Find Your Next Adventure

Tear Drop Camper Obb-A-Long

What’s new in 2015
We added a great big new addition to our Obbergo family… A nearly 800LB bouncing baby Obb-A-Long XL
Ok I built a one-of-a-kind Tear drop camping trailer… And I do mean one-of-a-kind… this baby is unlike anything else you will ever see. First of all, I built the teardrop because I always wanted to build one…

But more importantly I wanted to give you, our dedicated readers, a first-hand account of our camping adventures, and what better way to do that than equipping our one-of-a-kind Obb–A–Long with everything we need to video events, take plenty of pictures and be totally self-efficient off the grit and in any wilderness area we want to go. We are powered with a 12 V Marine battery that has a continuous charging solar panel working all of our LED lighting. The full outdoor kitchen with a two burner propane stove, Grill and a 25 gallon freshwater storage tank built in, let you cook any gourmet meal.  Inside, a cell phone charging station, queen-size memory foam bed, plenty of storage for clothing, shoes, towels and personal necessities and an overhead venting fan, for those hot summer nights, heck we even have a portable toilet ,all the conveniences of home.
Like I said I’ve always wanted to build a teardrop camper but didn’t much care for the work involved in caring for a wood structure on wheels, whether it was covered with aluminum or just wood siding, the time in the care I would need to put into upkeep was kind of overwhelming, I’m a carpenter by trade and I love building and caring for wood but time is time and I’d much rather be looking for my next adventure.
So one day as I was working on one of the many projects in the shop, I was using a combination of Ipe wood and King StarBoard and had a great idea. Just as a side note Ipe is a Brazilian hardwood Also called Brazilian walnut, Ipe (pronounced ee-pay) wood is typically found in South America and some parts of Central America. It is one of the densest hardwoods available, three times harder than cedar. Ipe has the same fire rating as concrete and steel, meaning it resists flames much longer than softer woods, and is so dense that it doesn’t float in water. Because of its durability, Ipe wood often is used outdoors as decking and siding. Inside, it’s typically seen in flooring or cabinetry, this is where you hear the break reaching sound… Back to the story, the StarBoard triggered an idea of an all plastic teardrop camper.

Ipe Wood and King ColorCore

Ipe Wood and King StarBoard
What is StarBoard anyways you ask, Well the manufacture is King and StarBoard is the original marine-grade high-density polyethylene sheet and the industry standard.  Technically speaking it is the product of a proprietary process called K-Stran™, the most advanced manufacturing process for superior flatness and consistency. King StarBoard is environmentally stabilized to withstand the harshest marine conditions. It will not warp, rot, or delaminate when exposed to humidity or water. King StarBoard is easy to fabricate with standard woodworking tools and requires little or no finishing.
Ok…. It makes a great product to build a teardrop camper with very little upkeep if any. I have built outdoor cabinetry for kitchens, playground equipment, benches and chairs, and many many signs and a power washer every few years keep them looking brand new. The two products that I’ve been most familiar with have been the StarBoard and ColorCore, they are very similar products.  King ColorCore is a versatile, environmentally stabilized sheet with multiple layers of contrasting colors. Its thin cap layers and bright primary colors make it ideal for signage, marine, playground and recreational applications it is easy to engrave and machine as StarBoard.
One thing I was a little concerned about is the weight, StarBoard weighs about 100 pounds for a ½ inch thick 60” x 96” sheet so after a discussion with my supplier Piedmont Plastics, King, has another product that’s called StarLite XL it is an economical cellular (closed cell) utility sheet made from select high-grade King StarBoard recycled high-density polyethylene. It is ideal  for applications where edges aren’t visible. King StarLite XL is up to 35% lighter in weight than King StarBoard and it offers the same quality textured surface on both sides. So for the same size sheet the weight is 25 pounds less, great new, pulling a lighter teardrop camper would be much easier up and down hills to get to all of our adventures in the mountain.
So the build…
I had a close friend of mine build me a steel trailer using C-channel  3” I’m not the best of welders, C-Channel is exactly what it sounds like, it’s an open C shaped steel ,  the reason it makes a great trailer ,is you can paint all four sides of the channel and not worry about rusting. Many trailers are built with tubing which doesn’t allow you to paint the inside and end up rusting from the inside out, so the C-channel makes a more durable and longer-lasting frame.  We used a torsion trailer axle versus a leaf spring axle. Torsion axles have a straightforward, attached construction with adjustable ride height and a rubberized suspension system. Four rubberized cords are inside the axle housing which handle suspension travel and shock absorption. As each wheel moves up and down, the rubber cords compress offering an even wheel suspension system for a smooth ride. In addition, this system offers trailer rigidity as the axle is bolted to the trailer frame. With this additional cross member, the frame is stiff and this reduces flex in cross winds and on rough roads. This system is less likely to corrode as each torsion axle tube is galvanized inside and out and there is no metal-to-metal contact, the only maintenance that you need to worry about is the standard wheel bearing maintenance and lubrication. Leaf spring axles are less compact than torsion axles and take up more space and add more weight to your trailer. The downside is that leaf spring axles need more maintenance than torsion axles do so with that and torsion axles tend to be lower to the ground, which is good for my application, leaf spring axles will have more clearance but I wanted to be as low as possible.  A torsion axle, with its lower center of gravity will offer improved handling and better cornering.
So as I was waiting to get my steel trailer, I decided to build a 2 x 4 frame as a temporary base and get started building my teardrop. The size of the teardrop was an easy decision, the torsion axle, memory foam queen mattress, and the StarBoard material all ended up being 60” which worked perfect as the width. The length of the teardrop started out as 8’ but I had some extra material I used from the cutoffs of the curve on the sidewalls, so I extended it another 2’ to make it a total of 10’ which worked perfect with the mattress and the kitchen in the back. We wanted as much head room as possible so the 60” StarBoard worked great as a height.
I started with a few sheets of ¼” plywood and made a template for the sides. I had the general idea of the shape but drawing it on a piece of plywood made me a lot less nervous when I cut the StarBoard. I found a couple of doors online, I like the idea of the doors being already equipped to screw right in the opening  locks installed with the sliding glass and screen, however I think next time I’ll just built my own doors simply because of the cost. So, after installing the base sheet and attaching the two sidewalls to the base using 2”non-rusting screws, I was ready to connect the two sidewalls to one another. I used 2” x 2” aluminum tubing that I purchased at Home Depot, the tubing  actually is made for screen framing and is equipped with a screw spline which is simply a place to be able to screw into to connect the two pieces together.

1/4″ plywood templete

Sidewalls, base and temporary frame

2″x2″ aluminum tubing to sidewalls

The next step was the outer roof skin, I used ¼ “ StarBoard material a light gray color, it looked great with the white sidewalls. I used a butyl tape material to seal the roof top onto the side walls, on a nice hot day it formed very nice over the aluminum tubing. Butyl tape is made primarily of macromolecular Polynomial polymers, very sticky stuff. The design guarantees that it is air impermeable, waterproof and insulating. Butyl tapes offer an instant water-tight bond for optimum sealing. It also offers conformability to irregular surfaces and secures protection when used as a sealant against moisture and dust, you know technically.

1/4″ StarBoard roof cover 1st piece

Tops on!
The back tailgate was the next thing, I simply formed the heavy-duty aluminum tubing… Okay it wasn’t simple, bending heavy-duty aluminum tubing was no picnic, actually my good friend that built my trailer  and his wife beat the heck out of them until they could get him form to the size that I wanted, I wish I could take credit for it, but I did supply them with the template. After I got the two outside pieces I connected him with the 2 x 2 aluminum tubing that I got from Home Depot and had myself a tailgate. I covered the tailgate with the same ¼” StarBoard material I used for the roof skin.
Once I had the outside shell completed I was ready to run the interior wiring for the LED lighting, the phone charging station, and the vent fan connecting  to the 12 V marine battery. I simply drilled through the 2 x 2 aluminum tubing and installed plastic grommets to protect the wires and ran all the interior wiring complete with switches.
Once I got my trailer back, all painted and ready to go, I installed my new Moon rims and13” trailer tires “sweet” I was ready to simply slid the StarBoard body onto the trailer and attached it through the floor, it worked perfect.  I installed the outside LED lighting for the taillights and running lights and ran it through the bottom of the frame up to a connection point next to the hitch.

I made me a couple fenders from ¾” StarBoard material that I had laying around from another project, it worked perfect. First, I cut a strip to size and finished the edges, next I clamped the two ends together to make it arch, I sat it out in the hot sun and went out every 15 minutes or so and tighten the clamp. After a few hours I had the perfect bend to form the ideal indestructible fender, which I used 6” lag bolts to attach on the inside of the wall.
The black trim work was next, I cut it to size and again use the hot rays of the sun to soften the material to make the bends. I used ½” material for most of the trim work.  I really like the combination of the white walls, light gray roof, and the flashy black trim. I used aluminum carriage bolts to connect all of the components together, no maintenance and they look great.

The back kitchen works great; there are plenty of cabinets to store your cooking supplies and a nice large work area to prepare your food. I used black white black ColorCore for the doors of the cabinets; they gave it a nice look that I’m very happy with. A few liftgate hardware pieces and a light finished off the kitchen. Maybe a few other items along the way too!

Charging Station

Storage Rack with the finished ceiling

Kitchen with plenty of storage

Level and Jacks
My favorite part of the entire build was the last thing that I did, the spare tire mount on the back of the teardrop. It really makes the teardrop look cool and it has a purpose, more than the obvious that it’s a spare tire, it swings open and tilts up to form a table. I added a star board fitted top to complete the surface.
I hope you enjoy reading about my teardrop build and we can’t wait to write about her future adventures in the Obb-A-Long  teardrop camper.

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@ Obbergo 2012