Portahut Camp Trailer RV — Roof Framing

Post by WildSnow.com blogger | November 23, 2011      

As promised, we’re continuing our sharing about building a camp trailer that can function as a durable structure in the alpine mountain environment. Here is an alternative to the yurt obsession.

Many options exist for framing this type of structure (google keywords such as “tiny house.”) If you’re not dealing with snow loads on your roof, you can do walls with 2×2 instead of 2×4 or 2×6 stud framing, and top with a flat roof raftered with nothing more than 2x4s. That’s how el-cheapo mobile homes are constructed.

Front of the backcountry skiing trailer.

Front of the backcountry skiing trailer in framing stage. We wanted an overhang over the front door, and a sleeping loft, so I extended the loft out about 18 inches. That combined with gable eave should give a nice weather protective overhang. I engineered some massive structures to support the overhang, as well as installing two steel knee braces in the final finish.

In our case, we needed something with structural strength we could locate at altitude in Colorado and leave unattended if necessary. That meant some pant seat engineering. So what I did was find a few roof load engineering tables on the web, and ascertained that our “square” (45 degree) gable roof design would be plenty strong framed with 2×6 on 24 inch centers. But just to be sure, since I’m not an engineer, I doubled up every other rafter. Not taking any chances.

Overall, our construction methods are simple and could be scaled to any sort of wall framing. We insulated with blue foam, sheathed with 5/8 plywood oriented horizontally for trailer strength, and paneled the lower inside walls with 3/8 ply, thus making the walls into incredibly strong box trusses so the trailer can be transported without coming apart or sagging fore or aft of the axles which would be embarrassing, though the event might make a good joke for a Jeff Foxworthy standup. Something like, “you know you’re a redneck if you decide to move and your house blows off your trailer.”

Ridge board, overkill

The ridge board in most site framed hip roofs is nothing more than a template for locating the rafters. But I wanted our ridge to provide a strong cantilever to support the eaves at both ends, so I used a nice microlam. Yes, total engineering overkill. Like one of my carpenter friends said when he visited our yard where we were building the thing 'wow, that's strong.' We also spent quite a bit of time screwing everything together instead of nailing, so if ever necessary the roof can be removed for transport under tree branches and that sort of thing. The Simpson brand steel rafter connectors on the ridge board are part of that plan. As the trailer stands today, a few guys could have the roof totally off in a day, including labeling and kitting out for re-install. The final roof is steel, Pro Panel brand.

Trailer bird mouths.

Classic hip roof bird mouths being cut in the rafters.

Rafters pre-cut with bird mouths for backcountry skiing camp trailer.

Rafters ready for install.

Roof tree on backcountry skiing camp trailer.

Yeah, this is really just a shed, but tradition rules.

Roof framed on camp trailer.

Roof framing just about ready for sheathing. Again, we used 5/8 plywood for super strength. In this photo you can see we opted for a very simple exterior covering of mineral roll roofing. I've noticed this material has become more and more common for such applications. Not as durable as some forms of siding, but very quick. Metal corner trim and metal skirt was added later for durability and to avoid providing gnaw fodder for porcupines.

Camp trailer eave detail.

Hip roof eaves are always a creative endeavor, that is unless you happen to have a set of prints from an architectural firm obsessed with details. And in my experience, those non-carpenter pencil pushers never got it right anyway. Of course, in this case the only architect was the muse.

Getting those Lowes budget windows going.

Getting those Lowes budget windows going in. Important for any winter use structure, good low-e windows don't produce damaging interior condensation.

Roll roofing trailer siding.

Not exactly a tarpaper shotgun shack, but perhaps the mineral roll roofing siding qualifies it anyway. We'll have to get Jeff Foxworthy on the scene and see what he says.

Yep, Foxworthy won’t be able to accuse us of owning a home that has more miles on it than our car, but I did have to think for a moment to remember that the hot tub we’re planning isn’t a stolen bathtub.


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19 Responses to “Portahut Camp Trailer RV — Roof Framing”

  1. Zachary Marquis November 23rd, 2011 9:39 am

    Nice Lou, I was thinking of something similar for my sled trailer.

  2. Lou November 23rd, 2011 9:56 am

    The concept can go as small as you want. At a certain point, the roof doesn’t need to be very strong as you’re not dealing with much span, also, for something like a box on a sled trailer you could use steel framing material for the roof, or all the structure for that matter. That stuff is great for this sort of thing, I should have used more of the steel framing stuff myself. Lou

  3. M:) November 23rd, 2011 11:08 am

    I’m so glad to see the progress 🙂
    I can not see a chimney, will there be a one?

  4. Lou November 23rd, 2011 11:34 am

    Stove pipe made of welded tin cans (kidding). I got an EPA rated modern stove and stuck it in there in a nice safe install with double wall flue. More later on that.

  5. Stuart November 23rd, 2011 12:34 pm

    From a one time pencil pushing architect now mouse pusher who started life as a carpenter. I don’t see a hip roof in sight. All gable as far as I can see.
    Nice job! My structural engineer would love the strength of that mother.

  6. Lou November 23rd, 2011 1:06 pm

    Busted. Dumb carpenter.

  7. George November 24th, 2011 7:02 am

    Hut looks great perched on your property from the avi chute above. How did you get it down your driveway/deer trail? I guess that might be a good story in itself.

  8. Lou November 24th, 2011 8:17 am

    Hi George, there is a tool for every job (grin). In that case, some local crazy hooked it up to his log skidder.

  9. gringo November 24th, 2011 10:54 am

    thanks for bringing this topic back Lou….I have been patiently waiting since last fall for some details!

  10. Lou November 24th, 2011 11:36 am

    More coming. We recently got more finish work done on the interior, and I’m working on a small solar electric solution this winter. Not really necessary for a place that small, but fun and will be nice to have.

  11. bar November 25th, 2011 12:50 am

    This is something really nice, but I’d like to see the interior of the camp trailer.

  12. Lou November 25th, 2011 8:30 am

    All shall be revealed.

  13. newschoolproToo November 25th, 2011 7:17 pm

    It will be very challeging to get to ski near your cabin with all the skier triggered avys so far this season in the vicinity. I heard that quite a few people have been roughed up in the area so far this season. Why isn’t there anything on the net about all of the action up there this year? Also, did not hear anything about losing superhucker JP to an avy out at the bird. Very tragic but we need to talk about how bad the snowpack is(back here on the western slope) out by the cabin before it is too late.

  14. Derek November 26th, 2011 11:20 am

    Nice Lou! Love the crack smokin’ going on here with creative thinking.

    I bought an ATV and put Tatou tracks on it recently. I also picked up a cheap tent trailer that I’m going to mount on custom skis. This set up will be a portable, tow in “yurt” with four beds, stove, running (frozen) water, heater, etc.

  15. XXX_er November 29th, 2011 10:31 am

    last season I helped on a trailer project where a WELL used 24′ travel trailer was setup out on a logging road for a base camp before snowfall

    To deal with the snow load 2 prefab peaked roof sections of a similar grade to lou’s picture were made from 2×4& tin roofing, transported to the site by PU and screwed to the trailer roof

    everything including an out house was prefab, a cord of wood chopped/stacked and it was all setup in about 6hrs by 8 people …an option if you can get the free trailer

  16. Lou November 29th, 2011 11:03 am

    XXX, that’s exactly what I’ll probably do for a bunk room…

    We had the money, time, and expertise to build from scratch so we ended up with a zillion times more quality than the typical pull-behind. But getting an old beater and upgrading the roof is definitely an option. Beware weak walls and trailer frame if you set a roof on top, just the live load of the roof will be substantial, let alone the snow. That’s why I got a car-hauler rated trailer, good for around 10,000 lbs.


  17. XXX_er November 29th, 2011 3:16 pm

    I think it is a pretty well made trailer, a buddy and his VERY understanding wife lived in it for 6 yrs, the trailer was jacked up & put on blocks, the key thing with the government dept in charge of the area IS that a travel trailer is NOT a permanent structure, last I heard the trailer survived the winter, there was some donated materials but the figure I heard for the whole project was 300$

  18. Roger November 30th, 2011 6:59 am

    Nice work Lou!

    For many years I have been thinking about a very small version of this to house a breakdown sled, probe poles, shovels and first aid cache in our very popular basin but just do not want to deal with the forest service these days anymore. Someday maybe.


  19. Lou November 30th, 2011 7:46 am

    Roger, can you find any private land up there? It’s sometimes a simple matter to lease the use of land for that sort of thing, provided you take care of insurance etc. Local SAR group could get involved? Land owners are sometimes happy to receive a small bit of revenue from an otherwise idle chunk of property. USFS also does have their Special Use Permit system, which in the case of rescue cache might be easier than you think, since you wouldn’t need a NEPA review. Lou

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