Plans for the Elusive $1k Off-road Trailer (1 Viewer)

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This project is in its inception phases for a buddy. We're tossing around the idea of a basic off-road go anywhere overland camper. Smaller, lighter, and simpler. Yes, we'd all love a full featured off-road teardrop but the reality of a $10k+ trailer isn't in the cards. Less is more because it's attainable, storable, tow's and off-roads better, and should add some serious boondocking camping capability. Starting with a basic trailer and can always add luxuries and accessories later.

For context, buddy is towing with a 1st gen manual Xterra. Not a beastly tow vehicle by any measure. But it's compact and able to get to places where many higher dollar and physically bigger rigs can't go. Downside is that storage is at a premium, and we all love to bring the kitchen sink when we camp. Even a small off-road trailer will increase the utility of his rig immensely, enabling longer trips. Small and light will allow him to tackle the goat trails that he loves.

Enter the $1k off-road adventure trailer. My brainstorm is at the link below. I think it's truly doable for $1k with reasonably minimal fabrication. Granted, I'm donating my 7 yr old HF utility trailer, and we're not including the cost of an RTT.

Would love your thoughts and ideas as to how to make this better, simpler, or whatever your thoughts might be.

 
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The idea is good, but with some weak points. It's not going to be a trailer you can haul down a lot of trails for a lot of years, but with that in mind, it's a great budget option.

Things I like:
- The price
- Simplicity
- The smooth ride leaf springs (I ran these exact ones on my DIY trailer, did great).

Things I don't like:
- The short trailer tongue (good on road, not off road)
- The lack of upgraded axle (find a good 2,000 Dexter axle, skip the new hubs)
- Those stabilizer jacks are too short usually
- There's lots of small details missed on cost and those small costs add up big time, trust me.

Several years ago I built something pretty similar in concept, used some of the same parts. Cost me ~$3,500 (not counting RTT and a few things) if I recall, but did require quite a bit of fab work.

 
Joined
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Salient points and thanks for the hints!

Already addressing some of those same details. Buddy wants to run matching Xterra wheels which leads to an odd 6x5.5 bolt pattern. Will be ordering custom upgraded 3500lb axles that have the right bolt pattern hubs. The axle strength is more than is necessary but at least there won't be any question to its durability. Thinking I need 62" axles, 6x5.5 bolt pattern, with welded leaf spring mounts at the common HF 39.5" spacing - Trailer Axle Compact Camping Trailers - https://compactcampingstore.com/collections/compact-camping-frame-parts/products/build-to-order-3500-lb-axles.

Will address the stabilizers depending how the final ride height turns out. What diameter tires did you use? Buddy is on 31s.

Good note on the tongue length. Will have flexibility to lengthen as were adding a have backbone and hitch extension. Do you find the length to add more stability for higher speed baja driving or just in general? Buddy likes tighter goat trails.
 
Joined
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That's a fair price on a custom setup axle and Scott (?) over there at CCC is legit. I bought axle, hitch, leafs, etc from him, all for great value. One alternative option to consider for leaf springs is finding some off a wrecked xterra or older jeep (bonus points for it matching the tow rig). I'm running Jeep CJ-7 leaf springs, shocks, mounts and lift shackles on my current setup. Found the leafs in a wrecking yard locally for dirt cheap, spend a decent amount buying all the matching factory mounting hardware though.

I ran 31x10.5s on that trailer, running 33s on my current trailer, 31's were more than large enough but I went to 33s to match my current tow rig...extra spare tires is a bonus and could mean you don't have to carry the spare on the trailer.

I also used some lego like leveling blocks as a quick fix for the little-to-short stabilizers as I had already bought them and getting longer ones was going to be a big jump in price. Here's my build thread for possible ideas and mistakes I made:


The longer tongue is great for trails and on road, not sure for fast stuff. It allows 90* turns, jackknifing in tight spots when turning around (which you will do on trails lol), much more controlled backing characteristics (very helpful off road on narrow trails) and great general following manners on and off road. I set mine up at about 3' before the trailer tongue storage stuff, or rather 1/2 the vehicle width.

You do enlarge the trailer following radius around a turn and the overall length of your rig + trailer on a trail, but so far that hasn't been enough to present an actual problem for me. If I can't fit down the trail with my extended setup, I likely wasn't fitting with a trailer in general.

Here's the old setup, overall length and profile:



Here's my current setup, both have about 3 foot long tongues (measured from hitch connection to front of any landing/tire/etc):

 
Joined
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That's a righteous setup there. First one is cool enough but that second one! Great to see the progression with some iteration and learning.

As this build is for a buddy that I camp with often, it'll be a great way for me to test the waters to understand if it's really something for me. Priority is still to keep things simple, easy, and cost effective so there are some compromises, but hopefully it's more functional than not.

I get you on the tongue length and I can totally understand having towed both big and small things. It indeed is much harder to backup a shorter trailer than a long one as they react so fast. I'm still leaning on the shorter end for the moment maximizing clearance to jackknife maneuvers. Fortunately the design lends itself well to extending the tongue with standard hitch extenders as necessary. Or swap between a pintle/lunette ring or std ball coupler.

Here's where I am. Bobbed the tail and brought in the axle. Went from a flacid utility trailer to a taught and more robust frame configuration. Particularly the tongue is much more rigid with a half backbone added. I only added half a backbone vs full length to reserve space for an in frame mounted 18gallon water tank.

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Joined
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As the nose of the trailer tongue is now a standard 2x2 receiver, it will be easily switchable between a pintle/lunette hitch and ball hitch. Also allows for flexibility to add extensions or a drop/lift adapter.

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MrMikeyG

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I keep wondering about the feasibility of getting an old service body bed and making a trailer out of that. It would end up being a long trailer, so not the best for off-road, still though when I pass them on the road it gets me thinking.
 
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I keep wondering about the feasibility of getting an old service body bed and making a trailer out of that. It would end up being a long trailer, so not the best for off-road, still though when I pass them on the road it gets me thinking.

Not to totally hi-jack the OP's thread here but what you describe used to be exactly what I wanted to build. A fiberglass one, not steel, was on my saved Craigslist and SearchTempest routine for.......1.5-2 years (??). There are a few examples out there on ExpeditionPortal if you want to dig around for existing builds.

Back to the original thread, following along, looking good!
 
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Yes, progress but not much to show yet. Have an 18gallonwater tank that dry fits in the chassis rails well. Got a lot of angle brackets and square tube. Hacked off the back and the sides of the aluminum boxes, and now waiting on some some sheet metal, sikaflex, and rivets to come to put it together. Maybe will have something more significant by the end of the month.
 

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