A DIY Teardrop Travel Trailer

Monday, March 4, 2013

Why build a teardrop travel trailer?

After taking a long journey out to Glacier National Park last summer in our Toyota Highlander SUV, I came to the conclusion that I needed some type of RV. (Check out Trip Pics Here!)  I'm more of a traditional tent camper, but can immediately see the benefits of having a rolling enclosure that has everything you need.  The compromise, was a teardrop travel trailer.  Through the wonders of Google, I discovered the TNTTT.com website which is a community of teardrop builders.  Caution, browsing this forum can suck countless hours out of your life.

I knew that this would be one of the biggest projects of my life, so I started reading, and planning, and scheming.  7 months after making the decision to construct a teardrop, I actually ordered a custom trailer and had the side templates cut from a CNC machine.  This blog will be my journal as I progress through the build process, hopefully making it easier for others in the future for their builds.

Choosing a Design

After making the decision to build a teardrop trailer, I needed to decide on the shape and style of teardrop that I was going to build.  I instantly made the decision when Google'ing teardrop trailers that I would make a woodie and saw this amazing teardrop.  Not even 30 seconds into my initial search, I came across the image of the teardrop below, and knew that mine needed to have the same classic wooden boat feel.  Working as a Lake Rescue employee for the University of Wisconsin Lifesaving Station for over 20 years has taught me to appreciate the old Correct Craft wooden boats.  That is what this tear reminded me of.

Then after spending months on the TNTTT.com forum researching teardrops, I fell in love with the shape of the ATMA Travelear.  The great thing about the teardrop forum is the helpful people who frequent the site.  The designer of the ATMA Travelear was gracious enough to not only share his trailer plans with me, but also the files he used to cut this trailer templates on a CNC machine.  In exchange, I cut his trailer logos in vinyl, in thanks for sharing his design. Having a CNC resource will not only save me time in the long run, but have a more precise build.  Dave's trailer is skinned in aluminum and has that old school art deco feel.  Mine will have the same shape, but be skinned in wood.

Building Space
I also knew that I would need additional space in my garage to even attempt this build.  After 7 years of accumulating stuff, and "storing" it in the garage put me in a pickle.  Step one was clearing out any unused junk, and moving seasonal items somewhere else.  I purchased a 8'x12' storage shed for my side yard.  Unfortunately, storage sheds are not free and I needed to organize and store all my non-seasonal equipment in here, which put a delay in the teardrop build to the spring of 2013.

In the meantime, I modified the ATMA Travelear's plans slightly and started creating my own drawings in Illustrator and Google Sketchup.  Sketchup is pretty easy to learn using online tutorials, and fit my needs for creating deck profiles and high level digital mockups of the teardrop.  Whether you use a cocktail napkin, or create precise engineering documents using AutoCad, I highly recommend having some type of drawing to create a plan.   

Here is the Google Sketchup model of my teardrop:

Having spent so much time pouring over the internet finding resources and information on teardrops, parts, camping accessories, build techniques, and design, I now am officially "Locked-in" with this project.  I wake up after dreaming about my teardrop build.  It's no longer a hobby, but an obsession.  I plan on sharing my notes, triumphs, failures, and overall build journal through this webpage to help document my progress and hopefully help someone in the future of their build.  I plan on using the expertise over at TNTTT.com and hope to get this teardrop camp-able sometime in 2013.  I also now know what "teardrop time" is, and accept that no matter how hard I try, there will be delays in the process.  

Current Build Codename:  Grillenium Falcon.


  1. Would you be willing to share the Sketch-up file? Caught the TD bug last week and am making plans now. Searching the internet for good drawings to look at during the process. Thanks!!!

    Keep up the good work.

  2. Hey I was looking for a RV Cover. Will someone please tell me how can i use it.

  3. Great successful effort on this car trailers because storage sheds were not free and you needed to organize and store all your non-seasonal equipment in there. thanks for sharing this great insightful post.

  4. Greetings,

    I have booked marked your blog and want to thank you in advance for all the help I expect to receive from it. I used to do a lot of heavy camping (re-enactment ) years ago and already have a trailer that I used for that. It functioned as the pack horse for my gear (18' X 14' canvas pavilion and all the associated kitchen camp gear) as well as providing tables (the sides converted with fold down legs) and my bed / Queen futon platform (the tongue folded under in 1/4 of the pavilion). So I have now caught the TD bug, and will be starting as soon as the snow melts this spring. I am hoping to have it electric / battery / solar flexible and as off grid as possible so I will be using your blog for a resource and as I get closer and can better identify my questions I may reach out to bounce some off of you if you wouldn't mind.