ultra compact slide in / sleeper


I am about to start construction on a small slide in for a 5.5 foot bed 2016 F150. The primary use will be for a place that is safe and dry to sleep in while travelling. It will be followed by a second build next winter of a larger hard side for a 2018 trip through Alaska. I wanted to give you all some details and a couple drawings for feedback before I start cutting the composite honeycomb panels.

Here are my design criteria:

Light enough to unload and load without camper jacks ( I have a bed height loading dock at my shop.) My estimated weight without a battery or fluids is less than 450 lbs.

Weather tight in all conditions.

Standard twin size bed so that inexpensive ikea foam mattress can be used along with standard bedding.

Open interior feel.

Do not need standing headroom, it is currently designed with 5'2" headroom. I am a boat designer and builder and have done a lot of work with sitting headroom interiors.

I would like to retain the F150 Tailgate and back up camera. I tow frequently and do not want an overhang, therefore the bed will be crosswise behind the cab.

When the tailgate is closed the camper cannot be opened, and with the F150 auto locking tailgate the camper should be very secure.

Access to pantry and cook ware is outside.

Door hinges at the top.

Pictures coming as soon as I figure that out.........



pictures / drawings

Here they are. All feedback and input would be greatly appreciated. Travelling to Florida the end of Feb beginning of March so it should be a fast build.

camper shell 1.jpg

camper 2.jpg

camper  interior.jpg

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The Artisan

Cool design that is a big window and the others are good size for that size of unit. Are you making them out of plexi or makrolon?


Pretty cool, is the kitchen accessed from the rear? Over the bed rails would be too high

Sent from my Passport


The windows are flush commercial RV units. The large one is 48" x 22" and tips out (hinge at top) either half or both panes. All the windows are tempered safety glass. The one in the door is 22"x24" and tips out. The driver's side window is 12"x36" and is a fixed unit.

With such a tiny space I figured the more window area the better.

The kitchen access is the open panel to the left of the door. I am using a 22"x18" locking baggage door. On the back opposite the kitchen door ( right side of the entry door) is a panel that will hinge down to 90 degrees the slide down on a track to a workable height.


There needs to be more campers like this. I think there's a huge market for campers in general that fit a 5.5' bed AND allow the tailgate to be up. Specifically, I wish places like FourWheelCampers would make one that fits these dimensions.


The three windows and the baggage door are new surplus units picked up on eBay for $320 total including shipping.

For forced ventilation I am planning on a solar powered roof ventilator (marinco brand) that are used on boats. Exhausting out the roof and drawing fresh air in at the bottom edge of the windows.



I searched long and hard for a solution that was really workable for the 5.5 foot bed and all were way too heavy and expensive. I just wanted something that could stay in the truck for last minute getaways. I don't like the idea of a pop-up because of canvas longevity and mechanicals. Plus I want to be able to simply pull into a rest area, climb in the back and sleep. I have done the pickup cap crawl and even lived in one for five weeks in Canada. It was great for what it was but not possible with the 5.5 bed.

I think it is only a matter of time with composite construction that fully custom one-offs will be available for better prices and with just the right features. Maybe even as pre-cut kits.

There are a lot of talented fabricators in one or two person shops who can do this work with little overhead.


Looks like a very nice design! A couple comments and questions:

What composite panels will you use? Have you worked with them before?

You can buy foam mattresses cut to any size you like, very cheap. No need to stick with twin size if something else would work better for you.

IME (living in truck campers for 13 years straight), big windows aren't needed. I've always had plenty of light with a couple small ones and a roof vent. Even double windows have poor insulation compared to a decent wall, and if it's hot and sunny out you'll be roasting if they aren't covered.


The panels are from Carbon-Core. I've used them extensively on boat modifications and repairs. They produce what used to be known as Nina-Core. The panels are 10mm plastic (polypropylene) honeycomb with 3mm ply bonded to each face. The floor panel will be 19 mm honeycomb with 18 oz wet laminated fiberglass with white gel coat.

We sail during most of the warmer months so this camper is more of a shoulder season unit. Heat will eventually be a Propex HS2000 forced air propane unit that puts out approximately 6400 Btus. They are great units that run 14 continuous hours on 1 gallon of propane.

The panels are due in tomorrow or Tuesday, I'll be sure to take progress pictures. It should be a very quick build as I am feared to Florida at the end of February.


The panels are from Carbon-Core. I've used them extensively on boat modifications and repairs. They produce what used to be known as Nina-Core. The panels are 10mm plastic (polypropylene) honeycomb with 3mm ply bonded to each face. The floor panel will be 19 mm honeycomb with 18 oz wet laminated fiberglass with white gel coat.
Do you mean Nidacore? I'm very interested in how you use that stuff. I've been considering it, but I've never used it.

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I do mean Nida-core, the computer thinks it is smarter than I am! The panels can be used in many different ways based upon application as well as panel configurations. The honeycomb core is available in a wide range of thicknesses and with or without various skins. Of course you can choose to skin the core yourself but won't save any money doing so.

I am using plywood skinned panels for this project because it will be painted inside and out and it is the easiest surface to prep and paint.

You can kerf and fold the unfaced sheets and then use a heat extrusion welder to basically create a monocoque structure. It would then be vacuum bagged as one complete unit with no seams. I am also starting to experiment with coating un skinned panels with poly urea coatings (think rhino linings on steroids). Though expensive it would save days of labor and the fiberglass materials.

The honeycomb cores do a great job of sound deadening and there is even a foam filled honeycomb core available. I'll get some pictures up as soon as possible to show the whole build process.