READER STORY

First he used his self-built garbage trailer as a makeshift camp­ing trailer. Then he con­verted it into a proper camp­ing trailer, and then he built an off-road trailer, says Nick Smith.

Go! Camp & Drive - - Contents -

In the four decades that he worked as a sur­vey­ing en­gi­neer, a huge car­a­van and the bush were Nick Smith and his fam­ily’s home for many years. And even though the fam­ily lived in a car­a­van full-time, they also spent their an­nual hol­i­days camp­ing. Nick might be re­tired but camp­ing is still a part of his fam­ily’s ex­is­tence. He and his wife Ne­rina live in Potchef­stroom and camp with their smart Tora II camp­ing trailer that he built him­self. Tora II and its fore­run­ner, Tora I, came about from Nick and his friends’ erst­while camp­ing ex­pe­ri­ences in Namibia and from his self-built garbage trailer. The Tora II com­pares favourably with some of the best camp­ing trail­ers on the mar­ket and cost a third of the price you’d pay for a fac­tory-made trailer, says Nick. at Torra Bay. We have to take every­thing with us, be­cause there is noth­ing. A big 300 ℓ freezer has to go with for all the fish we in­tend catch­ing. And of course we have to take a gen­er­a­tor to get the fridge go­ing. We take three dome tents for six guys, plus more camp stuff. We need a lot of stor­age space and my garbage trailer is just the ticket. I build a roof frame for it, hang a piece of PVC sail across, give it shade cloth sides, and voilà: we have a trailer. The garbage trailer is the start of my camp­ing trailer, the Tora, but it is still a long way off.

Hum­ble be­gin­nings In 2006, I start build­ing a garbage trailer of 2,4 m, know­ing it would be the start of a 10-year-long project – one with many chal­lenges. The seed for the trailer is planted the day some friends and I de­cide to go camp

The garbage cam­per is the start of my camp­ing trailer, the Tora, but it is still a long way off.

The bug bites again and again

The camp­ing bug bit our group prop­erly, and in 2008 we go camp­ing with an­other two friends. This time we go to Mile 72, be­cause it costs only R100 per night per stand, mean­ing that for R800 we can camp a whole eight nights. This time round we have to take four dome tents. I change the trailer com­pletely and give it a pantry and scullery on the one side. It’s com­fort­able and rel­a­tively easy to set up. We camped nicely with the trailer quite a few times and when we weren’t us­ing it to camp, it did its job as my garbage trailer. But the bug keeps gnaw­ing and I de­cide to change the trailer again. Un­til now it only has the PVC cover that we at­tach the dome tents to. I de­cide it has to close com­pletely. I also give it a kitchen –the trailer is now closer to a camp­ing trailer.

Oh, the wind!

With all the changes, my wife Ne­rina and I now use only the trailer to camp. I in­stall my roof tent that I haven’t used in ages on the trailer, close the sides, and build a fold-up kitchen ta­ble that the stove also stands on. This ta­ble is easy to put in and take out be­cause I still use the trailer for garbage re­moval dur­ing the year. The im­proved trailer is spa­cious, but to set it up is hard work, and there are loads of poles and pegs. I also com­pletely un­der­es­ti­mated Harten­bos’s wind, and it takes ex­tra pegs to en­sure every­thing re­mains stand­ing. But if the wind blows at night you can’t sleep be­cause the tent jerks and flut­ters all over the show. We camp like this only once. I know the wind is go­ing to bother me again, so I de­cide: I’m go­ing to change the trailer into a proper camp­ing trailer.

Camp­ing trailer no. 1

And so I change the trailer for the third and last time. My new trailer has to be spa­cious enough and be able to with­stand the wind. With this change into a camp­ing trailer, which I call Tora I, it can’t func­tion as a garbage trailer any­more. I de­sign and have new tents made and it gets a kitchen at the back and a bath­room on the left. I built it so that you are im­me­di­ately shel­tered when you climb out. (By the way, the shade cloth over the camp­ing trailer cools the trailer down by more than 8 ºC.) You also set it up quick-quick. You sim­ply lift the roof and then the roof tents folds out. Within five min­utes you can un­hook, set up, and sleep. The Tora I also has four rolled-up side tents that you can open ac­cord­ing to your needs.

Camp­ing trailer no. 2

Af­ter many camps with Tora I, I want to change a few things again, but with the trailer’s ex­ist­ing struc­ture it’s go­ing to be dif­fi­cult. I de­cide to do the log­i­cal thing and build a new trailer. At first I get a lot of push-back from Ne­rina, be­cause she’s very sat­is­fied with Tora I. Luck­ily she re­alises this is some­thing I re­ally want to do, and time isn’t a fac­tor. She is of­ten as­sis­tant and ad­viser, es­pe­cially when the new trailer, Tora II, gets its kitchen. But the build­ing work is in my hands. The de­sign of Tora II is ac­tu­ally easy, be­cause in Tora I I have a pro­to­type I can re­fine. The first thing I do is draw up de­tailed plans with a CAD pro­gram on the com­puter as well as plan the con­struc­tion process. The plan­ning and de­sign of the camp­ing trailer tent is the most dif­fi­cult, and it be­comes clear that I can’t just hand this >

over to a tent maker. I make sure I have a clear and com­plete plan for the tent maker – and in the process I learn how a tent is made. The plan­ning, draw­ing, and re­search take a lot of time, but it’s ab­so­lutely worth the ef­fort. Good kitchen lay­out, proper and prac­ti­cal stor­age space, as well as good ven­ti­la­tion are some of the most im­por­tant things to which you need to pay at­ten­tion when you’re build­ing a trailer like this. Al­most every­one knows a camp­ing trailer is very hot if it stands in the sun, and you need to make plans to pre­vent this. The set-up time and con­ve­nience of the trailer are also im­por­tant. I limit the pegs to three to set up the Tora II. Weight is an­other im­por­tant fac­tor. Us old-timers don’t have the strength to move a heavy trailer, and as far as I know my Tora II is the light­est soft-roof trailer you can find (tare 480 kg, GVM 750 kg).

Hard work pays off

I make 100% sure I get the right ma­te­ri­als for the trailer con­struc­tion, and de­ter­mine be­fore­hand ev­ery lit­tle thing’s weight, and make ad­just­ments to stay within my tar­get

of 450 kg. With the weigh­ing for reg­is­tra­tion pur­poses, the tare weight is only 30 km more than the tar­get. The chas­sis and A-frame I build from 75 x 50 mm RQ, and for the ribs and frame­work steel of 38 x 19mm. The rest is all alu­minium. The pan­els are of a light ma­te­rial made of two lay­ers alu­minium with a layer poly­eth­yl­ene in be­tween. All nuts and bolts are stain­less steel. I have all the steel­work pow­der-coated and fas­ten the pan­els with Sikaflex 552 AT. It’s time-con­sum­ing and Sikaflex is not the eas­i­est thing to work with. First I have to stick the cor­ner alu­minium in ev­ery frame, wait a day for it to dry, and stick in the panel. All the pan­els are painted with Ham­merite. The tent is made of tear-re­sis­tant sail (400 g rip­stop) and all the win­dow mesh is of PVC (and not shade cloth like in other camp­ing trail­ers or tents). All the mesh can also un­zip and all the tent pan­els can un­zip. Ac­cord­ing to your own taste Campers have dif­fer­ent needs and likes and dis­likes, and most peo­ple buy a car­a­van or trailer as close to their taste as pos­si­ble. Tora II is built ex­actly ac­cord­ing to our per­sonal taste, pref­er­ences and needs and has a few char­ac­ter­is­tics other trail­ers don’t. Built-in wa­ter tanks get dirty and are dif­fi­cult to clean. The drink­ing wa­ter in Tora II are kept in two 20 ℓ con­tain­ers that you cut open to clean or fill up. The dish and bath­room wa­ter is in a built-in 50 ℓ tank and I also have a built-in 40 ℓ wa­ter tank in my bakkie. The kitchen with all its space and good­ies is fur­nished ac­cord­ing to Ne­rina’s taste. It’s a unit and you can keep the food cup­board locked while you cook, be­cause in Au­gra­bies the mon­keys raid your pantry as soon as you turn your back. The gas stove, mi­crowave and in­duc­tion plate can be re­moved when you want to use it when camp­ing with your tent and gazebo. The trailer has a 12 V/220 V power sys­tem with eight sock­ets in­side and three out­side. The 12 V sys­tem also has a loose por­ta­ble sys­tem and can be used sep­a­rately, which comes in very handy. You get few camp­ing trail­ers or car­a­vans (if any) with so much in­te­rior space. A big, heavy man of 1.9 m and 140 kg can walk up­right into the Tora II. You also have a big cov­ered en­ter­tain­ment area that zips closed – some­thing that is a huge plus >

point. The cov­ered sec­tion is a lot big­ger than the norm: 6.4 x 2.7 m. On the other side of the trailer we at­tach a shade cloth canopy (6.4 x 2.8 m) for our tow­ing ve­hi­cle. A sin­gle per­son can set up or take down the trailer in 10 min­utes. All the cov­ers are se­curely spun with poles that at­tach to the trailer. As soon as the trailer is set up, you also im­me­di­ately have space to hang things like wet tow­els. Un­der­neath, the trailer closes right around to keep things dry and warm – and for this you don’t have to hit in a sin­gle tent pen. The front of the nose cone closes com­pletely and is a nice stor­age space for loose items like bikes, braai gear and wood. De­pend­ing on where we stand and what the weather is like, we have dif­fer­ent tent com­bi­na­tions. We set up what we need. If the weather is bad you can pitch the kitchen tent, oth­er­wise we camp with the front door open, be­cause it’s cooler. We only had to pitch the kitchen tent once. We only use the front sail if we’re camp­ing for two days or longer. It’s about 10 min­utes’ work to in­stall. The front sail is made of tear-re­sis­tant sail with sil­ver wo­ven in, mean­ing it will never flake. It also has a stitched-in storm straps across the length through the mid­dle and there­fore doesn’t have an un­sightly storm strap across the tent. The bath­room is only set up when ab­so­lutely nec­es­sary. It con­sists of two PVC shower cur­tains in the rear that zips com­pletely closed. The trailer has four cor­ner stead­ies that also serve as fas­ten­ers for the sails. The fold-up wash­ing ta­ble fits over the fridge in its pull-out drawer. The pegs and rope

bag is part of the stair. The stairs’ four foot pieces are ad­justable so it can also stand on un­even ground. In the nosecone we put all the loose things that aren’t al­ways clean, like my 5 kg gas bot­tles, potjie and braai pan, and the trailer also has a dust­proof cup­board for all the elec­tri­cal gear like an ex­ten­sion cord, lights, and charger. On top of the lid is space for the ground cover and big things like the bikes. And in case you were wondering: The nose weight still falls well with­ing the per­mit­ted 100 kg. In the trailer is a cloth­ing cup­board, both with four shelves, for my­self and Ne­rina. The trailer also has a wardrobe with a mir­ror and space for about 20 items of cloth­ing. The trailer has a linen cup­board, loads of stor­age space un­der­neath the bed, as well as a small built-in safe. In the trailer is a large walk­ing surface of 1.5 x 1.3 m. The sleep­ing tent sec­tion is 400 mm from the side of the bed, mean­ing you don’t touch the sides when you sleep. In this space you can store an ex­tra blan­ket and a book. Tora I is still part of the fam­ily. My sons, Nico and Hen­rich, both love camp­ing and this trailer is now theirs.

GARBAGE TRAILER (top right). The seed for Nick’s Tora trailer was planted when he went camp­ing with some friends (at Torra Bay).

CAMP­ING TRAILER (top left). Nick and Ner­ine’s Tora II was built to suit their needs.

THE GOOD OLD DAYS (top). Nick (stand­ing) and his friends used to camp with the garbage trailer at Torra Bay. They put a PVC cover over the roof and pitched their dome tents all around the trailer. Dur­ing the day they put up a canopy for shade.

NEW BE­GIN­NING (above). Nick even­tu­ally trans­formed the garbage trailer into his first off-road trailer, and then he started build­ing his Tora II camp­ing trailer.

STEEL FRAME (above). The chas­sis and frame are built bit by bit with steel.

THE GLUE THAT KEEPS IT TO­GETHER (left). Nick fas­tened the pan­els with Sikaflex 552 AT.

EVERY­THING IN ITS PLACE (below). The kitchen is built ex­actly to Ne­rina’s spec­i­fi­ca­tions.

BACK DOOR (bottom left). A tall man can stand up­right in the door when the trailer is set up. PACK IT UP (bottom right). The nose cone is as wide as the trailer and has a cup­board with space for the gas bot­tles and other loose items.

SLID­ING CON­VE­NIENCE (above left). The fridge and stove pull out on a slid­ing frame.

THE BIG SLEEP (top). The bed is nice and big and un­der­neath is a lot of stor­age space.

ALL IN ONE (above right). The kitchen is a unit with a big work surface and loads of stor­age space. The gas stove, mi­crowave, and in­duc­tion plate can be re­moved if you go camp­ing with your tent.

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