So, you found a great camping site but it’s pretty remote. One option would be to hike in and tent camp. But what if you had a camper trailer tough enough to follow you wherever your off-road 4×4 would go?
One off road camping enthusiast named Jess built his own rugged micro camper. That’s right, a DIY off-road teardrop camper that’s shop built.
Digital rendering of the completed Sawtooth XL trailer.
If you haven’t played with this bad boy yet and you like to build stuff that needs plans, like an off road teardrop camper, you should try it. Go get it here!
A Sketchup image of the trailer frame structure without skin.
The trailer for this DIY off road camper is mounted on a scratch built steel frame made from heavy gauge 2 inch square steel tubing with a 3500# axle. This ultra heavy duty axle is much heavier than needed to ensure it is fit for tough off road use.
The trailer is sized and outfitted to match the footprint of the Jeep it ran behind. There are a couple of great reasons for this:
First, with the same axle and wheels, the trailer would always have the same width and clearance as the vehicle to eliminate a lot of guesswork as to whether it would fit in tight spaces.
Second, with the same gear on both, repairs are highly simplified and in a pinch, the trailer can be cannibalized for parts. In places where you take a DIY off road camper, that feature can be a life saver.
Custom steel frame with 2 inch tubing and a 3500# axle.
The body of this sexy beast is mostly plywood. You might assume steel or other sheet metal would be the way to go, but plywood is incredibly strong and light. It is also flexible and takes a wide variety of sealants and finishes for a great look!
Plywood trailer body sanded and ready for paint.
Here’s a great tip for any woodworking project that will be painted. Use Bondo to fill the unevenness rather than softer wood fillers.
Bondo is a two part body filler that can be used on wood projects that are going to be painted. It’s cheap, can be shaped with tools and sanded very smooth, and hardens like a rock for permanent repairs.
Using Bondo to fill holes in the plywood body.
The diagonal bracing in the roof provides superior strength. Pocket screws allow each piece of bracing to be firmly and permanently attached for an even stronger frame.
Trailer roof without skin showing latticework detail.
Construction on this off road teardrop camper is well done from top to bottom, and choosing the right hardware can make all the difference.
For sensitive joints, T-Nuts were used, rather than screwing directly into the plywood. These great little threaded sockets also make parts removable.
Heavy duty gate hinges on access compartments make for long lasting hatches and resist the elements better than lesser quality hinge hardware.
T-nuts set in the plywood make parts removable.
Heavy duty gate hinges on compartment doors.
The interior may look small, but it’s designed with a 24 inch overhead clearance and a 48×76 inch sleeping area, adequate for all but the tallest campers and roomy enough for two if necessary.
The bed of the sleeping compartment is lined with a six inch thick foam mattress for comfort, while the shell has rigid pink foam insulation for those cold weather camping trips.
Rigid pink foam insulation being installed between plywood layers.
This is the roof of the unit with a forced air ventilation unit installed. Using this in combination with opening the windows would create enough ventilation to make all but the hottest nights bearable.
It’s run from a 12 volt system, which is compatible with most vehicle electrical systems. You could also use a solar panel to power the unit.
Rooftop 12 V fan and vent.
Putting the kitchen at the rear is a stroke of genius for several reasons. First, in a space this small, having cooktops inside the trailer would be stifling and potentially dangerous.
Second, the kitchen is fully accessible, even with the trailer connected to the tow vehicle. Last but not least, it makes for easy access for stowing re-supplies, or stopping for a quick picnic lunch!
Here is the rear kitchen early on.
And the Sawtooth XL kitchen open for business!
Photos courtesy of Jess at Sawtooth Enterprises.