Another DIY truck camper

Ducstrom

Active member
I decided to build my own camper after not being able to find exactly what I wanted within the budget that my bank account was happy with.
I had a Winnebago trailer for a couple of years and would use it for hunting, fishing and dirt biking trips. Many of which were down roughish gravel roads. It seemed that something fell apart or broke after each stretch of rough road. Mostly interior trim items failed, though it did fill the furnace compartment with snow once due to an unsealed wheel well. Anyhow, it got me worried about the longetivity of the trailer, so I sold it.

I wanted a truck camper to avoid having to pull a trailer down dirt roads with unknown turn around points. I wanted it to fit within the truck with the tailgate up so that I could still pull a trailer if needed. I wanted fewer thermal bridges (the winnebago had aluminum wall studs that would be dripping wet when it was cold out). I wanted it low profile with a popup but still fully functional with the top down. I wanted to keep it fairly light, durable, and removable since I still need to use the truck as a truck.

I do not have knowledge of design programs to make fancy plans. So I tackled it a little more rudementary; good ole pen and graph paper sketches.
Anyway, these are some of my crappy drawings. No laughing....
 

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Ducstrom

Active member
The first two pictures show how the notches are going to be cut in the plywood to fit panels together. Construction is marine grade plywood bonded to 1" foam board. Everything is going to be 'puzzle pieced' together and bonded with epoxy and fiberglass. The skin and all interior cabinets will be the frame.

I should mention that it's just me and the wife, no kids in our future, so the small size will be OK... I hope...

I had a 2014 Ram 1500 6'4" bed when I started this thing. The idea was to keep the weight down but in pre planning I went to all the dealerships in town and measured all the shortbox and longbox trucks. So as long as I can use a tape measure properly it should fit in the back of any full-size truck, short or longbox.
That 2014 Ram turned into a 2019 F350 LB after a trip across our local scale revealed that I only had 700lbs of payload left with only the two of us and some groceries in the truck.

This thing is still a slllooowww work in progress after starting to build it a year and a half ago, but I do have some photos to ad.
 

turbothrush

Member
I for one would love to see the the pics you have. Is the puzzle pieced together idea to increase glue surface area?
 

Ducstrom

Active member
I for one would love to see the the pics you have. Is the puzzle pieced together idea to increase glue surface area?
Yes, exactly. I also felt that it would help with forces pulling on the camper at specific locations, like where the jacks mount. This way a 1/2" piece of plywood would have to tear in half rather than just split at a seam for the joint to fail.
I apologize for the speed of posting these photos too. I am going to do them in small batches since I don't have a computer at home and I am doing this on my phone.
Here is an example of the pieces cut out prior to assembly. Again I don't have a fancy CNC machine, I am doing this with a skil saw and a router. I only have half the garage to work in since the other side is full of motorcycles, kayaks and other garage 'junk'.
 

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Ducstrom

Active member
So fitting these pieces together you can kind of see the shape of the camper that will fit inside the box of the truck. At this stage everything was just fit together and the only screws used were on the bottom sheet of plywood where it needed to be wider than the 4' width they come in.
I also cut the camper just short of 8', by 3" to be exact, to ensure that the tailgate would still close once finished out with the door.
 

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Ducstrom

Active member
Here's some more. Finally putting down some epoxy. Using 2 layers of 6oz, 4" fibreglass tape on each side of the butt joints and the outside corner joints. Screws used to hold the pieces together are removed and the holes plugged with dowels and epoxy.

At this point in the build I decided to rip (actually the store ripped) 1" strips of plywood to add in between the 2 layers of plywood. I planned to do this just in the floor so there would be less likelyhood of compressing the foam in the floor; but at some point I decided to do it throughout the camper. I don't remember why...But I guess it can't hurt.

Flipped the camper up on end so that I could cut and add the foam insulation. The foam is epoxied to the wood on both sides, so essentially the plywood is saturated both sides with epoxy. At critical (or what I thought would be critical) load points I added one layer of 6oz fiberglass tape over an epoxy filet. Other inside corners only recieved a filet with no fiberglass.
 

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java

Expedition Leader
Yeah screw cutting all that by hand...... Nice work. Looking forward to see the rest.

Sent from my SM-G973U using Tapatalk
 

Ducstrom

Active member
Added more foam insulation to the inside and began with fiberglassing the corners. I also added the side pieces that extend out over the truck box sides. Outside width on this thing is going to be 7'. That'll allow me to clear the truck box sides without the use of jack extensions and it makes the width of the camper box only four inches wider than the truck. The Winnebago I had previously was also 7' wide with an East - west bed which fit us really good so I am duplicating that size and orientation here. I am 6' and the wife is 5'9" so a full length bed was wanted.

At this point it was still pretty easy to manhandle solo, so it got flipped upside down to make the fiberglassing on the bottom easier. At this point I really wish that I had already purchased the large rolls of fiberglass sheets that are now sitting in the garage waiting to go on. Fiberglassing upside down is going to be miserable, but I seem to like doing things the hard way...

Maybe I'll just roll it upside down on the front lawn. Lol

I have hope that it won't be that bad. I spent a bit of time when I had it upside down to make sure the corners were fairly smooth. Also, the bottom half of this this is getting raptor liner and from what I hear that stuff is fairly forgiving.
 

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Ducstrom

Active member
Yeah screw cutting all that by hand...... Nice work. Looking forward to see the rest.

Sent from my SM-G973U using Tapatalk
It sucked, but I work with what I've got. Also, borrowed a portable tablesaw and chopsaw from a nice friend. I've done some home renos, but never built anything like this before and it's also my first crack at fiberglassing. I did a few test pieces and was happy with how strong they came out.
 

Ducstrom

Active member
Carrying on I began building the upper part of the camper. Adding the walls I braced them with 2x4 to make sure things were square before epoxying them into place.
I managed to find a, pretty much new, door off a teardrop trailer for $200. It doesn't have a seperate screen door, but does have a sliding window with a screen on that window which will have to do for now.
I cut the hole for the door so I would have a way to get in and out and figured I'd grab a pic or two while it was in there.

I don't think I mentioned it earlier, but this is not going to be a cab over design. Like I said, I want to be able to use it with the top down and having the bed in the cabover doesn't work for that. I also wanted the roof of the truck open so that I could carry kayaks there on a rhinorack pioneer platform. I didn't want the extra height of having them on top of the camper and the extra weight they would add to lifting the top. Also, this leaves the camper roof open for solar panels. Our kayaks are almost 15ft long so will extend out over the truck hood to a Thule goalpost type set up. I've seen similar things usually on trucks pulling fifth wheel trailers. I added a front hitch to the truck already with a beefy 10000lb pull rating.
 

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Ducstrom

Active member
Got the back wall angles cut. They are 45 degree angles.

Also, added the forth wall.

Got a front shelf mounted as well, its visible through the door.

I also decided to cut some holes in areas where I didn't need the full half inch plywood sheet. You can also see the conduit I added under the bed platform in these photos

 
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