How to Build a Lightweight Truck Camper? Tips From The Expert

How to Build a Lightweight Truck Camper

Last Updated on September 18, 2020 by Michael J. Branco

Do you want an inexpensive way to camp, but need more protection than a tent? A multifunctional lightweight truck camper may be the perfect solution! Since the mid-1950s, truck campers have been in existence. But many people don’t know how to build a lightweight truck camper. In this guide, you will learn this process step by step.

Most people like camping and its increasing popularity is outstanding, but not everyone has good financial conditions to buy an RV. Also, some people do not want to travel in such a massive vehicle. If you have a limited budget or like something smaller than a travel trailer, you can consider having a small campervan behind a pickup truck. In all, learning how to build a lightweight truck camper will entirely solve these two problems for you.

Truck campers are like tents on wheels. The truck bed camper is the best choice for travelers who don’t want to set up a tent or drive a large trailer, as mentioned earlier. This guide will discuss the types of lightweight truck campers and the steps involved in building one.

Lightweight Truck Camper Design

Lightweight Truck campers are popular because they are easy to transport and park. These campers are also called slide-in or cab-over. There are two main designs of Lightweight truck campers: stationary and mobile.

how to build a lightweight truck camper

Some people choose to confer permanent or fixed attachments to their truck campers. Stationary campers eliminate the trouble of loading and unloading campers and prevent you from using the truck bed for other purposes during camping.

Mobile truck campers are more typical. They use manual or hydraulic jacks and stabilizers to lift the camper so that you can drive the truck under the camper section upon installation and removal at home or on the campground. You will find that many commercially manufactured RV truck campers are suitable for full-size trucks with sufficient load capacity. These can be very fancy, and there are many amenities in a typical RV. They can also be equally expensive. On the other hand, if you have considerable carpentry skills or know someone, you can build a custom lightweight truck camper for very little money.

Read Related Post: How to Back Up a Trailer

Materials Needed to Build a Lightweight Truck Camper

You will need some tools and items to build a lightweight truck camper. If you have so, it’s okay. But if you don’t have the tools, you cannot create the truck camper. For your convinces we had picked and recommended the best tools you need. So that you don’t need to go to the shop or search online for buying, you can quickly get these tools and start building your desired lightweight truck camper right now.

Planks and Beams

Barnwood Decor of OKC | Barnwood Craft Wood for DIY...
  • Made from 100% authentic reclaimed weathered wood.
  • Due to the nature of this reclaimed wood, it is common to find nail holes, knots, splinters and other "imperfections". These "imperfections" are considered proof that these planks are 100% authentic and not manufactured in some Chinese factory.
  • DIY; Use these pack of 6 thin pickets for a decorative rustic touch to add to any DIY project.
  • If you love barnwood, distressed pallet wood, rustic pinterest projects - this is what you've been looking for.
  • PACK OF 6 RUSTIC WOOD THIN PLANKS

Hardwood Plywood

6 mm 1/4 x 12 x 12 Inch Premium Baltic Birch Plywood,...
  • HEAVY DUTY – This multi-coated Baltic Birch craft plywood offers exceptional durability, rigidity, and stability for all your woodworking needs. Its surfaces provide excellent holding power for glue and screws.
  • BALTIC BIRCH PLYWOOD-Known for its strength, durability, and beauty, Russian-made Baltic Birch plywood is prized by woodworkers everywhere. Manufactured using the latest methods in wood production, this is a hardwood that’s extremely durable and creep-resistant.
  • SCROLL SAW & LASER CUTTER COMPATIBLE – The thick layers of these Baltic Birch sheets of plywood are designed to smoothly glide through scroll saws and laser cutters, making it the perfect plywood for efficient woodcutting. True size is 11-7/8 x 11-7/8 inches.
  • GRADE B/BB – Graded according to the Russian standard for Baltic Birch as B/BB, this hardwood has a single piece face and a back veneer. The face veneer has a smooth surface with a light uniform color, while the back surface typically has 1-2 small color-matched patches. The thick face veneer also provides a smoother surface for CNC routers or engraving machines to glide on the wood.
  • EXCELLENT AFTER-SALES SERVICE – We are dedicated to partnering with business owners, home crafters, and woodwork artisans who strive to perfect their crafts. Our highly trained customer care agents are thoroughly familiar with our products, and we will be happy to assist you with any concerns and inquiries.

Drill Machine

BLACK+DECKER 20V MAX Cordless Drill / Driver with...
  • Ideal for drilling through or screwing in wood, metal, and plastic, soft grip handle provides added comfort during use
  • The lithium ion battery holds a charge for up to 18 months
  • 30 accessories include drill and screw driving bits, nut drivers, and magnetic bit tip holder
  • Kit also includes one 20 volt lithium ion battery and charger; Uses: Drilling through wood, metal, and plastic, screwdriving though wood, metal, and plastic. RPM : 0 650 rpm
  • Chuck size: 3/8 inch; Clutch setting: 24; Included components: LD120 20 volt max Lithium drill/driver, (1) LB20 20 volt max Lithium ion battery, (1) LCS20 charger, (6) brad point drill bits, (10) 1 inch screw driving bits, (9) 2 inch screw driving bits, (4) nut drivers, (1) magnetic bit tip holder; Power source: Cordless

Hammer

AmazonBasics Hammer Set - 5-Pieces, Shock-Absorbing...
  • 5-piece hammer set with forged alloy steel heads and shock-absorbing handles
  • Ideal for construction, home improvement, general repairs and maintenance, woodworking, and more
  • Non-slip fiberglass handle provides a comfortable grip and dampens strike vibration and shock transfer to your arms
  • Balanced weight for comfortable use on most general purpose jobs
  • Set includes 2 ball pein hammers (2.6 lbs & 1.45 lbs), 1 rubber mallet (2.42 lbs), 1 sledge hammer (3.66 lbs), and 1 cross pein hammer (3.78 lbs)
  • Backed by an AmazonBasics 1-year limited warranty

Nails

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Qualihome Hardware Nail Assortment Kit, Includes...
  • - MULTI PURPOSE NAILS: Complete all your woodworking projects at home or at work quickly, efficiently and produce long-lasting results with the quality Qualihome nails and brad assortment kit. Give your projects the professional finish they deserve.
  • - CONVENIENT PACKAGING: The nail set includes a very handy kit that allows you to separate them by size, making your job a lot easier. No time will be wasted looking for nails of the right size, making your projects swifter and more professional.
  • - VARIETY OF SIZES: The nail set includes nails of many sizes to suit all your woodworking projects and to make your job hassle-free. With 550 nails in every kit, you will have all you need in plenty.
  • - BEST QUALITY NAILS: These high quality nails don’t bend unnecessarily when you hammer them in. They are sturdy, straight and sharp enough to make all your tasks effortless and produce very satisfying results.
  • - PERFECT FOR DIY ENTHUSIASTS: For those who love nothing more than to use their hands to create beautiful woodworking crafts, the Qualihome quality brad nails deliver professional finishes that will guarantee your projects long lasting durability. Enjoy a completely risk-free purchase with our 100% money-back guarantee. Click ‘Add to Cart’ now!

Metal Joints

GFORTUN 10PCS Black Metal Corner Angle Brackets 90...
  • Item Name: Black corner angle braces.
  • Main Color: Black, Material: Metal,
  • Thickness: 2mm / 0.06", Hole Quantity: 4; Hole Dia.: 4mm / 0.16";
  • Dimension: 40X18X40mm / 1.57" x 0.7" x 1.57"(L*W*H);
  • Package include 10pcs Black Angle Bracket 40mmX18mmX40mm(with screws)

Foam

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FoamTouch Upholstery Foam 2' x 24' x 72' High Density...
3,591 Reviews
FoamTouch Upholstery Foam 2" x 24" x 72" High Density...
  • Polyurethane foam. compress by 1 inch
  • Upholstery foam cushion high density standard (seat replacement , upholstery sheet , foam padding)
  • Has a compression rate of 44 lbs and it features the perfect amount of cushioning and stiffness
  • Good for mattresses, bedding support, and all other home and commercial upholstery applications
  • 100% recovery ratea and lasts from 3-7yrs. Care instructions-when unpacking, allow at least 2 days for the foam to breathe in order to recover its original size and form

Insulation Cotton

Frost King CF1 "No Itch" Natural Cotton Multi-Purpose...
  • Use For Insulating, Cushioning, And Noise Dampening
  • Safe Alternative - No Gloves, Face Mask, Or Goggles Needed
  • Cut Or Rip To Fit Pipes And Ducts, Walls, And Much More
  • Brand Name: Frost King

Metal Foil Roof (for waterproofing the roof)

fowong Butyl Rubber Aluminum Foil Tape 12" W, Leak...
  • PRO BUTYL TAPE - Multi-Function & Size for choice, fowong waterproof butyl tape brings you a mess-free and professional sealing for RV, window, down pipe, boat sealing, glass, gutters, aluminum, tarps, PVC pipes and EPDM rubber roof patching and more. It secures your beloved house and cars from leaking problems
  • SEALANT TAPE - Heavy Duty & Strong Adhesive, fowong seal tape is made of pure butyl rubber with upgraded aluminum foil cover, thicker and heavier than similar products, stronger adhesive, toxic-free, waterproof, UV resistant, vapor prevent, anti-aging and odorless; provides a better sealing result and longer service time
  • WORKING ENVIRNMENT - Insulate Water & Heat, fowong butyl seal tape can be used from 5 to 113 degrees F and can adapt to most kinds of weather. Work well on metal, tiles, shingle, aluminum, galvanized steel, gypsum board, wood, fiberglass, brick, concrete and etc. Your ideal tool for Home, Auto, Outdoors and etc.
  • DIY INSTALLATION - Simply peel off the release film and apply the butyl sealant tape to anywhere needed. For better performance, tightly press the tape to a clean and dry surface is advised; store in cool place. No need to do Extra Waterproof Coating, you will find it is EASY and EFFICIENT. Not suitable for surface of high-water pressure
  • SERVICES CAN BE TRUSTED - fowong always dedicates to providing you with quality products and customer support. We stand by our commitment to quality. Any product related problem, please feel free to contact us. We will try our best to help you to your satisfaction.

Wood or plywood with PVC sheath

METAKOO Hacksaw Frame with Mini Hacksaw, Two Sawing...
  • 🎄 Sturdy Material🎄 Made from high quality steel, high hardness, durable and solid. Ergonomically designed handle for security, and comfortable cutting.
  • 🎄 Multifunction🎄 The Hacksaw set contains 2 Hacksaw frames and 3 saw blades. The combination of normal hacksaw and Mini hacksaw allows you to work in narrow places. Three different saw blades are respectively used to saw metal, plastic pipes and woods.
  • 🎄 One Button Release🎄 Fast and easy blade changing, just press one button to replace the saw blade.Non-slip rubber handle and highly expandable tension make work easier and more convenient.
  • 🎄 Wide Application🎄 Hacksaw blades can be set as 45 degree or 90 degree according to different situations. 12-inch length of the saw is suitable for the replacement of other saw blades.
  • 🎄 Metakoo for you🎄 2 Year support; 1 Hacksaw Frame Set including Hacksaw, Mini Hacksaw, 12-Inch x 10 TPI 65Mn garden saw blade, 12-inch x 18 TPI 65Mn hacksaw blade, 12-Inch x 24 TPI bi-metal hacksaw blade.

Bubble packaging line (to prevent internal moisture).

How to Build a Lightweight Truck Camper – The Steps

Do follow the instructions below to construct your dream lightweight truck camper: 

Work on the frame

truck bed campers

Fix the metal joint to the truck’s side and then connect it to the wooden beam. Then, lock the beam with nuts and nails together. They will form the primary support of the structure.

Now, it’s time to fix the frame and roof. You can use 2×2 pine wood (or measured according to the rear of the truck) for the side walls or 1/8 inch hardwood plywood to make everything as light as possible. Buying a 2×4 plank and cutting it into a 2×2 size with a table saw will further save you money.

You can glue the wood board and screw it to the beam. It is also necessary to chop up the wood boards and interconnect them to form a strong bond. Use as many nails and bolts as needed, because the frame must be strong and durable. If hardwood plywood is used, gluing and stapling would be sufficient. 

Use light wood to maintain minimal weight. The next step is to fix the roof to the frame. Depending on your preference, it can be curved or triangular.

Insulate and waterproof

diy truck camper

The next step on how to build a lightweight truck camper is to insulate and waterproof the walls and roof. Add a layer of PVC board on the wall and metal foil on the roof. This step is done by adding a layer of pressure-treated wood, preventing microbes, termites, and fungi rot. Make these layers as parallel to the surface as possible and secure them together.

Install doors and windows

how to build a lightweight truck camper shell

You have to make the frame by leaving blank slots for the windows and doors. Install the frames in these slots and fix them with glue and screws. Then, install bolts, latches, and hinges as needed.

The use of fixed glass for side windows can reduce costs. The vinyl slider will best fit the front window. Before installing the mirror, please use silicone caulk around the trim. It will fix the glass to the trim and seal all gaps and cracks.

Seal all edges and joints

homemade truck camper interior

Place cotton and bubble wrap layers on the entire size of the frame. You must seal all connection joints to ensure that no air enters the interior. After finishing, apply a layer of plywood on it. The next thing to do is to cover the plywood layer so that no part is exposed. First, apply glue to the entire exterior using a brush or paint roller. If necessary, you can dilute the glue by mixing some water.

Additional fabric

Next, attach the type of material you desire. It can be a bed sheet or canvas. Cut the fabric into pieces so that they overlap at the corners. Try to smooth with your hands or something to smooth out wrinkles. After the glue is dry, apply at least three layers of latex paint. 

Create the Interior part

campers for trucks

Use plywood to create the individual sections and build other internal fixtures. If it is not necessary, do not use metal. Using plywood or balsa wood is the most critical part of building lightweight truck campers.

Place the Styrofoam between the spaces of the frame fixture. Apply glue, clips, and staples to fix the inner panel to the frame. Remove the pins later. 

Indoor space convenience amenities 

The amenities you want to add to the homemade truck camper interiorspace need to be built or installed. You can use standard cabinets for storage, or you can make custom items that can do double work, such as a bench with a reversible top cover to add storage space below. With cushions, you can sit comfortably.

Set up the electrical system 

truck bed campers

You must set up batteries to power electric tools and kitchen appliances. Create a slot for storing the pre-charged battery and set up the wires to connect it to other tools and equipment. You can also connect the battery to a small solar system to provide a stable power source. In this case, RV solar panels must be installed on the roof. It will be expensive but ultimately proves to be cost-effective in the end. Also, you will get a stable power supply to run the device.

You can use the electric camp heater to get power from the battery. However, gas cylinders can also be used to power heaters. Install multiple plastic electrical boxes instead of a single panel to make operation easier. It’s also best to keep all wires and sockets under the truck. 

Plumbing 

plumbing parts for rv

Adding pipes to your lightweight truck camper can be quite tricky. Due to limited space, most people choose not to use the toilet when they decide to build their lightweight truck camper. A small sink may be convenient rather. If you absolutely must have hot water, you must use precious space to install a water heater and have adequate power to run it.

The camper’s sink can use an electric pump or a hand pump to move the tap. Alternatively, you can pour water directly from a bucket or pitcher into the basin. The water in the sink is considered “grey water” and can be safely disposed of almost anywhere. You can drain the sink water directly into a 5-gallon bucket, and then drain it outdoors or into a particular container specially used for camping. If you went to the toilet, the compost toilet would be the best choice because it does not require any water pipes, though it is expensive.

A standard RV toilet requires a black water tank to contain the wastewater. During the design process, you must leave a certain amount of space for the black water tank and install appropriate accessories to dispose of the black water at an approved dump station.

Furthermore, the black tank would require proper cleaning to prevent discomfort to the truck camper occupants. Some outstanding products which can be used for this include:

Thetford 96527 Blaster Holding Tank Cleaner

Thetford 96527 Blaster Holding Tank Cleaner Pouches,...
  • The first 2-in-1 tank cleaner specifically formulated for black/gray water and portable tanks
  • Cleans overnight - then just dump and go
  • Micro-foam action improves surface contact to vertical tank walls
  • Active enzymatic blend blasts crud and attacks tissue, waste, and grease
  • Formulated safe for RV/Marine tanks, plumbing, seals and surfaces

Read Related Post: How to Clean Black Tank on RV

Frequently Asked Questions about Building A Lightweight Truck Camper

What is the lightest truck camper made?

The new Scout Yoho camper weighs just over 900 pounds (408 kg) and is recognized as the industry’s lightest truck camper. Like Scout’s Olympic campers, Yoho has a modular indoor/outdoor interior, surrounded by a mobile power station and indoor/outdoor gas stoves and other flexible equipment.

Can a 1/2 ton truck carry a camper?

Unlike many 3/4-ton and 1-ton trucks on the market, most half-ton trucks are equipped with equipment that can handle a full-size camper’s volume. Many half-ton trucks are equipped with passenger car tires as well. 

Can you put an 8ft camper on a 6ft bed?

Yes. Some 8-ft campers are designed for short and long bed trucks. Just remove the 8-ft bedside skirt at the back of the camper. On the other hand, trailers with a long bed design should not be placed on a short bed truck.

Can you sleep in the truck camper off the truck?

Yes. If you see any athlete performance or camper performance, they will usually be displayed on the truck, and people will have no problem climbing on and off the bed all day. However, floor support is vital, and reducing the jack’s weight will extend its service life.

How do you live in a truck camper shell?

If you want to change your lifestyle and enjoy the life of an RV, but your budget cannot meet the needs of an A-class RV, then learning how to build a lightweight truck camper shell is a perfect solution. 

When you want to live in a DIY truck camper shell, space is obviously at a premium, and you will need to conduct due diligence when making choices. Please make sure the truck roof is properly waterproof; otherwise, the items you put in it will be damaged. Also, depending on the setting’s basic level, you may need to put the things away from the entrance. 

How do you lock a truck cap from the inside?

When you get in to turn down for the night, do lock the truck bed door, then close the shell cap. You can lock the truck cap from the inside by using a small C-shaped clamp. This can easily hold the bar of the mechanism behind one of the clips that keep it in place against the window. Technically, it is not “locked,” but if someone tries to open it from the outside, the clamp will hold onto the clip and prevent the bar from moving to the open position.

How do you anchor a truck camper?

To anchor a truck camper, place the trailer on a rubber mat and place a 2×4 piece between the bed and the camper’s front.

How do you unload a truck camper?

To unload the truck camper, follow these steps:

  1. Find a place to park 
  2. Loosen the straps from the truck camper mounting bracket
  3. Check the jack and its path
  4. Deploy the jack
  5. Move the truck forward slowly and straight about 3 feet
  6. Stop! Unplug the truck cable
  7. Push the truck forward slowly again
  8. Lower the truck camper to the required height and level
  9. If applicable, launch the slideshow.

Can you put a long flatbed on a short bed truck?

Everything is possible, but switching costs can easily exceed another second-hand truck’s price with a longer bed. To convert a short bed truck (usually a 6-foot bed) to a long bed (usually an 8-foot bed), you need to find a suitable 8-foot bed from the donating vehicle. Ideally, the brand, model, year, and color should be the same.

Then, unload the existing short bed from the truck. Next, you will need to remove the exhaust system, fuel tank and pipes, brake pipes and parking brake cables, and all the wires that will interfere with the frame lengthening operation.

How fast can you drive with a truck camper?

Driving a truck camper or towing a trailer is a different experience than driving a car. When you are on the road for the first time, you will feel that you drive ridiculously slow compared to other vehicles. So, how fast should truck campers drive? Most drivers keep the rig at 55-60 mph or 85-95 km/h on the highway.

Is it legal to ride in a slide-in truck camper?

In general, the answer is yes. With few exceptions, most states allow passengers to ride in a slide-in truck camper while a truck is driving. Some states also require truck campers to wear safety glasses. Some require passengers to be at least 13 or 14 years old as well.

How do you stabilize a truck camper?

There are many ways to stabilize the truck camper. Individual campers can be used on trucks without additional support. You only need to lower the jack as low as possible and keep it level. It depends on the camper, so check the manual if you have one.

Is it legal to live in a box truck?

The short answer is “yes.” There is no law that you cannot live in a box truck, RV, camper, or modified van.

How can I live out of my pickup truck?

Life on a pickup truck is as simple as finding a quiet parking lot, but the following factors must be considered so that you can feel comfortable and safe:

Sleep System 

If you have a full live -out, you’ll probably need to put a lot of thought into your truck camper bed, as that’s where you’ll likely spend the most time (besides the driver’s seat). Your sleep system can also be simple, such as folding down or removing the seat and inflating a luxurious sleep cushion. After pairing it with the duvet, everything will be fine.

Other factors you also need to consider include:

  • Your truck’s tires
  • Power source
  • Parking location
  • Storage devices (for your camping gears)

How much are truck camper shells?

The new, basic aluminum truck camper shells cost less than $1,000. Higher versions are usually more expensive than the basic aluminum camper shells, though. 

Conclusion

In conclusion, it is not difficult to learn how to build a lightweight truck camper. Moreover, it is relatively cheap compared to buying a campervan. Even if you purchase expensive appliances (such as refrigerators and microwaves) for your DIY camper truck, follow the steps above, and the cost will not exceed one thousand dollars.

When making a DIY fiberglass truck camper, it is best always to wear protective masks, goggles, and gloves. Also, keep in mind that your truck insurance company is unlikely to be responsible for any losses caused during the modification. Therefore, it’s best to be careful and cover it first to prevent any costly damage. Now I hope you know how to build a lightweight truck camper.

Last update on 2020-10-22 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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