Lightening a trailer... - Fiberglass RV


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Old 12-06-2012, 10:32 PM   #1
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Lightening a trailer...

Hello all,

I am currently in the market for a small (13 foot?) fiberglass trailer - actually, I've been interested in getting one for years, ever since I saw the first one on the freeway (a Scamp trailer).

Anyway, it seems like one of the greatest advantages to this type of trailer is weight (or lack of) and efficiency - in theory you can pull it with a standard sized car.

I've searched around and I can't find any information on possible ways to actually lighten the trailer even more - what can be done?

For reference, I am a cyclist and weight is the name of the game - people regularly "trick" out their bikes to be as light weight as possible. Lighter means faster, and more efficient.

If anybody could point me in the right direction, it would be super helpful.

All the best...
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Old 12-06-2012, 10:44 PM   #2
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Well, to start out with, you could select one of the lighter ones. We got a Compct II which weighs under a 1000 pounds. That's half what a Scamp will be. There are other light-weights out there. Mostly they are older ones
Decide what you need and make your best choice. Lots of info in the archives

Light is fun

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Old 12-06-2012, 10:50 PM   #3
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...maybe I should also clarify my "need" to lighten the trailer.

I noticed on another thread that actual weights for some of the trailers can be closer to 1500lbs, instead of the advertised 1000lbs weight (with the 13" scamp trailer). My wife and I currently have two cars, a. Scion xb and a matrix, so lighter weight would help reduce strain on the car (probably the matrix) and help with gas mileage - I'm kind of a mileage junkie too (I'm always trying to see what I can do to improve the gas mileage on my car.

So a few specific questions:
- what are the heaviest components in the trailer?
- what have other users done to reduce weight?
- what have other users done to improve gas mileage (wheels, drag/aero dynamics?)
- is it better to carry weight (water, gear, etc) in the car or the trailer?
- what is the smallest car you have pulled with?
- what's the lowest mpg that you have achieved?
- what toll does it put on the car when climbing hills (speed, strain, etc.)?

I hope this makes some sense?!

Thanks for the help!
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Old 12-06-2012, 10:57 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Denece
Well, to start out with, you could select one of the lighter ones. We got a Compct II which weighs under a 1000 pounds. That's half what a Scamp will be. There are other light-weights out there. Mostly they are older ones
Decide what you need and make your best choice. Lots of info in the archives

Light is fun

Denece
Thanks Denece!

Absolutely! I've been doing a bit of research on the weights of the trailers as well - I think somebody had put together a great spreadsheet on actual weights. It looks like the older Bolers (from the '70s and '80s?) looked to be some of the lightest - some near, or under 900lbs.

...but, after that... What can be done to make it lighter??

Any obsessive weight weenies out there?
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Old 12-06-2012, 11:17 PM   #5
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Welcome to the FGRV. If you do find a light-weight trailer, you can lighten it up some, depending on how deep your pockets are. If the frame is in poor shape, an aluminum one could be made, wheels could be switched out to aluminum. Small or no battery is needed if you connect to the tow vehicle battery via the original 7 pin connector, or just use jumper cables. Propane tank can be replaced with a fiberglass one or just down-size the size of the tank. Remove furnace, water heater, awning, and refrigerator (use an ice box or cooler). If you follow the practices of a backpacker, you can get by with very little or lightweight creature comforts.
Happy Trails
Dave & Paula
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Old 12-06-2012, 11:22 PM   #6
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If you are serious about trying to make one light, possibly the only practical method would be to essentially gut the interior, and end up with a "hard sided tent".
Just don't get your hopes up that making it lighter is going to help you get better gas mileage, because it's not going to happen. The aero drag is what hurts the fuel mileage.
"Good gas mileage" and "RV's" would be an oxymoron.....

( sorry to be the bearer of bad news ! )
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Old 12-06-2012, 11:38 PM   #7
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Fiberglass itself is very heavy stuff. The newer ones have a much thicker layup than the old ones. And heavier internal framing . Nothing will change that. Much easier to lighten a light one. Depending on how far you want to go, you can strip out non-weight-bearing parts. My suggestion would be to decide what you want in a trailer and go from there. Some portion will have to be water , food, bedding and other supplies, you can carry a lot in your tug, but you have to take camp stuff with you one way or the other
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Old 12-06-2012, 11:48 PM   #8
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Ah yes. This is exactly what brought me to fiberglass trailers's. My love of minimalist hiking and vintage things came together with a 'minimalist basecamp'. Before I got my Boler I realized, as with any weight saving measures in hiking (or biking probably as well), you have to make sacrifices (to the money in your wallet or features or performance). I owned a Scion xA at the time I got my Boler, and towed the Boler a number of times with it. I avoided hilly areas, and it performed underwhelmingly. I don't recall my gas mileage, but it actually wasn't that bad. It was more a weight/safety/stress thing. I got a Subaru Forester and am happy with it. I believe could have gotten by with the Scion xA had I stuck to my lightening regime .
I did a lot of obsessive 'lightening' in my head before I got the trailer. I decided I would just cook with my microlight campstove and didn't need to haul around a 20 lb propane tank and 5 lb stovetop. I also decided I didn't need the 12v battery on the tongue (another 50 ish lbs maybe). Fridge? Forget about it (another 50 lbs)! I wouldn't need water tanks or sinks either for that matter (another 15-20 lbs). I never needed a fridge, lights, sink or propane in my tent, so why now? So, maybe I could loose around 100 lbs pretty easily by eliminating that stuff, and a lot of it's off the tongue too which makes the biggest difference to a small car. Also, eliminating stuff is FREE! Shelves? Who needs em? Just stuff a backpack or two in the closet.
I think if I had gotten a trailer that was missing a lot of these things in the first place I would have stuck to lightening the load. I couldn't resist the charm of the two burner and my wife wanted a bit of luxury (lights, fridge and water!) so we kept all the weight and got a bigger car. We get around 17 mpg with our 2.5l 4cyl Subaru when towing (25 mpg not towing) - I have never weighed our trailer, but I'd guess it would be around 1500-1750lbs.

So, I would say that if you can live without the need for propane, refrigeration, 12v electricity and water systems you could lop off some significant weight. Also - be aware of modifications done by previous owners that add weight (thick plywood shelves, carpet over existing floor, etc). You could do crazier things like consider thinner foam for cushions if you need to replace old foam anyways (this could add up to another 20 lbs probably), or fabric over the cabinet doors instead of plywood. To make towing easier also be sure to regularly maintain your hubs and bearings (it's amazing how much of a difference this makes!). I've deduced from others' experiences that new suspensions (for older trailers) can make towing seem easier. Of course, the holy grail for lightness would probably have to be an aluminum frame ($$$).
Apologies for my lengthy and rambling response.
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Old 12-07-2012, 12:01 AM   #9
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Real Compact II and Scamp 13' weights

Quote:
Originally Posted by Denece View Post
We got a Compct II which weighs under a 1000 pounds.
A basic Compact II could certainly be under 1000 lb before any water, fuel, or contents are added - as could any very basic 13' trailer (such as a Boler 1300, or the Scamp clone of the Boler 1300). While some Scamp 13's are around 2000 lb, that's heavily equipped and loaded for camping. Comparing apples to apples, the difference is nowhere near 2-to-1.

Frederick's Trailer Weights in the Real World is by far the most exhaustive source of actual as-used trailer weights that I have seen, although even in that list of 112 weighings (some repeats of the same trailer) there are only a few examples of most models and none of some. In it, the three Compact II weights range from 1720 lb to 2020 lb, while the three Scamp 13' weights range from 1620 lb to 1950 lb. Yes, those Compact IIs are heavier on average than those Scamp 13's, and none are anywhere near 1000 lb.

The Compact Jr weights are lower, ranging from 1120 lb to 1750 lb (not counting the stripped 860 lb unit). The list is conveniently sorted from lightest to heaviest.

Of course these are all just some samples: other trailers of these models could be lighter or heavier, and an owner who packs more sparingly will be towing less weight.
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Old 12-07-2012, 12:08 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by orangeboar View Post
Any obsessive weight weenies out there?
I think I may have gone a bit too far?Click image for larger version

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I am the guy who obsessively weighs trailers.

My plan for my Compact Jr. rebuild is to weigh each major assembly and figure out the percentage of the total they are.
Right now it weighs less than the 860 Lbs from last time... but I don't know how much yet.
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Old 12-07-2012, 12:08 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by Denece View Post
Fiberglass itself is very heavy stuff. The newer ones have a much thicker layup than the old ones. And heavier internal framing .
Internal framing? Other than some support from cabinetry, most moulded fiberglass travel trailer designs (notably excepting most Bigfoot models) have no framing above the floor level to support the shell at all. Certainly there's none in a Boler.

In Frederick's real-world weight topic, he reports the weight of his own Compact Jr with a completely gutted interior... and it still weighs 860 lb. A very large fraction of that must be the fiberglass shell, confirming that the weight of the fiberglass is significant. Personally, I suspect that our moulded fiberglass shells have little if any weight advantage over the lightest sandwich-construction conventional trailers.
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Old 12-07-2012, 12:15 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by Frederick L. Simson View Post
My plan for my Compact Jr. rebuild is to weigh each major assembly and figure out the percentage of the total they are.
Factual information!

I'm looking forward to seeing this - thanks, Frederick, for doing this work and sharing it.
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Old 12-07-2012, 12:42 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Frederick L. Simson View Post
Right now it weighs less than the 860 Lbs from last time...
This is another thread where I talk about my frame off restoration.
My Boomerang 1971 Compact Jr.
When I started, the complete trailer weighed 1420 Lbs.
After removing the interior furnishings and wall coverings is when it weighed 860 Lbs.

I need to rig a crane scale to weigh the fiberglass body as I lift it off the frame. Stay tuned...
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Old 12-07-2012, 01:01 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Frederick L. Simson

I think I may have gone a bit too far?

I am the guy who obsessively weighs trailers

It seems as if there may be something similar in our DNA!?
Can't wait to see how this turns out.

Also, what is the story behind the first trailer on your list? The Burro that weighs just over 800lbs? Is this completely gutted?
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