Home » This Clever Modular Aluminum Trailer Hauls Your Toys And Takes You Camping

This Clever Modular Aluminum Trailer Hauls Your Toys And Takes You Camping

Tiny Toy Hauler Ts
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Many of those who like to take an RV on a camping trip also like to drag along some fun toys. The toy hauler exists for these people to bring a motorcycle, side-by-side, or something else along for the ride. But what if you don’t have the room or perhaps the towing capacity to haul around a massive toy hauler? ATC Trailers thinks it has the solution with the Plā 350, a lightweight aluminum travel trailer with a modular interior so you can haul the toys by day and sleep by night.

While we don’t write often about toy haulers, they’re a pretty big deal in the RV industry. Sure, many people just take their travel trailers between campgrounds, but many others take their RVs out to places where they can then have some high-octane fun. The King of the Hammers and the Glamis dunes out in California bring tens of thousands of people out into the desert, so many of them with a toy hauler in tow. Most of these toy haulers are large fifth wheel trailers with garages in the back; trailers so large they require an equally hefty truck for the job.

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What if you don’t have the required equipment for one of those large rigs? What if your tow vehicle is something like a Volkswagen Atlas or some other crossover without an impressive tow rating? This is the sort of market the ATC Plā 350 caters to.

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The trailer, which weighs as little as 1,400 pounds empty and up to 5,000 pounds at max weight, is great for those folks who aren’t running around with a big truck. I toured an ATC Plā 350 1412 at the 2024 Florida RV SuperShow and came away intrigued.

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The Aluminum Trailer Company

Like inTech, the Aluminum Trailer Company, or ATC, is a smaller company with origins not entirely in RVs, but in utility trailers. As ATC explains, the company was founded in 1999 by entrepreneur Steve Brenneman. Back then, he was disappointed with what he called a “one size fits all” approach to utility trailers from existing companies. To him, they all sold the same thing, flimsy boxes sitting on steel frames that never really fully fit his needs.

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ATC Trailers

His company decided to go in a different direction. Instead of steel frames, his trailers would have aluminum frames. His trailers would also do away with wood framing with aluminum framing backed with composite walls. Brenneman believes his company’s specialized cargo and utility trailers should last longer than the steel and wood competition. ATC is so wood-averse that even the interiors of the trailers have cold metal cabinets. It’s all utilitarian, but the mostly metal construction should eliminate the weak, rotted floors and walls of the past.

ATC Trailers made its name building custom motorsport utility trailers before getting into RVs through the toy hauler world. As it turns out, an all-metal trailer for hauling side-by-sides and racecars also makes for a pretty sturdy place to sleep. It should be noted that ATC Trailers positions itself at the high end of the toy hauler and custom racecar trailer market, so don’t expect to see low prices here.

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ATC Trailers

ATC launched the Plā line of toy haulers in 2022, aiming to provide a hauling and camping experience with advanced technology and enhanced comfort. The first Plā trailers were a large bumper-pull toy hauler and a fifth wheel. Then, in 2023, ATC announced a downsized version of the line with the Plā 350 toy hauler travel trailer and the Stō 350 modular cargo trailer.

The Plā 350

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The Plā 350 was developed after ATC Trailers saw a hole in the toy hauler market for trailers that could be towed by compact pickup trucks and mid-size SUVs. Of course, there’s a problem with that. Since these types of vehicles don’t have a huge tow capacity to play with, you can’t just hitch up a long toy hauler onto the back of them. ATC’s solution was to build a small trailer with a modular floorplan.

The Plā 350 starts with ATC’s mostly metal, no wood construction. A Plā 350 starts with an all-welded six-sided aluminum tube frame. On top sits a welded aluminum skeleton that makes up the trailer’s box. ATC Trailers says it went with an all-welded construction so that there wouldn’t be any fasteners to loosen over time. In addition to the strong construction, the trailer has composite walls and a single-piece aluminum roof. It’s also not just a cargo trailer with camping equipment either. You get R7 insulation in the walls and the floor plus R14 insulation in the ceiling. The floor is a combination of a structural subfloor and a radiant barrier. ATC Trailers doesn’t necessarily call this a 4-season trailer, instead calling it an “all-weather” trailer.

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The Plā 350 comes in two versions. The first is the Plā 350 1210, a 16′ 2″ trailer with a starting weight of 1,400 pounds and a loaded weight of 3,850 pounds. Next, we have the Plā 350 1412, an 18′ 2″ trailer with a starting weight of 1,700 pounds and a max loaded weight of 5,000 pounds. It should be noted that these empty weights are with the bare minimum to take the trailer down the road. The addition of the modular interior cubes will subtract from your carrying capacity.

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With that in mind, ATC says the 1210 can carry 2,450 pounds while the 1412 hauls 3,300 pounds. However, keep in mind that both trailers get a 2,000-pound ramp. Still, these trailers have a high enough capacity that you can haul a small car in them!

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What makes these trailers different is ATC’s upper and lower modular track system, plus another modular track on the exterior. These allow you to configure your interior for almost whatever your camping needs are. Standard features include a power awning, blackout shades, a sleeper sofa, and frameless windows. In terms of modular cubes, the standard cubes you get are upper cabinets, lower storage containers, a countertop with doors, a convection microwave, and a sink module. The sink module features a water pump and a small 5-gallon water tank plus another 5-gallon grey water tank. You also get the prep for solar power and USB outlets all over the trailer. Standard household outlets are up front.

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That’s it, the standard features do not include a stove, heater, air-conditioner, or other typical travel trailer convenience features. Some of those bits are options. You can add an air-conditioner, additional 5-gallon tanks, and an off-road package that nets you knobby tires, a lift kit, and Jeep-style fenders.

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Other additions include more wall and floor cabinet cubes of different sizes, additional sinks, a dinette, a large plastic table, and different variations of the sleeper sofa. ATC also says you can add a dry flush toilet and an outdoor shower that would feed from an additional 5-gallon water container.

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You’ll notice the options list does not include any additional kitchen equipment of any kind or heating devices. ATC Trailers tells me that for now, you’re on your own with those pieces of kit. Thankfully, there are a lot of places to store whatever you add. All of this stuff mounts to ATC’s modular track system, so you can add and remove what you need and position it as you see fit. You can even hang some metal stuff outside, too.

The trailer at the 2024 Florida RV SuperShow was largely a base model, but it had a few options in the form of the dry flush toilet and the off-road package.

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Amusingly, this dry flush toilet seemed to be a bit of an afterthought. See, not only do you get to poop with your friends, but your only form of privacy is a curtain that circles the toilet tightly. So you’re pooping with your friends while being covered on all sides by a curtain. To be fair to ATC Trailers, I’m not sure where else you’d put the toilet, because building a wall and putting the toilet in its own room would sort of defeat the modularity of the trailer.

The interior of the trailer offered 6′ 6″ of headroom and a composite floor to walk on. The quality was fine. In that, I mean that ATC makes its interior components mostly out of materials that should have a long lifespan. There’s no luxury in here. Exposed fasteners are all over the place and many of the modular pieces are just hard, plain surfaces. There’s no beauty here; instead, everything is designed to just do its job. When it comes to the interior, the ATC Plā 350 borrows from the 2011 Toyota Yaris school of design, a car that even Toyota advertised as “It’s A Car.”

Not Bulletproof, But Interesting

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The ATC Plā 350 1412 as configured at the 2024 Florida RV SuperShow carried a price of $29,950. Some dealers are selling these trailers for more than this price and some dealers are undercutting the price by a few grand. So, if you want one, be sure to shop around.

It should also be known that ATC trailers are not immune from issues. Some owners of ATC’s custom car haulers have reported cracking in their aluminum frames. One owner was so dissatisfied with their custom car hauler that they lawyered up about it. This is not an issue unique to ATC, as owners of other aluminum chassis trailers also sometimes encounter this issue. It seems most aluminum cracking reports are on the custom car haulers, but I did find one report for one of the RVs, too. Aluminum frame cracking is such a thing that truckers also sometimes get cracks on aluminum semi-trailers. So, if you do buy one of these, be sure to monitor your trailer’s structure for any faults.

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While this trailer doesn’t have a ton of features, I do like the proposition offered here. The market of lightweight, compact toy haulers with standing room is almost as small as the ATC Plā 350 is. ATC’s best competition in this space appears to be the inTech Flyer Discover, an 18′ trailer with far better standard features, but a higher 2,440-pound starting weight and a higher base price of $35,000. There’s also the fully-featured $30,000 20′ 2″ Rockwood Geo Pro G19FBTH, but at a dry weight of 3,433 pounds, you will quickly run out of capacity with many tow vehicles. Maybe, if there is demand for tiny toy haulers like these, we’ll see more of them in the future.

As I said before, beauty is not the function of this trailer. It’s built to last a long time and to get you and your toys wherever you want to go. If that’s what you want, I think that’s what you’ll get. The Plā 350 feels like a sturdy unit and there’s little to go wrong with it. There’s no wood to rot, no steel to rust, no rubberized roof, and no cheap RV equipment to fail at exactly the time you want to go on a trip. It’s a toy-hauling trailer with just enough kit for you to sleep in.

 

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(Images: Author, unless otherwise noted.)

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Ben
Ben
5 months ago

This looks and sounds like a DIY cargo trailer conversion being sold for $30k. I haven’t shopped the toy hauler market much so maybe that’s reasonable, but it seems a bit expensive for what it is.

Manuel Verissimo
Manuel Verissimo
5 months ago

Man that structure design sucks ass. Have they ever heard of triangulation? Having every beam sub-structure rectangular will create undue bending stress everywhere. That could explain the cracking issues they have.

Canyonero
Canyonero
5 months ago

Every time I see an ATC trailer it makes me so sad that they (or anyone else) don’t make a non-toy hauler travel trailer with the same construction. Ever other trailer out there is made of cardboard, staples, and dispair. There used to be a couple companies that made aluminum travel trailers (I’m talking standard style, not Airstream or Bowlus) but Thor bought them all out and closed them down.

Scruffinater
Scruffinater
5 months ago
Reply to  Canyonero

What about Lance trailers? Steel base frame (chassis?) instead of aluminum, but that could be a good thing in terms of less potential for cracking. They seem to offer a good value proposition in terms of spending money on decent durability and not on pretend luxury.

Canyonero
Canyonero
5 months ago
Reply to  Scruffinater

Lance is definitely on the better end, but they’re still built like everything else. Lots of wood, glue, and staples.

Scruffinater
Scruffinater
5 months ago
Reply to  Canyonero

Hopefully that’s just on the interior (cabinets etc.) since they make a big point of advertising their ‘azdel’ construction and ‘stainless fasteners’. I would be pretty miffed if there was any wood in their walls/floor/ceiling based on their technical info!

Gary Lynch
Gary Lynch
5 months ago

While aluminum in light weight, too me it seems a poor choice for a trailer frame if durability is desired. Aluminum does not respond well to torsional loads. It does not “spring”, like steel. It stay nice and stiff and rigid. Trailer’s length, with downward forces at each end, plus the suspension and hitting pushing in the opposite direction create a lot of torsion. You need a super strong frame to handle it over time. The front of the frame and hitch in the photo do not look up to the task.

Manuel Verissimo
Manuel Verissimo
5 months ago
Reply to  Gary Lynch

A certain Mr. Hooke would like to have a word with you.

Gary Lynch
Gary Lynch
5 months ago

Don’t believe I know him.

Manuel Verissimo
Manuel Verissimo
5 months ago
Reply to  Gary Lynch

He’s the guy who demonstrated that everything is a spring, and aluminum is about 3 times more springy than steel (E_aluminium=70GPa ; E_steel=210GPa).

The issue with aluminum is that its yield stress (the point at which is starts to fail) is lower than the one for steel (usually). How rigid the material isn’t directly linked to how strong it is.

You can make a very durable aluminium structure, just look at aircrafts. And they can be very flexible too! If you look at the wing tip during takeoff, you’ll see how deformable aluminum can be.

Gary Lynch
Gary Lynch
5 months ago

realizing the there are numerous aluminum allows that can allow one to taylor the material to its required function. And aluminum is a great metal. I’m not doubting it’s strength. But as you point out its aluminum will accumulate fatigue, steel can have essentially infinite fatigue resistance.

i still would prefer steel for a trailer frame. In a properly braced structure, as you mention earlier. I would even- durability wise, prefer the spars in my airplane to be steel too. Weight wise not the best option. But that’s a whole diffuse discussion.

i will grant that your comment got me to look into this more. Not being a structural engineer, I learned something.

cheers

Manuel Verissimo
Manuel Verissimo
5 months ago
Reply to  Gary Lynch

Glad I imparted some knowledge!

Nitpick though: both material accumulate fatigue, which is another mode of failure happening without reaching yield stress. I honestly could not talk about it without looking into numbers again though, but I guarantee a steel structure can fail through fatigue.

Maybe someday I could write a few articles about structure engineering here too, it’s interesting stuff.

Mechjaz
Mechjaz
5 months ago

I just want you to know, even though have very limited interest in RVs and trailers, I read almost every one of these. I’m fascinated by them and was thinking about them on a bike ride earlier today. I was weighing the philosophy of them – the maximalist luxo-barge with room for your Ford GT underneath, the vinyl’n’wood shitshow on wheels, and everything in between. There’s this perpetual tension to them, to being less than purpose built for broader appeal, but still hewing closely enough to the target audience that they can – do what? Sleep? Haul a little 4×4? Sleep 6 people and be an indefinite home away from home?

I’m fascinated.

Amorphis
Amorphis
5 months ago

Mike Finnegan had a good video in December taking delivery of his ATC trailer, with quite a bit of footage of how they are built
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9f-631B7b8w

Drive By Commenter
Drive By Commenter
5 months ago

There’s zero storage for the toys when sleeping. That would be a bit concerning if one of those happens to be the $50k RZR shown on their website. This would work fine for places where other people are far away but not sure about large events like King of the Hammers. Is that an issue or I’m being paranoid?

Unimaginative Username
Unimaginative Username
5 months ago

When I was in this market we’d just park close to the trailer and chain our toys to the tongue or an axle – if you’re camping with a group you generally “circle the wagons” to create a kind of courtyard with a communal fire pit in the center, and someone is likely to notice if somebody who’s not part of the group enters the circle.

I couldn’t imagine wanting to sleep in a garage with a gas vehicle present anyway.

Rabob Rabob
Rabob Rabob
5 months ago

Literally nobody loads stuff in at night. Maybe if you’re down in Mexico.

Drive By Commenter
Drive By Commenter
5 months ago
Reply to  Rabob Rabob

Thanks for saying that! Looks like I didn’t understand the market for this.

Unimaginative Username
Unimaginative Username
5 months ago

Hey, toy hauler coverage a week after I asked for it. Not sure if my wish was seen, but thanks!

On the surface the Pla looks perfect – light weight, simple, durable – exactly what you want in an off-road trailer. And they even have one with 17′ of storage and a full bath in just a 29′ box?!? That’ll pack a 4-seater UTV and a couple of quads nicely.

But then the aluminum frame and cracking – these things can take a beating getting to the campsite, especially if you want to get a little ways away from the crowds that fill places just off the highway like where it looks like the Polaris event was held. That would give me a little bit of pause shelling out top dollar for a bare bones camper with a huge potential failure point…

Shop-Teacher
Shop-Teacher
5 months ago

I’ve long considered buying an aluminum framed cargo/car trailer and building it out into a camper, to be my best long term option. For that price, I think it still is. I can insulate and build cabinets myself.

OCS-BN
OCS-BN
5 months ago

No shit! That shitter is the shit!

This is one step away from a dual-purpose kitchen sink. Anybody ever thought of that?

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
5 months ago
Reply to  OCS-BN

Or a bucket. Lots of people have thought of that.

Chronometric
Chronometric
5 months ago

This looks like a perfect solution for the solo race driver. Haul your Miata to the track and have a nice place to hang out and even sleep.

OCS-BN
OCS-BN
5 months ago
Reply to  Chronometric

And to pinch a loaf.

Chronometric
Chronometric
5 months ago
Reply to  OCS-BN

I think I’d rather use the public facilities.

Greensoul
Greensoul
5 months ago

What a clever design. You can sit on the crapper and admire your new motorcycle at the same time, all in the same room! Genius!!!

Last edited 5 months ago by Greensoul
CopperFireMist
CopperFireMist
5 months ago
Reply to  Greensoul

Hey at least you don’t have to wait in line at the pump out station.

Drive By Commenter
Drive By Commenter
5 months ago
Reply to  CopperFireMist

This is a very under-rated feature.

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