New member here, looking into building a fiberglass over foam slide in for a full size Ford.

dbhost

New member
Greetings from coastal Texas!

I am the proud ish, owner of a 2004 Ford F150 5.4L XLT Super cab 4x4. Like so many other of these trucks, the engine has failed and I am researching bulletproofing the 5.4L 4V engine. The truck has a mild 2.5" Rancho lift with Ford F150 Payload package springs as the Rancho Springs were too soft and let the front end sag REALLY badly with the winch installed. I have an Engo E9000 winch on a Go Rhino winch mount / brush guard, and some mild mods such as tuner, CAI and K&N installed on the engine. It's on 35x12.50/17 Hercules Trail Digger MT tires on 17x9 Pro Comp wheels, and yes, it required some inner fender trimming to get that to work. Long term plan is to step back size wise and aggressiveness to something like a 305/70/R17 BFGoodrich All Terrain TA KO2. More durable, and I have found that with gear loaded, the MTs just dig me into sand like crazy, while my prior set of ATs did great in mud...

Anyway I digress. The truck has the 6.5 foot bed, and of course is a half ton. And I want a hard side truck camper that is well insulated, rot proof(ish) and most importantly, light enough the half ton truck can carry it comfortably.

We like to tour off road areas such as the extensive beaches here in Texas, and in Mexico, as well as logging / mining roads, and forest service roads to deer camp etc...

I am older, and have some health issues, one of which is I am considerably overweight, not that I can't take care of myself, but I also know my limitations, and as such want features that just can't be had in a factory built truck camper. And I am migrating off of tent camping / overlanding...

So with all that being said, I am giving some serious consideration to designing and building a fiberglass over foam slide in camper for my truck. Due to my weight, one of the considerations MUST be the strengths of the materials used.

My design parameters are as follows.
#1. King bed on the sleeper with ample space close enough by for a support shelf or cabinet for a CPAP..
#2. No booth style dinette. An ample space on one side with a table that can slide / stow would be preferred.
#3. Onboard propane, and some means to safely connect / disconnect appliances such as a Coleman stove, Portable Buddy Heater etc...
#4. Refrigerator.
#5. Space for my 5 gallon port o potty.
#6. Air Conditioning. Considering using a 5K BTU window unit installed through wall on the back wall.
#7. Secure / safe / locked storage for extra fuel and generator. Westinghouse iGen 2500.

So for starters, I guess my first question is, what would be the strongest way to build this? I know that I am looking at some sort of foam core, with fiberglass fabric coated with epoxy resin and not the polyester resin as that stuff eats just about every poly based foam on the planet.

I would consider Nida Core for strength, but it offers virtually no insulation, and I camp where it is stinking HOT and HUMID. I am planning on roof coating with Henry Tropicool which should help, but insulation will play a big part here...

So anyway, any tips, tricks, and advice would be GREATLY appreciated.
 

dbhost

New member
So I got my question answered by an engineer friend of mine offline. He demoed it pretty nicely for me. He showed a panel made with 2x2 and thin plywood and a fiberlgass over foam panel, both suspended with cinder blocks, and then applied a heavy impact load. (Big guy jumping on it), the wood glue up panel fractured and catastrophically failed in 2 major places, the fiberglass over foam, which was simply a sandwich of 3/4" polystyrene with fiberglass mat with epoxy resin.

From this demonstration, and conversation we had, regarding stiffeners, leverage, etc... we determined that the load we are going to apply with our hefty backsides won't get anywhere near the limits of the material...

On to the design phase!
 

dbhost

New member
So my thought process here was to use something like some 3/4" or 1" polyisocyanurate insulation board. I am doing a LOT of research online about this stuff and like the fact it is just about the densest R value foam board, and includes a radiant barrier. I have 3 layers of the 3/4" insulating my garage doors at home, bonded together and to the garage doors using Liquid Nails, that stuff does a GREAT job for insulating.

Now the problem is it isn't exactly super strong, low tensile, shear and torsional strength, so obviously it would need something to hold it together, framing of some sort, or a fiber mat and resin shell to provide the strength.

Part of the issue here is going to be cost effectiveness. I mean let's be honest, if I was filthy rich I would be having a custom overlanding rig be built FOR me instead of BY me... I am not stinking rich, and don't want to wait until any afterlife to travel you know?

I am throwing ideas to try to get a better idea how to plan this... So here goes...

#1. I have been able to using begged and borrowed materials, prove the strength of fiberglass mat over polyiso board and of course, epoxy resin.
#2. Something I stumbled upon today, but I have a LOT of questions about its durability, and structural strength is what has been referred to as "poor mans fiberglass". Basically canvas, or even bedsheets laminated to the foam board using multiple layers of Titebond II wood glue, and in turn coated with exterior grade paint. Now I know from LOTS of product lab tests I have seen through years of woodworking, that glue joints will hold strong LONG after the wood it is bonding together has failed. But conceptually I am having a LOT of trouble buying the concept this will work.

So the fiberglass over foam has the distinct advantage of being a known quantity, with proven strength and durability. The distinct disavantages are considerably higher initial costs, occupational level exposure to some fairly caustic chemicals during the build, and fairly constant offgassing for at least several years after the project is completed.

The Poor Mans Fiberglass has the distinct advantages of no known toxic chemicals, easier construction, and much lower cost to produce the end product. The disadvantage is of course strength of the assembled panel is an unknown, how much it adds to weight is unknown but likely not much more than fiberglass, and long term durability is unknown.

The strength issue could be of course somewhat mitigated by building the camper as more of a bloated camper shell instead of an overcab slide in type. This would eliminate the need for the massive strength to support heavy campers in the overcab, but would also massively reduce the amount of usable living space in the camper. A folding bed design (trifold to a couch, sort of a linear futon) would help convert from night to day use on those days when a storm moves in overnight, and one or both of you need to use the facilites, or make breakfast...

Other design items that could go a long way to making this more usable is a pop up roof design, but it would need to be waterproof, and insulated, and insulating the tent portion is a bit, tricky. And I am not interested in the hinged VW Westfalia camper design, but more along the lines of a straight pop up Sportsmobile Penthouse design....


Going back to my design requirements, and I am seeing how this could fit in...

#1. King bed on the sleeper with ample space close enough by for a support shelf or cabinet for a CPAP.. I may have to settle for a trifold RV Queen. As long as the AC blows cold so that my wife doesn't cook me at night, we can do that...
#2. No booth style dinette. An ample space on one side with a table that can slide / stow would be preferred. A trifold RV queen with a repositionable table, maybe even TV type trays, done.
#3. Onboard propane, and some means to safely connect / disconnect appliances such as a Coleman stove, Portable Buddy Heater etc... Buddy heater took a dive to the concrete last week, scrub that, going all old School Coleman.
#4. Refrigerator. This one is a little tougher, but one of those I think it is Camco fridges that you see vandwellers use would fit the bill. Probably keep that in the back of the truck cab.
#5. Space for my 5 gallon port o potty. No problem.
#6. Air Conditioning. Considering using a 5K BTU window unit installed through wall on the back wall.
#7. Secure / safe / locked storage for extra fuel and generator. Westinghouse iGen 2500. This is a bit tricker, but not impossible. Build or buy a lockable enclosure for the hitch haul.

A couple of other items to add to make it work the best it can for me.
Attach a DIY awning to the side, most likely passengers side, allowing for a nice shaded "living room area" to dine and just relax at night. I can already envision relaxing after sundown on the beach at Padre Island National Seashore, watching the waves come in...

The big issue, and why I am not wanting to say build a teardrop is that like I think I mentioned above, my wife and I are both considerably overweight, And our truck is only a half ton. I need to keep weight down, and strength up. We always lose weight on travel due to the amount of excersize we get, and we want to do more of it..
 

The Artisan

Adventurer
Build - Fiberglass & Foam Truck Camper | Expedition Portal
Kevin
 

opp

Observer
If using foam why would you waste money with epoxy ? To much BS on the web . Epoxy is great for thing that soak water wood, paper but foam poly will work great at 1/2 the cost. You can use mat at $ 2.00 a yard not like 5 to 7 for woven
 

tanuki.himself

Active member
FWIW i've just started a similar build to go on a new Ranger but i'm using a UK composite panel company to make the panels for me to get a decent finish. They are recommending and producing with 2mm fibreglass either side of a 30mm styrofoam RTM core and i'm pretty sure its all polyester resin rather than epoxy. Hoping to come in at around 100kg for the subframe and 350kg for the shell, which has a 2m cab over bed and 700mm hanging off the back of the 1.85m loadbed, so its not exactly small, but is still well within the limits of the truck. These guys make a lot of these panels for all sorts of motorhomes and 5th wheels and other specialist vehicles (including a hunting off roader with a roof you can stand on) and every time I ask if i need extra reinforcement or thicker panels or anything they tell me I am just overengineering and adding weight and cost for no reason - i'm usually pretty sceptical but based on these conversations I feel confident enough that they know what they are talking about to put my money on the table.

So, 2mm CSM fibreglass and gel coat, polyester resin and 30mm foam, should weigh about 8kg per square metre, and the cost for having them made works out around the same price as I would have paid for the materials to make my own over 25mm nidacore, and with better thermal insulation. i probably won't be ready to assemble it until the end of the year when a friend comes to stay for christmas but I will post here when i do, and you can see if it hangs together or ends up in pieces......
 

dbhost

New member
If using foam why would you waste money with epoxy ? To much BS on the web . Epoxy is great for thing that soak water wood, paper but foam poly will work great at 1/2 the cost. You can use mat at $ 2.00 a yard not like 5 to 7 for woven
Doesn't polyester resin eat polyiso foam board like crazy?

I am not exactly rich, so cost is definately key here.

Here's my thought process.

#1. Commercially built truck campers are typically too heavy for a half ton truck, and are typically made like junk. Even if I build one cosmetically rough, I know it will be structurally solid and I won't have to worry about the basics falling apart if I do my homework and build it right.
#2. Foam board sandwich construction is known to be crazy light. However strength is a concern. Fiberglass with epoxy resin over polyiso foam board has already been tested, and it will easily support my weight, and the weight of another, let's be honest here, fat dude without suffering structural failure. So lightweight, check, strong, check, affordable, not so much.
#3. Demonstrations I have seen online of attempts to make a standard fiberglass / poly resin / polyiso or polystyrene sandwich have resulted in melted foam board and utter failure.

Cost comparison.
1 gallon polyester fiberglass resin with catalyst from Amazon. $44.99
1 gallon kit epoxy fiberglass resin with hardener from Amazon $89.99
Fiberglass woven roving, 18oz 50" x 36', will likely need 3, $57.99 on Amazon.

And as I understand the Poor Mans Fiberglass write ups, and assuming that I can succesfully test PMF for strength (will likely do that this weekend) the "resin" supplies are as follows.
1 gallon Titebond 2 $16.97 at my local Walmart.
King size white bed sheets to sue as PMF cloth, $1.99 at Goodwill.
Gloss enamel "oops" exterior paint, $5.00 gallon at Home Depot. Find a color that doesn't stink too much.

As you can see there is a distinct cost advantage to doing PMF, but again, strength is a HUGE concern. Depending on the amount of resin required for doing the camper, epoxy resin could rather dramatically raise the price of doing the project.

1" Polyiso foam boards are running $21.95 per at my local Home Depot. Probably need something along the lines of maybe 20 sheets... Need to figure that out too...
 

dbhost

New member
Build - Fiberglass & Foam Truck Camper | Expedition Portal
Kevin
That build thread has some different results with the laminate sandwich testing than we had. That gives me some pause / concern for the load handling ability of fiberglass over foam construction. Some items of note.

#1. It doesn HAVE to be a slide in. I can do a truck cap camper as well, as long as the cap is tall enough for me to have head room.
#2. I have seen a build somewhere utilizing a Harbor Freight full size truck rack as the bones as it were of the custom cap, and using a pop top design like an old VW Westfalia camper. Pretty cool, but too confining on the hinge end. http://www.doityourselfrv.com/vw-inspired-truck-camper/
#3. From what I am seeing, I am going to have to use some sort of framing, whether I build a truck cap camper, or a slide in type.

So let's go over my design criteria again.

#1. King bed on the sleeper with ample space close enough by for a support shelf or cabinet for a CPAP. If I go with the truck cap , the max I can fit IN the bed is a queen and they typically taper down as you go to any sort of overhead. However if I am building a metal frame, I can build a wider frame to allow for a king bed. HOWEVER, the trifold RV short queen still has advantages. Seriously giving that some thought.
#2. No booth style dinette. An ample space on one side with a table that can slide / stow would be preferred. A trifold RV queen with a repositionable table, maybe even TV type trays, done.
#3. Onboard propane, and some means to safely connect / disconnect appliances such as a Coleman stove, Portable Buddy Heater etc... Buddy heater took a dive to the concrete last week, scrub that. I don't need massive heat in a tiny space. I have a 3K BTU Coleman fuel catalytic heater. GIven proper ventilation it is perfectly safe in a truck cap camper.
#4. Refrigerator. This one is a little tougher, but one of those I think it is Camco fridges that you see vandwellers use would fit the bill. Probably keep that in the back of the truck cab.
#5. Space for my 5 gallon port o potty. No problem.
#6. Air Conditioning. Considering using a 5K BTU window unit installed through wall on the back wall.
#7. Secure / safe / locked storage for extra fuel and generator. Westinghouse iGen 2500. This is a bit tricker, but not impossible. Build or buy a lockable enclosure for the hitch haul.

So let's consider the issues.

I would prefer a simple, lighter build. Less money, less weight, less hassles. I am not a huge fan of the hinged pop up roof, although I understand why, super easy to build and lock in place. A pop up would be great, but I would want something more along the lines of the Sportsmobile Penthouse roof type straight up pop up. However the climate I am in (Coastal Texas) and where we like to travel tend to be HOT and HUMID. So my big I don't wanna on a pop up top is due to insulation. How would I go about designing the pop up mechanism, and how to make the canvas tent part insulated so I am not totally exposed to hot and cold.



Likewise, I would not want the AC to be on a moving piece like the Westy roof copying guy did. I'm not super young, I don't have a great back any more, which is why I want a camper instead of pitching a nice tent, which I have several nice ones... I would probably put the door on one side of the back panel, and the AC on the other and leave it attached...
 

dbhost

New member
That is a good amount of stuff in a small space. What budget are you trying to stay in?
Kevin
Not counting the repairs / mods to the truck, I want to stay under $5K. The lower the better. Long term I can go $10K, but I would rather use the $$ for travel funds. When they were building them, the Eureka SlideInn 8' with a 48" queen cabover sold new for about $8K.

I know that is a LOT to keep in a small space, however I also remember my '65 VW Westfalia. The port o potty stowed under the dinette seat directly behind the drivers seat. The kitchen was fairly fully equipped excluding the stove, there was a pocket in the swing out door that held the Coleman stove. And the sofa folded out to a full bed.

Consider the following budget issues.

#1. I already have the generator.
#2. I already have the AC. If I had to buy a new one, Walmart has them for $138.00. As soon as they put them on clearance, the 5K BTU basic AC unit is typically closed out for about $89.00
#3. I already have a Leer 122 hi top shell. To be ultra basic to meet my needs, I COULD go with making a end tent that would cover the open truck tailgate and hatch for the cap, creating an adapter for the AC to give me at least 2' between the AC and the bed instead of ramming the AC up against the cap window... I have tarps, shoe goo, and velcro I can assign to this task. The door / flap would end up being velcro, there is no real need for a zipper.
#4. I already have a spare roller bed frame that I can jam into the bed of the truck in the cap. A cut to length 10' joint of 1" iron pipe is something like $24.00
#5. I already have the camping gear. If I used a Coleman Queen air mattress I could mitigate the cost of the mattress, but I would prefer a "real" mattress.
#6. Materials needed to make the bed platform would be 2 sheets of 3/4 ground contact plywood cut to size. Using sanded aracuo ply would run about $60.00.

In theoryusing what I have in place already, I can literally finish out a basic camper shell camper for under $100.00 layout minus the cost of the mattress, which would depending on the mattress chosen, would vary between $150.00 and $600.00.

My favorite mattress though assuming i go with a queen, is the Trifold, because I can use that to design / build a folding couch, I would have to redesign the bed and do away with the roller frame setup, and probably build it out of plywood and 2x stock... I can do that, in my sleep...

My big issue though with that arrangement, is headroom. Even with the hi top truck toppers, there won't be a ton of headroom over the bed, or sofa... Which is why I was considering such a build.
 

opp

Observer
To many fools read the web and repost BS . White foam is CRAP will fall apart .The tan foam from home depot supper strong ,light poly will not eat it . just to many fools. All the pictures are of poly over foam .Have fools come by .As I am laying up walls . Saying this can not be done as they seen on the web blblblblbl
 

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