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.
Solar Power System (with associated hardware): $997
Side Room: $2,029
Total for Basic Camper Trailer Build: $11,438