Introduction: Cab-over Camper for Pickup

Picture of Cab-over Camper for Pickup

I wanted to build a Teardrop camper but I just don't have a place to park another vehicle\trailer in my driveway. So I decided to build a cab-over camper for my pickup instead. I also wanted to be able to haul my kayaks in it as needed without having to remove the camper. My design would need to be able to drive the truck with the tailgate up but when camping the tailgate would be lowered allowing for a full size door in the back. The door would have a bottom section that would fold down in use. I wanted the camper to be as light as possible but still sturdy so I elected to use 1/8" hardwood plywood covered with "Poor Man's Fiberglass". More on that later....

The frame is 2 X 2 pine lumber. It's about half the cost if you buy 2 X 4's and rip them with a table saw. Some of them I was able to rip 3 or 4 times for thinner framing as needed.

Step 1: The Frame

Picture of The Frame

The frame is glued with Titebond II and screwed together with 3 inch drywall screws. The 1/8" hardwood plywood is glued and stapled to the frame. After the glue dries the staples are no longer needed and can be removed before covering. I started to leave the staples in but discovered they show through the covering.

Step 2: Covering

Picture of Covering

The camper is covered with fabric and paint, otherwise known as "Poor Man's Fiberglass". It's lightweight, durable, and waterproof.

1. The glue is applied to the plywood with paint rollers or brushes. I use Titebond II and thin it about 50% with water.

2. You can use canvas, bed-sheets, most any kind of fabric. I used cotton sheets that I no longer needed.

3. Cut the fabric to fit the area being covered allowing a small overlap at the corners. Apply the fabric to the surface and smooth out the wrinkles.

4. Make sure to overlap all the sections of cloth, no plywood should be left uncovered.

5. After the glue dries paint the fabric with 3 coats of latex paint.

More info here: Poor Man's Fiberglass on Instructables

Step 3: Windows

Picture of Windows

To keep cost at a minimum I decided to use fix glass for the side windows. I placed a bead of silicone caulk around the inside of the frame before installing the glass, which is held in place with 3/8" square trim. The front window is a vinyl slider. I have since removed the front window to provide better access to the cab of the truck. I cut pieces of closed cell foam and placed around the opening between the camper and the cab.

Step 4: First Time on the Truck

Picture of First Time on the Truck

Finally got it out of the garage and on the truck. I'm estimating the total weight at this time is under 200 pounds. I've bolted it down to the sides of the truck bed with 10 - 3/8" X 4" bolts.

Step 5: Removable Rear Panels

Picture of Removable Rear Panels

I made removable panels for each side of the door when the tailgate is open. The tailgate will close when they're installed but they can be removed if I want to load my kayaks.

Step 6: Interior, Cabinets, and Electrical.

Picture of Interior, Cabinets, and Electrical.

I used 1/4" plywood under the mattress, the rest of the interior is 1/8". Styrofoam was used to fill all the spaces between the framing members. Interior panels were glued to frame, held with clamps and staples. All staples were later removed.

Rather than use a single panel for the electrical I decided to use plastic electrical boxes for a modular approach. The lighting and USB ports all run off the 12 volt system and the receptacles are wired to a plug under the truck bed. All of the interior lighting is LED strips.

Step 7: Trial Run...

Picture of Trial Run...

We decided to take it out on a one night trial run. It was a hot day and the air conditioner is temporarily just sitting in the tailgate (I haven't actually decided on a permanent location for it yet). The microwave is just sitting on top of the refrigerator, the first thing I did when we returned was to mount in in a side cabinet.

Step 8: Summary

Picture of Summary

I've spent $454 for the camper so far, although I probably used another 50 to 100 dollars worth of screws, nails, electrical parts, etc that were left over from other projects. So I can safely say the camper cost less than $600. If you want to add in the air conditioner, microwave, refrigerator, and mattress it's still under $1000.


Cspot (author)2017-12-09

Love it. You have some great ideas that I am going to use for my own build. Thank you for posting this.

MichaelT177 (author)2017-06-18

Who the hell uses fabric? Seriously where did you get off the turnip truck? I dont care how much latex paint you put on that in the first heavy rain storm it will still soak up the water and the fabric will hold in the moisture to long and everything you did will be water damaged and your plywood is going to buckle. Why didnt you just go out and cover it with aluminum panelling and seal your seams with exterior chaulk and paint it. That would be the best to weatherproof it. After I spend that kind of money to build something like this I sure as hell wouldnt cover it with fabric. LMAO

someones lack of historical reference is showing. People have been using paint and canvas for homemade boats for over half a century.

earl tb (author)MichaelT1772017-07-27

Yeah really, latex/acrylic paint is what houses and vehicles and watercraft are painted with are painted with and it is well known that they leak like sieves. Thanks for the heads up....

poohnopster (author)MichaelT1772017-06-23

It's been well over a year since the camper was constructed, no leaks have occurred. The fabric is still tightly glued to the plywood and the paint has no cracks. It's never been under any kind of cover has endured many rainstorms that are frequent here in North Alabama. There are many articles on the web about "Poor Man's Fiberglass", just do a Google search.

TeresaM7 (author)poohnopster2017-06-23

I think it's great. Only short sighted people reject something without research. Don't worry about the trolls. Great job, poohnopster!

Sam'sS (author)MichaelT1772017-06-18

here's the link to the idea,

vintageracer13 (author)2017-09-08

How tall are the sides of this camper?

earl tb (author)2017-07-27

cloth covered kayaks coated with latex paint are sinking en mass causing the entire community to buy new ones every trip...

pddonovan2011 (author)2017-01-05

NOW, I know what to do about covering the bed of my Truck! Cab high, too boring. Full size camper, too wide/heavy. There are kits to weatherstrip/seal the tailgate, one of those kits and this type of custom camper shell and at the very least, you are not sleeping on the ground. THAT is what the Teardrop Trailer was all about. I have the same problem, I love to build, I need a shell for the back of my truck, I don't see anything 'mass produced' that appeals to me and the are ALL too expensive. Truly a great 'Instructable', I really enjoyed reading this one! Thank you!

burnerjack01 (author)2016-06-14

I ran a camper on my truck for about 5 years. Really enjoyed it. It was a "slide on" type. Not a necessity, but it does leave your truck "multifaceted". Ready for any mission, as it were. As a person with experience with 'truck camping', I cannot underestimate the usefulness a toilet/shower/ potable water supply can provide-particularly during a rainy stretch. The other point I might offer, while of no great import, painting it in colors that compliment the combo would be a nice touch as well. All in all, a good job. No doubt you will have some good times with it. Perfect for weekend fishing trips and such.

NathanP56 (author)2016-04-27

How did you end up securing it to the cab of the truck? I've seen the RV tie downs used on ready made campers. Are you using something similar? Nice build. I'll be starting my own in the next couple of weeks. I'm a little worried though about actually securing it to the bed of my truck and I'm looking for any and all suggestions.

arkaypee (author)NathanP562016-06-14

If you are finishing the inside of your camper, leave pockets on the inside to put "C" clamps to clamp the camper to the bed of your truck.

This way you can remove it in case of any unforeseen problems in the future.

I used this idea on my topper and it worked great.

You might think about putting some insulation strips under the camper for protection, in case you ever think about trading your truck in some day.

Good luck on your build.

poohnopster (author)NathanP562016-04-27

Since the truck is a few years old and I don't intend to remove the camper unless I have to for some unforeseen reason, I just bolted it to the truck. I used 3/8" X 2-1/2" bolts, 5 on each side. I'll post photos here this weekend. You could also use clamps if you don't want to drill holes in your truck. Just search for "clamps for truck caps" on Amazon.

NathanP56 (author)poohnopster2016-04-27

Fantastic! That makes it all so much easier. I don't foresee removing mine either but I am concerned about future mechanical work, body damage,shock replacement, inspections, etc. I'm wondering if most mechanic shops won't have a problem doing what they do with it attached or not. Any thoughts on this?

poohnopster (author)NathanP562016-04-28

I can't see where it would cause any issues. There would be no need to remove it for any of the things you mentioned, at least on my truck. All of the maintenance would be performed outside the bed of the truck.

Cameron04 (author)2016-04-16

Can't wait to see the interior!

blkhawk (author)2016-04-16

Well made! Thank you for sharing!

Lorddrake (author)2016-04-16

looking forward to seeing how this project turns out .. keep up the good work

tomatoskins (author)2016-04-15

This is done very nicely! Thanks for sharing and congratulations on your first instructable!

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