DIY Teardrop Trailer Tour

by Ben N on October 9, 2019

About 15 years ago, I built a teardrop trailer. At the time, I never dreamed I would tow it with an electric car! But here we are, living in the future!

A teardrop is a retro style of camping trailer with a shape, you guessed it, like a teardrop. These were popular after World War II, as there was plenty of aluminum sheeting left over from the war effort. These trailers have made a come-back recently. They are light, simple, and easy to tow.

What’s unique about THIS teardrop is that it was my first real DIY project. This was before the electric bicycle, electric motorcycle, and electric car. I had really never done ANY significant DIY project. So, I needed a helping hand. I ordered a set of “How-To” plans and followed them to build it. (Those original plans are still available for sale online.)

I bought a 4’x8′ bolt-together trailer from Harbor Freight, of course, using my 20% off coupon. I assembled the trailer and went from there. The walls are built from 1/2″ plywood, 1.5″ foam, and a 1/8″ interior panel. The exterior had a thin oak veneer, coated with spar varnish. The curved roof was covered with aluminum. I bought the aluminum from a business that repairs semi-truck trailers. The aluminum is literally what those trailers are made from. It’s beefy stuff and thicker than other aluminum more commonly available.

Hatch open.

One of the trickiest parts of the trailer is designing and building the hatch. It needs to be waterproof. DIYers typically use a “Hurricane Hinge” – a special pair of aluminum extrusions which act as a hinge, while still being waterproof. Even then, it’s a bit of a trick to make sure the hatch is completely weatherproof. I just used typical weather-stripping. Were I to do this project again, I think I’d try the style of weather-proofing used by hatchback cars.

The interior of the teardrop is warm and comfortable. For the mattress, I found a sale on a memory foam. All sizes were the same price, so I bought a King and then cut it down to fit the trailer. The cut-offs were used to make pillows and other projects. I also found that blue gymnastics mats work well in a teardrop. They are usually designed as 4’x8′, and fold into four 2′ sections. For a 4×6 sleeping area, the mat fits perfect with just one section folded up the wall. Gym mats are durable and damp-proof. Perfect for camping.

I wired the trailer for 12V electricity. It’s a simple system, with a 12V battery on the tongue and dome lights in the cabin, the exterior, and under the galley hatch. Each light has it’s own switch built in. We didn’t usually camp where we would have electricity. I did put a hole through the side of the camper, into the galley, and covered it with an outdoor-rated electrical cover. If we were at an electric site, we could bring an extension cord and simple pass it through the hole.

Simple galley in the rear.

The galley also has a simple layout. The plans called for building cabinets and even a sink and icebox! We already had plenty of camping gear and a removable cooler seemed like a more convenient idea than a built-in ice-box. So, I just designed the galley with an upper and a lower shelf. The upper shelf has the camp stove, food, and utensils. The lower shelf holds the cooler, water container, and a compact LP tank. I bought an adapter hose which allows me to use a standard LP tank instead of those wasteful (and expensive!) disposable 1lb. tanks.

The trailer tows extremely well. Weighing in at only 800 lbs, you can barely tell it’s there. Since it’s only 4 feet wide, you barely see it in the side-view mirrors either! It’s a perfect camping trailer for a hybrid or electric car.

I love this trailer. It was my first real project and I learned so much from working on it. It was perfect for my wife and I, but we are starting to outgrow it as our daughter is getting bigger. (We used to be able to have her sleep on the shelf in the cabin!) It’s probably time to sell the trailer and build something else.

There’s not that many things I would have done differently, knowing what I know now. One thing I would have was to use a different exterior finish on the walls. The Oak veneer has NOT held up. It did look FABULOUS when I first built it, but to do it right really requires a lot of maintenance with the spar varnish.

On a new trailer, I would build 5 feet wide. That extra space is really noticeable. But at the time, I didn’t know a thing about trailers, the plans called for the 4×8, and they were affordable and easily available. Had I NOT gone with the 4×8, I probably never would have built the project at all.

FanTastic Vent. Multi-speed plus reverse. Well worth it!

The one thing I would absolutely NOT skimp on is the roof vent! The Fan-Tastic Vent brand fan is great! It has three speeds and it very quiet. The reverse feature is nice to exhaust air from the cabin on a hot night and draw in cool air through the window screens. The “smoke” colored cover keeps the heat out during the day, while the clear blades means that the vent doubles as a skylight!

Teardrops are great trailers. They give you a nice place to sleep off the ground and a good level kitchen. They are small enough that they can be towed with a 4-cylinder, hybrid, or electric car. What a great blend of everything you need and nothing more.

If you want to build your own teardrop, I suggest checking out the Teardrops and Tiny Travel Trailer forums. (
If you want to simply BUY a trailer, some of the best out there are built by Camp-Inn. (

Our teardrop was a great project that lead to so many others! If you love camping and are a DIY’er, I highly suggest you build your own!

Until next time, stay charged up!
-Ben Nelson

Solar-powered electric car is the current tow vehicle.

PS: Here are some links to parts I used in the project. In some cases, the old part is no longer available. In others, such as LED lighting, I posted what I WOULD use now that wasn’t as easily available or affordable when I built the teardrop.

Interior LED Dome Lights:

Exterior LED Dome Lights:

Coleman camp stove:

Camp Stove to big LP Tank Adapter Hose:

7 Gallon Water Jug:

Queen Size Memory Foam Mattress Topper:

FanTastic Vent – 3 speed & Reverse, Model 1250:

Spar Varnish – Looks beautiful, but be prepared for multiple coats and regular maintenance!:

Stainless Magnetic Door Catch:

Stainless Steel Piano Hinge:

Small Sliding Window for the door:

Hurricane Hinge:

Door and Hatch Handles:

Marine Fuse Panel with Switches:

Adorable small refillable Propane Tank (5 lb.)

Teardrop Trailer Plans:

Teardrop Trailer Design book:

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