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Friday, October 12, 2012

Design Plans for my DIY Tiny Travel Trailer

Update: Due to some disappointments at the way equipment was maintained at TechShop and lack of proper instruction in my first of three classes I decided it was best to hire a professional builder for this project. Fred is located in Michigan and began the build over the winter. He sends me pictures every couple of weeks to keep me updated on his progress. You can CLICK HERE to view all posts related to the build.

An overview of my one woman travel trailer that I will soon begin building at TechShop. I'm posting my design online because I'm hoping experienced builders and rv'ers will critique and offer design suggestions. Please let me know if you see any major design flaws or have a great suggestion of something I've overlooked.

I'd rather over-think the build than have to build a second trailer to improve upon the first one I didn't plan well enough :)

My main goals are to keep the trailer as light, small and comfortable as possible.

Frequency of Use:
I will use it mostly for 1-2 night trips, at least twice a month, around Northern California for blogging excursions within city limits at RV parks, state parks, or on private property with permission. I will head out early in the AM to photograph the sunrise and currently don't usually make it back to a hotel or B&B until the end of the day after dinner at a restaurant. So the trailer will mainly be used for sleeping at night.

Because it will be small I'm hoping I'll be to be able to afford premium building materials because I'll be using less of them than a traditional teardrop or canned ham.

Please Note:

Image #1 - Dimensions

1. Dimensions and Wall Thicknesses:
4'(wide) x 6'(long) x 66.5"(total height from ground up). The exterior cabin height will be 52"(h). The interior cabin height will be 46.5" unless I don't add an additional 2" wood frame to the chassis to build on and lay the floor. Then the interior height can bump up to 48.5 inches.

Sidewalls / Framing:
1"x1" welded hollow steel tubing for sidewalls and top
1/2" marine grade plywood for outer wall
1" foam board insulation between steel framing
1/4" marine grade plywood for interior walls

Is this too much wall? Am leaning towards going heavier for durability, to avoid interior cabin condensation and sound proofing.

Ceiling / Front and Rear walls:
 1/8" luan exterior, 1" foam board insulation, 1/8" luan for interior

Looking for a more eco-friendly luan alternative than imported tropical woods

Exterior Skin:
Will use a classic aluminum skin for the exterior.

For decor I can either have the trailer wrapped or painted. If painted I'd like to get an airbrush and paint it myself. If that proves to be too challenging I can always take it to a professional/auto shop at some point down the road.

Image #2 Scale

2. Scale:
I want to be able to sit upright and sleep lengthwise. The current dimensions give me 13.5" of excess vertical height and 7.25" of excess length.

Image #3 Wheels

3. Wheels
ETA 3/1/13: Due to Timbren not offering the ability to add brakes to the wheel size I needed I opted instead for a traditional Dexter torsion axle with electric brakes.

I want to use the Timbren Axle-Less wheels/suspension system in place of a traditional axle or torsion bar. This will work better with a dropped floor design as well as cut back on weight instead of an axle/torsion bar.

13" wheels

Spare Tire: Not sure yet where the spare tire will go. Am thinking placement on the rear, under the trailer or under the tongue will be based on weight distribution.

Brakes: In California brakes are not legally required for a trailer this light but are they a good idea?

Image #4 Chassis

4. Chassis:
I will be building the chassis from scratch and already took a MIG welding class just last night! I'm planning on using 2"x2" hollow tube steel.

What type/weight of steel tubing is best and lightest?

Once completed is taking it to be galvanized (hot dipped) a good idea or unnecessary?

Weight Distributing Hitch and Sway Control:
Yes? No? I am aiming for a loaded trailer weight of around 700 lbs. My car is rated to tow 1000 lbs and weighs 2600 lbs.

Image #5 Doors

5. Exterior Doors:
ETA 3/1/13: At my builder's suggestion I've opted for a single, larger, rear door instead of the side door. He is building the exterior door and I may or may not add the screen door later as needed.

There will be two secure doors 22" wide x 36" high each with a deadbolt.

The first will be an almost solid (except for a small speakeasy type window to see who's outside) exterior door that opens outward.

I also want to make a screen door that has wood on the exterior side but is lined with sheet metal (steel), decoratively cut on the inside as reinforcement. This door will open inward. The reason I want the screen door to open inward is for security. I can add both a latch at the base and a cross bar at night when I'm in the trailer. The screens can be popped into place but the rest of the door has to be lined on the back with a single sheet of decoratively cut steel.

Rear Hatch:

Even though there won't be a galley kitchen off the rear I still want to create the classic teardrop hatchback for two reasons:

1. When I'm somewhere on a beautiful day or evening I can open the hatch and enjoy the view/weather.

2. At a rally the more social aspect of having the trailer opened up. I've also designed a screen door system that will be lightweight and easy to execute.

3. I'll be making removable cabinets so if I ever need to haul a large object I can use my trailer to do it.

Image #6 Driver's Side Exterior

6. Driver's Side Exterior:
There will only be one window on the driver's side of the trailer. I'd like to do this double paned with a sliding window to allow ventilation through a screen. I also want this window to be tinted for privacy.

The shoreline power hatch and an additional porch light will also be on this side.

Image #7 Rear View

7.Rear View:
Once I choose it my camper's name will be here along with a "Built at www.TechShop.com" banner on the bottom.

Image #8 Front View

8. Front View
As a rock guard the front will use diamond plate on the trailer and front/top of the tongue box. The rest will be left plain to make bug clean up easier.

Image #9 Overhead Layout

9. Overhead Layout View

I'll be using an inflatable pillow and self-inflating, Thermarest, backpacking, sleeping pad to put out each night. There will be 27.5" x 69.75 inches of floor space for sleeping. In summer a light blanket and in spring and fall a sleeping bag.

ETA 3/1/13: We did away with the dropped storage to reduce the overall weight of the trailer. I am keeping the interior wall cabinets and if more storage is needed I will add it as overhead cabinets at the front and rear of the trailer.

There will be two, 8" deep, dropped storage compartments. One is small the other long but divided by the framing cross beams with three access hatches above.

Image #10 Storage/Gear

10. Storage Compartments with Gear
The storage compartments can hold clothes, shoes, fresh water tanks and screen door and shower curtain,etc.

Image #11 Cabinet Dimensions

11. Cabinet Dimensions
I'm wondering how thick the wood should be if I build wood cabinets. Is 1/4 sufficient? 3/8"?

Porta Potty 16(w) x 17(d) x 22(h)
Cooler 23.5(w) x 17(d) x 22(h)
Sink 15(w) x 17(d) x 22(h)
Power 13(w) x 17(d) x 22(h)
Image #12 Cabinets

12. Cabinets
There will be four movable/removable interior storage cabinets that run along the driver's side of the cabin. Two I'm designing with casters so I can easily move and secure them to the passenger side wall while driving to more equally distribute the weight load inside the cabin if needed.

Image #13 Cabinet Interiors

13. Cabinet Interiors
From left to right above:

Porta Potty: This cabinet will only hold an emergency Thetford Porta Potty.

At this time my plan is to simply bring along my stainless steel fondue pot for reheating food and water for dishwashing. For the most part I will do minimal cooking as dining out while traveling is one of my favorite things to blog about.

Ice Chest: The cooler cabinet will have additional styrofoam added to the walls, top and bottom to provide more insulation. The doors will be set higher to allow them to open easily even when the camping mattress is in use.

For now I'm planning to forego a water system and instead simply keep a vessel of water sink side and have a small 10"x13" sink that empties into a 1.75 gallon grey water container. I can store two grey water containers this size beneath the sink.

I'll be running an inverter/transfer box/regulator/battery charger to have both AC and DC power available. The power cabinet will have a perforated steel door to allow proper ventilation of the devices. It will also hold 2 DC outlets with a hole drilled through the top of the cabinet to allow cords to remain hidden.

Image #14 Shower

14. Portable Shower
I intend to use a solar shower to heat water for showers. I can keep a small plastic container in  my car trunk and bring it out in the evenings just for showering and empty it out in my sink after I'm done. It's small enough to set on the counter overnight then put it back in the car in the morning.

I figured out and confirmed with the mfg that if I put the shower bag in a low, open on top, plastic bin during the day and leave it in my car on the dashboard or in the rear window the water will get plenty hot. I read online if you take the hot bag of water at 3:00 PM and put it into a cooler it will stay hot enough to shower with until 10:00 PM that evening. Will experiment with this and see if that's true.

The shower itself will be combining a rubbermaid type container with a suspended shower curtain that is either hung by a single hook on a circular frame or using PVC to set p a frame. The shower bag can be hung on the curtain rod.

Image #15 Trap Guard

15. Trap Primer
In such a small space I am concerned if I camp for more than a day in hot weather this could cause odors to come back up the drain so I'm planning to install a ProSet Trap Guard as a primer replacement.

Image #16 Trailer Roof

16. Trailer Roof
Flat lid Fan-Tastic Vent from Vintage Trailer Supply

Solar Power:
I'd like to mount a flat, 55 watt, 14"x21" solar panel to the roof of the trailer to trickle charge the battery. The panel can be mounted with custom made security screws to deter thieves.

Image #17 Passenger Side Interior

17. Passenger Side Interior
View of both doors closed, security cross bar in storage position, fire extinguisher, AC outlets, battery operated CO2 detector, porch light switches, small storage tray on shelf and three clothes hooks for jacket, etc. I can also build in a towel bar here to hang a camping bath towel to dry.

Image #18 Security Screen Door

18. Screen Door Interior View
The interior opening screen door will have a cross bar security feature.
Image #19 Dropped Storage Compartments

19. Dropped Storage Compartment Options
Storage Dropper Floor:
There will be two 8" deep dropped floor storage bins. One with its own access hatch and the other having three access hatches that fit around the trailer framing bars. The hatch doors will be hinged and can be insulated with foam board on their undersides.

I'm uncertain at this time if it is better to make the dropped boxes individual boxes that extend beneath the chassis, or if it's better to simply drop the entire frame lower and make the boxes fit within a completely protected area?

Image #20 Rear Interior

20. Rear Interior View Hatchback Closed
Silver framing is thing steel, 2" wide to attach a screen shield comprised of screen door fabric edged in heavier cloth with strong magnets sewn in.
Image #21 Rear Screen Door

21. Hatchback Screen Door
The magnetically installed screen will have a zipper down the center to allow the rear hatchback to be used as an additional door when open.
Image #22 Tongue Box Access

22. Interior Tongue Box Access
The vented tongue box will hold a deep cycle battery to run the Fan-Tastic Vent, interior LED lights and to be able to recharge my cell phone and camera batteries each evening. If I'm going on a an extended trip I will have the option of having enough space to add a second battery.

A unique feature will be that access to the tongue box will be from the interior of the cabin to deter opportunistic battery thieves.

Image #23 Receivers

23. Receivers
I saw this online somewhere. Welding receivers to the corners of the chassis will allow me to create custom receiver arms that can hold an awning, sun umbrellas, tables, etc. on either side of the trailer.

Image #24 Branding

24. Branding:
Haven't yet decided whether or not to brand the trailer to The Flirty Blog. Due to the trailer having aluminum siding a large removable magnet is not an option unless I install a steel plate on the side to stick it to.

Pros: Great marketing opportunity for the blog as well as a good theft deterrent because it helps to make the trailer too memorable and recognizable to steal.

Cons: This would allow anyone to go to my blog, see who I am and know a lot about me including my name. This could be a safety concern but one I'm not overly worried about because I wouldn't ever open the door just because someone pretended that they knew me by using my name.

25. Safety:
The trailer will have a smoke detector, CO2 detector and fire extinguisher.

I've read online a lot of women who travel alone carry and know how to use handguns. Others use a panic button to their car alarm system, carry bear spray, baseball bats, billy club type devices or even an ax as safety measures.

I will also be designing a decorative, sheet metal, steel window grate, that can be opened from the inside only, to create a safety barrier for the window on the driver's side.

It is legal in California to have both pepper spray and a stun gun. Combined with a cell phone, secure doors, a secure window, and an audible alarm system I feel they are reasonable safety measure I can put in place so that I don't have to be paranoid or worry about safety once I'm on the road.

There will also be porch lights (not motion sensor) on both the driver's and passenger's sides of the trailer in case I need to see outside at night.

Should I add lighting to the front and rear as well? The trailer is so small it seems like that would be overkill.

To follow the entire build thread from beginning to end just click on the "Trailer - Build" category on the side bar or CLICK HERE.

To view all of my trailer gear and decorating posts CLICK HERE.

And here are the posts documenting my maiden voyage after picking up the trailer in Michigan:

1 comment:

  1. You did well for traveling i do appreciated you. i have some good news for Muslims that UK airlines are offering Cheap Umrah Packages from all over the world through easy process.


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