Many avid campers turn to large and expensive camping trailers or RVs in order to enjoy the great outdoors while also enjoying the comforts and luxuries of home. However, if you build your own camper you can also enjoy the same comforts without spending a fortune.
You Can Build Your Own Camper
If you already own a pickup truck, then there's no reason why you can't have your very own custom built camper. Many people actually prefer the truck camper, because when you're traveling with a truck you can access wilderness areas that an RV or a car towing a camping trailer simply can't reach. By following the steps listed below, you'll find everything you need to build your very own truck camper.
Getting the Materials and Tools
If you are looking to build the most inexpensive camper possible, you might consider purchasing many of the camper components from sources like Ebay, yard sales or online classified ad websites. Some of the camper items that you can usually purchase second-hand at a significantly reduced cost include:
- A Generator to power camper appliances
- A ceiling vent
- Rear ladder for roof access
- Camper windows
- Camper door
- Screws and nails
- Portable sink or kitchen unit
The camper items that you should buy new to make sure that they are solid and high quality include the following items.
- Lumber and planking for walls
- Lumber and planking for roof
- Siding for the exterior of the camper
- Small air conditioner if you want one
- Thin insulation if you plan to camp in the winter
- Refrigerator and stove (optional)
- Miniature dinette table (optional)
- Miniature shower and portable toilet (optional)
Building the Frame
When you start out building your truck camper, you need to plan the design based not only upon the footprint of your truck bed, but also on the amount of weight that your truck can carry. Building the frame successfully requires excellent measurements and careful cutting so that your camper fits into the bed of your truck perfectly.
When you're deciding which features you want to include in your camper, keep in mind that every component, like a toilet or stove, will add more weight onto the back of your truck. Check the following weight ratings before choosing which "features" to build into your new camper. Check the factory rated load capacity for the following.
- Your rear tires. If each can support 2500 pounds, then your camper (and everything inside it) shouldn't weigh over 5000 pounds. It may sound like a lot, but weight can add up fast.
- Shocks and struts
- The rear axle
- Engine towing capacity
Your truck's owner's manual should provide a maximum towing capacity for your truck's engine and transmission. Once you've figured out the maximum weight that your camper can have, you're ready to start the design.
Laying Out the Camper
Wood is the best material to make your own camper because it's very easy to modify and work with. After gathering the measurements below, you'll be ready to frame up all of the walls for your new camper.
- Measure the length of the truck bed. This will determine the length of both side walls.
- Measure from the floor of the bed to the top of the cab, and add a few inches. This will determine the height of the lower part of your front wall.
- Measure (or calculate) the distance from the back of your new camper to the front of the "cabover." The cabover is the part of your camper that extends over your cab. Most commercial campers have one that extends about three to four feet.
- Decide on the height of your camper. This can be any reasonable height, but keep in mind that the height of the camper impacts the overall weight, the aerodynamic qualities, and the difficulty to build.
Before you even start building the camper, make precise drawings of every wall and the roof. Design the camper with a lower wall and an upper wall, with the lower stud of the upper wall extending over the cab of your truck.
Materials and Finishing the Inside
The materials to build your camper consist of 2x4 or 2x2 studs and plywood. Use 2x4s if you want a sturdier camper that can withstand wind well. Using 2x2s will also work just as well. Once you build the side, front and back walls into the bed of your truck and you've installed the roof, you can do anything you like to the interior of your camper. Here are a few ideas.
- Use the floor of the "cabover" compartment to lay down a thick pad and use it as a comfortable bed.
- Make efficient use of space by installing miniature, portable appliances such as a sink or a cooking stove that is detachable for use outside of the camper.
- Incorporate the design - the small bottom and larger top - into your interior. Use the large overhanging shelf as part of a bench next to your dinette, or build convenient cabinets for storage over them.
Go Camping Wherever Your Heart Desires
While designing and building your own camper from scratch is a very rewarding experience, you can start out with a little peace of mind by ordering truck camper plans online at sites like Glen-L, which offers a some great designs. You can also find a number of free truck camper plans if you search around on the Internet. Once you've completed your new truck camper, make sure to take it out and use it as often as possible. You will get a great deal of satisfaction when you're camping alongside the RVs that cost as much as a house while you're sleeping comfortably in your inexpensive, custom built camper. .