READER STORY

First he camped with a tent and a small car­a­van, but af­ter Jurie van Dyk from Jef­freys Bay saw a teardrop trailer, he knew he had to have one. So he de­cided to build one him­self.

Go! Camp & Drive - - Contents -

Jurie’s ear­li­est mem­ory of camp­ing was his dad com­ing home from work on a Fri­day af­ter­noon and load­ing a two-man tent, two sleep­ing bags, two bun­dles of wood, meat, and a two-litre Coke into a beach buggy and the two of them set­ting off. Once they reached the ocean they would travel kilo­me­tres down the sandy beach look­ing for a spot to pitch camp. There they would sleep and fish, with no peo­ple around for miles. The sim­plic­ity of those out­ings have al­ways stayed with him, says Jurie.

The prob­lem

I am an out­door en­thu­si­ast who en­joys fly-fish­ing, trail run­ning, triathlons and surf­ing. I have tried dif­fer­ent ways of camp­ing over the years, but the prob­lem was al­ways to what an ex­tent a cer­tain as­pect of camp­ing got in the way of my out­door ac­tiv­i­ties. For many years a tent was my only op­tion, but it’s so time-con­sum­ing to pitch the tent and set up the rest of the camp that I didn’t have enough time to en­joy the out­doors.

An­other fac­tor that counted heav­ily against tent camp­ing was how un­com­fort­ably I slept, es­pe­cially when I was really tired. And then there were the times that I camped in the rain or in strong winds, forc­ing me to sleep on the back seat of my car more than once. A few years ago I bought a small 1974 model Gypsey 1, hop­ing that this would solve my prob­lems. It did to a cer­tain ex­tent, but it came with its own chal­lenges. It was still a mis­sion to set up camp on my own, and the dif­fi­culty with a car­a­van is that you need peo­ple to help you ma­noeu­vre it. Add to that bad fuel econ­omy and the end­less strug­gle to find suit­able camp­sites that could ful­fil all my needs, and soon I went camp­ing twice a year and not twice a month. The so­lu­tion A tiny, in­cred­i­ble-look­ing car­a­van kept pop­ping up in my so­cial me­dia feeds. It was called a teardrop camper and it was a mod­ern re­vival of the clas­sic 1930–40s DIY car­a­van. I started do­ing some re­search and found that the trend was tak­ing off rapidly in the States. It be­came clear that this might be the so­lu­tion to my prob­lems. The only is­sue was that if I wanted one I would have to build it my­self be­cause the ones I was in­ter­ested in were not sold or built in South Africa. So I de­cided “Why not?” I have a strong ar­chi­tec­tural back­ground af­ter all. (I com­pleted my stud­ies in 1999 and have been run­ning my own ar­chi­tec­tural prac­tice ever since.) Be­cause I had never built any­thing of this kind be­fore, my idea was to ap­proach it like I would any ar­chi­tec­tural project: re­search it, find out ex­actly which skills and trades were in­volved, and then plan it down to a T. For­tu­nately for me we live in an amaz­ing time where you can visit sites like YouTube, for in­stance, and >

find thou­sands of ex­am­ples of peo­ple show­ing you how they built some­thing – in this case a teardrop trailer. I used this re­source of­ten dur­ing con­struc­tion, and I would def­i­nitely rec­om­mend this to any­one think­ing of tak­ing on any kind of DIY project. I went about de­sign­ing my teardrop us­ing a method called “from the skin in”. It’s a de­sign method used in the au­to­mo­tive in­dus­try. The main idea is that you start with the shape of the ve­hi­cle and work your way back to the struc­ture. My first task was to find a shape that I really liked, and af­ter recre­at­ing the shape in 2D CAD soft­ware, I went to my 3D pro­gram, Sketchup, and started plan­ning the struc­ture. I built the com­plete trailer vir­tu­ally with my 3D soft­ware to make sure that all is­sues were ironed out be­fore I started con­struc­tion. I can­not em­pha­sise the im­por­tance of this enough if you want a suc­cess­ful project. If you try to do this by eye­balling it while you build, you will run into prob­lems some­where down the line and you will see that in the fin­ished prod­uct. As the say­ing goes, fail­ing to plan is plan­ning to fail, and when you add up the ma­te­rial costs, that isn’t an op­tion.

The big build

I have to point out that I am not one of those guys who spends week­ends in his garage build­ing things. Don’t get me wrong, I am pretty handy when it comes to DIY projects, but the last time I worked with wood was 23 years ago when I was in ma­tric. I much pre­fer spend­ing my time out­side in na­ture. For that rea­son I don’t have a lot of tools. The only tools I own are a cir­cu­lar saw (that I turned into a ta­ble saw by ty­ing a ca­ble tie to the switch so that it’s per­ma­nently on and then you switch it on and off on a mul­ti­plug), a jig­saw that I bought from Check­ers 10 years ago, a drill, and a router that my dad had since I was in school. That’s it! But in hind­sight that’s all you really need. The build went pretty smoothly, and I chalk that up to good plan­ning. I man­aged to build the teardrop by my­self, and the only thing I really strug­gled with was bend­ing the lower ends of the ply­wood. From the be­gin­ning my idea was to only use ma­te­rial that I could buy from our lo­cal hard­ware store, but what you really need for this project is bend­able ply­wood. I will def­i­nitely or­der that next time. I de­signed the trailer base and had it made by a reg­is­tered pro­fes­sional

trailer builder. I de­signed the doors and had those made by a spe­cial­ist. I felt those were the items you shouldn’t com­pro­mise on. The roof vent was an off-the-shelf RV vent. I fin­ished the ex­te­rior off with a layer of alu­minium that I glued on with strong epoxy glue. I used treated ply­wood for the in­te­rior walls and floors. I bought a dou­ble foam mat­tress, but be­cause the trailer is slightly smaller than a dou­ble bed, I had to cut about 100 mm off the length of the mat­tress. At the top of the trailer I built in two cup­boards. The one I turned into a kitchen and the other one is for our cloth­ing.

The long and short of it

My teardrop weighs 440 kg. The trailer base weighs 140 kg and the body 300 kg. It has a nose weight of 66 kg, but with the next one I’m go­ing to aim to get it close to 40 kg. I have a lit­tle bit of room to move the axle for­ward, but I’ll have to care­fully look at the po­si­tion­ing of the wheels and the doors. But the trailer tows like a dream. I paid about R45 000 for the ma­te­ri­als, and in terms of size I in­ten­tion­ally kept it to the di­men­sions of a stan­dard sheet of wood (2 400 mm x 1 200 mm). The body is there­fore 2 400 mm long, the height is 1 200 mm, and the in­ter­nal width is 1 200 wide – which is about as big as a dou­ble bed. I also put 14” tyres on the trailer for eas­ier gravel road tow­ing. I was sit­ting in a cof­fee shop one day and re­alised the bis­cotti ac­com­pa­ny­ing my cof­fee had the same shape as my teardrop. And right there I de­cided to name my trailer Scotti B.

Let’s go camp­ing

I’m happy to re­port that the teardrop lived up to ev­ery imag­in­able ex­pec­ta­tion I had for a “hook-up and go” ve­hi­cle. >

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