Our Home Built Teardrop Trailer

Rebecca with ceiling of teardrop

by Rebecca Turner

After 6 years of living in the real world (aka – not college) we’ve come to the conclusion that the path we are following might not be exactly what we wanted after all. We are finding that we are letting the daily grind of our jobs wear us down and aren’t taking the time do the things that make us happy. So after much thought and lots of long talks, we decided it was time to ‘turn-about’ and make some changes.

Photo Credits: Rebecca Turner

We have always loved camping and have longed to take a great cross country road trip. So to this end, we’ve decided to throw caution to the wind, plan a great trip and build a teardrop trailer! Though we have some skills (I work in architecture and my husband is a mechanical engineer) we have never built anything like this before and are learning as we go. This is also ultimately a great test to see if we can design and build something together without killing each other!

trailer frame

In researching trailers, we found a lot of photos and websites selling trailers and plans. But in order to customize the trailer to our needs we decided to wing it and document the whole process on our blog! The trailer is being built on a small 4 ft x 8 ft utility trailer with walls cut from standard 4 ft x 8 ft plywood. The interior cabin is a little smaller than a full size bed and the back opens up into a basic galley kitchen. Inside, the galley will be a two burner propane camp stove, a small sink with a hand pump faucet and a ton of counter space. We decided this will be an ‘off the grid’ trailer and will be running all of the electrical with two 20 watt solar panels on the roof that will power a few lights, fan and a couple of DC ‘cigarette lighter’ style outlets you typically find in cars.

trailer frame construction

The construction process is still ongoing, but we are hoping to be completed before the end of June and be on the road by August. So far this has been a stressful, challenging and very rewarding project! As things come together every moment we aren’t working on the trailer is spent thinking about it and designing in our heads. Once we are on the road we are looking forward to lots of adventures and figuring out the next direction our lives will take.

We’ve kept up a blog – turned-about.blogspot.com – in the hopes others can learn from our experiences and build trailers of their own!

floor storage

cutting out walls

walls and framing

wiring

hatch

teardrop cabin

teardrop galley

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Niall - June 12, 2012 Reply

Beautifully made wee teardrop – I’m looking forward to seeing pictures of it when it’s completed!

Christine - June 12, 2012 Reply

Very Cool!

Greg - June 12, 2012 Reply

What a very cool project, you are doing a fantastic job! Thank you for taking us along for the ride 🙂 Great pictures, and excellent feedback on the project. I Cant wait to see the final product, and hear about all the adventures it takes you on!

Larry Cooper - June 12, 2012 Reply

Inspiring! Building a teardrop is on my list this year. Thanks for posting!

alice h - June 12, 2012 Reply

Beautiful! Love the exterior finish, gives me some ideas. Good for you for realising what you want and going for it. Sure wish I had done this much earlier in life. Though it’s never too late to do the right things it sure is easier before your body starts to crap out. A friend of mine had a teardrop with an awning extension that went over the galley area and provided a covered and screened area where he set up his picnic table that folded up into a suitcase.

Kent - June 12, 2012 Reply

Wow – looks like amazing craftspersonship. Congrats to you two for taking control of what you want in life. We only get the one! 🙂

Fred Knapp - June 12, 2012 Reply

That is one of the most beautifully made trailers I have ever seen. Not only did you knock it out of the park you guys should quit your day jobs and go into the custom trailer business.

jeff - June 12, 2012 Reply

As cool at the trailer is, whats even cooler is your decision to take off and travel. Congrats!

Barb - June 12, 2012 Reply

Beautiful teardrop! Is that a clam shell design, with kitchen access at the rear of the trailer? That is my favorite tear-drop style! You might consider some kind of awning system over the kitchen area – a little protection from the weather.

Nice job – congratulations!

JimBonz - June 12, 2012 Reply

You should be very proud of what you have accomplished in this build. I love it! A BFF of mine wants me to build her one like this. I have built MANY tiny houses, shacks, sheds and “hootches” and have always been dedicated to creating alternative housing. My first love has always been wheeled houses whether cars, vans or trailers. My crowning achievment was a “Reading” style vardo which I used for many years as my Renn Faire booth and home. Pix may follow, after being lost for about 15 years, I found them.
Anyhoo, do you plan to do a time and cost sheet for the build? I’d be most interested! Thanx for the eye candy and the inspiration!

    Rebecca Turner - June 13, 2012 Reply

    I’m actually planning on doing a cost break down post, but I have yet to sort through the folder of receipts I’ve been saving through the project. We did a budget spread sheet before we began that came to about $2,700 total so it will be interesting to see where we actually ended up 🙂

      Sandra Allen - June 16, 2012 Reply

      After seeing what you have done, it will be worth it at any cost!! The first night you spend in it out on the road, your stress will all go away.

      I have traveled a lot in a van, and I can give you a sage piece of advice. Before you leave, bone up on some ‘one-dish’ meals. I used to heat up some corned beef hash and drop in some eggs and or make chili mac…two staples when you are cooking on a sterno stove!

      We all look forward to more shots and thank you for the ones you have provided. Absolutely great job!!

        Rebecca - June 16, 2012 Reply

        I agree about the one dish meals. I had great meals over a single propane burner by cooking pasta in chicken boullion, draining, then mixing in chopped raw vegetables. I also like using dried cilantro, etc.

Shoop - June 12, 2012 Reply

This is great! Good luck you guys!

Ray - June 13, 2012 Reply

Very impressive job. Thanks for sharing it. Be sure to post more once you put it into use!

bobhenry - June 13, 2012 Reply

It seems so ironic that we meet here I started in 07 building teardrop trailers and have just graduated to my tiny house build. If you haven’t found it tnttt.com is a builders forum with great folks and a lot of helpful people. Tearjerkers.net is a social network of tiny trailer enthusiasts that regulary have “gatherings” and get together for big campouts. They represent all 50 states and are also active overseas.

One thing I can’t hold back is the tongue on these red / Harbor freight trailers need a little more meat to eliminate the flex. Also by adding about 18″ to the length it will pull and backup muck easier.

As others have said it is a beautiful build.

    Rebecca Turner - June 13, 2012 Reply

    tnttt.com has been great! Since we didn’t buy any plans we did a lot searching for blogs and such to get info. The forums on that site were really helpful when we got stuck.

    It would also be fun to go to some of the teardrop ‘gatherings’ when we’re done too 🙂

JT - June 13, 2012 Reply

Very nice , great job guys !!

Aria - June 13, 2012 Reply

Amazing! What a great job you both are doing. Very inspiring!

Rebecca Turner - June 13, 2012 Reply

Thank you all for the positive feedback and support!! Our blog stats went from a high of 27 hits in one day to over a thousand 🙂 This has been an awesome experience so far and we are learning more everyday about the build. We are almost there but have a lot of small details left to work out so we will continue posting on the blog as we go!

~ Rebecca & Darrell

Shawn - June 13, 2012 Reply

Check out tnttt.com, it’s a forum for teardrops

Bob Brown - June 13, 2012 Reply

Very nice! I am in the process of building one on the same trailer you used. Mine will be much smaller, I will be pulling it wiht a motorcycle, so it has to be light. thanks for the ideas.

A memory every mile. Thanks and good luck and safe travels.
Bob Brown

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Cori - June 14, 2012 Reply

This is exactly what my husband I did 2 years ago! We built a teardrop camper and took it on a cross country road trip down rt 66, then up north and back to the midwest. I’m very behind on blogging the whole trip, but I have our build documented here
http://so-herewego.blogspot.com/2010_09_01_archive.html

Christina Nellemann - June 14, 2012 Reply

Lovely! The craftsmanship is really well done on this little tear. You will love being part of the teardrop community, they are the nicest people on the planet. It looks like you’ll have under-the-bed storage. I have the same type of storage in my tear and it can be a bit of a pain to get to some things under the mattress, so keep items that you will not need regularly in that space.

alice h - June 14, 2012 Reply

I have some pull-out boxes under the bed with a rope that goes to the front from the back boxes so you can haul them out easily. You can even put a label on the end of the rope to remind you what your fishing expedition will reveal. Wheels aren’t necessary if you have a smooth or carpeted floor and smooth bottom boxes. It’s easy enough to poke the boxes back in. It’s better to have a rope from both front corners or sometimes the boxes go sideways and jam, causing “language”.

    Bob - July 12, 2012 Reply

    You can improve on this by adding a couple of hardwood skids to the bottom on the boxes, with some parallel strips on the floor to make a guide. taper the ends of the skids slightly, and taper the mouth of the guide. The skids should be slightly taller than the guide. A lid will help keep things from jumping out of the boxes, and wedging under the bed.

alice h - June 14, 2012 Reply

Oh yeah, I have strings hanging from some of the higher up boxes too so you can get them down without having to use a stool to grab the top of the box or get fingers under them to pull on. Need I say, caution required in this exercise! Keep contents well balanced.

http://kevinsmicrohomestead.wordpress.com/ - June 15, 2012 Reply

Build this to live in while you are building your tiny house .good practice for the bigger project I’m about to build.

Abel Zyl Zimmerman - June 16, 2012 Reply

Sweet work guys! Nice details. What will the exterior be and what kind of finish will you use on it? Just curious.

I am booked to build my first teardrop in Sept (I normally build tiny houses, so this is a foray in a different direction.)

Anyway, many happy adventures, no?

Harry Symonds - June 16, 2012 Reply

Outbstanding Guys,

To put something together and make a dream come true with what you made with your hands will have so much more value when you look back at what you accomplished. Just some suggestions, and I am sure you thought about it; make sure you put some foam panel insulation on the inside, plywood by it self does not offer much protection on cold camp nights. I think someone else mentioned having some kind of awning over the back where you cook will really help if the weather suddenly turns ugly, or extra shade if it is really hot. . BTW: you might want to visit my site http://www.thewaterplace.net. Check out the Multipure link and look at the wriggle filter water bottles which are great for hiking or emergency water filtration. I wish you the very best, keep us posted -Harry

Gloria - June 16, 2012 Reply

Please be very very careful that the materials in the space around your propane stove are all fireproof – almost set a VW bus interior on fire once with a stove – also be cautious with venting of fumes; be healthy!

Harry Symonds - June 16, 2012 Reply

I think you will find this youtube video on a custom trailer very interesting.. It is specifically designed to hold up to the auzzi outback and still be very lightweight.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AzeorS8NCUU&feature=youtube_gdata_player

Cheers Harry

Tim - June 16, 2012 Reply

That is really neat! Nice work!!!

Michelle Velasquez - June 18, 2012 Reply

you’ve build very beautiful and good design with powerful structured, there are very few companies are making design like this. I’ve seen many garden sheds but find this one very unique and awesome. Thank you

Jim Daniels - August 10, 2012 Reply

Love it! I’m going to build one this winter.

Samuel Correa Bueno - August 10, 2012 Reply

Hey, great job. Here in Brasil we don’t have this kind of trailer, sometimes the greats one, but trailer isnt so popular like in USA. Nice wood jog !

Bill - September 4, 2012 Reply

Beautiful work!

groundworks midlands - October 19, 2012 Reply

What is it about Sunday’s that make you think. I’ve had an interesting life with many of mistakes. I just want a place to go and write.

Bobby - October 25, 2012 Reply

My 14 year old son, who loves camping, saw a teardrop camper at a campsite we were at a few weeks ago and we decided right there and then that we would build one together. We plan to use corners over the roof so we don’t need to bend wood. We have considered building mostly with foam board and fiberglass the exterior. It looks like your building with a wood exterior. How materials are you going to use to weather proof the exterior?

Brandon Blake - November 26, 2012 Reply

What kind of woman with no kids (I assume) would not want to have everything in place and basically live in a van down by the river with her man? Your man is a lucky guy! Very cool!

chase - December 1, 2012 Reply

Sweeet project! Nicely done!

I’ll definitely check out your blog and progress.
Hope to see some pics with it on the road! Though I’m sure they are too.

Nice share Tiny House blog!
thanx
chase

jim - September 29, 2013 Reply

Great teardrop! Do you keep track of your build as well as you did your trip? I’vebeen thinking about putting one together and would love to see more detail on you teardrop being put together. I think the basement is amazing!!!

Doug - October 2, 2013 Reply

When you said you were spending more time designing than producing. I’m at that point cause you see you just gave me an idea so now I’m gonna have to work that in. love the basement, I have the same trailer I just painted black cause I didn’t like the red and wouldn’t go well with baked white enamel aluminum. Yours looks really good including the wiring, nice and organized. You plan on both the converter and inverter for going off the grid? I like it!!

joe wonoski - November 20, 2013 Reply

Nice trailer! Any idea of what the final weight is? This is a big consideration for smaller tow vehicles, especially when the trailer doesn’t have brakes. Thanks!

Dave - March 15, 2014 Reply

Good job! I’ve been plugging away for almost 2 years on my teardrop. I’m to the point of purchasing sheet alum for the exterior, but being held up by the door issue. Don’t like the way my door is turning out so leaning towards a prefab by Frank Bear if your familiar with his stuff. What are your plans for the door and hatch?

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