My Jeep Compass Forum banner

1 - 11 of 11 Posts

Registered
Joined
1,358 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
13982


(Many more photos below)

Just wanted to share a chunk of photos and backstory I have from an in-progress project. While my wife and I enjoy adventuring in our Compass very much, we constantly find the cargo space lacking and frequently discussed the need to find a way to carry more gear.

We bought a hitch-mounted cargo rack which helped some, but had issues with the security of any totes or bags left on the rack when we were away from the car. We have hitch-mounted bike carriers as well but could only use one or the other (the rack or the bike carrier). Most of the time using anything in the hitch interfered with getting in and out of the rear hatch.

We then bought a large 16 cubic foot roof cargo box from Thule. This added a lot of very useful and still fairly secure cargo space, but we found that the increased wind resistance was a straw breaking the back of the transmission programming on the highway. The only way to prevent excessive gear hunting in the transmission on the interstate was to use autostick and shift manually. This is pretty annoying thing to have to do just because of having this cargo box on the roof. The Compass could really use some kind of two/haul mode that would hold gears to slightly higher RPMs and lock out a couple of the top gears, but I digress.

Even with a rooftop cargo box and a rear rack together we could not comfortably travel with all the gear we wanted to bring, and we especially could not bring another couple or even one friend with us on any camping adventures. We pondered purchasing a larger vehicle, but saw that even stepping up to a grand cherokee would not really solve our space problems. I began throwing out the idea of a small box trailer and mentioned it in casual discussions with friends and family.

Then at Christmas my father gifted me an old but nicely restored boat trailer. It was not necessarily his intention that this would become the base of my adventure trailer project, but he suspected I would find some good use for it (purchasing a jet ski, for example)

Once I had this trailer the wheels turned in my head all of the rest of winter, and in late Spring I pitched an idea to my wife that got the thumbs up to begin tinkering with this trailer and purchasing some materials to revamp it for our camping and adventure purposes. The basic idea was to massively increase our camping gear capacity so we could bring nearly anything we wanted on any trip, and to have room for two other people's stuff as well.

The core construction concepts were
1) Try to keep it relatively light and small, within the profile of the Compass to avoid catching too much extra wind.
2) Simple square box for ease of construction was an acceptable tradeoff over trying to do something rounded like a teardrop.
3) It needed a roof rack to carry things like our paddle boards, cargo box, maybe kayaks some day, etc.
4) It needed to be able to carry 2-4 bicycles.
5) Provide basic security for our gear when away from our campsite ie biking or on paddle boards etc

With the bikes in mind I chose not to cut down the excessive length of the trailer tongue. The long tongue contributes to a nicer riding and handling trailer on the highway and is also easier to back into places. It can be a little tricky to find parking in crowded places but we tend to be taking this type of thing away from congested pockets of humanity rather than towards it, and I would argue that the difference in difficulty of finding parking varies very little between a trailer that is 8 feet long and one that is 16 feet long. A couple of 2 inch receivers bolted onto the sturdy 3 inch trailer tongue and a couple of basic dual bike racks turns that extra space into a perfect pocket for our bikes and the bikes of two friends.

Moving to the back, I basically slapped together a sturdy wood base bolted to the steel trailer frame and built a box on it, slapped some roofing tin on and used some heavy hinges and locking T-handle latches to make front and rear access doors. The workmanship there is so-so, I am still working on sealing and covering the corners and exposed wood. The flat roof is a bit problematic for shedding water and I may have to throw a small tarp over it when its sitting in the back yard to cut down on water seeping in and soaking the wood frame. If I were doing it over again might have tried harder to address the water shedding issues but I still think it will last long enough to get a good amount of use out of it as is.

The box is roughly 6 feet long, 3 feet tall, and 3.5 feet wide. Quite a lot of large sturdy totes can be organized inside with room for longer items and awkward items like chairs and a folding table, tent bags, golf clubs, etc etc.

Rubber edge trimming slowly getting applied to sharp exposed tin surfaces as time allows. Trimming in general is an ongoing effort I do a little at a time while still using the trailer almost every weekend.

The trailer came with new bearings and new tires & wheels, but I ended up upgrading the tires & wheels to something taller, stronger, and with a higher speed rating. The 4.80x12 tires and rims I got from my local trailer shop are rated at over 900 lbs each and 84 MPH, whereas the tires the trailer came with could bear about half that weight and only rated up to 65 MPH. I don't tend to exceed 70-75 MPH with this trailer anyways but I need the tires to be up to task when needed on a busy highway. The taller tires combined with an 8 inch drop hitch are able to level out the long trailer tongue, with just a slight slope down towards the hitch.

With a nice Rhino anti-rattle plate on the hitch and a new 1 7/8 ball the trailer rides quietly with no rattles or metallic clunks or bangs over typical road surfaces. Bikes help provide some tongue weight but we have found that even without bikes the trailer pulls straight and true with no wagging.

I better get some photos in here to break up this short novella:

13983

13984

13985
13986

13987

13988

13989

13990

13991



Thats max photos for one post so I will have to start another one here, more photos and information coming in a minute 馃榿
 

Registered
Joined
1,358 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)
Like I said, its still a work in progress. I have a long list of improvements to keep chipping away at it but at this point we have already used it for half a dozen camping weekends and over 1000 miles of traveling. I usually get one or two things done or added between trips. I still have things like putting longer chains on the tongue that reach the receiver, interior lights for finding stuff inside the trailer at night, etc. I'll throw updates in this thread once in a while maybe but enough of it was finished to share what I have on it so far.

It tows like a dream. Smooth, quiet, tracks straight behind the Compass with no issues, seems to handle high speeds and bumps very well. Obviously on the highway I have to shift manually to keep it from trying to get into too high of an overdrive gear and the gas mileage goes down, for example I got 18-19 MPG on a 400 mile trip with a total of 4 people in the car and 4 people's worth of camping gear, average 60 to 69 MPH on that trip. Worth it for the option to bring that much gear and equipment, in my mind.

I've got at least a thousand bucks invested into the project at this point, despite getting the trailer for free. A bit more expensive than I thought it would end up being, but still not bad for something that will hopefully get years of use out of. We might upgrade the axle at some point, weight was a bit of a concern this last trip with four people and their stuff but didn't have any issues yet (knock on wood). I try to be conscientious of how much weight we are piling in and aim for not more than 600 pounds if I can help it, might have been pushing 800 at the start of the last trip when the coolers were freshly full of ice and food/beverages but we didn't seem to have any issues. I'll try to keep it down on future trips.

Really keeps the inside of the car clean and open/comfortable for us and any passengers, we aren't packed in with our gear up to our necks and we aren't having to leave a ton of nice stuff behind due to lack of space. Even though the bike mounts are very simple and obvious I am particularly proud of that idea. When empty I can roll the trailer around the yard myself without much hassle, its still overall pretty light and the long tongue helps make it easier to move by hand. I'm hoping we will get years and thousands of miles of use out of this, quite a few hours went into it even though it doesn't look like much.

I've been bad about not taking photos at our destinations but will try to start doing that and add those in here for fun.
 

Super Moderator
2019 Jeep Compass Latitude
Joined
278 Posts
That is a very nice setup.
 
  • Like
Reactions: arudlang

Registered
Joined
1,358 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thanks guys, I think its turned out pretty decent and its been a fun project.

I think maybe it looks a little odd to have the Thule cargo box sitting on top of a large tin cargo box, but its surprisingly handy to have the Thule box there for some awkward bagged items. Our tent is pretty huge and bagged up that tent is bigger around than a 5 gallon bucket and long as a set of golf clubs. Then we have two inflatable paddle boards and the bags for those are like two 5 gallon buckets end-to-end. These bulky bagged items don't stack well and they don't fit in totes. I like to have stuff in the actual trailer box in stackable totes as much as possible, and its an easier height to load the Thule box on this trailer vs. the roof of the Compass. We also then keep the option to chain the trailer to a tree at our campsite, inflate the paddle boards and strap the boards to the roof of the Compass and cruise without the trailer to a nearby lake for a few hours.

The one thing I haven't placed yet is our solar panels. We use a 12v refrigerator cooler that draws 45-55 watts (when its cycling the compressor) and the Jeep battery can sustain that overnight but then you either need to run the engine to recharge the battery or get the solar panels out to recoup that energy during the day. I had them flat on the roof of the trailer over the 4th of July but they didn't work as well flat and it didn't really look good, so I have been just setting the panels out on the ground with their built-in stands. Its only really necessary if you know you are not moving the car for more than a day but its one more thing to handle and they could get stolen. I'm eyeing up the roof of the Compass as a potential spot to place some panels. I'd still have the efficiency losses of them being flat instead of angled to the sun like they should be but I'd still probably collect enough energy to keep my fridge cooler running and top off the battery. They wouldn't stick up much and wouldn't contribute a lot to wind resistance and I am still trying to keep that down for highway travel.

Speaking of wind resistance the bikes end up just a little higher up in the wind stream than I think is necessary or ideal, I'm considering modifying those cheap bike carriers to hold the bikes a few inches lower so they don't exceed the height of the Compass roof. If I can keep everything in the air stream pocket behind the Compass and if my cargo weight isn't too high I think I can squawk 20+ MPG out on the highway potentially.

All kinds of things to play and experiment with, fine tune, improve.

It kinda harkens to some of those tiny teardrops you see for sale except we have no intention of ever sleeping in it. Our 14L x 9W x 6H tent is more spacious than any teardrop we could haul with the Compass and sets up in about 10 minutes. We throw in a double-height queen air mattress with the built-in automatic pump and we sleep in pretty darn good comfort really. Probably as good as its going to get with the Compass I just hope to add a propane hot shower kit into our collection of gear some day.
 

Registered
Joined
73 Posts
I'm considering modifying those cheap bike carriers to hold the bikes a few inches lower
What about flipping over the bolt-on receivers and mounting to the bottom of the tongue? That should lower things about 5".
 
  • Like
Reactions: arudlang

Registered
Joined
1,358 Posts
Discussion Starter · #9 ·
H20DOG said:
What about flipping over the bolt-on receivers and mounting to the bottom of the tongue? That should lower things about 5".
That is a good idea, hypothetically it should be just as strong either way right? One thought is keeping as much ground clearance as possible since one disadvantage of the longer trailer is that if we ever did navigate much hilly trail type of terrain its more likely to scrape. I can also lower the bikes just by drilling the holes for the arms lower on the mast of the carrier. I was thinking maybe only lowering one arm on each so the bikes sit more level and aim to keep the tires no lower than the tongue. I'm fine with where the front of the bikes is at its just odd how the rears end up lifted so high, correcting that alone should get them below the wind line of the Compass I think. At the same time I might put a brace across to help stabilize both masts, thinking that might help reduce the leverage on the U-bolts and make it less likely for them to bust off.

Some reviewers have some horror stories of when those things fail so this type of thing is my big fear:
14014

14015

14016


I obviously avoided any cheap products and off-brands like the examples above, I actually have a ton of money just in those two receivers and the heavy U-bolts I used (different than the bolts that came with the receivers). The receivers are Curt brand. Nevertheless I am watching these things closely and doing whatever I can to avoid them busting off. I think a brace between the masts like I said while lowering one arm to level the bikes will pretty much take care of it.

We're looking at making a run from here in northern Minnesota to Colorado with this trailer in a month or so, want to make sure everything is as good as it can be wind-resistance-wise and sturdy but I can tell you I won't be using the Compass for that particular trip either...
 

Registered
Joined
73 Posts
After seeing the photos of the ones that failed, I would be considering welding.
 
  • Like
Reactions: arudlang

Registered
Joined
1,358 Posts
Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Welds fail too, if they are poorly done (like that 3rd photo there). Thats why I went with a brand-name receiver that has the plate bent 90 degrees and the tube goes through the plate, and then welded:

14017


This seems like about the best design on offer for this type of bolt-on receiver for a square frame. Even if the welds broke loose it would not be able to quite escape the plate. Bad things would still happen no doubt but maybe not catastrophic. Then its just the worry of the U-bolts breaking or the plate steel breaking. With cheap off brand that would be a big concern, but the metal on these units seems pretty hard (had to drill a couple extra holes, wasn't easy) and the U-bolts I bought are 1/2" stainless steel tightened down very carefully by hand. Very tight but not snap-them-off or bend-the-plate tight.

I don't think I could do much more with my little flux welder. It can be tough for a hack like me to get a good weld, and its easy to weaken metal too I would not want to compromise the middle of that trailer tongue with my poor welding, its not that thick of a tube and kinda crazy how much it can flex if you dance on it. I'm not jazzed that the hitch coupler is welded on at the front but it already came that way and looks like passable welds that will hopefully never give me trouble. If I ever have to replace the coupler it will be bolted on with grade 8 hardware, though.

--------------------------

I've been thinking about the problem of properly shedding rainwater. I had to throw a tarp over it again today because rains came and all the water ends up running down and/or into one door or the other. I think if I took the tin off the top and turned it 90 degrees so the ribs are parallel with the axle it will probably solve that problem, but I will need to buy one more piece of tin.

With the ribs going the other way, I can start with a rib right at the back door and the rib itself will keep the water from going down the door or between the door and inside. Then work my way to the front with more pieces and the last one allow a little overhang, since that door drops down instead of hinging up anyways it will at least only hit the outside of the door. Then just need to make sure these new pieces are long enough to overhang a bit on each side and I'm good to go. I don't know if that makes sense typed out but its clear in my head, once I do it pictures will help. Then just some sealing and corner pieces and I should be able to get it pretty well waterproof and not have to tarp it.

The hamster is always turning the wheels up there in the noggin but time is limited so we'll see when I get around to it.
 
1 - 11 of 11 Posts
Top