I haven’t talked about my trailer yet but as it has become a critical part of my current trip I decided to do a quick write up on it. A couple of years ago I bought a 6’X8′ flat bed trailer from Tractor Supply and I’m in the process of modifying it to suit my needs. I use it for hauling my raft around so I built a couple of locking boxes to store gear and upgraded the tires and lights.
I used to own a 79 GMC Sierra that I used for dump runs and other hauling that I didn’t want to do in my Tacoma. It was a heavy half ton so it had a better cargo capacity and for many years I was remodeling an old house built in ’38 so I had many dump runs with lath and plaster that tested the capacity of the truck. After inheriting a 15′ AIRE raft with oar frame I decided to sell the truck and buy a trailer that could be used for dump runs but also haul the raft making launch and take out soooo much easier at the river. I no longer had to inflate and deflate my raft for transport. It has also worked great for hauling kayaks to the river.
I considered building my own trailer for a long time. I went through the process of pricing out the materials and then priced out mass produced trailers from a few places and weighed it against the hassles of registering a home made trailer and found that I would save some money buying a simple trailer and eliminate some of the registration hassle.
I got the trailer on sale at the local Tractor Supply and paid just under $1,000 after taxes, title, and registration. This worked out great as I sold the GMC for $1,000. Now given the price you can’t expect a supper high quality trailer, I worked for years as a welder repairing mass produced trailers from time to time and this one wasn’t that bad. Positives, low price, 3,500 lb axle, good size, base of the trailer already fabricated, easy registration. Negatives….
The tires it came with are only rated for 1,100 lbs for a combined load rating of 2,200 lbs which is not 3,500 like the rating I was told it had. The tires are also small in diameter (13″ rim) and narrow (4″ or 5″ wide). Most trailer tires are only rated for 55mph so it’s not really a downfall of the tire but they were only rated for 55mph. The trailer doesn’t come with a spare so I bought two upgraded rims and tires off of Amazon and use the stock tires as spares. These tires are a little over kill, rated at 2,830lbs each, but they were on sale when I bought them so it was $3-$5 more for the E rated over the D rated so it was an easy upgrade. These tires are also rated for 81mph so I can go highway speeds in Utah where the speed limit is 80.
The bigger tire meant that it rubbed on the wheel well. The axle was mounted on top of the leaf springs so I pulled it off and mounted it to the bottom and got the clearance I needed. Now a 3,500 lb axle has a camber bent into it (it’s pre-bent so that when you load it to capacity it straightens) so you can’t just flip the axle, you have to also weld a new saddle on so the camber is in the right direction. You can go through the hassle of cutting the old saddle off and reusing it but I found some for $3.33 each from e-Trailer so I wasn’t going to deal with that. Leaving the stock saddles also gave me an easy location indicator making install really easy and if for any reason I want to put the stock tires back on and lower it I can just flip the axle back over.
The other issue is the lights were complete garbage. I was going down a lot of dirt roads and had to fix at least one light every time I used the trailer, just cheap plastic. The metal tubes they put in to protect the wires were not deburred (which is the only unforgivable quality control issue I found on the trailer) and it cut through my wires in a few places the first time I used the trailer. I upgraded to water proof LED rear lights and marker lights from O’riley’s. The new rear lights came with all new wiring and four pin plug, I just had to buy a few connectors and I spent about an hour with a grinder deburring all of the wire runs. I’ve been really happy with these new lights and even used the same marker lights on the camper.
So now lets talk about the modifications I’ve done so far. The trailer came with a ramp on the back and as I didn’t need it I cut it off and gave it to one of the guys at work that used it to add a second ramp on the side of his four wheeler trailer. It has a round tube mounted about 12″ off the deck with angle iron. I raised the tube up about 18″ and built two powder coated steel boxes that take up the front and back of the deck leaving the middle open for wet storage. Both boxes are the same size 30″ wide, 24″ tall and the width of the trailer 75″.
The front box opens to either side of the trailer and has a divider giving me one smaller and one larger storage area. The smaller side is my pantry. On this box I made the doors thicker and bent the door jamb in such a way as to be bear proof and, with the rubber gasket, water proof. I also added gas shocks to hold the doors open.
The rear box opens to the back of the trailer, has no divider, lighter gauge doors and the jamb is still bent to be waterproof but it doesn’t have the extra joggle to keep bears from being able to get their claws behind the door to pry it open. In hind sight I wish I would have built both door jambs the same but I built the rear box first and didn’t think to bend it the other way till I started considering keeping bears out of the pantry.
I started the trailer project before I even thought of the camper but it has been on hold till I finish the camper. I plan on making another small box on the belly for all of my oars and kayak paddles, a mount for my Jerry can and extra propane tank, and a few other things if I have time after the camper is finished.