Building a travel trailer from the ground up

While it may only be [ioan]‘s first ‘real build’, we’re loving his DIY teardrop travel trailer built from the ground up.

The trailer started its life as a Super Duty Harbor Freight utility trailer that [ioan] managed to put together in a day. After mounting a wooden frame on the utility trailer, [ioan] fabricated the body of the trailer out of 1/2 inch plywood for the exterior, hard foam as insulation, and gorgeous 5mm plywood for the interior. To finish off his build, [ioan] cemented aluminum sheets to the exterior for a wonderful Airstream aesthetic.

[ioan] even went so far as to install a small kitchen in the back of his trailer that includes a small propane stove and (a limited supply of) running water. It’s an excellent build that really shows off his craftsmanship, and something we wouldn’t mind spending a weekend in.

[ioan] put up an Instructable of his build that showcases the construction including all the electrical work of wiring up his trailer with LED lights and 12 volt power jacks.

23 thoughts on “Building a travel trailer from the ground up

  1. Seriously? Are you watching my browsing history? Was looking at this article last night. Been thinking about a teardrop trailer for a few months now. This one is nicely executed.

  2. be-au-ti-ful!

    my question:
    How much is the fine in different States, and how much it will mess up you car insurance “points” when you get pulled over?

    I would be happy to be mistaken, but I believe Harbor Freight trailers are not street legal.

    DOT certified

  3. Brilliantly built. I thought you were a sheet metal mechanic at first. Sell a kit.(Less trailer of course keeps legal stuff easy.)

  4. I actually have a stack of plans for building a teardrop style trailer with a buddy of mine… We’ll see if we can improve on anything above. When it gets built, I’ll document it and send ‘er off to the tipline.

  5. It’s not very apparent how all the stuff under the kitchen sink is kept in place. If you get a tank-slapper, that water gallon is going everywhere.

    1. The big stuff, like the water container are kept in place by the heavy weight and the rubber mat that’s on the floor. The propane tanks… will be in a custom made wooden box that would be screwed to the floor so they don’t rattle around. I still have to do some work before our first trip.

  6. We’re more of a tenting family (small trailer, big tent), but have to say the write-up was top shelf, magnitudes better then the usual out-of-focus phone shots and bad grammar descriptions that are the norm.

  7. I just read through the whole thing… this is going on my “things to do once I have a workshop that doesn’t look suspiciously like an open-air carport” list!

    The only thing I’d change is the part where the builder is using a resistor to drop 12v down to 4v for some of the lighting. I’d far rather have a voltage regulator or a DC-DC auto transformer to handle most of that drop, rather than just disipating it as heat through a resistor. In reality, it’s probably not turned on all that often, so the heat isn’t much, but some part of my brain hurts when I see a resistor being used for a significant voltage drop. Yes, the current draw isn’t much at all, it’s an LED, etc… I get it. Apples & oranges…

    Other than that, this build is just about perfect! Mega kudos to the proud owner of a new, hand-crafted teardrop trailer!

    1. I tried to use a voltage regulator first, the same one used for the vent’s fan (look at Step 5 or Day 5). I went the resistor way because the LM317 was getting way to hot when the LED was on.

      1. They were probably referring to switching regulators, like the old cell phone car chargers that you find in the $0.50 bin at the charity store…

  8. Great build! However…and please don’t take this the wrong way, but as an engineer and “expert witness” in many a lawsuit, and yes, I know we live in a litigous, idiotic mode now…

    If for any reason this thing was to break lose or for that matter, ever be involved in an accident, a lawyer would pick this thing apart not being certified.

    Not trying to be a wet blanket…just saying…

    1. The trailer is DOT certified. The structure on top… is not and it doesn’t have to be. In Oregon I don’t even have to have it registered with DMV.

      1. Yeah, from the multiple artic and trucks cargo handling rulebooks for North America/ Canada that I have on my bedside. The trailers chassis and towing apparatus need to be certified (DOT here, so it’s good) Usually what goes on top only need to have limited hoverhangs from the original loading plateform and follow a proper minimum tie down force. Things like the tie downs of the cargo must resist 80% of the load weight in forward motion. 60% upward 30% backward -my percentage are not the real one, check it for yourselves. Since everything is literally bolted down to the frame, and not really heavy, at least compared to the usual rolled steel sheets, I don’t see this as being that much of a liability in case of accident.

    2. I once served as a juror in a civil case. Respectfully your advice here is about as use as was the testimony from the plaintiff’s expectorant witness was to the plaintiff. Was with great effort that I refrained from asking “why are you holding that roof truss upside down”? No doubt you didn’t say what certifications because you know that’s relative State to State. That juror experience was educational. Help confirmed my conclusion that “frivolous lawsuits where invented by corporations. Listen to expert witnesses very carefully, just saying :) A lawyer will not let you fish what your saying if cutting you off suits their purpose.

  9. The trailer started its life as a Super Duty Harbor Freight utility trailer that [ioan] managed to put together in a day.

    That was their first mistake….

  10. i love this project, might be the best way to get the mrs to come on a camping trip.

    i wouldn’t say that it’s a hack though, more a build. Nevertheless, awesome!

  11. Paging back through old posts here to see what I missed. Ironically Yesterday I was going through the instructable weekly emails I hadn’t read yet, and read this before I seen it here. I don’t want to take anything away from ioan’s build, but if you liked this, you are sure to like this woman’s build http://www.asolidfoundation.com/index.shtml .

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