Newbie from MN by way of OR

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Newbie from MN by way of OR

Postby wriconsult » Mon Jan 13, 2020 5:51 pm

You know, I just realized that after 7+ years of lurking on here, I've never posted anything or introduced myself. With the absolute encyclopedia of helpful tips I've gleaned from this site it's about time I did. I've been dreaming of building myself a lightweight trailer for a long time, I guess. Since I joined, I have moved from Oregon to Minnesota ... the dream remains the same, though living in Minnesota has slightly changed the vision of what I want in terms of dealing with the climate. Spring and fall are wonderful for camping around here, and I'd rather be in a tent when the weather and bugs are behaving themselves.

But this IS Minnesota. Part of my reason for wanting a little camper is so I can camp in winter. I probably wouldn't go out when the wind chill is -20F, but most of the winter temps are between 0F and freezing. And surprisingly, a lot of state park campgrounds are open year-round here, with RV sites that have electricity. Obviously my rig would be insulated - at least 1 1/2" of foamboard all around - but even then I suspect I'll want a modest heat source to be really comfortable.

The other reason is summer. In Oregon and Washington, even in the lowlands it cools off more at night than in Minnesota, plus most camping is in cooler mountain or coastal areas anyway. Air conditioning in a northwest campground would be ridiculous about 97% of the time. But after a few years camping In MN and WI, I've already sweltered through enough unpleasantly hot evenings. I don't like being warm at night, and it is not fun for me trying to sleep when it's 85 degrees inside your tent. So AC is part of the design too. My design would probably include something along the lines of the Climate-RIght 2500BTU unit that seems to be pretty popular. Not cheap - and I do want my build to be inexpensive, but if HVAC is the main reason I'm even building a camping trailer I'll deal with the cost (and weight).

I see some spectacularly beautiful teardrops with intricate builds and lots of conveniences. I admire and commend those who've done it. But better you than me. My target, while not spartan, is a simple, comfortable place to sleep, with a 3" IKEA foam mattress in an insulated, climate controlled box. I don't want it to be ugly, but it doesn't need to be magazine-cover worthy: basic, workman-like finishes, square corners rather than compound curves. I'm basically lazy, and don't want to spend too many hundreds of hours building. Even my galley will be minimal - a fold out shelf with storage for a Coleman 2-burner, a couple of fuel bottles and a handful of pots, pans and utensils. And that storage would be in a removable aluminum "patrol box" with handles so I can carry it a ways from the car, as sometimes happens on my kids' scout trips.

Besides heating and AC, the #1 priority for my build is light weight. I believe it's likely that one way or another, most of us are going to find ourselves forced to get a whole lot more energy-efficient in the coming years, and I don't see myself buying a thirstier vehicle than I otherwise need just for its towing capabilities. So I want something that can be towed behind nearly any car, which to me means well under 1000#. I think that's doable: based on a preliminary parts list I think I can get the weight in the 600-700 lb range, even with the heavy AC unit, if I start with something like the NT aluminum 5x8 trailer. Current tow vehicle would be my (manual transmission!) Mazda5, which should handle it just fine. If the build works out, we have a few campgrounds that are even within striking for our other car, a Nissan Leaf (not even counting the fact that we can charge it at a campground with AC hookups). Believe it or not the torquey Leaf weighs the same as the Mazda, and I think it may even have a higher tow rating.

I'll probably do some reasonably lightweight sandwich-skin construction, but not go for the ultimate weight-saving full foamie build, because of my other weird design mandate: I want a reasonably bear-resistant trailer. I've encountered wayyyy too many bears on hiking trails and in campgrounds (both in the northwest and the midwest) over the years. Fortunately no griz around here, but black bears are everywhere, and around here their territory is expanding, encompassing even the suburbs of the Twin Cities and starting to even show up to the south. I know how to deal with bears, and have had only one hostile encounter - a couple years ago, on the North Shore of Lake Superior, I had a curious cub rip holes in our tent at 3AM. Fortunately my kids and I were not hurt, and the bear went on to bug some idiots in a neighboring campsite who'd left food and a cooler out. I am fastidious about never keeping food or even toiletries in the tent, but that was an eye-opener in more ways than one. I know a really determined bear can get into almost anything, but those outliers are not what I'm worried about. More common is the moderately motivated and peckish bear, who is investigating our smells and might make a minor effort to get in. I think a metal skin or 1/4" plywood on the outside is enough to deter her, but painted canvas over foam might not be.

Anyway, I'm probably a few years away from building, but at least the plan is coming together.
Teardrop Inspector
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