Campers today tend to be expensive and heavy, requiring the use of a full-sized pickup truck to carry them. Campers built for smaller trucks are lighter in weight, but not the price tag. The good news is that if you or a friend have DIY skills, you can build your own custom small truck camper for your needs.
Here are different truck campers that you can build to fit your truck; no truck is too small to carry a camper. Find and record the truck’s GVWR, or gross vehicle weight rating first. This is the absolute total weight the truck can carry and tow at the same time. It is best not to exceed 75 to 80 percent of this weight. Include the weight of pets and passengers as well.
Many lightweight materials are available today that allows strong structures to be built. Keep in mind that adding TV’s, stoves, water containers, porta potty and equipment all add to the weight.
Hi-Lo Expandable Truck Camper
A set of plans is available free of charge online; although the truck in the article is full-sized, you can tailor the plans for your particular truck. This camper features 2-by-4, plywood construction and uses old-fashioned jacks to lift the top. You can customize your camper with pop-up camper lifts.
The sides fold out like a pop-camper and canvas or modern weatherproof fabric can be used to make the tent sides. You can make the bed of the camper fit inside the bed of the truck; the closed tailgate keeps it in place. Customize the camper by extending the top over the truck’s cab like other pop-ups to create another bed. You can have a solid ceiling, tent fabric all around the top and the fold out sides for two extra beds or counter space.
Instead of wasting space between the camper box and the walls of the truck bed, add hinged lids to create extra storage space.
If you are handy at drawing plans or being inspired by ready-made products, here are two campers from Australia to take inspiration from:
Slide In Micro Cabins
This is not an RV industry definition; it is my own. It describes a truck camper that slides in and is built similar to a cabin. It does not raise up nor have pop-out sides.
Study different pictures on the internet and make a rough drawing of the ideas. You can go from there to create your own micro cabin.
Your home made camper can be as simple as a camper shell tall enough to sit in with storage bins, folding furniture, air mattress and an ice chest. This type of camper is common and affordable. Many campers, hunters and future RV’ers start out with this setup.
Where To Find Ideas And Inspiration
Don’t discount or discard advice or ideas from Utube and the internet about building trailers, campers and RV’s. Look carefully at the construction of the walls and incorporate ideas into your design.
Take pictures of truck campers that you see at campgrounds, particularly homemade ones. Talk to the owner; builders are usually very happy to talk to you about their designs and perhaps share.
Have fun with your small truck at lakes, visiting relatives and seeing the country. One advantage of owning a small truck with a camper is that you will not be besieged with a lot of people inviting themselves along for the ride because they think you won’t have enough space. Just don’t tell them.
Source: The author of this article has over 40 years of experience in diverse subjects and skills such as DIY, home improvement and repair, crafting, designing, and building furniture, outdoor projects, RV’ing and more.