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Building An Off-Road Trailer On A Budget

Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Side View
Jim Brightly | Writer
Posted November 1, 2011

Add Comfort, Convenience, and Cargo to Your Next Jeep Trip into the Backcountry

I like towing a trailer on the trail. My wife and I both enjoy the added comfort, the increased convenience, and the additional cargo space a Jeep trailer can provide. And we’re too old to sleep on the ground nowadays. Plus, as with higher speeds, a Jeep trailer can add driving challenges to a well-known, low-rated, non-technical trail. Attach a trailer to your off-roader and it allows you to take more tools, more spare parts, more equipment, more camping gear, and better food along for the ride.

In fact, I enjoy towing a trailer on trails so much that I’ve towed an off-road tent trailer over the Rubicon Trail three times. I once told an editor that I thought I might have been a mule skinner in a former life. After chuckling a bit, he responded with, “Perhaps you were the mule?” Well, I might have been a jackass more than a few times in my life, but not when it came to designing and building my own Jeep camping trailer.

Actually, for $450, my wife and I bought a freshly made cargo trailer built from the bed and frame of a 1997 Chevy S-10. We bought it for light-duty trash hauling and weed collecting around our property. I assume its tires and wheels—mounted on the S-10’s rear end—were original because they resembled a pair of dull CDs more than tires to these off-roader’s eyes. So I went to my Jeep storage and found a pair of Bridgestone Dueler A/T 33x12.50R15 tires on Jeep wheels that were left over from one of our previously owned Jeeps; I thought they would make it easier to move the trailer through the soft dirt and gravel around the property.

Using a pair of adapters from A-Dapt-It USA, I changed the S-10’s five-on-4-3/4-inch lug pattern to that of a Jeep TJ’s five-on-4-1/2-inch pattern, and I installed the tires on the trailer’s axle without a bed lift kit. I did this before I even thought about converting the cargo trailer to a camping trailer. The tires themselves lifted the trailer several inches for increased ground clearance. With the tires in place, I discovered that the trailer followed the Jeep easily, and it started me thinking that with a little money it could make a very stable trailer for our trail riding and an excellent camper for our ghost town hunting trips.

Since most of our ghost town hunting is done solo, one of the first things I added to our camping gear was a .22-caliber rifle as a camp gun. In my opinion, the Henry Repeating Arms’ AR7 .22-caliber rifle should be in every four-wheeler who travels the trails alone. The AR7 was designed by Eugene Stoner in 1959 as a survival rifle for U.S. Air Force crews. It’s semiautomatic and breaks down into four main parts; the barrel, action, two eight-round magazines, and the stock. All the metal parts are stowed in the water-resistant hollow stock, which also floats if you should drop it in a river or lake.

The AR7 fits beautifully in the small “trunk” of a Jeep JK or behind the backseat in a CJ7. With shot shells it’s a perfect snake gun, or it can secure dinner if you become stuck and need to roast a rabbit or two. Back in the days when Dick Cepek had a number of camping and tire stores throughout the West, he sold the AR7, and I always wanted one for my Jeep. For years I was under the impression that the AR7 was no longer being produced, but last year I discovered that Henry Repeating Arms is now building and selling the AR7. Mine—equipped with an excellent OEM peep sight and a somewhat stiff trigger—is an absolute tack driver.


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