About 10 years ago I saw my first teardrop trailer and was really impressed. I've been camping for nearly 50 years (tenting, trailer camping, and backpacking with my parents and car camping/backpacking with my wife and children) and I though one would be perfect for low impact car camping without having to set up and tear down a tent on a daily basis on a long trip.

The real impetus for this project was a desire to take my children on a vacation across the USA and to visit 18 - 20 national parks over a 40 day window (Photo 1).

With the teardrop trailer you have a good solution - small enough to get through tight spaces (Photos 2,3,4,5,6) while large enough to provide some comfort and independence for more than a day or three.

Before I began design and construction I sat down and thought about what features I wanted in the camper and how I was going to use it.

As your typical geek - I needed to start with capturing the requirements:

    1. Trailer had to be large enough for a full-size fulton mattress to fit in (if I'm going to build it, I at least want it to be comfortable to sleep in).
    2. Didn't want it so small that we felt claustrophobic if we were trapped in it for the better part of a day due to bad weather (Photos 7,8 - California redwoods) .
    3. Wanted decent airflow through the unit and insulation to provide some noise reduction from outside noises and to slow down temperature swings on the inside.
    4. Wanted the camper part to be removable from the flatbed trailer so the trailer could be used for other things if necessary.
    5. Wanted everything to run from 12 VDC, but also wanted a couple of 120 VAC outlets and a battery charger available if AC power was available.
    6. Wanted LED lighting - low power consumption and they don't break as easily as regular lights when subjected to shock and vibration.
    7. Wanted a functional kitchen/galley with a decent prep counter-top (we have tent camped for years and I really dislike doing food prep on picnic tables - they work but...) - (Photos 9,10,11,12)
    8. Wanted sufficient space to store all the cooking gear, a cooler, 12 gallons of water, and storage for food (Photo 9)
    9. Wanted a stove (reuse my trusty Coleman propane stove) (Photo 10)
    10. Wanted a gas grill (Photo 11)
    11. Needed a "sink/washbasin area - but decided against a full up sink, drain, water pump implementation - it would take up a lot of space that can't be used for storage (Photo 11)
    12. Wanted storage in the cabin area - his, hers', ours'
    13. Camper needed to be sturdy enough to handle some fairly rough off-road bouncing around without getting damaged (Photos 2,3,4,5,6)
    14. Wanted the top of the camper to be sufficiently strong to support a roof rack to haul kayaks or a rocket box if necessary.
    15. Wanted an aluminum bodied trailer instead of a steel one. Provides for corrosion resistance, strength, and light weight (Photo 13)
    16. Wanted space in front of camper (2' to 3') to be able to carry 4 bicycles also (Photo 13).
    17. Wanted doors that had good locks and windows that could open with screens to provide airflow (Photos 1,13,14)
    18. Wanted a roof vent in the cabin area with a fan (12 VDC)
    19. Seriously though about Solar Cells - decided against them at this time,
    20. Seriously looked at deep cycle batteries but decided that two pickup truck batteries that were compatible with my truck would let me swap out batteries as necessary to recharge them while driving down the road using the truck alternator.
    21. Wanted a space for a fire extinguisher.... Hey - I'm cooking with propane!
    22. Was very concerned about structural integrity - shock and vibration does a lot of damage to things not designed to handle it.
    23. Wanted it to be able to handle the weather - hot, cold, wet, and dry. (Photos 7,8).

    I began by creating paper sketches for the camper in December, finalized the drawings by February and began building the camper in March. Construction was finished in late May and we took it out over the Memorial Day weekend for a shake down trip. We returned from the Memorial Day trip and I made a series of tweaks to the camper over the next couple of weeks.

    In the middle of June I packed up the kids, the wife, the kitchen sink and broke the trailer in properly - a 9991 mile trip around the USA visiting multiple national parks - some nights staying at commercial campgrounds while other nights were only lit by the trailer LED lights and the stars.

    Step 1: Creating the Design

    I began the project by looking at the photos of many teardrops published on the internet, at the many plans published in the 40's and 50's by Popular Mechanics, and finally by visiting a couple of travel trailer dealers that sell commercially made units.

    The trailers the dealers had were nice but were generally spartan and lacked the custom features that a home-made trailer has.

    I was also very tempted to purchase one of the detailed construction plans that can be purchased by multiple vendors on the internet that walk you through each step to make the trailer - but in the end I decided to design and build my own.

    I started out by creating a number of hand drawings of potential shapes and sizes and modified them as I began to resolve my requirements. I measured the cooler I wanted to haul in the back and measured the futon mattress that would go in the cabin to get the minimum interior dimensions.

    I had a difficult time deciding on the trailer bed size - 7' x 14' or a 6' x 12' bed. The more I thought about it and laid things out on paper as well as adding the total trailer length and the length of the truck I was going to tow with, the more I realized the 7' x 14' trailer would be too large for some of the places I wanted to go and the 6'x12' trailer was the more cost effective and versatile solution (for instance Zion NP has trailer size limitations).

    To get an idea of the final physical size, I cut some 1" wide x 1/8" thick x 96" strips of from pine wood and used the wood strips and duct tape to create a physical outline of the desired frame (width, length, height) on my patio and used this outline to firm up the design.

    In the end, camper was 71-1/2" wide, 108" long, and 60" high. The major drawback of selecting this size of a camper from a construction perspective - sheets of plywood are 48" x 96" so I couldn't just use a single sheet of plywood anywhere - this drove the cost up a little and also added to complexity of the build.

    I tried to scan the drawings I made for the cabin but the contrast was really bad - green engineering paper and mechanical pencil doesn't hold up well over a few months of using them for reference.

    If you haven't already done it check out the teardrop trailers by e1ioan or HaleyP5 - they are great! There are several custom things they did that I would have loved to incorporate into my design - if I would have thought about it. That is half the fun of building your own teardrop - you can customize it to your own needs or desires.

    Once I knew the design, I could begin purchasing the necessary materials... but first some thoughts on the construction of the camper.

    <p>Very Nice! love the design and the layout of every thing.</p>
    <p>Your teardrop trailer instructable was very informative as well as an adventure to read. Your design and careful planning can be seen but we can never think of everything and we always find that we should of added this or that. You built a very nice and cozy camper with a lot of things in it to make your trip more comfortable. I like that you can remove the camper and still use your trailer for other things. From the photos I take it your family was involved in the construction of the camper which makes it even better. There is nothing better than spending quality time with the family building something and then using it together. I like all your ideas and I also like all your suggestions and lessons learned. As a fellow retired military engineer, your craftsmanship and ability to think outside the box to fix obstacles that came up is great. Good luck in the contest and I hope your camper last through many more trips.</p>
    <p>Thank you for the feedback and thank for serving in the Army. V/R, Allen</p>
    <p>What an amazing instructable. Very well done. </p>
    <p>I want so badly to build this! I'll just have to adapt it to the bed of my truck. It'll be great!</p>
    <p>I thought about the bed of the truck at one time. Pop a back hatch up to get access. I would build two pull out shelves on the bottom of the cabin - one for the galley and one for storage - they would both ride on the bed of the truck. Slide them back into the bed and pull the hatch closed at night. Would still have a door with a screen on one side that opens to get into the sleeping area. There is a lot you could do as long as you aren't wedded to having a flush toilet and running water. Allen</p>
    HA! Was a tent camper for over 10 years. I'm fine without the flush toilet and running water. My fianc&eacute;, though... That might be a problem :-)
    <p>Allen,</p><p>Superb camper. Your Instructable is very detailed, careful, and precise. It had to take you almost as much time as the camper! ;-) Surely a great resource for someone who wants to build one for themselves. </p><p>If you hadn't self-identified as an engineer, it would have been obvious to me anyway. After reading a lot of jumbled nonsense on the Internet about how to do things, it is such a breath of fresh air to read something planned and written by a thoughtful and logical person ... and one humble enough to add a Lessons Learned (LL) section. Funny aside: LL exercises were standard parts of project completion in the military where I was. Worked great and improved many things. Year later, I tried it while working for a company as a project manager. Made everyone puff up, cry, and flee the conference room. Some days, I really really miss the military.</p><p>Thanks for sharing such a great project and write-up.</p><p>OSI</p>
    Good Morning Onesimpleidea,<br> Thanks for your feedback. Completely agree with the Lessons Learned situation - so many people take the as personal attacks rather than looking at them as opportunities for self improvement or organizational improvement. <br>Have a great day,<br>V/R,<br>Allen
    <p>Well Allen, your kids will definitely remember building this camper and the holiday that followed. I can safely say that I fully know just what a build like this involves. I once built a plywood box for the back of my Corona station wagon to keep tools safe and myself safe in the event of an accident. I made it so that it could disassemble for storage and it had a tailgate and a concertina folding lid. I also made a &quot;builders canopy&quot; for a 7 x 4 trailer out of tube steel and gal. sheet metal. I have also fitted out two Hi-Ace vans several times, for wardrobe installation work requiring a long angled side along the drivers side to carry large materials, 8 x 4 sheets of melamine, mdf and the like, Working inside a vehicle or trailer is a right pain. Curves and bumps, trying to make things strong without being too heavy. It is not something for the faint of heart.</p><p>About the only thing I could suggest was having one or two pull out awnings like what you see on a lot of 4 x 4 vehicles today. It would ruin the look of the teardrop though.</p><p>How many did you sleep inside the camper?</p>
    Hi Mark,<br> Thanks for the comments and feedback. The cabin was for my wife and I. The kids had backpacking tents - no problem for the apprentice - he's working on his Eagle Scout now so this was a stroll in the park. For the daughter, this was a new way to torture a teenage girl - sleeping in a tent for a month, no cell coverage for days at a time, no running water (shower) or flush toilet. We tried to stop at a nice (KOA type) campground every 3-4 days to clean up and stopped at a hotel one night after 4 days of pretty remote camping. <br>I like your suggestion regarding the awnings - I've always used tarps and never gave them a though - will have to look into that idea - one over each door would make it easier to keep wet shoes outside. V/R,<br>Allen
    I am an RV Technician by trade and this is quite an impressive build. I have seen many and have worked on more than I care to remember as they, more often than not, are junk. This one is an exception. Go to your local trailer supply and buy a tube of GREY SELF LEVELING LAP COMPOUND and apply around the flange of roof vent. Cover the heads of the mounting screws and the edge of the flange overlapping both by &frac12;&quot; or more. The putty strip is great but not quite enough. Amazingly enough, water can and will find a way through. GREAT BUILD AND I HOPE, SCRATCH THAT, I KNOW, YOU AND FAMILY WILL ENJOY FOR MANY YEARS. CONGRATULATIONS!
    <p>Thanks for the comments and suggestion. Allen</p>
    Very nice, you did a great job and hopefully with your inspiration I'm going to finish mine someday, the frame work is all welded and now I need to finish it. Some ibles are thrown together but you can tell by your attention to detail that you're very persnickety, and then for you to take the time to write out the detailed information brought it all together. I'll be interested in your next build especially if you are one that applies the same amount of detail in all you do. Keep up the great work.
    <p>Great Build. Thanks for sharing</p>
    <p>look up UAV Custom Billings Montana! good people good product.</p>
    <p>Well with a idea like that,Just figure how much it cost to build and start making them on the side.That's a wonderful looking little trailer.To me you did a very nice job.</p>
    <p>Maybe after I retire in 20 or 30 years... The labor hours to turn rough cut cherry into cabinets was pretty high. Thanks for the compliment though. I have thought about making a second one - just to do it and to fix the mistakes made in the first one.</p>
    <p>Awesome build! Great instructable.</p>
    <p>Very well done! Thank you.</p>
    <p>Fantastic ible!</p>
    This Ible is amazingly thorough. Thank you for sharing it and your family's tour of the USA! I work in the Warranty Dept of an RV dealership and like dadsaid5x, trailers are sadly manufactured very poorly. RV Technicians are amazing people who know plumbing, carpentry, electrical, mechanical, digital, finish work &amp; people skills! Your ability &amp; enthusiasm to complete this trailer in such a short a time was awesome.
    <p>Thanks. </p>
    <p>Great build and amazing write up. I really like how the trailer is set up. The cargo area in front for bikes is great.</p>
    I love everything about this.

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