Hard-sided wedge style pop-up camper shell currently in development/testing in the mountains of Wyoming

dman93

Adventurer
@WY_CC so far I’m very impressed not just by your design and prototype, but also the thinking behind it. As the owner of a 5’ bed Tacoma who doesn’t really want a new truck, but acknowledges that a longer bed may provide enough extra room to get past that tipping point of sufficient useful camping space, I’d like you to consider supporting this bedsize with features for space optimization so I can keep my truck! To this end I really like the rear overhang, and a long “lid” to allow some standup room along with a 6’ minimum sleeping platform, and no need to move panels to get in and out. Hopefully not TMI, but some of us are at an age when we have to get up in the night (no Gatorade bottle for me) and if we and our sleeping partner are on different schedules, moving bed panels is a non-starter for marital happiness.

Also, the rigid sides and the associated wind and weather resistance is key. We have had a FlipPac and a RTT but finally switched back to a ground tent for simplicity and versatility. However with desert wind and wind-blown sand, we have sometimes wished for a hard camper, and this seems like a great compromise, even though we rarely need or even want to camp in snow. Finally, count me in as one who likes the configurable doors (double doors for me, for widest entry access) rather than dealing with a tailgate in the middle of the night.

Of course, our small trucks do need careful weight management, but I think a few extra inches of dimension in a few places pay off big, even with a slight weight penalty. In addition to the rear overhang, room under the front overhang to clear our shark fins or even a rack with a thin load (traction boards, table) and sufficient clearance for some bedding, pillows, even a few clothes and still allowing EASY lid closure are features I’d appreciate even at the cost of a few pounds or inches in overall height. Thanks for keeping us up-to-date on your progress.
 

RGren

New member
@WY_CC so far I’m very impressed not just by your design and prototype, but also the thinking behind it. As the owner of a 5’ bed Tacoma who doesn’t really want a new truck, but acknowledges that a longer bed may provide enough extra room to get past that tipping point of sufficient useful camping space, I’d like you to consider supporting this bedsize with features for space optimization so I can keep my truck! To this end I really like the rear overhang, and a long “lid” to allow some standup room along with a 6’ minimum sleeping platform, and no need to move panels to get in and out. Hopefully not TMI, but some of us are at an age when we have to get up in the night (no Gatorade bottle for me) and if we and our sleeping partner are on different schedules, moving bed panels is a non-starter for marital happiness.

Also, the rigid sides and the associated wind and weather resistance is key. We have had a FlipPac and a RTT but finally switched back to a ground tent for simplicity and versatility. However with desert wind and wind-blown sand, we have sometimes wished for a hard camper, and this seems like a great compromise, even though we rarely need or even want to camp in snow. Finally, count me in as one who likes the configurable doors (double doors for me, for widest entry access) rather than dealing with a tailgate in the middle of the night.

Of course, our small trucks do need careful weight management, but I think a few extra inches of dimension in a few places pay off big, even with a slight weight penalty. In addition to the rear overhang, room under the front overhang to clear our shark fins or even a rack with a thin load (traction boards, table) and sufficient clearance for some bedding, pillows, even a few clothes and still allowing EASY lid closure are features I’d appreciate even at the cost of a few pounds or inches in overall height. Thanks for keeping us up-to-date on your progress.
wow, what a fantastic looking thing you have built so far. Congratulations! I hadn’t even considered the ‘coffee counter’ for the overhang which makes me feel silly haha. Would you consider putting in other windows on the side walls? Perhaps with blinds of some sort, and I think a blind for the moonroof would be a good idea too as sometimes a dark room is needed for a good nights sleep! What sort of weight are you imaging for this total build?
i have a 2015 GMC Canyon crew can with 6,2 bed that has a relatively small payload of just over 1400lbs.
This is such a cool build to follow! 👍🏻
 

WY_CC

Member
wow, what a fantastic looking thing you have built so far. Congratulations! I hadn’t even considered the ‘coffee counter’ for the overhang which makes me feel silly haha. Would you consider putting in other windows on the side walls? Perhaps with blinds of some sort, and I think a blind for the moonroof would be a good idea too as sometimes a dark room is needed for a good nights sleep! What sort of weight are you imaging for this total build?
i have a 2015 GMC Canyon crew can with 6,2 bed that has a relatively small payload of just over 1400lbs.
This is such a cool build to follow! 👍🏻
Hello again, folks! Between Wyoming's temperamental spring weather and a measured re-opening, I've been doing more daydreaming about camping adventures than actual adventuring. With a little determination, though, we've taken advantage of recent good weather to put some miles on the prototype while exploring beautiful BLM & national forest camping down in the Wyoming / Utah border area. I've included some photos and details from the trip below. To summarize, the prototype performed great over washboard roads and through nighttime desert winds. The hard sides are a game changer in high wind, and my wife and I also found it really cozy to be able to snuggle up against the walls of the camper while up in the sleeping area. Add that to watching shooting stars through the moonroof, and we were happy campers!

Enjoying our BLM public lands.png

I also want to address a couple quick questions and comments from folks before the remaining trip photos. @RGren, the production version of the camper should be in the 400-500 lb range, depending upon final materials selection and size of truck. I'm working to apply some of the ideas from folks in this forum that, if done correctly, should both help to reduce thermal bridging and simplify serviceability of the final product. Those incremental improvements may lead to changes in the types of wall paneling that I utilize, as well as their connection details, but I expect weight to stay in the target range. As to blinds and side windows, that's definitely something that will be on the slate for the production campers. @dman93, I appreciate loyalty to your trusty 5' bed Tacoma, and you can definitely have just as fantastic of adventures with that rig as any other. I'd guess by the success of the Jeep Gladiator that 5' beds will grow in popularity, and I hope it continues to spur innovation in that form factor. I'm certainly excited to provide a 5' bed option as things come together... Also, your thoughts on the sleeping bed platform and ease of access are being taken into account as I workout final options. Thank you for the thoughts and encouragement!

Sunrise glow over camp.png
Early morning in camp. The camper was conveniently positioned to let the sunrise glow in through the moonroof.

Full Camp Mode.png
A small view into the interior before we jumped into the throws of cooking dinner. The benches and convertible table were a quick weekend project while sheltering in place that have proven super useful. The dinette table drops down to complete a U shaped bench that is well suited to packing in coolers, gear, etc. while on the road.


Peering out from bed.png
Beautiful view out from bed, and great use of the 'coffee counter' holding a jug of OJ for morning enjoyment.

Sunset profile.png

Thanks for checking out the maiden voyage!

We're heading into the mountains this weekend to celebrate my best friend's birthday, so I'll be sure to capture some more shots of the prototype in action. Cheers!
 

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MattF350

Observer
Now thats pretty sweet! Im looking for something like this for when I buy a new truck but not many 8ft bed options.

Love the pictures. Much prettier than NY :)
 

PHeller

Adventurer
Jumping in here to say I love any new hardside popup ideas that use terms like "lightweight" and "simple".

I loved what (that other hardside popup design) was onto before they decided to get into it full-time. I asked lots of questions early on when the first one was just finished...back in what...2015? I hate to make assumptions, but from what I could gather that pop-up was built for a few grand. It took a ton of labor, but the materials weren't overly expensive. Now that he/they want to build them full-time, they are obviously charging for that labor. I also think they start from a new aluminum canopy, that even at wholesale prices is $2000-$3000. Hence the final product is now $13,500 or more. Which, in my mind, makes them noncompetitive in the truck-camper market - from a value standpoint at least.

Locally, I've got a guy who is building stripped down pop-up canopies - OVRLND for about $8000 on full-size truck. That's about the most I'd want to pay for stripped out canopy with a bed in it. Any more than that and I might as well buy a new or used FWC.

I'd love to see someone make a modular kit. The top can be attached to any width or length camper (GFC sorta does this) sold by company. So you'd A/B/C/D/E canopy models, then maybe a Wide, Narrow, Standard, Long clamshell. The Long Wide for example, might provide 2' of cab-over, ideal for a crew cab truck. This modularity and kit model would save the company a lot of labor - they'd just ship the parts to people who would build them at home. I think a lot of folks would have no problems paying $5000 for a kit they had to build themselves if it was unique, could fit future vehicles, and didn't require welding.

Ikea for campers!
 

WY_CC

Member
Like the Ikea for campers idea!
Y'all are onto something!

Thank you @PHeller for the thoughtful post about the opportunities and challenges associated with developing a high value camper. I just got off the road after a week driving the rig cross country to spend time with my in-laws, and I'm looking forward to putting together a meaningful response and overall update this week during some much needed rest & recovery.

Until then, a couple snapshots from the cross country drive. The camper performed like a champ!

Backyard camping in Denver.png

Backyard camping. The social distancing version of couch surfing!

Aspiring Camper.png

Our gracious host sharing her sandbox area with us and the camper...

The rig taking a well earned rest in NC.png

Good luck and good health to everyone in their summer adventures! More from me soon...
 

mobydick 11

Active member
I agree with others ,if you could make it a flat pack kit at a reasonable price .You would open up a huge market .The shipping would be so much easier ,not sure about cheaper though .Great looking camper by the way .
 

Eagle05

Adventurer
I like the door idea and keeping the tailgate for function, but what if you're inside, and someone shuts the tailgate?
 

86scotty

Explorer
That is a fantastic question. I'd like to hear thoughts on this as well.

Edit to possibly answer my own question. Howbout an opening door window with screen? This way, in the unlikely event it did happen, you would open the window and reach down and let yourself out. The screen is just a bonus and it's going to come with any RV window anyway.
 
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WY_CC

Member
That is a fantastic question. I'd like to hear thoughts on this as well.

Edit to possibly answer my own question. Howbout an opening door window with screen? This way, in the unlikely event it did happen, you would open the window and reach down and let yourself out. The screen is just a bonus and it's going to come with any RV window anyway.
@86scotty, we're on the same page. I installed a solid window in the door of the prototype to test the gasket and installation method, but an operable back window would enable a person to reach through and unlatch the tailgate if/when the need arises. That makes sense as a baseline feature for single or double door back walls that don't delete the tailgate.

Thanks to all for the continued positive responses and input as I've been driving cross country in the background. My wife and I ended up abbreviating our trip to North Carolina a bit, so I was back in the driver's seat heading home to WY before I had a chance to update y'all further on progress and plans. I appreciate the thoughtful post from @PHeller that started the conversation about pop-up kits as well as the interest that others have shown. This is a great idea, and it has given me more to consider in terms of the goals and path ahead for the business I'm working to build.

For those that have followed or skimmed through this thread, you've learned that my inspiration stemmed from my grandfather's homebuilt camper in the 60's that moved my family across the country to Wyoming. While I no longer have my grandfather around to tell stories about his DIY crusade, I have tried to glean design inspiration and business insights from camper companies of his era. Researching companies that produced campers in the 60's (and other, more recent decades) shows a landscape where few brands manage to endure over the long term. Among those that either are still in production or have achieved iconic, collector status, I would argue that quality design, durability, and positive customer experience are three pillars they share. I would be honored and grateful to create products and a business that enrich people's lives for many years into the future. The greatest chance I have of achieving that goal is by never losing focus of those three elements (design, durability, customer experience) and maintaining integrity while scaling / operating the business.

Right now I'm working to develop a durable product by thoroughly testing and improving upon the prototype model. I hope to develop an equally durable business by charting a path that enables stable growth. Trying to hit the ground running too fast can quickly lead to issues with product quality and/or customer experience. I believe it is essential that I personally build the first batch of campers to ensure that the standards for quality and construction process are well defined. This hands-on approach will bring the product to the level required for larger scale production, so future employees and/or DIY customers will have the support needed to succeed. Incremental design improvements and scaling of production capacity will deliver a consistently high value product that can diversify over time with various models, kits, and add-on features.

I'm committed to investing my time and resources in a responsible way that focuses on the long term of the product and business. All of your ideas and input are incredibly valuable to me, and I look forward to implementing them when and how I'm able to along the way. Cheers!
 

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