Off-road teardrop scratch-build

rob cote

King in the Northeast
This isn't really build-thread-related, but I figured some of you would enjoy to see a sort of "conclusion" (we're not totally done with the trailer yet), to give some meaning to the whole thing.

So we spent late last week trying to decide on a place to go. We ended up pointing our GPS to a forest road in Vermont. We haven't had a good opportunity to move our gear into the trailer yet, which meant we were packing late Friday night. So, we left Saturday mid-morning. We cruised about 160 miles of highway with no issues. We got into more hills than our previous outing, which tested the truck. The truck handled the load just fine on up hills and down hills. I probably should have down shifted on the up hills a few times, but I was lazy and also curious to see how much it would slow. It wasn't bad at all. I could certainly tell the trailer was there, but at times it became easy to forget, too. I don't know if that's good or bad.

The whole story is that we couldn't locate Forest Road 35 on our GPS, so we navigated to the town of Pittsfield, VT, and found it from there. We turned onto Lower Michigan Rd. and cruised along until...a gate. Crap! We hopped out to investigate, and confirmed that it was locked. We discussed how to proceed, and agreed to make lunch, since it was about that time. This also gave the pups an opportunity to blow off some energy.



It took them approximately 3 seconds to find the river.



Jenny got left hanging on some high fives.



Mandy worked the kitchen to make us all some brats.



Shaun and I looked over the map and confirmed our error. We actually wanted to take Upper Michigan Road, which runs parallel about .1 mile away. We found that we only had to backtrack about halfway to the main road and could take a bridge across the river to Upper Michigan. So after we cleaned up from lunch, we flipped around and went back out. We crossed the bridge and turned onto Upper Michigan Rd., which was a very steep, sharp turn with a sheer drop on the driver's side. It felt like I was losing a little traction at the rear, so I engaged 4WD and crawled up out of it. No issues. We bounced along down the road mostly in first gear, as it was fairly rutted, and I've still got that nagging fear of the hitch separating. We passed several campsites that were occupied, until we reached the end of the marked road (which is not the actual end of the road). Here there was a tiny clearing on each side of the road next to a bridge. We dropped the trailer on the hilly side, since we could level it to compensate.



Shaun and Jenny took a radio and continued up the road to scout other options until communications started to get scratchy.



They didn't find any better options, so they circled back to the site and setup their tent on the flat ground across the street. The pups explored while we got settled in, and we all just enjoyed a relaxing afternoon with nothing to do in the middle of nowhere with zero cell service. Like, not even if you stand in the bed of the truck on one foot pointing your phone to the sky. It was exactly what we were looking for.





The ladies took the Jeep back down the road to pickup a little bit of firewood from a neighbor who was selling some at the end of their driveway. Shaun and I sat across the road and threw a frisbee at each other. Each time we'd miss, Sydney would fetch it for us, which was perfect because we didn't have to get out of our chairs. When they got back, Shaun set to work making some kindling from kinda-damp wood.





NOAA said there was about a 30% chance of rain overnight, so we put up the awning preemptively. Mandy went to the kitchen to make us dinner.



Her shirt doesn't even lie!



We cleaned up and gathered around the fire, which was tough to get going. Shaun made it work, though, per usual. We made smores and told ****ty jokes. We got rained on briefly, so we moved to under the awning. Then back to the fire. Then again.



We were all getting pretty tired, so we decided to call it a night when it seemed like it was going to continue raining for a while, and the fire had died down to a small bed of coals.

The next morning was so weird for us. We spent most of it just hanging out doing next to nothing while Shaun and Jenny packed up all their stuff. Mandy played with the dogs and I played with cameras; as we were packing to go, I realized I have 5 unused rolls of film, which was a neat surprise, so I shot some of that. I checked on the trailer battery, as it was the longest we'd gone running the rock lights and the fridge with the trailer disconnected from the truck, and we had very little, if any, sun once we parked the afternoon before. We were still sitting pretty around 12.5V or thereabouts. After the ride home, charging in the sun and from the tow vehicle, the trailer battery was around 13.8V if I remember correctly.

We're gradually gaining more and more confidence, and getting more comfortable with everything. It's still a little weird if I'm honest. We talked about how crazy it is that you can essentially build whatever you want and you can throw plates on it and drag it down the highway with no training, licensing, or inspection. I like to think that I researched enough, but sometimes it also feels like I only know enough to realize that I know next to nothing. I tested a lot of my work, especially when I had to undo some welds, back when we were still putting the frame together. Everything seemed to hold quite well. I still find myself inspecting everything over and over. Second-guessing everything I did. "What if it just disintegrates at 65mph?" "What if the roof tears off, unannounced?" Well, it hasn't happened yet, so that's a plus. Our friends were jealous of our setup and teardown times. I laughed because, "yeah, it only took us about 2 years" so that's pretty reasonable. But it was really nice to be able to just chill all morning. It was doubly-nice when we got home and didn't need to setup a tent to dry out. I haven't got an accurate measure yet because of an EVAP issue with the truck causing issues at the gas pump (it's like the breather tube is clogged, so if I pump at full speed, it triggers the auto-shutoff in the pump), but I think the fuel mileage is somewhere around 13-14mpg. All points considered, I think the trailer is the way to go for us, for most outings. We really love it. We'll still hang onto our tent, and I'm sure it will still get used on occasion. We'll see.
 

motoboss

Bad Influence
There is an evap tube in the fill neck. It won't let air in as you pump fuel so it kicks off the pump. A friend had that issue in his Titan. Gotta replace it cause it won't fix it's self.
 

Louisd75

Adventurer
We're gradually gaining more and more confidence, and getting more comfortable with everything. It's still a little weird if I'm honest. We talked about how crazy it is that you can essentially build whatever you want and you can throw plates on it and drag it down the highway with no training, licensing, or inspection. I like to think that I researched enough, but sometimes it also feels like I only know enough to realize that I know next to nothing. I tested a lot of my work, especially when I had to undo some welds, back when we were still putting the frame together. Everything seemed to hold quite well. I still find myself inspecting everything over and over. Second-guessing everything I did. "What if it just disintegrates at 65mph?" "What if the roof tears off, unannounced?" Well, it hasn't happened yet, so that's a plus. Our friends were jealous of our setup and teardown times. I laughed because, "yeah, it only took us about 2 years" so that's pretty reasonable. But it was really nice to be able to just chill all morning. It was doubly-nice when we got home and didn't need to setup a tent to dry out. I haven't got an accurate measure yet because of an EVAP issue with the truck causing issues at the gas pump (it's like the breather tube is clogged, so if I pump at full speed, it triggers the auto-shutoff in the pump), but I think the fuel mileage is somewhere around 13-14mpg. All points considered, I think the trailer is the way to go for us, for most outings. We really love it. We'll still hang onto our tent, and I'm sure it will still get used on occasion. We'll see.
Some states do require an inspection, WA inspection was pretty lax and seemed more interested in finding out if stolen parts were used to build the trailer. The setup and teardown times are pretty sweet as well. We just finished up night #6 of camping in ours and we're already starting work on fine tuning things and minor tweaks. The big surprise for me is seeing the trailer outside. We spent a little longer than you building ours and it had the general shape sitting in the garage for most of that time. I catch myself doing doubletakes as I walk up to it in a campsite or parking lot. I get that "Holy Cow, it works!" feeling a lot too. Good job and have fun!
 

rob cote

King in the Northeast
If you look really closely, you can see in the pictures we used a small 1lb. propane tank for the grill. I was trying to light the grill the night before we left, just be sure. Because, although I had tested each component individually - the grill worked on a small tank, the large trailer tank worked on our large bbq grill on the patio, leak checked all the plumbing, etc. - I hadn't tested the system as a whole yet. I just hadn't had a good opportunity. Fortunately I tested it, because unfortunately it didn't work!

I scrambled Friday night to try and find the cause of the issue. My guesses were all related to work I had done, so I checked all of the fittings I put together several times. With no luck in the diminishing daylight, I confirmed the small tanks still worked on the grill, and set us up to use those for this trip, and made sure we packed extra.

Anyway, I found the root cause last night. The water heater was delivered with a propane tank connection, regulator, and hose assembly. For whatever reason, we have accumulated several propane connector + hoses. The one that came with the water heater was the longest and the newest, so I decided to use it based on those characteristics alone. It never occurred to me to check the pressure setpoint of the regulators, nor the equipment needs. So the reason the grill was not functioning properly was because it was only getting 1psi propane when it wants 15psi. Once I got that squared away, it fired right up.

But now our whole system is at 15psi. I need to pick up a few fittings to install the 1psi regulator at the water heater. Then we should be all set. In theory. Who knows?
 

ottsville

Observer
If I recall correctly, you were running a regulator on the stove as well? Maybe leave the system the way you had it and try connecting the stove without a regulator at the stove?
 

rob cote

King in the Northeast
The original Coleman regulator is installed on the grill, you are correct. The grill requires 15psi; it says it right on the label. It was my own stupidity for not reading it. The regulator that I had installed at the large tank was the one that came with the water heater, which was set to 1psi. So the whole system was at 1psi. The flame at the grill, the few times I could actually get it lit, was barely more than a whisper, and would go out if you looked at it wrong.

In short, removing the regulator at the grill would do nothing, because the regulator was already not doing anything. Hope that makes sense! It's probably confusing for everyone who can't see the whole system layout.

The plan is to put the 15psi regulator on the tank (this is already done) and pressurize the whole propane system to 15psi. Then, I will install the 1psi regulator just before the water heater, to step down pressure going into the heater. I just need to pickup a couple fittings to make this connection. Hope that makes sense! I'll try to get better pictures to explain it all.
 

rob cote

King in the Northeast
So the trailer project took a back burner for a little bit, behind traveling/vacationing, and putting a new roof on the house. But we've made some recent progress, so I wanted to share. The propane fix above worked. I've not yet had a chance to finalize everything 100% (just need to secure a few lines in place so they don't bounce around over the road). We talked a lot about coating the trailer with something. We both really like the look of it in raw wood, but it attracts dirt like a sponge, and it's impossible to keep clean. We finally settled on a plan we liked. So first we applied a few coats of polyurethane.







The first coat prep took the longest I think. Of course, we had to pull everything off the exterior. Then, there were a lot of high spots that needed to be taken down, primarily in the area of the panel joints. Other than that, it's just a lot of surface area on the roof to be covered, and using caution around the windows and doors. It took about a half gallon to do two full coats.

Next we had a free morning before an afternoon wedding, so we worked quickly to apply 2 coats of Monstaliner in desert sand. After the second coat, there was still a bit left of the one gallon we'd purchased, so I continued applying it, just to use it up, until the last roller sleeve started to disintegrate. We pulled the tape off and let it dry while we got dressed up to head out.











It's had a few days to cure, so we began reassembly last night. Another thing that I think I had mentioned earlier in this thread is that I hated the taillight panel we made previously. It was kind of a quick-and-dirty thing we'd made up to get us on the road when we came up fast on one of our deadlines, and it was never intended to be permanent. So I made one out of steel a while ago, and bedlinered it with the rest of the trailer. We got a much sturdier piano hinge to assemble it with, and last night I got it on. It still needs latches to be installed, but I think it looks a hundred times better already.



We're shooting to have the reassembly completed for Saturday for a small trip this weekend so stay tuned for finished pictures (hopefully!).
 

rob cote

King in the Northeast
Nice work, and extra points for going with the ’euro-japper taillamp scheme.
Lol I don't know what that means but extra points sounds good! I'll take it!

The controls for the water system are right next to the opening for the grill drawer, if you remember.



Finally got around to something that has been put off for a while last night, as part of our reassembly. I had a friend make up a little control panel to hold everything in place, and give this area a more finished look. It took a little finesse because the drawing I sent over was not quite right. I don't know what happened, but a couple of my dimensions were off.



I'm wicked pumped about it though. It looks so much better. The bypass valves are a little tight in there. I want to move the holes for those a little bit on version two, but I'm in no rush to do that. The bypass valves only need to be manipulated when we're filling the water tank.



We got the fenders back on, the solar panels back on, and all of the doors and latches, with the exception of the new rear door. I need to cut holes for those latches and install them. I also need to splice in the wires for the third brake light, and bolt on the license plate. Other than that, I think we're pretty much good to go for the weekend.
 

rob cote

King in the Northeast
I was having some issues with the battery holding a charge in the unheated garage. I think the cold causes faster no-load discharging. As a temporary solution, I robbed a trickle charger from a different appliance to keep the battery from dying permanently. This wasn't a very elegant solution, though, as it meant getting under the trailer to access the fuse block and connecting to the main lines into the fuse block. It was easier than connecting to the battery directly, but not ideal. It also left me down a charger.

We ultimately decided to resolve the issue and simultaneously incorporate an inverter, in case we ever have a need for an AC power source. Not sure what it might be, but, you know, perhaps. So we got a 1000W inverter/charger 2-in-1 deal and installed it.



I installed an outlet in the kitchen:





And the bedroom:



So now, to keep it charged, we just simply plug in an extension cord like so:



This is so much better because a main aim of this project all along has been ease of use, as well as rapid deployment. I try to keep the technical aspects as simple as possible so anyone can use it without a manual, and sometimes we decide while we're at work on a Friday, "Hey let's go camping this weekend", and in those cases, the faster we can hit the road, the better.
 

rob cote

King in the Northeast
Occasionally less is more, or K.I.S.S.. A nice simple way of handling the problem.
Yup. A lot of the time I find that more work up front results in less work down the line, at the point of use. Generally, it translates into more overall enjoyment. Less setup time and effort getting to and at camp means more time we can just relax and enjoy being out there.
 
Top