Building your own camper trailer is an easy and budget-friendly way to travel!
Tom is a resourceful Youtuber who shares tips on building DIY projects without spending too much money. He’s already used the tinktube system to create many builds like a greenhouse roof, a studio, and a ladder rack. A few weeks ago, he decided to build a DIY camper trailer. We’ve rounded up the main steps of his project to provide you with a step-by-step building guide!
1. CREATING THE DIY TRAILER CAMPER DESIGNS
Tom’s friend Chad had an old trailer in his backyard which he didn’t use anymore. Tom’s plan: clean up the trailer and use it as the base for his project. This opportunity helped him save a lot of money right from the start, since he wouldn’t have to buy a trailer. If you don’t have already have one waiting in your backyard, you can easily find a used trailer for sale online. It’s a great way to lower the costs of buying a new one!
Tom then worked on the design of the trailer plans. He booked a free 15-minutes call with Esteban to get his advice on the plans he had already drawn and brainstormed ideas on how to improve his project. As Esteban pointed our during their discussion, one of the most convenient aspects of the tinktube building system is that it lets you do a lot of testing. You can build, unbuild, rebuild differently and adjust your project as much as you want during the building process. It makes it easier to get a better idea of the final results, and that’s exactly what Tom did.
2. DECONSTRUCTING THE TRAILER
Once the plans were ready, Tom and his son Trevor started a fun part of the project: the deconstruction of the unneeded and rotten elements of the trailer. They removed the corner brackets and the wood frame, then started on the bottom boards. Since they didn’t need that much thickness in the floor, they chose to remove the trailer’s wood floor. It also reduced the overall weight of the material fixed to the trailer.
Then they took a break and had a quick snow fight.
They got back to work and used the grinder to cut off the parts of the trailer they didn’t need. They took off the front edge so they could make the floor of the new DIY trailer longer than it originally was. When that was done, Tom cleaned up the sharp spots with a wire cup brush, paying special attention to the rusted parts. He hand-sanded and primed the bare metal spots of the trailer where he knew he was not going to be welding.
Check out all the steps of Tom and Trevor’s DIY trailer camper build video on GreenShortz’ Youtube Channel!
3. DIY TRAILER CAMPER RETROFITTING
Tom and Trevor used the grinder and welding retrofitting methods to widen and expand the interior space of the trailer. For the extensions, they used metal cut offs from the trailer as well as salvaged and drop-room steel from their local metal store. Once Trevor was done preparing the surface with the grinder, Tom started the welding process. He used the salvaged scrap angle iron to make the frame longer and some of the mesh part from the ramp to create the back end of the trailer.
Tom’s tips from the community: On colder days, preheat the area around the weld joint before starting to weld to reduce the cooling rate of the weld and drive out moisture. It’ll prevent cracking and hydrogen buildup. Tom used a propane torch to do so!
After light sanding the surfaces, Tom and Trevor started the 4-step paint process using rust reformer, primer, appliance epoxy and rubber undercoating. This helped prepare and protect the frame of their DIY travel camper.
When these steps were done, Tom and Trevor had reconfigured the trailer. After a whole lot of cutting, grinding, and painting, it was finally ready to build out! To see our DIYers in action, watch the complete video of the retrofitting process on Youtube.
4. REUSING ALUMINUM COMPOSITE MATERIAL TO MAKE THE FLOOR
Tom received his tinktube order in the mail and sorted out the connectors to get ready to build. He bought some connectors that are designed specifically to work with 3/4 in. electrical conduit, AKA EMT. Tom’s tip when building any project with the tinktube system: He buys a few more fittings than what he expects to use. Having spare parts helps him in case he needs to make changes along the building process.
If you’re looking to build your own project -whatever it is-, make sure to check out tinktube’s website Get Started section: It’s filled with useful information, videos and tutorials that will make it easy for you to understand how the system works and start building quickly!
To make the floor of his DIY trailer camper, Tom used some salvaged aluminum composite material (ACM) destined for the dumpster. He started by washing the surface, then measured and marked down where he was going to cut. He cut the ACM with a circular saw and placed the first piece at the front half of the camper trailer before making the final fitting once it was in place. Then, he measured, cut out the nose of the travel camper and put it in place too.
Tom’s tips: To cut the ACM more precisely, he created a cardboard template.
Once the parts were cut to fit the frame, Tom used EPDM rubber to create a gasket around the edges. Check out the YT video to see how Tom installed the rubber gasket. Tom’s friend Greg then jumped in to explain how to bend ACM using the route and fold method. This method involves cutting through the top layer of metal and then through the plastic. The final result leaves the last layer untouched, so you can then fold it together.
5. ADDING THE TINKTUBE SKELETON TO THE DIY TRAVEL TRAILER
Using 3/4 in. EMT conduit and tinktube’s connectors, Tom and Trevor were ready to start building the upper part of the frame for their DIY camper trailer. Tom created a flat spot on the conduit by using the jigsaw halfway through, then pounding it flat with a hammer. He fixed the conduit to the base frame with screws and placed it at the right angle. He then connected the pieces together using tinktube’s joints and adapters.
Making a few adjustments and changes along the way, Tom kept on building his DIY travel camper project. Tom’s tips when building with tinktube: when you are first placing the connectors on the frame, don’t fix them too tight. Make sure you leave enough space between the connectors and the pipes to move the structure a little bit if needed before tightening the screws. This will help you create a stronger, more stable structure.
Watch the detailed video of the tinktube skeleton build and see how Tom and Trevor worked with the system to create a customized frame for their DIY camper:
6. FIXING A FATAL FLAW IN THE DIY CAMPER
“My concern is your method of smashing the ends of the tubes and how they mount to the chassis. You have introduced facture points that with aerodynamic pressure and vibration will give you issues down the road, so to speak. Not to mention corrosion points…” – s2meister, Youtube follower
This comment from Tom’s DIY community about his last video got him thinking. He realized his mistake, which he had initially planned to avoid with the use of brackets. He decided to fix the problem before moving along with the rest of the frame build.
He would also use the opportunity to add about an inch to the frame in height, so Trevor is not scrunched over when sitting in the trailer.
Making changes to the DIY camper along the way, thanks to an adaptable building system
So, Tom started working. He took the bolts out and cut out all the tabs. He then got the H8 connectors ready. The H8 connectors have flat ends, which Tom made in a rounded shape for the ones he would use at the nose of the trailer. He used the vice to bend the steel so it would fit perfectly with the shape.
Safety tip: To strengthen the frame, Tom added a through-bolt through the EMT conduit and the joints, at the corners and the top part of the frame. It’s the best way to lock down all the parts together and make sure the structure is as solid as it can be!
Tom then adjusted the angles of the DIY camper trailer frame to make it higher. He took some brackets off and adjusted the angles of the ¾ inch EMT. Changing the angles of the pipes brought another problem: some of the EMT became too long to fit the frame. Once again taking advantage of the evolutive feature of the system, Tom cut the EMT to make some adjustments. After a few cuts here and there, this part of the frame was final!
7. BUILDING THE DIY CAMPER KITCHEN SLIDE-OUT
In this video, Tom switched gears to work on the internal mechanism of the slide-out camper kitchen using the 1-inch tinktube pipe sliding over 3/4 EMT conduit.
First thing he had to do was figure out exactly where the slide for the drawer was going to be fixed on the camper. Once the slide was fixed, he used a tinktube pipe as a base rail: the drawer and everything else could then be mounted to it.
He marked the tube and installed the connectors on it first. He then placed spacers next to where each rivet would go through so they don’t pull the pipe out of alignment. He placed risers on all the tinktube brackets and installed the top rail. He used a tinktube pipe as the back rail, which would slide in and onto a piece of ¾ in’’ EMT conduit.
To stabilize the frame, Tom added a clamp on leg to the end of the slide out, with a rubber foot on the bottom to protect the end of the pipe. When he planned he countertop and the additional kitchen components, Tom decided he would make them removable. He also used a combination of the one-inch tinktube pipe and short sections of conduit as countertop risers. These sections would drop down into the vertical elements of the frame to make the kitchen counter taller.
Tom used these brackets to attach the counter drop down to the tinktube frame so he would be able to snap the surface onto the back rail and remove it easily whenever needed!
8. MAKING FOLDING COTS WITH HINGE BRACKETS
In this video, Tom and Trevor make folding cots using different tinktube hinge brackets. Hinge fittings have a larger opening that allows a plastic bushing to fit inside. The bushing allows the bracket to turn on the pipe. They used the HJ-12 and the HJ-23 brackets.
The goal was to have the cots fold up to the side, with a slide to allow people to get in and out of the trailer more easily and another one to allow Trevor (5.10″, pushing 6″) to lay down and stretch out.
Tom and Trevor assembled the fittings on the frame and added the pipes to create the cots.
Tom created a short foot for one specific end of the cot that would sit on the elevated portion of the floor that covers the kitchen. He arranged for the foot to sit on top of the bar and added a rubber foot to the end of the pipe to protect it.
Then, Tom used the HJ-12 bracket to create a leg that would tuck into the wall. After that, he set up a temporary sleeping surface using a rope so Trevor could climb in the trailer and test out his bed. The verdict: the project was a success!
STAY TUNED: MORE TO COME
That’s it for now, but Tom and Trevor will keep on working on their DIY travel camper project in the next few weeks. If you are thinking about building a similar project, visit our complete guide to camper van conversion for a tips and tricks related to all aspects of van builds! Stay tuned, as this post will follow the updates of their project!