While RVs and motorhomes are the common go-to recreational vehicles for camping, there’s a unique community of campers who prefer a very different form of camping called “truck camping.” However, it is hard finding one to purchase as they are not very common.
Even if you a “die-hard” fan of RVs, you may find truck camping very exciting and a new way to camp. A truck camper does away with the need to haul a heavy vehicle behind and all the stress that comes with an RV.
If you want to know how to build a lightweight truck camper, let’s jump right into it.
Table of Contents
How to Build a Lightweight Truck Camper
Before we get into the building process, let’s talk about the types of truck camper; there are basically two types of truck campers. There are stationary and removable.
A stationary truck camper eliminates the need for constant loading and unloading of the camper after camping and when you get to the campsite. However, with this type of camper, you won’t be able to use your truck bed for other purposes during camping trips.
Removable truck campers, on the other hand, utilize manual or hydraulic jacks and stabilizers to lift up the camper so you can make use of your truck under the camper for installation and removal at home or the campsite.
This type of camper is secured to the truck using tie-downs. They allow full use of your truck while camping and have more stability when moving about inside.
Building a Truck Camper (Step By Step)
Here are some materials you will need:
- Wood planks and beams
- hardwood plywood
- Drill machine
- Metal joints
- Foam and cotton for insulation
- Metal foil roof (for waterproofing the roof)
- Wood or plywood with PVC sheathing (for waterproofing the walls)
- Lines of bubble wraps (to protect the interior from moisture)
Before you start building, there are some basic precautionary steps you need to take to prevent accidents or injuries.
You want to wear a pair of gloves, goggles, and face masks while working with wood; this is because there will be a lot of dust and splinters you don’t want to get into your eyes and other vulnerable parts of your body.
You will also need to cover up the truck, so you don’t cause damage to it accidentally. Truck insurances usually don’t pay for damages that occurred while you are remodeling the truck, so be careful.
This is the first step you need to take when trying to build a camper. You want to decide what amenities will be put in place in your trailer. You definitely want a solid roof that will protect you and your camper from the weather.
You might also want to include windows for ventilation or even a sunroof. Most people might desire an extra-large bed or a bunk bed or a large storage space to enable them to bring along a lot of gears they might wish to use at their campsite.
Soe people may want a TV, mini-fridge, toilet, or more. You need to plan your space according to your personal preference.
But you also want to ensure that your camper is as light as it can possibly be, so always consider how much weight impact every addition you put has on the overall weight of the camper.
If you want an electrical system installed, this is the part where you decide which one to go for. The final desire decision is to choose if you want a stationary or removable camper.
Work on the frame
After choosing your camper’s design, you need to work on your frame. Most camper lovers prefer building the frame out of 2×2 or 2×4 lumber, but you can opt for aluminum framing, which although is quite expensive but very sturdy and lightweight.
You need to screw in your frame to the beams; it is also vital to chip and interconnects the frame together to form a strong bond.
Make sure you make use of enough quality screws and adhesive when joining your framing so it can be able to withstand the bumps and vibration caused by driving. If you are using just hardwood plywood, just gluing and stapling will get the job done.
Now you need to install your roof; you can go for a curved roof or a flat roof. It all depends on the design you are going for; you can also make use of corrugated tin sheets for your roofing or plywood roof, with solid rubber or aluminum sheeting material on top for weather-proofing.
You can make use of foam panel boards or traditional fiberglass insulation. If you intend to install an electrical system, you will have to do that before the insulation process.
So run any wiring if required, then install the insulation materials within the studs but ensure to leave out spaces for windows and doors. You should also insulate your floors and cab-over section.
Installation of Windows and Door
For your truck camper, you may have to make use of doors and windows might for RVs as they are more durable and suited for driving, plus they are very thin and lightweight and easy to install from the outside; they also fit nicely in thin walls formed when framing is done using 2x2s.
You can secure your windows and door into the frame with screws. After this, Caulk liberally inside and out around the edges to prevent leaks.
The siding finish you choose totally depends on your personal preference. You can use metal, wood, or even split logs. Most people also make use of fiberglass panels that they attach with a strong adhesive to the plywood.
You can also make use of aluminum panels. The type of siding materials you decide to use will determine the installation process, so you should make sure to follow the installation directions that come with the product you purchased for the best results.
When installing your siding, you want it to have no bubbles and for it to be able to withstand high wind forces from highway travels.
Plumbing and Electrical
If you choose to have an electrical system in your camper, you have to do it before insulation. You can either use solar power, a 110-volt system, or 12-volt using batteries. You can run a combination of both 110-volt systems and a 12-volt using batteries.
So if you camp in areas without electrical outlets, the 12-volt system will run lights until the batteries lose power. And these batteries are charged from your truck engine while on the road, or through a converter while parked and connected to external 110-volt power source.
Some campers also make use of solar panels, but installing solar panel components must be done before finishing off your camper walls interior, except you don’t care about the look of exposed wiring.
Now for plumbing, this is also totally optional as space limitation can be very daunting. But you may opt-in for a small sink, which makes use of pumps, either electric or manual, to move water to the faucet.
Or you can make use of water from a jug or bucket. To store the sink water, you can have it drain directly into a five-gallon bucket that you can dump safely anywhere.
If you must have a toilet, there are different toilet options you can choose from, like a composting toilet that doesn’t require any plumbing but might be a little off-budget.
If you choose to go for a standard RV toilet, you have to factor in a black tank that will hold the waste, which can take up some amount of space ( which we are trying to save).
Interior Space Amenities
Your interior decoration and installation are all up to you; you can make use of standard cabinetry for storage or build custom items that can be used double purposes, like a bench with flip-up tops for extra storage space underneath. You can also place a cushion for comfortable seating.
You can add additional shelving, hooks, and latches to keep all your gear secure. You can also lay your desired type of flooring like carpet, laminate, or hardwood over your plywood floor.
You can make Use of thin paneling and standard trims to finish off the interior space and paint or stain if you so desire.
Read Also: How Much Does a Pop Up Camper Cost?
Building your own camper is way cheaper, and you get to decide what you want to be installed, thereby making the most use of your space.
I know most people might be deterred by the many steps and procedures it takes, but knowing how to build a lightweight truck camper is way easier than you think.
There are lots of articles and YouTube videos that will help you achieve that magnificent and beautiful camper you so desire.