Small Build: 5' Cargo Trailer or Squaredrop?

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Small Build: 5' Cargo Trailer or Squaredrop?

Postby Rustic313 » Tue Apr 02, 2024 10:46 pm

I am pondering a new build and would appreciate some advice... We just got a Tesla Model Y and I'm thinking about a trailer to go with it. In this post I'm kind of thinking it through out loud and would appreciate inputs.
I've done 2x cargo trailer conversions previously so I'm very familiar with those, but haven't done the squaredrop build (nor have I lived with one). Right now I am considering a few options:
- 5x12 Cargo Trailer Conversion
- 5' Wide Nicer Squaredrop
- Quick & Dirty 4x8 Squaredrop

The family is currently me + spouse + three kids. Obviously a small rig is not going to fit all of us, but it would give DW and I place to sleep (climate controlled). I'm also somewhat interested in cargo space to lug all the camping stuff for a car camping/tent trip, or a basecamp for backpacking. While we do have a larger tow vehicle (and a 7x24 foot cargo conversion to go with it) which is great for larger/longer trips, it'd be nice to have a more agile "run about" with the Y for quick impromptu weekend trips. Mostly stuff within a 2 hour radius -- hitch and go to the nearby national park or state forest kind of deal. We also do some ski bumming in the winter, which is where a hard sided heated trailer really shines over a tent camp situation. If we had a small rig that was cost effective to tow I could see either DW or I hitching and going solo for a powder day a few times each winter.

The ski place we'd be likely to go to would be a maximum of 100 miles from the nearest supercharger.

6x12 Cargo Trailer Conversion -- Reference Option
- RANGE: 1 star. Cuts range to less than 45% of nominal, less than 140 miles. In the winter cut that another third.
We also have a 6x12 cargo conversion I was really leaning towards selling. Its built out moderately nicely but with the Y was really hoping to go smaller for better mileage. This is a steel trailer that's pretty heavy and I had it built extra tall for lots of headroom; behind our big diesel it tows like a dream but behind the Y it kills the mileage. The 7x24 is better for anything involving the whole family.

5x12 Cargo Trailer Conversion
- RANGE: 2 stars. I estimate it at as cutting the range to about 50% of normal, 150 miles between charging best case. In the winter more like 100 miles. Right on the edge of making it to the ski place in winter.
- VERSATILITY: 2-5 stars. If I put a galley in the back it will really restrict cargo hauling capability, although a pass through is possible. Without a galley, you can pop that door open and load whatever you want. All the kids tent gear would pop right in.
- HEADROOM: 4'10" to 5'4" headroom. I could get it built up to 6' usable headroom, but the taller it is the worse the range impacts get due to the aerodynamics. 5'4" is enough to stand (somewhat hunched over)
- LAYOUT/COMFORT: 4+ stars. With a 5x12, I can put some cabinets up front, a full size mattress in the back and maybe even some storage underneath a bed frame. When travelling solo there's space to put a folding camp chair inside in front of the bed to watch TV or read on a cold night (4'6" is the magic height for me to sit in a chair inside). For outside, an awning mounted on this is high enough to be usable in camp (i.e. you can walk under it without drama). I can definitely get a roof rack, roof water tank, and roof solar (although all that on the roof hurts mileage too).
- COST: An aluminum shell with windows, insulation, walls, etc about 80% finished would probably run about $7-10K. I'm looking at something like the Lightning LTF512SA.
- EFFORT: Pretty low. In the past I've done my own insulating, walls, paint, etc. In this one I'd probably just have the factory insulate and do the walls and maybe ceiling. If I feel really up to it I might do my own drop ceiling so that I can fit in more insulation and run my own wiring.

I could go even smaller, but most of the mileage hit is from the aerodynamics which is driven by the front and back of the trailer more than the length. The slight added weight from a few more feet is nothing compared to the gains in comfort and versatility IMO.

5'x?? Squaredrop
- RANGE: 3 stars. I estimate this at as cutting the range to about 55-60% of nominal, 165 miles between charging best case. In the winter cut that another third (maybe 110ish).
- HEADROOM: Depending on how I build it, probably about 4-5' headroom. The Y is 64" tall, so 4' headroom on top of an 18" trailer bed would pretty much keep it level with the car which is best for aerodynamics. I could go taller to, but in that case might as well go with a cargo trailer conversion, and it eliminates the ability to use easily sourced 4x?? construction materials.
- VERSATILITY: 3 stars. Depends on galley design, may be able to put some stuff through a passthrough, but the mattress will probably be right on the floor so there's no under bed storage space to use. I could potentially get a roof rack on there to get more usable space for water, solar, and a cargo bag at the cost of aerodynamics.
- LAYOUT/COMFORT: 2+ stars. We could fit a full mattress for two adults. It'd be tight but usable and 4' of headroom is not enough for sitting in a normal chain inside on a winter trip.
- COST: I'd have to price it all out, but probably a few grand. A basic 5x12 utility trailer is right around $1K these days. If I buy a COTS option like a Hiker, they're like $12K outfitted these days.
- EFFORT: High. This would require building the whole thing. Not insurmountable but it'd be a project.

4'x?? Squaredrop
- RANGE: 4 stars. I estimate this at as cutting the range to about 65% of nominal, 195 miles between charging best case. In the winter cut that another third (maybe 130ish).
- HEADROOM: Same as the 5' wide squaredrop.
- VERSATILITY: 1 stars. Really only able to sleep one. If I just skip the rear galley entirely I could buy back some cargo loading versatility (although this makes me wonder why not just use a 4x8 cargo trailer as a conversion base to save time?).
- LAYOUT/COMFORT: 1 star. We could fit a full mattress for two adults. It'd be tight and 4' of headroom is not enough for sitting in a normal chain inside on a winter trip.
- COST: Definitely the cheapest. I'd have to price it out but this would be pretty straightforward.
- EFFORT: Moderate. I think I could slap together a pretty basic 4x8 shell pretty quickly. I could also just get a 4x8 cargo trailer and do a quick conversion.
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Re: Small Build: 5' Cargo Trailer or Squaredrop?

Postby cdnred » Wed Apr 03, 2024 8:27 am

Considering that you've already got other larger trailers to accommodate the whole family, I assume you're looking for something smaller for just you and the wife. Also that you're looking at taking trips in the winter for ski trips, a hard insulated trailer is best suited for you with the added feature of being able cook inside. I'd stick to a 5ft wide as a 4ft might be a squeeze for 2 people inside. An 5ft x 8ft lg x 5ft high may get you better mileage and range. A 6ft high trailer may make things easier for walking around inside but will lower your gas mileage. A 5ft high would be my choice to be more stream lined when towing. Keep in mind the profile of your Tesla and it's tow capacity, 3500lbs. The lower the profile and weight will give you a longer range and mileage. Below is a link to someone's Square Drop trailer build. Note he built it as a teardrop with kitchen access on the outside. The kitchen though could easily be reversed so it has access from the inside rather then from the outside. The side walls could also be built higher (5ft) for more headroom inside. I think looking at his build, his might only have a 4ft high ceiling. With the rack on top like he built, you could carry your skiis or add a cargo box on top for extra storage. You may be able to find a cargo trailer already built in this size and just modify the inside to your liking. Rather then cots, you could use a fold up bench along the walls for sitting or sleeping. Either a Cargo or Square Drop in this size could be modified for your planned use..

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1oCEbH79Bbo
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Re: Small Build: 5' Cargo Trailer or Squaredrop?

Postby tony.latham » Wed Apr 03, 2024 9:30 am

4'x?? Squaredrop
- HEADROOM: Same as the 5' wide squaredrop.
.... (although this makes me wonder why not just use a 4x8 cargo trailer as a conversion base to save time?).
- LAYOUT/COMFORT: 1 star. We could fit a full mattress for two adults. It'd be tight and 4' of headroom is not enough for sitting in a normal chain inside on a winter trip.


Grab a tape measure and pull out 23". Take a look. That's how much room each of you have in a 4' wide camper. Seriously, grab a tape measure and take a look. Been there.

Secondly, we sit in our teardrop a lot, and certainly don't use a chair. We have more headroom in it than we do in our truck.

Image

Our backs rest on the headboard. It's comfy.

A cargo trailer will pull like a box and your energy consumption will reflect that fact. You keep mentioning a squaredrop. It's intuitive that they have more drag than a traditionally shaped teardrop that mimics an airfoil. So why not a teardrop? You'll hear it over and over; they are easier to build and are stronger.

:thinking:

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Re: Small Build: 5' Cargo Trailer or Squaredrop?

Postby OP827 » Wed Apr 03, 2024 5:48 pm

Did you consider foldable roof and walls streamlined and (ultra?)lightweight trailer made with xps foam? That could tow better with your Y than some square box. I also would go 5' wide, not a 4' if given that choice.
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