I like small trailers and opted for Carry-On Trailer’s 3.5x5LSHS, a 3.5×5-foot trailer with 16-inch tall mesh sides. My wife quickly labeled it the “baby trailer.” The 3.5x5LSHS is usually available at Lowe’s Home Improvement. It’s great for taking stuff to the dump and/or transporting dirty items that I don’t want inside my car. The 3.5x5LSHS is also very popular among 4×4 owners who are looking for a trailer to convert for off-road use. It’s a good trailer right off the lot, but I made changes to make it even better. First mods included wooden decking on the floor since I knew the steel mesh floor would warp under load without support.
The factory 1000-lb leaf springs and skinny 90-psi tires give very little road compliance for a trailer that weighs ~500 lbs most of the time. The trailer would bounce violently over small bumps. I replaced the leaf springs with 4-leaf springs. They ride smoother with light loads and still support heavy loads. This photo shows the difference between the factory 1000-lb 2-leaf spring and my new 4-leaf springs. Note the difference in thickness between the leafs? That’s how the trailer can ride smoother when lightly loaded, but stiffen as the load increases.
I replaced the factory steel fenders with larger plastic fenders to make room for larger wheels and tires. I upgraded the factory 12-inch wheels/tires to 13-inch wheels with ST175/80R13 tires. The 81-mph speed rated tires operate at 50 psi (instead of 90 psi) and are 17% larger than stock, which allows slower hub speeds and should also reduce wear to the wheel bearings. Speaking of wheel bearings, I upgraded to a galvanized Dexter axle with galvanized hubs. Annual hub maintenance is easy!
In my opinion, a trailer on the road with malfunctioning lights depicts owner as either lazy or inept. I don’t want to be “that guy.” I like my trailer lighting bright and functioning perfectly. Knowing that the factory lighting is cheap and subject to failure from vibration, I quickly upgraded to submersible LED lighting. Also, the stock plastic license plate bracket held the license plate low enough to take a beating, especially if I backed up to a curb. My state allows motorcycle plates on trailers, so I inverted a metal bracket and provided the plate with its own LED lighting. I added steel protective housings, just in case I misjudge when backing. I think the package looks sharp! 🙂
The only possible negative I can think of about my trailer is its tendency to rust. Many Carry-On trailers have rust on them before they even leave the store. Nearly any steel trailer at this price will see rust in its future. The paint on the front of the trailer and fenders is especially prone to chipping/rusting due to debris being kicked up by the tow vehicle. To combat rust, I started by choosing the specimen with the least amount of visible rust. I immediately spot-sprayed with a rust-converting spray paint and then a topcoat of gloss black enamel. The plastic replacement fenders eliminate a usual home for rust, too. Still, periodic spray painting keeps rust at bay.
There came a point when I needed to load a heavy roller tool cabinet. Sure a couple of strong people could probably get it up the ramps and into the trailer. But I’d rather load/unload such an expensive and heavy item in a slow, controlled manner. Adding a Dutton-Lainson 2000-lb hand winch with 20-ft nylon strap did the trick. I use a cordless drill to make quicker work of loading/unloading. Just when it seemed the winch would be an infrequent need, I discovered that it’s quite useful for strapping large items to the trailer. It’s been great to have it, even on my tiny trailer.
My most versatile upgrade has been the addition of Yakima’s Outdoorsman 300 rack and a medium OffGrid cargo basket with 18-inch extension. The new platform is a game-changer during my support of large bicycling events. I don’t place more than 150 lbs on the OffGrid. The basket is more for bulky items than heavy. The OffGrid also has crossbars that are compatible with bicycle mounts. Click here to read more about my “water trolley.”
Those are the details of my “baby trailer.” I’ve upgraded most of the functional items to suit my wants. I can carry bikes and cargo without the wind noise, mounting hassles, overhead lifting, head knocking, or marred paint of a roof rack while providing much of the versatility and positives of owning a compact pickup truck. It’s perfect for vacations, dump runs, or as a mini-workhorse (a pony? ) for a stubborn guy who won’t buy a pickup truck. See more photos below. Oh, it’s also versatile in parking situations, especially with my practice of “stunt parking.” See this entry for more details about my trailer-parking-witchcraft. 😉
Ironically, I added a cargo trailer to my garage in 2018. I prefer to use the baby trailer for filthy or wet loads… it’s also more aerodynamic than a cargo trailer. But the cargo trailer is great for moving items that I need to keep dry. See a list of specifications below the photo album. Also, here is a handy guide on how to properly load or balance your trailer.
Who Needs a Truck?
Here are the specs, mostly so I don’t have to dig so much to find them again. Since this trailer has undergone changes, I’ve listed my upgrades in bold with the factory specs lined-out in parentheses:
- Empty Weight: 350 lbs
- Payload Capacity: 1635 lbs without Lid
- Overall Length: 94″
- Overall Width: 60″
- Deck Length: 59″ without Rear Gate
- Deck Width: 41″
- Gate Opening Width: 38″
- 2″ x 3″ Straight Tube Tongue
- 1.5″ x 1.5″ Angle Main Frame
- 2″ x 2″ x 1/8″ Angle Top Rail
- 1-7/8″ Straight Coupler with Safety Chains
- 4-Leaf Springs
- 13″ Wheels with ST175/80R13 Tires
(12″ Wheels with 4.80×12 Tires)
- 31″ Black Plastic Fenders
(24″ Jeep Style Fenders)
- 2200-lb Galvanized Dexter Axle
- Swivel-Up Tongue Jack
- 1-7/8″ Ball Coupler
- LED Taillights with Steel Protective Housings
- 1×6″ Pressure Treated Decking (Mesh Floor is still beneath the wood)
- 16″ Mesh High Sides
- 16″ Removable Rear Gate with 3/4″ Plywood Insert
- Dutton-Lainson 2000-lb hand winch with 20-ft nylon strap
- Yakima Tire Mount w/Full-Size Spare Tire
- Yakima Outdoorsman 300 Rack with OffGrid Basket
- Yakima JetStream Crossbars on Top Rail