diy Aluminum camper/camperette

Fuzzyone

New member
Good Evening

It has been a journey getting here! I'll give you guys a bit of run down on myself and rigs and how I ended up here. I grew family camping with dad snaking an Aerostar van into places it should not have gone. I did fair bit of backpacking as a teen and still enjoy that today.

I started wheeling and crawling Samurais as a teen and into my mid 20s. I would sling a tarp off one side and sleep under the tarp with a surplus bivy sack and down bag. I got married and as awesome as my wife is I knew I had to upgrade some of our stuff. Bought an 09 double cab TRD Tacoma and a small wall tent with wood stove. Kept it stock besides tires. Quickly ran out of payload so got a utility trailer to put out junk in. This worked well for us with our large dog for about 8 years. I got an itch for a truck I could wheel so bought an FJ-60. Cool truck but was a 4 speed manual that got approx 11 mpg with a mild lift and 33s. Not capable enough without high dollar upgrades and I couldn't justify the 30k to get it where I wanted it. Insert child into equation and wifey wants " hardsides" for sleeping arrangements, I don't blame her, we camp in Grizzly country occasionally and havinga baby/ toddler while setting up a wall tent is a frustration. These trips we go on are supposed to be "vacation".... right?

Ended up with a 2004 Dodge CCSB diesel for cheeeeeap. Not a wheeler by any means but good enough for Hwy travel and 95% of FSR. Shortly thereafter I picked up a 70s Alaskan cab over camper. Built an aluminum riser with a swing down "back porch". We have used the heck out of it for almost 3 years. We are now ready to move on from the Alaskan. Our trusty Dodge has also succumbed to the rusty rear fenders. The box is toast and not worth salvaging. It will be getting flatdecked shortly.

So here I am soon to have a flat decked short box Dodge without a camper. I have a bit of experience with welding and fab and want to build my own. Our thoughts are we want simple inside, we find we don't want a fridge, toilet, oven or a lot of other things that come in campers. We found the Alaskan was long on nooks and crannies but short on "space". We prepack a lot of our food and keep it simple when camping/fishing/hunting/dirt biking.

I want to build a side entry pop up or tilt up camper. I am unsure if I should just do it from sheet aluminum or frame it out of square tube. I also have no idea how to insulate it. These are my 2 biggest obstacles right now. There will be no interior plumbing. A one burner stove and only a sink that drains into a 5 gallon bucket outside. I want to use either a small diesel heater or propane hear that runs only off of a thermocouple like the heater in the Alaskan. I am a firm believer in keeping it simple. In thelong term I may do a wall tent style enclosure off the side for our late fall trips where we are camped in the same place for a week or so. I look forward to feedback and suggestions.

Thanks
Warren
 

Plumb Bob

Member
all sorts of construction methods. Some weld a frame or build a wooden one and skin the outside with aluminum, FRP, wood fiberglass, etc. Can you weld aluminum? that would be the lightest framing. I've seen builds with standard off the shelf steel studs also. Metal framing does conduct heat and cold, you need to have a thermal break to prevent that temperature and possible condensation.

Spray foam is nice as it tightens up the assembly and seals air leaks. It is also the most expensive. Tiger Foam sells DIY kits for spray foaming small jobs. Sheet foam can be cut to fit the spaces in the framing. I'm not a fan of fiberglass or any loose insulation that can settle. I trust the R-value off sheet foam, not the bubble insulation products so much.

I used some SIP panels to build mine. They can be built with any type of build up. Mine were FRP and OSB on the outside, 1" foam, OSB on the inside that I painted. To save weight on the next build I would go FRP, foam, OSB or plywood as the inner layer. I glued splines in to connect sheets and to bring the corners together, around doors and windows also.
 

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Fuzzyone

New member
Thanks for the quick reply.
I can weld, not a welder per say but can make alum, mild steel or SS stick together via TIG or Mig. I have access to a sheet metal shop. 12' shear and brake as well as a 5x10 plasma table and an ironworker among other things. I think I will stay away from spray foam as the main insulator as I am sure I will need to repair the camper at some point and detest scraping and cutting out spray foam. I will start googling all of the above abbreviations:) I am tempted to build this out of 5x12 .100 or .125 aluminum sheet and have the walls also be the structure. I am by no means an engineer but am pretty good at turning simple metal ideas into a reality. I just don't want my camper to be a poorly engineered nightmare.

Thanks
Warren
 
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Plumb Bob

Member
Having access to equipment like that opens a lot more build possibilities. I think monocoque is the term used for construction where the skin is part of the structural component, try googling around for that concept.
Intended use may play into the decision, I've found aluminum a tougher material to keep stuck together in off road applications without some allowance for flex and movement. Then again aircrafts are glued and riveted together :) Send pics as you build.
 

otis24

Observer
I stumbled on this guy's youtube channel a little while ago. His camper design is different... but it works for him, but not what I'd do. But I think his construction method is interesting.
 
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ElSol

New member
While searching for threads on aluminum framed DIY campers I found this thread. I’ve designed a flatbed truck camper and am having a local shop weld it out of 1x1 and 1x1.5” tubing. Now I am researching siding. I’m considering FRP vs aluminum for the exterior, and would like to use Azdel to isolate the framing from the siding. Anyone have experience or thoughts on attaching aluminum siding to Adzel on an aluminum frame? Adhesives vs rivets... bond entire sheets vs just edging? DIY aluminum corner flashing vs standard RV corner material?

Thanks for any input.
 

otis24

Observer
While searching for threads on aluminum framed DIY campers I found this thread. I’ve designed a flatbed truck camper and am having a local shop weld it out of 1x1 and 1x1.5” tubing. Now I am researching siding. I’m considering FRP vs aluminum for the exterior, and would like to use Azdel to isolate the framing from the siding. Anyone have experience or thoughts on attaching aluminum siding to Adzel on an aluminum frame? Adhesives vs rivets... bond entire sheets vs just edging? DIY aluminum corner flashing vs standard RV corner material?

Thanks for any input.
I've worked in restaurants forever. I see FRP everywhere. It's super strong stuff and can take a beating. But, it seems kinda heavy. It's not UV stable but that can be fixed with paint.

What have your thoughts on the DIY flashing? I saw this aluminum stuff no the side of my friends house that looked like it might work for corners on a camper. It might be something similar to this - https://www.homedepot.com/p/Alexandria-Moulding-1-in-x-1-in-x-96-in-Metal-Mira-Lustre-Outside-Corner-Moulding-AT009-AM096C03/205576698?MERCH=REC-_-PIPHorizontal1_rr-_-204955712-_-205576698-_-N

I can't really comment on anything else.
 
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