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Camping trailer build thread


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#1 Peter Connan

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Posted 04 September 2016 - 12:04 PM

Preamble:

For the last couple of months, I have been largely absent from this (apart from the odd visit to the birding and photography sections)and other forums. The primary reason is that I am busy building a camping trailer.

 

As a number of you know, I enjoy self-driving holidays with my family, preferably to the wilder destinations.

 

However, there are a few issues. The first and most limiting is that, while my family (wife and two daughters) don't specifically mind camping, they do like to have at least the basic comforts of home (such as working ablutions, some hot water to wash with and cupboards that you don't have to dig in too deeply to find even the most basic cooking utensils), and also they like lying in in the mornings, whereas I am most definately a morning person, and a great fan of the golden light of early morning.

 

Secondly, because there are four of us, and because three-quarters of the family are ladies and the only male in the family has far too many (often bulky and heavy) toys, packing space in any car is at a huge premium, which makes packing things neatly and accessibly almost impossible, and to top it all off, I am extremely lazy.

 

For the above reasons, normal ground tents largely failed (it takes around two hours to erect two tents and furnish them with lights and bedding, and another two hours to get all that parephenalia back in the car ready to travel, which simply takes up too much of my day and my energy. Similarly, my home-built family-sized roof top tent failed, although for the exact opposite reasons. Pitching camp with that takes a mere five minutes, and packing up a very acceptable ten to fifteen. But either everyone has to lie in, or everyone has to go for an early-morning drive.

 

On a few occasions in the last couple of years, I have fitted the roof top tent on top of an ordinary luggage trailer, and while this has a lot of drawbacks, it does seem te point to an acceptable solution.

 

There are many dedicated camping trailers on the market here in SA and also in Australia. Here in SA though, they uniformly have two common problems, which to me is basically a deal-breaker. The first is that pretty much all of them only really have room for two people (although this can be worked around, this generally means erecting extra tents, leaving you right where you started), and all of them are built on commercial luggage trailer axles/suspensions designed for use primarily on tar roads. The problem with this is not one of strength/durability of the axle itself, but that these axles all have very limited suspension travel.

 

The result is that, if you drive a proper 4x4 with good axle articulation, you can virtually destroy your trailer while yourself driving in relative comfort. There are a few premium producers in Australia that have realized and addressed this, but their products are not available here, and if they were they would be far beyond my budget.


Edited by Peter Connan, 04 September 2016 - 12:05 PM.

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Ek oefen skelm.

#2 Peter Connan

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Posted 04 September 2016 - 12:25 PM

Planning:

 

So for the last couple of years I have been slowly designing my own camping trailer.

 

I believe it was Colin Chapman (the original brain behind the Lotus car range) who said that, if you ask the right questions, the thing basically designs itself. However, the design principle for which is best known is the principle of "performance through lightness", which is a principle I find admirable.

 

The car I drive is a 20-year-old Nissan Patrol. As 4x4's go, it has a lot of room, it is an exceptional off-road vehicle with huge amounts of axle articulation (i can lift one wheel nearly a metre off the ground before a second lifts), and it is exceptionally comfortable on very badly-surfaced roads. It also already has an exceptional thirst, with fuel consumption often mirroring the engine capacity of 4.5l. per km, that is. If my right foot behaves itself...

 

Thus evolved the basic design requirments:

1) Sleeping accomodation for four people.

2) some luggage space (although not a lot by the standards of these trailers)

2) A well-laid-out kitchen, with a fridge, oven, sufficient working room and well laid-out storage for the commonly used coking and eating utensils.

3) A built-in geyser with facilities for a shower and the washing of dishes.

4) An area where people can stand up to get dressed in private, which can also double as a "living room" if the weather turns bad.

5) The ability to pitch and break camp for a single night in the minimum time and with the minimum effort. Longer stays justify more effort, thus a "modular" approach.

6) Conflicting directly with all the above, it must have the minimum affect on the driving experience, off-road ability and fuel consumption. Therefore:

a) Wheel articulation similar to that of the towing vehicle with a relatively compliant suspension.

B) Light weight and good weight distribution

c) A low centre of gravity and good breakover and departure angles and good ground clearance.

d) commonality of wheels and tires with the towing vehicle and

e) sufficient durability and toughness to cope with the pounding.

 

The design that resulted is quite unusual in a number of respects, and is basically summarised in the attached document.

 

Attached File  trailer4.pdf   2.17MB   42 downloads


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Ek oefen skelm.

#3 Peter Connan

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Posted 04 September 2016 - 12:39 PM

Execution:

 

The final kicker was a decision to go on a three-week camping trip to Namibia (with the primary destinations being Etosha and Kgalagadi) in April 2017.

 

However, at nearly the same time as the decision was taken, I changed employer for the first time in my career. The new company uses different design/draughting software, and this new program could not succesfully access my old design documents, so I effectively had to start almost from scratch. The document in the previous post was the final design in the previous software, and a lot of details have changed from then.

 

Here are some photos from the build so far:

 

In SA, any trailer over 750kg must by law be equiped with brakes of some kind. For reasons of reliability, I opted for a hydraulic system (virtually all local trailers stil use cables, which are vulnerable off-road).

 

The master cylinder is actuated by a lever which doubles as the hand-brake lever.

 

trailerBuild-1.jpg

 

trailerBuild-3.jpg

 

The hand-brake pawl normally travels around the ratchet, and thus the hand-brake will not engage during normal use.

 

trailerBuild-5.jpg

 

It is also possible to de-activate the brakes with a simple swing-over tab, for reversing or when driving in soft sand

 

trailerBuild-21.jpg


Edited by Peter Connan, 04 September 2016 - 12:40 PM.

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Ek oefen skelm.

#4 Peter Connan

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Posted 04 September 2016 - 12:45 PM

The stabilizing legs are a novel design which use a single clip to hold either down or up. The height is effectively self-adjusting. Basically, one lowers the nose of the trailer a little, and then jack it up again. The legs will hook in the first available slot.

 

They have quite a wide range of adjustment, and the mounting incorporate steps to get up onto the trailer and jacking points for a high-lift jack.

 

trailerBuild-8.jpg

 

trailerBuild-9.jpg

 

trailerBuild-11.jpg

 

trailerBuild-13.jpg


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Ek oefen skelm.

#5 Peter Connan

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Posted 04 September 2016 - 12:48 PM

The nose-wheel, besides cranking up and down in the normal fashion, swings up into a travelling position to maximize the break-over angle.

 

When folded up, the crank-handle is held captive so that it cannot swing down, and the release clip itself clips tightly into a slot to prevent accidental release.

 

trailerBuild-15.jpg

 

trailerBuild-18.jpg

 

trailerBuild-21.jpg


Edited by Peter Connan, 04 September 2016 - 12:50 PM.

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Ek oefen skelm.

#6 Peter Connan

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Posted 04 September 2016 - 12:57 PM

The most contentious area is the suspension.

 

This is independent by wide-base fabricated trailing arms. These are pivoted to the strongest point of the chassis.

 

trailerBuild-22.jpg

 

It incorporates long-travel shock absorbers

 

trailerBuild-23.jpg

 

And the total range of motion is nearly 250mm

 

trailerBuild-25.jpg

 

trailerBuild-26.jpg

 

However the controversial aspect is the springing medium, which is air

trailerBuild-31.jpg

 

The system is very simple though. Just the air springs and some very simple plumbing allowing inflation of each spring individually by a normal tire valve (thus using a normal car-type air compressor or even a bicycle tire pump). The valves are mounted together to allow inflation from a single point.

 

The only fancy trickery is an equalizing valve. This makes levelling the trailer on an uneven campsite very simple. Just open the valve, push and prod a little and close the valve again.

TrailerBuild-42.jpg

 

The broad-based trailing arms are specially designed to shield the air springs as well as possible from damage, which is really the only risk.


Edited by Peter Connan, 04 September 2016 - 01:03 PM.

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Ek oefen skelm.

#7 Peter Connan

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Posted 04 September 2016 - 01:18 PM

The most complicated system is the water system. This has two seperate tanks (of 1/3rd:2/3rd capacity) totalling around 185l. There will eventually be three seperate methods to extract water from the tanks. Firstly there is a more-than-adequate built-in self-priming pump with a maximum capacity of 17l/min (this will have to be restricted) and a maximum pressure of 2.8 bar. This will be plumbed through a geyser to hot and cold outlets at the kitchen/washing area. Secondly each tank will have a low-placed gravity outlet, and lastly water can be pumped out of the tanks by pumping air in through car-tire type valves.

 

Progress:

 

The current situation is that the rolling chassis is complete and limited testing has begun, so far with encouraging results (although there are obviously a few small issues). Also a masonite mock-up of the basic body has been fabricated to test the basic ergonomics.

 

Next will be the construction of the body, and then all the finishing touches.

 

TrailerBuild-41.jpg

 

TrailerBuild-44.jpg

 

So I guess I will still be pretty scarce for a while to come, and no doubt my big year aspirations will continue to suffer...


Edited by Peter Connan, 04 September 2016 - 01:20 PM.

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Ek oefen skelm.

#8 Towlersonsafari

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Posted 04 September 2016 - 04:36 PM

Dear @Peter Conman words cannot express how impressed I am at your posts! To even have the idea seems so beyond my comprehension and capabilities!I can't wait to see what it l like!
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#9 Patty

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Posted 04 September 2016 - 04:58 PM

Looking forward to seeing the continuation of the build!


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The best way to a man's heart is through the fourth and fifth rib


#10 michael-ibk

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Posted 04 September 2016 - 05:15 PM

Just wow, Peter, really admire your skills. I only understand less than a half of what you wrote but that's enough to be thoroughly impressed!
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#11 Peter Connan

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Posted 04 September 2016 - 05:16 PM

@Towlersonsafari, @Patty and @michael-ibk thank you very much for the kind compliments!


Edited by Peter Connan, 04 September 2016 - 05:17 PM.

Ek oefen skelm.

#12 egilio

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Posted 04 September 2016 - 05:32 PM

Interesting thread!


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#13 xelas

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Posted 04 September 2016 - 09:39 PM

@Peter Connan

 

Wow, just wow! And I might be the first one of Safaritalkers to actually touch your masterpiece  :) !! Should I bring a bottle of champagne?


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#14 Geoff

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Posted 04 September 2016 - 10:23 PM

Fantastic. A man of many talents. I could only dream of attempting something like this. 


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Geoff.

#15 KaingU Lodge

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Posted 05 September 2016 - 03:25 AM

Seriously good skills Peter! 

Looks fantastic.  The airbag idea is a great one.  I run two as helpers on my L/C 78 series troopcarrier and they have been reliable.  Added advantage as you say is that be inflating or deflating the car can be leveled (makes sleeping in the roof tent a bit easier). 

 

Gas geyser or other method? 


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#16 Peter Connan

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Posted 05 September 2016 - 04:05 AM

Thanks for the compliments @egilio, @Geoff, Alex and Gil

@KaingU Lodge, it will be a gas geyser yes. There are several other methods, but all the ones i know of deliver scalding water if the water flow is stopped and then re-opened, and to run the water constantly just uses more water than one can carry.

@xelas, i don't think a drunken trailer is a good idea... but my wife sure likes champagne.

However, if you do bring champagne, you will have to think up a good name as well.
Ek oefen skelm.

#17 xelas

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Posted 05 September 2016 - 05:47 AM

What about sending my daughter there, she might paint some nice birds on the flanks? Or will you use desert camo design??
So no bottle crashing ... But we will have a toast for safe journeys, and yes we definitively need to give it a name.

So fellow STalkers, start sending ideas!
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#18 Peter Connan

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Posted 05 September 2016 - 01:14 PM

No camo, i don't want to lose it!

I hate painting, or more accurately i hate the cleaning that must always precede and follow any painting operation, so any volunteers will be welcomed.

The body will probably be made from pre-coloured GRP, so painting should actually be unnecessary, but i am sure some nice birds would look good.

Maybe so.e photos printed on stickers?
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Ek oefen skelm.

#19 Soukous

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Posted 06 September 2016 - 09:26 AM

This looks very impressive @Peter Connan. I just hope that you're keeping a full record of the entire process so that you can publish it in book form when you've finished. 

 

Then we can all copy your design.  :P


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"if you think you're too small to make a difference, try spending the night in a closed room with a mosquito."

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#20 Towlersonsafari

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Posted 06 September 2016 - 11:39 AM

thinking about it @Peter Connan  i will be very disappointed if you don't mount a radio controlled long lens turret housing a gimbal supporting very long lens and camera with wi-fi control for on the move birds in flight pictures thus eliminating the problem of sneaking up to a raptor on a post or tree only for it to fly off when you stop!. Oh and built in coffee machine with cappachino/latte options .then you can rent it out to fellow safari talkers a sort of cross between scooby doo's van and the TARDIS!


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