DIY Bug Out Trailer Built Your Way

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Build your own bug out trailer
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Editor’s Note: This article was generously contributed by Brian Carter and continues in the current theme of discussing vehicular options for bug out scenarios. For many of us who don’t have the ability to live year round at our survival retreat, a bug out vehicle is the next best thing. A bug out trailer could give you much-needed storage space and other amenities that could keep you safe or simply make life better in a disaster scenario.


 

As disaster prepping continues its precipitous rise in popularity it seems every conceivable gadget, defense rig or bit of advice has been done or handed out. Everything’s been thought of, right? Not so fast. When you come right down to it, that advice, those how-to’s are what works for them. “Them” are all the people out there on the internet writing blog articles and posting videos. Most of them have the best intentions. They want to impart their knowledge to others who might benefit from it. But how do you take what they offer and make it your own? How to tweak it, modify it and customize it to what works best for you? This is exactly what should be done for a bug out vehicle, or in this case a bug out trailer. It has to meet your specific needs and include those particular adaptations and improvements that will be comfortably functional for you when everything else is going down the tubes.

Where to Start

First, select a base trailer to build up into the perfect survival masterpiece trailer. Lucky, for you there are a ton of choices out there. Trailers in all shapes and sizes have been manufactured for decades to meet all kinds of utilitarian needs from the professional contractor or construction firm hauling equipment to trailers meant for moving goods to those built for transporting recreational toys. Add to those variations all the recreational camping trailers on the market and the choices seem pretty much endless.

Do your research, envision the finished trailer in your mind, go look at potential buys in person, seek out used trailers for sale to save money, and pick the one that best fits your needs. Remember the longer a trailer is, the more restricted it will be for some locations. Longer trailers, obviously, need a larger turning radius and more space, in general, to maneuver. They are also limited to predominately flat roads as they are unable to manage rolling trails with narrow troughs between steep inclines.

Consider theses types as potential bases to build out from;

  • Box utility trailers
  • Compact horse trailers
  • Teardrop trailers
  • Airstream trailers (compact versions)
To pull that trailer you need to first build your bug out vehicle.

These types provide solid bases from which to customize to your unique specifications offering enough variety to fall within particular budget constraints. The benefit of these trailers is they are already enclosed which is a head start, so to speak, which allows you to jump right into customizing the inside. Having said that, though, there are numerous examples of people who have built up open-topped trailers, or even homemade pickup bed trailers, into rugged, workhorse camp trailers capable of going anywhere the vehicle towing them can go. But more on those later.

Enclosed Trailer

Determine the type of space you want to have inside. Will the trailer be self-contained with room to sleep and move around or will it serve as a gear and supply storage and transport? Once the usage of the inside space is settled on you can set to designing the features; insulated walls, the sleeping and sitting areas, storage (gear, food, water), cooking equipment and fuel (Used inside or out? Is ventilation needed?) and windows.

The biggest decision to make (most likely made before even buying the trailer) is will it be a sleeper or a transporter. Will the environmental conditions require an insulated, indoor living area or will an expansion component like an attached tent or pop-up roof sleeper be sufficient and comfortable?

This trailer has almost every bell and whistle imaginable. Click the image for more photos and details.
This trailer has almost every bell and whistle imaginable. Click the image for more photos and details.

If you’re starting with what is, essentially, an empty box on wheels then it would behoove you add a layer of insulation, especially if you plan to sleep inside. The typical, recreational, camp trailer will already be insulated but it’d be worth checking its condition if the unit is an older model. Insulating a cargo trailer is done in the same fashion as insulating the walls of a house. The trailer will already have ribbed, structural support throughout, just as a wall has studs. Cut and fit sections of insulation between these ribs and cover over with sheets of plywood, measured and cut to fit properly and don’t forget to do the same with the roof.

From here, the rest is a custom job, built to your standards and needs. Aftermarket interiors such as cabinetry, foldout beds, convertible seating (into sleepers), and counters are available from various travel trailer retailers or you can build them yourself. Sinks and plumbing are easily found at supply stores and counters can be built to fit a typical camp stove. Research space-saving techniques online for innovative storage areas, utilizing every empty space inside and out. Add storage fuel and propane tanks, generators and batteries outside to avoid gasses from building up creating dangerous conditions inside. For additional energy supply needs beyond fuel, with most trailers’ flat roofs, consider installing solar panels or even a roof-mounted, wind turbine.

Sleeping tents are a popular add-on to some bug out trailers.
Sleeping tents are a popular add-on to some bug out trailers.

Open Trailer

The open utility trailer comes in a full range of forms and sizes. By the term “open” we mean what is essentially, a flatbed trailer with 1-2 foot sides all around or a shallow, open-topped box on wheels. A popular customization for these is to convert them into tent trailers. A number of companies have cropped up over the years that manufacture folding, or pop up tents that collapse into a zipped up square and overlays the open trailer. The tent and its support platform are hinged on one side and raise like a hatchback and serves as a cover lid for the open-topped trailer. The inside space is used for equipment and supply storage which can be partitioned off to effectively organize supplies. Or a portion of the inside houses slide out storage containers or even full, outdoor kitchen set ups with stove, sink and counter space.

Many people who go this route with their bug-out trailer make them into truly rugged, go anywhere contraptions. Fitted with independent suspension, off-road tires and specialized hitches with couplings that allow for extreme vertical and horizontal towing angles these trailers can go virtually everywhere the vehicle towing them can go.

Both types of trailers, open topped and enclosed, can incorporate external storage containers mounted to the outside walls, on over-sized wheel wells and to the roofs. There is often space on the trailer’s tongue for sturdy containers, propane tanks for cooking fuel or battery banks to store power. The customization opportunities are extensive, limited only by your imagination, time and to some extent, your wallet.

Trailers are really one of the most versatile, bug-out vehicle options able to carry all that’s needed for a survival situation – food, water, shelter and lots more – the essentials, all piled into a mobile home away from home.

About the author: As an environmental scientist and former County Emergency Planner, Brian lends his unique experience in emergency preparedness and wilderness knowledge to USPreppers.com for the sole purpose of helping you and your family better prepare for any emergency situation.

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Mike Lashewitz
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Mike Lashewitz

Yeah but few can afford this.

BobW
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BobW

Mike, I humbly disagree. Picking up an older 6×12 enclosed trailer that needs a little work can be done on the cheap. A buddy bought one that was ugly, but structurally sound for $300. He rewired, added a work bench, a bit of storage, and floor racks for three motorcycles. Total cost (excluding elbow grease) was ~$600. The problem I see, is that many lack the vision to organize a small space to fit all their needs under the roof. Check out motorcyclist type forums. Many live out of their little 6×12 trailers at the races. Beds that turn into… Read more »

Mike Lashewitz
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Mike Lashewitz

I meant the trailers imaged pre-built fantasy vehicles for the very affluent. I have a unit I built myself as well as a gas hogging 24 foot sub-urban escape vehicle with a 270 gallon fuel tank. The trailer has two sleeping racks and storage for a years supply of food for a family of 6.

BobW
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BobW

Shoot. I can’t believe I didn’t think of this before. If the brown mushy stuff has really and truly hit the fan and the BOV still works, why not run down to the local RV storage joint, bust in the crappy chainlink fence, and grab one of those little tear drop trailers? If the fan is mucked up, 99% of those puppies will never be moved by the actual owner. I’d never think of stealing something in ROL times, but if chaos has ensued, no one is going to blink at it, except to try to steal the one you… Read more »

Mike Lashewitz
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Mike Lashewitz

I thought about that and since I am not the only person who will shoot looters . . . .

Prepp or Die
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Prepp or Die

If I didn’t have my bug out rig, and I wanted to go with a trailer… I would go with a refrigerated trailer. It is already weather resistant and will be set up for a heating and cooling retrofit as it has a refer unit on it already.

Bolofia
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Bolofia

The concept makes sense for camping excursions and possibly for local/regional SHTF scenarios where the overall infrastructure is still in tact. However, what do you do when your bug out towing-vehicle won’t start because the electronics were fried in an EMP, or your local gas station ran out of fuel 30 minutes before you got there? Are you going to pull one of these units by hand?

Pat Henry
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That’s a good point Bolo, but wouldn’t that also apply to almost everything we acquire in the realm of prepping? Everything we have is only as good as our assumptions we conditioned it’s use on.

Bolofia
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Bolofia

I thought about the range of assumptions in the realm of prepping and came up with this conclusion: The planned mode of travel in a bug out scenario carries the greatest risk of failure. Nothing else (food, weapons, tools, first aid, clothing, etc.) has the exposure to unanticipated developments that could affect your intended/desired bug out method. For example, there are no SHTF scenarios that would alter the value or necessity of a knife or firearm, your selection of food, or the ability to provide shelter from cold or rain. On the other hand, there are innumerable circumstances that could… Read more »

BobW
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BobW

A little late responding, but your comment just made me think on this. What your thoughtful commentary leads me to is a single bug-out plan with multiple branches. Think of it as a decision tree. 1. We’re bugging out. 1a. Does the BOV work? Y – go to 2a. N – Go to 1b. 1b. Do the motorcycles work? Y – go to 2b. N – go to 1c. 1c. Can we move on the bicycles? Y – go to 2c. N – go to 1d. 1d. Prepare to hoof it. Go to 2d. 2. Loadout 2a. Load BOV per… Read more »

Bolofia
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Bolofia

BobW,
I am a great fan of Decision Analysis and have used it throughout my career. This discipline is as useful for Prepping as it is in business!

mike day
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mike day

To who this may concern I would.like anyone who thinks he or she could use a off road trailer look to my design ,go to my site at http://www.getoffroad.us .I can explain how.To.creat a trailer from a 5×8 trailer that will be a solid rig giving you a 3room design with a better type.hitch using a max coupler .