My offroad 5x8 Cargo Trailer Camper Conversion

Jmanscotch

is a Texan
Last year I built a steel 4x6 camping trailer that we adorned with our roof top tent. We really enjoyed that setup, but after only a few uses, I decided it was time to sell it to fund adult life (aka a ring for the lady) and ultimately we've decided we want to build another now and do it a little different this time. We're in Colorado and the high elevations we tend to camp at can make the tent weather season short, so we're going the way of enclosed camping. Here's the last build:





So our use is primarily going to be 2 day 1 night weekend warrior trips into the Rocky Mountains. We do have some ideas for more long distance trips, but those would be primarily pavement to a destination then off the beaten path. We don't intentionally get into hard trails, rock crawling, miles of washboards at speed, water crossings or anything drastic but we do enjoy getting back far enough to enjoy great views and privacy which tends to put us traversing some rutted roads, tight "jeep" trails and switchbacks.

The idea is to build up a 5x8 to be slightly more robust to both handle the extra off road forces as well as handle all the gear we'll be hauling with it. Insulate for cold Spring/Fall camping, install a basic storage bias type galley, add windows, vents, tongue storage, and a few other tweaks.

To begin, we shopped trailers, new and used, and ultimately settled on a 2018 Carry On 5x8 with side swing single rear door and curb side door as well. Out the door it was a touch over $2,000. I researched cargo trailer brands and found some opinions on each, hearing good general info on the difference in say a Carry On and a higher priced/quality Interstate/Wells Cargo/PACE/Etc, with a common theme that one should avoid Georgia's mecca of cheap trailers. I decided to go with this unit as it seemed to have the same notable draw backs as most cargo trailers in it's price range yet had some pros I appreciated. The main pros being the side door (saving us on a pricey RV Door), a nice Dexter 3,500 lbs axle already equipped and a main base frame made from 2x4 boxed steel. Some of the notable cons that we're wiling to work around are: poor workmanship on assembly (we'll circle back to this), really cheap wiring and install techniques, Z style vertical wall supports (but 1" square tube roof bows), two-piece curved roof, multiple piece aluminum siding and some general cost savings materials.

Here's the trailer we brought home:







We started with wheels/tires and suspension to help dial in final height so we could determine a few other things of priority. Here's a few pictures of the setup:





One thing that might be a little different than some cargo builds is we are going to CHOP the top on the CT about 8 inches to lower the overall profile of the trailer.

We plan to reinforce the main box frame with a few more cross supports, some smaller metal vertical wall supports and ultimately extend the tongue with 2.5" receiver tube to offer some more truck/CT clearance for turning as well as make room for tongue cargo solutions.
 
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Jmanscotch

is a Texan
Also, I purchased my first welder ever! After some research, I settled on a Hobart 140 MIG unit. I only have access to 120VAC and I've read pretty good reviews, for the price point and as a hobby welder/mild work horse. As a 120 volt unit, it does have it's expected limitations, but it should serve me well and perform with what I ask of it. Typical 20% duty cycle, 1/2" max metal thickness (at 120 amps if I recall). Seen on amazon here: http://a.co/ewbUTJj




Also received my roof rack towers and Lock-N-Roll limited coupler from Scott, a great guy. I highly recommend his website. He doesn't have everything, a good bit of what he sells is tuned for his Dinoot trailer designs, but he has some nick-nack parts at a good price is a reliable guy to deal with. I used him for my last build and found a few more helpful items through him again this round.

Lock-N-Roll here (actually ends up being a better deal than ordering via LNR themselves): https://compact-camping-concepts-2.myshopify.com/products/fixed-height-off-road-couplers

His "No weld" Rack towers here (though I do plan to weld them, I just liked his design so I grabbed them): https://compact-camping-concepts-2.myshopify.com/products/no-weld-trailer-rack-towers




The oddball piece in that picture is a 2" receiver adapter for fitting a 2" receiver (2.5" OD) to a 50 degree A-Frame tongue. It's laser cut 1/4" plate and is a much nicer piece then I could fabricate (and has their engineers stamp of approval, aka he designed it). I purchased it from AT, or Adventure Trailers, also great folks. They don't list it on their website, but if you're interested in a precision piece like this, just contact them and they'll help you out. http://adventuretrailers.com/

Picture provided by AdventureTrailers (if you mind, let me know and I'll delete it).



Even though Mario at AT assured me it didn't need modified, as it was engineered to be more than adequate for the forces it'd see, even offroad, I'm going to cut an additional 2.5" hole in the back of the reinforcement and extend the receiver tube back several more feet, tying into a cross brace. This isn't a trust issue with the piece, it's a structural issue with my trailers factory A-Frame and how it's supported/welded to the main frame.

Here's my issue. The factory bracing/welding where the A-frame tongue ties into the side frame rails simply looks like a potential fatigue/failure point, in my opinion. I wanted to scratch your collective brains on the strongest and simplest way to reinforce this connection.

Here's a picture of what I'm talking about. Front of the trailer, you can see the area in context. The second picture will be closer up.




It's only welded on 3, three inch long seams...and it seems too weak. I was thinking of triangulating between the tongue and frame rail with some more 2x3" tube, brace the underneath of the joint with some 1/4" and then run the 2" receiver tube (the new tongue) from hitch all the way back to one more cross brace behind where the A-frame tongue terminates now. I don't want to add bracing to the top of the joint as it'll force me to rework the floor of the trailer to compensate. Thoughts?
 

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gwolff

Observer
Dude, yes! I am so excited to see your build!

I was concerned about those joints in the A frame too. I welded a plate across the bottom of the joints between the frame and the tongue on each side. I also welded another beam from the end of the tongue all the way back to the axle, its welded to some of the cross members of the frame. Mario at adventure trailers is the same guy that helped me. That laser cut plate is a beast. Just like you, my concern was with the connection between the tongue A frame and the trailer frame itself.
 

Adventurous

Explorer
Looking forward to following along!

I second boxing that area of the a-frame. It's probably fine as-is for normal on road use, but I wouldn't trust it for long-term durability.

Nice choice on welder, I went with the same. :) You going to run gas + wire or just go with flux core?
 

Jmanscotch

is a Texan
Dude, yes! I am so excited to see your build!

I was concerned about those joints in the A frame too. I welded a plate across the bottom of the joints between the frame and the tongue on each side. I also welded another beam from the end of the tongue all the way back to the axle, its welded to some of the cross members of the frame. Mario at adventure trailers is the same guy that helped me. That laser cut plate is a beast. Just like you, my concern was with the connection between the tongue A frame and the trailer frame itself.
Haha, thanks man. You'll probably be finished before I have a substantial update to offer.


Looking forward to following along!

I second boxing that area of the a-frame. It's probably fine as-is for normal on road use, but I wouldn't trust it for long-term durability.

Nice choice on welder, I went with the same. :) You going to run gas + wire or just go with flux core?
Exactly. Whatever I end up doing to reinforce it, I'll share here.

Nice, I'd heard good things so I was hopeful it be a good fit. The last trailer I built I got to use my buddies Miller Multimatic, which made things pretty easy on a beginner welder, but my budget wouldn't allow for a nice Miller, but would allow more than a measly HF welder, so the Hobart won. I'll just have to learn a bit more about wire feed speeds and all.

I'm going to run it as a MIG setup. The flux core would probably be fine for most of what I'll end up using it for, but I can get deals on gas bottles (aka free!) and there'll be less splatter, so why not run MIG.
 

gwolff

Observer
Converting a trailer was SO much more work than I thought it would be, but very very rewarding. I'm super happy I did it. Now that I see the light at the end of the tunnel I am realizing I'm going to be sad when I no longer have a project to work on. The journey is as fun as the enjoyment
 

Jmanscotch

is a Texan
Small suspension update that'll in progress soon; CJ-7 leaf springs!

The setup I bought for my offroad trailer is all Jeep CJ-7 rear suspension stuff. The GVWR for a entry level, or "light duty" rear leaf spring suspension, is roughly 4150 lbs with ~2,100 of that being for the rear suspension, so I choose to go with the setup assuming they're appropriate for my predicted 1,200-1400 lb trailer without being too overrated for weight. I'm adding shocks to the setup to help dampen the suspension (I'm using the CJ-7 leaf springs perches with a built in lower shock mount to attach the shock at the bottom and running a custom top mount that'll weld to the trailer frame).

To complete the conversion from my stock crap suspension to the CJ-7 suspension, I bought:

- 3 used leaf springs from local recycling yard (2 to use and one for spare)
- leaf spring hangers, shackles, bolts, bushings and bump stops from 4 wheel parts
- custom top shock mount
- my old Tacoma factory rear shocks

Here's the CJ-7 leaf springs I bought, cleaned up and painted:




Here's the link for the CJ-7 suspension diagram to help see what all you need if you choose this route: https://www.4wheelparts.com/hardpart...aspx?hpDID=134

From that diagram, I bought:

2 - #44 Front leaf spring hangers
2 - #37 Front hanger bushings
2 - #39 Spring perches w/ lower shock mounts (they is specific drivers/passenger side part numbers)
2 - #51 Bump stops
2 - #38 Rear shackle kits (includes bushings and bolts needed)
2 - #46 Rear lead spring hangers
2 - ???? U-bolts that fit my 2.38" diameter trailer axle and yet fit the CJ-7 spring perches (forget the part numbers I found)

Hopefully my order from 4wheelparts will be in this week and I'll start fabbing it all up this weekend and update then.
 

Jmanscotch

is a Texan
Thanks for the kind words. Look forward to seeing how the No Weld Towers get installed.
Absolutely sir, you've been stellar. The roof rack will be a later development, but I'll detail it.

I loved your other build and look forward to this one

Sent from my SM-G955U using Tapatalk
Thanks man, I sold the trailer to a local guy and actually get to see it often. Cool dude, he's mostly using it for hunting with his boys. It's be a roller-coaster spring in Colorado. Some fires already, 60 mph winds and snow...so it's been rough to get much done lately and I've mostly just been planning and handling other life needs. I plan to get out these next few weeks and knock some things out on it so stay tuned.
 

L3TT3RS

@pooping_outside
I ordered a 5x8 with a 4 foot ceiling that already has a lift etc. All it would need is to be built out on the inside and wheels/tires. Wife decided she wanted some ac in the summer. I should be picking it up here at the end of May. I deleted the roof rack on mine. Got the factory wheels and tires and had the roof vent-> non-powered-> moved to the center and wired and braced for ac unit.

Sent from my SM-G955U using Tapatalk
 

Jmanscotch

is a Texan
I ordered a 5x8 with a 4 foot ceiling that already has a lift etc. All it would need is to be built out on the inside and wheels/tires. Wife decided she wanted some ac in the summer. I should be picking it up here at the end of May. I deleted the roof rack on mine. Got the factory wheels and tires and had the roof vent-> non-powered-> moved to the center and wired and braced for ac unit.

Sent from my SM-G955U using Tapatalk
That thing looks like the perfect starting point man, nice find!
 

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Jmanscotch

is a Texan
I've only been able to get a few little things done.

Hung the Jeep CJ-7 leaf springs, they're going to be so much better than the stock trailer springs.

Factory CJ-7 front and rear spring hangers:





The factory CJ-7 u-bolt perch with built in lower shock mount (I still need to figure out a top shock mount):





Old trailer leads compared to new setup:




Treated the wood floor with some roof patch to help it last a minute longer hopefully.





Also, tore the trailer down to studs. Needed to do this for a few reasons. I'm cutting the trailer down 8 inches shorter, so this will help with the process. Some of the metal inside the trailer was poorly painted, so once I shorten the top I'm going to prep and paint everything as well. It'll also give me a chance to redo some of the horrible sealant plastered on the trailer from the factory.




If the weather cooperates tomorrow, we'll get the top done and then be able to get going on the next few steps.

Jake
 
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