Light Tactical Trailer– The M1102, by D.A., DVM

Bugging out? Got a pickup or big SUV but not enough room to carry everything you want to take with you? Consider the military’s solution to the limited cargo space in their HMMWV (Humvee), the M1102 Light Tactical Trailer.

Our government (i.e. using our tax money) purchased a LOT of these all-aluminum trailers for our military, and they are built to last and take a beating. A local man had two of these for sale, tied down on a bigger trailer and parked on a busy corner with a sign on them. I called him, and he was asking $2,500.00 each. The original sale price was $8,954.00. I bought mine for $1,800.00, cash, and it is like new. I’m sure people are buying these surplus trailers from government liquidators and reselling them in many states.

The primary contractor is Silver Eagle Manufacturing Company– a subsidiary, located in Portland, Oregon, of Electrospace Systems and Chrysler Company. There are a lot of new open trailers available for less money, and used open and closed trailers, too. A good two-horse trailer would be fine also, but few “civilian” trailers can withstand the rough-road or off-road punishment that the M1102 can. The fat, high tires are great for off-road travel, and they are like new, showing hardly any wear.

The unitized body or hull of the trailer is made of aircraft grade aluminum and chromoly steel. It’s really thick, heavy-duty aluminum, and therefore rust-free. It was designed to carry 2,840 pounds but will probably take more, and mine came with a woodland camo canvas top with attached tubular hoops. A very nice, lockable fiberglass top is available from Amtech Military Products for about $4,000.00, new, plus nearly $1,000.00 for shipping from the factory in Washington to the northeast U.S. It weighs 370 lbs. but can carry an additional 500 lbs. on its roof! I’m not sure if they are available through military surplus sources, but if so, they would be a lot less!

If the canvas top deteriorates, it would be simple enough to buy a camo tarp to tie down over the hoops. Without the hoops, an aircraft cargo net would work well to keep things from bouncing out or being blown out. The trailer is rated for 55 miles per hour on primary roads, but who’s checking?

The interior of the bed is about 80″ wide by 85″ long, and the sides are 22″ high. On the floor of the bed are twelve heavy-duty, flush, swivel “D”-ring tie downs, and there are 1″ strap tie-down positions all around the top edges on the outside, which the canvas top’s straps loop through.

The trailer is complete and ready to pull, if you have a Humvee, that is. This is not the standard trailer hitch that hooks to a ball on your vehicle. Military trucks have a pintle hook that connects to a big steel donut on the trailer. It’s kind of like making a circle with your index finger and thumb of one hand, then putting the circle over your other thumb and “locking” them together with your other index finger. Pintle hooks and 2″ hitch adapters are readily available online.

The harder part is the fact that the trailer lighting is 24 volt. It’s simple enough to switch out all the bulbs for 12 volt models, but the electrical connector is a 12-pin NATO item. I solved this problem by ordering the mating plug and making a jumper cable with a standard flat pin 7-way commercial connector. The wiring connected as follows: Red wire, left turn signal to NATO pin B, stop light. Brown wire, right turn signal to NATO pin J, stop light. Green wire, running lights to NATO pin E, tail lights. White wire, ground to NATO pin D, ground. Military vehicles also have convoy lights, blackout stop lights, and other sockets/pins on their connector that are not used.

I have the jumper cable clamped to the removable 2″ hitch adapter and pintle hook, so that when I need to hook up the trailer I simply plug one end into the existing socket on the SUV and the other to the trailer’s NATO plug. There’s a bracket on the tongue in front of the box to hold a standard Army Jerry can, with a belt strap to hold it down. The running lights are also recessed to prevent them from getting smashed.

The trailer is equipped with huge 37 X 12.5R 16.5″ low-pressure (17 lbs.) tires with 30-mile run flat inserts. The hitch is connected to hydraulic surge brakes with automatic breakaway, and independent lever-operated left and right mechanical parking brakes. Two stanchion legs are carried on the front of the trailer. These are inserted in sockets on the rear corners to stabilize the trailer when disconnected and leveled by using the tongue jack. This creates a very stable platform for loading and unloading. A Marine I know used one of these trailers for sleeping quarters during Desert Storm!

Four thick “D”-ring tie-downs are on each corner– two in front and two in the rear. Everything about this trailer is heavy duty, including the safety chains. The drawbar hitch eye is fairly high, at 29.5″, but the pintle hook hitch adapter plate has several height positions. The deck height is 34.5″ and ground clearance is 16″. The suspension is unusual, incorporating fully independent progressive rate trailing arms. The springs are actually torselastic rubber chords, and there are two shock absorbers. Wheels are the same as on the HMMWV, with eight lugs.

In order to get it registered and licensed, I had to run it over a certified scale and get an official weight slip. I was issued a plate, but I haven’t put it on, nor does it have a plate light. I’ll make a license plate bracket to slip over the tailgate, if I need to move it over the roads, but if the SHTF I don’t think anyone is going to be worried about plates or if it is legal.

I’ve pre-loaded my trailer with non-perishable, weather-resistant supplies, including tents, camouflage canopies, sleeping bags, a military surplus stove, LP gas canisters, cooking equipment, a shovel, an axe, and a pick. The Plano 1819 XXL storage trunks hold most bigger items, with 3.7 cubic feet of storage, and they provide protection as well. They have built-in brackets for tying down, and I used bungees to anchor them to the “D”-rings in the floor. They also nest when stacked. The smaller Plano 1619-00 56-quart tote tub is handy for stowage alongside the bigger trunks and also nests when stacked.

The boxes are numbered, and a complete inventory of each one makes it easy to find just what you need during unpacking. No, I didn’t pack like an assault landing ship, last on, first off, but you could. Pack the tent last. About one-fourth of the space at the rear of the trailer is left open to throw in last-minute things, like perishables, water, ammunition, and high-value items. Large volumes of water are not necessary, if you are in an area with small lakes, streams, or rivers. The LifeStraw Personal® water filter and LifeStraw Family 1.0® water purifiers allow you to safely drink from just about any outdoor water source.

The center of balance is about ten inches in front of the axle, so loading heavy items, like ammo and fuel, in this rear area will help balance the trailer. I plan to add a row or two of hickory rails to the inside of the canopy hoops to protect the inside of the canvas cover in case things shift around during rough travel. That’s really the only other modification I can think of to make this beast more perfect for the job, other than that hard top.

My driveway extends around behind part of our house, so I keep the trailer back there, partially hidden from the street. The woodland camo really works with the backdrop of a blue spruce and various bushes. Those who’ve noticed it and asked what it’s for, I respond with, “I use it for camping”. It would make a perfect camping trailer, too, and basically that is what bugging out is going to be about. That is, unless you have a cabin or Redoubt location ready to go to. We have some major national forests within an hour’s drive of home that I have already checked out for retreat.

Just about every survival or prepping item I had stored in my basement is now in the trailer, freeing up more shelf space for freeze-dried and dehydrated food, peanut butter, honey, sugar, and salt, et cetera. The boxes are also packed with some redundancy, such as fire starters in nearly all of them, knives, paracord, and ponchos (remember “Rambo”?). In case I have to abandon the trailer and grab just a couple boxes, I should have some essentials in whatever I take. Using the trailer also gives me more space in our SUV or pickup to carry high-value supplies, including guns, ammo, and food. If there’s an EMP, however, the trailer won’t be going anywhere unless I can get a pre-1980 vehicle to pull it. I have a 1975 Honda CB200T to get my wife and I out of Dodge if that’s what happens.

I love my “TRAILER, CARGO M1102,” and hope our country doesn’t go down the tubes, but I feel a lot better about my preps knowing it is ready to hook up and head down the road.