Anyone who has ever had the fun of trying to pack up a Jeep for an extended off-road adventure knows what a puzzle it can be trying to fit everything in. Between camping gear, survival gear, communication and navigation equipment, food and water, fuel, and tools for any needed trail repairs, loading up for a big trip can be especially challenging. And, that’s before you add people!
Many 'wheelers have switched to to pulling an off-road trailer as a way to carry more gear. There are many commercial ready-made off-road trailers available, but they can be pricey and not in everyone’s budget. I’m always fascinated by the do-it-yourself approach. So, when Big Wik of SURVIVE+THRIVE, a survival and prepping website and forum, finished his custom off-road trailer and was ready to trail test it, I couldn't wait to check it out. I knew that his trailer build would focus heavily on being self-reliant off the grid and I was eager to see how he was setting it up.
Big Wik set out to build a trailer that would let him bug out in less than ten minutes, have the all-terrain capability of his Jeep Wrangler Unlimited JK, the sustainability of an RV, and the tools of a work truck.
The first trailer box he built was based on a motorcycle trailer and was too small to carry the amount of gear he wanted to carry. So, he enlisted the help of Alex Carvallo of American Overland Expedition. A thorough redesign resulted in a 5’x4’x3.5’ trailer box and a new tongue box to better fit the wedge shape. Alex also helped with adjusting the suspension by adding two coilovers from a four-person side-by-side, for better articulation and off-road performance.
The hitch is a three axis hitch from Lock 'N' Roll, which has no slack and will not bind. A standard ball hitch is not suitable for off-road abuse and a military style pintle hook would have bad on-road manners and create unnecessary wear on the drivetrain. As I watched the trailer navigate through some off-camber inclines and declines I was amazed at how stable and well it tracked.
The electrical system was built with redundancy in mind. Two 12V 35AH batteries are charged via three 15W solar panels mounted on top of the Jeep, or by a 13w portable solar panel.
A 30 amp charge controller regulates solar input. The trailer is also charged while towing by the Jeep's alternator, and it can be charged from any 120v source through the batteries directly or connections in the back of the trailer. An isolator and selector switch were installed to prevent drain on the tow vehicle when left connected and to select the charging source.
A wired remote switch box allows Big Wik to control the electrical devices from outside the trailer. The switches operate the 750w 120v inverter, back up water pump, lights, 12-volt power outlet, voltmeter and usb charge ports, and an ERO10WH 10 gallon water tank from ERO Water Products with a 12v auxiliary water pump system. An 850w gas powered generator provides additional electrical power.
There is a 20-pound CO2 tank for airing up tires or using pneumatic air tools, as well as a Tuff Stuff 12v air compressor for additional air needs. In addition to the winch on the Jeep, the trailer has its own 3,000-pound utility winch. Jerry cans carrying extra fuel are mounted behind the tongue box. Lighting for camp is provided by solar powered lights - a Tuff Stuff 40w flood light, a portable flood/motion light kit, a motion/step light for the ladder to the rooftop tent, and a rechargeable hand held spot light.
The Ecotemp L5 hot water/shower system provides hot water on demand and is great for showers or washing dishes. The water system uses propane to heat the water. A barbecue grill and a camp stove are also powered by propane.
The Tuff Stuff rooftop tent is accessed by a ladder and provides a comfortable environment for two people. Not shown in the photos are the sidewalls for the bottom portion which can be set up to create additional space for gear storage, a changing room, or a private shower/toilet area. A matching shade awning is mounted on the side of the Jeep’s roof.
The cab of his Jeep looks like a cockpit with a Yaesu 7900R Mobile HAM radio, Baofeng UV-8 and UV-5 portable HAM radios, a Cobra 29LX CB radio, monitors for the front and rear night vision cameras on the Jeep and a rear night vision camera for the trailer, plus controls for front, rear and underbody rock lights.
Now that he’s had a chance to do some trail testing, I asked Big Wik what his future plans are for the trailer. He intends to upgrade the suspension system to a full independent air bag system with shock absorbers to better limit some of the side-to-side motion and smooth the ride out a bit. He also plans to upgrade the hubs to include brakes and install a brake controller so he has better control when descending ledges.
Most importantly, he plans to make many good memories camping with his wife and kids in the years to come.