Sep 13, 2012


Hi all. 

In this post I want to share my Camper Trailer build. I bought a onroad camper trailer from a local company some 15 years ago and over this period I have modified most aspects of the trailer to what it is today. I have dragged it a host of places locally, around and through several desert regions, up onto some QLD islands and it has served me well. The only drama's I have had was several years ago when i support vehicle for a group of bike riders. We were crossing the Plenty highway- from western QLD into the NT, ( regarded as one of the worst in Aust due to the massive bull dust holes and ruts.). 

We had just fuelled up at an outback station, with the bikes leaving in front I tagged along behind. Trying to catch the bikes i hooked in and hit a dry creek crossing pretty hard and when i came out the other side, the car felt it was running pretty rough. When i checked the mirror, I saw that the trailer was dragging on the road- the springs had broken and the axle actually bent in a 90* angle leaving the wheel still attached. After the bikes realised that i was no where to be seen they returned to the scene. With a quick call to Alice Springs, we had organised a whole new suspension outfit for the trailer to be sent out overnight. We were lucky because there was only one freight bus that used this road weekly and it was due to leave in the morning from Alice on its way to Cairns.

We camper roadside and even though it was due to bad luck it turned out to be a great camp. Ironically the other incident I have had with my camper was on the same trip several weeks later as we were travelling the Oonaddatta Track. A huge rock flicked up and broke the outlet pipe for the underbody water tank, thus loosing all our water. We did grab cartoned water down in Marree beefier hitting the Birdsville Track. The things you learn !!

After serving me well I thought it was time to either rebuild the old girl or upgrade to a flash new one. the new one is def on the horizon soon, but I thought why not upgrade the trailer and see what I could do. 

First set was to totally strip the trailer, just to see how bad things were- I mean you can only put on so many layers of paint. After the strip down, I realised the rust had set in in a few places. 

Before the process of sandblasting and painting I thought I would mod the camper out first with a few alterations. I wanted a side door in the front to access items inside at the front, an under body spare wheel carrier, replace the ball hitch with the Treg, and a new stone guard on the front. So it was sent off to a mate who carries out welding work. I must admit it came up better than I thought, that cost was around the $xxxx mark. very happy.

So after all that work was done the trailer was off for a total sand blast inside, outside and underneath, then sprayed in a under coat for me. Cost was $xxxx but a great starting point. 

Next on the list was what to paint it with. I thought about the standard 2 pac paint, but wanted something different. At TJM Coffs, they use a product called Speedliner. Normally sprayed in the backs of utes for protection it was the way to go. We decided to go for a Dove Grey, which wasn't off the original colour anyway. A great job was done, and i only had to trim a few places where there was going to be movement, like hinges and locks- but a quick trim with a knife, bit of touch up paint and it was all good. This stuff is several mill thick and so far it has lasted well over tar, rocky and sandy tracks. I really expect to get another 10 years out of it, but I know I wont keep it that long.  

Tent setup
I decided to go towards a 8 foot room off the trailer instead of a 12 footer for the fact that the 12 takes a bit longer to setup, and does equate to more poles which means more weight. The 12 does have a larger area to clean too. I got it optioned out with windows all round for better ventilation. Inside I have just upgraded the old foam mattress to a full Queen size innerspring, OMG what a difference that has made. Great night sleep now !!.

Starting from the front

I originally had the standard 50mm ball as a tow hitch, great basic towing device for the average person. I decided to change over to a Treg Hitch, although it may be old school it is reliable and a great device. With a 3 tonne safety limit on the Treg, there was no worries with the ball weight of the trailer.

When the trailer was built i got the builders to put on the biggest steel storage box they could at the front. This has served me well, but over the years the rust had set in and the weight factor was an issue too after you load the box up. I sourced out a large Poly box, made from polyurethane it is strong, durable, water proof, dust proof and lockable. But the main factor was the weight... the steel box weighed around 40kg and the poly box about 17kg !!!! a huge difference to get that amount of weight off the front of the trailer. 

Because I had to set the box forward to allow the lid to stay open by itself, i had around 150mm of room between the box and trailer. This allowed me to bolt 3 100mm PVC pipes behind the box. I basically used horseshoe type clamps around the pipes and then bolted them to the trailer before the box went on. The top 2 have cap ends on, which can unscrew from both sides for storage, like fishing rods, shoes, anything at all. The bottom one I put a permanent cap on one end and a tap on the other to hold extra water. Believe it or not it holds nearly 40 litres of extra water, great for washing hands, etc, and if the main tank scores a leak. Thanks to Bunnings for the fixtures !!

Having done several desert crossings and spending time in the out doors, i thought it was a smart idea to build a stone guard to protect the front of the trailer. After much thought and discussion with a good mate, it was decided that if the stone guard gets built at an angle of 70', this would bounce the rocks back down to the ground and not to the car. It def wont stop ALL rocks but a great deterrent and deflective device. I did experience a shattered rear window some years ago as we ventured across the Sturt Stony Desert, and its not pretty. It wasn't towing this trailer but the trailer I was towing did have a stone guard on, so it just shows that you can be unlucky. The frame was made from 20mm x 20 mm RHS ( square tube ) welded together, in the shed i had some weed mat in which i covered it with. Traditionally you use heavy duty shade mesh, but I will see how this goes, so far so good. 

On the bottom i bolted on several very heavy duty mud flaps with some allow stripping on the bottom for a bit of extra weight to stop them flying around. They do stop a lot of dirt, water and mud, but not all- realistically they are only a deterrent. 

Back on the passenger side is where I had the door installed to allow easy access for items at the from of the trailer. Fully lockable, this has been a god-send. Just makes packing and access a whole lot better. There used to be an extra jerry can holder where the door is, but honestly, the door rates very high. Speaking of jerry can holders, I did keep the rear jerry can holder for another 20 litres of water and a bit more weight at the back. Cant have too much water. 

Next on the list was to replace the campers top. I was originally just going to get a small tear patched and the bungy rope replaced, but decided to replace the whole top with a new zippered top. The whole sail track on the top of the camper had to be removed to allow an extra piece of material to be fixed in its place. This has the other side of the zip on, allowing the top to connect to. By doing it this way the whole whole unit is now 100% water and dust proof. No more dusty bed, no more dusty canvas, wish I got this done years ago !!!!! and it looks great. Thanks to Advance Canvas for their work.

Originally i had the old kitchen on the tailgate, which in its defence does work well. I was going to buy a prefab kitchen either off eBay or a local maker down the coast, and for the $1k i thought i could build my own for a fraction of the price. 

The biggest issue would be the guides. But after a trip to our local recycling plant, i picked up a pair of roller door guides for $xxx !!.... 

The idea was to use square alloy tube as the frame, you can buy the connectors to join different pieces all from Bunnings again, cover it with 19mm builders ply and with a coat of outdoor varnish i would hope it will last years to come. With several strips of pine screwed to to the bottom to form the slide that would go inside the roller door guides which would be bolted to the floor, it 'should' slide ok. 
Looks rough from the close up pic, but so far so good. Time will tell. 

Basically the whole unit ( kitchen, storage box ) was made the length of the trailer, and was built around the large hi flow Coleman stove and storage boxes I bought to house all food, plates etc. I was sick and tired of stupid slow stoves that take a friggen long time to cook or to boil water. Thats why I went to the coleman 3 burner insta stove. When all burners are going it sounds like a jet taking off, but def no problems with cooking or even in cold weather where the gas can cool down to the point of solidifying. 

With the boxes, I wanted several different sizes to store items like cutlery, cups, plates and food items. these cost around the $xxx for each drawer, but it is great that you can keep every thing so organised and clean, to the point where we went out and bought a new WHITE dinner set, no dust, no drama !!

Because the whole box was made around the stove and drawers, i had to put the stove in the middle of the box, as the gas hose would not reach the gas bottle on the outside. I thought of making the hose stay connected all the time, but that just doesn't work, and for the 4 seconds that it takes to connect it, it isn't a drama. 

Under the stove I left this area as a large open cupboard to store pots and pans and any other large items. I thought about cutting a sink into the top of the box, but to me prep area is better than a sink, easy to fill the sink tub up and wash on the table. 

At the very end of the box there is more storage. I originally installed a battery and inverter down here to balance the weight out, but with heavy duty cords moving all the time, I had a few issues with plugs and connections coming undoe. So the battery was removed ( more in this later ) and now that area is used for the camp oven and other items, that we may use. Works well. 

the box takes up about half the trailer floor, so i decided to carpet the other side, and it turned out to be the exact width of a carpet floor runner. So back down to Bunnings for a strip of marine carpet, and the inside is now complete, and looks the part too. i used to have a pole carrier mounted on the trailer but to date i haven't worked out a system on how to mount a new carrier. So the poles are kept in a pole bag that lives on the floor. But honestly, the only other thing to go inside are several bags of clothes and a large poly box for any extra food or drink. 

With some dust foam around the doors for a better seal, a simple handle screwed to the end and a tent pole for a leg if it comes out all the way, the box was complete. 

With an occasional spray of inox in the runners the system works well. All up it cost around $xxxx.xx

On the drivers side of the trailer, i kept one 4.5 kg gas bottle. To me there is no advantage in taking a stack of gas, as i have found that this one bottle would last around 2 weeks of continuous use with what we use. Just in front of this I have the old hand pump. I was going to install a 12 volt pump but this way there is no water wastage or electrical parts to go wrong. Teamed up with a new lockable water fill cap, reinforced piping and a 2mm steel guard around the water tank, there hope fully wont be any water loss on our future trips. 

Always looking for ways to improve or to add new ideas, we found that after a trip last year, there was still mud getting along the trailer side. The easiest method was to grab a few H/D mud-flaps and to screw them to the sides and under the trailer for more protection from rocks and mud from the car. Didn't cost much but the results are pleasing so far. 



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