Last year during a Prepper Jamboree I was introduced to using free trampolines from Craigslist as a camping shelter or outdoor classroom type facility. One of the attendees set up and demonstrated his free trampoline shelter. He often uses it as an outdoor sheltered classroom or demonstration area and then uses it as his “tent” at night. What impressed me the most was its strength since he was a big guy and jumped up and hung from the cross bars. Since my homestead is in a very windy area and all previous attempts at building small greenhouses and shelters have been plagued with severe wind damage, I was intrigued and my mind started spinning at all the uses I could come up with for these sturdy trampolines that were free for the hauling from Craigslist. In this article I will highlight my main suggestions for putting this abundant free or cheap resource to use around the homestead and for camping and other outdoor activities. You are only limited by your imagination.
5 Main Categories for Re-purposing or Up-cycling Trampolines:
Sheltered Storage / Sheds
Assembled Trampolines as Small Animal Shelters
Trampoline Frames as Animal Pens
1. Portable Shelters:
Outdoor Classroom, Display Area, Tent for Camping, Bug Out Shelter:
This was the original use that was presented. The pictures below are of a 14′ diameter trampoline that was obtained for free from Craigslist. The disassembled trampoline can be easily transported in a pickup truck or even in an SUV with the seats down. The original safety netting around the jump area of the trampoline is used as a shade screen during the day. The original trampoline mat has been cut in half and attached along the back wall as additional shading or as a wind block. This is the initial assembly.
This is how it can be used during the day as a class room or demonstration/display area, etc.
Since a 14′ trampoline was used, it is 7′ at the peak providing good head room. Of course you can use other sizes of free trampolines also. When assembling the two halves of the trampoline frame circle, holes have been pre-drilled so that carriage bolts can be inserted at each connection to keep the sections from twisting. When prepping the half circles on the ground ahead of time for drilling, make sure you have the trampoline leg connections all facing up at the same angle before drilling your holes at each junction to hold the arch in position.
This is a picture of two joined sections with the “leg connector” facing up. If you look close to the left of the upright you can see where the two pieces have been joined together. You would want to drill your hole through both pipes at that connection about 1″ to 1.5″ to the left of the upright in the example above. This is a picture of my large pipe framed trampoline so when I install the horizontal depth pipes they will actually go inside the leg pipe. But for the smaller framed trampolines I recommend using horizontal depth pipes that cover the leg connectors.
The diameter or width of the shelter will be 14′ but the depth can be whatever you like to some extent. I found that the pipes used to hold the safety netting up around trampolines were too flimsy in my opinion so I will substitute pipes I have on hand at the ranch. The galvanized pipes sold for chain link fencing at Lowes and Home Depot work well and can often be found in various lengths. You can increase these standard lengths by adding the 3′ verticle leg pipes from the original trampoline. You can choose to have your depth pipes that hold the two arches together slide inside the leg connector pipes or I recommend the pipes being big enough to insert the leg connectors inside your depth pipes. Drill carriage bolt holes at these junctions also to keep everything well connected when set up.
This brings up one big factor in the differences between various trampolines you may get for free on Craigslist. Not all 14′ trampolines are created equal. My first freebie had a large heavy duty frame made with 2″ diameter piping. Since I wanted to make a longer and stronger structure I decided that I would need numerous 14′ trampolines to supply multiple arches. The next freebie trampoline was also 14′ but had significantly smaller and lighter weight pipes. So you may need to take that into account when building structures requiring multiple trampolines and determining what uses your free trampoline can be put to. I chose to put the lighter weight trampolines to use in small animal shelters as outlined below.
The biggest asset for using these trampolines as a camping tent was highlighted by the attendees that were participating in a campsite contest. Some contestants had tents, usually on the small size requiring you to crawl inside or at least not providing the ability to stand up. They were gimping around and complaining about sleeping on the hard ground and that their knees were getting old. By using this shelter as a tent at night, there was plenty of room to stand upright, have a large double cot, cooking and dining areas, etc. Adding a tarp over the structure adds more wind and rain proofing. It is easy to imagine additional improvements to make it the basis of a very viable bug out shelter that can be easily stored at, or transported to, an off site bug out location.
I don’t do any camping anymore since I have too many animal commitments on the homestead. So the first actual use that I visualized for this free trampoline resource was as a greenhouse. A couple years ago I bought a cheap greenhouse that was on sale. Since the high winds in my area are known to destroy just about anything I build, I wasn’t optimistic it would survive. I actually figured the cover would be destroyed first. To avoid that as long as possible I actually stole an idea I had seen on the internet for using 16′ cattle panels bent in an arch to make an inexpensive greenhouse. I had hoped the additional cover support would keep the cover from being shredded by the winds. Well that aspect worked, as it wasn’t the cover that the winds destroyed, it was actually the metal framing that broke. So light bulb moment….. use the heavier trampoline frames to make my arches and attach cattle panels to that to support the greenhouse cover fabric or plastic.
I haven’t built this yet because I am still trying to find another one of the older heavier duty 14′ trampolines. Most of the freebies are the thinner lighter weight pipe. I may go ahead and just use the two arches I have and build a smaller green house, or figure out another support mechanism for the center so I can at least get double the normal depth I would from using just one set of arches. For camping or building in windy weather areas, smaller diameter pipe or rebar type stakes are pounded in the ground so that the trampoline arch frame sits over top of them which helps hold the structure in place on the ground. Permanent installations can have a hole drilled through for a carriage bolt also. For my high wind green house I will be using a combination of that method along with heavy 4″x 12″ timbers that the arch legs and cattle panel edges will be attached to. My last free trampoline also came with a bunch of tension rods that will come in handy when building a sturdier greenhouse.
Here is an example of a Trampoline Greenhouse. There are even YouTube videos about building them.
HowDoesShe.Com has a great article and instructions with lessons learned. Using metal depth bars instead of PVC would solve her sagging problem.
3. Sheltered Storage or Shed:
This same concept can be used to build any type of permanent shelter for storage by using a tarp instead of greenhouse plastic or even screwing in metal or lexan panels for better water proofing. The trampoline frame arches then just become the sturdy bones of your shelter and they are FREE !
Check out HomeGrownEngineer.com article on his trampoline shelter.
4. Assembled Trampolines as Small Animal Pens or Shade:
Rabbit Colony Pen:
I have decided to experiment with raising some of my meat rabbits in a colony situation. I was really worried about the California heat, knowing that rabbits can not survive heat very well. This 14′ free trampoline was assembled and then wired in to form a nice large area for this batch of 8 rabbits. I used wire fencing that was already laying around the homestead and it happened to be taller than the trampoline. That ended up being ideal because I then had about 6″ that I could fold under the support legs and have wire covering the ground around the inside edges of the pen. For the gaps between the metal U shaped leg sections, I used a piece of the original safety net uprights that had a slight bend to them. I wired these to the existing trampoline legs. When the wire fencing was bent under the metal legs and metal filler bars, it was also zip tied to the metal to keep everything in place and dissuade the rabbits from digging or pushing things around.
Of course you will notice the homestead essentials of duct tape, zip ties, hay bale strings and old baling wire being used to hold everything together, LOL. The duct tape (actually OD green Army “100 mile hour tape”) was used at the leg pipe junctions to keep things from falling out. During the construction process and before the trampoline mat was installed, the wind had pushed the framing around and legs were falling off all over. Once taped and with the mat and springs installed there have been no more problems. To be safe I have a cement filled cinder block tied to the trampoline frame to keep the wind from moving it around or flipping it up. I normally leave the safety net pulled up to allow cooling wind flow. While underneath the trampoline and pulling the wire sides under the legs, we discovered that with the safety net down, it cut off almost all air flow and instead of providing more shade as I hoped, it made things hotter. So I only pull the safety net/shade cloth down on cold nights with hard blowing winds.
This batch of rabbits is loving their new larger pen. During the heat of the day they have plenty of shade areas to hide in or stretch out under, and at night they are running around playing and having a grand time. I have feared trying a colony situation due to rabbits being territorial, etc. I even had brother rabbits in the past start to fight with each other even though I had separate female and male sibling pens. So far this group of siblings with their mom has had no signs of fighting nor sex. But I am not holding my breath because we all know what rabbits are known for, LOL. So this is just an experiment in colony raising with this group. I still have my other rabbits separated into girl and boy pens with the buck and does in their own pens. I made the mistake of feeling sorry for the buck being alone and thought he might want to live in the boy pen. NOPE !! The second I put him in the boy pen a huge fight erupted with fur flying, ugh. That is what caused the butchering of the other two brothers in the boy pen. The males start to fight with each other……easy decision to butcher them for their meat.
Chicken Coop, Chicken Tractor, any small animal shelter:
The same method used above for the rabbit pen can be used to wire in under the trampoline for chickens. I had seen that on YouTube. A woman used her kid’s trampoline to keep her backyard chickens penned up. That is what gave me the idea to try it with rabbits. The trampoline can also provide shade for other small ranch animals. Before I wired in the base, my ranch dogs and feral cats often hung out underneath it as an additional shaded area. It is tall enough for my Nigerian goats to also seek shade under it. I may get them their own trampoline shade shelter. I have not gone through a winter yet with these trampolines so I don’t know how well if at all the trampoline mat may resist water. I assume I will have to bungee a tarp over the trampoline to water proof it for the rainy season.
5. Trampoline Frames as Small Animal Pens:
This is a great example of small animal pen being made with a trampoline frame. These are obviously a more permanent “building” whereas leaving the trampoline assembled as above does allow easier movement of the pen. Of course this same design can be used as a goat shelter or even a pony shelter if one side is left open.
Update December 2016 –
I just came across this very unique use of the trampoline legs that Cricket Recor posted on Facebook. She is building a rabbit shelter from an old trampoline frame. I had never seen this use of trampoline legs before. Brilliant. One other thing you may notice if you look close is another new thing I discovered recently. My most recent free trampoline from Craigslist was a 10′ trampoline that I will probably use to make a goat or pig shelter. It shares a very useful feature as does the below trampoline. Can you see it? LOL….. The feature is that where the trampoline sections connect, instead of round pipe into round pipe, there is a box pipe connection! That is so awesome because I found with the one I got that the slipping and twisting is eliminated when assembling the arches. You don’t really need to drill and insert bolts at the connections because that box connection stops all twisting. So once again, not all trampolines are created equal. Of course if you are getting them free, you use what you have, but using box connection type trampolines for making arches is far easier than the normal round pipe connections.
Free Trampolines from Craigslist:
This is a picture of a free trampoline I just found yesterday on Craigslist. It is actually a different style than the ones I currently have so it might be worth the trip to get it and check out the upright pipes since they are a different design than the rabbit trampoline. I would say that there is at least 1 free trampoline per week on Craigslist in my area, often more. Besides checking the free section, also search all for sale ads for “trampoline”. The below trampoline was not listed under the free section items but was listed as free if you came and hauled it away.
I hope this sparks your imagination. Have you built anything with free trampolines? Do you have any ideas for other useful things that can be made with the free trampoline components? Please let us know in the comment section below.