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He Built A $2k Military Style Teardrop Trailer

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Here is a guest post by Steve Whelan on his DIY Teardrop Trailer.

It took $2,000 and about 5 months to build part-time. Why build it? I was bored and needed a project! I am an artist as well, “targeting” my work as “Urban Art” with a twist. The military aspects of my work bring on a different feeling of peace. It’s 4′ wide, 8′ long, based on “Big Woody” plans with my customization. It features all the basics to survive. Gas, propane, water

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He Built A Military Style Teardrop Trailer For Only $2,000 USD


Images © Steve Whalen

How cool is this? A teardrop trailer camper with military style.


It’s all completely custom-built.


Here’s a look at it from the side.


Towing with a Ford Explorer. 🙂


The galley with grill, cooler, sink.


A teardrop camper is a great way to camp with some luxuries.


It also makes for a great project. It’s kind of like building a tiny house on wheels, but much smaller.


Want to go inside? I thought so. Here it is… Basically sleeping quarters with storage, lighting, and ventilation.

Cabinets and Clip On Shelf

And a little night stand, too.

Cabinets With Clip oin Side Table

What do you think of teardrop campers?


There are some extra features on the outside, too.

Dry Fit Jerry Can Holder

Like this flip up table.

Exterior Table

Fire extinguisher and a quality flash light.

Extinguisher and Flashlight

A tank for whatever you may need. Extra fuel, maybe?

Gas Can Installed

This is what it looked like before it was finished and painted.

Hatch Propped Open Interior 2 Interior Cabinets With Door Open Interior Roof Fan Interior Window Mattress Clearance Pillow Sleeping Bag Jack Stand Installed Shovel Attached Upper Galley Cabinets

Images © Steve Whalen

110v hook up
12v deep cycle battery
LED lighting in kitchen
12v interior lights
Locking interior cabinet doors
Laptop sized shelving (no need for TV)
2.5 gallon fresh water
Faucet/sink/drain (self contained)
Fully operational screened windows/doors
Roof fan/vent
Exterior skin is covered with canvas, primer and paint, trimmed with aluminum
Custom decal and authentic military stencil lettering
Real Mortar rocket carrying case used for storage
Clip on tables (3)
Food/pots storage

More Info from the Artist/Builder 🙂

I’m an artist at heart and have all my life felt the need to create. Whether it’s a pop art canvas of Amy Winehouse or a customized Technics turntable, if it pops into my mind I get the urge to build it.

I am an on-air DJ in Laguna Beach, Ca and often attend 3 day music festivals (Coachella, Lightning in a Bottle etc.) on a regular basis.

One year I spent some time with 2 other guys in a tent which was not ideal and thought there has to be a better way! After a few months of “non creating” I got the urge to build something. Something special that is unfamiliar to most people…

I have been following the “Small House Movement” that is becoming very popular these days and after researching a home trailer build I discovered the Teardrop.

Most of my creations take a military theme but I switch it around to be “Non violent”. I created a painting not so long ago featuring a soldier launching a mortar but I switched out the mortar for a microphone as if to say “Talk” don’t “fight”, there’s no need!

I did buy the “Big Woody” plans so I had a template to cut out the traditional shape. From there on the rest was customized by me.

Careful thought went into every aspect of the build which actually prolonged build time. Once I know what I want to create the rest goes fast.

The trailer itself is a Harbor Freight foldable rated for 1100 lbs.

Every aspect of the teardrop was built by hand, by me over a 5 month period (part time). No physical help from others what so ever. Joining blogs and FaceBook groups is an invaluable tool. Many people came to my rescue when I had questions.

I actually used free and recycled items such as the re-purposed mortar cases on each side. they were originally attached together with a carrying handle to which I split them and mounted them for cable/flashlight/battery storage… Airtight/watertight.

I decided to use a single mattress to give me a little wiggle room inside.

Some space saving ideas are the removable tables (3), tongue box, lockable interior cabinets

To seal the exterior I used the glue/canvas/glue method followed by multiple coats of primer and deck paint. The canvas was actually Ikea curtains!

I designed the custom decal and official stenciling as used in the military.

The code is… K= Special Vehicle TD= Teardrop GS= General Support #=1

Having electrical experience the teardrop it wired for 12v and 110v. If needed I carry a generator in my SUV.

What would I do differently on my next build? Well I would add a retractable power cable somewhere as my generator is best hidden away for noise purposes. I would also incorporate a roof rack for a canoe or bike.

One issue I have ran into is that nobody knows how to categorize the teardrop when attending the music festivals. It’s the same size as most small tents but it’s on a trailer. “Not much of a problem” I hear you say, well the price difference for attending the festivals is very large between tent camping and RV camping.

A big thanks to Steve Whalen for sharing his DIY teardrop trailer with us!🙏

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Andrea is a contributor for TinyHouseTalk.com and the Tiny House Newsletter! She has a passion for sharing tiny and small house stories and introducing you to new people, ideas, and homes.
{ 16 comments… add one }
  • Martha F.
    July 18, 2015, 11:55 am

    I’ve wanted a teardrop camper forever. The twin mattress makes all the difference in the world and makes the inside seem much more spacious.

  • Jai
    July 18, 2015, 12:13 pm

    Thank you Alex for your insightful newsletter. I’ve been a voracious reader and have studied many of the posts. This is my first comment.

    Absolutely brilliant Steve!!
    Very thoughtful, creative and… “I want one too in blue!”
    Please share with me your decision to put canvass and not aluminum on the shell. My thought is likely a weight issue.
    I also liked the twin mattress. I was thinking, for my needs, a twin futon mattress when folded would provide a me a platform for enjoying my handiwork. I’d place a folding chair just outside the door

    The placement of the flashlight and fire extinguisher was well thought out. I’m already thinking of a solar panel set up.

    I do hope your creative genius hits again soon. Looking forward to your next patch of downtime! Would you be open to an email dialogue?
    All the best,

    • Steve
      July 21, 2015, 3:04 am

      Thanks for your comment Jai. I’m thinking of building a smaller version that can be towed with a bicycle. I’m i’m in the early design stages but the final creation will be donated to a worthy being. Someone in need of a place to sleep. The canvas idea came a bout because of the many layers of glue/fabric/primer/paint made it possible to create a texture along with waterproofing. Although there are not many teardrops out there of those that are most are aluminum. I wanted a different look, not so polished… Hit me up anytime,

      • Bong Jae YOO
        October 13, 2016, 9:44 am

        Dear Mr. Whalen

        May I ask if it is possible to purchase one of your military style teardrop trailer should you have one more? Or have an idea of building one more?
        When so what would it cost?
        Thank you very much .

  • CG
    July 18, 2015, 12:20 pm

    Awesome build. I have never seen such great use of space in one of these before and the construction looks super-clean.

  • Rebecca
    July 18, 2015, 2:03 pm

    My first thought was that white start made for target practice by a helicopter. My bad. Darling camper.

  • Toni
    July 18, 2015, 3:12 pm

    I’ve wanted to build a tear-drop forever… I’m having problems finding the type of door you have on yours…

    • Steve
      July 21, 2015, 3:05 am

      I bought my door used from a teardropper on a FaceBook blog

  • Susanne
    July 20, 2015, 1:53 am

    Very nice!
    Should be classified as a tent then because of the size and he does not need any hook ups that RV’s would require. Certainly is stressful isn’t it? The guy builds something nice, not too expensive, in order to travel to concerts which he enjoys-W/O the extra expense of hotel and eating out, taking it all with him and not leaving anything behind which hundreds of people do requiring people who need to be paid to clean it up and they want to charge him as if it’s a RV. Sad!

  • Steve in Palm Bay
    July 24, 2015, 10:11 am

    Looks unbelievably awesome Steve! I love it! Could use it for a maybe three months a year here in sweaty central Florida, but a great 3 months it would be! The older I get the more minimalist I become. Wondering if an exhaust fan of some kind might make it more habitable for the swampland and flatwoods? As a retired cop I can appreciate the Streamlight on the wall.

  • Paul
    March 30, 2016, 8:37 am

    Did you curve the wood on the front/rear of the tear drop trailer? Or is it pre-fab?

  • Steve Whelan
    July 24, 2016, 9:32 pm

    The wood was either cut to shape or bent, glued and strapped in place to dry

  • Cheryl
    June 15, 2017, 8:16 am

    Hi Steve,
    Were you ever a disjockey in Flint Mi?

  • Christopher Lawrence
    November 26, 2021, 6:03 pm

    Hello Sir, Awesome build. I just have one question…Did you paint the exterior with brush or spray? and how did you get it to lay so evenly?

    Thank You

  • Lee Jackson
    January 13, 2023, 1:17 pm

    How much would you charge to build me one, Sir? I’m a DAV and need it to travel closer to my small children. Please let me know.


    Lee Jackson

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