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.
 
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