general thoughts on offroad teardrops? Think I might need a little more room.

Louisd75

Adventurer
Here's my setup:
The rig.jpg

We took that picture during a lunch break/awning dry out break after a night of thunderstorms. We built our trailer for trips as a family of four. Our longest trip so far has been three weeks on the road. So far we've got a few months worth of camping in it. Our maiden voyage saw four days and nights of torrential rain at a beachside campground with kids (SAND!!!). There is definitely a bit of a learning curve to teardrop camping, there are also definitely pluses and minuses. Prior to the trailer (and kids) my wife and I traveled an average of five months a year camping out of the back of a Tacoma Xtracab with a regular Leer canopy. We almost exclusively travel solo, which does play into our decision making as to where we go and what we do. I tend to be err on the conservative side of things. Some things that I've learned in our trips:

At freeway speeds, we take a bigger MPG hit from the canoe than the trailer. In the mountains, we take a bigger hit from the trailer than the canoe.

We also have approached the trailer as a hard sided tent, not a camper. I read somewhere once that "the trailer is the bedroom, the world is your living room" and that's really how we approach travel with our trailer. We've had to hunker down overnight due to weather. If we had to hunker down for a long stretch of time then we'd just mosey down the road or go a different route. Why hang out in a spot for days if the weather is too foul to enjoy it? I never understood that mentality.

We've got awnings and an awning room. We use the awnings all of the time in all sorts of weather. Be sure to anchor them if it gets windy. The awning room has been set up three times now. Each time was in the driveway while getting familiar with it. We haven't felt the need for it yet, but we bring it "just in case." In reality, I'll probably start leaving it at home before much longer.

One thing that I really don't like about most teardrops is that the wheels are wider than the tow vehicle. We built our trailer to match the track width of our Tacoma. It pretty much follows in our tracks, though slow speed in the trees we do have to be careful. It's narrow enough that I can see behind without tow mirrors but still sports a queen size bed and two bunk beds for the kiddos, along with room for all of our clothes.

Shoe management is frequently blown out of proportion. It doesn't have to be complicated. I made water resistant pouches that hang under the trailer doors when in camp. I've seen people use plastic shoe boxes that slide onto rails under the trailer. I've set mine on the fenders in nice weather, on the roof under the awning in foul weather, and on the ground in places that don't have much in the way of creepy crawlies.

The bathroom seems to be another hangup. We use a PETT folding toilet that goes into our "basement" under the queen bed when there aren't handy facilities. We've had to do the emergency #2 deployment on the side of the road. It's easy and simple to set up and folds down compactly when not in use. The only gripe I have is that I wish it had four legs instead of three.

I built the galley of the trailer to allow flexibility. The cooking stuff is in a chuck box that I can remove and take somewhere else if I'm camping with friends or for better shelter from wind/weather. I skipped out on plumbing any sort of water system in and can't say that we really miss it when camping.

Turning around hasn't yet been an issue for me, likely through a combination of luck and planning. The tongue of the trailer sits slightly below the bumper and I designed it to have enough room to more than jackknife the trailer. I set the wheels further back on the trailer body than most commercial builds seem to do, which does hurt my breakover angle at the benefit of making it easier to back up.

When we're not camping, the trailer goes into the garage and is completely ready to go for our next adventure, just add clothes. We do keep food/water etc in the truck and not the trailer. If for some reason we have to leave the trailer behind, we won't go hungry.

There's a build thread with lots of pictures in my signature line below. You might have to turn a mobile device sideways for it to show up. I'm not going to argue that the trailer is perfect for everyone, but we love ours and it has greatly improved our travels.
 
I think my mpg has a lot to do with my typical speed coupled with the fact that almost every trip I take involves a few 4000 ft elevation gains. Just the nature of the terrain in the west. I probably see around 15-16 mpg until I start going up and down.

i'm also out west and do a lot of high elevation trails. that's still crazy to me. I was getting 10-12 mpg in my e350 doing high elevation trails in CO. like 12k'+
 

GkraneTX

Active member
I am not a fan of giving large deposits for a product that has such a long lead time. At best, they have horrible customer service. Worst case, your money is gone. I hope the latter is not the case, I have heard great things about their trailers. It might be worth showing up at the workshop and kindly inquire about the progress. My prayers are with all small business owners right now. Coming from a construction background, I know how terrifying economic downturns can be.
Very risky move putting a large down payment down on a trailer with a large lead time these days. I sure hope most of these quality builders make it through this but I think some will be insolvent soon. I sure hope Teton X makes it through as I am waiting to see their upcoming composite hybrid.
 

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Grassland

Well-known member
i'm also out west and do a lot of high elevation trails. that's still crazy to me. I was getting 10-12 mpg in my e350 doing high elevation trails in CO. like 12k'+

Wow. Fantastic E series mileage.

I'm at 800' elevation in prairies and was routinely getting 10-11mpg in E250 vans with stock sized tires and the 4.6/4 speed combo.
 

alia176

Explorer
oh i should add that while I'm mostly on fire roads on this trip, I generally do a lot of offroading up to about a 7 out of 10 difficulty rating, and would love to be able to take whatever setup I get out to the most remote areas down gnarly trails and setup as a base camp there.
At the very least, get a pair of Air Lift air bags from Amazon for less than $100 and stick them inside the rear springs. Even if you have aftermarket springs, having air bags will help with the trailer tongue load and not give you a saggy bottom! For now, the air bags inside the stock springs will help counter the added weight you put in the rear. Added 25psi of air, will net you close to 2" of lift in the rear, which really helps with the departure angle and lower the chance of dragging your hitch mounted bike rack on things.
 
Wow. Fantastic E series mileage.

I'm at 800' elevation in prairies and was routinely getting 10-11mpg in E250 vans with stock sized tires and the 4.6/4 speed combo.
Yeah I dunno. The dude I bought it from rebuilt the drive train completely and added EFI. I tracked a lot of tanks of gas various ways and it always came out to be between 10-12. Although the 460 sounded awesome, and some days it was hard to keep off the gas. Those trips came out more like 8mpg.
 

billiebob

Well-known member
I am a fan of a teardrop/trailer setup. I built one a year ago and have used it extensively, including a two month trip in New Mexico and Colorado. It performed very well. I put a rooftop tent on the top, and between the camper and the tent this set up can accommodate my wife and two kids.
Pros
1. I like being able to set up camp and then have the vehicle at my disposal for exploring.
2. The trailer has a full size seven inch memory foam mattress. Good sleep = good trip.
3. The trailer is insulated (r33 throughout), has fans, windows, vents, and is waterproof. Very convenient for bad weather. It is true that standing up is not an option. However, if an area is going to have exceptionally bad weather for a long time. I just drive somewhere that doesn't or get a hotel and do some laundry and grab a nice shower. However, I usually use weather as an excuse to sit under the awning and drink coffee, read a book, catch up with my wife, and watch my kids run through mud puddles.
4. The trailer has d load 31 inch all terrain tires, an articulating hitch, and I flipped the axle for good ground clearance. "Offroading" is a very subjective term. Obviously, there are limitations dragging a trailer, but so far I have yet to get "stuck".
5. A trailer is arguably less setup.
6. Four walls give a sense of security. My family appreciates this. My wife did not grow up camping and, at first, was very hesitant to be "in the middle of nowhere in a tent". The trailer has really relieved a lot of anxiety. She now really enjoys going. Happy wife (spouse)= happy life.
7. I keep the trailer "ready to go" so last minute trips are much easier. We just throw the cooler in and go.
8. A teardrop style camper is easy to store and park.
9 It can fit into campsites not designed for a traditional rv/camper.
10. They are relatively easy to build. I essentially beefed up a 5x8 utility trailer and built the camper on top of it. I did everything I wanted, used high quality materials, and bought high quality components. The project cost between five to six thousand ( including rooftop tent, tires, water cans, solar, battery, etc). Arguably, much cheaper than buying a camper retail.
11. The trailer has it own battery and solar panel. I like not having to use the truck's battery for everything or add more weight with a double battery set up.
12. I kept mine very simple. Less complexity is less maintenance, easier to fix on the trail, and less expensive.
13. As far as MPG. I average 10 to 14 mpg fully loaded (trailer, two kids, wife, two dogs, gear, food, etc.). I pull it with a 2017 double cab tacoma V6. This is going 65 mile per hour. Obviously, steep climbs will kill the mpg. My wife has 2019 4runner. I have yet to pull with that.
14. The trailer is a good balance between being "lightweight" and maintaining structural integrity. I built mine to be very weatherproof and "solid". It weights around 2000 pounds loaded. The tongue weight is 200 pounds. I like the weight on the tongue because it keeps the back end of the truck planted and enabled better traction. I would not exceed half of the vehicles towing capacity .

Cons
1. Parking is not as easy in populated areas. However, it is doable.
2. Backing up and turning around can be tricky on a trail. I highly recommend practicing backing up and steering a trailer before taking a trip. My trailer has a short tongue and takes some getting used to. It is much different than backing up a trailer with a longer tongue.
3. MPG. You will spend more on gas than if you slept on your hood or under your truck.


Hope this helps! Good luck!
on the mark ^^^
you read my mind, but

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billiebob

Well-known member
MPG wise, I have a 4-runner with a V8. Initially, I was getting almost 16 mpg. When I put mud tires on it, that dropped to 14.5 mpg. Small lift and aftermarket bumper which removed the air dam on the stock bumper dropped it almost 2 mpg to around 12.5. Putting 2 bikes on the roof and I'm down to 11 mpg. With the trailer, I'm probably closer to 10 mpg. I do drive almost everywhere at 75 to 80 mph, so that's probably 3-4 mph right there compared to a couple of trips down the length of Baja where I generally drove around 60 mph.
Exactly what I found too, altho I never tracked the differences as I added taller tires, lift, roof top stuff. I just went from 33 LT Tires to skinny 7.50R16 31s and went from a best of 17mpg to 22mpg. Towing a Square Drop I get 14 mpg holding 65mph, passing on the 3 lanes. If I average 55mph, no passing, I get 18mpg towing the trailer.

We lose mpg incrementally and always accept it cuz..... we think we gain capability but in reality I still go everywhere I used to go. I just get there with a more comfortable ride.

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Mass_Mopar

Keep it simple stupid
We tow a non-offroad 5x8 cargo/motorcycle trailer with a RTT up top that we use as a base camp. We use it as a kitchen table/living room mostly to get out of the weather or bugs while camping. We could use it as a bedroom also if needed I'd just have to build a bench that converts to a bed. The trailer itself is a decent size box with a V nose so it tows nicely, it's aluminum so it's not too heavy, and it uses easily sourced parts like a dexter torsion axle, electric drum brakes, standard 15" trailer wheels and tires. It fits perfectly in the wranger's track and the box is narrow enough to see around it with the standard jeep mirrors. It works fine on fire roads just have a plan on 2-tracks if you need to turn around. I've dragged it over some fun stuff and it just bumps and scrapes without complaining too much. They're pretty cheap to get into as well, in the 4-8k range depending on options, then add $ for your interior build-out. As ours sits, with the RTT, we're into it for probably 10-12k. It's about 5'3 inside, so not tall enough for me to stand up straight in, but tall enough for most activities you need to do inside. If it was any taller inside or outside it would impact fuel economy and / or make the roof rack impossible to reach, so it's a decent balance.

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1Louder

Explorer
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We love our Off Grid Expedition 2.0 trailer. It is very well built and handles all the terrain take it on. Someone commented that Teardrop trailers might not be able to handle offroading. There are well made trailers and there are not well made trailers. I don't care what form factor they come in. My previous teardrop was not as capable as this one for what I do but still a nice trailer for forest roads. As other have said go rent a few. Plenty of options on Outdoorsy or even Craigslist.

There is no perfect trailer. Everything is a trade off. I have owned 5 different trailers and wrote an article on each. That is on 4xoa.com if you are interested.

Have you look at a Topper EZLift for your truck? They are very cool and make sleeping in the back of a truck way more comfortable.

 
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