How to Build a Camping Trailer

Written by william collins
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How to Build a Camping Trailer
A small camping trailer can be built at home (trailer image by Greg Pickens from

Building a small 6.5-foot-by-10-foot camping trailer is within the ability of most home carpenters. All the necessary materials are available at your local hardware store or by mail order. By keeping the trailer's weight to a minimum, it can easily be towed behind a compact car.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Eight sheets of 4-foot-by-8-foot-one-quarter-inch, exterior-grade plywood
  • Eight sheets of 4-foot-by-8-foot-one-eighth-inch, exterior grade plywood
  • Two sheets of 4-foot-by-8-foot-one-half-inch, exterior-grade plywood
  • 40 1-inch-by-2-inch, kiln-dried furring strips
  • Two 10-foot-long, kiln dried 2-inch--by-4 inch studs
  • Six 8-foot-long, kiln-dried 2-inch--by-4 inch studs
  • Two gallons of exterior latex house primer
  • Two gallons of exterior latex house paint
  • 3 quarts of orange shellac
  • 2.27 Kilogram of 1-and-a-half-inch pocket screws
  • 0.907 Kilogram of 1-and-a-half-inch drywall screws
  • 0.907 Kilogram of 16d nails
  • 1 pound of 8d nails
  • 1 quart of carpenter's glue
  • 3 quarts of fibreglass resin
  • 50-foot-long, 4-inch-wide fibreglass tape
  • One roof vent
  • One RV door
  • Five RV windows
  • One 5-foot-by-8 foot, 1,200-pound-capacity trailer frame
  • One full-size mattress
  • Carpenter's hand tools
  • Router
  • Jigsaw
  • Circular saw
  • Power drill
  • Mitre saw
  • Pocket screw jig

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  1. 1

    Determine what trailer design fits your camping style. A small trailer, such as this one, will have, at minimum, a full-size bed, a portable bathroom and space to store your camping equipment. Make a list of all your equipment and where you will be stowing it.

  2. 2

    Purchase parts. Get a 5-foot-by-8 foot trailer frame with a 1,200-pound-capacity axle, 15-inch wheels and brakes. Even though this trailer is small, it will be heavy enough to benefit from brakes, especially if you have a small car.

    Purchase five RV windows of a size that suits you. Purchase an RV door with a window and a 14-inch-by-14-inch RV roof vent.

  3. 3

    Build a wood frame for the body. The trailer body is built on a 2-inch-by-4-inch, kiln-dried lumber frame, which is then bolted to the steel trailer frame.

    You want the trailer's overall width to be less than 6 feet, 8 inches. This keeps the clearance lights simple. But you also want it to be wide enough for a full-size bed to fit in the back. This means you need to make the 2-inch-by-4-inch lumber frame 6 feet, 5 inches wide by 10 feet long.

    Picture the lumber frame as a ladder with 10 foot long verticals and 74-inch wide rungs every 2 feet including both ends. You will need six of the 74-inch horizontal rungs. Use 16d nails and carpenter's glue to make the frame.

  4. 4

    Bolt the 2-inch-by-4-inch lumber frame to the steel trailer frame. Use five-sixteenths-inch galvanised bolts to secure the two frames together.

  5. 5

    Make the floor. Use 1/2-inch plywood to cover the frame. Cut the plywood flush with the edges of the lumber frame. Use 8d nails to secure the floor to the frame.

  6. 6

    Build the left-side wall out of 1-inch-by-2-inc,h kiln-dried furring strips. Lay the strips with the narrow side on the floor of your shop and screw them together with pocket screws and carpenter's glue.

    The left-side frame has a 10-foot bottom plate with a 10-foot top plate and 6-foot vertical studs, all oriented with the wide side to the outside of the wall. This will make the wall frame 1-and-a-half inches thick and allow space for insulation and wiring. Make the wall 6 feet tall or more if you are taller.

    Attach verticals every 2 feet. Space them wider or narrower where you plan to install windows.

    Cover the inside of the wall with one-eighth-inch plywood and attach it to the wall frame with glue and finishing nails. Set the wall panel aside. Use a router with a flush-cut bit to make the inside window openings.

  7. 7

    Build the right-side wall. This is the wall with the door. Make a frame for the door with double 1-inch-by-2-inch furring strips. Cover the inside of the wall frame with the one-eighth-inch plywood and set it aside after cutting the widow opening with a router.

  8. 8

    Build the end walls. The end walls are built the same as the side walls -- out of 1-inch-by-2-inch furring strips, with the narrow edge facing to the outside. Make the end wall panels short enough to fit between the side walls. Cover the inside of the end walls with one-eighth-inch plywood and attach them with carpenter's glue and finishing nails. Route open the inside window openings and set the end walls aside.

  9. 9

    Build the roof. It is made out of 1-inch-by-2-inch furring strips with the narrow side facing up. Make the width of the roof frame panel wide enough to fit inside the wall frames. Frame a 14-inch-by-14-inch hole in the roof with double 1-inch-by-2-inch furring strips. This hole is for a standard RV roof vent. Cover the inside of the roof frame with one-eighth-inch plywood and attach it with carpenter's glue and finishing nails. Route the vent opening and set the roof frame panel aside.

  10. 10

    Raise the side walls. Attach them to the floor with 3-inch screws and carpenter's glue. Screw temporary furring strips between the walls and the floor edge to hold them up.

  11. 11

    Attach the end walls. Place them between the side walls and screw them with 1-and-a-half-inch screws. Attach the end walls to the floor with 3-inch screws.

  12. 12

    Install the roof. Place the roof frame panel inside the box made by the walls and line it up flush with the side walls and end walls. Glue and screw the roof to the walls with 3-inch screws.

  13. 13

    Wiring. Run wires for the four clearance lights in the side walls. Run wires for the stop/taillights and license lights in the rear wall of the trailer. Drill a three-quarter-inch hole in the inside wall plywood and run 12 inches of wire through the wall to connect to the wire harness.

  14. 14

    Insulate. Insulate the walls and roof with two layers of three-quarter-inch styrofoam insulation.

  15. 15

    Install outside panelling. Cover the roof with one-quarter-inch plywood and secure with 1-and-a-half-inch screws. Cover the walls with one-quarter-inch plywood and secure with 1-and-a-half-inch screws. Cover all joints with fibreglass tape and epoxy resin.

  16. 16

    Trimming. Use a router with a flush-cut bit to cut the outside window openings on all the walls and roof.

  17. 17

    Surface finish. Paint all outside panels with exterior, water-based house primer. After the primer dries, paint the exterior walls and roof with 25-year exterior latex house paint.

  18. 18

    Windows and door. Install the door and lock on the right side of the trailer. Install the windows and roof vent with caulking putty and screws according to the manufacturer's instructions.

  19. 19

    Interior. Finish the interior panelling with orange shellac for a retro look or your favourite colour of interior paint. Using 1-inch-by-2-inch furring strips, build a platform 18 inches off the floor across the rear of the trailer to accommodate a full-size bed mattress. Build a cabinet across the front of the trailer in which to store your camping supplies and portable potty.

  20. 20

    Enjoy your trailer. Building a small trailer such as this one is an enjoyable project that will keep you busy for three or more months, depending on your abilities. The enjoyment will continue when you take your family to your favourite campground.

Tips and warnings

  • Keep your project covered from the elements.
  • Use safety goggles.
  • Use ear protectors.
  • Use leather gloves when handling lumber.

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