Teardrop Trailer Plans : How to Build a Cheap Camper

Picture of Teardrop Trailer Plans : How to Build a Cheap Camper
First off, I originally documented this on my arts and crafts blog, Make It With Jason.  I wanted to build a teardrop trailer that I could take camping around the Pacific Northwest, where I live.  We have amazing scenes of beauty there, like Mt. Hood, and Multnomah Falls, so I decided I also wanted to paint a mural all the way around it.

All in all, I spent about $500 total on this project (including a used $120 Harbor Freight utility trailer) , and this teardrop trailer is about as barebones as you can get. But it works, and it keeps you dry and warm.
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Step 1: First step: Design Your Teardrop Trailer

Picture of First step: Design Your Teardrop Trailer
I love creative camping spaces for compact living – which is quite a claim, considering I am 6’6″ tall. I owned my first camping trailer back in 2003, and I even lived in it for a month when I was airbrushing down in the little tourist beach side town of Seaside, OR.

At some point, I became aware of the teardrop trailer, which is a tiny little trailer that is meant only for sleeping, and offers some accommodation for fairly comfortable food prep and outdoor cooking.

Gathering Ideas

I figured building a teardrop trailer was a project I felt I could pull it off from design to finish by myself, so I started by searching the internet for more info. The reason the teardrop is so popular is that its rounded profile makes it a breeze to pull behind even a car.

I decided to make a traditional style of teardrop – one with a removable galley for easy loading, and two doors.  Here is a photo of my initial design idea, done in Google Sketchup – a free program offered by Google. The truck is my GMC Sonoma – a V6 capable of towing a tiny trailer, but not much else.

The Teardrop Design

First, I drew a quick sketch of what I wanted it to be.  I didn’t want to reinvent the wheel (my first time around), so I went with a traditional route.  In Sketchup, I downloaded a trailer base (because I knew I wanted a roughly 4X8 bed on the trailer.

I also knew I wanted to just put a couple sheets of 3/4″ plywood as a floor and building base for the rest of the trailer.

When I build another one (a larger, “canned ham” type), I will be building it with a 2X4 framed floor and use the plywood as a subfloor, but that isn’t really diminishing the stability of this one, because it is attached to solid steel.

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Any idea what total weight was with trailer included?

egreen8413 days ago

how much does this weigh with trailer


Excellent plans and realisation of simple and cheap tear-drop camping trailer!

Just two notes:

- Your are quite right about simple kitchen for cooking outside! A few decades ago, we have light camping tent-trailer and cooked always outside. But, not only we - all people wiht big ADRIA camping trailers, fully equiped - never used thier kithcen inside - but have simple equipement to cook outside...

- About the weigt: our tent-trailer was heavy around 320 kg ~ 700 pounds, and we menaged to pull it by small FAIT 600 D and TRABANT 601,and my brother with Citröen Dyane (all cars had engines of 600 - 770 cc and 25 - 32 HP) ... problems were across Bosnian mountians, but never really serious. On level ground - no problem with speeds up to 80 km/ hour ~ 50 mph (that was legal limit anyway)... So, with any modern automobile, there shoudln't be problems with such and bigger weights?



P.S.: Planed to transformed it into tear-drop trailer, but instead of that made motto-camper, which was stolen when finished!

brako-kamping (2).jpgbrako-kamping (4).jpg

Looks good but I would not have placed the hinge of the drivers side door to the rear. If for any reason it comes open while driving it would slam with tremendous force against the side of your trailer. Look at factory ones they have RH and LH doors that always open from the rear forward. Just thought I would mention for others attempting this.

TomS143 months ago

Wow! That's really impressive work. Have you done projects as big as this one before? I've been trying to find or make a horse trailer, but it's tough to find the right supplies. I've drawn up a few sketches, but nothings really great yet.

neil.kay.794 months ago

nice work mate! lovely simple idea, definately worth a go. cheers man!

traisjames1 year ago

Do you have the google sketch up available for download anywhere?

MakeItWithJason (author)  traisjames7 months ago

Not at present. I'm planning on making some plans fairly soon, but nothing right now. Too busy with work and home life. Sorry.

Damn, I was just about to ask the same thing... :-(

Louise W515211 months ago

I believe I'll try it. Thx for the basics & "If I had it to do over again..." comments.

I like corrugated tin. Think I'll try that for the roof. Perhaps using the redwood corrugated trim for the edges, and seal all with silicone.

What about a simple opening window on the side panel? (Forget the door window - no impact shocks from shutting it.

I grew up in Scappoose!

MakeItWithJason (author)  Louise W51527 months ago

Just Make It, Louise! A small window should be a good option. I'd totally buy the windows and door if I were to build one again.

Used to drive through Scappoose several times a month to do work at the paper mill in St. Helens, OR.

Seriously considering building my own trailer based off of a harbor freight utility trailer- only thing i'm worried about is how do you go about registering a DIY trailer with the Oregon DMV? any potential problems?

MakeItWithJason (author)  ryan.l.clement7 months ago

From the OR DMV website

A light trailer is any trailer having a loaded weight of 8,000 pounds or less, except trailers for hire (for rent), recreational trailers,
special use trailers and fixed loads. Light trailers may include boat
trailers or horse trailers. For information on how to register a
for-rent trailer, contact DMV.

You do not have to register a light trailer (which includes a utility,
boat, or horse trailer) or obtain a trip permit to operate it on the
road if the trailer, plus the heaviest load carried, weighs 1,800 pounds
or less. However, you may wish to obtain a title for your trailer
because most law enforcement agencies and insurance companies want to
see proof of ownership if it is ever stolen. All trailers used on the
road must be equipped to meet safety standards; see
ODOT's Vehicle Equipment and Safety page for more information.

Read more here:

If you buy your trailer from Harbor Freight it will come with a title certificate, so there should be no problems registering it.

MakeItWithJason (author) 7 months ago

This took about a month working on it off and on. So, yeah--shouldn't take too long to buld. It's just a bunch of wood slapped together. ;)

BrianDieleman7 months ago

how long did it take you to build it?. could you easily build it in less than a month?.

Very nice job. Reminds me if a camper I built 20+ years ago. It was 4' hi x 6x8' , had heat, cook stove, running water, bed & potty and was light enough for two big guys to lift off the s-10 I had.
Thanks--a camper for an S-10 would be sweet!
joannenk1 year ago
Great job! We're going to start making our little camper for our winter project. We have an old trailer we don't use to start so I'm looking forward to the end product. If it turns out anything close to yours, I'll be thrilled .
MakeItWithJason (author)  joannenk1 year ago
Good luck! Mine was pretty basic--you can go all kinds of fancy on a project like this.
jujubee311 year ago
Holy cow as in how in the world did u make that it iz so detailed
jujubee311 year ago
Holy cow
MakeItWithJason (author)  jujubee311 year ago
Holy cow as in you LIKE it, or holy cow, as in "what a monstrosity!" ?
plinz1 year ago
how much would you say the whole thing weighs when its all loaded up?
MakeItWithJason (author)  plinz1 year ago
It's about 600 pounds unloaded. The loaded is completely conditional on what you're loading it with.
I think you did a great job and also a very good presentation. Good work...
Thanks, glad you liked it. My teardrop is currently for sale on Portland's Craigslist. I am moving on to wanting to build a canned ham style trailer next!
pwm032 years ago
So could this possibly be pulled by a motorcycle with no problem? Love this website!!
bo88y pwm031 year ago
There are commercially-available trailers for motorcycles, but they're either small cargo trailers or pop-up campers. Pulling something this big behind a motorcycle would lead to the tail wagging the dog (4'W plus tires & fenders, 5'H, 12'L).
-- Most teardrop trailers are built with torsion axles instead of leaf springs, and these can be had in half-axle sets, so you could build a trailer to a suitable width (about $200/pr. for 500#-1,000#). Check out for a teardrop cargo trailer that you could maybe fit inside, in a fetal position, but is still 40" overall width. The cargo compartment is 24"W x 24"H x 42"L. It's conceivable that you could make a trailer that's 6" wider, 10"-12" taller, and 30" longer, so you could just sleep in it, but that would be pushing the envelope for what's towable by a bike. You could use narrower tires and fenders and maybe cheat a bit on the tongue length, but you're going to end up longer than most cars (bike and trailer). Obstruction of the view to the rear is something that needs attention, too. An interesting design challenge. It would be slick if you could pull it all together.
MakeItWithJason (author)  pwm032 years ago
I would say that a teardrop designed for a motorcycle could be made--but I wouldn't necessarily use this one.
thewetturd2 years ago
Great job. I would really like to build something like this especially if I can talk the wife into using it lol. The back roof area of the trailer hinges upward with that piano hinge you mentioned is that correct? How do you get that hinged area to not leak? I can't wrap my head around a design that wouldn't leak water into the trailer. Congrats on your project bud, enjoy it fully.
MakeItWithJason (author)  thewetturd2 years ago
For the hinges (which you are correct, they ARE a weak spot), you can attach a piece of heavy plastic or vinyl that overlaps the hinges and add some silicon caulk where the vinyl meets the teardrop, you should be able to avoid any water damage through the hinge.
Did you consider using aluminum hurricane hinges? They run about $50, and would eliminate the weak spot. But then, that would have added 10% to your cost. A search for "teardrop trailer hinges" will bring up a bunch of examples, because they're so often associated with trailers like this.
spylock2 years ago
Does or would you save money on personal property taxes in your county by registering it as a trailer?Im sorry,I dont mean nosey,the personal property taxes in my county(Hanover,Virginia) are killer on the bank account,so I was just interested..
MakeItWithJason (author)  spylock2 years ago
Well, I'm certainly no expert on this type of thing--especially in other states, but this is so small that you can sometimes get away with registering it as a utility trailer. It is very light, and probably won't fall into any higher weight-class where the higher taxes or registration fees enter. If you build it so the shell can be removed, all the better!
spylock2 years ago
Ive always liked this design,I have one question,do you register it as a camper or trailer,Id think it would be cheaper to register it as a trailer for tax reasons,you wouldnt be lying,the title says trailor until you do have it registered as something other.
MakeItWithJason (author)  spylock2 years ago
in Oregon, I can register it as a utility trailer, and the laws are very lenient on small trailers.

bennelson2 years ago
Here's mine.
I did aluminum on the top and woody sides.
Great! Is it a single sheet of aluminium?
The only seam in the aluminum is at the hinge where the hatch opens to the galley. I purchased the aluminum from a local semi-truck-trailer repair place. It's the same thing big-rig trailers are made from, painted white on one side, and shiny silver on the other. I don't remember the exact dimensions of the metal, but it was nice and large.
I pull my trailer with a 2.2L 4-cylinder engine. (Hoping to upgrade to a 2.5l diesel in the future!)
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