The Mule

This began with an exhausting Craigslist search for what I thought would be the ideal long-term camping and canoe hauling platform: an old Datsun truck-bed trailer. The last long trip we took saw 500 pounds of water sitting in the back of the Disco with all the other gear, and even with the OME heavy duty springs it was not fun to drive. We ended up supplying water for most of the group during the first few days just to get the weight down. After finally tracking down a trailer that didn’t disappear before I could reach the seller, we made the 8-hour drive down to Tuscon only to realize that the Datsun’s bed would be way too big for what I had in mind (the constant question was “Would I have been ok towing this on the Navajo trip?”). Fortunately, we found this little guy sitting right next to the Datsun, and he only wanted $300 for it:

mule 01mule 02mule 03mule 04

This was originally a generator trailer and has a 3.5′ x 5′ x 2′ box. Like many off-road trailers, it is overbuilt almost entirely out of box tube (with the exception of the more than adequate angle ribs supporting the floor). It has minimal surface rust, and is otherwise in excellent condition. It does lack any sort of suspension, but with the amazingly simple way the axle was mounted the frame is nice and clean—ready for any suspension setup we choose. We’re going to do this as a budget build, and try to keep the total cost at $2,000 (including wheels/tires) once completed. It will be running the same wheel/tire combo I have on the Discovery, so when I’m towing this I’ll have a complete set of spares (4).

The plan is to add a raised floor over a 40-50 gallon water tank and water pump, and partition off about a foot of the front of the box for batteries and other on-board equipment. A kitchen box with stove, sink and propane tank will be built into one side. The other side will store a camp shower, toilet, tent, cot, table and chairs. The tongue will get a rack to carry 6 jerrycans of fuel, and the top will get a removable (probably) rack to hold a spare tire and a canoe. Running lights will be converted to submersible LEDs, and LED floodlights will be added all around to aid with nighttime camp setup, cooking, etc. I might also add solar (and/or wind) at some point to keep the batteries topped off when parked in camp, and perhaps an awning over the kitchen.

Ideally, this leaves approximately 3.5′ x 3′ x 1.5′ of easy-to-clean, multi-purpose cargo area open for whatever I might need to haul. I like the idea of keeping the open mesh gate and not filling up the entire trailer so I can still use it as a small cargo trailer when not camping. I’m also thinking about building the canoe rack a little wider than necessary so I can get full 4′ x 8′ sheets of plywood up there when needed.