Building a temporary extension to a cargo trailer?

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Papa Bear
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Building a temporary extension to a cargo trailer?

Post by Papa Bear » Fri Feb 23, 2018 11:35 am

OK, so my wife and I are looking at simplifying how our living space works on playa this year, and skipping the yurt (which is awesome, but also takes a lot of effort on top of building the theme camp).

Since an RV isn't in the budget, we're looking at just sleeping on a platform in our cargo trailer. That's something we've done several times, it's just never been our primary shelter for the burn. It's a 6' wide x 10' long x 6.5' enclosed steel box with a side door up front, and the bed will be on a raised platform in the back (with storage tubs underneath).

Having been spoiled by my Figjam box cooler, I'd like to be able to cool the air inside of the trailer via a swamp cooler or AC unit - but I'd rather not have to cut holes in the trailer to do so. Instead, I'm thinking of building some panels that would let me hold the 2 rear doors partially open while capping the top, bottom, and the vertical space in between the door ends - the idea being that I could just modify that vertical panel to handle whatever cooling system I want to use.

It doesn't *seem* like a major technical challenge, aside from figuring out how to seal the gaps by the door hinges (foam strips + painters tape?) and working out a system for locking the three panels + 2 doors together securely. I'd imagine the doors should hold up fine as long as they can't swing and the caps are supporting the edges the way the door frame normally would. Paint rubbing could be an issue, but I have quite a bit of touching up to do there anyway - the trailer is sturdy, but not pretty.

Anyone ever tried anything similar? I've been unable to find any similar examples in the archives or via google, which makes me think I'm considering something either really unusual or just unusually stupid.

To be clear, this would only be installed while stationary; I'd never consider driving with it. I also wouldn't be expecting the bottom "cap" to hold any significant weight - I'm just trying to create a solution for cool air, not add extra floor space.

Creating shade and adding insulation are also part of the mix, I just think I have a better handle on how to manage those.

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Ratty
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Re: Building a temporary extension to a cargo trailer?

Post by Ratty » Fri Feb 23, 2018 12:51 pm

Maybe im misunderstand you. In my minds eye you leave one door closed and put a panel in to replace only the open door. Or do you have your heart set on expanding the area?
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Papa Bear
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Re: Building a temporary extension to a cargo trailer?

Post by Papa Bear » Fri Feb 23, 2018 12:58 pm

Hmm, hadn't actually thought of that - I had symmetry on the brain, and so was thinking both doors would be open partially - so looking from above, the "caps" would be trapezoidal.

Doesn't seem like there's any reason doing it with just one door wouldn't work, though - and that would reduce the dimensions of the extra panels. I don't want to actually remove the door or allow it to swing freely, though.

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Re: Building a temporary extension to a cargo trailer?

Post by Traveller in Time » Fri Feb 23, 2018 1:26 pm

You could use a center post with foam strips outward touching both doors. That would only require a small overlap of the fixed wall and the used door.
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Re: Building a temporary extension to a cargo trailer?

Post by mournlight » Sun Feb 25, 2018 6:53 pm

Hey, Papa:
I have about the same size enclosed trailer. I built an air gap that travels from the ground, up through the walls, into the ceiling which is all isolated from the interior compartment of the trailer. There is also a layer of insulation. So, it's a box inside a box. Even in last year's heat (hope to not repeat that this year) it was tolerable inside in the day. The total gap is about 4 inches. I also shaded the sides. I used solar to power a couple of fans. You'll notice (I think) that there is a bit of space above your rear doors. That's the amount you could isolate and draw out the back if you don't want holes in your roof. You don't have to move a whole lot of air to keep the heat from piling up inside the air gap. You just have to make sure the air gap is all connected, or all has a place to pull in cooler (shaded) air.
The other "cool" thing about the double walls is that it really isolates the sound. It was pretty darned quiet.
Just my opinion, but having done it without the insulation, I think you'll find that Figjam's cooler isn't sufficient for how much the walls heat up without venting.
I really like my enclosed trailer. It feels stouter than an rv.
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Re: Building a temporary extension to a cargo trailer?

Post by Papa Bear » Sun Feb 25, 2018 7:29 pm

Thanks for the advice, mournlight.

I do plan to shade the trailer (likely a flat-top shade structure using some aluminet I already have), and I definitely will need to insulate it. Right now it's just a steel skin over the steel frame; it doesn't even have any plywood or luan lining the walls. If I don't change that, I don't figure I stand much chance, additional cooling or not.

I'd been thinking an air gap/vent channel might make sense, I just haven't figured out the best way to do that and still haul what I need to haul. Could you elaborate a little more on how you built your "box inside a box"? Was it a 4 inch gap on all sides, or just 4 on top? What did you use for insulation?

FYI, I'm not at all tied to the box cooler. When I first built it, I was doing everything off of a battery, but I've since acquired a Honda eu2000i. Given that, I think a small window AC unit is probably the smarter option if I do want active cooling- it's much less space than the box cooler, and means I don't have to haul extra water.

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