Tough, multi-functional, reliable, simple, affordable.
The Survival MULE's modular design maximizes compactness and flexibility, and gives its owner liberty to determine how he/she will operate, store, equip, accessorize, and even modify their asset--in order to gain the greatest value from it.
So that we may preserve this independence for our owners, we are not "certifying" the MULE with any State/Federal highway or transportation offices. As a result, the MULE is delivered as a trailer kit, and it is the owner's choice to register it for road legality as a home-built trailer IF their home state requires it.
The Survival MULE has been driven from Minnesota to Montana and back, twice. Total road test distance is nearly 4,000 miles, and includes multiple load configurations. The MULE is a stable trailer, barely noticeable behind an SUV, even in 30+ mph direct crosswinds. It has been tested to over 1,000 lbs total weight, including 670 lbs of internal cargo, and up to 80 mph (speed limit in MT).
Maximum load: The pair of axles is rated to 2,000 lbs Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW). Each hub is rated to 1,250 pounds. Each wheel is rated at 910 pounds (as delivered), although these can easily be replaced with higher-rated wheels. The coupler is rated at 3,500 lbs GVW and 350 pounds tongue weight. The MULE weighs about 450 pounds empty, so its load capability is theoretically 1,550 pounds. It has been tested up to about 1,100 pounds total weight.
Load distribution: Four removable and adjustable shelves create five storage volumes. Heaviest items are loaded on the first or second shelves ("bottom" in vertical locker mode; "rear" if in trailer mode), which maximizes stability in vertical locker mode and minimizes the force required to transition between modes. This loading also reduces tongue weight in trailer mode, so that a well-loaded/balanced MULE in trailer mode can be moved around by holding the tongue.
TRANSITION between TRAILER and LOCKER MODES
Tested off-road AND at hwy speeds
CORROSION RESISTANCE and LOW MAINTENANCE
The locker is galvanized 18-gauge sheet steel, and rubber strips or silicone are used to seal steel panels. Hardware items (coupler, pins, chains, nuts, bolts, washers, handles) are galvanized or zinc-plated steel. Wheel rims are galvanized steel. Frame is powder coated black, and the locker can be as well. Module inserts are delivered with a coating of anti-corrosion grease.
One-person operation: One average-sized human can physically move the MULE between modes, even with 670 pounds of equipment loaded internally:
Load test 670 pounds internal load
Galvanized steel, weighs approximately 260 pounds, 40"w x 21"d x 70" high. Anti-tamper hardware. Caster wheels are mounted to base of locker that enable the owner to easily move the MULE in vertical locker mode around a garage. Delivered in galvanized shiny finish, but powder coating is offered as an option (camouflage, matching your truck, etc.). Three steel shelves (200-pound capacity) are adjustable in height and secured by pins/clips; shelves can be removed to create an open space. Full-depth (about 18") or partial depth shelves can be ordered; use of 2-3 partial-depth shelves allows for the loading of long items, like gun cases. Steel shelves can be replaced with plywood shelves, customized with openings or notches to fit gun cases, fishing poles, etc. Magnetic accessories (e.g., tool mounts, carabiners) can be easily attached to inside and outside of locker. Door/lid held open by a steel prop rod when in trailer mode. Weather stripping borders the edge of the door/lid to provide weather resistance.
Welded steel square tube, powder-coated black. Twelve pieces of angle steel (8 x 10" and 4 x 4") serve as attachments between the locker and frame. Angle steel pieces are bolted to the locker with 3/8" bolts. The frame is then secured to the angle steel pieces with 1/2" bolts and 1/2" hitch pins. Many commercially available hitch-mounted accessories can also be attached to the frame's side or back-end openings, such as cargo carriers and bicycle racks. Those made for 1-1/4" receivers fit perfectly; other will need a short adapter. You can also create a flat-bed utility trailer by detaching the frame from the locker (6 bolts, or you can also use hitch pins), and then mounting the axles and tongue/coupler assemblies, plus a standard 4x8 sheet of plywood. You can swap ends by inserting the axles into the widest cross-piece, and the tongue/coupler into the opposite end, to give extra stability as a flat-bed.
STEEL 1/2" HITCH PINS
Modular components attach easily to the frame with steel 1/2" pins. Baseline (necessary) components include the axle/wheel/tire assemblies and tongue/coupler, each of which attaches with two pins (for redundancy).
MODULAR AXLE/WHEEL/TIRE ASSEMBLIES
Rubber torsion half-axles, independent suspension. Aft position of wheels enables simple transition from horizontal trailer mode into vertical locker mode, by applying a reasonable amount of leveraged force. One or more spare tires can be mounted to the top of the tongue with a U-bolt, carried on optional cargo carriers, or carried internally. Owners can also mount spare tires with U-bolts wherever they desire, by using a hand drill to bore two 3/8" holes for a U-bolt.
MODULAR TONGUE/COUPLER ASSEMBLY
Hitch coupler is mounted with two bolts (redundancy) to steel square tube tongue, which mates to the MULE frame with two steel 1/2" pins. Hitch coupler has 2" ball, although other sizes can be provided. A MULE with 300 pounds of gear loaded on the first two shelves (above or aft of the axles in trailer mode) has a tongue weight of only about 60 pounds, which makes it manageable to lift and maneuver into position behind a tow vehicle. A lightweight jack is offered as an option, mounted to the tongue and stowable when hitched.
Small padlocks (not included) can be inserted in the hitch pin holes, instead of clips. Keyed-alike padlocks can be purchased from many vendors, enabling a MULE owner to maintain one key for all locks, securing: vehicle to hitch, hitch to tongue/coupler, spare tire to tongue/coupler, tongue/coupler to frame, axle assemblies to frame, door/lid latch handle, and cargo carrier (optional). Additionally, high-strength thread locker (red, 300 deg F) is used to secure the tongue/coupler bolts and axle assembly bolts as an anti-tamper tactic.
ROAD LEGALITY and STATE REGISTRATIONS
Many owners will use their Survival MULEs only on private land and roads; some will park their MULEs in the garage as Survival Insurance, and only use them in a contingency situation. However, if an owner intends to use their MULE on Government roads, they may have to register the MULE with their State as a home-made trailer. States may also require home-made trailers to have lights, mudflaps/splashguards, reflectors, and/or safety chains. Due to State differences and varying owner preferences, these items are not included in the standard MULE, but are offered as
In Minnesota, a permanent home-made trailer registration required five minutes at the local Motor Vehicles office, one or two forms, and proof that I had already paid the State its sales tax. Laws and State fees will of course vary--some states do not register small trailers.
"The Constitution is the guide which I never will abandon." (George Washington)
PULLEY SYSTEM: A block-and-tackle pulley ($15 eBay) is a third alternative. If required due to physical limitations you could even motorize this with a winch:
WORK SMARTER not HARDER: If you back the MULE up onto vehicle ramps and lift the tongue til the back edge is on the ground, the axles' elevation makes the transition easy enough for an 11-year old: