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Another 2020 Ram 5500 Flatbed Camper Build

Brad_UT

Well-known member
Misc. Updates:
I acquired two of China's finest panels from on UT's "Mormon Craigslist" aka KSL.com. They're 385W "half-cell" panels which should be more shade tolerant. Wired in parallel to the Victron 100/50 MPPT solar charge controller, these things crank out the power. I fired up the Victron 3kW inverter and hooked up my little space heater to give it some load. Results look very promising -- and this was an overcast day. I think the day has finally come where an all electric camper is very doable.

Shade tolerance? Maybe my expectations were too high. These half-cells are really two panels in one frame. A shadow the size of your palm pretty much kills that half of the panel since all those cells are in series. If they were a "regular" panel with all cells in that panel in series, a small shadow like this would cause the whole panel output to fall off. So, I think I made a good choice here. Putting them in parallel also helps if one panel is shaded.
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I welded up some simple angle iron brackets to hold the front mud flaps. It was an afternoon project and I think they turned out great. You may also notice the new running boards. I gave up trying to fab my own brackets and just broke down and bought the OEM ones from Dodge. Not super cheap (about $300 for the set) but I think I just wanted to be done.
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Brad_UT

Well-known member
I headed up to the Uintah Mountains in NE Utah this past Monday and had a blast on the forest roads. Found a little lake, had lunch and took a nap in the hammock. Didn't see a soul. Nice.

Even without much weight on the truck, the suspension works really well. The trick is airing down the MPT81's to about 25-30psi. Judging by feel and how little they pooch out, I can go even lower. The air system works fantastic. I wish I would have put valve stems on both sides of the wheels though. Laying on the ground to get to the valves on the rear tires isn't going to work long term.
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Tires at about 28psi. Don't skimp on the mud flaps. I'll be making the fronts wider and longer.
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I won't be posting much else until the camper shell gets ready. I've been spending a ton of time ordering all the stuff that will go inside. Researching, ordering and waiting is a big part of this build I didn't fully anticipate. I've learned more about plumbing, PEX, paneling, veneers, carpet, Corian countertops, shower basins, etc. than I ever cared to know. I will share this though. Mockup of the interior breaker/switch panel which I've been geeking out to. There's definitely more good stuff to come.
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Tex68w

Beach Bum
I've been spending a ton of time ordering all the stuff that will go inside. Researching, ordering and waiting is a big part of this build I didn't fully anticipate.

I can relate. Sitting on the computer and researching and ordering and waiting for deliveries is the majority of any project these days lol.
 

Mushadd

New member
Control Arms...

Ahhhhh... the headache... I originally went with the suspension maxx setup because i was their test dummy. They fit great, but within a month, and less than 1000 miles, the heims are already rusted to the point of almost seized. Garbage.
@RAM5500 CAMPERTHING do you happen to have a photo of the rusted joints? I just picked up their full kit and would like to try to inhibit rusting
 

Attachments

Brad_UT

Well-known member
Improving the front suspension
I was driving the other day when I had to hit the brakes hard enough to chirp the tires. The massive brakes on this truck have no problem locking up those big MPT81's. I heard a "clunk" or a "pop" from the front end, like something shifted. Not good.

Remember these slotted holes in the front lower control arm axle brackets? Well, they have become a problem like we figured. The bolt shifted from the rear to the front of the slot. I decided to fix it for good by grinding an insert out of 1/4" flat bar and welding it in to fill the slot. No biggie, just mentioning it for the others building similar rigs. If I were to do it again, I'd go with adjustable lower control arms and weld up these slots before getting an alignment.

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Other than that, the truck is doing really well. I took it on a 16-hour round trip drive to Buena Vista, CO a few weeks back. It drives great on the freeway. Pretty comfortable. 70-75mph feels about right. Running about 68psi in the tires which will heat up to 75psi. Mileage was around 13, maybe a bit more.

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I'll be heading over to Overland Expo Mtn West in a few weeks. Maybe the Bison Overland guys will have my camper drawings done by then.... :unsure:
 

DirtWhiskey

Western Dirt Rat
I headed up to the Uintah Mountains in NE Utah this past Monday and had a blast on the forest roads. Found a little lake, had lunch and took a nap in the hammock. Didn't see a soul. Nice.

Even without much weight on the truck, the suspension works really well. The trick is airing down the MPT81's to about 25-30psi. Judging by feel and how little they pooch out, I can go even lower. The air system works fantastic. I wish I would have put valve stems on both sides of the wheels though. Laying on the ground to get to the valves on the rear tires isn't going to work long term.
Hey Brad I meant to post this a while ago but on my Buckstop setup, they put these little mini braided hose clip extension things on two of the five tires for airing up/down on the rears. I'm sure they would happily sell you a few. I'm thinking of grabbing a few spares. Slick little solution if you ask me:

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ALSO thank you kindly for the reference on Tall Boy Truck upfitters. They are installing my Scott platform deck as we speak. The only answer I get when we talk is "yup!". Hard to find people like that. They speak very fondly of your rig too!
 

Brad_UT

Well-known member
Thanks for the tip! That's the best solution I've found too. I spotted some similar ones on ebay a while back, but haven't bought them because they look cheap. The Buckstop ones seem solid though.

I really liked working with Treavor and Tanner at Tall Boy. They're fellow truck nuts and will gladly work with you to get you exactly what you want. And they didn't mind me hanging out and helping with the install. That was a big one for me since the spring mounts on the bed needed to be just right.
 

Brad_UT

Well-known member
Curious what made you decide on the Bison camper, especially on a beefy 5500.
Interior layout plans?
It's a valid question. You certainly don't need a 5500 for a bison camper. I knew I wanted a flatbed camper and I researched my limited options last fall. An OEV Camp-HBE was my first choice but they're $65K+ and lead time was a year. Their dealer also told me they "weren't doing anything custom" and "you had to use their flatbed." (I've since learned some of that info was false) Total Composites was next, but they don't have a pop-up kit. I also looked at Phoenix and Hallmark. Again, long lead times and high cost. Four Wheel Camper was an option, but outrageously priced for what you get and a year wait. Friends also commented on poor build quality. So, I wasn't left with too many options. Bison Overland sprung up about that time so I looked into that. They were happy to do something custom, willing to build just a shell at a reasonable price, and said they could do it all in less than a year. Being a startup without any experience in the market was concerning, but after meeting them and touring their shop, I felt good about it.

If all goes well, the bison camper (shell) should be done this fall. I'll have all winter to build out the interior. If that falls through, I'll probably go back to a slide-in Arctic Fox and put storage boxes on the sides. Aside from the tall height, that'd be a great setup. I could even go big and get some kind of 4500lb triple slide out Mammoth Host camper. Point is, the 5500 will handle anything I want to throw at it. Now and in the future.

Interior layout will be pretty standard. North/south queen bed in cabover. Dinette and wet bath with thetford casette toilet on pass side. Fridge, sink/cooktop and microwave down drivers side. Small window A/C unit sticking out the back wall. Door will be on driver side towards the very rear. I'm really looking forward to getting that buildout started and posting my progress here. Stay tuned.
 
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