How to build a truck bed camper

Truck bed campers have been around since the mid-1950’s and are a type of RV you carry in a pickup truck bed. This feature makes it possible to take them just about anywhere. So, here it is discussed on how to build a truck bed camper.

How to build a truck camper? To build a truck bed camper, you need to work on the frames, install the doors and windows, work on the exterior insulation and covering, roofing, design the interior, and set up the electrification.

In this guide I’ll discuss truck camper types, and the steps to build one. 

Truck bed Camper Types

Truck campers are popularly known as a slide-in or cab-over. They have gained popularity over time because they are easy to transport and park.

We can categorise truck campers into two different categories; stationary and removable. 

Stationary campers are permanent ones that eliminate the hassle of loading and unloading the camper. However, they restrict you from using the truck bed for other purposes during camping trips. 

More typical campers are removable truck campers. They feature manual or hydraulic jacks and stabilizers that help lift the camper so that you can drive your truck under the camper portion for installation. It also facilitates easy removal at home or at the campsite. You can easily secure this type of camper to the truck with the help of tie-downs. Removable truck campers facilitate full use of your truck while camping, and are more stable than the stationary ones. 

Safety Tips

You should know your particular truck’s gross vehicle weight rating before you build a truck camper. You need to stay safe during travel to and from your campsite. Overbuilding for your truck framing can make your camper unstable and hence it becomes dangerous. Usually, the camping supplies and water weigh about 250 pounds per foot. For example, if you’re installing a 10-foot camper, you can expect it to weigh around 2,500 pounds when finished and loaded completely. 

The Materials required for a Homemade Truck Camper

While making your own truck camper you may need the following things. So, let us know all the tools that you need during how to build a truck bed camper.

  1. Wood planks and beams
  2. hardwood plywood
  3. Drill machine
  4. Hammer
  5. Nails
  6. Metal joints
  7. Foam and cotton for insulation
  8. Metal foil roof (for waterproofing the roof)
  9. Wood or plywood with PVC sheathing (for waterproofing the walls)
  10. Lines of bubble wraps (to protect the interior from moisture)

Steps on how to build a Truck Bed Camper

You have to follow various steps while building your truck bed camper. You have to consider a few factors like the overall design, materials used, possible internal electrical and plumbing systems, roofing and siding choices, and internal layout while building your camper.

Design Preparation

The first step of building a truck bed camper is to decide the type of amenities you need in your new space. Usually the prior requirement of everybody is a bed that is features a comfortable size and storage for camping gear. However, you can think about keeping a TV, mini-fridge, toilet, and so on. 

The next important requirement is a solid roof for protection from rain or sun. You can also include windows for ventilation or even a sunroof. You can choose a design that will stand out to give nice vibes; however it is not always needed. 

You can plan to build your space according to your needs. You may have to eliminate the extra weight accordingly. The most important thing is to keep the camper light weight. You can decide on the type of electrical system you want for your camper.

Adding lift jacks will be a good idea; lifts will make the sides hang over your truck bed with an ease.

Build the Frame

Once you decide which design plan you will go with, you must think about building the frame to suit the design. Usually, people choose the frame to be of 2×2 or 2×4 lumber. If you are willing to spend money, you can choose aluminium framing, which is sturdy and very lightweight as well. 

There is a possibility to build the frame structure directly inside your truck bed; you can build it free-standing in a garage. If you choose to have a free-stand build, you can use some props to make the structure stabilized. Then you can use lift and stabilization jacks. Use only quality screws and adhesives while joining your frames so that it can withstand the bumps and vibration caused by driving. 

Siding the Plywood

Once you are done with the framing, you need to side the structure using plywood. Plywood ensures durability, which will turn your frame into a rigid box. However, this is not the final exterior finish. But this will build the solid structural base of your camper. 

While building the sides, you should use plenty of adhesive and screws to hold the plywood securely to the frame. A secured structure will help hold the camper for longer period of time. 

Once you have finished the siding, you need to cut out any window and door openings as per your initial design. You can now add wiring and plumbing things before you go for the insulation. 

Installing the Electrical Systems

You can use solar powered truck camper electrical systems that are non-existent. For this use 12-volt using batteries, or employ a 110-volt system. If you choose to have electrical systems in your truck camper, you will need to run your wiring. 

You can use a combination of 12-volt and 110-volt power in most of the RVs. If your camper is not plugged into a 110-volt power plug outside the camper, the 12-volt system will make the lights function until the batteries lose power. 

You can charge the batteries by your truck engine while travelling. You can also use a converter while you park the truck. You can simply plug the battery bank into an external 110-volt power source. Some campers may feature a bank of batteries and an inverter to change 12-volt battery power into 110-volt power that helps to run standard items like a phone charger or coffee maker. 

If your camping area has an external power source, you can do the wiring of your camper like a house with a breaker box and other components and plug in when you reach the campsite. You can purchase adapters to convert it into a standard plug if campsite does not supply adequate power. 

Off-grid campers can run on solar-power. Make sure you install the solar-power system components before finishing off the inside of your camper walls.

Working with the Plumbing

There will always be space limitation for adding a toilet to your camper. You can install a small sink. If you do not have adequate space, you can think about adding a water heater if you want to avail then facility of hot water.

You can install electric or manual pumps in camper sinks to move water to a faucet. You can also pour water into the basin directly from a bucket or jug.

You can drain the sink water directly into really a big bucket that you can dump outside. You can choose either of the following ways for draining the water.  

Choose PEX for as the plumbing pipe material, because it is easy to work with and can withstand extreme temperature fluctuations and the vibrations from travel. 

If you must have a toilet, you can go for the composting toilets. Composite toilets do not need any plumbing. However, they are expensive. 

Insulation

Insulation is one of the most important aspects of your truck bed camper. It will enhance the camping experience up to a great extent. To keep out the cold or hotness, you can use foam panel boards. However, use traditional fibre glass insulation if your walls are really very thick.  

You have to run the wiring to install your insulation material within the studs. Make sure you have insulated the floor and cab-over section as shown here. 

At this point, you need to panel the inside walls and floor completely. You can also leave areas open until you install the framing for storage or seating. 

Finishing the Exterior

After you have finished with the insulation, you need to finish the exterior by installing roof and finishing off the siding.  

Roof

You can plan accordingly to design your roof so that you can install a corrugated tin for an arched roof. Most of the truck campers feature a plywood roof, with solid rubber or aluminium sheeting material on top for weather-proofing. 

Seal the roof edges with a weather-proof tape. You will have plenty of options while choosing weather-proof tapes. You should choose them accordingly so that roofing materials and weather-proof tape can last for several years. Make sure the material you choose should be readily available through camping supply stores or online. 

Siding

This is an additional thing. But, if you want to show off your personality, you can think about finishing the sides of the truck camper. You can choose wood, metal, or split logs as a siding choice. 

Some people choose fibre-glass panels known as Filon that attach with a strong adhesive to the plywood. You can also choose flat or textured aluminium panels.  

The material you choose to finish off the exterior of your truck camper will decide the installation procedure. Thoroughly go through the directions written on the user guide to ensure the best installation. 

If you want to achieve a good fit and have no bubbles on your siding, you should follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer. Your exterior should withstand high wind forces from highway travel or severe storms. To ensure safety from water and wind, seal every visible seam with quality silicone caulk. 

Installing the Windows/Doors

Windows and doors are a must for your truck camper that you usually find in recreational truck campers. Windows and doors need to fit nicely in thin walls formed. 

Most of the RVs have thin, lightweight windows that are installed from the outside. You may choose to use standard windows if you have installed frame-out using 2x4s. However, it is not recommended to most of the campers. Ensure you use high-quality exterior to hold-up to the various elements. 

Secure your windows and door into the frame with screws properly. Seal the leaks with some quality silicone caulk liberally inside and out around the edges. 

Interior Space Amenities

You can build or install the amenities you wish to add to your interior space. You can use standard cabinetry for storage, or build custom items like a bench with flip-up tops for added storage that can do double duty. You can place a cushion over it to prepare a comfortable seating for you.  

Interior Finishing and Installing the Lift Jack

You can also finish off the interior walls and floors if you really feel it is necessary. You may use thin panelling and standard trims to finish off the interior space and paint or stain if required. Adding any additional shelving, hooks, and latches will be a good idea that helps keep all your gear secured. You can also place a carpet on the floor, or laminate your plywood floor. 

If you wish to install lift jacks, you must read the instructions thoroughly that is given on the user manual. This will help you avoid any hassles in future.

Conclusion

If you want to make your truck camping experience a memorable one, you can follow the above instructions while building your own truck camper. We have given a basic version of truck camper. However, you can customize and make your special version of truck campers when you become experienced at it.  So, by now you might have got a clear idea on how to build a truck bed camper.

If at all you are planning to buy a one then you can search at amazon.com

SEE ALSO:  43 Top Things You Should Keep and Carry in Your Truck Bed

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