Friday, January 11, 2008

Living with a Teardrop Trailer

I have posted a few short videos about teardrop travel trailers recently, and the overwhelmingly positive response has convinced me that I should write an article about them. In the process, I am also going to give you a free download of the 1947 magazine article that is generally credited with starting the current ongoing interest in these tiny trailers.

It is no wonder teardrop trailers are so popular. I mean, what else has all these advantages:
  • Ability to be towed by any vehicle, including (for the smaller versions) a motorcycle
  • Doesn't severely impact gas mileage
  • Can be unhitched and moved around by hand, to get into tight spots or turn around easily
  • Can be built specifically for extreme offroad use, to tow behind a Jeep. Even a standard teardrop trailer is substantially more offroadable than most any other form of RV
  • Doesn't cost any more to register than a small utility trailer
  • Can double as a small utility trailer
  • Makes a perfect "Bugout Trailer" (check this link)
OK, here's the link I promised for the magazine article. I've seen people actually selling this article, but I'm not gonna do that. It was free for me, so it's free for you.

The great thing about the trailer in this article is that, unlike most teardrop trailers, the "house" is intended to fit perfectly on a standard 4'x8' utility trailer, and to be removable so the trailer can be used in its utility configuration.
The article also shows how to build the trailer itself, but that is not necessary because Harbor Freight, Tractor Supply, Lowes and many other places sell a folding 4'x8' utility trailer for $200-$300 that would be ideal. The cabin part that you build yourself could be set up on blocks in the backyard, loaded with your camping gear and bugout kit, while the trailer is stored in a corner of the garage and used as needed for hauling chores.
That's one option. The other, and the one I would personally choose, would be to buy an axle, springs, fenders and tongue from Tractor Supply (or wherever I could get it cheapest) and build a heavier-duty frame out of angle iron and/or square tube, but this requires that one have a welder and know how to use it. OTOH, what better way to learn how to weld?
I've seen 3500 lb axles at TSC for well under $200, and they take the standard 5x4 1/2" bolt circle wheels that Jeeps have had since 1987, and many other common vehicles also use. That way wheels should be cheap, and standard car tires can be used. If you use that axle, you can even build the trailer wider and do the same with the cabin portion, for more space inside and the ability to haul an old flatfender Jeep when you're not using the trailer as a camper!
But now I'm off on a tangent. If you build the trailer the standard 4 feet wide, you can still haul an ATV, lawn/garden tractor, sheets of plywood, etc. You can also, in a camping or bugout situation, slide the cabin off and set it up on blocks at your base camp, then use the trailer to haul firewood or other supplies.

Living in a teardrop trailer may seem difficult, but it can be gotten used to. It gives you a way to sleep at "boondocking" locations (truckstops, Walmart parking lots, etc.) on the way to your destination, but once you get to the real boondocks you can spread out, set up awnings, and get comfortable because the teardrop cabin itself is only used for sleeping and storage. Dig a latrine or set up a shelter for your porta-potty, build a fire pit, and set up the folding chairs, and you may never want to go home.


Anonymous said...


Great article. I also am involved with teardrops. You can find lots more information at my site

I have a link to this blog/site into my links database.

Enjoy your teardropping,
John B.

CompactCamping said...


There is also a variation on Teardrop Trailers you might find interesting. They are Tent Topped Camping Trailers. You still get the satisfaction of building something your way, with your own two hands but they weight half what a Teardrop does so a smaller, high mileage rig can be your tow vehicle. They has a nice galley area and uses a instant open folding tent unit for sleeping quarters.

Check them out at