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:
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.
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.