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Old 11-08-2019, 09:51 PM
pengyou pengyou is offline
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Default Off-road suspension for a 20' trailer



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I will be living off grid but want to use a 20' toy hauler trailer to house my generator, solar panels, water purification system, some refrigeration, food storage and tool room and some other things. All of these things will be used during "normal" life. The front 6' of it will contain a very sparse apartment with 3 bunk beds, small toilet/shower compartment and kitchen (used for bugging out, or for housing unwelcome relatives . In the event I need to bugout, all I will have to do is disconnect the trailer from the ground stakes and hitch it to my pickup. I am looking at some land for a bo location that can be accessed by dirt roads/forest service roads, etc but they are a bit rough - about 120 miles of rough. Do you have any suggestions the construction of the frame and suspension to handle such a journey? Trailer will be hauling about 4,000 pounds (including 100 gallons of water and 100 gallons of diesel). I am looking at a one ton 4x4 pickup to do the towing. Also, what kind of hitch would work best?
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Old 11-08-2019, 09:59 PM
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NEED to define "ROUGH"

If you are talking a hilly, rutted, up and down steep departures and sharp turns then you may want to consider a pintle hitch for the trailer... or the ability to convert to it prior to hitting the bush. It just gives more maneuverability for both vehicles and prevents binding or locking on the ball of a normal hitch if the travel required is too extreme for the hitch.

Suspension is not a problem can always play with that but it won't do anything for you if the hitch does not allow the freedom to do what YOU require.
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Old 11-08-2019, 10:12 PM
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This might be a good read...

https://www.etrailer.com/search/Off+Road+Suspension
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Old 11-09-2019, 02:09 AM
williammandella williammandella is offline
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I've installed electric brakes on several trailers, and if you're hauling two tons, you might consider them. If you're going down a hill on a muddy road with all that weight behind you, you can lock up the trailer's brakes the way they did with wagons in the old days so the wagon didn't crash into the team. By the time you wire the trailer for marker and stop lights, the extra wiring for the brakes isn't much more work. I've also installed automotive shocks on the axles of construction trailers so they were easier to haul on bad roads. Five minutes of welding and the job is done.
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Old 11-09-2019, 02:36 AM
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Pintle hitch like the military uses are very good off road. I would suggest you have the trailer set up to take the same tires and wheels as the tow unit - have at least 2 spare tires. Plug kit and a compressor to air tires back up if you needed to let them down. A full set of ice breaker chains including the trailer - they work in mud.

I would want a PTO or hydraulic winch on the truck, have a snatch block or 2. Carry some stuff to set a deadman.

Have a way to scout ahead like a small motor or electric bike - easy to get stuck in nasty places with a 40' long setup.

I'd rather have a really nice tent with a liner carried on a smaller trailer than be in a small can.
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Old 11-09-2019, 03:55 AM
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You will of course need 2 axles for that weight. I think 3500 lbs is the limit for a single axle.
Placement of the axles is also worth considering. If they are close together, the trailer will be able to back up and follow sharp turns better. If further apart, you can back up in a straight line easier, and the trailer will be less tippy if you are inside. Getting the right tongue weight is very important also, and is somewhat influenced by axle placement.

Shock absorbers sound like a great idea.

Unless you are in mountain and big hills, not sure if trailer brakes are necessary if towing with a 1 ton truck. Trailer brakes are a major PITA on boat trailers that dunk in salt water. Probably are reliable enough for land lubbers though. (although if you are in a Northen state that salts the roads all the time, I would either delete the brakes or get Stainless steel hardware.

t is my understanding that trailer tires need stiffer sidewalls than a vehicle tire.
I would stay with the recommended bias ply (not radial), trailer tires.

Standard ball hitch should work fine. 4000 lbs is not a big deal. My boat was 3500 to 4000 lbs , and my half ton truck with standard ball had no issues pulling it. I removed the trailer brakes after constantly fighting with them for 5 years and it was a great move. But I was in a flat state at that time. If lots of steep grades are in your plans get the brakes. Especially if your state requires them, which some do.
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Old 11-09-2019, 04:18 AM
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Thanks to all. Changes in elevation will be relatively constant, not quick up and downs. Rutted, muddy, snowy is the problem. For 9 months of the year, I would also prefer to sleep in a tent outside...unless it is snowing during those 9 months...raining...hail...freezing...also, keep in mind this will be used in a shtf scenario...not likely to run into a lot of spooky bipeds out there but might still see a couple - trailer would provide more protection.
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Old 11-09-2019, 08:45 AM
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I've got a 30' toy hauler and there is no way I'm messing with the current suspension as it's perfect now

I don't need sway bars! The attitude is just perfect along with weight distribution.

I do have a 4 wheel drive, I can drag it where I need it to go but if you're worried about bugging in/out it says a lot by not going into some places and having an easy egress out of where you are.

I tell people the difference between a 4 wheel drive and a 2 wheel drive is how much it costs you to get pulled out

Don't go places where you don't belong. If worse comes to worst, I'll just pull the pin and jack the trailer
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Old 11-09-2019, 11:40 AM
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Honestly, unless you’re a hell of a fabricator and have ready access to cheap materials for the construction you’ll probably come out ahead by a long shot starting with at least an existing frame and axles. If you look at trailers meant for hauling construction equipment you’ll find a trailer built for your needs. Stout suspension and construction, good ground clearance. Use a pintle hitch not a ball hitch, far better articulation and not as fussy at needing to be lined up to hook up, unhook. It would be nice if the track width matches that of the tow vehicle so you don’t have to break trail twice in snow or sloppy ground. If you’re looking to have a cargo weight of ~ 4000 lbs I’d look to have a trailer GVW of at least 7000 or better. Lastly, unless there’s an absolute need keep the length to 20’, I’d make the living quarters a bit more spacious.
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Old 11-09-2019, 11:49 AM
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Yeah, a 30 ft trailer would be what I would suggest, not 20.
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Old 11-09-2019, 09:52 PM
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Good advice! I am working on the components first - that will determine the size of the trailer needed. I also have an electric quadrunner on the list. Most toyhaulers peak at 3K pounds, so have been looking at alternative sources for a flat bed trailer, but the weight goes up pretty quickly. I am excited about the idea...I am not related to either Buffet or Gates, so have to make $$ go a long way. By doing this I can make dual use of many of the systems of the homestead. Water and fuel tanks and batteries will go over the axles to help keep the trailer balanced from front to back.
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Old 11-09-2019, 10:59 PM
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For heavy duty "Toy haulers" do a google search on "Stacker trailers" for RV's. These are extremely rugged trailers, used to haul two vehicles or a boat and a car, perhaps a golf cart too.. They are up to 40 feet in length, and made to be towed behind a large RV. Also look at the trailers used for race cars--again made to haul at least one car, plus spares, shop and often living quarters. None of us can probably afford one of these, but you will get a lot of ideas from them.

I would fabricate an "X"Frame, and two axles even for the 4000 lbs. I owned one trailer which used coil springs, with air bags, and a trailing arm system. This had a solid axle--and this is much easier to fabricate. If you can get the frame galvanized--so much the better as far as lasting--if not then at least blasted and coal tar epoxy coated. This should last "forever".

Agree with the pintle hitch. Might even look at some military surplus trailers--most are smaller, but again look at the construction.

I use electric over hydraulic for my boat trailers--these can be immersed in salt water. But the standard electric trailer brakes are far better. The point being made that you have more traction downhill, if the rig starts swaying on you--a tap of the electric brake on the controller, will handle this. You do want brakes, especially for off road. I like to have a "farm jack", with oversized base, and bumper lift/straps lift in the kit. I also like to have several "come-a-longs". to move the trailer if it gets stuck or off the road--as well as the tow vehicle.

I agree that 6' for 3 bunk (stacked 3 up, with the upper two platforms hinged so you can sit on the lowest) and a bath is pretty tight--a bunk which is only 24" is pretty tight--even on a boat--32" or 36" is far better. a "head compartment" is going to be 3 x 3' if you want any sort of a shower (better to shower outside--and use a "sun shower" bag--less water, and no holding tank necessary). Porti patty under the bunk would work better than an enclosed bathroom. (you can put in privacy curtains for changing or use of the porti potty, if that is essential). I sure don't see a lot of "kitchen" space left over. I have done some "stealth" van conversions--and they were bigger than 6 x 7 feet! The galley has to have a small sink and counter top--one burner portable stove (diesel or propane?). Going to be 6 sq feet or so, the bath 9 sq feet, the bunks 18 sq feet--add that up is 33 sq feet out of 42 sq feet available. Barely room to stand or put a table. Spaces have to be dual use...

Good luck on the project!
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Old 11-09-2019, 11:41 PM
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Cheap butane stove is hard to beat from a chinese store.
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Old 11-09-2019, 11:52 PM
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It hard to go off road with a trailer , If the road slims up you are just stuck if you hit a grade you are stuck , if it rains you get stuck . I pull a dumpster with fire wood Thru trails in the woods and we get stuck all the time , I have good 35 BFG tires locking axle 4x4 years of off road driving experience I have a 15000lb winch to pull my self out .
I I think the trailer will be around 10000lbs loaded up .
Kinda heavy for off roads .
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Old 11-10-2019, 12:51 AM
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A few of the trailers I overhauled were sliding axle trailers that had to have brakes so the bed could be tilted for offloading, but the guys also used them to adjust the load so they towed better on bad roads, and they refused to fight the loads without them. The original brakes had failed because the wiring wasn't installed using conduit, so the wires would snag. Considering how cheap a brake system is, and how much they facilitate towing, I wouldn't tow twenty feet at two tons without them. If you're on a muddy, rough decline, especially with a high bed for more ground clearance and corresponding high shifting loads like a big water tank, you'll be fighting the load the whole way. And when the truck's brakes start fading from heat, you'll miss having the little lever that will straighten out the load and give your legs a break.
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Old 11-10-2019, 12:53 AM
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or.. you could just buy a Bruder EXP-6 and be done with it..

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Old 11-11-2019, 06:56 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steverino View Post
or.. you could just buy a Bruder EXP-6 and be done with it..

BRUDER EXP-6 EXPEDITION TRAILER (Detailed) - 2019 - YouTube
Ohhhhh that's beautiful! I think I'm drooling Lots of good ideas to "borrow" from that. It is a perfect medium term camping vehicle and would meet half of my needs....the other half? I want it to house my house and ultility building's backup generator, the water filtration system (and possibly well pump), a 7' long chest freezer and a few other things. All of these things will be in constant use during "normal" times. If I need to bo, I just have to disconnect everything and drive the (likely) 100 miles or so to my bo location. I have narrowed it down to 3 places now. This minimizes the cost of the equipment, keeps me from having to worry about equipment that is in storage but not used, prevents it from being stolen in the bo location (very slim chance of that), etc....but it is one really sweet trailer.

BTW, the cost for that sweet little dream on a pintil is about $70K If I had that kind of money I would pick up a E350 extended diesel van and do a 4x4 conversion...that would let me shorten the trailer by 7' or so. I have always felt safer living in my driving vehicle when camping than having to get out of it (making myself vulnerable) to get into a trailer to live...and I often think about using a converted school bus - no trailer needed. The trailer idea gives me a vehicle that is useful for other purposes once I arrive.
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Old 11-11-2019, 10:44 AM
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The trailer above has a walking beam axil. pure gold, you hardly feel the load passing over rough terrane.
I have overloaded my shop trailer the box is 19" x6'6" wide so the tires are on the out side of the box greater stability on hillsides.
Only 2 axils, when I should have gone three. two axils are severely overloaded with all my tools and equipment and, all it is, is shop, there is no living space. My living space is in my truck camper. be sure and balance your weight so the 20% more is on the tongue.
Had I had the money and forethought at the time I did the building I might have gone wit the walking beam axil, but what is done is done.
As one accumulates skills and tools the shop gains weight too.
Trailer brakes cannot be overemphasized, especially in the mountains and highways.
The bigger problem is going to be the truck suspension and towing capability.
IF there is high altitude involved @ 7,000 ' elevation you loose 20 %of your horsepower.
When I hauled my trailer around I carried 2 spares for the truck and 2 spares for the trailer. If the trailer tires/wheels are the same as the truck your even further ahead.
I used box tubing and 3/8 exterior grade plywood and skinned the outside with aluminum. the deck is 2x6 timbers coated with copper sulfate. prevents rot. I have boat Zinc anodes on the steel frame to draw off corrosion. there is a hatch below the deck between the axils that house my battery bank and the solar panels are permanently attached to the roof. All the components of the electrical system go through a panel on the side that has meters and a switch for every single component every single solar panel and everything is fused. All multi-stranded wire, never use solid wire on something subjected to vibration.
I spent years drawing out the plans and still forgot things, so do not get in a big hurry.
Because mine is a shop trailer I have a set of tracks and bridge bow to stern and the back door can open several ways but mostly as a ramp for moving heavy equipment in and out. the side door up front has an aluminum I beam for plucking engines and such and a receiver inside for the engine stand. below that is a below deck drip tray.
Toolboxes with wheels are handy but a lot of wasted space, and you are going to need to attach them to the walls and floor anyway. ( even if it is a temporary attachment )the lay out is the really fun part of the game and you can end up doing it several times as the years go by so plan for it.
One thing I did not think of when doing this was separating tools in carry boxes so all the plumbing was in its own box that could be taken to the project at hand with a small hand truck. Electrical is in its own box and so on.
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Old 11-12-2019, 06:12 PM
1x1_Speed_Craig 1x1_Speed_Craig is offline
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I researched this a TON when I was planning to build a trailer from scratch, but ended up modifying an M101-A3 trailer instead.

The big adventure trailer companies (and small ones too) seem to use:
  • Independent Trailing arms with air bags. Great articulation. Air bags, however, can be torn, so have a contingency plan.
  • Torsion axle systems. This seems like a great DIY option, and minimizes the custom suspension geometry with the first option. If I were building one now, I'd use one of these, most likely.
  • Trusty ol' leaf springs with shocks. Old-school, but durable.

Regarding the comment about a pintle hitch, that's a great idea. They're noisy, though. I modified the tongue of my M101-A3 trailer to use the 1st-gen vision of the Max Coupler, which was VERY quiet and articulated incredibly well behind my old Jeep. It could also be pulled out of the trailer completely, which is a great theft deterrent, as the tongue just has an empty 2" receiver (trailer side) when the Max Coupler is pulled.

Craig
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