Cargo Trailer Camper Suspension

TGK

Member
I've been researching options for quite some time for a small, rugged and basic trailer camper that one can drag down the endless BLM and NFS roads in the western USA. Not talking about "overlanding" on hardcore back roads or jeep tracks. Looking for the smallest unit I can find that one can stand up in for basic camping for two people. Bathroom not required, but storage, bed and simple indoor cooking is. I won't be building it myself. Following various posts on this site I've found that I'm not the only one looking for options to fill this niche. As has been noted, some of the established manufacturing companies used to make small units and many of them have been discontinued. Of course, I don't even need to go there as far as the lack of structural integrity with many of these units and how they handle miles of washboard, etc. The few manufactured trailers I have identified that might meet my requirements are either too big, too far away, too much $$, or all of the above. I will add that I've owned 2 Four Wheel Campers over 20 years and still own a '71 Airstream that I've had for 15 years. The FWC was for places I didn't want to drag the Airstream. I had the FWC on an F250 and, at times, took it down roads I likely didn't belong on with a rig that size. I've had the AS down some longer stretches of gravel, but will no longer do that, as it rattles the hell out of it, even with new axles and shocks. I wanted to downsize from 3 vehicles to two and having a small trailer for the backroads and my AS for the paved (or close to paved camping) seems like the best combo and allows my current truck to fill both needs. Always trade offs with whatever one has, but I like being able to find a place in the boonies, set up camp and be able to drive away to explore, without having to pack it all up, as with a vehicle based camper.

I've found a trailer manufacturer in the Northwest with a focus on Cargo, Motorcycle, Toy Hauler, Horse, Livestock, Concession & Specialty trailers. Some very large and 5th wheel. Main frames are steel with aluminum upper framing and siding. Most of what they do is custom build to order. I'm leaning toward a 10ft box with a 2" V-nose for a 12' structure. With tongue, a total of about 15.5ft. Box width at 6'8" and height at 8' 11". A bit taller than I prefer but they offer a "HappiJac" powerlift bed that can be raised up. This opens up the space below when needed, including for my motorcycle should I want to take it with. For this width trailer the bed would be a shorter 72" L x 60" wide, which is fine for me and my wife. Other options include windows with screens, electrical (including solar), propane and water, metal cabinets and motorcycle wheel chocks. As far as I can tell, the configuration I've discussed with them has no wood with the exception of the floor. I'm checking to see whether they have a non wood floor alternative.

For this size trailer, I can go with either a single axle or tandem. I'm leaning toward tandem. While this increases costs and towed weight, I feel it improves stability and tracking. Also offer some safety margin in the event of a blowout. They offer tandem straight axles with leaf springs and can add Equaflex equilizers. Or, they will provide Torsion axles. Based on what I've read and my experience with the Dexter torsion set up with shocks on my Airstream, I'm leaning toward the straight axles with leaf springs and equalizers. The salesman also said that would be his recommendation for surviving off highway use on the backroads in the PNW. The straight axle set up offers 16" of clearance and they advise top mount springs will take it to 24". The Tandem axle configuration has 2-3,500# 5 lug axles with 15" tires, electric brakes and GVWR of 7,000#. It's unlikely I would ever approach that GVWR. This company does not offer Timbren suspensions for their trailers.

So, if anyone has any input on their experience with hauling smaller cargo type trailers with leaf springs and equalizers on miles of BLM/NFS dirt and gravel I'd love to hear about it. Any comments regarding single vs tandem axles are also welcome.
 

john61ct

Adventurer
There is no reason to accept their suspension if it isn't your ideal.

If they give you enough credit back for the unit without any suspension at all, order it that way and install the Timbren yourself, or pay a shop to do it if they won't.
 

MOguy

Explorer
How big and how weight do you want to carry? I have a light cargo trailer I just carry around camping gear. I just let air out of the tires it I want more "suspension".

If you are carrying allot of weight were you need tandem axels it seem like those Equaflex equilizers do a good job. Maybe a tandem could give you a better ride on a washboard road but I would think if you took it over rougher terrain having less things hanging underneath would be better.
 
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TGK

Member
Realistically, If I had my motorcycle and a lot of water, I cannot imagine total weight exceeding 1,500 lbs max. Most of the time, the bike would not be along for the ride. This weight would be in addition to any structural additions added to the base trailer such as cabinets, the power lift bed, batteries, etc.
 

MOguy

Explorer
Realistically, If I had my motorcycle and a lot of water, I cannot imagine total weight exceeding 1,500 lbs max. Most of the time, the bike would not be along for the ride. This weight would be in addition to any structural additions added to the base trailer such as cabinets, the power lift bed, batteries, etc.
For me I would keep it simple. Other than Smoothing the ride your suspension does nothing for the trailer. How smooth do you need your trailer to ride? If you are in a rough area it is your hitch that will provide, or not provide, articulation.

Make your stuff simple and durable and just use leaf springs on a single axle trailer. If it is rough and you want to smooth things out let some air out of the tires. I can see getting a more sophisticated suspension if you were carrying allot or stuff that need to be handled more gently but if you aren't why spend the money on it?
 

TGK

Member
My concern about the best suspension is not so much tied to the contents I put in the trailer as to the structural integrity of the trailer itself. Stories abound about commercial "camping" trailers coming apart over time, particularly if taken off pavement. While there is not too much to go wrong in a bare bones cargo trailer, once one starts to add cabinets, a lift bed, propane connections, etc., it then becomes more of an issue. I realize there is not a perfect solution.
 

vintageracer

To Infinity and Beyond!
Pelsue Products in Colorado.

They manufacture heavy duty aluminum chassis fiberglass shell trailers for the telecom industry for fiber cable splicing and more. They are very well built, small, tall and have suspension upgrades. If you see a small trailer behind an ATT or Sprint truck is most likely is a Pelsue. Their trailers are in-service with the telecom providers for YEARS they are that good!

I have touring their factory and strongly considered purchasing one of their demo trailers for the purpose you describe. They will sell a bare shell on a chassis. Probably more "Moohlah" than you want to spend however a Pelsue trailer would be a great start for a great off-road trailer and they fit the description of what you requested. Since they are a custom manufacturer changes in axles, suspension and down angles is not a problem.

Their "Fiberlite Pod" would be a great choice!

Pelsue also makes a few other items you might find interesting including something for you truck camper folks similar to a Spacecap.

I'm sure most of us here are pretty good "Scounger's" when we are on a mission meaning you might find a Pelsue trailer or cap on the used market somewhere when sold off from ATT, Sprint or others. You know they go somewhere when the telecom's are done with em!



 
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TGK

Member
I've seen the Pelsue site. My sense it these cable splicing trailers are built pretty stout as I've seen some way the hell out in the boonies on top of ridges near towers. However, my sense is that they do not customize for the recreational crowd. And, for a variety of reasons, I'm not interested in building out a trailer shell to meet my needs.
 

gdlals

Member
I basically did exactly what you are talking about. I had a custom cargo mfr in socal build a trailer to my specs and then I finished the interior of the trailer. 12' box length, 6'2" interior (I'm 6'1"). It has inside a queen bed and storage. Kitchen pulls out of the back. When I had it built I told them total anticipated load that I would put in trailer including 18 gals max of water. They put in leaf springs for the anticipated load. I had planned to put on shocks but to be honest, on BLM roads etc., the leaf springs have been completely fine.
 

Attachments

TGK

Member
I basically did exactly what you are talking about. I had a custom cargo mfr in socal build a trailer to my specs and then I finished the interior of the trailer. 12' box length, 6'2" interior (I'm 6'1"). It has inside a queen bed and storage. Kitchen pulls out of the back. When I had it built I told them total anticipated load that I would put in trailer including 18 gals max of water. They put in leaf springs for the anticipated load. I had planned to put on shocks but to be honest, on BLM roads etc., the leaf springs have been completely fine.
Nice looking set up.
 
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billiebob

Well-known member
I swear by leaf spring, spting over axle. Simple and bullet proof.
I have 2 trailers, an open deck plus an enclosed cargo. For camping I have a teardrop box which slides into the deck box.
On the cargo trailer make sure it has a welded tubular steel frame. Way more durable than anything screwed together.
This trailer has about 80K miles on it, lots of those miles on forestry roads.

Get the welded tubular frame for sure.

trlr 012.jpeg

What are you towing with ?

An advantage of welded steel plus the screw on 48" aluminium panels is repairing or modifying it is simple.
I added a left side door in a day on mine.

trlr 003.jpeg
 
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TGK

Member
F150 3.7L Ecoboost 4x4 with max tow package. Rated to tow 10,000 lbs., though that is amusing as tongue weight + misc would likely exceed payload. So, tow capacity is no issue for smaller trailer. The cargo trailer I'm looking at has welded steel steel frame with aluminum tubular box framing.
 

billiebob

Well-known member
aluminum tubular box framing.
welded ?
Steel is more resilient and easier to weld than aluminium, if you have no need to max out the payload there is no advantage to an aluminium frame. How do the attach they aluminium body frame to the steel trailer frame ?

This applies especially when doing hybrid things...
" Stories abound about commercial "camping" trailers coming apart over time, particularly if taken off pavement "

My trailers have thousands of off highway miles on them with zero issues. But I've seen many cheaper ones fall apart.
 
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TGK

Member
welded ?
Steel is more resilient and easier to weld than aluminium, if you have no need to max out the payload there is no advantage to an aluminium frame. How do the attach they aluminium body frame to the steel trailer frame ?

This applies especially when doing hybrid things...
" Stories abound about commercial "camping" trailers coming apart over time, particularly if taken off pavement "

My trailers have thousands of off highway miles on them with zero issues. But I've seen many cheaper ones fall apart.
I was mistaken about the body frame being aluminum. It's steel. Siding and roof are aluminum with protective barrier between the two. Company is DoubleR Trailers in Tampa, Idaho. The tongue framing appears to extend back into the frame to the axles. I have not visited their manufacturing site as of yet as I'm still exploring options. It's a 415 mile drive. Not in my backyard, but better than some of the alternatives.

Signature Series enclosed cargo & motorcycle trailers from Double R Trailers are built like no other. Our Signature Series cargo trailers are built with a 4” channel full wrap tongue, tubular steel frame, tubular steel uprights and roof bows and smooth aluminum skin. We offer any color combination, two-tone or tri-color for no extra charge.

  • 4” channel full wrap around tongue
  • 1″ x 1 ” tubular steel uprights and roof bows
  • 3” x 2” x 3/16″ angle iron floor cross members on 24” centers
  • Tubular steel uprights on 24” centers
  • Tubular steel roof bows on 16” centers
Structural Differences Between Double R and Competitors:
  • Uprights: 1″ x 1″ tubular steel wall uprights on 24″ centers vs. 16 gauge sheet metal bent for structure (hat-channel or hat-post)
  • Roofbows: 1″ x 1″ tubular steel roof bows on 16″ centers vs. 16 gauge sheet metal bent for structure on 24” centers (hat-channel or hat-post)
  • You can walk on the roof of our trailers or have 5′ of snow without a problem vs. The weight of a person or a high volume of snow would not be tolerated by any of our competitors trailers.
  • 3″ x 2″ x 3/16″ angle iron floor cross members on 24″ centers vs. 16 gauge sheet metal bent for structure (Z-Channel)
  • All .030 aluminum roof vs. .025 aluminum or fiberglass roof/header (over time fiberglass with crack)
  • Rear door built out of 1 ½” x 1” rectangular tube vs. plywood built door. A plywood door will warp and leak.
  • Aluminum framed 36” RV style door with deadbolt on Signature Series model. Door can be locked from the inside vs. wood door with exterior cam lock.
  • 4″ Channel tongue that fully wraps around to front axle, vs. 3″ channel or 3″ x 2″ tube that butts up to front of frame.
  • Smooth aluminum skin exterior is standard on Signature Series vs. rivets or screws. Smooth aluminum skin is an expensive option.
  • VHB tape in between steel and aluminum creates a barrier to prevent electrolysis vs. no barrier in between steel and aluminum.
 
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