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New Off-Road Trailer w/Pictures

67489 Views 159 Replies 47 Participants Last post by  grogie
Off-Road Trailer w/Pictures

First, I have to give props to Scott Morris at Sunfire Off-road (Sunman, IN - 812-623-3473). Last December I had asked him if he had an interest in building me an off-road box trailer. Scott has worked on my Jeep on several earlier occasions, and he's always done great work. Well fortunately he did agree to build the trailer, and I just returned home with it.

The build included tires to match my TJ (32" MT/Rs), black Eagle alloy wheels, 3' x 5' x 20" box, hydraulic assisted lid, tailgate, custom built 3500# axle with ultra-lube hubs, leaf springs and shocks, electric trailer brakes with 7-way plug, battery box with cigarette lighter plug-in, gas can holder, and painted with a bed-liner. I also asked to have plenty of tie-downs.

Last fall I had installed a 7-way wiring harness for an LJ. (Which for my '06 TJ, the harness had to be hooked into the drivers side tail light, and as well to switch the left and right blinker wires at the harness 7-way plug to work… As otherwise the left-right blinkers were crossed... And again thanks to Scott for helping with this :D.) I also had installed a Prodigy P2 brake controller, and I bought a cushioned long ball mount with a 4" drop to clear my TJ's spare tire.

So towing it about 90 miles home, my TJ didn't seem to feel it at all on the highway (other then when I hit a few hard bumps or just a bouncy road surface). I don't know what the weight is, but I can easily unhook it and push it around so it's pretty light weight. Yet it is very solid built. :thumbsup:

And now for the pictures...

Shows up fine in my rear mirrors:

Easily pushed it into my garage.

My long term objective with this trailer is tow it out west for camping trips (as camping with a TJ is otherwise rather minimalistic).

I'll update this thread from time to time with modifications and trips. Once I get it licensed I'll tow it out to the Badlands and give it a try off-road.

Thanks for looking. :wave:

EDIT: A couple of pictures I had on my iPhone from when picking it up.

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nice looking trailer!! When is the first trip? Is it weather proof?
As far as being rain proof, yes! Probably as well for pulling it through a river that's up to the fenders, I think it would be fine. The top is fairly heavy, so is the tailgate and they both have a 1" lip. I think I may add a thin rubber gasket on the bottom of the tailgate for added tightness, but once it warms up I'll take a pressure washer to it and see. Scott/Sunfire Off-road did a great job fitting everything together as it's all tight!

Here is the tailgate lip and then of the top.

As far as trips, I have to get it tagged and licensed. Scott sent off a request to the state to get it tagged, then I'll have to get a LEO to stop by and sign off on it, then I can go get it licensed. I'll then take it to a local off-road park and give it a try. I also have to consider keeping it secure. :)

Uhhh, what type of hitch connection do you have???
It's a standard 2" receiver hitch. I based this build off of the Pikes Peak trailer, which the guy that builds those thought that the standard 2" hitch was quieter for general towing. I'll tow mine to Colorado/out west which is about a 3k mile round trip. He also thought that it did fine for off-road towing and he's done some decent towing with his (see his videos here). I do have a cushioned long ball mount with a 4" drop to clear the spare tire (as I have an AtoZ rear bumper with a built in tow receiver).

I don't intend to tow this over boulders as I only have a 3.5" lift and 32" MTRs anyway. I wanted this trailer to tow to a backwoods camping spot, park it and leave it. This picture below was a camping spot last summer at 11k ft. elevation. It was quiet at night! (No one was around but maybe Bigfoot?!)

As far as the first modifications, I've ordered a 3' x 6' rubber mat that I'll cut to fit the inside floor. I'm also looking at a battery, a basic power inverter and some inside lighting.
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Here is a short video showing how easy it is to move around.

:thumbsup: Very nice! Light enough that an old man can move around by his lonesome. I be lovin', it...
LOL... Me or you being the old guy?! :cheers2:


  1. I have received in the mail the 3' x 6' rubber mat for the floor that I ordered. It's just a little bit larger then needed so I'll trim it to size. However it has a hell of strong smell to it so I have it sitting outside at the moment. It stinks!
  2. The trailer has had a smell as well, being that the bed liner was applied two days before I picked it up. I've rolled it out of the garage on several sunny days, but it's been generally cold and nasty out.
  3. I also noticed that the bottom of the tailgate was a little light in paint, so took some Rustoleum to it.
  4. I order two nice tent sized Bryer cots for camping. I'll probably still use the sleeping pads I have, but sleeping off of the ground should be an improvement. Someday having a roof-top tent would be sweet, but I'd risk further wrath from my wife with that purchase!
  5. As mentioned, I am considering a battery for the battery box and a power inverter. I don't think I need a lot of power (lights, and that kind of thing), so I may just go with something like a yellow top deep cycle? There are larger 200 amp deep cycle batteries, but their much larger and heavy. If anyone has any opinions on this, let me know.
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^A Turbo Tent at the moment. (3 man tent, pops up in about a minute, then takes a couple of minutes to put on the second layer. It's the best tent I've owned. It also has the front awning which is nice for those afternoon rainstorms.)

I might consider a RTT for the trailer? But the Turbo Tent is fairly new and very easy to setup. I should probably spend that money on the Jeep yet... :confused:


1) The rubber mat I order still stinks! I read to soak it in hot soapy water with a cup of vinegar, which helped some. It left some oil in the bath tub, which my wife told me that I get to scrub the tub. :mad: I have it sitting outside again, hoping the sun cures it! But so far we've had very little sunshine.
2) I'm still waiting for the VIN number to show up so I can get a LEO to drop by to sign off on it, and I can pickup a license plate for it. I really want to tow it out to the local Badlands and give it a try off-road...
3) I did a test fit of what camping gear fits in it. What fit:
-Two sleeping pads
-Two cots (which are awesome... good buy... sits 8" off the ground which will help)
-Fold up table
-Two large chairs (which will actually get strapped to the top in a duffle bag... so even more available room inside!)
-Plastic tub of misc. camping supplies
-Battery box
-And there is still room for the camping stove, and more. Inside my Jeep will go a cooler (I'm looking for a larger one), tools, duffle bags for food and clothes. Sleeping bags would be good too. And maybe the dogs as we'll actually have room!

5) I looked at some over the kitchen counter lighting at Lowes. I'm considering this to wire into a battery box, or should I just go with AA battery powered lights? Amazon has some that are motion activated.
6) I bought a really good coupler lock, and I'm looking at some other locks for locking the top and tailgate. Oh, and a heavy duty chain to go through a wheel to the axle for when parked.
7) I towed it around my neighborhood last weekend. It tows so good with a SWB Jeep! Ha! The brake controller is awesome as I can easily adjust the trailer brakes on how easy they lock up. I think my Jeep actually brakes better with the trailer then without. :rtft:
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Well I finally have the trailer titled! I first had to visit the BMV for directions as the process wasn't clear online. I then had a LEO stop by and sign off on the trailer that it really existed, then I was able to apply for the VIN through the state. Six days later the VIN arrived and I had a trophy shop print the VIN on a brass plate, and again had a LEO sign off that the VIN was on the trailer. The LEOs were both impressed and stood around in my garage and talked about it. (One is even a Jeep guy too!)

I also had to show that I paid sales tax on the parts, and that was it. I towed it to the BMV this morning, and then went shopping and it holds a lot! It does get a bit of attention, which I'm not sure if it's a good thing? The local fire department specifically drove by when I was parked at Lowes and took pictures of it.

And it tows great! I was doing 75 mph down the highway and it's like it's even there. And as I've mentioned, my Jeep brakes better with the trailer. It's also easy to backup as long as I can look out the back of my Jeep and see it.

Other then that, the original rubber mat I ordered is still sitting outside as it STILL STINKS!! So I found another 3'x6' treadmill mat on Amazon for $40. I just cut off a foot on one end and it fits perfectly on the floor. I trimmed out the battery box tie-downs and it's in place.

I've also ordered some tough locks that I'm having keyed alike, and a very heavy duty chain if needed. On my immediate list is also a propane bottle, jerry cans (water and gas), power inverter when I get a battery and inside lights. I'm also looking at some other similar trailers for additional ideas...

As far as summer plans, I won't be driving to Colorado this summer as I try and do every summer (last year's trip) or so as I can't get the time off from work. But I instead have a camping trip planed to the Michigan UP for September, and I've been buying a few more camping items now that my available space has at least doubled! :thumbsup:
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So I towed the trailer out to my mom's garage to park it in, about 45 miles from home. I filed up each time to check mpg, and I had 13.25 with the trailer, and 15.25 on the return trip. Speed was doing 60 to 75 mph. I almost think my Jeep is a little more stable on the road with the trailer behind it? (Not that my Jeep is unstable, just that it gets pushed around by wind easily.)
^Thanks John for the comments!

The box is about 3' x 5' x 20". I'll have to keep the $ figure to myself. If you're interested in Scott building you one, I'd ask that you talk to him. It's a custom built trailer. Plus I think he did a great job as it's so well built, and for the work they put in it I think it was a fair price, especially considering I could not build it myself.

1) Yes, it could have a tailgate in front as well, but that wouldn't allow for a rack in front. I have purchased a real red Jerry can for my front rack. I have also purchased a similar sized Igloo water container for the rack when I don't think I'm going to need the gas can.

2) Yes, kayaks could be mounted (I thought about that as well). I'm thinking to spend the money next year on a roof top tent instead (as I'm going to Moab in 2014).

3) I haven't weighed it, but check out my video link on page one as it's easy enough for me to move it around by myself. I hardly notice it behind my TJ.

4) I don't know what you're driving, but with a lifted TJ and having weight in it, and going up and down hills I'd prefer brakes. Having brakes on it and a brake control is just cool. I can easily adjust the brake controller and lock up the trailer's tires to where they chirp! I think that will be helpful in the mountains.

Other then that, here are my latest two purchases:

Last Friday UPS dropped off the Blue-Top battery, and then today I received a power inverter. I really don't think I have a great need for extra power, but why not? This will run some extra lights, charge the iPhone, etc., etc. The battery will be hooked up to the Jeep through the 7-way wiring harness. I've been thinking about how to vent the battery for safety, being that it's going to be in an enclosed box. I found a chromed brass gas tank vent fitting for a boat that I think will work. With this I'll run a tube from the battery box up and out the side of the trailer (I'll have to drill a small hole for the vent fitting).

I was also thinking about building a wood kitchen box that would slide out the back of the tailgate, however a hard sided box just doesn't conform to available space (as we all know from packing the back of a Jeep :laugh:), so I found a really nice large compartment soft sided case that has three modular storage cases that fit inside (it's built for the back of an SUV). This will serve as my misc. camping gear and kitchen box.

I've also bought a small carrying case for security stuff. My keyed alike locks showed up, one heavy duty chain, and the coupler lock.

I've bought some other trailer/camping stuff that is currently hiding in boxes under my Jeep, away from my wife's eyes. :shhh:

Anyway, I'll take some more pictures as I further get stuff in place.
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Here is the Blue-Top battery that is now installed There was already a positive wire running from the 7-way plug into the box, so I connected that. I also drilled a screw into the floor (above the tongue) to ground the battery. I then hooked up an 800 watt power inverter. I may mount the inverter directly on top of the battery box. The inverter has two outlets, plus a USB outlet to charge my iPhone/ iPad. In the second picture, here is what I'm going to use to vent the battery.

And an Igloo water container in the same shape as a Jerry can to sit in the front rack. (I'll probably use this more then the red Jerry can I bought.)

I also found some decent battery powered lights at Lowes that I stuck onto the inside of the top.

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So after work yesterday I took the trailer for a drive. Again, it just tows great! The brake controller is really kind of cool. It's got an emergency handle on it to engage the trailer's brakes without touching the Jeep's brake peddle.

I also checked the blue-top battery's voltage before hooking up the trailer to the Jeep, and it read 12.1 volts. I then hooked up the trailer and turned the Jeep on, and the volts went up to 13.2, so there is power coming back from the Jeep. :thumbsup: After I towed it around for about a half an hour, after unplugging the trailer, the battery was at 13.3 volts. :thumbsup:

I'm still considering my battery venting options. I've read a lot of opinions about venting batteries, which is a good thing of course, even with an Optima/AGM battery. I kind of hate the thought of putting holes in the side of my trailer for vent tubes, as it's an airtight box. This trailer will see plenty of dusty, dirt roads... so I'm now thinking about moving the battery box to the tongue like most trailers?

Also, I was just looking at jscherb's thread on his fiberglass Jeep tub trailer, and I really like his larger rack on the front. So I may have to modify mine...
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Lastest updates...

I have installed a trailer battery charging module. This is pretty cool! Not only will it isolate the trailer and vehicle batteries when not charging, but it also won't start charging the trailer's battery until the vehicle's battery is fully charged, and then it will cut off charging the trailer's battery once it's fully charged. Nice! (I mounted it on the side of the battery box.)

Secondly, I had a battery switch that I had bought sometime ago for my Jeep that I never installed. The above module of course should do it's job, but I decided to go ahead and also install this switch on my trailer as just a backup to manually isolate the batteries. (It's mounted on top of the battery box.)

The trailer is NOW trail rated. :shhh:

I also found this cool net for the top of the trailer. I will probably place a large duffle bag on top with outdoor chairs, etc. I'll also use some other straps, but this net will be nice to have. It has plastic clips, that fit perfectly with the tie down loops on the lid. Another nice!

Next month I'm off the Michigan U.P. for a camping trip, including to visit Drummond Island. The trailer is mostly packed and ready to go. It's awesome having all that extra room as I'll be living big in the woods.
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Here are some pictures from yesterday as the trailer is mostly packed up! I've done my best to organize it so that everything has it's place and is easy to find. I have to say it's been fun to outfit it! Currently I have two four-galloon water jugs inside. I no longer have the original rack on the front, but I'll have to build a new one as I'd rather have the jugs outside (and this will help as next year I want to go to Moab). But being inside they'll work for now.

I also took it for test pull yesterday through the country. Although I have a cushioned ball mount, with the added weight on the tongue, it doesn't jerk much at all. It tows great!

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I just returned from the trailer's maiden voyage for a vacation/ camping trip to the Michigan UP.

Here are my observations after a 1500 mile tow with my two door, 3 inch + lifted TJ.
1) I'm again sold on electric trailer brakes with a controller in the Jeep. After the first rain storm, I noted that I had the controller turned up a little too high as the wet brakes were making the trailer's brakes easily lock up. So I adjusted the controller down due to the trip's damp weather conditions.

2) My Jeep stops better with the trailer in tow!

3) The trailer felt good as it followed the Jeep smoothly with no sway. On two lane country roads and dirt roads, the trailer felt great behind my Jeep.

4) The trailer's tire PSI was too high to begin with. It was set a 25, and when loaded and driving off of a dirt road onto paved, I noticed that the outside of the MTR's lugs were not showing wear (like doing a chalk test), so I lowered the PSI to 20.

5) On the interstates (mostly on the way home), I could do 70 mph, but chose to keep it down to 65 mph. I felt better about keeping the Jeep and trailer in the lane when hitting rough patches of road. Outside of Lansing, the highway was very "wavy" to where semi trailers in front of me were bouncing, and so were my Jeep and the trailer. We all slowed down to 55 mph for about 5 miles. I'm not saying that the Jeep is unstable, just that you know that they get pushed around easy from wind, bumps in the road, acts of God, you name it!

6) Passing semis from the other direction didn't move the trailer around at all.

7) I don't have a clue what the trailer weighs, but I can still move it around by hand when it's loaded, but still, I don't think I'd want to tow much more then it weighs. (Say 600 lbs.?) I'd never attempt to tow at the TJ's max tow weight. (As I had stuff in my Jeep as well, and my wife.)

8) The TJ's 4.0 tows a lot better then my wife's KJ with it's 3.7. I kept off the overdrive for the entire trip, and even experienced a record 14.7 mpg on one trip that was mostly 55 mph on a two-lane road. The 4.0 has lots of grunt and never sounded like it was running too hard.

9) Due to the cool weather (in the 60s mostly), I did not hear the Derale transmission cooler that I had installed last year run at all on this trip.

10) The weight of the trailer brought down the back end of the Jeep by 1/2". Should I consider 1/2" spacers in the rear if I tow a lot more? I did not feel like the front was pointing to the sky at all. (I have OME HD springs.)

11) Having the extra room that this trailer has brought is great! Everything but my cooler in this picture below came from inside the trailer. :thumbsup:

12) Having additional battery power is a nice option. I didn't use it for more then charging iPhones and my MacBook for this trip, but it's still nice to have. What else can I power?

And... the best fresh white fish can be found at Brown's in Paradise, MI. But note that if they don't have a good morning's catch, then they won't open for the day. :wave:

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^Marns, as far as the battery charging module, it's the TBCM-40A and just call the manufacturer directly and ask for their sales. I think it was $70 with shipping. Not cheap, but I had it recommended by travel trailer guys to yes keep the battery from overcharging should something go wrong. Atkinson Electronics, Inc. at 801-261-3600.

UPDATE: Link to module:

Thanks for the recommendation on the shocks. I may put some more weight on the trailer in the future, such as a roof top tent (like the 95# Ayer Tepui tent). I am driving to Utah end of next summer and I will carry some extra water and a jerry can too. So I'll look into that idea.

That is a nice idea about the blender! Cool stuff like that would be awesome! Ha! Currently I have the battery and inverter inside the trailer. I'm thinking about putting a small box on the front and move the battery there, and then put a power outlet on the box for easier access to plug in from outside. Trailers are cool!
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^Yes, nice price. The Ayer Tepui tent is about that price too, and it's a little lighter at 95#. I will probably have to install some additional bars on top of the trailer to mount the tent to.

With my recent trip to the Michigan U.P., I have gone to cots and air mattresses, which just take up room in the tent and in the trailer/Jeep. An RTT just sounds nice being quick to open and off the ground. I think I'd use it a lot!
My buddy is running a canadian M101, with a RTT, and he put a small tongue box on it and is running a small inverter as well. Would def be cool with external switches and something like an outdoor power outlet on the outside of the box or trailer!
Okay, that sounds like a good trailer project to work on this winter! I really like that idea with the outside outlet.

I also would like to have a mount for a propane tank as my wife recently bought me a Campfire in a Can! (Which will be nice to have for when places out west have campfire bans.)
This arrived today, which was a black Friday deal. It's a Tepui Ayer roof top tent. :thumbsup:

My trailer is in storage so this will be a spring project. I'm not exactly sure how I'll mount it, as typically an RTT attaches to a roof rack, which the trailer doesn't have. It does have bars running across the center that I may drill into through the lid to attach it.

So it seems that I'll be selling my really nice ground tent, sleeping pads and cots. :thumbsup:
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^Funny you should ask...

I pulled out the RTT yesterday and bolted the rails on the bottom that typically attach to an SUV's roof rack. And wow! The RTT just pops open! It's a small RTT, but it's got enough room inside for two being 4' x 8'. This is going to be big improvement over a ground tent.

I also made a wood template to assist with drilling through the lid of the trailer as the holes need to be spot on. I'll drill through the lid's two center rails (at least I'm hoping that works). I also went to Lowes and found some longer 8mm bolts as I may need them. I also bought several tall jack stabilizers, as I figure I'll need one on each end of the trailer to make sure it's level and stable.

Next weekend I'll pick up the trailer as it's in storage.

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So I picked up the trailer today from storage. I towed it home with my wife's KJ as my TJ is also in storage. (I have limited garage space at home so my DD Honda gets my side of the garage in the winter.)

Earlier this spring I added a Mopar 7-way plug to the KJ. The KJ already had a 7-way harness running front to back, so it just needed a wire that plugged in back with the 7-way plug. The KJ also has wiring for a brake controller, however it stops just fine without utilizing the trailer's brakes. I don't intend to tow much with the KJ. The KJ's hitch does sit lower then the TJ's so the ball is 2-3/4" higher on the KJ and the trailer tongue was level.

I also noted that the trailer's Blue-top battery did trickle charge on the way home. Nice. I used the battery in fact to air up the tires a touch after the trailer had sat since October.

Kind of funny to see a trailer with larger tires then the TV. :)

I thought I'd try out the new GoPro so here is a 45 second video towing the trailer home. Yes, nothing exciting. It tows nice and stable. I have a trip to Utah end of summer so I'll be utilizing the GoPro for that trip! I plan to setup a GoPro mount on the trailer.

Anyway, once home I took some Rust-Oleum to the top of the trailer. Along the rails on the lid in places the bed liner spray didn't get completely under them and I was getting a little rust.

I also checked the tongue weight of the trailer and as it's loaded with camping gear it's about 85# when using a bathroom scale. I have yet to know what the trailer weighs itself, but it's probably 500#? I may have to go find a scale.

Next weekend I'll work on getting the RTT on top of it. The wood template I created showed me that it should sit centered over the axle of the trailer, or slightly in front of it as I think I don't want to overly increase the tongue weight (the RTT is 95#). I may put more other stuff on the tongue later anyway. (Water, propane tank?)
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I've been thinking about this since Black Friday.

The tent is on and it's solid!


The key to getting the holes drilled dead on was the wood template. I bought some strips of wood and nailed them together just as the rails were on the bottom of the tent. I then marked and drilled the holes in the wood template, and made sure that the holes then worked with the tent's rails. (As shown below.)

I then put the wood template on the trailer and carefully drilled the 5/8" holes through the trailer's rails and lid. I then painted the holes and put sealant in. And low and behold, the bolts pushed their way through and I bolted them down from inside. It's a Festivus Miracle!

And the lid does open and stays up on it's own. It's a little heavier at the start, but once it's a 1/3 of the way up the lifts do their job. (I may look into stronger lifts.)

Sorry for the lousy iPhone pictures but it's gotten dark. I've got to put the ladder on the tent next, and then I'll get some better pictures in the daylight.
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