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How to Build a DIY Lightweight Truck Camper in 5 Easy Steps

If you’re interested in getting out of the rat race and camping at no cost but don’t know how to build your own DIY lightweight truck camper, this article is for you.

I’ll explain how to do it with simple tools you might already have around the house and provide some links that will provide more detailed instructions.

The first step in building a DIY lightweight truck camper is deciding on your materials. If you’re looking for as little weight as possible, plywood may be the way to go.

However, aluminium options are available if you’d rather have a somewhat sturdier and more long-lasting material with a similar weight. This article will show you a step-by-step guide on how to build your lightweight truck camper with either option.

Let’s dive right in!

Planning your DIY lightweight truck camper

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Image source: Canva

Before you build your DIY lightweight truck camper, plan how you want the camper to look, just like a contractor that wants to build a house. He would first draw his building plan before anything else; the same applies when you want to build your moving home.

For beginners, you should choose a suitable design. Shop for the materials used, as well as plumbing and electrical system. Also, consider siding and roofing choices and the internal layout.

Here are steps to follow when building a lightweight camper.

#1–Design and structure your lightweight truck camper

What amenities do you plan to add to the camper? Storage space and a comfy sleeping area are some of the essential amenities. You can add extra amenities like a toilet, mini-fridge, TV and so much more.

Find a durable roof for better protection against harsh weather elements. You can even install a sunroof to light your living area. Plan your living area based on your taste and eliminate anything that will make the camper heavier.

It’s advisable to keep your camper as light as possible. Also, determine the specific electric system that you want. Can the camper fit perfectly inside your truck? Or will you install lifting jacks?

#2–Build a sturdy frame for the lightweight truck camper

Build a sturdy frame after you have the design and structure you plan to implement. You can frame the camper using 2×2 lumber. But if you can afford it, an aluminum frame is a superior choice as it is lightweight.

You can choose to frame the camper as a stand-alone structure, or you can install it behind your truck camper. If you want to build a stand-alone structure, you need to use strong props to stabilize it until you install the stabilization jacks.

Use quality adhesive and screws to join the frame into position to ensure it isn’t vulnerable to wear and tear caused by vibration and bumps when driving.

#3–Side your DIY lightweight truck camper with plywood

After you finish the framing, you should use quality plywood to side your camper properly. Plywood simply helps to make your shaky frame more rigid.

While this isn’t the final finish, it creates a compact structural base for your camper.

Use quality screws and adhesive to secure the plywood on the frame. If the structure is solid, then your camper can last longer.

After you complete the siding, you should size the door and window openings based on your design. Your interior area is now ready for plumbing or wiring additions.

*Pro-tip: Make all the interior changes before you complete the insulation process.

#4–Electrical installation

There are many electrical options you can consider when building your trucker camper. You can either use 12-volt batteries or install a solar-powered system.

If you want to install power in the camper, this is the best time to do all the necessary wiring.

Remember, the battery bank should be properly charged while on the road. You can install an inverted in the camper so that you can use items such as a coffee maker or phone charger. 

#5–Plumbing

Plumbing will certainly be a challenge for you when building a truck camper. Due to space limitations, you can install a small sink. Alternatively, you can simply pour water in a jug or bucket that you can dispose of anywhere.

You can add a water heater if you need hot water for cleaning. Place a bucket outside the camper where water can drain from the sink.

How to build a DIY lightweight truck camper

How to build a DIY lightweight truck camper
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Image source: Wikimedia

Most camping enthusiasts prefer truck campers because they are easy to transport. Truck campers are also known as cab-over or slide-in campers. 

While some people prefer to install a temporary truck camper on their vehicle, others prefer a more permanent solution. Some prefer installing stationary campers as they eliminate the inconvenience of loading the camper every time.

Most people prefer detachable truck campers. And most detachable truck campers use stabilizers and hydraulic jacks to lift the camper so you can install it on the site.

Afterwards, you have to secure the camper using robust tie-downs. Detachable truck campers still allow you to use the truck when camping.

Additionally, they provide extra stability, and you can move freely inside when it has been mounted at the camping site. 

Below is a step-by-step guide to follow when building a lightweight truck camper.

Step 1. Build the base/foundation

First, measure the ideal width and length of the foundation. After you are done, properly join the metal joints together using screws and then connect them to their respective wood beams.

After the beams are fixed in position, you should attach them with nails and nuts. That way, you can ensure they have a reliable support system and that the frames are strong and thick enough. You can place jack points overhead the bed if you want to adjust the camper.

Alternatively, you can install a latch system that will allow you to handle the camper without difficulty. Nonetheless, if you still wish to build a permanent lightweight camper, you should bolt it down at the back of the truck.

Step 2. Attach the roof and frames

After you install the foundation, the next step is assembling the frames. Attaching the frames is quite straightforward! Simply attach the beams and planks together in position in such a way that they form box shapes.

You need to attach the wood together to ensure the beams are strong and durable. Try and use as many bolts and nails as you can. As you can tell, installing the roof isn’t that difficult?

You can choose a triangle or a curved roof, depending on your preference. Just ensure that the roof is properly attached to the frame.

Step 3. Add the walls and insulation

You need to add the insulation under the place where the bed will rest. Next, cover all sides of the structure with proper insulation. Remember to use water-resistant materials to avoid wear and tear during the rainy season.

To achieve the desired insulation, you must first apply PVC sheathing on all sides of the structure. Subsequently, finish the sides using treated lumber.

Ensure the PVC layer is securely attached together. And besides providing extra protection to the sheathing, lumbers help to provide structural integrity. As you construct the walls, remember to leave open spaces where you can fit a door and windows.

Step 4. Attach the door and windows

Once you finish the walls, you can add frames for holding the windows and doors into position. Take into consideration how you want them to operate. After all, they should allow you to move inside your camper freely.

After you have installed the windows and doors, insulate the exterior as well. You can apply cotton on the exterior and ensure it spreads across the width and length of the camper. Additionally, ensure you have sealed all the seams to prevent outside air from entering the camper.

Step 5. Heating, Electrical, and storage

You can use electrical tools powered by pre-charged batteries. You can install solar panels on the camper’s roof for better efficiency.

However, installing solar panels is somewhat more expensive, but it is very efficient in the long run.

Important information to know as you prepare to build your lightweight truck camper

Do you know the gross weight of your vehicle? You need this information before you can start building your truck camper. After all, staying safe while enjoying your camping expeditions is essential.

Overbuilding the truck camper when installing the truck framing is dangerous and should be avoided. Your vehicle’s gross weight will help you determine the right size for building a camper. 

To determine your vehicle’s maximum payload, you need to check if the tires are in good condition. Also, ensure the braking capacity is top-notch.

Remember that having a good payload will protect your truck’s axles and brake system. But if you aren’t sure how to determine your vehicle’s weight and size, there’s no need to worry.

To understand what it takes to build a sturdy truck camper, you should visit the place where they sell truck campers. This can help you record the necessary height and length measurements, and note down the amenities inside the camper.

You can also determine the exact weight of a camper using this simple tip. Mainly, you expect your truck camper loaded with water and camping supplies to weigh around 200 pounds. For instance, a truck camper that is about 10 feet will weigh up to 2,000 pounds when fully loaded.

Conclusion

We believe these tips can help you build your truck camper from scratch. And we hope you can use these steps to make a customized truck camper. The joy of camping outdoors and enjoying the fresh air is definitely worth it.

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