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
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
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
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
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
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.
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...
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
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.