Building a Squaredrop camper

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samj2014

Original Poster:

554 posts

113 months

Saturday 23rd April 2022
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Where to start...
Well, during the worst parts of the pandemic, my housemate bought, converted and flipped three Sprinter vans. He did a great job and made good money doing it. Having done it before, I know how much of a pain it is, and I certainly didn't have much interest in doing it again.

However, quite recently I've been getting into off roading/overlanding a little, and am getting a little bored of tent camping, wanting something a little more comfy. A recent podcast that we did at my work with a couple of guys that started a business renting out such things as pickup trucks with RTTs and a couple of overlanding trailers gave me the inspiration I needed to build my own, and so less than a week later I'd bought an old utility trailer with the view to building a squaredrop trailer of my own.

Why build one you ask? well...
1. I'm cheap
2. I'm poor
3. I'd like to flip it for a profit eventually
4. I'm poor
5. I already don't have enough free time, might as well compound the problem

and why a squaredrop you ask? Well..
1. Easier to build than a teardrop
2. more comfortable than a ground tent
3. Less setup/break-down time than a tent and can in theory leave it loaded and ready to go
4. unlike a RTT you can leave your camp set up and come back later

So, here's what I bought, alongside my sort of trusty tow-rig.



Not owning a welder, an already assembled and fairly solid used utility trailer seemed the best choice. Not so sure I feel the same way now... Stay tuned for more...

missing the VR6

2,323 posts

190 months

Tuesday 26th April 2022
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I'm thoroughly intrigued to see what you're going to make out of a trailer! Good luck. You've got the best part of the world to use it in!

Scrump

22,172 posts

159 months

Tuesday 26th April 2022
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Is this actually a home built caravan?

Also interested to see what you build.

samj2014

Original Poster:

554 posts

113 months

Tuesday 26th April 2022
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I guess this is maybe more of a North American thing. It’s going to be an off-road ready mini caravan. 5x8 footprint, 4ft tall. Sleeping quarters at the front with a queen size bed and rear hatch opens to a galley kitchen. Think small van conversion, without the engine. Means the tow vehicle can leave camp without having to break it down.

The squaredrop is a derivation from the classic teardrop camper and usually is built more towards ‘overlanding’ and off road use, I guess because of its more rugged looks. I’m going in this direction just because squares are easier to build than curves.

Here’s my inspiration:



Edited by samj2014 on Tuesday 26th April 18:08

Scrump

22,172 posts

159 months

Tuesday 26th April 2022
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A cool looking mini off-road caravan thumbup

Bill

52,940 posts

256 months

Tuesday 26th April 2022
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missing the VR6 said:
I'm thoroughly intrigued to see what you're going to make out of a trailer! Good luck. You've got the best part of the world to use it in!
+1

I've also been eyeing up something like this rather than doing up a (currently overpriced) tired caravan. My wife is really not keen so I'm pinning my hopes on you doing a good job! biggrin

samj2014

Original Poster:

554 posts

113 months

Tuesday 26th April 2022
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Well in the interest of keeping you guys interested, I'll add another update - I'm a little behind here and I'm going to go out and do some work on it this next couple of days.

I'm not very good at taking photos as I'm going but I'll add what I have. First thing was to remove all the panelling, sides etc. from the trailer so I have a clean base to start from. Underneath was a lot of surface rust. Luckily this thing was built pretty heavy so I'm not worried about the structure, but it meant a lot of time with a grinder cleaning and prepping for paint.





I also soon realised that though it had a heavy duty 3.5 ton axle on it, it had 'dayton' style hubs which meant very old and specific wheels and tyres, which weren't really going to suit what I needed. Bit of a bummer, I ended up having to buy a new axle. It wasn't too expensive ($400) but this is where I started realising that I probably should've just built a trailer frame from scratch. Next time. At this point I sourced four Jeep steel wheels from an XJ for $50 and a set of 3 lightly used BFG K02 tyres for about another $200 - total bargain. Fitted up these look pretty tidy, but I'm going to need some wheel spacers as the offset on the rims isn't quite right and there's not a lot of clearance.



Meanwhile progress is pretty slow with the grinding and painting as the weather wasn't great and our garage is pretty tight. This took a few weeks as there was a lot of small pieces of metal to remove and I wanted to do a decent job. (you can see one of the centerless dayton style wheels in the background)



Eventually I got the frame painted and finished. There are a few spots I'd like to touch up but it's good enough to last a few years probably. I got the axle swapped and wheels fitted. I also decided to cut out the original jack as it wasn't in great shape and I fitted a bolt-on swivel jack so that it can move totally out of the way for going off road.

Old axle off, leaf springs painted.



New axle and wheels fitted



Clearance is a little tight. I'm thinking either 1/2" or 1" wheel spacers should be plenty



New swivel jack fitted



More to come...

samj2014

Original Poster:

554 posts

113 months

Friday 6th May 2022
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Well, I started building the actual thing itself. Progress has been slow since I don't have as much free time as I'd like but I'm getting somewhere.

I started by framing out the floor - 3/4" ply with 2x2 batons, 1.5" insulation, 5x8' footprint



Next I had to figure out how to attach the floor to the frame. I decided tee nuts were the way to do it, sandwiched between the top layer of ply and I'll bolt through from the underside of the trailer - this means I can (in theory) separate the frame/body if I need to. Cue lots of swearing and drilling holes in the wrong places, but I got it figured out.



Walls framed out with 1/2" ply and 2x2 batons - I didn't use the best quality ply so lots of filling and sanding here, annoyingly







Now I'm having somebody make some modifications to the trailer frame - the axle needs to move back a little, so in the mean time I'm mock-assembling the body of the trailer in our garage. I'll frame out each section and get all the exterior/interior panels cut, that way I can make sure it all fits and then when I have the frame back in a week or two I can just assemble everything on the frame, glue and screw it together and it should all work out great... right?





This is where I'm at right now - I've got most of the electrics figured out already, but more on that later.

missing the VR6

2,323 posts

190 months

Friday 6th May 2022
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Impressive work.

Scrump

22,172 posts

159 months

Friday 6th May 2022
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Looking good. Your construction skills are much better than mine.

samj2014

Original Poster:

554 posts

113 months

Friday 6th May 2022
quotequote all
Thanks guys, lots of mistakes and learning as I go.
Case in point, I built the walls backwards - the door that I bought is meant for the right side, and as you can see the hole is on the left. I thought I triple checked before I built the damn things but somehow I still screwed it up...
I'm as yet undecided as to whether I'll live with the door opening the wrong way or if I'll order a new door and save this one for a potential future build/sell it, but it wasn't cheap (around $600cad)

samj2014

Original Poster:

554 posts

113 months

Tuesday 10th May 2022
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Been cracking on this last couple of days. Framed out both roof panels - you can see the framing for the roof vent. The angled piece was a little tricky but I got there.






missing the VR6

2,323 posts

190 months

Tuesday 10th May 2022
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Is there enough insulation for that to be functional all year round?

samj2014

Original Poster:

554 posts

113 months

Wednesday 11th May 2022
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missing the VR6 said:
Is there enough insulation for that to be functional all year round?
I would think so - there's more insulation than in your typical mass-built caravan (an inch and a half of EPS on every wall, floor, ceiling). That said to make it properly functional in winter I'd want to have some kind of propane/diesel heater. I don't think I'm going to put that kind of money into this one, but it should be fine for three seasons as-is.

CubanPete

3,630 posts

189 months

Wednesday 11th May 2022
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Looks awesome. I've been toying with building something like this, but the current project list is big...

Chinese diesel heaters are about £80, so not money that would break the bank...

samj2014

Original Poster:

554 posts

113 months

Wednesday 11th May 2022
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CubanPete said:
Looks awesome. I've been toying with building something like this, but the current project list is big...

Chinese diesel heaters are about £80, so not money that would break the bank...
The problem isn’t the money - the way I’m wiring this thing (I’ll explain later) means it’ll be tough to make it work properly without totally draining my battery as they use a lot of power when they first turn on. A propane heater would work better but there are fewer cheap ones around

Edited by samj2014 on Wednesday 11th May 07:26

samj2014

Original Poster:

554 posts

113 months

Thursday 12th May 2022
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Good progress today - got the roof panels cut, fitted and insulated. Took a while to get the chamfers on the edges right and unfortunately not everything is quite as square as I’d like it to be, mostly down to not having the most accurate tools and the unfortunate realities of working with big pieces of bendy wood. Whatever doesn’t fit perfectly I can fix with either sanding or filler however.

Thankfully it looks great from a distance.




samj2014

Original Poster:

554 posts

113 months

Thursday 19th May 2022
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I managed to get the roof vent/fan test-fitted with a little trimming on the opening.
Cut most of the interior plywood panels yesterday and test-fitted.
Trailer is having some welding done next week so hopefully next Tuesday/Wednesday I'll be able to put the cab on the frame and get it glued/screwed together. Next big thing is the hurricane hinge showing up so I can make/fit the rear hatch and get it fully waterproof. Hopefully just a few weeks away from it being functional on a basic level - I have a feeling it's going to come together pretty quickly.









missing the VR6

2,323 posts

190 months

Friday 20th May 2022
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Impressively quick work there, how much longer do you think it'll take?

poo at Paul's

14,177 posts

176 months

Friday 20th May 2022
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How much taller would it need to be to stand up in…assuming one is not a midget wrestler?