How to build a teardrop camper

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How to build a teardrop camper
Build a teardrop trailer for your camping excursions. (camping image by Colin Buckland from

Teardrop campers have improved in aerodynamics and style. They have been around since World War II and are the do-it-yourself dream that allows you greater mobility. Teardrop campers get their name from their teardrop shape. Teardrop campers are mobile and not as heavy or expensive as their larger cousins. This means you can travel without having to sleep on the ground. Many have the extra convenience of added kitchen accessories, bike racks and other features. Because you are the builder, you customise the trailer to fit your needs.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Used trailer
  • Goggles
  • Gloves
  • Plywood for each side
  • 2-by-4s for the frame
  • Styrofoam
  • Fiberboard for the sheathing
  • Band saw
  • Drill with bits
  • Bonding glue
  • Caulking gun
  • Metal brackets (fasteners)

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  1. 1

    Get hold of a decent trailer to mount your teardrop on. It should be street legal and you may want to make sure that it is sturdy and reliable. The height of your teardrop should not be so high that it makes the trailer unstable. Make sure there are holes through the frame that are strong enough to tightly bolt down the teardrop. A good source of trailers can be in the Government Liquidation website or the used vehicles section of your local newspaper. Basic plans (for historical reference) can be found at the Green Vocational website. Better plans, with safety features, exist on the Internet, but these are the core of what you may be building. Adobe Reader is required to access this document and can be downloaded for free at the Adobe website.

  2. 2

    Get enough sturdy wood to lay down for the foundation of your trailer. This will be both glued and bolted to the trailer and will form the base of your trailer where the rest of the frame will also be both glued and bolted. Don't forget the metal brackets you will need. You need to make sure that the wood framing the outer edge of the trailer and the cross braces are laid out like a ladder with a rang at the extreme top and extreme bottom of the ladder. Make sure that the rungs are no more than 2 feet apart and that they are securely fastened to the metal frame at intervals of no less than 2 feet. See the link at the Element Towners Club website and imagine a stronger foundation than they show there. As you go, don't forget to insulate the trailer with styrofoam sheets available at any home building supply store such as Home Depot.

  3. 3

    Cut the sides out of plywood. Make sure that it is strong enough for your purposes and that they are both the shape that you desire. This is where the "teardrop" shape comes in. The trailer has a teardrop profile from the side. Make sure that the two sides fit the base well and that they are securely mounted using the glue/brackets/bolts as per the instructions. You may want to brace up the sides as this process is happening. Make sure that the shape and weight of the trailer doesn't cause it to be blown all over the road or to take flight as you tow it.

  4. 4

    Add cross braces that go from one plywood wall to the other plywood sidewall of the trailer. These are to be fashioned in a way that allows the trailer to support itself and give the structure enough strength so it doesn't collapse in wind or traffic. These should be connected at similar points on the inside of each wall. Make sure to use brackets and bolts. Notice in a lot of plans that a lot of the cross bracing is also used as shelving in the back of the vehicle. It is not recommended to add a door anywhere unless you have a way to waterproof it and to keep it from flying open. Some of the ideas to help you do this include turning the door so that the opening edge is facing the back of the trailer, using a seal around the door, and having a small strip that acts as a rain gutter around the space just above the door. Make sure that your door and other parts are all on solidly as it wouldn't do to have pieces flying off the trailer at 75 miles an hour on the highway. Again, don't forget to waterproof and insulate as you go.

  5. 5

    Sheath the cross braces in fibreboard that is dense enough to offer some protection and light enough to bend. Make sure that the board goes all the way across the trailer. You may even prefer to use your own materials at this point. Be creative, but be safe. Fibreglass might be a useful option, since it will let in natural light and is very strong. People have been known to add extras, like an opening hatch in the back and other accessories. Maybe you want to try adding more electronic components and a generator or batteries. Perhaps you want to fit it out to be a small business trailer or a place to sleep while you are on the road.

Tips and warnings

  • Make sure that you buy professionally made plans and stick to them and that all is fastened securely so that it does no harm on the freeway or when parked.
  • Make sure that the trailer/vehicle won't roll away when you are using it. Never put living things in a moving trailer.
  • Make sure that the trailer you use is safe, street legal, and not top heavy when you are done with this project. Remember that the lower the centre of balance, the more stable the trailer.
  • You need to have your trailer checked by an engineer to make sure that it is safe.
  • Don't forget to read and follow all safety instructions that come with your equipment and to wear safety goggles.

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