ATC Cougar Camper Review and Build

#1
Hello Everyone,

New truck camper guy here with a review and build report on my new All Terrain Camper Cougar model on my 2008 Toyota Tundra DC. My last expedition vehicle was a 1986 Westfalia and I am looking forward to more capability and power. Here it is in Bodega Bay right after I picked it up...


I got the basic shell on the inside except with Atwood furnace, fantastic fan, and extended bed.

I spent a lot of time looking at various truck campers. I need to sleep 4 (my wife and I and our two kids) so space is a must and most truck campers just did not have a lot of floor space or sleeping and eating areas. So, a custom build was the only way to go on my ½ ton truck. I got the ATC Cougar shell because it was relatively wide at 84” with 96” long floor (8 footer on my 6.5 foot bed). These campers have a stout, welded aluminum frame and reports on durability have been excellent. It has insulated walls and ceiling with exterior aluminum panels. There was only one interior style which is rather old school oak wood paneling. Not a huge problem for me as I am using ½” birch plywood for the build, but I would exepct ATC offer a more contemporary style at some point.

There’s in an optional upper bed extension that creates a nice big 64”x82” area with 4” foam padding that is very comfortable. I slept well on it and I'm pretty picky about mattresses. Here it is pulled out...


This triangular bar is used to push or pull the top up or down. The camper came with heavy duty lift struts so going up is a breeze. Pulling the thing back down is a little harder.

The ceiling is nice fabric that looks great but I wonder a little about keeping it clean. No squashing those bugs on it!

Lots of various window choices that I had basically built to my spec. The upper 4 soft side windows have a screen, an inner clear panel, and another inner panel that blocks all light. Velcro holds the panels up. On the outside is another panel that blocks all light and a flap along the top with more Velcro. I think it would have been better to have a clear panel on the outside. I pulled into a campground in Nevada really late, and I thought I was going to wake up the whole place pulling the outer panels up with all that velcro. Got to be a better way...

Driver's side, in hindsight I wish I got a bigger window here that opens..

Passenger side..

Rear screen door and small rear window...

Outside LED porch light with switch on both outside and inside...


LED ceiling lights, 2 of them for and aft. Each has two bulbs as well so you can have just one bulb on for lower light and both for bright light...

Top down, NorCal coast...

Wired for solar on roof and on the side, fantastic fan, two smoke/CO2 sensors (one hard wired), battery isolator, and 12v and 120v power systems with outlets inside, Yakima tracks along the entire roof length, mechanical jacks, turnbuckle tie down system, and a fire extinguisher. Tag on the side says 900lbs, and I could barely feel it back there on my Tundra, except maybe around sharp curves. Pretty basic shell. The owners of ATC were responsive and easy to deal with making a few customizations that will enable my custom build. This is my first time doing an interior camper or RV build. Stay tuned, it gets interesting, believe me.
 
#2
First I had to find a place for the 120AH deep cycle marine battery (lead acid). In the Tundra there is just enough space in the bed behind the wheel arch. This puts the lead acid battery outside, and that's good. The drawback is you can't access the positive terminal unless you remove the camper from the truck. I have it strapped to plywood with rubber bumpers on the bottom. Looking through the hole provided for the turnbuckle access...


Next I built a cabinet out of 1/2" birch plywood and 1x1 or 1x2" corner braces from Home Depot. This will hold things that we can easily grab without having to climb into the camper, like camp chairs. It will also support the cooler or electric fridge. I debated the cooler/fridge for a long time. Our trips are usually 3-4 days, so the simple Coleman 70qt Extreme 5-day cooler won out. I am also using "Cooler Shock" ice bags instead of ice, got them off Amazon. The cooler requires no extra battery or solar, doesn't run and make noise at night, and doesn't give off heat. If I take longer trips eventually I'll spring something like an ARB fridge. I like the position of the cooler up off the floor so it is easy to get things in and out of it...


Footman loops for both tie down points and low profile handle on the door (I did not want knobs sticking out that grab strap loops on backpacks an other things). There is another tie down behind the cooler near the wall. It was a bit of a trick to start the jig saw into the birch plywood and cut out the door. First I drilled small holes along my cut line, then cross drilled them to create a slot to slip the jig saw blade into.


Self closing surface mount hinges hidden inside, easy to install and no pocket drilling required...


I also started on the bench seat along the wall. This will fold out to create a platform bed for one kid to sleep, storage underneath for sleeping bags...

I used a piano hinge. Here is the bench seat position...

Sleeping platform, about 23" wide, hope they don't roll off it in the middle of the night! Still working on supports underneath it and cushions on top...
 
#3
This one is probably going to void my warranty, but here goes...

Driver's side dead space aft of the wheel arch and forward of the turnbuckle access hole...






Our frying pans and plates fit perfectly in there. The cut got a little rough on the inside so I had to do some wood filler and sanding and that messed up the gray paint. No gray paint handy, but I had a gallon of white semi-gloss, so white it is. Added a door with self closing hinges and a footman loop pull handle...


 
#4
Nice work.

If I'm understanding you correctly on the frying pan cabinet---now you will have to lift the camper much higher, so the bottom is higher than the wheel well so you can load the camper?
 
#5
No need to lift the camper any higher than normal because the frying pan storage box is behind (toward the tail gate) the wheel arch. Here are our camp frying pans in there...


and our camping plates (these are not really full size regular plates, but hey, we are camping)


The stove/sink combo, water tank, associated plumbing will be above this, and kitchen storage will be limited, so this little extra storage space is going to be needed.

I got the benches/sleeping platforms mostly done and now ready for upholstery. I am using 1" of new firm high density foam, and 2" of memory foam I already had laying around. This will give me 3" of cushion which is good enough for kids to sleep on and not too bulky for sitting. Bought some extra material from ATC to match the cushions in the upper bunk. I like the way the white paint brightened things up a bit...
 
#6
Upholstery all done. The method I used was to pull the material down over the foam, under the plywood and stapled.

Bench seat config., the Lagun table will swing out into this area from above the sink/stove that will be on the left (driver's) side...

Bed config, sleeps 2, one along the passenger side and one along the front. All bench seats have hinges against the wall, so you open them to access the storage bins underneath. All our sleeping bags fit in there, and some room left for whatever else my wife and kids come up with...


Some details on how I built the sliding parts...




Next up is the kitchen sink/stove/water tank/cabinet/table unit.
 
#7
Kitchen coming along, 15 gal water tank, shurflo faucet, Dometic stove/sink combo, nothing really fancy but it all gets the job done. Storage will be in spaces around the water tank to keep the whole unit compact. Additional storage cabinet to the left in front of the propane tank enclosure (I found lots of unused space in this cabinet after taking it apart). Everything will find its place and be snug in there, not bouncing around too much. Front of the cabinet will have two doors and a silverware drawer...



Water tank will be blocked in and strapped down when finished...


Water fill hatch to the left of the faucet, I chose to keep it inside to avoid drilling a big hole in the camper and not have a lock and key...


12v and 120 outlets...


Lots of plumbing, 12v electric, laminating and cabinet door making to go.
 
#8
Made a lot of progress on the water tank plumbing. The parts I got from plasticmart.com along with the tank were mostly useless. The only thing I ended up using was the access hatch, and I had reservations about the tiny o-ring in the lid, and sure enough it leaked like crazy...


A bead of silicon adhesive/sealer fixed the leak, we'll see how it holds up. The other fittings in the "relocation kit" that I got with the tank did not match the size of those on the pump, faucet, etc., so I do not recommend this kit. Once I get the sink in I'll hook up the water supply and drain...


The pump is lower than the bottom of the tank, and the drain valve is lower than the pump, should work out well...


I bought a foot switch intended for an electric trolling motor. I'll wire this in to the pump and have hands-free water/sink operation.

With the 15gal water tank slightly above and mostly behind the wheel arch of the truck, I started thinking more about weight distribution and am moving the battery into a battery box inside the camper toward the front wall. Also, it was a little tight getting the camper on the truck with the battery sittiing in the bed, and there was a chance I would hit the battery with the corner of the camper when loading, and that would be a huge mess with a flooded lead acid battery. In additon, now when I take the camper off the truck I don't have to also take a heavy battery out of the bed. Better all the way around.
 
#10
Thanks Climber Rob. With the temps in the 90's, low humidity, and wind its hard to get much done, especially in the afternoon. Allergies are killing me lately. I did the formica laminate on the counter top. I have a lot of tools already, but had to by a new one for this so I could get the radius corners and holes done properly. I have to say, I love this little trimmer router, makes me want to laminate everything, well sort of anyway...


Here's the counter, ready to install. One can no longer just by a sheet of Formica from the big box stores or anywhere else, I had to order it on line and they shipped a 4x8 sheet rolled up in a box. I guess that's better than watch it fly out of the back of my truck on the way home from Home Depot. I did not get the roughed out sheet on right the first time and had to peel the damn thing off and re-glue and put it back on. Said a few choice four letter words only to turn around and find my 6 year old standing there:oops:. Turned out fine in the end after trimming it...

I have enough Formica left over to do the table and some other small things.

I also built the kitchen drawer. Keeping it simple, silverware goes on one side and all the other cooking tools go on the other side. I just used glue and screws to hold the plywood pieces together, non are visible on the inside. I got the drawer slides from Lowe's. Nice ball bearing slides with a detent at close that should keep the drawer shut fine while traveling. Will do the face when I do the rest of the front of this cabinet...
 
#11
Nearly all done with the kitchen cabinet, still have to make the backsplash and box in the gas and electrical lines in the upper left...


The little black mouse on the floor is a foot switch for the water pump and faucet.


Took the family out on a little shake down overnight trip in northern CO (Chambers Lake). Everything worked great except the POS mechanical thermostat that I will be replacing with a simple digital unit...



Next up is the table. She is also getting a little heavy back there when all loaded up so I'm adding SumoSprings to replace the stock bump stops on the rear leaf springs.
 
#12
Got the Lagun table leg installed. I could not use the mounting bracket they supplied, so I made my own out of 2"x2" angle iron. It does not move up and down but that is fine with this install...


Swing the arm out and put the table on and tighten the two handles. The four of us can comfortably sit and eat at the table...



It can swing into the side and corner if needed...


The table stows under the bench seat, I put snap buttons the on the two straps you see hanging there, so it stays in place while driving...


You may notice that I raised the floor in the dining area. This is because the Tundra truck bed is really deep, and while sitting on the top most ledge of the camper where I have the bench seats my feet were dangling in the air. This is not comfortable for long periods, so I raised the floor up 6".


As a bonus I got a lot of needed storage space up front and low for better weight distribution....


Installed a new digital thermostat, works great, gives me the temp in the camper, and has a back-lit display for night...

The POS that came with the camper is where it belongs...


I also added SumoSprings, the truck bed came back up about 1-1/2" and the truck is level again...


Just one more big item and she is ready to go.
 
#13
Finished the small cabinet in the corner of the galley. I like to listen to local radio when camping (low volume) so I installed a basic am/fm/cd/bluetooth Alpine stereo. The top of this little compartment comes off with a few screws in case I have to access all the wires inside it...


Jensen speakers in a nice sized enclosure. I used some aluminum plate I had laying around to attach them to the ceiling. They sound ok, you really need some 6x9 speakers to get a great sound...



Old school antenna on the outside. Have to really be careful drilling the upper part of the camper, you can hit wires, metal braces, and blocks of wood. I picked a fairly safe spot to drill next to the 120v outlet, but I still hit a block of wood that I had to carve out a little for the antenna wire.....


So the galley is all done now. Compact and very functional. The cut-in of the cabinet in front of the sink/stove makes it easy for someone to cook or do dishes while others move about the camper. The flush cabinet doors make the camper feel even more spacious. Not a huge amount of storage due to the water tank in there, but we eat mostly fresh food and that all goes into the big cooler. Cereal, dried pasta, canned food, snacks, and all the other dry goods fit fine. The water tank fill is easy and I can reach in from outside the back door to flip the drain valve. In the old Westfalia everything had to be put away in cubbies when going to bed, but now we can just leave things out on the counter. I had originally planned on something even more basic, but lugging the 7 gallon water jugs and having to stow the old Coleman 2-burner propane stove every time we moved just eats up more time from having fun.


Got a few things to do on the outside. Top of the list is the upper soft top window flaps that I have to get out a ladder to reach as they can only be put up and taken down from the outside. This is a real PITA and I have an idea on how to modify them so everything can be done from inside the camper.
 
#14
Nice work. I like the galley layout. I don't understand why ATC does the windows on the outside. My FWC has both of the flaps on the inside, and it works great. You might be able to move the window flap to the inside without too much effort.
 
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