How to use the Trekker’s Friend hiking trailer

Before we begin: caution!

  • When wheeling your pack nothing should touch the ground except the wheels, and nothing should touch the wheels except the ground and the axle. If something like your backpack or the daypack touches the ground or wheels while you are moving you will quickly wear a hole in it. Keep the daypack away from the wheels by keeping the attachment to the backpack tight.
  • When wheeling your pack ensure that your trekking pole connectors (eg. the quick locks) are done up tightly and the trekking poles are properly tied into the black plastic seats, which are at each end of the top piece of the Trekker’s Friend. If you don’t do this the trekking poles can come apart or separate from the axle while you are walking.
  • When carrying your pack with the Trekker’s Friend attached to it no part of the Trekker’s Friend should touch your body – if it did, it would become uncomfortable after a while. Move any such part away from your body – this should not be difficult.
  • The only moving parts in the Trekker’s Friend are the wheel bearings, and they require some maintenance, which is described here.

You can watch the videos below or look at the pictures and text in the following sections for this information. Please also see here for some short videos on how to switch between carrying and wheeling your pack on the Trekker’s Friend.

Videos

How to put together and use the Trekker’s Friend hiking trailer

Text and photos

Components of Trekker’s Friend

As shown above, the Trekker’s Friend is comprised of the following components:

  • 2 wheels, each has a two metal bearings, one on each side
  • A bottom piece, with two shock cords, two side straps with a G-hook to join and adjust them, and a place where the centre strap is attached to. The centre strap joins it to the top piece
  • A top piece, with plastic ends, two shock cords, two side straps with a G-hook to join and adjust them, and a place where the centre strap passes through to join it to the bottom piece
  • A harness, with 2 ‘snap hook’ carabiners to attach it to the straps on the trekking poles via a simple suspension system
  • A daypack with 2 ‘snap hook’ carabiners for joining the daypack to the axle and a G-hook on the handgrip
  • Small parts as follows:
    • 4 replacement bearings (for Trekker’s Friend version 3.4 onwards)
    • 2 ‘R-clips’ (one spare is provided)
    • 4 thick white plastic washers(two spares are provided)
    • One ‘ladder’ strap used to attach the daypack to the backpack.

How to assemble and use the Trekker’s Friend

Step 1. Attach the Trekker’s Friend to your backpack

You should only need to do this once, at the start of your walk. Then detach it at the end of the walk. Adjust the straps as necessary to access the items in the bag and to cater for your load as it changes.

Attach the top piece to your backpack

Attach the top piece to your backpack by sliding it between the backpack’s shoulder straps and the straps that attach your shoulder straps to the backpack. Do one side first, then the other.

Join the two top piece side straps using the attached G-hook across the top of the straps that attach the shoulder straps to the backpack.

As shown in the photo:

  • The two channels on the ends of the top piece should slope outwards at the top and they should face your back when you are carrying the backpack
  • The red ‘R’ should be on top and on your right when you are carrying the backpack
  • The blue ‘L’ should be on top and on your left when you are carrying the backpack.
Attach the bottom piece to your backpack

Place the bottom piece under your backpack, close to where your back will be as follows:

As shown in the photo:

  • The keyhole-shaped holes on the trekking pole connectors should face upwards when you are carrying the backpack
  • The red ‘R’ should be on top and on your right when you are carrying the backpack
  • The blue ‘L’ should be on top and on your left when you are carrying the backpack.

Join the side straps from the bottom piece to each other using the G-hook, across the top of your backpack, to hold the bottom piece in place. The straps should go under the top pocket of the backpack, as shown.

Feed the side straps under under any straps your backpack has on its sides.

Now do up the centre strap. It should run around the centre of the backpack as shown, joining at the back. It should go through a strap holder on the top piece, under the handgrip on the backpack and over the bottom piece and join at the back of the backpack using a G-hook.

If possible, it should go under the top pocket of the backpack. The design of some backpacks does not allow this – if this is the case, it should go over the top pocket.

Attach the wheels to the axle

First place a plastic washer on the axle.

Then place a wheel on the axle.

Then put a second washer on the axle.

Then put an R-clip through the hole on the end of the axle.

Attach both wheels in the same way.


Step 2: If you are going to carry your backpack…

At this point you decide whether to carry or wheel your backpack. This is the point to return to when you are switching between carrying and wheeling.

If you are going to carry it you will want to ensure that the loops on the bottom piece are not catching on bushes etc as you walk past. Prepare the shock cords attached to the bottom piece as shown in the photo.

Then pass the bottom piece shock cords around the opposite trekking pole attachment then back, putting the loop over the nearest trekking pole attachment.

At this point you can pick your backpack up and carry it on your back as usual. No part of the Trekker’s Friend should touch your body – if it does, it should be easy to push it away.


Alternate Step 2: If, instead, you are going to wheel the backpack…

Attach the poles to the hiking trailer

To wheel your backpack, insert the bases of your trekking poles into the trekking pole attachments on the bottom piece. You will need to cross them diagonally, inserting them both at the same time.

The wide parts at the bottom of the trekking poles should go through the large parts of the keyhole-shaped holes on the top of the trekking pole attachments.

Then straighten the poles and align them with the indents at each end of the top piece. This will lock the poles into place at the trekking pole connectors on the axle.

Put the backpack shoulder straps behind the trekking poles and use the top piece shock cords to tie the trekking poles in place. Do this by winding several times around the trekking pole/top piece then snapping the loop on the end of the shock cord over the end of the top piece. Do each trekking pole in the same way.

Then use the bottom piece shock cords to tie the waist belt out of the way.

Take each shock cord across the waist belt, then behind the opposite trekking pole. Then bring it down and slip the loop on its end over the base of that trekking pole.

Put on the harness and attach it to the hiking trailer

Put on the harness. It has two shoulder straps and a waist belt. On the right hand side the shoulder strap and waist belt are joined by a red carabiner. There is a blue carabiner on the left hand side.

The harness has a simple suspension system on each side of the waist belt. This consists of a strap with a loop on each end and a piece of shock cord. To attach the harness to each trekking pole, put the end of the suspension system through the loop of the trekking pole’s wrist strap, then put the loop on the end of the suspension through the carabiner on the waist belt. A short video shows how to attach the suspension to the hiking poles.

If you wish to remove the shoulder straps entirely you can undo them from the carabiner on the waist belt. You can also move their attachment point using the ladder arrangement on the waist belt.

The harness has a cord between the shoulder straps. You can move/adjust/remove this cord to suit yourself. The ladder arrangement on the shoulder straps provides multiple attachment points.

You should place the waist belt (and adjust the shoulder straps if you are using them) so that the tops of the trekking poles are at about the height of the palms of you hands.

You are now ready to wheel your backpack on the Trekker’s Friend hiking trailer.


Optional Step 3: Attach daypack to backpack

Once you are used to using the Trekker’s Friend you’ll find that it’s a great idea to use the daypack it comes in to balance your load and take more weight off your shoulders.

Prepare the daypack attachment strap (which has an unusual ladder-like structure) as shown, passing it through the handgrip on your backpack and through the loop on the end of itself, so that it is attached to the backpack’s handgrip.

Then feed the daypack attachment strap under the top pocket of the backpack if possible, or over the top pocket if that is not possible.

Then lay the Trekker’s Friend down so that the backpack shoulder straps are towards the ground

Lie the daypack down with its hand grip facing up. The red and blue carabiners at each corner of its base indicate the right and left hand sides when in use respectively

Now put the carabiners through the loops under the axle. These loops are on the ends of the bottom piece side straps.

Then attach the G-hook on the daypack’s handgrip to one of the ‘rungs’ on the ladder of the daypack attachment strap.

Always ensure that the daypack is attached firmly so that it cannot touch the wheels (or ground) as you are moving. If it does, you will quickly wear a hole in the daypack.

You can then put a few kilograms of your gear in the daypack and close it using its shoulder straps. It is a good place to store bottles of water, lunch and a warm top, because it is very easy to access during your walk.

You can both wheel and carry your pack with the daypack in place as shown.

Using the daypack in this way allows you to balance the weight of the backpack and thereby take more of the backpack’s weight off your body.

Please see here for some short videos on how to switch between carrying and wheeling your pack on the Trekker’s Friend.

Changes for Trekker’s Friend versions 3.2 and onwards

The following changes were introduced to address issues identified in the Trekker’s Friend:

  • In version 3.2, thicker shock cords began to be used. These are 6mm in diameter – previously they were 4mm in diameter
  • In version 3.3, extensions were made to the webbing at the base of the daypack to better suit more backpacks when connecting to the axle. These allow the user to move the daypack either closer to the axle or more on top of the backpack, as they wish
  • In version 3.4 a replacement set of bearings is included and the diameter of the axle is slightly reduced where the wheels are attached so that the bearings can be easily replaced without tools.

Maintenance

Wheels and bearings

The wheels chosen for use with the Trekker’s Friend represent a compromise between being lightweight, sturdy and cost-effective. As such, and as they, and in particular, the bearings that they contain, are the only moving parts, users should maintain them, monitor them for wear, and replace them before they fail.

The most likely point of failure is the bearings in the wheels. Each Trekker’s Friend has four wheel bearings, one in each side of the two wheels. The life of the bearings can be extended by greasing them if they are a type that allows greasing. Alternatively the bearings themselves can be replaced, either by replacing the affected wheel, or by replacing just the bearings themselves. A set of replacement bearings is provided with each Trekker’s Friend from version 3.4 onwards.

Greasing the bearings

Some bearings have a metal cover over the ball bearings that they contain – these are referred to as “6000-ZZ” bearings. You can grease these bearings. It takes less than five minutes to do all four bearings. The only tool needed is a knife. Any type of machine grease can be used.

For each of the four bearings you will need to lever off the bearing cover (eg. with a sharp knife), grease the bearings, then replace the bearing cover as shown below.

The photos below show the bearings being greased on wheels that had travelled 400km. I would recommend greasing this type of bearing after 200 km of travel, then again every 100km.

Replacing the bearings

The bearings used in the wheels of the Trekker’s Friend are cheap, widely available and easy to replace. I would recommend replacing the bearings every few hundred km of travel.

The best replacement bearing type is referred to as “6000-2RS” bearings. They are 26mm outer diameter, 10mm inner diameter and 8mm thick and have a rubber cover over the contents. Examples of appropriate replacement bearings are here, here and here. You can buy them:

  • In online stores such as Amazon.com and ebay.com, and their respective country-specific stores (eg. ebay.com.au in Australia). Search these shops, and the internet, for “bearing 6000 2RS”
  • In shops that sell parts for cars (eg here), skate boards, tools and wheel chairs
  • In hardware shops and specialty bearing shops.

Trekker’s Friends from version 3.4 onwards are delivered with 4 replacement bearings.

To replace the bearings, simply lever out the old bearing (with a stick, a knife, a screwdriver, or even with the axle) and press in the new bearing as shown below. The photos below show a bearing being replaced on a wheel that had travelled 520km.

Replacing the wheels

In Australia new wheels are available from a major hardware store here, but similar wheels would be available in many countries. If you need assistance with this area, get in contact here.

Welding

The axle of each Trekker’s Friend is entirely made of stainless steel and has 14 welds. While stainless steel is extremely strong, and welding is a strong way of joining metals, welds do occasionally fail. Re-welding is a very quick and cheap process (a joint takes a few seconds to do) and welding is a commonly-available skill, with welders found in many automotive service stations and rural businesses, as well as welding specialists.

You should occasionally check these welds for signs of cracking. If any cracking is suspected, get the affected joint re-welded. The welder needs to know that the axle assembly is stainless steel, and they should wrap any nearby attached straps and shock cords in wet rags before welding.

Endurance test

Some time ago I realised that, though I have walked thousands of km with Trekker’s Friends over the years, through that time I was changing the wheels and other components so wasn’t sure how a single Trekker’s Friend would perform over a large number of km. If you look at the photos on this website you will see many different wheels, for example, as I kept trying new types to find the best ones.

I am therefore now walking most days with a Trekker’s Friend, loaded with approx 22kg of weight on it, recording the distance walked each day and the total distance I have walked with it, to understand how it fares over long distances. This is the same Trekker’s Friend, with very minor changes, that I used for the Queensland Railtrails Walk (305km, done in May 2021), and the walk to Geehi Dam and Grey Mare Range (75km, done in February 2022). It is also the one that was used for the independent review of the Trekker’s Friend which was done in December 2021.

As at 2nd December 2022 I have walked 1104km with this Trekker’s Friend, with 18-25kg of weight on it. I greased the first set of wheel bearings at 400km and changed them at 520km. The replacement bearings have now done 588km (with no maintenance).

The endurance test continues…