A teardrop trailer is a small camping trailer -- 1.2 to 1.8 m (4 to 6 feet) wide and 2.4 to 3 m (8 to 10 feet) long with a streamlined "teardrop" shape. Teardrop trailers have been popular since the magazine Popular Homecraft first described a homebuilt model in 1939. If you have basic woodworking skills, you can make your own teardrop trailer.
- Skill level:
Things you need
- Folding utility trailer kit
- Fridge boxes or other large sheets of cardboard
- Plywood and lumber
- Sabre saw
- Circular saw
- Door handles
- Roof vent
- Paint or varnish
Assemble the trailer chassis. Follow the instructions that came with the trailer to build the 1.2 m by 2.4 m (4 foot by 8 foot) platform, tongue, axle and wheels. Some builders recommend modifying the trailer frame to move the axle closer to the rear for better weight distribution and side door clearance. Coat the bottom side of a sheet of 1.8 cm (3/4 inch) marine plywood with a waterproof sealant to protect from moisture, then bolt the plywood to the trailer frame. The plywood stiffens the frame and provides a base to assemble the trailer body.
Design your trailer with acquired trailer plans, adapting to your specific preferences and needs. Draft your plans onto the large sheets of cardboard to make a full-sized mock-up of the trailer. Use the cardboard mock-up to determine the size and placement of your entry doors, roof vent, galley and interior cabinets.
Cut the lumber. You will need two sheets of 1.8 cm (3/4 inch) marine plywood for the sides, plus two or more sheets of 6 mm (1/4 inch) plywood for the roof and galley hatch. Use 2.5 by 5 cm(1 by 2 inch) framing members for the curved portions of the roof and galley hatch. For the galley and cabinets, use 1.2 cm (1/2 inch) plywood. To cut the sides, trace the profile of the cardboard mock-up onto one of the plywood sheets, then clamp the two sheets together before cutting. Mark and cut openings for an entry door on the passenger side, or add a door to both sides for easier access.
Assemble the trailer body. Use pieces of scrap lumber long enough to hold the sides together temporarily, and attach the sides securely with screws and strong glue to the trailer floor. Attach the framing members to connect the sides and form the shape of the roof. For the roof, use the circular saw to make grooves in the 6 mm (1/4 inch) plywood 1.2 cm (1/2 inch) apart across the width of the roof to allow the sheets to conform to the curved sides. Attach the roof with screws and glue to the sides and framing members.
Construct the galley. Most teardrop trailers feature a small kitchen in the rear, covered by a lift-up hatch. Frame and skin the galley hatch so that the curve conforms to the trailer sides, taking extra care to make the frame rigid without adding too much weight. Use a piano hinge to attach the galley hatch securely to the trailer roof. Your galley can be very simple -- a few shelves to hold a camp stove, food, water jug and cooler, or it can be as elaborate as the kitchen in your home, with a sink, stove, cupboards and countertop.
Finish the interior and exterior. Install the roof vent, doors, door hardware and interior cabinets. Paint or varnish the inside of the trailer. Use strong, weatherproof paint or varnish for the exterior of the trailer, and take care to seal any exposed wood. Install weather stripping around the entry doors and galley hatch to prevent leaks. Install the taillights and verify that they work when connected to the tow vehicle.
Tips and warnings
- Take your teardrop trailer for a test trip as soon as the exterior is weather-tight. Make note of any changes or additions that would enhance your trailer, then complete the interior.
- Consider joining a teardrop trailer club in your area. Local clubs often host group camp-outs and rallies for members and guests.
- Make sure your tow vehicle is properly equipped. Trailer towing is serious business, even for a small, lightweight trailer.
- Always do a safety check before moving the trailer. Check lights, tire pressure and lug nuts. Make sure the hitch is secure, with safety chains attached.
- Inspect for leaks and loose joints before every trip, and repair them as soon as they occur.
- Don't overload your trailer. An overloaded trailer handles poorly, and causes extra wear and tear on the tow vehicle.
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