Expedition and adventure travelers typically fall into two categories: “light and efficient” or “heavy and complicated.” Some may fall in the middle, but it is not typically the case. Payload capacity quickly becomes the limiting factor to the amount of equipment a team can bring. As desired equipment begins to mount and space for it all dwindles, a decision must typically be made to either put the extra equipment on the roof, or pull it behind the vehicle in a trailer.
There are distinct advantages and detractions to both approaches, but I have always preferred using a trailer to carry additional equipment as opposed to a heavily laden roof rack. I have used both systems over many miles of remote travel, and find the end result to be more a factor of personal preference than any real empirical result.
A Trailer for Expedition Travel?
There are many benefits to using a trailer for expedition travel, especially one that incorporates a sleeping arrangement.
A trailer moves the weight over an additional load carrying axle, providing additional payload (though not GVWR). The trailer also allows the vehicle to maintain a lower center of gravity and wind resistance. In the case of the Jumping Jack trailer evaluated here, the trailer allows for comfortable sleeping accommodations and a payload of nearly 1,800 lbs. While it would not be typical to bring that amount of additional gear along, even a load of 4,000-5,000 lbs. would be a welcomed relief from the tow vehicle. It is important to remember though that the tongue weight of the trailer must be factored into the vehicle payload.
There are downsides to trailer use though, as backing up or turning around in technical terrain can be challenging, if not impossible. This often removing the trailer from the vehicle and rolling it around or winching it though the challenge. Testing and trials with the trailer before the first real adventure is critical to success.
Jumping Jack 6×8 Trailer
Part #1: Trail/Towing Performance
The Jumping Jack trailer in tow.
I met up with the Jumping Jack team at the Arizona Truck Expo, and took delivery of their 6×8 tent trailer. I towed the trailer home behind my 2004 Toyota Tacoma. My initial impressions were very positive, as the 1,200 lb. trailer tracked straight and easily behind the truck. Even up to legal highway speeds and a decent cross wind the trailer was easy to pull, and had no shakes or wagging that is found from some designs.
On the Trail:
As Jumping Jack wanted me to test the trailer off-highway, on rugged tracks, I set aside a long afternoon to pull the trailer through my local test track to evaluate its performance. I chose to use my 1994 Jeep Wrangler, which is a much lighter vehicle than the Tacoma, and also has a 30″ shorter wheelbase. Again the trailer was a dream to tow on the road, even with a light load (about 150lbs.) secured to the trailer top. The trailer weight of 1,200 lbs is well within the capacity of many vehicles, including the 2,000 maximum trailer load of my Jeep.
The trailer has an overall length of just over 12′, which provides good maneuverability on most trails. My test track starts off as a corrugated dirt road, which tested the ability of the trailer to track behind the Jeep. The unit exhibited minimal sway and the torsion axle rating seems well suited to the trailer weight. Even with the tires at full pressure the trailer did not bounce around, and transmitted very little vibration to the Jeep.
As the trail challenges progressed, the trailer continued to impress. The Jumping Jack trailer employs a torsion axle that provides maximum clearance by using a trailing arm that angles downward and back from the main suspension cross tube. This technology affords a very simple and reliable system and an additional ~2″ of clearance over a traditional axle arrangement. However, torsion axles require proper tuning to ensure a good ride and wheel travel for the load. Torsion axles also do not typically require shocks, as the rubber inserts control suspension extension and compression throughout the travel range. While the control is not as fluid and controlled as a shock and spring, the reduced failure points have advantages.
Negotiating a large rock outcropping with the trailer
- Overall Length (OAL): 144″ (12′)
Body Length: 101″ (8’5″)
Drawbar Length (body to coupler): 43″
Overall Width (OAW): 91″ to outside of tires
Track Width: 84.5″
Body Width: 72″ (6′)
Lowest Ground Clearance: 13″ to axle tube
Ground Clearance at Body: 18″
Ground Clearance at Draw Bat: 14″
Departure Angle: 30 degrees
Tire Size: 205/75 R15
Wheel Size: 15×5 White Steel
Storage Surface Area: 51 sq. feet
After pulling the Jumping Jack trailer through my test track, I would not hesitate to use the trailer on trails up to a 2.5 rating. The trailer is very well built, with large 2×4″ main frame members making up the undercarriage. The trailer chassis has a minimum ground clearance of 14″ at the draw bar, and 18″ at the main unit frame. The trailer also tracks well behind most wheelbases, as the distance from the coupler to the axle hub is 104″, similar to most SUV wheelbases. For the trailer to track inside the path of the tow vehicle, the coupler to axle hub distance should not exceed the tow vehicle wheelbase. The only real trail restrictions would be as a result of its size. (mostly related to the 91″ width).
Tent Review and Set-Up
Why Have a Tent Trailer for Expedition Travel?
There are several sleeping arrangements to consider while traveling remotely, including ground tents, roof tents, sleeping in the vehicle (or in an attached camper) and tent trailers. All methods have their advantages, though I have found through experience that a choice which allows for enclosed standing room and a generous sleeping pad provides the best results. Occupant comfort while driving and sleeping goes far to making an extended expedition enjoyable. The Jumping Jack trailer certainly provides sleeping comfort (with 3″ thick mattresses) and plenty of standing room. I have now spent several nights in the trailer and have been more than happy with the results!
Another challenge to sleeping in the vehicle, or using a roof tent is the number of people that can comfortably occupy the arrangement. With a trailer, the sleeping quarters can be as large as necessary, with the downside being the resulting trailer size and reduced maneuverability. The Jumping Jack trailer strikes a good balance between the size of the trailer and number of occupants. This unit can comfortably sleep three on the mattresses, and up to six if the floor space is used.
The tent makes a great first impression, as the nitrogen filled struts help to “jump” the tent up, creating a nearly 100 square foot home in a matter of minutes. The rear gate of the trailer also make for the back step and entry platform. As soon as I stepped inside, I couldn’t believe the room available. Even with both beds set up there is a large area in front of the table for changing and storing gear. The interior headroom is over eight feet at the center, and you are surrounded by seven large screened windows. The temperatures while we camped were cool, so ventilation wasn’t tested. I would expect it to be more than adequate.
The tent has two beds. One bed is a 90″ long single and the second is a double bed, also 90″ in length. The beds also perform the function of seating benches for the table.
The table also folds up and against the back wall to allow for even more standing room and additional sleeping space. The light wall and ceiling colors and all of the windows make the tent even seem larger. The floor is covered by removable all-weather carpeting, which should be easy to clean if soiled.
When the tent is set-up there is about 24″x100″ of storage space available under the double bed extension. I found this space great for stowing bedding containers, shoes, personal equipment bags, etc.
The trailer feels very spacious inside.
The tent includes several well thought out features that showcase the designer’s attention to detail. The table and bed extension have assist springs incorporated to ease set-up. There are two small covered ports in the front and back walls that allow extension cords and propane lines to be passed into the tent. All of the interior tent framework is powder coated and is tucked nicely against the walls, which helps prevent bumps and bruises. The bed pads are 3″ thick closed cell foam with durable covers, integrated handles and fiberboard backing to ensure maximum comfort.
Other Accessories and Features
Jumping Jack provides a cooler/bin rack as an accessory
The panel used to make the back of the trailer in “utility” mode can also be used as a 6′ long table with the available leg kit.
With the tent folded up there is a 100″x24″x10″ storage area available. We left all of the bedding and clothing bags in this area, which freed up space in the vehicle.
The real beauty of this trailer is the ease of set-up. To have a nearly 100 sq. ft. cabin tent on wheels set up in just less than 5 minutes is really an advantage. The tent frame incorporated lift assist struts and utilizes leverage to help “pop” the tent up. It really is an easy operation, that is summarized below in four major steps.
1. Unfold trailer top and gate
2. Unzip and roll up cover
3. Secure tent sides to trailer
4. Pop it up!
Video of popping the tent up.
Video of folding down the tent
The summary does not show every step required. We have documented the step by step process on the tent set-up page.
We have now spent several nights in the trailer under calm, but cool conditions. The tent fairs well under light wind, with little buffeting; though I would expect the limitations of the tent would become apparent under extreme weather conditions. Having said that, I would not expect the Jumping Jack to fair worse than any large 3-season dome tent. Sleeping and eating in the trailer is very comfortable, which is its strongest design advantage. There are few other solutions available to the expedition / adventure traveler that allows sleeping accommodations for three to four members (on the included mattresses) and can still be pulled along rugged roads.
The greatest advantage to the trailer and tent is the overall build quality and the interior space and comfort.
The greatest disadvantage to the trailer in my opinion is the width, though it can easily be pulled along most roads and trails, traversing narrow tracks should be done with caution. I have taken the trailer along miles of corrugated roads, along rocky tracks and across boulder shelves with good success. Though the width may create some limitations, the sleeping comfort at the end of the day makes it well worth it!
Jumping Jack: Jump-Up Tent Trailers
2955 S. Main Street
Salt Lake City, Utah 84115
Expeditions West 1994 Jeep Wrangler Sahara
Retail Price: $4,995
Delivery Charge: $270
Some options shown are available at additional cost
*Pricing subject to change, contact vendor
Dry Trailer Weight: 1,200 lbs. (544 kg.)
GVWR: 2,995 lbs. (1360 kg.)
Payload: 1,795 lbs. (814 kg.)
Tongue Weight: 198 lbs. (actual)
1. Sleeps 3 very comfortably, 6 with floor use
2. 96 square feet of tent space
3. Can carry two ATVs on the trailer’s upper deck
4. Powdercoat finish
5. The tent sets up in just a few minutes
6. Tent is made from 13 oz marine canvas
7. Very comfortable for 4 adults with sleeping pads and table
Expeditions West Product Rating