Building a camper trailer.

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Building a camper trailer.

Postby Komodo » Wed Oct 18, 2006 2:39 pm

Hi Guys,

Basically as the topic states I want to build a camper trailer (or trailer tent as i believe that they are sometimes refered to as)

Firstly I would like to know if any of you guys have done this before, and if you had what wre the obsticles that you came across?

The plan is to build a fairly rugged on road trailer that may eventually be converted to off road (im assuming that it would be mostly suspension and hitch modifications to convert). my reason for thinking the DIY option is due to the fact that I'm a structural draftsman by trade with mechanical engineering drafting experiance, and I now work for a structural steel fabricator so having a trailer folded and welded to my design is something that I could have done realitively easily and at very low cost to myself.

On top of that my brother is a fine furnature maker and cabinet maker so having things like slide out kitchens etc made would be no big deal.
Auxilary power - well thats my domain totally. I've been involved with building show cars with multiple batteries for airbag suspension and high powered stereos as well as fitting auxilary systems to a couple of boats.
Painting will be applied by a freind of mine who is a panel beater
Sheet metal will be fabricated by another freind who owes me a few favors who is a stainless and aluminium worker.
Plumbing and Gas fitting again best mates brother is a plumber and gas fitter and owes me more than a favor or two.

So now i need to know where is the best place to get wind downs and what special things should i be looking for when purchasing wind downs.

And then finally Canvas - where is a good place in mebourne to have the actual tent made. do trailer manufacturer mind making a tent to suit an existing trailer? what sort of things should i be looking for when having the tent made?
Currently there is only the two of us but it would be nice to have the facility to add on an annex for if it becomes a family ;)

The other question i have is in regards to over the back or other the side ? which is the best - pros and cons of each ?

I have checked out a few campers but i havent had much to do with any one who has one (other than sales people). It has been recomended to me to go hire one for a weekend and see what I think - which i will eventually do. im just trying to get the basics so i know where to go etc.

Also does any on know of any good suppliers for parts for theses things.

Any info and advice is greatly appreciated

Regards,
Komodo

PS the camper will mostly be used for weekends not really too many extended holidays. the reason for wanting a camper is because neither of us wants a caravan and because i finish work so late its always dark by the time we get leaving let alone setup and setting up a tent and a fly is a PITA in the dark and im lead to believe that a camper trailer is quite easy once you have mastered the basics.
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Postby Scolers » Wed Oct 18, 2006 2:54 pm

Firstly, try this site ...

http://www.exploroz.com/Vehicle/Trailers/Choosing.asp

It wont tell you how to build them but it will give you an idea of what sizes shapes etc you can choose and the advantages/ disadvantages of some.

I actually sub contratced my CT out. Firstly I bought the sleeping section 2nd hand for $1k. I then had the CT built to my own specs it ended up costing approx. $1.2k. Since then I've had two annexes added on for abother $1.8k (approx.). The whole thing measures 20ftx20ft which is ample for a family with four kids (we only have one plus a dog so lots of room for us).

If I had thought a little bit more I would have made the tent got over the bed area so I could lift the bed up when the tent is up in order to store/ pack away camping tools and bits and pieces. But due to the design of the sleeping area I couldnt do that anyway so bad luck me. Also, try and make the stands at the rear of the trailer a part of the trailer so all you have to do is pull them down and lock them in. Just makes it a bit easier.

There was a good website on tech hints for CT's but it doesnt appear to be up. If it comes up I'll send you the addy.

Hope this helps.

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Postby Komodo » Wed Oct 18, 2006 4:07 pm

Thanks a heap Scol.

Keep the info coming guys.

Im in no rush to do this but the sooner I can get the info the sooner i can start sus'ing prices and designs and starting to get bits and pieces made up. (ahh the joys of having a 60 x 20 foot shed - plenty of room for the bits and pieces for the projects ;) )
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Postby Ozzycamperboy » Wed Oct 18, 2006 7:52 pm

Read my mind :shock: . On the way home from work I was going over in my head how to go about making a CT. Only my ideas much simpler, involving canvas cover over a box trailer and some wooden storage compartments :lol: .

There was a guy on outerlimits4x4 that made his own, fully fledged CT, i'll find that thread and post it here later (on my way out now).

But as for getting the canvas done the best/cheapest way would probly be to go to an upholsterer that works with canvas. That, or like you said going to a CT manufacturer but I dont know how'd you go getting them to do it they may just flat out refuse but it can't hurt to ask... maybe offer one of the workers a case when the boss aint around :mrgreen:
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Postby Scolers » Wed Oct 18, 2006 10:03 pm

While I remember ... if you are getting a soft floor I would personally not get one that is sewn in. Just buy one of those caravan annexe floors from a camping store. Reason being, when you fold your tent/CT up the floor will be damp which means the whole tent on the CT will become damp. It's a damn pain 'cuase when you get home you have to lay out all the canvas in order to stop mildew/ mold setting in. As I said earlier, I ahve a LOT of floor space in my CT (it's called 'The Cottage' for a very good reason) and I rarely have problems witht eh canvas getting wet simply becuase the floor is not sewn in.

Having said that, not many people like having a non sewn in floor. But that's their problem.

:booty

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Postby Komodo » Fri Oct 20, 2006 11:13 am

Well I've spoken to and emailed a couple of camper trailer manufacturers and canvas workers/tent makers (what ever they are called) and the general feeling is around the 3-3.5k mark to have the canvas made up including board and vinyl cover.

I want to base mine around the adventure camper trailer (those of you who have seen it would know that it has a really low bed and its king size)

Except I want to use a double or queen size at largest matteress i still want it low though like the adventure camper and i dont want it ontop of the trailer. problem is to get a queensize matteress into a trailer it needs to have a tub nearly 6 foot wide :( The Adventurer gets away with a king size because it uses a foam matteress rather than a proper matteress and it folds it in half to store it. personally i think if im investing the kind of money that a camper trailer will cost from start to finish i want a proper matteress rather than a foam matteress - as it is my back is shagged from when i used to split firewood for a living.

I'm going to talk to my brother on monday night about sliding rails heavy duty ones plus im going to talk to a freind of mine who was a designer for industrial machinary which used alot of actuators and slides and rails.

I'll post up any notes of the cost of things - it may turn out that building a camper may in fact be as expensive as buying one off the shelf - how ever you get exactly what you want and you can build it over time and you get the satisfaction of knowing you built it ;)
Then again that might be because im young and stupid enough to attempt these things :P
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Postby Scolers » Fri Oct 20, 2006 11:43 am

Why do you want to put the bed IN the trailer? Half the reason for getting a CT is so the bed sits ON the trailer and therefore you can put all your camping toys inside the trailer.

I'm sure you've thought about it; I'm just curious.

8)

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Postby Komodo » Fri Oct 20, 2006 2:10 pm

Scol check out : http://www.adventurecampers.com.au/

with that particular design theres over 1800 litres or 64cuft of covered storage space thats not including storage space in the kitchen area, on the "roof racks" or in the out front optional storage area (I would actually preffer not to enclose the front optional area and just cage it and use it for storage of gerry cans, gas bottles and possibly any other loose items that can be exposed to the elements therefore we get ventalation.

This design also allows for solar panels to be perminately exposed to sun light without the need to remove them from the trailer and set them up away from the camper trailer. Im looking at most likely 3 optima D31M's or Exide Orbitals (the difference in AH doesnt worry me and my selection of an M series optima is because of the wind nut terminals. This will be charged via any of three methods - solar, 240V charger (designed for sealed dry cell batteries) or from the towing vehicle via an anderson plug setup. The batteries will be charged via mains power before leaving (heavy duty 40amp RMS charging setup i have ;))for any trips and will not be plugged in to the anderson plug unless they need to be topped up whilst away as a vehicles charging system never gets a battery upto full capacity - thus reducing its life. (the joys of SPL competition have taught me this - a full charged battery can be the difference of upto 3dB)

I also belive that this design leads to easier access to storage areas. Any additional items can be stored in the vehicle, either a station wagon or a range rover.

Also I preffer to have the bed at a lower level as i know how clumsy i am and im likely to either have a little too much red and forget how to get into bed on top of a trailer or else wake up during the night and forget how high i am and jump down and break an ankle

BTW - this forum need a quick reply feature and needs updated software - its way too slow!
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Postby Scolers » Fri Oct 20, 2006 2:22 pm

Ahhhhh ... I thought you were going for the soft floor option ... this unit is a hard floor option and as you say you do sleep within the trailer.

It all makes sense now!

:armsup :armsup :armsup

Good luck!

Maybe take pics during the construction of the CT and post up a basic report of each stage?

Cheers ...

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Postby Komodo » Fri Oct 20, 2006 2:23 pm

BTW for every ones interest

A cars alternator will rarely charge a battery beyond 85 - 90% full this is especially true on later model cars or in fact most cars fitted with internally regulated alternators. On non EFI vehicles you can get reglators that will charge upto 100% capacity how ever their use is not advised on EFI vehicles.

Do not use a cheap battery charger on a sealed battery and definately not on a gel/dry cell battery. Cheap battery chargers and low AH battery chargers rely on using higher voltage to get to the 100% charge mark. Some of the cheaper battery chargers will charge to as high as 21V float! and most will charge around 16V float. charging batteries to above there rated voltage at float is not a good idea and causes high plate wear.

Hope that helps and saves people from cooking their batteries.
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Postby Komodo » Fri Oct 20, 2006 2:27 pm

Scol you dont actually sleep inside the trailer as such the bed slids out from the deck/tub of the trailer and the tent section comes up from that.

Couldnt stand sleeping in the tub i'd get closterphobic LOL
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Postby Kramer » Fri Oct 20, 2006 3:26 pm

Good tech on the batteries there Komodo :armsup

Also the gel or dry-cell batteries don't mind being used up, eg run down quite a bit before charging.
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Postby Komodo » Fri Oct 20, 2006 4:27 pm

Thanks Kramer - I've studied alot about batteries over the years building cars with big stereo systems. including some of the loudest cars in australia with current drawers of over 1000amps at a go you quickly work out that theres more to batteries than meets the eye ;)
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