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DIY Truck Camper: How to build a Lightweight Truck Camper

Last updated January 17, 2022| Guides

Are you interested in finding out an economical way to camp but want more security than a tent? A multitalented, custom-built truck camper may be the perfect solution for all of your camping problems. Truck campers have been around since the mid-1950s and are a type of RV that you can carry in a pickup truck bed. This aspect makes it possible to take them just about anywhere.

In this guide, we will discuss truck camper types, and the steps to build one for you very easily and conveniently.

Truck Camper Types

Truck campers are very trendy because of the reason that they are so easy to move and park. These campers are also known as a slide-in or cab-over.

There are two main types of truck campers.

  1. Stationary
  2. Removable

Some people opt to make a permanent, or stationary, attachment on their truck bed camper. Stationary campers get rid of the trouble of loading and unloading the camper, but it also does not allow you to use the truck bed for other uses during camping tours.

More conventional are the removable truck campers. These campers use physical or hydraulic jacks and stabilizers to pick up the camper so you can drive your truck under the camper portion for installation and removal at home or at the camping area. You can secure this style camper to the truck using tie-downs. Also, removable truck campers allow full use of your truck while camping and are more durable when moving about inside.

You can find many commercial-made RV truck campers that are made to fit on full-size trucks with enough payload abilities. These can be very extravagant, with a lot of features found in typical RVs. But they are very expensive as well.

If you have a fair amount of woodworking skills or know someone who does, you can build a custom truck camper for a fraction of the cost.

What to Know Before You Build

It is vital to be aware of your particular truck’s gross vehicle weight rating before you start building. Staying secure during travel to and from your campsite is essential. Overbuilding for your truck framing can be terrible also.

Gross Vehicle Weight Parameters

Your truck’s gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) will be the starting figure you will use to establish what size camper you can build. This can be calculated in a way that the GVWR, minus the weight of your truck fully loaded with passengers and fuel is the total payload the truck can safely carry.

You have to take all this into account when establishing the maximum size camper truck, you can build. Tires and braking capacity are also two key factors when determining maximum payload. A proper payload will not stress your truck’s brake system or axles.

Do you feel that you are not sure where to begin when determining size and weight? One way to get an understanding of what you can build is to take your truck and visit a showroom that are objected to sells truck campers. An experienced dealer can assess your truck GVWR and show you campers that will work. In this way you can get actual measurements of length and height, and see what facilities are inside in your truck

Another way to verify your camper’s weight is by using this useful tip. Commonly, you can expect your camper filled with camping supplies and water to weigh about 250 pounds per foot. For example, if you are building a 10-foot camper, you can expect it to weigh around 2,500 pounds when finished and loaded.

DIY Truck Camper: How to build a Lightweight Truck Camper

Steps to Build a Truck Camper

There are many steps in building your truck camper. You must determine the overall design, materials used, possible internal electrical and plumbing systems, roofing and siding choices, and internal layout must be determined before you can begin.

Watching videos online about building a truck camper from scratch is also helpful in understanding the process. I will go over each step of a basic camper build. How you choose to customize it will be up to you.

#1 – Design

The very first step is to decide what features you need in your new space. Most of the people want a bed that is of a comfortable size and storage for camping gear. Others may want a TV, mini-fridge, toilet anything else. Everybody wants a solid roof for protection from rain or sun, but many like to incorporate windows for proper ventilation or even a sunroof for fresh sun rays. Choosing that design that will provide the capability to stand up fully is a nice touch, but that is not what you always need.

All you have to do is to plan your space according to your wishes, but you cannot forget the fact that you need to reduce extra weight wherever you can. Keeping the camper light should be the most important priority. Also, you have to decide on which type of electrical system you want, if any. There is more on camper electrical systems in that section below.

The final decision in the design step is to choose whether the camper will fit entirely inside the walls of your truck bed, or if you will be adding lift jacks. Lifts will involve making the sides overhang enough to drive your truck beneath with comfort.

#2 – Framing

Once you are done with deciding the design, then you will have to build your frame according to that design. Most of the people choose to build the frame out of 2×2 or 2×4 lumber. If money is no issue for you, you can choose aluminum framing as well, which is strong yet very lightweight.

You can directly frame your structure inside your truck bed or build it free-standing in a garage. If going with a free-stand build, you may have to use legs to steady the structure until you can install your lift and stabilization jacks inside the truck. You have to make sure that you use a lot of valued screws and adhesive when joining your framing so it can survive the bumps and vibration caused during the driving.

#3 – Plywood Siding

Once you have completed your framing, you will need to side the structure using plywood. Plywood is stable and will take your somewhat shaky frame and turn it into a rigid box that does not move from its place. Although, this is not the final exterior finish, but what forms the solid structural totally base of your camper.

As with the framing, use a lot of adhesive and screws to hold the plywood securely to the frame. The more secure the structure will be, the longer your camper will last. Once the siding is complete, you will cut out any window and door openings as per your initial design. The interior fasteners are now open for any wiring or drainage system additions before you insert the insulation.

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# 4 – Electrical

Truck camper electrical systems can be non-existent, solar-powered, 12-volt using batteries, or employ a 110-volt system. If you prefer to have power, only then is the time you will need to run your wiring. Most RVs of any sort run on a combination of 12-volt and 110-volt power. When not plugged into a 110-volt power plug outside the camper, the 12-volt system will run lights until the batteries lose power.

Your battery bank can be fully charged by your truck engine while traveling, or through a converter while parked and plugged into an external 110-volt power source. Some campers use a bank of batteries and an inverter to change 12-volt battery power into 110-volt power to run standard items like a phone charger or coffee maker etc.

If you are camping entirely at those places that you know have an external power source, you can wire your camper like a house with a breaker box and other components and plug in when you reach the campground.

If a campsite only offers 30-amp outlets, you can buy adapters to convert it into a standard plug. Off-grid campers depend on solar-power for any power needs they may have. Installing a solar-power system component also must be done before finishing off the inside of your camper walls unless you do not dislike the look of exposed wiring.

#5 – Plumbing

Addition of plumbing to your truck camper can be difficult and can be easy as well, it all depends upon you. Space restrictions have most people choosing out of a toilet when they choose to build the camper themselves. A small sink can be convenient. You will have to use valuable space to install a water heater and have the power to run it if you wish to have hot water completely.

Camper sinks can use pumps, that can either be electric or manual, to move water to a valve. Another option is that you can pour water into the basin directly from a bucket or jug. Water from sinks is considered “grey water” and can set out of it safely just about anywhere. You can also have the sink water drain directly into a five-gallon bucket that you can unload outside or have it drain into a special container specific for camping use like this one. PEX is the plumbing pipe material of choice for most amusing vehicles. PEX is easy to work with and can survive extreme temperature fluctuations and the vibrations from travel.

If you must have a toilet, a composting toilet does not need any plumbing, but they are pricey. A standard RV toilet needs a black tank to hold wastewater. You will have to integrate space for this tank during your design and have proper fittings attached so you can dump the tank at approved dump stations.

#6 – Insulation

Insulation is a significant part of your camper. Keeping out the cold or warmth will make your outdoor experience more pleasant. Utilizing foam board sheets is normal, however, you can likewise utilize customary fiberglass protection if your dividers are adequately thick.

Run any wiring if necessary, at that point introduce your protection material inside the studs, leaving open the spaces you will introduce windows or an entryway. Remember to protect the floor and cab over segment as appeared here. Now, you can either board within dividers and floor totally or leave territories open until you introduce the outlining for capacity or seating.

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#7 – Exterior Finish

Putting on the roof and final siding materials are the next steps you need to finish before you can move on with your truck camper build.

·         Roof

You can think out of the box and go with a design that uses a wavy tin for an arched roof:

As unique as that is, you can rest assure that most truck campers have a plywood roof, with solid rubber or aluminum sheeting material on top for weatherproofing.

A weather-proof tape can seal roof edges, with numerous brands made for this objective. Roofing materials and weather-proof tape should hold up for years and are readily available through camping supply stores or online.

·         Siding

The siding finish that you decide can show off your personality. They can be wood, metal, and even split logs as a siding choice. Most of the people choose fiberglass panels (sometimes called as Filon) that can attach with a strong adhesive to the plywood. This siding is usually sold by the foot from rolls like this. Another popular option is aluminum panels that can either be flat or textured.

Varying on the siding material you use to finish off the exterior of your truck camper will determine the installation procedure. All you need to do is to follow directions from the manufacturer of the product you choose for the best results.

#8 – Window/Door Installation

Windows and doors made for amusing vehicles are a must for your truck camper. These are made to survive the beating they will take while driving. Also, they fit nicely in thin walls formed when framing is done using 2x2s. RV windows are usually thin, lightweight, and install from the outside.

Some people prefer to use standard windows if they did their frame-out using 2x4s, but most camper builders do not suggest it at all. Doors should be of a high-quality exterior variety to hold-up to the elements. Fasten your windows and door securely into the frame with screws. Plug liberally inside and out around the edges to prevent leaks.

#9 – Interior Space Amenities

The amenities that you wish to add to your inside space should be constructed or introduced. You can utilize standard cabinetry for capacity, or fabricate custom things that can perform twofold responsibility, similar to a seat with flip-up tops for added capacity under. Finish it off with a pad, and you have open to seating.

Making every last trace of room valuable will be a great test. Latrines or sinks are not difficult to introduce, but rather do your exploration on what is accessible for campers and which course you need to go.

#10 – Interior Finishes and Lift Jack Installation

At last, your custom truck camper is almost complete. Now here comes the turn to finish off the interior walls and floors and install lift jacks if required. For this purpose, use thin paneling and standard trims to finish off the interior space and paint or stain if desired. Add in any additional shelving, hooks, and latches to keep all your gear secure. Now it is the time to lay flooring like carpet, laminate, or hardwood over your plywood floor.

If you are using lift jacks, install the gear per the manufacturer’s instructions to the outside, and test for functionality.


So now you find out about what a truck camper is and how to construct one for yourself. I believe this data and fundamental strides on the stuff to cause a truck camper will to urge you to make your own special custom adaptation. Having the option to encounter new places and appreciate nature is what is the main focus here.

Did you assemble a truck camper and have extraordinary tips or thoughts? Offer your venture with us and help rouse others.

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