F350 Custom Camper Build Questions

YnotDIY

New member
Hey ya'll, very new here and have been reading as much as possible about subframes and building technique, but had a couple questions and decided it would be best to just make a post.

Small intro
I'm planning to get an F350, delete the bed, and fabricate a camper off the back that will go over the cab. I'd like to build the frame in steel. After it's finished I'll be living in this full time with my partner and our dog, year round, for at least two years.

Questions
1) It sounds like people are building subframes out of 1/8" 2x2 // 3x2 .120 steel and I'm curious if this is also the general size people are using for the actual frame work of their campers. I don't want to overbuild this. My parameters are strong, inexpensive, and as light as I can go. I'm looking for simplicity and efficiency. ( I know it's weird talk from someone looking to DIY a living space off the back of a truck, but alas there ya have it haha.)

2) I THINK I'd like the subframe to just be a part of the camper body, (to save weight) but am having trouble imagining how I'd go about insulating the floor and closing in the underside of the camper in order to do this. Welding with thin steel sheeting is a possibility, but is that necessary? Wood seems like a bad choice since it will be exposed to all elements, maybe a composite material?

3) Exterior Skin - This is a big one I cannot find a solution for yet and I know it's my inexperience, so I apologize for that. Curious about options for materials and attachment techniques for exterior skin to a metal frame? What methods and materials are people using? I'd rather not use alu for cost reasons. Attach from outside w/ sikaflex? Attach from inside so frame structure is highlighted?

I SERIOUSLY appreciate any help, suggestions for previous builds to read, books, people to talk to ect. I'm still learning the lay of the land here, but from the looks of the examples page it seems this build belong in here. If this post would be better in another area of the forum I'd appreciate direction with that.

I've been taking notes from the Alaskan Camper on the F250 build for the subframe and have been searching and reading for hours a day, I'm willing to put in the work! Just can't do it alone.

Thanks everyone, appreciate ya'll taking the time to share your knowledge so another person in this world can make an alternative life possible! Cheers!
 

IdaSHO

IDACAMPER
What year truck, and whats your current available payload?
Knowing your payload you can then work backwards to design a camper that will fit he bill as well as not overload the truck.


Honestly, with a proposed use of just a couple of years, you will probably miles ahead just sourcing a used slide in.
 

YnotDIY

New member
What year truck, and whats your current available payload?
Knowing your payload you can then work backwards to design a camper that will fit he bill as well as not overload the truck.


Honestly, with a proposed use of just a couple of years, you will probably miles ahead just sourcing a used slide in.
94 F350 4x4 Manual Diesel, not a DRW. I'm haven't weighed the truck yet, but I believe the payload to be around 4,600lbs. Of course I'll get something more accurate once I get the truck. Hoping to pick it up tonight actually.

Has a dana70 rear and a dana60 front axle.
I should be more specific with our timeline. We are looking to live in it full time for two years, but will keep it around after that. We're both artists and are planning to use the build as a mobile studio / / artist residency. It will continue to get a lot of use after our full time living.

My concern about a slide in is that it feels a bit limiting with the design and for all three of us I haven't seen one that really fits the bill so to speak. Please change my mind haha.

I'm also open to design alternatives of course. not stuck on steel, but I know we will need a steel subframe. Composite panel walls? 1/4" ply? just something budget friendly, could hit our payload mark, and wont fall apart in 5 years.

If you're saying find out the payload first and go from there that's what I'll do, just starting to brainstorm material and construction possibilities. I appreciate you chiming in, I know you are respected around here and you're knowledge and time is immensely valuable. Any additional advise would be greatly appreciated. Oh and I vote medium grey white roof as well if you haven't already chosen something different!
 

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IdaSHO

IDACAMPER
Yep, sort out the payload first. And I doubt it is as high as your assumed 4600lbs

The highest GVWR I recall for that vintage Ford is for the dually, at 10,000lbs
In order to get a 4600lb payload, the truck would have to weight less than 6000lbs.

I just do see than happening with a SRW diesel. (diesel weighs much more than the 460 gasser)

So find your max GVWR, then weigh the truck. Only then will you find your available payload.
Im going to guess that its closer to 3000lbs than 4600lbs ;)
 

IdaSHO

IDACAMPER
Just (educated) speculation until you have truck in hand, but here is an quick example for you that I found online.

1994 F350 single rear wheel, diesel, manual, with a GVWR of 9200lbs
The truck probably weighs about 6500lbs, giving it a payload of 2700lbs



 

YnotDIY

New member
@IdaSHO oh wow, thanks for that I just quickly googled GVWR and average weight, but it looks like I was way off. Sure enough GVWR for the f350 that I just purchased is 9k flat. Next up to weigh this thing.
 

1000arms

Well-known member
... Honestly, with a proposed use of just a couple of years, you will probably miles ahead just sourcing a used slide in.
... I should be more specific with our timeline. We are looking to live in it full time for two years, but will keep it around after that. We're both artists and are planning to use the build as a mobile studio / / artist residency. It will continue to get a lot of use after our full time living.

My concern about a slide in is that it feels a bit limiting with the design and for all three of us I haven't seen one that really fits the bill so to speak. Please change my mind haha. ...
IdaSHO has a good point. Find a (light-weight enough) used, but functional, slide-in truck camper, use it, and if you don't like it, sell it, then buy another used one or make your own.

You might want to check in to insuring your vehicle. Insuring a pickup truck, with the factory bed, and a slide-in camper, shouldn't be a problem, but, some people, depending on registration location, are having difficulty getting insurance for something homemade without the factory bed. Using an aftermarket flatbed (perhaps aluminum to weigh less than the factory steel bed?) might work well for you, but again, check regarding insurance.

If you don't have your truck yet, or even if you do, you might want to consider using another truck with a greater payload capacity.
 

YnotDIY

New member
@IdaSHO , @1000arms,

We got the truck, couldn't pass it up. GVWR is only 9,000lbs! @Motafinga seems like our payload is similar to yours! Happy to know what we are working with, now to decide on a direction for the build. We had the truck weighed and it came out to 6,380lbs. That's with both front and rear tanks full of fuel. If we do a bed delete I've read average weight for a truck bed is somewhere in the 400# range. This would put us at the 3000lbs payload mark.

Anyway, thanks for the info thus far! Here's an image of the truck as is, lift is a little high, so I'll lower it, but overall I'm happy with the purchase!

Screen Shot 2020-05-17 at 11.20.26 AM.png
 

1000arms

Well-known member
We got the truck, couldn't pass it up. GVWR is only 9,000lbs! ... Happy to know what we are working with, now to decide on a direction for the build. We had the truck weighed and it came out to 6,380lbs. That's with both front and rear tanks full of fuel. If we do a bed delete I've read average weight for a truck bed is somewhere in the 400# range. This would put us at the 3000lbs payload mark. ...
... I'll be living in this full time with my partner and our dog, year round, for at least two years. ...
IdaSHO has a good point. Find a (light-weight enough) used, but functional, slide-in truck camper, use it, and if you don't like it, sell it, then buy another used one or make your own. ...
It appears you will need to build (or buy) a fairly light camper so that you won't be sitting at the GVWR.

You might consider an aluminum flatbed, and building your camper to be fastened to it.
 

IdaSHO

IDACAMPER
Looks like a great start, I didnt expect a standard cab.
Ive got long legs, and we have two pups, so no standard cabs for us.
But we dont like the added length and weight of a crew, so we always go extended cab (y)

FYI, bed, tailgate, and rear bumper together should be in the neighborhood of 300#
 

YnotDIY

New member
Looks like a great start, I didnt expect a standard cab.
Ive got long legs, and we have two pups, so no standard cabs for us.
But we dont like the added length and weight of a crew, so we always go extended cab (y)

FYI, bed, tailgate, and rear bumper together should be in the neighborhood of 300#
We are both pretty short so standard cab seemed like the way to go. Saved us a little weight I'm sure. I'm anxious to start the build, but I'm still researching materials. With our payload being pretty light I'm looking at XPS panels reinforced with glass at the moment, but I'm also super interested in somehow chopping a slide in camper and building off the bottom of that. I know sounds kinda nuts, but I'm not super into what seems to be the conventional styles of the DIY builds....NO OFFENSE ANYONE, you all have awesome builds and I'm learning a ton. So endless thank you's for your knowledge and willingness to share in the community. 🙌

Ultimately it will come down to weight and money, but I'm approaching this project as a way to highlight that these builds don't have to be expensive and overly technical. Let's call the project the "every persons camper build". I'll start an official build thread as we make choices. It would be awesome to have support in this as much as anyone can spare. Cheers ya'll hope Sunday is treating everyone well.
 

IdaSHO

IDACAMPER
Mind the weight, but don't over think it.
These are tough trucks. We have/had the same truck.
Just be aware of weight PLACEMENT when designing and building.

Ours was actually a 3/4 ton, as the extended cab was not offered in a 1-ton.
So we went 3/4 ton for the cab configuration, and did a solid axle swap and
rear overload swap onto it, to effectively make it a 1-ton.

Loaded and wet, we were at roughly 10k lbs and had more than 80k miles on our setup
before pushing to a newer superduty, with no failures due to being so heavy.

But I did my homework and built it intelligently. The weight, while heavy, was correctly located.
Front-rear, left-right. It road and stopped great, wore tires good, etc. Nothing wild to report.


 

Joaquin Suave

Active member
But I did my homework and built it intelligently. The weight, while heavy, was correctly located.
Front-rear, left-right. It road and stopped great, wore tires good, etc. Nothing wild to report.
Well said!!!! If more people "wrapped their brain" around this concept, we would being reading A LOT less horror stories on this site!
 

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