Adventure trailer build thread. | Ford Explorer Forums - Serious Explorations

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This is not a common build here on this forum, but this build is part of another long term build, that has been going on for 10 years now. I feel it is fitting to share this build here, since so much of it's companion is documented on EF. This thread is as detailed as my patience has allowed. I want to be able to help others that might be searching for methods/ideas, and "how to" for much of the build. I do belong to other Overland forums, and will link this thread from them, to share with others.

This trailer is a short compact, stout, capable, high clearance, Swiss army knife of a camper. It is not a popup camper, nor is it a sleep in hard shell camper. It will offer all the creature comforts those do, but in a little different fashion. This style trailer, makes you enjoy the outdoors. You cook/dine, lounge & hot shower outside, but you sleep inside a roomy insulated roof top tent, 78" off the ground.

The tow rig:

The Black Hole

The entire build for the tow rig, has always been with this build in mind, and it has been extremely difficult to keep that to myself, and why it was built the way it was. It is a purpose build, with a specific objective.

The Objective:
To be the living quarters and storage, for off the beaten path journeys yet to come.
To have everything needed to sustain myself, and a few others, out in the middle of nowhere, only accessible by unpaved trails, such as old mining roads. Hauling all the boondocking gear behind, instead of overloading the vehicle's suspension. To minimize setup and tear down times for camping, and have camping items readily accessible, whenever needed.

The trailer needs to be capable of following wherever the tow rig goes. Matching tires, axle width, and the same, if not more height clearance as the tow rig. Sleeping & shelter for 4 comfortably, sustainable cold food storage, food prep space, gas powered cooking, AC/DC power supply, and hot showers for days at a time, are all the requirements for this build.


This is the other half of that long term build plan. I am slow at the building and fabricating process, and this will take about a year to complete. Updates will happen as the build progresses. I have entered the 7th month of the build, and expect another 3-4 months left to get it road worthy at the least. Just like anything I have done, it never ends, and improvements will happen, as I gain experience & knowledge with what works best for me.

Baby steps:

This is the first time I have ever attempted anything like this. I am bound to make mistakes, and corrections/improvements are all but a guarantee. I do have a final vision for what I want this to be, as it has been a thought process for many many years now. Please bear with me as this thread goes. Some items won't make sense until it comes to be. I am not going to tell you how things should be done. I am just sharing how I did things on this build. Agree/disagree, like it or leave it, it's mostly a learning experience by mixing what I know, and what I had to learn, to get things as I want them. Definitely not for everybody. Heck, I know I will change things down the road, as I find ways to improve on it. That is part of the fun!

Why am I building this?
I'm Tired of ground tent camping all my life. Tired of the time it takes to set up & tear down. Tired of all the tedious packing, unpacking, moving things from place to place after every trip. Plus, I don't want a motor home that can't leave the roads.
I plan on getting lost a few times, venturing out to places unknown and unseen. We live in a large, beautifully gifted geographical location on the planet. Our own back yard is filled with amazing spectacles. Places that can only be seen on dirt trails, off the beaten paths, not by roads covered in pavement, and delivery trucks. Exploring into the dark hours of the night, and setting camp in the middle of nowhere, instead of heading back. We can traverse a lot of ground this way.


A few friends helped with this build, and I couldn't have got as far as it is without them. Special thanks to James, Matt, Kurt, Ryan, & Jacob. You guys rock!

A warning from the author:

This thread contains: Long drawn out boring tedious explanations, Dry humor, embarrassing anecdotes, speech in the 3rd person, countless pictures, and some content is for Mature audiences. There is a little for everybody here, but be warned, this is not your typical build thread, and not from your typical builder. I am not responsible for your emotional mood swings, due to reading this material. ;)

Edit: Progress pics as of 10/15/18. Getting closer every day!

Dr washed.jpg

RTT on front pass side full view.jpg

First real use!

Camp set 1.jpg

Camp set 2.jpg

Bat wing awning up.jpg

Current specs:
Main Frame- 12'.5"L x 48"W
Whopping 25" of ground clearance with 35" tires
Fenders- 72" Long x 14.00" Wide tapered to 0.00" in front
Cabin- 48"W x 72"L x 36"H
Overall Width - 76"
Overall Height - 68" Roof Rack lowered - 78" Roof Rack lifted
Overall Height- 80" With RTT stowed - 140" RTT open & rack lifted
Dry weight- 2300#'s

2"x3"x3/16" Steel Tube Frame, with 1 pc center tongue beam from front to rear.
3500 Lb Timbren Axleless Independent suspension
10" Electric brakes
35"x12.5" Goodyear MTR's w/kevlar & matching spare
15"x10" Mickey Thompson black satin aluminum wheels
Lock N Roll off road articulating Hitch
14 Ga steel cabin walls & roof
3/4" Ply floor, stained, sealed, & 5 topcoats of acrylic gloss clear
Commercial 60 Mil Waterproof TPO membrane under belly skin
12 Ga steel Fenders on Sq frame & 2" x 3/16" Round slider tubes
Spare tire mount on cabin front
16 Ga swing out 4'W x 2'D x 24"H Tapered Tongue box
16 Ga Side boxes with Tapered front compartments
Telescoping Roof rack (12") with scissor jack actuation
Two rear 31" BAL C leveling jacks & swivel plate base
Dual 5K swivel weld ring flat plate base Tongue jacks
ARK dual wheel offroad 750 HD Tongue jack
Slider system for hidden Solar panel storage
Dual 11 lb Propane tank storage mounts
Quick Disconnect Water supply
All Stainless & Aluminum hardware, where applicable

Front compartment 48"Wx24"Lx36"H
Two side doors, and upper 12 ga shelf with expanded metal rear wall
Rear Compartment 48"Wx48"Lx36"H
3/4" PT wood flooring, custom finish, clear satin marine topcoats.
Tie downs on frame tubes
1-60W Led rear cabin, 3-10w Led front cabin
Wiring plumbed with flex and hard conduit
Split cabin with full rear cabin deck, tie down racks

Dual Group 31 MAGM deep cycle 110 AH batteries
110 shore
100W Renogy Solar
NOCO Marine 110v 20 amp onboard Dual smart charger
30 amp Renogy MPPT Solar charger
140 amp traveling vehicle charge, via smart charger
Soon to come: 40 amp-500 watt DC-DC charger from alternator
Portable Valence 80Ah Lifepo4 Solar Gen w/inverter

4 season 23Zero 73" Walkabout RTT W/ large Annex room - telescopic ladder w/rung pads- Ext shoe bags-Led lights- 3" thick x Ca King mattress w/anti condensation mat.
Oversized high density 3" thick 56" x 96" mattress. Cold weather cover, additional secondary rain fly.
Rhino Rack 8.5' Bat Wing 270* Wrap around Awning (2019 version)
5Liter - 1.5 gpm - On demand instant hot water heater
ARB/ViAir 150 psi onboard air system
Ready Welder II
Slide out Kitchen/storage- 1/2" Baltic Birch, sealed/stained/clear coats 350# slides
ICECO VL45 portable fridge/freezer - AC/DC
Custom powder coated locking Fridge slide out.
Wireless controlled winch (upper roof rack storage, rear bumper hitch receiver)
Rear door interior fold down table
Dual 11 lb propane tanks (rear fender mounted)
Marine control panel, rocker switches w/circuit breakers, 12v battery meter, Aux outlets
30 gallon fresh water tank & 3.0 gpm instant on pump w/ inline filter
Trailer Harness Connection lock box
First Aid field kit (large)
Dual Fire Extinguisher's

LED Lighting:
Front- 2-45w dual pods w/amber fogs
Sides- 4-18w pods
Rock- 4-10w blue IP 67
Cabin- 1-60w 3 setting round rear compartment ceiling fixture, 3-10w pods front compartment
Tails/brakes/turns- 30w 6" oval
Reverse- 30w 6" oval
Markers- 3w red & amber
7 pin RV trailer harness & J box

Tongue box build:
Full box tube frame & 16 ga sheet, w/plate and tube gussets
Dual battery mount tray
Red oak Shelf for Noco dual 20 amp charger, 20amp solar charger, 12v systems (3) circuit breakers, fuse panel, main power cutoff switch
3 space divider walls & front storage shelf
Gas lift struts, 2"x 3/16" thick Aluminum lid hinge
Dual SS locking paddle latch handles
Dual 4" SS louvered vents w/bug screens
Pass thru power cord outlet with weatherproof door hatch
NOCO 110v wall power plug w/ weatherproof cover
2k locking latch to frame, & dual 7/16" clevis pins to frame
5/8" spindle for swivel action, for spare tire removal/security

Frame- Chassis saver gloss black
Cabin Exterior- Acid etch primer & Single stage Gloss Black automotive 2k urethane
Cabin Interior- SW DTM Gloss White
Side & T boxes, All doors- Urethane Epoxy primer & Single stage Gloss Black 2k Urethane
Roof rack- Chassis saver gloss black
Fenders-Acid etch primer underneath & Urethane base topside, Black Raptor liner w/grip additive

Trim: Aluminum

Lots to add to that list up there, and I will as the build progresses. :)

I hope you enjoy the thread, as much as I have enjoyed the build itself.

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Frame build:

For a sturdy foundation, 2"x3"x3/16" tube was used for the main box.
For a strong center beam from front to back, 2"x2"x1/4" was used.
Over all dimensions are 4'W x 12'-6"L. Main box is 4'Wx6'L, with a 2'Lx4'W tongue, and another 2' triangle in front for the Tongue box.

There is a whopping 25" of clearance under the frame rails. The track width matches the tow rigs exactly, at 76" wide. These axles will have 5" of vertical only travel. There is zero tilt/sway to them, so the tires only go straight up or down, and can be closer to the frame. I have them set at 2" away.

The 2"x2" feeds threw the center of the 2"x3" cross beams, and welded around each. This allows all the pulling force to be distributed evenly, and allows a good solid tow point in the rear of the trailer.

Once the frame was made, it was thrown on a rack and checked for squareness. It did need a little tweaking on one corner, and this rack had no problem taking care of that.

The 3500 lb 4" lift Timbren independent axles was installed at this time, so I could get the 35" Goodyear MTR's and wheels on it, to be able to move it around for the build.

A 2"x2"x1/4" tube is the cross beam for these axle units, and bolted into place, along with a 3"x1/4" angle to the frame rails for additional support.

The main center beam tube was left longer than needed at this point, and will be cut to length eventually.

Once the axles were set, the hubs & 10" electric brakes was installed. Followed by a heavy duty set of 31" lift RV Trailer "C" jacks. These jacks can be operated by hand drill and a socket. They are made for full size RV's for leveling. These have no problem lifting this trailer off the ground, and will be useful for leveling, and tire changing if ever needed.

frame and axles 1.jpg

Frame and axles 2.jpg

Timbren axles on.jpg

C jacks 1.jpg

C jacks installed.jpg

cross beam for axles installed.jpg

For flooring support, sections of angle iron was cut, welded on the frame, and 1/2" holes drilled for bolts.

The next step was to get the main box built. 1.5"x1.5"x1/8" tube was cut and welded to the main frame. It is 48" wide by 72" long, by 36" high.
There are two main compartments. Front compartment is 24" deep x 48" wide. Rear compartment is 48" wide x 48" deep.
Front will have an upper shelf for misc storage, and house the pull out Fridge/Freezer.
Rear will house the pull out kitchen, 30 gal water tank & pump, plus more storage.

2"x1/8" flat stock was added to the 1"x1" door frames for the weather strip and door stops.

2"x3" was added for tongue support.

Floor mount tabs drill press.jpg

main box frame 1.jpg

main box frame 2.jpg

Trailer frame with box framed 3.jpg


Tongue supports.jpg

Fenders was the next challenge. I wanted it to flow from front to back, and to have rugged fenders that can take abuse, and strong enough to stand on.

1.750" x 3/16" tube was used and made into rock sliders. 1"x1"x1/8" tube was used for gussets and cross bracing for the surface materials.

For the fender surface, 12ga sheet was plasma cut, and form fitted as it was welded, an inch at a time. This was extremely difficult to form and weld, but came out well for what I wanted.

1/4" AR plate was added to the tongue for mounting points. More on that later.

1/2 a sheet of smooth Expanded metal was plasma cut, and stitch welded, onto the tongue area. I bought a full 4'x8' sheet, and will use the other half, for small item later on in the build.

Fender tubes 1.jpg

Fenders 2.jpg

fenders 3.jpg

expanded metal on tongue installed.jpg

I decided to install the rear brake & reverse lights up high and out of harms way. The rear was framed for the door with 1"x1" sq, and 1/8" flat stock for stops, then the 4"w- 12 gauge side panels plug welded on. In this picture, you can see the C jacks in use, with the tires off.

Next up was to build the telescopic tent rack. 1.5"x1.5"x1/8" tube was used for the rack itself, and 2"x2"x1/8" for the solid mounted pass thru's. 1/8" plate for the scissor jack mounts welded onto the box and rack itself. Scissor jack is just mocked up in the pics, and not mounted in the center yet.The rack will lift the the desired height of 78" off the ground for the bottom of the tent. This height is determined by the tent manufacturer to be the most optimal for the ladder angle and support given by it.

I welded 24 chain tie downs inside the box frame for straps and what not.

A quick lift wheeled tongue jack, was added to get it around for now.

rear light panels installed.jpg

tent rack 1.jpg

tent rack 2.jpg
tent rack jack 1.jpg

tent rack jack 2.jpg

box tie downs 1.jpg

box tie downs 2.jpg

Wheeled jack.jpg

The frame was painted with Chassis gloss black with UV protection.

The exterior walls are made from 14 ga sheet. Each panel was plasma cut, and then the interiors painted in white DTM 3 times. White is used to reflect light better and LED's will be added down the road.

The front compartment shelf is 14 ga. Top painted black, and underneath white.

The box lid is 14 ga, and the underside painted white.

Trailer frame painted dr side.jpg

Trailer frame painted front.jpg
Trailer side panels interior painted.jpg

Box lid interior painted.jpg

The panels was installed with double sided camper seal on each and every frame rail at this point. The brake & reverse lights was roughly cut out with the plasma.

Compartment divider wall was bolted on. The gap underneath is for the flooring to fit.

The front box shelf was mocked in.

rear view of box with panels.jpg

rear box with walls on 2.jpg
front box shelf painted installed.jpg
front box with walls on.jpg

I decided to add urethane paint to the fenders, so the chassis paint was removed off the tops. Reason being, is they will be coated in durable liner, and that needs a urethane base for it.

The panels are bolted and screwed on. I recessed each and every screw hole, to get the flat heads flush. After a couple hundred holes drilled, my hands hurt for weeks it seemed. lol I decided not to weld them together in case I ever need to replace one. I removed a bunch of them for the paint job process. The panels draw in tight when screwed in all around.

I spot primed the a lot of fresh holes before the screws/bolts went in.

The main beam was cut to length, and the 3 direction, articulating Loc n Roll Hitch, was welded and bolted in place. The hitch placement was made so that the trailer can go beyond 90*, and jack knife without the trailer itself, touching the tow rig. The main beam will hit the corner of the bumper, before the tongue will, and around 110* jacked. This makes for tight turning and mobility on the trails.

panels ext dr front.jpg

panels ext front.jpg

panels ext front.jpg

panels ext pass front.jpg

Special body seam filler was used on the fenders to the frame, and fender to the rock sliders. This filled the cracks and made it look much nicer.

So off it goes into the spray booth. It was masked off, and 2 coats of etching primer shot.

4 coats of single stage jet black automotive paint was then sprayed by my friend James, in his spray booth. He decided to put a coat on the fenders, since we had no idea how long it would be until they got Monstaliner on them, it wouldn't hurt. I'm glad he did.

paint mask 1.jpg

paint mask 2.jpg

paint mask 3.jpg

topcoat being sprayed on box.jpg

Trailer is at home now, and taking up space in the garage. Big difference in the work areas. lol

So after the paint was fully cured and gassed out (30 days), I trimmed it out with Aluminum angle, and used self tapping bolts with rubber washers, that will be painted black to blend in. I will get better pictures of the paint job later, and update. I still have to cut & buff it all.

After getting the scissor jack bolted to both the box and rack, it showed my newb-ness.
The front pass side tent rack slide tube was giving me a fit, so I cut it off, moved it and welded it back. Slides up & down better now with the scissor jack. Oh, I use a drill to operate the jack too. :)

Yeah, I know, the garage is a mess. Don't look!! lol

box painted 1.jpg

box painted front.jpg

box lid painted with rack.jpg

box alum trimmed.jpg

Great craftsmanship! I like it.

Silicone Encased LED Strips - Ribbon Thin, Waterproof & Flexible | Oznium

Used these before in “cabins” out it’s the woods with great results. Run forever on a small battery.

Those are nice. Thanks for the link. Have to think about that tho, as I already sourced interior LED's with wireless Key fob control from this place...

Wireless Remote Control Switch with Key Fob for Wire Harnesses | Work & Off Road Light Accessories | Off Road LED Light Bars | Super Bright LEDs

Wow, that looks great. I hope that works just the way you dream of, I like the sturdy construction of it.

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Time for some little stuff, that ate a ton of my time, and many head scratches.

So I have seen many trailers and some with spares, some without. Some with rear swingouts, some on the tongue, and some on the roof. Me, I chose the front tongue for more weight up there. I do not want a swaying trailer, and this option felt right to me.

So I had to figure a simple way to mount it, yet be strong and secure. If you look back and see the pictures showing the main box, before it was skinned, you will see a couple vertical tubes close together in the center of the front. These are there to mount the spare tire mount I fabricated.

All 1/4" plate & tube, with stock lug nuts pounded and welded to the plate. I figured a way to use this new (to me) hidden bolt lock. You can't cut the bolt, as you can't get at it. Downside is, you better not lose the key, or it will take a cutting torch to get it off. I feel dangerous, and using it! :D

The mount itself still raw.

Spare tire mount.jpg

The lock cover that slides over the front section, that comes through the wheel.

Spare tire lock cover.jpg

Spare tire lock cover on wheel.jpg

And the lock holding the cover on the mount.

Spare tire mount with lock on.jpg

And the mount installed. Needs some paint on the bolt hardware still. I used black liquid plastidip (in the can), on the end of the eye bolt hole, and on the lock cover to make it clang free.

tire mount installed.jpg