Convertible Gear Hauler

RandomAbstract

Adventurer
Okay, it's maybe not what you expected and it's probably not a typical tow vehicle, but it is a gear hauler for a convertible! :)



I have had enough of sitting at a desk and need to head for the mountains. Planning on traveling from Minneapolis area to the Great Northwest (Seattle, Portland, Olympics) via Yellowstone and the Tetons during the month of September. Told my boss that I would be leaving in September and would be back when I got it out of my system!

My first passion is outdoor photography - spending time and the outdoors and having the opportunity for up-close-and-person encounters with this gentleman and other like him.

Moments In Nature





That being said, I decided it would be a lot of fun to travel in our convertible instead of a minivan - all practicalities aside. However, all of my camping gear won't fit in the trunk.

I started with the idea of a motorcycle trailer. Then realized that I already had a Thule car-top box sitting in the garage. Putting the car-top box on one of the little Harbor Freight 40x48 trailers would be inexpensive and quick.



I suddenly realized that the ice chest and chuck box won't fit into the car-top box and the car-top carrier is not the least bit bear resistant. (I am fully aware that nothing I am going to build is going to be bear proof.)

NOTE TO SELF: Keep all food items in the gear hauler and not in the car. It's easier to repair/replace the gear hauler!

I found one of these at our local camping store http://spacetrailers.com/. However, $3,000 didn't fit my current definition of an Affordable Lightweight Sports Trailer. :(



So I said to myself, "Self, why don't you just built one."

After much pondering and reading many posts on this forum, I have tentatively settled on building a 4' x 4' gear box on 1/2 of the bolt-together trailer from Northern Tool. I like the tongue design a little better than the Harbor Freight version. Plus, they are in stock down the street at $329.

My plan is to use just the front half of the trailer for a gear box trailer, moving the wheels forward to the appropriate spot. I can always take the gear box off the trailer, assemble both halves and have a 4x8 utility trailer.

I can always put rails on top of the gear box for hauling the car-top carrier for more room, bikes, kayaks, etc.



I plan for this to be more like a throw-away prototype built quickly out of 3/4" plywood and simply painted. (I have built a 4x8x4 trailer this way in a previous life for hauling music equipment and it lasted many years.) I will learn from this first trip and likely make modification before next summer.

If I had more time, money, ambition and a place to store it, I might be tempted to build something like a teardrop camper or a sleep-in expedition camper that are quit popular on this forum.
 

RandomAbstract

Adventurer
Question about access doors

One thing I have really struggled over is how to access the gear. Most of the expedition trailers seem to have flip-top lids. However, I kind of like the idea of having a drop-leaf door on the rear of the trailer like in this fine build. That way I can easily pull out my ice chest, kitchen box, etc. to make dinner.



Then there is the swing-away door like this build



Finally, there are side doors as in this trailer.



I believe these were all built by the same gentleman?

My initial thought is to put drop-leaf doors front and rear with an inner partition running laterally to keep gear in its place.

So, I would enjoy hearing all of your comments on the pros and cons of the various ways of accessing gear:

  • Flip-Top
  • Drop leaf
  • Side swing
  • Side door
 

elmo_4_vt

Explorer
My vote would be a large swing door on the back, and make it the kitchen too by hanging a faucet and table off of it. A lot of Aussie campers use this method with great success. Second option would be a drop down door like a pickup truck, but that makes it a little harder to get into the back too.

-
 

Jnich77

Director of Adventure Management Operations
I would build feet to raise the car top bod about 8"-12" off the trailer deck. This would allow you to put a folding canopy and folding chairs under it. As for the cooler, put it on the front over hanging the tongue, then slide the car topper so it hangs off the back of the trailer a bit. Paint the trailer to match the car, add some obnoxiously bright LED's and you are set. I use to hail my camping gear and kayaks in a 4 x 8 harbor freight trailer and loved the set up.
 

TRegasaurus

Adventurer
I'm sure you already know to keep it as light as possible, especially since your tow vehicle will be a convertable. Lots of chassis flex with unibody cars, but even more with convertables.
I towed a trailer much like you described with a car top carrier to keep things dry. My tow vehicle was a 1974 Pinto and I had to cross the Rockies with it. An interesting experience.
 

compactcamping

Explorer
I prefer side door access, I find it easier to organize and access items. I find a top lid style trailer can be packed denser, although access items on the bottom takes some unpacking.

 

RandomAbstract

Adventurer
My vote would be a large swing door on the back, and make it the kitchen too by hanging a faucet and table off of it. A lot of Aussie campers use this method with great success. Second option would be a drop down door like a pickup truck, but that makes it a little harder to get into the back too.

-
I have toyed with a swing-away/slide-out kitchen. However, since I am not really doing off-road, I end up carrying my kitchen to picnic tables or riversides, etc. My kitchen currently consists of

  1. Ice chest
  2. Tub for cooking/cleaning gear
  3. Tub for dry goods (pantry)

Plus, I am feeling a little lazy at the moment! :sombrero: I have also toyed with a tear-drop trailer with a galley in the back.

The only way I would use a drop-down door on the back is if the dimension are such that it would swing full open to the vertical position. No need for shin bruises.
 

RandomAbstract

Adventurer
I would build feet to raise the car top bod about 8"-12" off the trailer deck. This would allow you to put a folding canopy and folding chairs under it. As for the cooler, put it on the front over hanging the tongue, then slide the car topper so it hangs off the back of the trailer a bit. Paint the trailer to match the car, add some obnoxiously bright LED's and you are set. I use to hail my camping gear and kayaks in a 4 x 8 harbor freight trailer and loved the set up.
Good ideas. I see a lot of people with the coolers on the front tongue. What is the main reason for this? Easy access? Load balancing? Have you all experienced any theft or vandalism problems when hanging out in populated areas?

Obnoxiously bright LEDs are a must!!

I have toyed with a 4x8 box. Actually, for this build I am planning on buying a 4x8 folding trailer and using just the front half (moving the wheels, of course).

I am a cyclist and my wife just got excited about kayaking - so I see kayaks in our future. I might take her kayaking in the Anacortes Islands area. That should seal the deal. My daughter was just there and woke up to a pod of Orcas 50 yards front her tent. Amazing.

I know. It's a long drive from Minnesota.

Is this the rig you are speaking of? Great build!

 

RandomAbstract

Adventurer
I'm sure you already know to keep it as light as possible, especially since your tow vehicle will be a convertable. Lots of chassis flex with unibody cars, but even more with convertables.
I towed a trailer much like you described with a car top carrier to keep things dry. My tow vehicle was a 1974 Pinto and I had to cross the Rockies with it. An interesting experience.
Yes, light is good. I have been arguing with myself whether to make it 4x4, 4x5, 4x6 or even 4x8. Shorter will likely win.

There is a lot of flex in the body. My first convertible and that took me by surprise.

Going down the mountains in a Pinto with a trailer chasing you must have been exciting! You probably only made one stop - once you got to the bottom :)

It's amazing how much a person can argue with themselves laying in bed at night and trying to figure out "the answer".

The sensible think would be to pull the minivan, throw on the Thule box, put a cot in back and go. But, like I said - that would be sensible. There is something alluring about taking the convertible on a Rocky Mountain / Pacific Coast trip. :smiley_drive:

I have also considered the bear aspect. A rag top would slow down either a grizzly or a black bear. All food stays in the trailer.
 

RandomAbstract

Adventurer
Of course, another option would be to man up :REExeSquatsHL1:, buy a real tow vehicle :safari-rig: and a welder and build myself a real trailer!
 
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