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Bruiser the Adventure Cruiser Cargo Trailer Build

Discussion in 'Creative Pursuits' started by Adventurous, Jan 29, 2018.

  1. Adventurous

    Adventurous Starshine Bro

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    So as not to clog up the campers thread, I have decided to start a new, ongoing thread dedicated to following progress as I turn our cargo trailer into a lightweight camper. Where do we begin...

    Welcome to the build thread for Bruiser the adventure cargo trailer!

    Back story: The wife and I have intentions of selling our house, taking the money, and hitting the road. The goal is to head up to Alaska and go as far north as possible, then make our way down the western seaboard, explore the southwest, then head east. Why a trailer? Well, we have 3 dogs and wanted the ability to drop it at a "base camp" then go off exploring in the truck. To this end, I wanted something as small and light as I could get, something large enough to stand up in, and something that was hard sided and weatherproof. The wife requested an indoor bathroom with a separate shower and toilet area. Our first go at the matter looked like this...

    IMG_2484 by Tim Souza, on Flickr

    ...a 20' Fleetwood Wilderness dual axle travel trailer. It had a dry weight of ~3,200 lbs and took about 4 months to tear the inside apart, replace the rotten floor joists, studs, sub-floor, and then put that all back together. We took it out for it's maiden voyage last July on a road trip with the in-laws and I hated every second of it. HATED IT. It was big, cumbersome, heavy, and plain sucked to tow over the high CO mountain passes. So without having ever spent a night in, it we sold it.

    We mulled over all of the options, a-frames, other travel trailers, pop-ups, a flippac, a 4-wheel camper, but none provided the space we needed within our budget and at a weight I thought was reasonable. To that end, I found myself thinking that building a trailer might end up being the only way to get what I wanted. Enter Bruiser the Adventure Trailer.

    We purchased from Colorado Trailers (https://www.coloradotrailersinc.com) in Castle Rock, CO. It started life as a 6x12' Cargo Craft cargo trailer that we special ordered and upgraded with the following:

    Off road package (32" mud terrains, Dexter independent torsion axles)
    Black out package
    Insulated walls, ceiling, and floor
    Black/Blue exterior
    Removable front coupler
    Spare tire
    6'6" interior height
    2 side windows
    RV screen door in the rear
    Driver's side ladder

    We placed the order in October 2017 and received the trailer in December 2017. Tada!

    Untitled by Tim Souza, on Flickr

    Untitled by Tim Souza, on Flickr

    Untitled by Tim Souza, on Flickr

    Untitled by Tim Souza, on Flickr

    Got it all hitched up and dragged it the 50 miles home. It weighs ~1,300 as configured so towing it was, other than the abysmal gas mileage, a relative pleasure. As our intended departure date is in June, the build begins almost immediately.

    Untitled by Tim Souza, on Flickr
     
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  2. Adventurous

    Adventurous Starshine Bro

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    A few shots of the interior before the disassembly phase begins. I'll be taking it down to the frame to weld in reinforcements in target areas to accommodate the exterior accessories as well as the interior cabinetry. I'll also take the opportunity to begin running wiring to accessories. The trailer will not have huge electrical needs, the fridge, a water pump (maybe), LED interior and exterior lights, and a power inverter to support a toaster oven or electric tea kettle (wife's demands).

    DSC_3822 by Tim Souza, on Flickr

    Tape is laying out the floor plan, an official drawing shall follow.

    DSC_3824 by Tim Souza, on Flickr

    There is a single roof vent at the moment. This shall get replaced with a Fantastic Fan to help improve the airflow in/out.

    DSC_3825 by Tim Souza, on Flickr
     
  3. Adventurous

    Adventurous Starshine Bro

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    Made a bit of progress on the trailer over this past week. I will be adding a few exterior accessories that require a bit of work to the frame, namely the awning and a skylight above the bed area. In preparation for the structural changes I pulled off the walls, the ceiling, and all of the insulation. This also exposed the wiring which will receive some attention of its own.

    The interior came out pretty easily after I removed an estimated 10 billion screws. The aluminum skin was screwed to the plywood sub-wall that was screwed to the studs. Once those two were removed I was able to label and pull the insulation. Looking awfully empty in there…

    DSC_3848 by Tim Souza, on Flickr

    Wiring is currently dangling all over. I’ll do a better job organizing and securing it as I run wiring to other stuffs.

    DSC_3847 by Tim Souza, on Flickr

    My biggest accomplishment however was figuring out how I wanted to secure a few miscellaneous items, namely the spare tire, the battery, and the propane tank. My dilemma was such, I wanted the battery to be tucked away in a locked box safe from the elements and prying hands. It would also need enough space to mount a resettable breaker next to it as I want the shortest unprotected cable run I could muster. For the propane tank and spare tire, they just needed to be in a place that offered them secure passage without having to resort to major structural changes to the shell of the trailer to accommodate. Like most trailers, the tongue stood out as being the best place to fit all of this.

    Note that the trailer originally came with a generator platform up front. 20 minutes with a BFH and an angle grinder and it was off. I was left with this real estate to work with.

    DSC_3831 by Tim Souza, on Flickr

    And my proposed configuration:

    DSC_3832 by Tim Souza, on Flickr

    I will build a pre-runner type cradle for the spare tire so it can be held down with a ratchet strap. Propane tank will have it’s own platform that will span two of the frame rails. They will both be shielded by a locking, weatherproof metal box that I purchased from Harbor Freight to house the battery. My only concern with this configuration is the amount of weight added to the tongue. If I am doing my maths correctly, it is an estimated 190 lbs (70 lb battery, 40 lb tongue box, 50 lb spare tire, 30 lb propane tank). Tongue weight must have been in the neighborhood of 150 lbs or so empty, so I’m sitting a bit north of 300lbs before building out the inside. With the kitchen, main storage closet, and water tank (5 gals) sitting behind the rear axle, I’m hoping that the tongue weight evens out a bit more relative to my proposed 2,200 lbs’ish gross trailer weight. We shall see…

    A few more pics of the proposed configuration:

    DSC_3833 by Tim Souza, on Flickr

    DSC_3837 by Tim Souza, on Flickr
    Look at all that space! I’m hoping the layout is compact enough that I can store other items such as wheel chocks in here as well.
    DSC_3835 by Tim Souza, on Flickr

    There is adequate space between the propane tank/trailer, spare tire/trailer, and propane tank/spare tire/tongue box to ensure that shifting during operation doesn’t let them contact. Propane tank and spare tire will be offset outboard enough to let the battery cables run unencumbered out of the back of the tongue box and into the trailer along the centerline.
    Now, I could have mounted the tongue box by grabbing some self-tapping sheet metal screws and rammed them home. But that would be sloppy, ugly, and have relatively little thread engagement for holding down a 100 lb box that could be bouncing all over. Instead I did it in what I thought was a more elegant way, rivnuts. Step 1 was to get the trailer box in the proper position and evenly spaced on both sides of the frame rails (it hangs over by 1.5”), square to the frame and square to the trailer. Once this was done I traced the frame rails on the underside of the box with a silver Sharpie. With my frame rails positioned I marked out locations of the holes. I chose to go with 6 holes utilizing M8 fasteners.

    DSC_3840 by Tim Souza, on Flickr

    I was using step drill bits to drill these holes as it gave me a nice chamfered edge. My shop tip, mark the flat of the hole size you want to achieve with a Sharpie. That way when the sharpied line disappears you know you are at the right size.

    Untitled by Tim Souza, on Flickr

    With the holes in my box drilled I went back to the trailer and replaced it in the desired location. I transferred the bolt pattern in the box to the trailer frame, checked once, checked twice, then started drilling into the trailer frame. For an M8 rivnut, the hole had to be a 7/16”. The two outer frame rails I was able to bore through with the step bits while the center section was double thick and required a second pass with a 7/16” drill bit. After all holes were drilled I shot them with a quick coat of primer and paint.

    DSC_3842 by Tim Souza, on Flickr

    Given that the middle of winter in CO isn’t the best place to ask paint to dry, I hit it with the heat gun after to try and get the paint to dry quicker. It was moderately successful, I think as long as I give it a bit of time to dry out it will eventually. Then came the rivnuts. I hadn’t had an opportunity to use this tool yet, but it was quick and easy to set all 6 nuts.

    DSC_3843 by Tim Souza, on Flickr

    Before inserting them I coated the outside with black RTV. This should minimize the ingress of water from the rivnut/frame rail interface.

    DSC_3846 by Tim Souza, on Flickr

    All in all things went smoothly. My bolt holes lined up and the box is very secure on there. No pictures of it mounted as I picked up a group 31 Diehard deep cycle battery that will be going in there shortly and it seemed easier to mount the battery tray and breaker with the tongue box off the truck.
     
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  4. Nick

    Nick My name is Nick

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    bring me a tshirt from Chicken, Alaska.

    kthx.

    also, cool project!
     
  5. eric strt6

    eric strt6 Resident Curmudgeon

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    remove the standard vent and replace it with a Fantastic Fan or Maxxair Vent fan and wire it up for 12v power. You are going to appreciate the air flow and on the roof get a vent cover that will allow you ro keep the vent open for airflow in rain or snow
     
  6. Adventurous

    Adventurous Starshine Bro

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    That's the plan. Going to grab the 3 speed model with thermostat. Figure it should be the bees knees for when the dogs are hanging out in the trailer and I want to make sure they stay nice and comfy.
     
  7. Westy

    Westy the teste

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    You will need more than good ventilation.

    I have tried camping in a buddies cargo trailer before. Damn thing was an oven anytime the sun was out, even with the doors open. I hope you plan on insulating the shit out of it.

    Lizard Skin makes a spray on bed liner like material intended for heat and sound insulation. Might be a good application, althoughit is a bit on the heavy side.
     
  8. eric strt6

    eric strt6 Resident Curmudgeon

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    Solar panels can keep the batteries topped off and shade the trailer roof from the sun
     
  9. Adventurous

    Adventurous Starshine Bro

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    I'll insulate it as well as I can for only having 1" thick walls. I'll see how cool it stays, ideally we'll just find nice shady places to drop it off but that won't always pan out. If it's remotely warm out we'll bring the dogs with us as I don't intend to install an AC unit and generator.

    I was going to put a solar charge controller in the battery box as well and may grab a few flexible panels. Still on the fence about that one. At the present the group 31 battery will be powering a fridge and some LED lights, so i'm hoping it'll last quite a while without needing a charge.
     
  10. Westy

    Westy the teste

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    Spray in foam might work well for you. Will also add to structural integrity.

    If you put an awning on one side you could set up with that facing south west and controlling some of the solar radiation. Would also be nice for keeping a bit of ground dry in the case of rain.
     
  11. stevew

    stevew unique white person

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    what do you expect the weight to be once complete?

    and is your wife still expecting the shower/shitter combo in there?

    i see people put those cute little composting toilets in their vans but i always wonder how many grown man dumps it takes to fill one up before you have to empty it?
     
    #11 -   Jan 29, 2018
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2018
  12. Adventurous

    Adventurous Starshine Bro

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    Weight should be somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,200 lbs I think. I intend to build a lot of the interior out of aluminum tubing to save weight.

    No shower and it'll use a cassette toilet. Should buy us a week or so of pooping according to the literature before it needs to be emptied.
     
  13. Westy

    Westy the teste

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    When I lived on a boat I would fill up the 20 gallon crapper in about 2 weeks. And that was doing everything I could do to make sure I took my dumps on shore. The head did use about 15 ounces of water per flush.
     
  14. KenW449

    KenW449 Thanos did nothing wrong

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    Aerogel, lots and lots of Aerogel. Extremely lightweight, fantastic insulator, just ridiculously expensive.

    BONUS: Its great sound proofing as well.
     
  15. jdcamb

    jdcamb Tool Time!

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    Awesome post. Thanks for sharing.
     
  16. eric strt6

    eric strt6 Resident Curmudgeon

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    On Solar. From all the threads I have read through on RV..net the general consensus on the flexible panels has been that they do not hold up. At first they work well but the heat build up due to no air gap underneath (glued down onto roof surface) leads to rapid degridation of the panels and failure after just a season or two.

    I went with this kit(monocrystaline panels) and it keeps my two group 31 AGM batteries charged to the point that unless I want to use AC I never fire up my Honda 2000

    https://www.renogy.com/renogy-200-watt-12-volt-solar-starter-kit/
     
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  17. Adventurous

    Adventurous Starshine Bro

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    Good to know. I've been back and forth on adding solar, but leaning in that direction. I'll just have the single group 31 with the major power draw being the fridge. But it would be nice not to have to pull apart the 7-pin wiring harness to grab the hot lead from the truck and run that to the battery...
     
  18. eric strt6

    eric strt6 Resident Curmudgeon

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    now if you are planning on a 12v DC compressor fridge all bets are off. That sucker will drain two group 31s in no time flat. Now a propane fridge where just the motherboard and a fan need to run you will be golden.
     
  19. rideit

    rideit Bob the Builder

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    Why not a propane fridge?
     
  20. Adventurous

    Adventurous Starshine Bro

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    Cause I already have a 12V fridge that splits time between the truck and trailer. :)
     
  21. rideit

    rideit Bob the Builder

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    That's as good of a reason as any!
     
  22. stevew

    stevew unique white person

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    i forget who makes these awnings....

    20180130_230243.jpg
    cool....probably expensive....
     
  23. SkaredShtles

    SkaredShtles I love NEWCASTLE and will ONLY drink NEWCASTLE!!!!

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    That awning would last less than one weekend in Moab.
     
  24. Westy

    Westy the teste

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    Travel shed
     
  25. Adventurous

    Adventurous Starshine Bro

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    Rhino Rack batwing or foxwing or something like that. They are in the neighborhood of $800 IIRC. I have an 8’ x 8’ ARB awning that I’ll be attaching to the side of this one.
     
  26. stevew

    stevew unique white person

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    tandem trailer?

     
    #26 -   Jan 31, 2018
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2018
  27. StiHacka

    StiHacka Compensating for something

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    Dentist outhouse?
     
  28. Pesqueeb

    Pesqueeb bicycle in airplane hangar

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    :stupid:

    I am intrigued by this thread.
     
  29. jdcamb

    jdcamb Tool Time!

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    Mobile Playhouse. I would go to every Monkeyfest if I had one....
     
  30. Adventurous

    Adventurous Starshine Bro

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    Part of the plan has been to hang an 8' ARB awning off the side of the trailer. In non-windy situations, it does a great job at providing protection from the elements or a nice place to hang out in the evening. Deployed it looks like so:

    20160528-IMG_1374 by Tim Souza, on Flickr

    For those unfamiliar, the back of the awning is a slotted aluminum extrusion that accepts M6 hex head bolts. The slots are sized to provide the bolt head with anti-rotation when a nut is installed, however, this also means that the awning needs a bracket of some sort to mount. I haven't seen a ton of awnings on trailers like this, but when I do, the most common way of mounting seems to be extending L-brackets from the roof line down and attaching the awning to those. To me, they never look streamlined, necessitate that the awning is spaced out from the trailer body, and don't provide an interface that I'd trust to hold up to years of abuse.

    Instead, as my walls are is 1" tube steel, I decided to weld some brackets on the inside so the awning could mount directly against the body of the trailer. I started with 1" x 1" x 1/8" angle iron which was cut into ~3" (8) sections then ground to length.

    Untitled by Tim Souza, on Flickr

    I drilled 2 chamfered holes for the awning bolts, radiused the corner that sits against the aluminum skin, and drilled 3 chamfered holes in the flat that rests against the stud. This is what it looks like tacked into placed.

    by Tim Souza, on Flickr

    Why the 3 holes? I really only have access to weld the interior edge joint. I was concerned that trying to weld too much of the lap joint along the top and bottom edges would push the puddle too close to the aluminum and burn through. I drilled those three holes so I could plug weld the brackets to the sides and provide additional support so they don't peel off. Given that the extend tof my MIG welding experience is limited to the couple of coupons I ran on Saturday, more welds (provided I don't burn through the material) are probably better, increase my chances of good adhesion. Here they are all tacked in place. Position was established parallel to the roof line.

    Untitled by Tim Souza, on Flickr

    Test fit is spot on. I'll finish burning them in, pop holes in the exterior, then silicone the crap out of the holes before bolting the awning on for good.
     
    #30 -   Feb 5, 2018
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2018
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  31. Toshi

    Toshi Harbinger of Doom

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    Tim, why did you buy an already-insulated trailer if you knew you were going to tear it down to the frame as you've done?
     
  32. Adventurous

    Adventurous Starshine Bro

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    You are right. Considering how far I'm tearing it down it really wouldn't be that big a deal to do the insulation for the walls and ceiling myself.

    The main motivation was to ensure that they built the trailer with insulation in mind. I was concerned they would take some design shortcuts that would complicate my life when adding insulation after the fact. That may have been an unfounded fear, but considering I'm trying to get this all done by mid-May I paid a small premium to have some of the tasks done for me.
     
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  33. eric strt6

    eric strt6 Resident Curmudgeon

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    Don't use silicon to seal the holes. It hardens and shrinks over time, use a lap sealant like non self leveling dicor or sikaflex which remain pliable, doesn't shrink, and tolerates heat, cold and water really well.
     
    #33 -   Feb 5, 2018
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2018
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  34. Adventurous

    Adventurous Starshine Bro

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    Truth. Saying silicone was a mistake on my part, I should have said sealant instead. I'll be using a polyurethane based sealant for vertical surfaces (concerned the self leveling ability will just let it pool on the downhill side of the hole) like this, and butyl tape + lap sealant on horizontal roof surfaces when I get to work up there. Both my wife and I are very familiar with housing structures taking on water and the misery it results in.
     
  35. eric strt6

    eric strt6 Resident Curmudgeon

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    Hence why I wrote " non self leveling" it's the only stuff you can use on vertical surfaces.
     
  36. Adventurous

    Adventurous Starshine Bro

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    Oooops. Missed that part. Got some ordered up. :thumb:
     
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  37. Adventurous

    Adventurous Starshine Bro

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    As @Full Trucker says, grinder and paint make me the welder I ain't. Got all the rosette welds filled and ground flat. Got a little bit of heat warpage in the tubing as I was dumping a lot of heat into a relatively thin walled structure, but probably no more than 1/16" of bowing outboard, certainly not enough to impact much of anything.

    Untitled by Tim Souza, on Flickr
     
  38. Full Trucker

    Full Trucker Frikkin newb!!!

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    You had me at rivnuts.
     
  39. Westy

    Westy the teste

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    I understand the desire to use a new welder when you get one. Experience tells me to use nuts and bolts whenever possible. Makes things much easier to repair or modify in the field.
     
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  40. StiHacka

    StiHacka Compensating for something

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    You sound like an engineering masochist.