Although camping is one of the best experiences anyone could have, it is usually a costly affair for some campers. You have to buy a lot of items that include a camping tent. However, you can lower your camping budget by building a DIY truck camper shell as long as you can access everything needed to build your own camper shell. It will act as an alternative to a camper tent.
Truck campers have been popular among campers for a very long time. Since you can fit a camper shell on your truck, you can move with it anywhere you want.
What Are the Types of Truck Camper Shells?
Transporting and parking a truck camper is very easy as compared to large camping vehicles like RVs. This is why they are so popular. They are also known as cab-overs or slide-ins. There are two types of truck camper shells; removable and stationary campers. Removable camper shells are convenient since you can remove them when not in use.
You can also fit them on other vehicles. Stationary campers, on the other hand, save you from the hassle of having to load and unload your camper every time you are off to a camping trip.
What You Should Know Before You Start Building
You should know the gross weight of your truck before you start building. Your truck’s weight rating is what will guide you on the size of a camper shell to build. Your safety while traveling is very critical. Overbuilding your camper can be disastrous.
So how can you determine your truck’s weight? Well, just visit you’re a dealership and have them asses your truck. A knowledgeable dealer will even recommend to you camper shell sizes that will work for your truck.
Building Your Truck Camper
There are so many steps involved in building a DIY truck camper shell. First of all, you must settle on an overall design. You also have to choose the type of materials, the internal layout, and the roofing choices. To further get a deeper understanding of the process, you can watch some helpful videos online.
Step 1: Design
To come up with the design, you need to decide on the kind of amenities that you will be having in your new space. You will need a truck bed inside the camper shell. You will also need to have a solid roof for the camper. While planning your space, you should try to eliminate any extra weight. Keeping the camper shell light should be your main priority.
Step 2: Framing
After settling on a design plan, the next thing is to build the frame according to the design. For the framing material, aluminum is the best. It is not only sturdy but is also lightweight. There are two approaches to building your camper frame. You can either choose to build the frame free-standing or build it inside your truck. To build a camper shell that can withstand the vibrations and bumps caused by driving, you should use high-quality adhesives and screws.
Step 3: Plywood Siding
After the framing is finished, next is the side structure of the shell. You can use plywood. Using plywood will add some rigidity to the frame. You should use screws and adhesives to secure the plywood firmly to the frame. If you manage to build a secure structure, it will last you for long. Once you are finished with the siding, you should then cut out any door and window openings according to your initial plan.
Step 4: Electrical System
You can choose to leave out this part if you feel like you are not going to need the power. If you choose to have power, then this step is going to be very crucial. Your power options would be either solar-power or battery power. You will also need an AC power inverter. If you have no experience in the vehicle wiring system, then you can have someone do it for you.
Step 5: Insulation
This is a very important aspect of your camper. For a more enjoyable camping experience, you need to keep out excess heat or cold. The best insulation would be foam panel boards. If your camper shell walls are thick enough, fiberglass insulation would be ideal.
Step 6: Exterior Finish
Roofing is part of the exterior finish of your camper. Plywood can be a good roofing material. However, you still have to weatherproof it using aluminum or solid rubber sheeting. To prevent leaking, use a weatherproof tape to seal the edges. These materials are readily available in camping supply stores.
To give your camper a stylish look, you can give the exterior siding a metal or a wood finish. The style of finish you choose will depend on your personality. Fiberglass panels can also make a good finish. Just use strong adhesives to attach them to the plywood surface.
Step 7: Installing the Door and Windows
Having windows and doors for your truck camper shell is a must. They should fit nicely on the thin walls and should also be capable of withstanding the beating they will get while you are driving the truck around. You can buy readymade doors and windows. They are usually thin, lightweight, and easy to install.
The door should be made of high-quality materials, capable of holding up to the elements. You can prevent leaks by caulking around the edges of the doors and windows.
Once your door and windows are all installed, your DIY truck camper shell is all set. You can now pack all your items and head for camp. For a first-timer, you might find it quite challenging to build your truck camper shell at first. If you get stuck midway, don’t give up. There are lots of useful video tutorials online from campers with a lot of experience. You can watch them and learn a lot.
Have you built a truck camper shell before? How was your experience? Feel free to share with us some of the ideas that you may have that are different from what we have outlined here.