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Average Joe Jeep - Off-Road Camping Trailer On The Cheap: Part 1

Posted in Features on December 26, 2014
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I’ve been camping since I was 3 months old. Back then, mom and dad would load the cabin tent and us up in the old Wagoneer and go spend a couple weeks at camp Soquel. Flash forward to our teen years I was camping just about every weekend anywhere that didn’t have a “No Trespassing” sign—Rain or shine, it didn’t matter. I would pull the mattress off of the futon, throw it in the back of my CJ-7 and cruise as far up the hill as it took to get away from the masses and their land yachts.

When I was in my teens, the idea of dragging 30 feet, 10,000 pounds, and $100,000 worth of creature comforts up the hill for a weekend trip made absolutely no sense. In my mind, if you want to sit in an air-conditioned living room watching satellite TV, you should have stayed home.

Over the years, my opinion on massive camp trailers has pretty much stayed the same with the exception of one thing: a comfortable bed! I can live without a television, air conditioning, and flushable toilets, but not having to sleep on the ground is worth its weight in gold. I always appreciated the simplicity of a tent trailer: there is no fluff, just the necessities. The only major down side is, even though they’re very basic, they are still pricey. Every household has their budget they have to work with, and right now, I can’t even afford to pay attention. If you were to peek in my wallet, you’d be attacked by hordes of hungry moths.

So, this month, my budget will be leftovers from household projects and some random stuff I have lying around the dirt farm. Naturally, there will be a few things that I’ll need to buy so there will be a grand total in the next and final installment.

Back before I had a truck to haul home my Jeep junk, I picked up this Harbor Freight trailer from a neighbor. Thanks to this trailer and my lack of self-control, I spent many a lonely night banished by the wife to sleep on the couch, so I thought it was only fitting to use it as the foundation for the tent trailer. At least now I’ll have a place to rest my head that’s a little more comfortable than the couch next time I bring home derelict Jeeps or stray parts. Back before I had a truck to haul home my Jeep junk, I picked up this Harbor Freight trailer from a neighbor. Thanks to this trailer and my lack of self-control, I spent many a lonely night banished by the wife to sleep on the couch, so I thought it was only fitting to use it as the foundation for the tent trailer. At least now I’ll have a place to rest my head that’s a little more comfortable than the couch next time I bring home derelict Jeeps or stray parts.
An aluminum frame would have been nice, but per the norm, the budget (or lack thereof) had me looking for a suitable substitute. I was able to build the entire frame and lid out of lumber I had left over from a shed I just finished building and from old wood I scavenged from a friend. Thanks, Swanny! An aluminum frame would have been nice, but per the norm, the budget (or lack thereof) had me looking for a suitable substitute. I was able to build the entire frame and lid out of lumber I had left over from a shed I just finished building and from old wood I scavenged from a friend. Thanks, Swanny!
When it was time to put everything together, I mounted the frame to the trailer using 1⁄2-inch carriage bolts through the trailer’s steel frame. What good is a cool camper when half of it is sitting on the trail behind you? When it was time to put everything together, I mounted the frame to the trailer using 1⁄2-inch carriage bolts through the trailer’s steel frame. What good is a cool camper when half of it is sitting on the trail behind you?
I’m not what you would call a carpenter, so feel free to take all the cheap shots you’d like. That said, one cool solution I found after spending a couple hours fighting wood that was pretty badly warped is, if you wrap a ratchet strap around the whole thing and cinch it all down nice and tight, it makes getting everything square a lot easier. I’m not what you would call a carpenter, so feel free to take all the cheap shots you’d like. That said, one cool solution I found after spending a couple hours fighting wood that was pretty badly warped is, if you wrap a ratchet strap around the whole thing and cinch it all down nice and tight, it makes getting everything square a lot easier.
The tent really only functions as a top for the tent trailer. After removing the bottom of the tent, I stretched it over the frame and added a ton of heavy-duty snaps to hold the whole thing together. The tent really only functions as a top for the tent trailer. After removing the bottom of the tent, I stretched it over the frame and added a ton of heavy-duty snaps to hold the whole thing together.
I’ve gotten a couple chuckles from friends about the idea of stacking a tent on top of a trailer. True, it won’t be a night at the Hilton, and it won’t have all of the creature comforts of home, but that’s the point. Once I finish adding the siding, the sink, wiring, and lights, it will be exactly what I intended it to be: an awesome, basic off-road camp rig. I’ve gotten a couple chuckles from friends about the idea of stacking a tent on top of a trailer. True, it won’t be a night at the Hilton, and it won’t have all of the creature comforts of home, but that’s the point. Once I finish adding the siding, the sink, wiring, and lights, it will be exactly what I intended it to be: an awesome, basic off-road camp rig.

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