One of the first things we needed to figure out, were our destinations. Many possibilities crossed our minds but a European trip was the one that stuck.
But how do you travel Europe when you like fishing, hiking, camping and outdoor cooking or when you want to go to the mountains, the ocean, cities, complete wilderness and everything? We didn’t feel much for a backpacking trip and the dependence on public transportation a year round. We wanted absolute freedom in the when and where to go. (Although it’s utopic that such thing exists.) So the decision fell on moving around on our own four wheels. New questions raised: should we buy a mobilhome or a new and bigger van that we could convert ourselves or would we simply use the VW California Beach we already have? Is it big enough, what do we expect from our trip and what gear do we have to take along for sure?
That’s why we decided to keep our van and design our own trailer for extra storage and convenience.
The decision was easy but it was also the official start of our adventure.
How do you build a trailer?
First of all, we found a lot of inspiration on the Internet (of course) and started making sketches.
When we were both satisfied it was time for phase two: drawing an actual, detailed plan. Luckily we have some very good friends with the skills we lack. So I hereby want to thank Steven, product designer, for the time and patience he spent with me at his table to turn our ideas into a professional technical drawing. It turned out to be the perfect building plan that could be used for phase three.
This is where Tommy, another exceptionally skilled friend, came in. We had some welding that needed to be done by someone that isn’t afraid of doing something outside his comfort zone. We did have a plan, but there were still so many things that were undecided or problems that needed to be solved. Building the frame was easy, covering it with aluminium too, but building waterproof doors that easily open and close with the right hinges and locks took some out-of-the-box thinking. And… even more important, we were on a very tight budget.
We really want to thank Tommy (Laswerken Seigers) for literally building our dream.
The last phase was piecing the puzzle together. That meant powder coating the top-built, the montage of all the moving pieces and bolting everything to the separately bought and road-approved chassis.
How does our trailer look like? Simple, very simple…
In the back there’s a door that fully opens for maximum accessibility to the main compartment that contains extra luggage, camping equipment, food and water.
In the front, on the left and right side there are two smaller doors. The left one also gives you access to the main compartment and the right one is for the refrigerator. Inside there are two rails on which the refrigerator slides out. It’s cool and very handy.
And last, but not least: the kitchen. The right side also opens from top to bottom and holds all of our cooking equipment. It also makes a very handy workspace while cooking.
All the doors can easily be opened and closed with adjustable clasps, which fit a padlock to keep out unwanted visitors.
In the bottom of the trailer (near the rails) we drilled a hole, large enough to fit an electric cable through to make sure the refrigerator is safely powered. (When there’s electricity that is.)
On top of the trailer we built a roof rack. It is possible to fit a rooftop tent on it, but we use it to pack the larger pieces of my fishing gear and some other extras.
And that’s it. There’s nothing more to it. Except for the fact that the inside is well organised with boxes, duffel bags, jerry cans,… Everything has its place and it’s a bit of a thing of me to keep it that way.
Some call it autistic, I call it structure.
What makes the trailer so cool?
The trailer is spacious enough to hold the necessary luggage and equipment. It keeps the van free from chaos and disorder so we can easily sleep inside it with the four of us.
We can easily use our car to explore the surroundings without breaking up the entire camp.
You have the basics of a normal kitchen at hand so preparing a delicious meal isn’t a big challenge. You have a small but handy workspace, which fits our Coleman Stove 424 easily and leaves enough room to cut up some vegetables. It’s easy to organise so you have everything you need at hand: plates, casseroles, cutlery, herbs and spices, cups, towels,…
And; the fridge is next to it so you just have to put out your arm to take what you need.
Although we don’t use it, the roof rack is designed to fit a rooftop tent. So, you don’t necessarily need a van, like we do, to enjoy all the perks of mobile camping. You just need a towbar to attach the trailer and drive of into a beautiful sunset.
It takes some practice but it’s easy to manoeuvre. It’s small and light but very strong. The axle can take up to 1.25 ton (only 750 kg is allowed) and the coupling 1.35 ton.
It’s also easy to manoeuvre it apart from the car. Alone is difficult, but when you’re with two, no problem.
While driving the trailer feels very stable, not bouncy at all, because of the placement of the axel. We’ve put it a bit more to the rear, which gives it more stability.
There’s got to be something that is not to like about this thing, right?
If you want to do so serious off-road driving… I’m not so sure it will do well. Potholes, bumps in the road, rocks,… you have to drive slow enough or it will bounce. It’s unavoidable. That’s one reason why we don’t keep the fridge in the trailer while driving. We’re afraid with what would happen with glass jars when hitting a pothole at 70 km/h.
You need a car that can handle the extra weight behind it while going uphill. Some extra power makes the driving more relaxed. Especially when I have to back it up uphill I feel that our van lacks a bit of power. Or it could be my lack of driving skills.
In tight spots it’s hard or sometimes impossible to manoeuvre the trailer. It’s obvious that the longer the setup you’re driving, the harder it gets. Or maybe, it could be my driving skills again. (Although it must be said, I’m getting better and better at it.)
While driving, make sure that everything inside the trailer is well-secured, especially when it’s a bumpy ride. You don’t want your stuff to fly around inside it.
Be organised and structured at all times.
Do we like our trailer?
Yes we do. It has its unavoidable pros and cons, but for our trip and for the plans we made with the budget we have, we’re sure it’s the best way to travel and make our dreams come true.
One more thing, something very important:
Check out the rules and regulations concerning self-built-trailers!!! There are limits on what’s allowed and what not.
Need more info??? Send us a message at firstname.lastname@example.org
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copy by Jan Bergs
pictures by Katrien de Troch, Studio Gloria
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