If you’re looking to do some cross-country travelling while still living comfortably, a truck camper is the perfect way to travel in style.
The only problem with them is that they can vary in shape, size and design and can be pretty expensive to buy premade.
Plus, the designs available may not fit or suit your truck.
Fortunately, it is possible to actually build your own!
By designing and building your own truck camper, you’ll be able to choose the materials, size, shape and design to suit your needs.
Keep reading to find out how!
What is a truck camper?
A truck camper is basically like an RV or small camper that sits on top of/ inside the bed of a truck.
You can either buy one premade or you can easily convert your truck into your own DIY camper.
By adding a camper to your truck you can use the extra space for tons of different things, although they typically feature a bed that can be put away during the day with storage underneath plus a small bathroom and kitchen area, so, you can travel without renting an RV or staying at hotels.
While premade options can be great and save you a lot of time, they can be very expensive and generic.
Building your own is great because you can customize it to fit your truck perfectly and design the interior to suit your personal style.
Types of truck camper
The great thing about designing your own truck camper is that the design options are pretty much endless.
That being said, it’s important to ensure your design will be structurally sound while meeting all your needs.
There are two main types of truck campers that you may wish to base your DIY camper on: full truck camper and truck topper camper.
Let’s take a look at full truck campers first.
With a full truck camper build-out, you’ll be making a full-sized camper that covers and fits into your entire truck bed and often even sits on the roof of your truck so that it looks almost like an RV.
As you can imagine, there is quite a lot of extra work to be done with this option but you will end up with a lot more space and features once it’s done.
With the truck topper camper, it’s definitely easier to build and will cost a lot less because you will need fewer materials.
The only downside is of course that you’ll end up with less space, so you might not be able to fit all the features you want.
All you’ll need to create this option are simple camping essentials like a bed with room for storage beneath it and add any other features you wish that will fit in the space.
This option is also great because it will be much lighter than a full truck camper.
Both options have plenty of pros and cons, so it really depends on your budget and building skills and what you want to get out of your truck camper.
Why choose a truck camper over an RV?
You may be thinking, why spend money altering your truck when you could just hire or even purchase a much more spacious RV instead?
Well, there are actually a ton of advantages to choosing a truck camper over an RV.
For one, driving a much larger vehicle like an RV can be pretty daunting so, being able to just drive your own truck will be much easier.
Plus, narrow roads will be far less scary!
Additionally, when it comes to parking, maneuvering a large vehicle like an RV can be very difficult whereas parking your own truck will be something you’re already used to.
Not only will parking be easier, you’ll be able to boondock practically anywhere in a truck camper, whereas RVs have certain restrictions on where they can stay overnight.
The only thing you will need to get used to when it comes to driving a truck camper is the extra weight and height.
So, this is something you need to be aware of before setting off but compared to RV driving, this is a very small issue that you will get used to after the first hour or two of driving.
It’s also super handy that your ‘home’ and your vehicle are separate, which you don’t get with an RV.
So, if you are going somewhere that doesn’t require you taking your ‘home’ with you, you can leave it behind, saving you on fuel.
Moreover, you will be able to store your truck camper within your garage, something you likely won’t be able to do with a much larger RV.
Things to consider before you get started
If you’re not a confident builder, you might was to do what a lot of people like to do and purchase a premade truck shell as the base of your DIY camper.
This is a lot easier than measuring and creating a brand new shell.
These are pretty easy to get your hands on and can be purchased from an auto parts store or online. Just make sure the shell you get will fit your truck bed perfectly.
Once you’ve fitted the shell, you can get started on building the inside of your camper.
The best kind of truck topper you can get will be one that is all enough, so you can at least almost stand up in, if not fully stand up in.
Try to find the right balance, so it’s big enough to fit what you need without it becoming too top heavy and bulky.
The next best thing to consider is how you’ll be able to remove the topper when you don’t need it and where you’ll be able to store it.
It’s best to build a camper that you can easily remove because keeping it attached when you don’t need it isn’t energy efficient, and you’ll find yourself spending way too much money on gas.
Think about what you’ll do with your truck topper when you’re not using it as well. Consider how you can remove your camper build if necessary.
Designing your own customized truck camper is great because you will be able to create the perfect camper to suit your budget and needs as well as the overall look and design of your truck camper.
When designing your camper you need to consider the type of truck you have.
If you’re working with a flatbed truck, you will be able to make use of the whole flatbed. This is super useful because you will have much more space to utilize.
A premade option that offers that much space will be hard to come by, so designing and building it yourself will gift you a lot more space.
If you’ve decided to take on the challenge of building a full truck camper build-out, you’ll need to have the budget and materials to create the entire frame, including the roof and sides of the structure.
You’ll also need to produce at least a rough plan of how you’re going to use the interior space and keep this in mind when you’re building the exterior.
You also need to make sure that you build a structure that is light enough not to make driving the truck impossible while remaining sturdy enough to use without the risk of it collapsing or falling apart on the road.
Where the camper attaches via the bed of the truck, you will need to use strong tie-downs to keep the camper securely attached when you’re travelling while still being able to detach when you want to remove the camper and keep it in storage.
How to build a DIY truck camper
Check out this YouTube tutorial on how to make a simple DIY truck camper. The builder talks you through what tools and materials you will need to convert the bed of your truck into a DIY truck camper!
His truck already has shell installed over the truck bed, so you will need to purchase one or build you’re own (if you’re up to it) first.
If you want to know how to build your own DIY truck camper shell, check out this video to see how it all comes together!
Alternatively, click here for another great inspiration video on building a full truck camper.
Below is a list of some of the most important tools and materials you’ll need to build a basic truck camper from scratch.
- Wood of choice
- Circle saw
- Measuring tape & ruler
- Carpenters square
- Rip saw
- Screws and hinges
- Paint/ stain (if you wish to paint the wood)
Extras to purchase before travelling
Once you’ve completed your DIY truck camper it can be tempting to hit the open road straight away but, there are a few extra things you should consider purchasing to make things run as smoothly as possible.
We’ve compiled a handy list below:
Cold temperatures, especially during the night, can seriously ruin the camping experience.
There are plenty of quick fixes for this though, that won’t cost too much either.
To keep you nice and snug throughout the night, consider purchasing an electric blanket.
Turn it on a short while before you go to sleep, so your bed is nice and toasty before you get in.
Another useful purchase is a propane heater, or even just a small electric one can do the job.
That being said, it’s not recommended that you sleep with these on. Instead, use them to heat the space before bed and when you wake up in the morning.
Air conditioning source
Contrary to the previous point, some climates support high levels of humidity, even throughout the night, so having a portable way of cooling the air inside your truck camper will be a lifesaver!
Bringing along a rechargeable fan is a great way to do this and won’t require using electricity during the night.
Portable power source
These days we all tend to have at least one or two electronic devices that require charging.
Carrying a couple of portable chargers and power sources will make your journey much more enjoyable.
There’s nothing worse than needing to check a route on your phone, but the battery is dead.
Portable battery packs are also super handy if you want to use any other electric items such as small fans and lights etc.
Once you’ve parked up for a day or two, you’ll want to enjoy relaxing in the sunshine in comfort. So, make sure you pack a few camping chairs to relax in.
The great thing about camping chairs is that they take up very little space, so even if you’re tight on storage, you can bring a few of these on your travels.
Another camping essential is a folding table. This will make eating and playing games much easier because not all camping sites will have picnic tables available to use.
Other essentials include the obvious: camping stove for cooking, plates and cups for eating, bedding/sleeping bags and toiletries etc.
After reading about all the work that goes into creating a DIY truck camper, you may be tempted to invest in a premade version instead.
But, don’t let the thought of all that hard work put you off.
Building your very own personalized truck camper has a ton of benefits that premade truck campers can’t provide.
Not to mention, they can be so much cheaper.
A DIY truck camper will allow you to travel and live all from the comfort of your own truck.
They’re easy to maneuver, park and drive, and you can even remove the camper when you don’t need it to make it more energy efficient.
Make sure you take all the necessary safety precautions before embarking on building your own DIY truck camper and take into consideration factors such as height and weight when designing your camper.