Truck campers are a great way to travel the country and live comfortably, but they’re expensive. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could have a custom, affordable truck camper? There’s good news: You can! Today, we want to share with you how you can build your very own DIY truck camper.
What Is a DIY Truck Camper?
A truck camper is a small camper that slides inside or on top of your truck bed. A DIY truck camper is the same thing, but you build it on your own instead of buying one premade.
The advantage of making your own is that you can customize it to meet your individual needs or easily adjust it based on circumstances.
Options for Building
When it comes to customizing your camper, the world is your oyster! But you want to make sure the structure is sound and meets your needs. There are two main kinds of truck campers you might want to build.
Full DIY Truck Camper Build-Out
With full truck camper build-outs, you’ll create an entire camper that fits in your truck bed. You’ve probably seen tall structures like this that extend over the cab and even beyond the end of the bed. There’s a bit more work involved in this style, but you get more space and features.
Truck Topper Camper
This is the easiest and most budget-friendly way to have a truck camper, though there may be fewer features. The concept is to use a simple truck bed topper while adding camping essentials like a sleeping platform and storage. You get less space, but the trade-offs are reduced costs, weight, and build-complexity.
Best Truck Topper for a DIY Build
Most DIYers use an existing truck shell for their camper. You can purchase a hard-shell cover through a dealership, an auto parts store, or online to fit your bed. Then, you can build your home-on-wheels inside the shell.
Ideally, the truck topper you buy will be tall enough that you can stand or nearly stand under. Often, it will have a slanted roof, so some areas are taller than others. Look for a topper that will be spacious enough to build underneath, but that won’t be too bulky.
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.
DIY Truck Topper Camper Builds
One of the best ways to get inspiration is to watch someone else who has already completed the task. Here a few great videos that will help you get started on your very own DIY truck camper.
Easy Truck Camping Install
In this video, Brady from the YouTube channel Brady Hommel shows how simple it is to take a few scrap wood pieces and make a usable DIY truck camper. He creates a simple bed frame with only a few wood pieces yet creates a bed any adventurer would be happy to sleep in.
Not only does his model provide a great place to sleep, but there’s ample storage under the bed frame itself. He even shows how easy it is to fit storage totes filled with supplies under the bed. All you need is a truck topper and some wood, and your trip will be off to a great start.
Truck Cap Camper Build Start to Finish
This is an excellent video from MainelyOutDoors showing you the start of a truck cap camper build. He begins by creating a custom floor base, making sure it fits snuggly against the wheel wells, which gives him a great starting point to build upon.
Additionally, we see him use basic tools to create a storage system under the bed. The video linked here is the first in a three-part series where he brings you along for the entire build, start to finish.
Young Woman Converts Truck into Full-Time Micro Home
A young artist named Magali found a way to turn a Ford F150 into a beautiful home. From the outside, you couldn’t imagine what’s in the back of this truck. She built a bed and a fully functioning kitchen with a double sink and two-burner stove. While cooking, she can open her vent, which she’s installed on her truck topper to release smoke and steam from the kitchen.
She’s made use of every space, including under the bed. She also has a battery that charges while driving or can be plugged in when hooked up to power. With limited space in the truck bed, she utilizes the backseat of the cab for clothing items.
To top it all off, the truck-bed home is beautifully decorated. You’ll just have to watch the video to take it all in!
Full DIY Truck Camper Build Out
If you’re ambitious and have the skillset to build a genuinely remarkable DIY truck camper, this option is for you. You’ll need to make the entire frame, add siding and roofing, and plan space for everything that goes inside.
The biggest challenge in building out your own camper is making it structurally sound while keeping the weight down. Truck campers need to be lightweight but very strong. Since they sit in the bed of the truck and are connected via tie downs, the structural forces on the tiedowns, contact point with the truck and cabover (if equipped) can be extreme.
Here are a couple of ideas to help you start planning.
Homemade Truck Camper Tour: Lightweight Build on a Budget
In this homemade truck camper build-out, Tobias created a full truck camper capable of being off the grid. On top of the DIY unit, he’s installed a solar panel for power, which gives him 200 watts of energy.
A unique feature of his truck camper is a built-in wood-burning stove. This provides excellent heat in the winter without needing to use electricity.
He stores his food in a 12V DC refrigerator, which he conveniently installed out of the way. His table stores away, too, so he has more floor space. Check out this video for the details of how he built his DIY truck camper.
Truck Bed Camper
Alec may be young, but he’s done a great job on this DIY truck bed camper. He created a custom build with only $2,200.
One unique feature is the hydraulic lift bed which creates more floor space during the daytime. He also installed battery-powered overhead lights and a propane-style portable heater.
You enter the camper with a short, residential-style door that even has a deadbolt lock. And rather than investing in expensive siding and roofing, Alec used a unique Japanese wood-burning technique to protect his hard work from the rain.
If you’re looking for inspiration, look no further than his walk-through video.
Design Around Your Vehicle
One great thing that you can do with a custom truck camper is designed it around your vehicle. While most truck campers utilize traditional pickup trucks, some are more unique.
If using a flatbed truck a truck camper can be designed to utilize the entire flatbed. This means the truck camper will be wider at its base and potentially longer. A custom rig like this can offer space that very few factory builds offer.
Building a custom rig may enable you to add structure differently as well and integrate it into the vehicle. One example of this is this one-of-a-kind Hummer camper. This custom truck camper is supported not only in the bed but also over the cab of the vehicle. The bar around the windshield is structural and supports the front of the camper.
A Truck Camper Designed with Your Needs in Mind
While buying a new, premade truck camper has its benefits, there’s something incredible about custom building your own. Not only will you stay within budget, but you’ll also be able to custom design it perfectly for your needs.
Could you see yourself traveling with a DIY truck camper? If not, perhaps a low-profile pop-up truck camper is more your style. Take a look: What Is a Pop-Up Truck Camper?
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