Sunday, March 18, 2012

Starting a New Project

Hi All,
I thought it would be nice to create a build log on the internet as I build my teardrop trailer so that people can follow along if they are interested. I hope you enjoy it. Feel free to post a comment if you have an idea, question, or just want to give me a word of encouragement or tell me about something you learned while doing a similar project that may help me.

Why a teardrop trailer? Cheri and I like to get out in the woods for little overnight campouts. Sit around a campfire, maybe take nature walk in the morning. We live in the beautiful state of Utah with abundant camping nearby. For some time now I have been thinking of upgrading from tenting to a camp trailer to make the preparation easier and sleeping a little more comfortable. To be honest, the biggest motivation for me to have a camp trailer is not having to haul all my camping gear up from the basement and load it into the car. I'm hoping that having the trailer parked and ready to go all summer will entice us to get away more often.

The idea of a teardrop appeals to me because of the simplicity. You’ve got a place to sleep and cook that’s small, cheap, and easy to tow.

About the design. I spent a lot of time sketching preliminary designs before settling on the basic design in the drawings above which I call the “Woodsman”. Here’s a list of features that are important to me and which led to this particular design:

1) Ability to sit up in the trailer. Most teardrop designs are about 4 feet high on the outside and less than that on the inside. That is plenty high for sleeping but you have to do everything lying down. The Woodsman will be about 5 ½’ high on the inside. Not quite enough room to stand but high enough to sit up straight or kneel to make it a little more comfortable when changing clothes and moving around in the cabin. Because of this requirement the Woodsman design is taller than most teardrop designs.
2) Ability to sleep two full-grown people comfortably. When we campout in a tent we put a queen size inflatable mattress down for sleeping. This is ideal for us. Most teardrop plans use a four foot wide bed because that’s the width of a sheet of plywood. A queen bed is 5 feet wide so I went with that for the width of the trailer. Cost will be driven up a bit by exceeding the 4 foot restriction of a sheet of plywood in both the width of the trailer and the height but these are both important enough to me that I am willing to spend a little more to get it right.
3) The look is also important. If I’m going to pour months of time and effort into a project like this I want people to say, “Look how cool that is!” not “How come it’s shaped like a box?” The classic retro look of the 1940’s teardrops is hard to beat so that’s the look I’m going for.

The first three items above guided the size and shape of the design. Other considerations that went into the design are below:

4) I have a budget. I sold my old S-10 pickup for $3400. I would like to stay within that figure. I think I can do it but I will need to watch my pennies and I’m sure the budget will influence many of my choices.
5) Insulation. I plan to insulate the entire sleeping compartment. I am hoping that a well insulated compartment can be kept comfortably warm with only body heat on cool summer nights in the mountains. I don't have plans to do any winter camping.
6) Ventilation. A ceiling vent with a built-in fan should be able to pull air in through the side windows and keep the compartment from turning into an oven when the sun hits it. Keeping cool in the daytime is another motivation for thoroughly insulating the sleeping compartment.
7) Electric lighting inside and out, including the galley and a light above the door on the exterior.
8) Circuitry to connect a 110 power cord which will charge the batteries, run the 12V system, and also power one or two 110V convenience outlets.
9) Entertainment center. Even when we camp out in a tent we bring along a portable DVD player or iPad with a movie loaded up. I’ve gotta have a stereo system and some kind of movie player.
10) Space in the galley for the following items to be securely stored:
a. Propane cook stove
b. Propane lantern
c. Spare cylinders of propane
d. Cooler
e. Cooking and eating utensils
f. Pots, pans, mixing bowls
g. Plates, cups, bowls, napkins
h. A few cans and packages of non-perishable food such as chili and pasta.
i. Soaps, dish towels, rags
11) Doors on both sides. This is a comfort thing. If I feel like laying down for a nap in the daytime it will be nice to open both doors and take advantage of the mountain breezes.

The design. I have to confess that, although there are some unique features of this design, much of it consists of ideas that I have borrowed from other teardrop designs that I have seen. Many thanks to all my predecessors who have shared their designs on the internet!

I am making a 3D drawing of the design. It's not finished yet but I posted a couple of views at the begining of this blog to give the general idea. For creating the drawing I use Google’s sketchup software. It’s free ( - : Some nice-to-have features are missing from the free version but I can get everything done that I need to do. There are several advantages to making the 3D drawing before you start to build. One advantage is visualization. You get to see how it will look and where everything goes, and unlike the real thing, you can tweak it as you go along.

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