Suitability of modding hard-sided popups for offroad use

TWX

New member
Long story short, I like four wheeling and getting away from the city, but I don't really like camping. Tents simply don't appeal, and while popup tent-trailers are better than conventional tents there are still issues with moisture and packing away the trailer when setting off the next day. We also admittedly are keen on having some kind of *ahem* facilities, which some tent-trailers have but many lack.

So I'm looking for commentary on taking a hard-side popup, like an A-liner, a Towlite/Hi-Lo, or a Trailmanor and upgrading or replacing the suspension to use it as a moderate-dury offroad camping trailer. We're not talking doing rock ledges on a regular basis, but going off into the BLM and forest-service roads where there could be washouts or other problems that mean the road isn't passable to something at pavement-going height.
 

TWX

New member
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I did.

I looked at an HQ12, a new one that was inside of a showroom. The stairs were falling apart and the shower door wouldn't close because the jamb wasn't square. When the unit that the dealership has theoretically received, checked over, and put up as the example to represent the product line is like this, it doesn't inspire confidence.

They're not completely off the list but I'm happy to look at other options first.
 
*) All mainstream trailers have very bad build quality. VERY bad. You have to go with one of those boutique teardrop things to get something better.

*) The aliners, in particular of the ones you listed, have a very simple box build. Very simple campers like this can just be unbolted and put on a whole new frame. There are several youtube videos of people fixing their rusted/broken frames by simply having them put on a newer/better one. That might be a realistic option for you, at least in an aliner. Aliner also does an off-road build option from the factory, with a beefier axle and tires. That MIGHT be enough for you. The Titanium series, I believe.

(I researched Aliners EXTENSIVLY and almost bought one before deciding to go with a truck cap with tailgate replacement instead.)
 

GlennA

Adventurer
We owned an A-liner for several years. We really enjoyed it but never took it "offroad". I had the frame reinforced from front to back and added a 3500lb axel with electric breaks. If I were planning to take one offroad, I would plan on transplanting the entire "box" to a heftier frame. There's too much flex in the factory frame for me.

A-liners have their own subculture and there's a ton of info online about pitfalls and strengths.

Good luck.
 
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TWX

New member
Interestingly those dual-independents swingarm suspensions that are used by Black Series, Crux, and possibly others are available on the aftermarket. I found a listing from a Chinese factory for them requiring a minimum order of ten units.

While that particular suspension might not be quite as good as it initially looks (again, another reviewer with a three year old trailer on Youtube had to have his touted-as-reliable suspension rebuilt with beefier coil springs and better shock absorbers) such a frame and suspension gives me ideas.

(I researched Aliners EXTENSIVLY and almost bought one before deciding to go with a truck cap with tailgate replacement instead.)
I'm basically trying to satisfy nearly-conflicting requirements. I'd been looking at truck-camper options (though with a 1200lb payload capacity on my '15 Frontier Crew Cab Longbed there are not as many as I'd care for) in order to give us the accommodations for three we'd like to have on a multi-day trip through the boonies. That said my wife's octogenarian mom is preparing to move in with us and we're simultaneously mulling our options for road-trips that she can join us on, including the possibility of using my significantly more comfortable '95 Impala. There are some box-on-wheels travel trailers with GVWRs and dry weights low enough that I'd be comfortable with not being overloaded, but the box-on-wheels design leaves a lot to be desired if the weather gets rough or windy while driving, and the lack of ability to really take them deep into the boonies is another significant detractor. That said they're undoubtedly comfortable in the situations when they can be used, so that's nice.

Some kind of offroad-towable hard-sided popup might satisfy both, it wouldn't be as good offroad and it wouldn't be as comfortable as a traditional travel trailer, but if it's good enough and inexpensive enough then it may be worth dealing with the deficiencies in each situation.
 

high-and-dry

Active member
You dont want to pull much with an impala, I dont care what people say. Even of it says 3 k trailer weight, cut that in half. That goes for pretty much any towing vehicle, sure for short distance the tow weight is fine, but for any kind of trip dont do it.

The only people more proud of their a liners are the ones trying to sell them used.

As for the payload on the nissan, sticking to 1200 lbs would be rough, the best option then becomes building your own, but it will barely fit 3 and be very spartan. I dont understand truck campers unless your towing something else, or cant. They do look nice in pics, but they are damn small in real life, like 8 sq ft of floor space small.

I would look at aliners, and hybrid box on wheels. The hybrids can you a lot of space for weight once the tents are open. But they do come with the draw backs of pop ups when it comes to canvas, but a real bathroom and kitchen when needed. Aliners give a great towable package, but are not huge either, but they can sleep 3 or 4 depending on the model.

Every off the shelf option has its advantages and disadvantages, with pretty much all of them having crap build quality. Some of that is for cost, some of it is for weight.
 

Teardropper

Active member
Part of the problem is this term, "off-road." What does it really mean?

Off the pavement? Off of a gravel road? Two-tracks? It really isn't practical (or legal) to go where there aren't any roads. But it sounds to me that most campers could go where you're looking to go without modifying the suspension.

We like to set up a base camp and then explore different directions for a few days.



Tony
 

TWX

New member
Part of the problem is this term, "off-road." What does it really mean?

Off the pavement? Off of a gravel road? Two-tracks? It really isn't practical (or legal) to go where there aren't any roads. But it sounds to me that most campers could go where you're looking to go without modifying the suspension.

We like to set up a base camp and then explore different directions for a few days.
I'm aware that going cross-country isn't practical or necessarily legal.

If a rating of 1 is a gravel road that a sports-car can do with care, and a 10 is 4wd track requiring a modified, high-clearance vehicle with full under-armor and a winch, I'm looking to do about a 7.

I'm not looking to do a base-camp thing. I'm looking to stop for the afternoon and night, then pick back up and keep going the following morning.
 

Teardropper

Active member
I'm not looking to do a base-camp thing. I'm looking to stop for the afternoon and night, then pick back up and keep going the following morning.
Then I don't think you would need to upgrade a suspension system. But keep this in mind, I don't own an Aliner or other commercial camp trailer.

I see them frequently on BLM and USFS road. This summer they seemed to be everywhere.

T
 

old_CWO

Well-known member
Aliner or Chalet on light trails? Too easy, I would do it the same as I have done with tent trailers. A quick spring over axle conversion or small spacer lift if torsion axle. Don't go crazy on upsizing the tires, I would probably just run 185/80R13 or maybe 205/75R14 regular old trailer tires. If no brakes, add them. Weld some gussets and/or additional cross members in strategic areas of the chassis. Anything hanging low underneath, raise it up or skid plate it. Sturdy up the cabinet insides with poplar 1x1 and 1x2, high quality wood glue and screws. Those simple mods and it should handle what you're describing without issue.
 

TWX

New member
Thanks guys. For now we ended up settling on a late model used Jayco travel trailer, a Baja edition with taller leaf spring suspension from the factory. It's not going to be ideal for especially rough roads but got a good enough deal on it that it'll do for touring national and state parks. I'll probably add shock absorbers to make it handle washboarded roads better and I may look at solar/battery/inverter options to reduce the dependence on generators etc. We'll see.
 

high-and-dry

Active member
Congrats on the purchase.

For solar and battery stuff go over to tnttt.com electrical section. Much more info there. You wont be able to run the ac on a battery bank, unless you empty the bank account. But for general use you cant go too wrong with 100 amp hour of lifepo4 or 200 amp hours of lead and 2-300 watts of solar if you keep the loads small esp with led lights. If you want to run anything of decent size on the inverter bump the battery to 200 amps of lifepo4 or 400 of lead and a 1500 watt inverter.

And you might want to crawl under the trailer and see if there is any obvious places you could easily reinforce the frame.
 
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