electrical system in your overland trailer is important for powering lights, appliances, and other electronics. You’ll need to wire up the electrical system in your trailer before you can use it. Laying out the wires before putting on the floors and adding the finishing touches allows you to hide the wires and conduits in the walls or under the floors. You may need an additional battery to power the electricals in your trailer so that it wouldn’t draw from your truck or SUV’s existing system.
8. Add Flooring to the Trailer
Cut the material to the desired size of your trailer’s floor. Install the flooring using screws or bolts. Higher-quality flooring options will provide maximum longevity.
9. Add Storage and Amenities
The next step is to add any cabinets, shelves, or other features to your trailer. This is completely optional and up to you. Just bear in mind that the more functionality you want in your overland trailer, the more features you’ll want to include in your final build.
Enjoy Your Outdoor Adventure
With your overland trailer built and ready to go, all you need now are some great ideas for outdoor adventures. An overland trailer enables you to bring many of the comforts of home with you on your trip.
With a planned approach and the right materials, you can build a great overland trailer that will make your outdoor adventures more enjoyable.