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Hiking Trailers, with pics, and making your own!

Camino(s) past & future
Moissac to Santiago Spring 2005 was the first foray.
#1
Hi all - hiking trailers are mentioned here and there so thought I would put a post up with some info and some pics and also details of the one I made.

The American military conducted a series of tests on moving soldiers and their heavy packs. Rear packs, front and rear packs, trailers. They found that using a trailer used 80% less energy expenditure - 80%!! - but, for some weird reason they pushed their trailers instead of having them attached to a hip belt and pulled along behind.

First off - no, they never get stuck or bogged down, they bounce over all terrain, are easy to maneuvre, aren't a problem at refugios nor on public transport. It is difficult to explain how easy it is to use a trailer, it is one of those "you must try it to know" situations. The absolute joy of having no weight on the back - and no sweaty back! - walking upright and casually and the trailer just coming on behind with seemingly no effort at all. True, one cannot beat the laws of physics and going up a steep hill one can feel the trailer, but at a tiny fraction of what it is like to do that hill wearing a pack. Compare it to this .. carrying a loaded bicycle and wheeling one along - the difference is similar.
Also, they are safe. There is a big 'click to release' buckle on the hip belt - one click and one is separated from it. Though really, if it became ungainly on a truly steep descent all one would have to do is to sit down!!

Currently I use the Wheelie, from Radical Design. They offered it to me at one quarter price when they found out that I do first aid on Camino and need to carry a lot of supplies. Originally I declined as I didn't believe that I deserved it, but they pointed out that they would get good advertising from me having one, so I agreed. It is a great trailer, beautifully engineered and made and will last a lifetime, definitely mine, I'm 70 ;) - but I found the bag that comes with it awkward and cumbersome. It has one big front and one big rear storage space so anything small you put in disappears down to the bottom! Also, it is not easily removable, one has to take the frame apart! and, it does not have all the outer small pockets we are used to on Camino. This means that one has to dig around and remove bags of things to go upstairs in a refugio - a real pain. So I removed the bag and chose a rectangular tube shaped rucksack, the UK made Yellowstone - fab pack - and with the addition of some webbing belts made it so that it is easily fitted securely to the frame but removes in seconds. I also changed the hip belt for a lighter one and made new webbing connectors.
This is how I have it now - though I do also have a smaller removable first aid 'reaction bag' that I drop down over the handles (and a big first aid sign and a small solar panel).

First pic is as it came, with the addition of tubes for a walking pole and umbrella/sun parasol and the second with my pack adaptation. As you can see, I am not a young fit person!!
Note bicycle bell!! (and re footwear questions elsewhere - I always walk in those Keen Newport trekking sandals!!!).

2017-06-09 11.23.32.jpg

2018-01-29 09.23.52-2.jpg

Now, I also made a trailer for my Aussie Camino pal, Jenny. I used a small cycle trailer as the base. I removed the connecting to the bike pole, then added metal corner plates at the front to reinforce the box. I then used aluminium poles - caravan awning poles - on the sides. The first connection to the box is a swivel bolt so that the first length of pole simply swivels back out of the way. Each side the aluminium is in two sections with simple bolt and wingnut fastening (weirdly, none of the bolts ever work loose!!). At the end of each of these drawbars I attached copper plumbing pipe. Copper as it is easy to bend with a pipe bender whereas aluminium snaps if you try to bend it, and these tubes slide into the aluminium tubes and are also fixed but adjustable. Now, as the box and the therefore the load is directly over the axle the box has to be level and this is made a simple adjustment by just pulling the copper tubes further out or pushing them in as this raises and lowers the final horizontal section.
The poles have webbing straps with a clip and this is simply clipped to a padded hip belt. I also added a bicycle bell!! The hand grips are actually grips for metal detectors. I fitted four small d rings for attaching bungey cords (shock cords) across the top and a standard 50 litres rucksack cover fits well as the weather cover.
Here the pics - apologies for poor quality. Later I added a removable crossbar to the drawbars to give rigidity, shown in one photo.

2017-08-30 17.55.32-4.jpg

IMG_20170911_164612627.jpg
and folded up with all the bits packed away into the box - I added a handle! - for transporting.

2017-08-30 17.55.32-2 - Copy.jpg

Now, if you decide to make your own this is the main, the principal thing! One HAS to start from here - the load has to be directly over the axle.
The Americans commonly use a single wheel straight board trailer that clips to a waist belt but this is an awful design! First, that single wheel makes it inherently unstable and, secondly, half the trailer and load weight is on the hip belt - you might as well wear a rucksack. The whole thing with a hiking trailer, which was obvious to me - and is why I made the one for Jenny - is that the load has to be balanced over the two wheel axle, nowhere else. When it is balanced thus there is no weight on the body, it is like it isn't there.

I have now bought another cycle trailer as there is an idea that I would like to try out. It seems to me that there may be no need for the long handles, that one could connect the trailer with a simple swivel mount bolted to the rear of the hip belt and then one could be completely hands free - now that I have the new cycle trailer I will be working on that design soon!!

Jenny is coming over to the uk in June and she and I, with our trailers, will be walking from Pamplona, about the 20th is best guess - if you see us stop us and try one or both of them out!!

Any questions, any at all, please do ask!
 
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Anamiri

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances
#3
I am quite fascinated by them as well. I haven't tried one yet. but the idea appeals to me. I have a dream of walking from one end of NZ to the other, and I think a trailer might make that possible for me. I'd like to do it when I'm 65 as a retirement challenge.
We have a trail called Te Araroa that covers the length of the country, with a ferry trip between the islands. But it has little infrastructure and in some places is very rugged, and there are long distances between places. I have done parts of it, a week here and there.
My aunt ran the length of NZ about 25 years ago, doing about 80kms a day. She did that with a friend and had the support of a camper van driven by one of their partners to sleep in. They ran on roads.

I think the trailer would make it possible for me to do it on my own, without support. l'd follow Te Araroa, but also use local roads (not main roads) in places.

Can you walk easily with poles as well?
If not using poles do your arms touch the trailer poles when they swing?
 
Camino(s) past & future
Moissac to Santiago Spring 2005 was the first foray.
#4
Anamari - yes, you can use poles. No, one's arms naturally swing outside the draw poles, which are close to and below the hip belt. The draw poles on both trailers are webbing buckle connected to the hip belt so no hands are necessary to control the trailer .. but it can become a habit to hold them when going over really rough ground, merely because they are there - though the trailer would cope whether one held them or not .. and on steep descents one finds oneself leaning backwards and resting forearms on those bars, very much like sitting back comfortably in an armchair! but one has no real need to do so so using poles is not the slightest problem if one chooses to use poles .
 
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JennyH94

Pilgrim in progress
Camino(s) past & future
The Frances from Pamplona and part VF, first-aid helper and hospitalera
#5
The hiking trailer David made me (affectionately christened "Spot", as in 'loyal canine companion' and also due to the reflectors on the box part of the trailer) gave me back my walking pilgrim life. After a cycling injury in 2015 where I broke my shoulder blade and collarbone and had surgery to pin and plate the collarbone, I was unable to carry a pack. Despite the pack being properly fitted, the shoulder strap still rubbed on my collarbone, despite having a sheepskin seatbelt pad to cushion it, which was painful after a short period of time.

Spot has accompanied me on two caminos so far - one to Spain - Burgos to Rabanal - last June and then in September/October on part of the Via Francigena (Aosta to Villafranca in Lunigiana) in Italy.

My Spanish camino was a dream - no problems at all. As David has mentioned above, with Spot I experienced all the benefits of walking without a pack - sometimes in very hot weather - I maintained good energy levels throughout each day despite temperatures in the high 30's/low 40's.

The Via Francigena was another story - the mountain goat tracks, with boulders (not just rocks) on many of the paths, were just too much to pull a hiking trailer over. Some of the mountain tracks were narrower than Spot, with sheer drops to one side and nothing to grip on, on the high side - downright dangerous. I walked with my friend Sally and we ended up following the cycle route for a good part of the time we walked together, some of the time on busy roads which represented their own set of problems. I walked this part of the VF without doing enough research - had I realised what I was attempting I would never have agreed to go. Having said this, I would love to return to the VF and do a modified version avoiding the dangerous paths - it has its own very special sacred 'magic' that takes hold of one and stays with one.

On the undulating and flat parts of the VF, walking with Spot was an absolute joy, as it was in Spain. I am so grateful to David for giving me the ability to walk again as a pilgrim, through the creation of Spot. Spot joins David, Wheelie and me once again next month, on those ancient Spanish pilgrimage paths - we hope to see you on The Way!

Here's a photo of Spot "triumphant" at the top of the Cisa Pass on the VF -

IMG_4540.jpg

Cheers from Oz - Jenny
 

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Camino(s) past & future
Frances starting SJPdP Sept/Oct 2015, April/May 2017
#6
Both trailers look fantastic. Well done, David, for making a trailer. I’m impressed. Your explanations remind me of a recently published fiction book about the camino called Two Steps Forward by Graeme Simsion and Anne Buist. Not the best book I’ve ever read about the camino but you might find the bits about making and using a trailer interesting. BTW you were smarter than the fictional pilgrim because you made your trailer with two wheels not one.
Buen camino to you and Jenny.
 
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Camino(s) past & future
Moissac to Santiago Spring 2005 was the first foray.
#7
Both trailers look fantastic. Well done, David, for making a trailer. I’m impressed. Your explanations remind me of a recently published fiction book about the camino called Two Steps Forward by Graeme Simsion and Anne Buist. Not the best book I’ve ever read about the camino but you might find the bits about making and using a trailer interesting. BTW you were smarter than the fictional pilgrim because you made your trailer with two wheels not one.
Buen camino to you and Jenny.
Ah! That book! I read it too, unfortunately until about page 100 I thought it another docu story and then I realised it was fiction - that trailer drove me crazy! Single wheel under the framework? Could never have worked! too unstable and unwieldy and load too high - and putting suspension on the wheel assembly? Really? then the writer has it running off down hills when unattended when it would have been nearly on its side and unable to move.
Drove me crazy! and then I realised that it was fiction writers inventing this, not an engineer in any way at all .. the ridiculousness of the design he and she invented almost ruined the book for me!!
 

MinaKamina

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Jacobspad 2017
#8
Great pictures and so good to see that you can combine a hiking traielr with the use of poles. That remains one of my big questions and it may well be that I do not find peace until I've tried it myself. Well, anything that prevents me from hitting the 'Add to cart' button at Radical Design is worth it, I guess.... ;)

I like how you added the tubes for the umbrella and the poles, David. Radical Design might include those in their design and name them after you. They do not have them yet, but they do sell a great patch for trailer hikers:

 

Prentiss Riddle

Aprendiz de todo, maestro de nada
Camino(s) past & future
Poco a poco: we're nibbling away at the Francés. (2015, 2016 & 2017)
#9
Awesome! What do you do when you run into stairs (up or down)?
 
Camino(s) past & future
Moissac to Santiago Spring 2005 was the first foray.
#10
Want that patch!! I did write to Radical with feedback, good and bad, and included photos but am still waiting for them to reply. The tubes work really well - easy to reach too. Peace won't come until you try one, the experience is enlightening!!

Stairs? Ah, easy-peasy. Going up you just walk up with it behind you (after you have unclipped the waistbelt!!!) and the wheels just roll over the step edges. Going down, well, depends if they are indoors steep our outdoors gentle. Indoors one puts the trailer in front of you and just walk down. Outside I just kept it clipped on and strolled down.
The whole trick on descents and outdoor steps is to keep the pace really slow and steady, not to allow speed to pick up - but if all goes pear one can always just sit down and the trailer will stop.

Saying that - on wet and slippery steps and steep descents I would always detach and keep it in front of me so that I could just let go if something went awry.

This is a video of a chap in the Cairngorms (that is in Scotland) - two things - firstly he finds no need to hold on to the trailer, and secondly, some of those paths are very narrow, rough, rocky, and the trailer just rolls over them.

 
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Camino(s) past & future
Frances starting SJPdP Sept/Oct 2015, April/May 2017
#13
Ah! That book! I read it too, unfortunately until about page 100 I thought it another docu story and then I realised it was fiction - that trailer drove me crazy! Single wheel under the framework? Could never have worked! too unstable and unwieldy and load too high - and putting suspension on the wheel assembly? Really? then the writer has it running off down hills when unattended when it would have been nearly on its side and unable to move.
Drove me crazy! and then I realised that it was fiction writers inventing this, not an engineer in any way at all .. the ridiculousness of the design he and she invented almost ruined the book for me!!
That book drove me crazy too but not because of the trailer. More because all the situations were so contrived. It was almost like the authors had read this forum and picked out a selection of our more memorable incidents, included a few things from other books, added a cast of international characters to appeal to a wider audience and then cobbled it all together using a technique already used by another pair of Australian authors who wrote about their real camino. But I still read it to the end. :p:p:p
 
Camino(s) past & future
Moissac to Santiago Spring 2005 was the first foray.
#14
That book drove me crazy too but not because of the trailer. More because all the situations were so contrived. It was almost like the authors had read this forum and picked out a selection of our more memorable incidents, included a few things from other books, added a cast of international characters to appeal to a wider audience and then cobbled it all together using a technique already used by another pair of Australian authors who wrote about their real camino. But I still read it to the end. :p:p:p

and then the finale when all was sorted, all loose ends tied up ( so like real life - not), pilgrim friends appearing in borrowed monks habits to wheel him the last few miles - I ended up shouting at the page, but I too read it to the end!
 

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