Introduction: Homebuilt Camper Trailer

Picture of Homebuilt Camper Trailer
Safari BaseCamp 10 is a homebuilt camper trailer that my dad and my brother and I built, with the help of some nearby craftsmen. One of the goals has been to create a self-sufficient system that facilitates a complete set of commodities without the need for hookups. Although many details were worked out during construction, there was quite a bit of prior planning and dreaming involved. It's probably been over two years since the building began, and we're still not done tweaking it. We took BaseCamp 10 on its first camping trip about a year ago.

Since Dad did most of the work and we boys helped with some things along the way, I may use "we" to refer to all or any of the the three of us throughout this instructable.

The project was based on a 4x8-ft. aluminum trailer frame. We replaced the wooden floorboards, the jack, the coupler, and the taillights and added other lights on the sides and rear of the frame. We also had it outfitted with a new 2,000-lb. axle, new alloy wheels, and new tires and had the fenders repainted. We would eventually have a local machine shop reinforce the tongue and mount a K & W diamond-plate-style toolbox above it.

Dad designed and built a 34-in.-high exterior-plywood box that would eventually sit atop the trailer. We painted the box olive, inside and out, and spray-painted a camouflage pattern in flat colors around the outside. More than one try was needed before the camo was satisfactory, but we finally settled on a simple hand-sprayed design under a stenciled Reelfoot bark pattern.

The box contained three main compartments. For the one in the front, Dad built a slide-out kitchenette featuring an Atwood WedgeWood two-burner cooktop, a sink, a faucet, a paper-towel bar, two drawers, and a storage area under the sink. The box and lid of the kitchenette are plywood, and the countertop is stainless steel-style Formica.

We outfitted the middle compartment of the main box with a 20-gal. water tank as well as a pump. One hose can be connected to the faucet in the kitchenette while the other is run outside for bathing.

In the area above the front and middle compartments, we installed a 12w 5a solar panel on a slide-out system. The panel charges two batteries located in the toolbox in front, and the batteries supply power to the water pump, five LED lighting fixtures, and three 12v outlets. An Amish craftsman helped to get the electrical system properly wired.

The largest compartment is the storage area in the rear of the box. A door on each side and in the rear allow access to the contents. A spare wheel and tire are mounted on the large rear door.

A protruding door opposite the one for the kitchenette allows access to some electrical components, including the the battery charger. A recessed compartment on the outside of the main box holds two small propane tanks–one feeds gas to the cooktop in the kitchenette, and the other supplies a portable Coleman water heater. An axe and a shovel are mounted on one side of the box, and a metal gasoline can is secured on the other. A Formica-topped table can be attached to the outside of the box on the same side as the kitchenette.

On a custom rack on top of the box, two 48x92-in. sheets of plywood provide the base for a folding rooftop tent that opens to nearly eight feet square. The aluminum frame, the canvas, and the mattress were fabricated by skilled Amish craftsmen. The results were exceptional, and the tent is capable of sleeping the three of us very comfortably. Two ladders support the overhanging side of the tent and provide access to the two doors on that side. Awnings protect openings on three sides, and a canopy extends out the other side to cover the kitchen area. Additional pieces of canvas can be used to further enclose both the kitchen area and the space under the tent overhang–that includes a floor for the kitchen area.

We also added these free-standing accessories: an Engel portable AC/DC refrigerator/freezer, a camouflage Honda EU2000i portable generator, and a fire extinguisher, and a Cabela's shower tent.

Using a homemade stencil, we sprayed the name Safari BaseCamp 10 onto both sides. We chose the name because it was 2010, and this particular camper happened to be about the tenth major camping unit my dad had used in his lifetime.

Here is a list of costs incurred during the build (note that this estimate does not include trailer chassis, shower/toilet, generator, and refrigerator, as well as flashlight, fire extinguisher, and shovel/axe with with mounts.

Wood: $666
Hardware: $1,195
Paint: $717
Plumbing: $255
Propane: $314
Electrical: $1,041
Miscellaneous: $355
Solar Power System (with associated hardware): $997
Tent: $3,869
Side Room: $2,029

Total for Basic Camper Trailer Build: $11,438


frank kd0hgi (author)2017-10-11

I wonder if anyone on here has done a cargo trailer to camper conversion some of us older folks need a toilet and shower, and most rv trailers cost too much need a simple trailer to camp sleep in that also has a wet bath in it, your build is pretty cool but like I said I need a toilet and shower if I ever got a camper.

glorybe (author)2016-07-08

I would find the need for a toilet to be a basic requirement.

Rapturee (author)2016-01-12

I found my tent at CVT, they're out of Oregon. I'm sure there are other distributors around the country...and then you can always use ebay and they'll deliver it to your door. I know Tepui also makes them. I'll upload a pic of mine tomorrow if i remember, lol. Enjoy your Rooftop tenting!

ScottE4 (author)2015-04-07

And that $666 for the wood was a bit obvious... but what gets me is that I am the only one that smells the meadow muffins

anthonyschr (author)ScottE42015-04-07

Posting this project and seeing the great response was fun, but I've been terrible at keeping up with questions and comments. However, when I saw these, I had to jump back in. I somewhat understand the issues you're bringing up, but I think your conclusion might be mistaken.

First of all, as the one of the sons in this project, I don't have a perfect offhand explanation for the prices. If I recall correctly, Dad gave me that price list in some form. Perhaps the paint was so expensive because it wasn't a professional job (much was wasted). I'll agree the $666 for wood is odd...or maybe not odd enough? :)

As for the electricity—trust me on this one. While the Amish may live off the power grid, that does not mean they are strangers to electricity. Their lifestyle is probably the reason some of them specialize in low-voltage systems, LED's, batteries, and generators. Our project happens to use all of these, and who better to help us than an Amish man?

Thanks for your comments, and I hope this helps clear things up! -Anthony

ScottE4 (author)anthonyschr2015-04-09

Anthony, having worked with the Amish on a regular basis, purchasing and breeding draft horses, I have to call foul on that. they don't use ANYTHING electrical, as they refer to it as the "life force of Lucifer" they even use oil lamps on their buggies at night, and the only time they will even touch a light switch is during their adolescent Rumschpringe when they enter the "English world" before settling down to an "adult" sequestered Amish life, at which point they will only deal with outsiders who are willing to work with them in the Amish world. If there was someone similar helping it was more than likely a Mennonite who are a sect similar to the Amish, but live in the 21st century

AS for paint costs, unless the entire thing was rattle canned which would be entirely foolish the paint cost was absurd, the wood would ( that drove spell and grammar check into a fatal error) best sealed with a brush which would have cost about 20-25 dollars with half the paint left over from a gallon can, and then the rest hand brushed and a final coat sprayed preferably with a compressor and low pressure, high volume gun all told under 100 bucks for paint. Ive been painting cars and trucks for decades and the box with its size and shape is very simple which translates to low volume paint use. My conclusions are based on real world experience. And between these things not coming together, and the timing I couldn't help but believe this was an April fools Joke, and a Prime one at that, especially considering the lack of instructions. Now with that said, it IS obvious from the photos that it is hand made and more than likely home built (Not a denial that you did it, just based on the lack of detailed instructions and accompanying photos). I know many people with the skills and tools to do this so I would be foolish to say "you didn't do this, someone else did, besides, I'm not Barack Obama ;-) It is an excellent build, there are a few things I would have done a bit different. such as adding a cabled light control pod for in the tent, and several telescoping poles with area lights on them, controlled by 2 way switches one of which would be on the "tentpod". a small sound system (stereo) with built in speakers on the trailer and a wooden hard top to cover and protect the tent when not erected, that would serve as a table when not on the trailer. the legs for it could be made from simple steel structural tubing that would serve as a canoe or kayak rack when the cover is on the trailer, Also this hard top would supply the means to set up a 45-90 watt solar system on the trailer for constant charging, even while being towed. with the correct panel choice they wouldn't need to be removed from the "table top" and the table could be used at two sides around it OR multiple panels removed and set up on a ground mount Or the to used at the basis if the ground mount itself. That's the great thing about doing it yourself, you decide how you want to do it.
One more thing, none of this is intended as insult or in anyway an attack, some things are difficult to word in the manner they are meant, and like I stated, from my experience the "numbers didn't add up", and the date that this was refreshed, made it look like an april fools joke. As for the final product, it IS prime and is something I myself would proudly use, so one of my comments are meant to take away from that

tnsoftailrider (author)ScottE42015-09-06

ScottE4, you are the one who is incorrect. Every Amish community may not be exactly the same. I hunt in Ohio east of Columbus. Every year we take our deer to an Amish processor who processes our deer along with a few hundred others. Though he is not connected to the electric grid he is connected to natural gas which in turn provides the fuel for a very large electric generator to power the large coolers and freezers needed to process meat. In addition, his neighbor is a furniture maker. My brother has had several pieces made by him. His shop is the size of a large grocery store and it is powered by a 250KW, 480 volt, 3 phase generator which is also fueled by natural gas. Since they both need items delivered by UPS and FedX, they both have phones, but not in the house. They are located in the outhouse.

SethD4 (author)2015-09-05

So that 1000 dollar tent was because they paid someone to build it for them and the electrical system with the lights and water heater and whatnot most of cost went to paying someone to instal all of those things.

Tangski (author)2015-06-11

Oh, and for this cost, I would personally just buy a TAB trailer, just as light....

Tangski (author)2015-06-11

A word on finishes. Yes, wood can be just fine...there is a new epoxy paint/covering perfect for this as it is now used on commercial signs! And the cost is no more per gallon than very good paint! It comes in two parts, can be rolled or sprayed and is GREAT for this kind for project! lasts years, water proof, UV proof's use it now a lot! And it looks great. You can add layers as well, to a thicker exterior, remains flexible enough to weather very very well. I plan to use it on my project too. Along with oil asphalt on the bottom (can't afford the aluminium stuff...darn, but that's life...) Hope this helps. Can be added over this paint job too! Hey, how cool is that! It is also used to give styro foam a hard exterior impervious to weather! Many sets are built in movies using this stuff. 'Styro- spray' is one source. Cheers! happy building!

JohnM17 (author)2015-04-25

Would you share the information about your custom tent? I need to have one put together for my project. Thanks.

to'bryant (author)2014-10-28

Wow Great build. How is it holding up?

anthonyschr (author)to'bryant2015-04-07

Thanks. The plywood box is definitely a weakness, as joints can move, allowing moisture to invade. We have the frame at a shop right now to repair and reinforce it after a pretty major failure. Short story: we arrived at Joe Nall last summer with the trailer hanging at an odd angle. The tongue's connection to the frame had been seriously compromised. We're fortunate that we made it there.

ScottE4 (author)2015-04-07

"An Amish craftsman helped to get the electrical system properly wired."

Come on, they don't believe in electricity... Its getting deep here!

ScottE4 (author)2015-04-07

While it is an impressive build, when I see these prices in the list, I have to say, April Fools Day is over

ScottE4 (author)ScottE42015-04-07

$717 dollars in paint? there isn't that much in paint in a custom car paint job utilizing lacquer or even a boat using epoxy based paint.

wolfgang64 (author)2013-01-22

I commend your complete thinking.This is impressive one other thought, any ideas about keeping a freash water source and or filtration on board?

bowtiez844 (author)wolfgang642014-05-11

My brother-in-law, David Andres, in Clancy, MT, has an AMAZING self-contained, solar-charged water pump and filtration system that comes complete in a Toughbox that will pump and filter all of your water from any relatively nearby source. It would be a great water source for this application. I can email you the specs, if you would like.

martinsr (author)bowtiez8442015-03-15

Great trailer project. For a shower I use 12v pump and a zodi. A self contained pump, filter etc would be great. Could you share the specs?

anthonyschr (author)wolfgang642014-10-20

I think we have a hand-pump filter as well as a Big Berkey gravity filter, both of which could be used with our system.

mike.webersr (author)2014-08-10

where did you get the tent or was it made for you? I'm still trying to find one that is even close, of course I realize the flap is was added to the tent thanks

Peter E (author)mike.webersr2014-12-28

Hi, i have seen a rooftoptent like this on an australian webpage

johnybody (author)2014-10-15

Great project! Can you tell me more about how the table is attach to the trailer? It look like a quick disconnect system.

Muleagain (author)2014-08-29

I'm not sure this is going to be something I can get into. Wheelchair bound here. I can walk just not very far. I have been thinking about getting an equipment trailer and building up from there. Then again I may just go with a nice tandem axle 7.5x12 cargo box and build that way. Cost is going to get me tho. But nice job on your trailer, bit on the expensive side tho. I make this suggestion tho. Move the solar panel to the tongue of the trailer and put it on a long pipe. Where it is now, it doesn't get full sunlight.

chestef (author)2014-07-01


As an engineer I am amazed at how this camper was developed. I grew up with my best friends dad having developed a camping trailer that served his family of 6 to camp and stay off the ground (my friends mom was afraid of snakes). When it came time for my family of 4 to camp we were always ill after tent camping. Following the above example I adapted an out-of-the-box tent to a homemade trailer and solved the problem. The greatest compliment I received was from a camper that came into the camp grounds after dark with a new ($3,500 coleman camper) and having him walk around the periphery of our campsite. His comment was "...friend, one of us is doing something wrong"! Great project!

jexner (author)2014-06-07

That's wicked cool! Thanks for sharing :)

ehyofranky (author)2014-06-02

$11k is a lot of change for a plywood box on wheels.

ccooper33 (author)2014-05-06

Wow.... Really impressive

alperock (author)2013-07-25

Tek kelimeyle mükemmel. ( perfect design )

musnil (author)alperock2013-12-03

downlod dosyasını indiremedim yardımcı olursanız sevinirim

z2868camaro (author)2013-02-16

Fantastic job! The only thing I can see is that 11K is a lot of money. I'd have to just buy something complete.

GrissleFist (author)2013-01-19

That is really cool. Can you post a video of you setting it up. That would help us understand how parts of it worked (which would help me engineer one of my own).

dman789 (author)2012-11-30

camper trailer like this one in Australia for 40000 with just a few extras that if added to yours wouldn't be a necessary thing to do but it would still cost less than 40,000

compact (author)2012-11-19

There is a new forum out there for folks interested in Trailer Supported Adventuring called Tventuring. A place to discuss building, modifying, outfitting and using this type of tent topped camping trailer. Check it out www.tventuring/trailerforum/

cajundood (author)2012-05-21

hello.... great instructable by the way. your project as well as a couple of other teardrop trailer style camping units have me dreaming up all sorts of things. what i have settled on is a miniature camper/ toy hauler built from an enclosed 6x12 trailer. it will be an off-the-grid type and i will use it to camp as well as a BOL if the SHTF. i love the way you have the solar panel incorperated into the structure. i will use lots of your designs in mine. if you have any suggestions on how to best utilize my limited space, I am all ears. I don't have the carpentry skills to start from a flatbed trailer, so i am gonna start with a new 6x12 enclosed trailer.

anthonyschr (author)cajundood2012-08-04

Sounds great. I love your idea of starting with an enclosed trailer. That should save you a lot of labor and keep the weight down. Should we do a project like this again, we would definitely consider that route. With the weight we have to deal with, it would be nice if it were balanced closer to the axle, so keep that in mind when placing things like a water tank or batteries.
One thing you could try is to place certain things on the outside of the trailer. This saves interior space, but it also helps to establish the trailer as a "hub" for all the different functions rather than just a storage unit.
I'd love to see your finished project!

elktrip2000 (author)2012-02-19

I've been wondering where you found your tent for this project. It look like an 8'X8' floor is that correct? Please share the source.

anthonyschr (author)elktrip20002012-08-04

The tent frame and canvas were custom built by skilled craftsmen not far from where we live. They did a superb job.

Lorddrake (author)2011-09-06

2 questions ..

rough estimate ..for the materials, how much would it cost to build something like this?

how long does it take to set up / break down the camperer?

anthonyschr (author)Lorddrake2011-09-06

Two people should allow at least a 1/2 hour to position the trailer, unfold the tent, and erect the canopy as shown in this picture. That figure is rather a guess. I may update or supplement it later.

Expect a cost estimate in some form sometime in the future.

elktrip2000 (author)anthonyschr2012-02-19

I've been wondering where you found your tent for this project. It look like an 8'X8' floor is that correct? Please share the source.

Lorddrake (author)anthonyschr2011-09-07

is it possiblefor just one person to set it up, or is that just too few hands?

anthonyschr (author)Lorddrake2011-09-07

I wouldn't rule out the possibility of one person being able to do it, but we've never tried it that I know of. Setup is quite manageable, though, with two people.

Also, an improvement on our design might just make the difference. Any ideas?

Lorddrake (author)anthonyschr2011-09-07

When you get a few more pics up showing the setup process and how everything looks opened and closed I might have some input on how to aid in making this an easy one-person job.

looking forward to seeing more of this awesome build.

FoolishSage (author)Lorddrake2011-09-06

I would also be interested in these two questions and add another to the list:
Do you know how much the trailer weighs roughly (fully loaded)?

I have a basic car license which limits the weight of a trailer to 750kg (approx 1650 pounds). Seeing how you use a 2000 pound axle (950kg) this kind of trailer might be right on the limit of what I could haul without need for a higher license.

anthonyschr (author)FoolishSage2011-09-06

Unfortunately, the trailer ended up being heavier than Dad expected. I understand it weighs a little under 2000 lb. unloaded and a little over 2000 lb. loaded (with at least some of our gear).

I'm afraid that would exceed your 1650-lb. limit. However, were you to build your own, you could probably get near that by slimming down the design. Since the box is one of the trailer's heaviest components, reducing the amount of plywood used could be one the first steps.

lsmith254 (author)anthonyschr2011-09-08

You can also reduce weight by using 3/4 plywood for the deck instead of PT 2x4's it would seem.When you consider that waterproofing is a bit more of a priority than the trailer being able to withstand branches and rocks, then you can add a skin if desired there.
I am planning a teardrop build this spring, in sections so I can knock it down and use the flatbed by itself to haul. Running rubbler gaskets made from a lot of discarded bike innertubes will encircle each side, top, front and back section. I have been buying parts for a year; using car trunk liner for sound-proofing as well as various vinyl floor mats, too. I am going to use 2x2's with Liquid Nails instead of all screws, and apply a sealer to guard against dry-rot on the inside.
I plan for it to look like a Woody, but stain it grey and hopefully fiberglass each panel individually. Been saving drawer glides from a nearby county school office furniture site; I take my drill down and get all the hardware I need after everyone else is done picking! I plan to coat the underside of the trailer in asphalt roof coating, I hear that is what they use and it works pretty good. My current project segment is figuring out the wiring/battery/solar setups; I am going to use solar heat and solar hot water. I have scavenged parts for that already and will test those this month.

JakeBlanton (author)lsmith2542011-09-08

A teardrop that could slide into a standard flatbed utility trailer could be a useful project. That way, you could remove the teardrop when you needed to use the utility trailer for hauling stuff.

lsmith254 (author)JakeBlanton2011-09-08

I thought about that, but most aesthetically pleasing teardrop patterns feature a curved roof-line that is higher in the front and slopes towards the back for the kitchenette hatch, so that means it is curved. It will add too much thickness to be stored under the deck, so I planned on just 'dropping' all the separate pieces in a secure location and covering them with a tarp until I need to re-assemble it. I thought of splitting the curved parts right down the middle, which would reduce the thickness of the dis-assembled pieces, but when you start stacking pieces like this the depth adds up and would still be too thick to try to fit under the deck. A tambor radius, perhaps, with a rubber lining? Now you have me thinking about it again, rolling around more ideas. hmmm.

Also, more pieces means more seams that could potentially fail over time, and I don't want water getting inside, ever, unless it's from rain tracked in, or from being cleaned. I dream of making the interior of Ply-boo, but at $250.00/sheet, that is out of my range. Maybe they will have thin bamboo veneer by then. I would go for that.

Thanks for piquing my interest in the component design again. I have other projects going on right now that have to be done before cold wet weather sets in. Have a great day, and thank you for your input!

dougbyte (author)lsmith2542011-09-08

Check OutBack Teardrop Good forum and lots of good plans etc

About This Instructable




More by anthonyschr:Homebuilt Camper Trailer
Add instructable to: