A Little Out of the Box - Hard sided Pop-up 4 season Topper

Andrew_S

Observer
I'm going to keep this relatively short, full build can be found here - https://expeditionportal.com/forum/threads/1986-gmc-s-15.175189/

The wife and camped in our canopy for two years and always wanted a bit more space but wanted to maintain the minimal size.
So began the plan/dream of doing our own thing.

The want list for the new canopy was;
-stand up in it
-sit up in bed
-big bed
-No making the bed, always set up
-4 season camping, insulated w/heater
-quick and dirty, by this I mean set up in like 60 seconds, no packing, unpacking moving stuff etc.
-bare bones, build it as we need it
-take an absolute ******** kicking on the back roads
-Light, sub 400lbs, this was a big deal because our platform is not a beefy one-ton
-Don't loose the ability to use the truck, aka fit a moose in the bed without issue
-Keep costs Lowish,


So I borrowed a radial arm saw from a buddy and bought a spool gun and just simply got started.

We started by building a frame off the bed rails out of 2x3 aluminum angle




Then the main frame for the canopy on top of that,




The rough idea was a box on top of a box. 3 flip up walls would fill in the cab over portion.
So after a trial fit we started on the top box.




Both top and bottom box coming along, started on the pop up walls


We wanted the topper to function like a canopy with two doors that would open just the same way. Once I wrapped my head around how I wanted to do this I got started.


Trying out the bed for the first time.


Starting to actually look like a canopy.


We repurposed canopy windows which fit right inline with our budget.


First trial fit on the truck


 
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Andrew_S

Observer
Tailgate progress



Sheeting was a big milestone.




Flip up walls complete w/ drip edges.


Tailgates wrapping up






Topbox almost complete


After drilling 600+ holes into the canopy for rivets we naturally had some concerns about leaks. Sika 221 is an amazing product.


Insulating


How to effectively lift this unit was like the monster in the back of my brain for quite some time during the build. I fully intended on using heavy gas springs the entire build. Up until I saw this amazing trailer w/ roof top tent powered by actuators. 30 mins into reading about the build I was dead set this was the way to go. One of the best decisions of the entire build.


The sleeping area accommodates a fullsize queen bed perfectly.


Struts for the gates


Tie downs and sliders for our Grumman


Testing the actuators w/ canoe.



A plate to stabilize & support the cabover portion and also for lights.




Panel for all the fancy stuff


Up and on the truck


First time out in the wild


Video of popping it up
 
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Andrew_S

Observer
First trip and night sleeping in it!


Backed that up with the an 800km 4 night trip






Then another 5 night trip. We are totally in love with the new set up. Quick easy set up, no hassle, just push a button and flip 3 walls.


The actuators make removing it from the bed so easy. Back in, lift the top, tie it off, undo the clamps and then retract them and that's all it takes.




The next big thing was the planar diesel heater courtesy of Expedition Upfitter.









and that catches it up to just about now.


I really drew a lot of inspiration from build threads in here. OVRLND campers make absolutely extraordinary stuff and if I hadn't stumbled across their thread in here this wouldn't have come to fruition. I would love to see a bigger company adopt a design similar to this and start producing it. That way if anything ever happens to this truck or topper I don't friggin have to do this again.

All said and done we ended up around 4k on our budget, that includes diesel heater, actuators, windows, aluminum etc etc. The camper came in right at 400ish lbs.

My hat is really off to anyone who takes on their own build and all of the manufacturers who design, fab and produce campers. I previously thought campers were so over priced and that mindset has completely shifted. To build something once is one thing, to be able to reproduce it over and over again and stand behind it is something entirely different.
 

Andrew_S

Observer
Thanks for the good words guys.

Wild! Came out so nice, congrats. If you're ever in Flagstaff we'd love to see it!
Man that really means a lot coming from you. The product you guys put out is mind blowing and was the true inspiration for this build. As I previously mentioned, the amount of time it takes to design and produce one of those units is unreal. Then to stand behind that product when it gets ******** kicked on backroads, that would keep me up at night. I appreciate the invite and I might take you up on that when we do a trip we've been planning down south.

Made some more progress today.

Mounted up the pedestal


Next up was the fuel tank. Started by cutting down the supplied brackets.




Spaced it 1/4" off the wall and fully insulated the mounts with 1/16" rubber sheet.


I decided to use these flush mount sailboat style exhaust fittings so that the pop top will still function properly.





Intake and exhaust complete




Made 4 of these up for better hangers off the roof


Makes loading/unloading even simpler.


Last project of the day was a step to get in and out of bed


Really productive day. Just need to shorten the fuel pump and main power harness for the Planar and it's complete.
 
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llamalander

Active member
Thats some nice clean work!
What I really envy is you being able to work on it without the truck in your way-
I would have 6 more knees still on my jeans if I was set up like that.

You're moving fast, this is a fun build to watch, keep on posting.
 

DzlToy

Explorer
Paging Alaskan, FWC and several others. Stop building $40,000 slide in truck campers that weigh 3,000 pounds. This guy just kicked **************** with a welder and some tubing in his garage.

Using sandwich panels would save some weight and a LOT of welding/riveting. Kudos to you for getting stuck in man.

P.S. The black and red S-10 is super clean.
 

Ark

Member
Excellent build!

I really like your Alaskan Camper style flip-up cabover panels. This is the first unit I've seen that uses those other than AK Campers. Seems like a really great way to make a low profile camper that is still quiet in wind. Well done
 

Andrew_S

Observer
Thanks for the good words guys.

WoW! I just built mine out of plywood. Questioning my existence.

Sent from my LM-K300 using Tapatalk
Thats an awesome looking rig. I really like the way you set up your heater.

Paging Alaskan, FWC and several others. Stop building $40,000 slide in truck campers that weigh 3,000 pounds. This guy just kicked **************** with a welder and some tubing in his garage.

Using sandwich panels would save some weight and a LOT of welding/riveting. Kudos to you for getting stuck in man.

P.S. The black and red S-10 is super clean.

I looked into sandwich panels, definitely would have saved some weight. Also not dealing with the thermal bridging from the aluminum would have been key. The cost and availability were factors that turned me away though.




Just got back from another 5 day hunting trip. We got our first taste of snow and cold weather. Here are some pics.









The only thing not up to the task was this garbage motorcraft battery (literally pulled out of the garbage at work). The battery took a charge and tested fine but after 5 days of minimal diesel heater use it wasn't up to the task. So I purchased this 85 amp hour agm and quality monitor to upgrade the system. Also looking into an isolator and vehicle charging the second battery while driving currently.

 

Ducstrom

Active member
How did you go 5 days with the diesel heater? Must have been very minimal usage.
I have a webasto air heater in mine and I get about 2.5 days before I am down to 50% on a new 105ah AGM.
I run it about 8-10 hours a night. Over night temps have been around -5C.
Only other thing I am running is a few LED lights and a DC fridge.

I've got the same Victron monitor, it's pretty nice.

I'll be going to a couple of lithiums in the future to stretch out our time disconnected. I'd like to be able to go 5-6 days in the winter without having to recharge
 

Buddha.

Lurker
An isolated dual battery system sounds like a good idea. Can you mount that AGM battery under the hood? Also I’m not sure about the 2.8 trucks, I had a few of the later 2.2/4.3 trucks. On those trucks you could cut the rounded corner off the battery tray and fit a battery that was bigger. Also on the 4.3 trucks you could grab an alternator and serpentine belt(1” longer) from a full size truck which got you the physically bigger alternator that made its power at lower rpms, supposedly.
 
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