1 2 3 4
ScottyB
ScottyB Reader
2/6/20 11:18 a.m.

"I did it."

Clark Griswold, 1989

 

finished at the stroke of midnight before we had to leave for our camping trip.  cutting it close...but sometimes that's how life goes.  had a beer and stared at it a bit from the driveway on a perfectly still fall night.  worth it just for the excitement from the kiddo this morning.

the solar panel brackets are from AM Solar and attached with both 3M tape and some screws.  that sucker's never coming off.  the tiny bracket "flaps" beneath the hurricane hinge are scrap square aluminum and are intended to help direct air and water away from under the hinge at speed.  air currents seem to want to push water into the hinge extrusion.  weird, but that's what others have found.  the hinge hangs over the sides a bit to again help with keeping water seeping into the sides as it runs down the body of the camper.

that black vinyl trim between the fender and body is called "fender welting", cheap to get from summit racing.  the 3rd brake light and tail lights are amazon jobbies.  the 3rd brake light is really cool - flashes on one side or the other depending on your signal direction as sort of an extra blinker.

2 excited campers

 

MAIDEN VOYAGE

well, spoilers, made it back in one piece.  pulled it about 350 total miles up to N. GA and back again.  had a great time, amazing weather except for some rain packing up, and it was pretty much everything we hoped.  i did a lot of peeking in the rearview the whole time making sure i was really seeing what i was seeing.  after all these years i thought maybe i didn't have it in me to bring it all together.  this was a stupidly ambitious project for me, but in the end i wouldn't trade the late nights, anxiety, or frustrations.  i feel like i proved a lot of things to myself that i wasn't sure i was cut out to do.

when my wife and i decided on making the 2019 fall break a camping trip deadline we were too far behind the ball on reservations to actually find any openings at our favorite campgrounds.  October, as i found out, is the busiest month in the entire calendar year for that kind of thing so we should have known better than trying to show up and find an empty campsite, and learned our lesson.  got to our 1st choice campground in the N. GA mountains at about 5pm and it was packed solid.  had to go straight to plan B, heck i figured maybe plan C.  thankfully i had a really good knowledge of the area from driving up there for fun back when i lived in ATL so we made a 45 min detour NW to the Cooper Creek WMA (wildlife management area) to try to find a spot in that campground.  had to drive some absolutely relentless curvy roads on rt.60, but the truck/trailer took it in stride.  pulled into the campground near dark and grabbed the last spot!  they had just rebuilt our site and laid down some really coarse gravel.  if we had tried to tent camp it like normal, we never could have made it work.  instead we could just park and start cooking dinner...perfect.

leaving Thursday afternoon, first time out of the driveway in like 3 years.  go figure we finished building a big orange camper right before Halloween.  i've never towed anything long distance before.  pretty nervous and it took a while to get used to the bumps and noises from the extra weight on the hitch.  i have not yet weighed it fully loaded yet but i'm sure its under 1500 lbs.  probably closer to 1200.

making our way to campground plan B.  couple bouncy miles on forest service roads to get to our spot.  i've never seen a utility trailer ride nice, so i expected it to bounce around a bit but nothing inside shifted or broke despite the unplanned shaker test.  i'm sure the car tires helped the ride too, they are set to about 28psi...a bit of squish but plenty of pressure to keep the rolling resistance down.

next morning, slept great.  4 souls fit inside pretty handily - me+wife on the queen size foam mattress, boy up on the loft and pupper slept next to my leg (he wanted his nose next to the screen for sniffs and such).  i really should have grabbed some pics but just forgot.  sounds like a disaster, i know,  but it was fine for us and we slept hard.  with the fan on low speed it still moved a lot of air and the first night i had a pretty cold arm from the 50 degree air coming through the screen right on it.  otherwise the insulation did its job and we stayed warm with nothing more than a comforter.  looking to install a resistor later on the fan motor to slow it down a bit.

solar panel worked great, and it actually turned out to be another unplanned test.  unbeknownst to me, this campground had NO electrical hookup which is rare for the area and i didn't see anything mentioned about it beforehand.  we ran power 100% off the sun and thankfully everything worked great.  we were able to charge about 1 to 1.5 amps throughout the day with heavy tree cover.  usually starting the morning at 12 to 12.5A and ending the day at 13.5.  our LED lights were super efficient and the fan barely made a dent.  we typically ran the stereo and reading lights inside too.  without the panel i'm not sure we would have made it 3 nights, might have been a seriously close call.  i'm not sure how much power my wife's APAP machine will pull, we didn't try it yet due to her allergies on the trip making breathing with a mask a no-go.

play "find the pumpkin"

worst campsite security ever.  he'd roll over for any belly rub offers.

stuff everywhere, signs of a good time though.  steak slab a-cookin.
 

galley setup kinda in action.  propane Coleman for breakfast/sides.  stows in the lower left cabinet.  the top of the Yeti actually makes a great additional work surface.  plan is to eventually add side tables to the exterior of the camper for prep and wash stations.  water jugs travel next to the cabinet down low but we keep them on the picnic tables for actual use.  i'm glad i added a drain in that compartment - one jug had a leaky spigot that soaked the floor but most drained out.


heading back home in the rain.  no major leaks.  i need to address some sealant in a few places on the hatch but thankfully those were a couple drops being a nuisance and not full on seal failure.  you can see the license plate lights don't work with the lights on.  probably some stupid wire i crossed, i'll fix it over the winter.

what its all about.  gear drying out, sun shining, sound of the river in the background and a poppin fire to cook dinner on.

2020 upgrades:

  • roof rack (acquired)
  • ARB 2500x2000 awning on one side (acquired)
  • fab/install side tables next to galley
  • slow down the roof fan with a resistor
  • pretty-up the sides of the hatch frame
  • fix the plate lights
  • do some final detail work on the galley counter


that's about it.  currently still dirty, hibernating in the corner.  yes, i actually park my car like that normally...told you it was a serious game of inches.  i've gotten surprisingly good at nailing it on the first try too, about 2-3 inches front and back.  i use a reference mark on the wall and line up my b-pillar with it.

everybody all tucked in.

next trip will be in April to the Cherokee Nat'l Forest up in NC.  gonna be awesome.  the hope is to pull it the full length of the Blue Ridge Parkway and then out west!

ScottyB
ScottyB Reader
2/6/20 11:25 a.m.
mr2s2000elise said:

Sorry not mean to derail your thread. I dont know much about these trailers. I use my FJ Cruiser to camp all over the west, but it is old school. No RTT no trailers. THere are some "offroad" ones that are pricier on CL. But as I said, I have to sell cars to make space for trailers, and I lvoe my cars more 

 

FOllowing your build. IT is turning out gorgeous. Your thread is very inspriational. Keep up the good work. IF you were local would stop by to check it out!

no apologies necessary i'm glad to talk about this stuff.

best thing you can do is use Facebook groups for general knowledge.  i hate Facebook but that's where everyone is these days as forums die out.  there are a ton of communities on there where people show off their builds and ask questions.  everything from commercially made campers to home build stuff.  might be a valuable resource for you.

of course there's also Youtube.  A great build to follow is on a channel called Camp and Camera.  he finished his a bit before mine and its really primo.  lots of good, clear info.

lastly there is the website tnttt.com.  still the gold standard for teardrop build info.  tough to search though, you may have to resort to using google to find things you have questions about vs using the forum's own search function.

nothing wrong with old school and love the FJ.  i've seen a couple guys with those trucks pull off road tears.  those are commonly called "square-drops" since the slab construction is better suited to mounting heavy stuff on the roof and sides (propane tanks, hi lifts, RTTs, shovels, etc).  big community of off road guys out there making these, and of course a number of commercial manufacturers.  

totally understand about the space.  that was something that forced us to use the teardrop form - it was the only way we could fit a camper in the garage!  i wouldn't recommend keeping them outside unless they're well covered.

californiamilleghia
californiamilleghia Dork
2/6/20 11:38 a.m.

Great build ,  I think going with a proper axle was a smart move and real size tires , 

Did you ever take it to a weight station ?

And maybe set up a  rear view camera to help backing up, 

and clearance lights on the front edge of the trailer fenders to help in narrow spaces....

 

ScottyB
ScottyB Reader
2/6/20 11:57 a.m.
californiamilleghia said:

Great build ,  I think going with a proper axle was a smart move and real size tires , 

Did you ever take it to a weight station ?

And maybe set up a  rear view camera to help backing up, 

and clearance lights on the front edge of the trailer fenders to help in narrow spaces....

 

thanks!  nope, haven't weighed it yet.  i'm thinking somewhere between 12-1300 lbs.

backing up has been a challenge.  its short so its hard to keep straight and i've never pulled trailers before anyway so my backup skills are weak.  we have a camera on the 4runner and my wife spots me but i'll have to see if another view might help.

you can hardly see them but there are orange side markers on the bottom of the camper above the trim and in front of the doors...just little LED ones.  i still need to install the red ones on the back.  forgot about those!

Just some guy
Just some guy New Reader
2/6/20 1:16 p.m.

thanks for the great and detailed threads...i'm a ScottyB fan!

californiamilleghia
californiamilleghia Dork
2/6/20 1:25 p.m.
I   was thinking amber lights  on the fender front edge so you can see them in your mirrors...... they let you know your trailer lighting is working and help when you are pulling thru narrow places , 
Your backup camera needs to be mounted high up so you can see over the top of the trailer.....
when I am backing up my car trailer I use my mirrors  , its just practice ,  find an empty parking lot and  spend some time there and not on the road trip when you are tired  ....
Looks like fun.....
 

 

TGMF
TGMF Reader
2/6/20 2:00 p.m.

Great build, seriously impressive quality! Enjoyed reading the thread.  Now I want to go camping. 

 

Adrian_Thompson
Adrian_Thompson MegaDork
2/6/20 3:25 p.m.

Outstanding build and your workmanship is light years beyond mine.  I've always loved tear drops, and looked into building one in the past.  Alas I'm under order that our next camper, we currently have a pop up, must have an internal toilet for the spousal unit.  I've discovered the fairer sex is less inclined to pop out and point and shoot against a tree in the middle of the night.  

ScottyB
ScottyB Reader
2/6/20 9:57 p.m.

 

TGMF said:

Great build, seriously impressive quality! Enjoyed reading the thread.  Now I want to go camping. 

 

really appreciate it, glad you enjoyed it.  me too btw....by March i'm totally fed up with being inside and i'm about ready to strike a campfire in my back yard.

Adrian_Thompson said:

Outstanding build and your workmanship is light years beyond mine.  I've always loved tear drops, and looked into building one in the past.  Alas I'm under order that our next camper, we currently have a pop up, must have an internal toilet for the spousal unit.  I've discovered the fairer sex is less inclined to pop out and point and shoot against a tree in the middle of the night.  

thanks man.  trust me it took a while to get there.  very familiar with the intricacies of spousal approval, and most of my buddies have 20+ foot campers now with A/C and toilet/shower units for that exact reason.  so far the Wife Treaty mostly encourages that that we stay at facilities (usually state parks) with hot showers.  we made do on our first trip without them but got lucky with the temps.  i'm pretty sure if it was summer i would have caught hell for it.  all in all though, she's been really gung ho about it and that's been awesome.

MadScientistMatt
MadScientistMatt PowerDork
2/7/20 7:02 a.m.

That turned out beautifully! Looked like something that would have been sold by a high end manufacturer.

ScottyB
ScottyB Reader
2/7/20 8:48 a.m.
MadScientistMatt said:

That turned out beautifully! Looked like something that would have been sold by a high end manufacturer.

that's really kind, i appreciate it.  not a coincidence either - i studied the commercially available campers out there for a long time and stole a lot of their techniques.  i owe a lot to the other builders that have shared their camper projects and what worked and didn't work.

and, the key to success in all projects, as quoted by the great Ron Swanson:

(that sticker lives on the hatch)

 

the_machina
the_machina Reader
2/10/20 9:28 a.m.

Looks awesome!

Something you may consider for your fan is to get a PWM knob-controlled DC motor controller. The resistor just gives you one speed and still eats power to become heat (that's the resistor), a PWM will give you a knob that controls speed and doesn't waste as much electricity for the control. Cheapies on amazon for about $10:" https://www.amazon.com/Motor-Speed-Controllers/b/ref=dp_bc_aui_C_5?ie=UTF8&node=306530011

 

ScottyB
ScottyB Reader
2/11/20 1:45 p.m.
the_machina said:

Looks awesome!

Something you may consider for your fan is to get a PWM knob-controlled DC motor controller. The resistor just gives you one speed and still eats power to become heat (that's the resistor), a PWM will give you a knob that controls speed and doesn't waste as much electricity for the control. Cheapies on amazon for about $10:" https://www.amazon.com/Motor-Speed-Controllers/b/ref=dp_bc_aui_C_5?ie=UTF8&node=306530011

 

thanks!  i'll look into that, i like the adjustability.  the resistor mod was actually a factory bulletin from the fan manufacturer...i guess a lot of customers were complaining that the fan had a little too much oomph even at the slowest setting.

 

speaking of electrical stuff, i messed up my solar installation a bit and someone kindly pointed out a missing component on my electrical schematic.  i need to add a cutoff switch between my solar positive wire and the solar controller (the little blue box).  apparently you don't want to have the controller hooked up to solar but not also connected to the battery...weird voltage spikes can occur and hurt the circuitry.  so i got a cheap inline circuit breaker to put on the wire to cut power from the solar panel to the controller when the controller isn't hooked up to battery.  looks like one of these little guys:

not a big deal since the camper's stored inside anyway, i'll pop that in place next time i get some work done on it.

 

fusion66
fusion66 New Reader
2/11/20 3:06 p.m.

Truly a top notch build. Great craftsmanship and design details. I would struggle to go out and buy a teardrop knowing that a build could be so much better built and customized.

ScottyB
ScottyB Reader
2/11/20 4:44 p.m.
fusion66 said:

Truly a top notch build. Great craftsmanship and design details. I would struggle to go out and buy a teardrop knowing that a build could be so much better built and customized.

Thanks man that's really kind.  It was a labor of love...not just from a time perspective but I had to kick our cars out of the garage a lot to work on it, it covered everything in sawdust, and it set back some home projects that probably needed my attention too.  Plus you need a good garage/shop space to work on it.  I can totally get why some people can't make that kind of sacrifice.

That said we are so lucky to live in the info age.  If you want to build one of these DIY, you can go blind looking at all the free info and build tips out there.  Literally a million ways to skin the cat with these.

ScottyB
ScottyB Reader
5/18/20 1:50 p.m.

added some wingspan to the wee camper.  planning to do some camping this summer in light of a bunch of other cancelled vacation/family time and needed some more coverage to help with gear storage, dog sleeping area and just a nice place to get out of the sun/rain.  we are social distancing but figure camping this summer is the safest way to get out, since the whole point is to get away from people...we'll just be careful during fuel stops and interacting with others if necessary.

ARB 8x6.5' mounted to a cheap ROLA van ladder rack that we set up as a side mount rack.  Plan is to add 3 bike racks up there too. 

like it a lot so far.  seems well made and very adjustable.  its just NOT something you can put up with 1 man.  i don't know what kind of witchcraft that would require.

Brett_Murphy (Forum Patrón)
Brett_Murphy (Forum Patrón) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
5/18/20 6:12 p.m.

Excellent work, Scotty! You nailed it. 

A few questions:
1. Why blue night lights instead of red so you keep your night vision? Was it an aesthetic choice?
2. I see you got a 4Runner. Nice. How long have you had that? 
3. Have you looked into any sort of hatch tents or an awning setup for the 4Runner? I've seen people make shower stalls and the like out of them if you're going to be way back in the woods. I think they use black rubber water bladders left in the sun for hot water.


Seriously great work. 

ScottyB
ScottyB Reader
5/18/20 10:50 p.m.
Brett_Murphy (Forum Patrón) said:

Excellent work, Scotty! You nailed it. 

A few questions:
1. Why blue night lights instead of red so you keep your night vision? Was it an aesthetic choice?
2. I see you got a 4Runner. Nice. How long have you had that? 
3. Have you looked into any sort of hatch tents or an awning setup for the 4Runner? I've seen people make shower stalls and the like out of them if you're going to be way back in the woods. I think they use black rubber water bladders left in the sun for hot water.


Seriously great work. 

thanks man!

1. its all they had in that light style on Amazon, haha.  i would have liked red if they offered it, for the exact reason you noted.  honestly, we rarely use the "nightlight" function at all....or any cabin lights for that matter.  they come on so we can stumble into bed and get situated for the night, and that's really it.  otherwise we're outside doing stuff.

2. picked that guy up in August last year as they were blowing out 2019's to get the shipment of 2020's in.  its a mostly no-option TRD Off Road trim, love it for exactly what it is, and we'll likely own it for a really long time.  so far the only mod is a proper rear diff breather setup but i'd like some real tires and a set of sliders soon.

3.  i honestly haven't yet, but its a good idea.  wife is definitely on the hunt for a wash-off solution.  i was thinking of mounting up something like a RoadShower on the opposite side of the rack from the awning, but doing the "GRM" version which is a home-brew big 8" PVC pipe painted black to warm up.  then you just add a shrader valve and pump 'em up with a bike pump for water pressure.  but that still doesn't solve the privacy issue.  for now we mostly just stay at campgrounds with bath houses until i can wrap my brain around the right solution.  i like that hatch idea a lot though....

Run_Away (Wears Clogs)
Run_Away (Wears Clogs) Dork
5/19/20 12:37 a.m.

Wow, I missed this the first time around. Stayed up way too late to read it all, but worth it! Beautiful job!

ScottyB
ScottyB Reader
6/13/20 9:03 a.m.

boy did this thing collect some dust over the past 6 months.

thanks to the beerdisease we blew past 3 camping trips that were supposed to happen this spring but got cancelled.  by April we were getting pretty antsy and we decided we were going camping at some point this summer in the safest manner we could manage.  that decision, along with some free time due to my work slowing down, fired me up to get a few new modifications done before the summer temps spiked.

more updates here.  roof rack and awning as previously mentioned, and a detachable side table made from some scrap hardwood ply and a cool little mounting kit that includes the rail, mono-leg and a mini bungie to stow the leg up.

the table is sized to fit perfectly into the cooler slideout behind the cooler.  the rail on the camper is interesting, never seen one like this before.  you put the round section in at an angle and then let the table down and it secures itself with gravity and the leg adds additional support.

shot of the rail profile, you can kinda see how it "sockets" into place as you lower and rotate it in.  neat.

also curtains.  i can't sow so i used some kind of fabric adhesive strips that you iron over and they melt hot glue into the fabric to hold it together.  insert notbad.gif

anyways.

we decided on a campground in Cherokee NC that was staying to a 50% capacity for the sake of social distancing.  we just had to get out...between job stress, kid being bored and annoying, temps being perfect up in the mountains and just being sick of walking the same sidewalks every day.  initial weather reports looked not great, potential rain every day.  turns out you really don't bother trusting the weather report in the smokies any more than you'd trust a weather vane to tell you which way the birds are flying.  

got in on Monday, stayed until Friday.  we had rain just after setting up Monday night, and then that was about it aside from 2 little 5 minute showers throughout the week.  i found that the hatch leaks a little when its up and covered in water...appears the water is running back down the hatch and forcing its way back up through the hurricane hinge.  nothing horrendous, just some drops but i'm OCD about water getting in the camper and i'm fixing it this week with a thin rubber sheet over the hinge to keep it from happening again.

we had no issues with power - we had an outlet at the campsite and it kept us topped off regardless of how much we ran the fan or the lights, so that was good.  the Yeti kept our stuff cold for 4 nights on 30lbs of ice with about another 8 lbs to spare when we got home.  pulled great, we had no travel issues and did about 450 miles out and back.  

pupper slept in the screen room.  found out he can weasel his way out by forcing the zippers open, thankfully i had some vise grips on hand to keep the zippers locked shut the next night!

getting in on Monday.  right on the river!  no neighbors...we had the entire campground block to ourselves.

the full gypsy camp.  screen room did a decent job of giving us a place to dry things, keep gear, and put our chairs when the bugs got bitey, and the big dome tent kept our picnic table dry.  those things break down and travel in the camper when they're stuffed away in their bags.

have to tilt the roof of the awning to let it drain when it rains hard.  the only downfall but not a big deal.

i immediately got to work.

as did the boy

the neighborhood scenery wasn't bad.

found a few of these guys

funny story here.  we're sitting grilling bratwursts after a slow day fishing.  kiddo really wanted to catch and eat some (which we typically don't do, catch and release is our preferred game) but we didn't catch any big enough.  a local Cherokee Native drives up and comes into our camp holding a big rubbermaid bin.  I'm thinking....uh hey?  crap, did I do something to upset the locals?  what's going on....

he goes "hey, i love to catch fish but i'm not big on cleaning them.  i caught too many today and just wanted to see if you want some.  do you want them all?  take all you want."  there's like 8 enormous trout in there.  i tried to offer him firewood or anything i could think of in exchange but he just wanted the fish gone.  so we grabbed 3 biggins and i cleaned em right there on the creek.  straight into foil with lemon/butter and it was fantastic.  sometimes people are super awesome.

some of our other neighbors:

the Mall Runner got to have some fun too.  it towed 450 miles from the GA piedmont up into the smokies, some decent miles on dirt doubletrack, some big long climbs up the parkway to about 5500 feet and back down again, and a couple miles on some very fun singletrack.

we did about 6 total water crossings.  the deepest was at the bottom of the doors.  i wasn't able to see far into the water on one of the deepest crossings and gave the front skidplate a couple good dings as well as some scratches on the control arm from a couple big rocks on the stream bottom.  thankfully the armor was up to the task and i hit the scratches with some black enamel when we got back.

i did encounter one situation on a trail where it abruptly ended basically in a bog.  had to do an austin powers 16 point turn and promptly sank up to the rims in mud.  locker + 4LOW + ATRAC saved my ass there and made it look easy even with our current highway tires.  still love it for what it is but definitely want to find some decent rubber for it by next year and invest in a set of sliders.

on the way out on the last day.  it was exactly what we hoped - an adventure.  

we're off to the coast soon.  will report back with how island camping goes.

Brett_Murphy (Forum Patrón)
Brett_Murphy (Forum Patrón) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
6/14/20 9:08 p.m.

The best kind of update to a project is getting to have fun with it.

Where did you stay up in the mountains? I think I might be able to convince the family to head out there if I show them your pictures.

ScottyB
ScottyB Reader
6/18/20 11:00 p.m.
Brett_Murphy (Forum Patrón) said:

The best kind of update to a project is getting to have fun with it.

Where did you stay up in the mountains? I think I might be able to convince the family to head out there if I show them your pictures.

you ain't kiddin friend.  feels good.

we stayed at Indian Creek Campground up there in Cherokee NC.  good folks, nice sites, and they're holding to a 50% capacity last time i checked to adhere to the social distancing thing.  Bunches Creek runs through the lower campground and its stocked at least once a week with fat footlongs, but to be honest, after touring the place i actually preferred the sites up on the other creek (Redman Creek, sites 61-68) that runs through the upper campground.  No fishing in there but its a very beautiful spring stream and the sites are better shaded, more peaceful, and there's less traffic. 

very close access to the parkway too.  most of the actual town was shut down unfortunately but we weren't really there for that anyway.  if you do fish right in the campground, i was told they hit rooster tails and salmon eggs.  outside the campground try to match the hatch, in our case it was some varieties of sulfur colored dry flies.

Brett_Murphy (Forum Patrón)
Brett_Murphy (Forum Patrón) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
6/19/20 12:19 p.m.

Excellent, thank you.

 

300zxfreak
300zxfreak New Reader
6/22/20 8:18 p.m.

I never thought I'd sit and read through an entire thread about a trailer build, but I did. Hmmm.........

L5wolvesf
L5wolvesf Reader
6/22/20 9:38 p.m.

WELL DONE sir. I have an itch for a teardrop and this is the first page I have bookmarked toward that end.

My first question, of many, is - is there anything major you would change?

1 2 3 4
Our Preferred Partners
o6rvkHrmHwug6Mj4x3ZKbUHfJaURcxH4bpwXmpSUnuOFFfjKbEEtCBALPa8EjDck