The Ultimate Kayak Hauler and Rooftop Tent Camper.




Introduction: The Ultimate Kayak Hauler and Rooftop Tent Camper.

About: I am an outdoor enthusiast, with a B.S. in Civil Engineering and a M.S. in Systems Engineering. I love spending time with my beautiful wife and three amazing kids. As a family we love to hike camp and play...

I love to camp and go fishing with the family, but we do things a bit more extreme. We used to backpack miles in and set up camp. That is a bit harder to do now that we have two little ones, although we plan to start that back up soon. In the pictures above, you can see the progression of my trailer. I don't like being stuck to the beaten path so I designed my own toy hauler camper. It is a bit different from the norm, but it is fully functional. This trailer is perfect for us since it can serve multiple purposes. It can be a camper, a kayak trailer, or even a moving trailer. We can now carry all our gear and setup in more primitive sites than with the average camper, but everything is self contained for ease of use instead of unloading tons of gear to do traditional primitive camping. It has the added bonus of being able to carry both of our kayaks and the dogs' crate, so the whole family can get in on the fun!

When we aren't camping, I am fishing any and every chance that I get. The trailer can carry three large kayaks at a time, not to mention still have room for the fishing gear and ice chests in the bed of the truck. This saves gas money and parking fees that my buddies and I would have used if we had each taken separate vehicles to transport our kayaks independently. So it saves us space since we do not need different trailers specifically built to transport kayaks and canoes or for moving. Our trailer can be quickly converted to go pick up that new bedroom furniture that my wife was wanting. Boat specific trailers cannot do that!

Step 1: The Trailer

The trailer I started with was the Little Giant 7' torsion trailer. I chose this trailer because I needed a trailer that would fit some of my household goods and kayak during a move and this trailer fit behind my at the time Subaru Baja perfectly. The wheelbase was not oversized, and it towed amazingly. I now have a Toyota T100 and my wife has her Honda Pilot; the trailer tows well behind each.

Funny note: When I ordered my trailer, I had it shipped to our farm and while under the impression that the trailer was going to be fully built and delivered on a flatbed. Haha. Boy was I wrong! It came wrapped on a pallet with some assembly required. Nothing was put together. I had a pallet full of parts and an instruction manual. I decided I needed to round up some help. So some buddies of mine to came over, and we knocked it out over a fun weekend.

Step 2: Building the Lid and Rack

I found an old compact truck lumber rack on craigslist for $150, and when I bought it, the guy threw in some scrap steel square tubing. The first thing I did was cut off the overhanging portion on the front of the rack. Next, I lightly hand sanded off the rust layer on the rack. Make sure to remove every bit of the rust. The scrap steel square tubing was cut to make cross members where the roof top tent would later be attached. The tubing was welded to the rack using a mag flux core welder. Once everything cooled one last light sanding was done, and the dust wiped off. Next, black primer spray paint was sprayed on, followed by a flat black enamel spray paint once it had fully dried. With the rack built, it was time for the lid.

For the lid, I already had plenty of 2x4's and 5 ply 4'x8' sheets around from building shelves in my garage. That being the case, I decided on a wooden construction. The construction was quite simple, I made two platforms then placed them on the trailer to get a true fit. Once I knew the dimensions of the center section, I cut the 2x4's to fit and secured them to the two platforms. Next, I simply attached a piece of plywood to the frame, and the top of the lid was complete. Now for the issue of keeping it on the trailer.

I devised a simple solution, just attach a 2x6 over the 2x4 and create a track that keeps the lid from sliding side to side. Next, I needed some way to keep the lid from moving forward and back while still being easily removable. For this I added metal strips that could rotate 180 degrees to aid in installation. The metal strips, or anchors, were secured to the 2x4 structure of the lid using large lag screws. The lid would need to be removable; therefore by having a movable anchor point, it would make re-installing the massive lid easier. The metal strips were then matched up to the steel square tubing on the trailer, I drilled holes and inserted stainless steel bolts on all four corners and secured them with butterfly nuts. Now that the lid was built, it was time to make it a bit more rugged and weatherproof.

Coincidentally about the time I came up with the trailer design, I was also contemplating putting a spray-in bed liner in my truck. I just did not like the high price tag. I was looking at other options and came across Herculiner, a roll-able truck bed liner. What better test platform than my trailer lid? I first used spray in foam to fill in any cracks or joints in the wooden top, then I applied 3 coats of bed liner to the lid. The roll on bed liner worked perfectly and gave the lid a good look.

Now that the lid was completed, I could add the lumber rack I had previously built. I placed the rack on top of the lid and drilled holes where lag bolts would be placed to secure the rack to the top of the lid. The trailer was complete! Or so I thought when I attempted to remove the entire construction off of the trailer. I was at a loss, I had nowhere to hold on to! In order to fix this, handles were added to aid in moving the lid.

Step 3: Attaching the Roof Top Tent (RTT)

The roof top tent I purchased was designed to secure to the top of a vehicle, so I built my rack to mirror roof racks found on vehicles. My rack is just a bit more heavy duty. The RTT is built with rails where bolts hang down and are secured to the rack's cross members. The bolts are then put through a metal piece with two holes, and the nuts are threaded onto the bolts securing the RTT to the rack. There are four points where the RTT is secured to the rack. The RTT is very stable and comfortable inside. I often tow this trailer with the RTT around when I fish Kayak tournaments in and around Florida. I save on hotel costs and while I sleep my Kayak is below me, giving me peace of mind. In a hotel, I would be worried someone would try and steal my Kayak while I lie sleeping. The tent is also very roomy and comfortable. It is roughly the size of a queen sized bed and about two feet longer.

Step 4: Using My Trailer

Not only do I enjoy building stuff, I like to get out there with the family and use it and find ways to improve it. This step is just a fun section where I get to show off pictures of where and how we used the trailer.

Glovebox Gadget Challenge

First Prize in the
Glovebox Gadget Challenge



  • Creative Misuse Contest

    Creative Misuse Contest
  • Metalworking Contest

    Metalworking Contest
  • Fix It! Contest

    Fix It! Contest

32 Discussions

Another yota fan. Got me a second gen runner and a second gen tundra and have been looking for plans for a trailer rugged enough to match em! Sweet!

This is an amazing instructable, and still on my
bucket list of things to do. Off road camping trailers have been HOT in South Africa (and
Australia) for several decades, and the mature designs of current commercial trailers
are amazing! I have no affiliations with any of these (just a quick online
search), but have a look at Conqueror Off-Road campers, Bushwakka Adventure
Trailers, Camptech Trailers, Afrispoor and many similar excellent products as inspiration. And there's a whole sub culture of rooftop tent camping options - especially in Africa where offroad camping can involve visits from some dangerous animals - you really appreciate the height when lions are prowling around...

1 reply

Thanks for liking, I have seen some pretty cool and extreme builds on off road trailers. Mine well works for me and was done on a tight budget. It is much better sleeping off the ground, I have had issues with snakes before in ground tents. Once woke up with a cottonmouth snake on my air mattress, quite the surprise to me!

I was just about to ask what the weight of this was for towing behind my 05 Baja.

then I see a pic with it being towed by a Baja.

Pre-question answers rule.

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Kinda a long story but...The Towing capacity of my Baja was 2000lb. In the picture where I have it loaded up for a cross country trip, the scales top out at around 1850lb for the trailer not including stuff in the car. I drove it all the way from Tennessee to California via I-40, with almost no issues. I nearly ran into overheating issues when we took a back route into Las Vegas. Climbing the mountain roads in the middle of the summer with that much weight on a 4 cylinder was a bit much. I had to watch my speed and run the heater when climbing steep grades for long distances. Other than that the Baja did great, the brakes handled the load well and I could tow most of the way around 70mph. I did the trip with a buddy from college and 2 dogs in the backseat of the car. It was a blast we camped the whole way across.

We are going camping next week yay! I will post more pictures to include the inside of the tent top and bottom and the arrangement of gear inside the trailer.

That's a cool idea. I was thinking of do it in the bed of a small pickup. It would an economical motor home when you want to travel and don't have the funds for motels or a motor home. I like the idea of doing it in a trailer. It would be more convenient to drop the trailer at a camp site do some site seeing.

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I too started off with an idea of making a rack for my RTT on my truck, then shifted my efforts to building this trailer after looking at all the pros and cons.

Great job! I have an old trailer that I keep looking at thinking that there must be *something* i could do with it. I think I just found my inspiration.

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Do it, then post your amazing instructable! Glad you enjoyed mine.

I love that your tent, sleeping quarters, are elevated. Truely a room with a view.... Awesome

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Yes it is, we once camped on a hillside looking over a beautiful desert valley in California. It was seriously the coolest sunrise every the next morning. I wish I would have taken a photo. At least I have the memory.

Nice build on a great project. If I may make a suggestion... be sure to check for cracks in the area of the trailer tongue where the frame bolts go through. My windsurfing trailer tongue broke on both sides at the same time, while I was towing it slowly across town. Had I been towing at highway speeds, it could have been catastrophic. Cheers! BTW... nice family... lucky guy!


3 years ago

I am in the midst of rebuilding my ancientmbut sturdy utility trailer wnd you have inspired me to new heights with your design!

1 reply

Thanks and glad to hear you have been inspired again. Do it, to it!

From SWS to Florida. Nice. The look on the babies face in the WSB pic is classic!

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The picture was perfect, he is actually yawning, but it looks like he is stunned. I do miss kayak fishing the waters around Monterey.

Nice build. These are so popular now. Maybe I will see more DIY ones like this on the road.