Enhance, expand, and extend your future adventures with a Compact Camping Concepts’ Dinoot M416 camping trailer and Yakima Skyrise Poler rooftop tent.

I’ve been towing a trailer off-pavement since 1975 when we explored deep into Baja California’s Sierra Juárez, which is Baja’s major mountain range. In our 1974 CJ5, with a 4x 6-foot cargo trailer that began life as a mid-’50s Chevy Step Side bed, we strapped our three kids into the Jeep’s backseat, tossed our mutt in with them, packed all our gear and supplies into the trailer, and headed south. (But that trip is a whole new article unto itself.)

A few years later, in 1978, we repainted the yellow trailer to match the maroon 1978 press-fleet CJ7 with which we’d be towing it to the annual Mile High Jeep Club All-4-Fun Week in Fairplay, Colorado. Once again, we tossed our kids and dog in the Jeep’s backseat and headed out from our Southern California headquarters. (I was working for the major off-road magazine at the time, and this trip could also easily support an entire article.)

The only reason I mention these ancient adventures is to illustrate how a trailer can enhance, expand, and extend your own adventures. We all know that we couldn’t even add an ice chest to a CJ5 or a CJ7 with two adults, three kids, and a dog as passengers. But with a trailer, we can pack all our clothes, camping gear, and supplies safely outside of the Jeep. Plus, for this re-incarnated muleskinner, it’s a lot of fun towing a loaded trailer over off-pavement trails.

Over the past several decades, I’ve towed everything from a boat trailer (on my sixteenth birthday I towed a 22-foot ski boat to the Colorado River from Long Beach, California) to a 40-foot fifth-wheel. With a lot of help from my friends, I also built a pair of camping trailers within the past three years, including the camping trailer that followed me on the Continental Divide Expedition in 2018. All this experience educated me and greatly assisted me while I was planning the Dinoot M416 build, which included the decision to go with a Dinoot.

My first task in the Dinoot project was to call Scott Chaney (owner and chief designer of Compact Camping Concepts) to discuss all the various options available with the M416 kit (one of the several trailer kit designs from CCC). For instance, deciding on using a Compact Camping Concepts’ frame or a Harbor Freight frame. I used the much heavier-duty CCC frame for more rigidity, but the lighter-duty Harbor Freight frame might work better for coupling with an ATV or side-by-side.

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The Dinoot factory-welded frame is much heavier-duty than the optional Harbor Freight frame. It is more costly but is demonstrably stronger, and you can see the triangular fender supports. If you’ll be towing with an ATV/side-by, opt for the lighter-weight Harbor Freight frame. If you plan on towing the trailer with a Jeep on more radical trails, go with the Dinoot frame.

The camping trailer’s tongue length, which depends on your tow vehicle’s tailgate design (tailgate, lift gate, swing gate, etc.), also needs to be determined. For the tongue length, you’ll want to measure what clearance you’ll need for your tailgate and swing-away tire carrier (if equipped), plus whatever you plan on mounting on the tongue (spare tire, toolbox, fridge, cargo tray, or whatever). In my case, over the course of several phone conversations, Scott and I worked all that out, plus all the other options we decided upon. Scott will patiently work with you on your option list as well.

Assembling the Camping Trailer

Compact Camping Concepts’ Dinoot camping trailer assembly instructions are excellent, so I won’t be taking up space here repeating them. I will, however, show you some ideas we had that differ slightly with the factory instructions. The major difference, though, between the Dinoot instructions and this trailer was its frame. The instructions use a Harbor Freight lightweight frame and suspension, so if you order the factory-welded frame and soft ride suspension, you’ll need the supplement instructions.

Among the option list for the M416 is the tailgate selection: no tailgate (solid end panel), Dinoot tailgate, or Jeep CJ tailgate. I chose the CJ ‘gate (available at Amazon) because I’d be towing the trailer with a 2005 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Unlimited or a 2020 Jeep Gladiator, and I wanted to tie the look of the trailer to the Jeeps. While we don’t have the space to list all the options available on an M416, I do want to mention a few: tailgate, tongue length, factory-welded frame, rooftop tent (RTT) mounts, electric trailer brakes, lug bolt pattern (CCC will match the tow vehicle’s lug pattern), and fender design (rounded, squared, or step sides that integrate with the fenders).

Since I’ve already discussed the tailgate option, let’s consider the controversy over wheels, tires and hubs (lug bolt pattern). For consistency, some folks prefer having the same wheels and tires on the camping trailer as on their tow vehicle. Others don’t think it matters; while a third group prefers wheels that match the tow vehicle’s lug-bolt pattern but do not agree on matching tires. There’s a lot to be said for matching both wheels and tires, but I’ve seen what happens when the trailer’s tires are heavy lug off-pavement tires. When in gumbo mud, the aggressive treads collect mud quickly and will rapidly turn the tires into huge sloppy donuts, which can even lock up against the fenders (snow can collect on the tires and cause the same problems). I prefer matching the lug-bolt pattern—so in a pinch the other vehicle’s spare can be used—with a reasonably sized tire. In my case, I’m using Yokohama Geolandar A/T 17×265 tires with a highway tread pattern. They’re tough as heck, including the sidewalls, will roll over almost any obstacle, can slide off large rocks instead of grabbing them (possibly tipping the trailer up on its side), and the tread doesn’t collect snow or mud. For wheels I chose Cragar rims from Summit Racing that closely matched my Jeep’s Raceline wheels in looks (although I did not opt for the heavier beadlocks that I have on the Jeep). As you can see in the photos, the Cragar rims look very similar to the Jeep’s rims.

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Yokohama Geolander A/T tires offer durability and the treads don’t collect snow and mud.

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Just inboard of the wheels are the trailer brakes. Even though brakes are not required on a trailer as light as the M416 (500 pounds without the RTT), you’re much safer when towing it with a relatively small vehicle like a Jeep. You can adjust the brake controller to brake as hard as the tow vehicle. Plus, there may be times when using the trailer brakes alone will avoid a condition of upset; such as descending a steep muddy hill. As you drive down the hill, you’re using your Jeep’s brakes and gearing to maintain a safe speed, which could cause the trailer to begin to overtake the Jeep. To avoid this, you simply lock down the trailer brakes with the brake controller and pull it downhill with the Jeep. This assures you that the trailer won’t pass the Jeep.

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The electric brakes, drums, springs, and axle are assembled at the factory and arrive on the pallet ready to be bolted to the frame. Attach the springs with the shackles at the rear frame mount. After mounting the wheels and shock absorbers, torque all the suspension bolts to the specs provided by Dinoot.

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To me the fender design was a no-brainer, I wanted them to match the Jeep’s squared-off fenders. Although the rounded fender design looks more like the original World War II 1/4-ton trailer, nothing can be carried on them. With the squared fenders, and the triangle-shaped frame supports, each fender is rated to carry up to 50 pounds (which covers the weight of a 5-gallon jerry-can of fuel or water). With the proper restraints—bungee cords, ratchet straps, etc.—firewood, sleeping bags, toolboxes, or whatever can be stored on the fenders while traveling off-pavement. By mounting the taillights on the fenders as I did, rather than on some type of mount, I’ve protected them from being ripped off by stray boulders or protruding tree branches. Also, they can’t be broken by backing up into a rock or tree while setting up camp. The LED taillights were part of the kit from Compact Camping Concepts. With some judicious thought, you can also use the triangle-shaped frame supports to carry gear; i.e., water containers, gas cans, battery (such as I’ve done—see the photos). Trailer kit assembly time is estimated at 8 to 16 hours, depending upon your ability.

Dinoot offers two types of no-weld racks. I chose the stronger of the two, because my plans for the use of the trailer include some very rough trails, such as the Dusy Ershim and Rubicon, and a long life of use. Although I’ll be using my rack to carry the Yakima Skyrise Poler Medium rooftop tent (RTT), the rack can be adapted to carry canoes, kayaks, inflatable boats, wind sailing boards, surfboards, etc.

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The lighter-weight no-weld rack bolts to the bed’s fiberglass sides while the heavier-duty rack mounts directly to the trailer’s frame on four optional frame tabs. By bolting this RTT 1.5-inch steel square tube rack to the frame, it is my belief that it adds to the trailer’s overall strength. The four frame tabs, the eight junction brackets, and the nuts-and-bolts hardware were included in my Dinoot kit—the steel tubing was locally sourced (meaning I picked it up at a local supply shop and decided the height of the rack—length must match the bed’s length) or you can order the steel along with the kit. I made the determination that 16 inches above the tub sides would give us plenty of room for packing without constantly hitting our heads or arms on the rack.

The Dinoot instructions give you the drill bit size for the hardware, and I’ll give you a hint: buy eight or ten carbide-tipped drill bits in that size before you begin the assembly because you’ll go through them. I also suggest that you have a shop vacuum standing by to clean up all the debris from drilling all those holes (it’ll keep your work area much cleaner and safer). Assembling the rack and attaching the RTT will take you about 8 hours.

After a couple trips with the camping trailer, we determined that additional security was needed if we were to continue traveling and parking on public highways and streets. Picturing a flatbed truck’s stake bed sides, I designed the aluminum stake sides that are now on the trailer. Using 1/8-inch by 4-inch aluminum straps and 1×2-inch aluminum square tubes, I assembled the stake sides. Hinged on top to the RTT rail, we swing them up and out of the way when packing the trailer. The stake sides also give us approximately 25 cubic feet of additional storage. During travel, they are secured by latches and BOLT cables, which are unlocked by the Jeep’s ignition key.

I secured an aluminum sheet to the front of the camping trailer on the RTT rack’s vertical supports to protect the tub’s contents from rain and mud and gravel thrown up by the Jeep’s Yokohama aggressive off-road tires (it’s also a great place to affix all your travel and product decals). I also added an aluminum sheet to the top of the RTT rails behind the tent, which provides security, weather protection, and a platform on which I can carry a pair of 7-gallon plastic water containers for longer expeditions.

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On its first off-road test run, the trailer’s suspension worked beautifully, tires performed flawlessly, and it really looked good behind the Jeep.

Yakima Skyrise Poler Medium RTT

I could really wax poetic about the Skyrise Poler, but I won’t. It’s my fourth RTT and by far the best of the bunch. Rated as a medium, in my opinion, it is a true three-person tent, with enough room for our L.L. Bean sleeping bags, plus our blue tick and Catahoula dogs on the 2.5-inch wall-to-wall foam mattress. Constructed of lightweight yet durable 210D nylon, the tent features a weatherproof rainfly and mesh panels in the ceiling (for star gazing on warm, clear nights).

As with other rooftop tents, its retractable aluminum ladder supports the fold-out half of the tent and makes getting up and down easy. The Skyrise Poler weighs just 115 pounds and tools aren’t required for mounting. Its rail clamps actually lock to the mounting bars so it can’t be stolen.

Also, with the tent, we ordered what Yakima calls the annex, but we call a skirt. It attaches to the base of the tent around three sides of the fold-out portion of the tent. This skirt gives you a small room under half the tent, in which you can place a Porta-Potti, change clothes, or store gear out of the weather while in camp. Other accessories include a shoe bag, which attaches to the tent’s base and gives you a secure storage for your boots or shoes, keeping mud and sand out of your sleeping bags.

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Much as I’d like to give you a lot more information on the Yakima RTT, and the rest of this project, I need to wrap up this assembly article. But first I have several people to sincerely thank for all their assistance, knowledge, and expertise in helping me with this project: Mike Barnes, Kevin Lake, Paul Schupp, and Jack Turton. Remember, much like a Jeep, a camping trailer is never finished. Some things are added, other things are taken off, and some are moved; the trailer will constantly change and evolve.

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With the Yakima tent deployed, camping in style can be set up anywhere your Jeep can access.

Step-by-Step How To

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The frame arrives on an oversize pallet and in the raw, so you’ll have to paint it yourself, unless you decide on a professional powder coating. A quart of paint thinner, a couple shop towels, and a couple hours of elbow grease will clean all the residual oil and surface rust from the frame to prep it for painting. Pick your color and use a good primer paint before spraying on the color. It’ll take at least two cans of each.
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With my kit, Dinoot included the extended tongue, coupler, and necessary hardware.
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I ordered the BougeRV weatherproof junction box with a sealed seven-pin connector and 8-foot cord. As you can see, the box’s pins are color coded. I also ordered spools of wire in the colors needed to match a trailer’s wiring. In this box, the wire colors do not match the pin colors because this box is for a heavy-duty trailer, and tow vehicles’ connectors and trailer wiring are for light-duty trailers. I’ve been wiring trailers and trailer connectors for over 50 years and this is the first time I’ve ever seen a different color code.
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Once I discovered the correct color code, I prewired the trailer, routing the proper gauge and color wires to the various light locations. I left long pigtails of wires so that they’d connect no matter where we ended up mounting the lights. I also ran blue wires for the electric brakes, and a 10-gauge wire for the onboard battery. Note the dual-wheeled fold-down tongue support…it’s longer than most single-wheeled support and rolls much easier on dirt.
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In order to protect the wiring while negotiating rocky trails that could also be muddy or snow-covered, I enclosed the looms in plastic wrap, which I then wrapped in electrical tape. The looms were then attached to the frame with rubber-covered cable clamps every few feet. Prewiring is much easier before the tub is in place.
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Before assembling the tub, the top corners of the panels must be carefully notched so they will mate fully with the other panels. All dimensions are given in the assembly instructions.
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Masking tape is used for two functions. It’s much easier to see the bolt hole locations and it keeps the fiberglass from cracking and fracturing while being drilled.
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Tub assembly hardware is supplied with the Dinoot kit. We began at the lower corners with the stainless-steel Allen-head bolts.
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Dinoot provides four L-brackets for the tub corners and suggests that they be mounted beneath the corners with the bolts counter-sunk. Because we wanted additional strength, we used a second set of brackets and sandwiched the fiberglass corners between the steel L-brackets.
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Dinoot recommends ¾-inch marine-grade plywood for a stronger bed floor, or 5/8-inch marine plywood for lighter-duty trailers (ATV). However, the ¾-inch plywood must be shaved to 5/8-inch thickness at the tailgate hinges’ locations. Mike is using a router to cut down the wood.
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With the steel reinforcing brackets in place, temporarily set the CJ tailgate in place and drill out the hinges’ holes. Note the reflective tape on the frame.
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Once the tailgate is mounted, slots must be cut into tub panel for the tailgate’s locking latches.
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Position the steel fenders and mark their mounting holes, making sure the fenders’ lower edges match the frame’s angle iron, and drill out the holes.
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With tub assembly completed, remove it from the frame, and sand its entire surface to prep it for painting.
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Set the tailgate and fenders aside so they can be easily painted on both sides.
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After the paint is completely dry, place the tub back on the frame, remove the rear panel and install the floor. Using a 7/32-inch drill bit, drill holes at each corner and every 12 inches along the floor’s edge (with the welded frame you can also add holes across the floor above the frame’s cross members). Secure the floor with the provided 1.5×5/16-inch self-tapping Torx screws.
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Seal the floor by caulking along all four edges. Be liberal with the caulking because it’ll be covered later with the bed liner.
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I ordered the fender beading from Amazon to provide a cushion between the fenders and the tub. Notch the beading to clear the bolts and to aid the change in direction.
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We waited until this point in the assembly to drill the mounting holes in the fenders and the frame’s angle iron. At the bottom of each fender the angle iron is pre-bent to match the fender’s angle so that it sits flat against the frame, which strengthens the entire assembly.
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Another advantage of ordering the factory frame; it can be equipped with the four frame tabs needed to mount the rack. Once the tub is attached to the frame, mount the support brackets at each corner, making sure they are completely aligned with each other. The brackets are pre-drilled, but the frame is not, so you’ll have to drill the five holes at each corner. All rack hardware comes with the optional rack kit.
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Eight of these corner brackets also come with the rack kit. One for each corner, and one for each end of the cross pieces.
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After drilling all the holes, disassemble the rack in order to clean and paint it. When you reassemble the rack, you can also tap in the top bars’ plastic end pieces. You’ll notice that the bed has been sealed. For longevity, I used a rubberized roofing compound (Ames Maximum Stretch), which I rolled and brushed over the entire interior. You’ll need to seal the bed to protect it from weather, and to avoid getting fibers into clothes, sleeping bags, etc.
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You must attach the mounting brackets to the underside of the Yakima Skyrise Poler tent, as they must match your rack system. Once you secure the tent to the rack, you can lock them into place. We also had to add welded shims to the cross pieces because these mounts weren’t designed for 1.5-inch bars.
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Taking advantage of the rack’s bar—after our first trip with the trailer—I added hinged aluminum stake sides to both sides and the rear for security and additional storage. By adding the stake sides, I increased storage by approximately 25 cubic feet. Of course, we’ll still have to utilize weather-proof stuff bags to fully protect our clothes and gear.
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Once the stake sides were finished, I removed them and painted them black. I also painted an aluminum sheet black and bolted it to the front vertical bars. (You’ll notice the battery box mounted on the fender support. The battery, which will also be connected to a 50-watt solar panel, will operate the Engle fridge/freezer that’ll be carried in the cargo rack on the tongue.)
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The stake sides are kept in place by these door latches at each end, while the stake side over the tailgate is secured by hook-and-loop glued-on strips.
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Above the tailgate, the rack is “filled in” with an aluminum sheet. The sheet doubles as a rack for water containers, secured by four of these D-rings.
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At each rear corner, the stake sides are secured with a BOLT cable lock, which is keyed to the tow vehicle’s ignition key.
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There are two choices by BOLT to secure the trailer’s hitch, both of which are keyed to your ignition key. The smaller one slips through the coupler’s lock hole to secure the hitch while on the tow vehicle. The larger one has a mushroom-shaped “ball” to which the coupler is secured while parked, therefore not allowing it to be towed away.
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A small cove in Northern California is surrounded by high cliffs and ocean waves, the soft sand keeps the camping uncrowded.

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