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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Step-by-Step How To
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