Off Grid, Light-Weight Camper for My Tiny Truck




Posted in OutsideCamping

Introduction: Off Grid, Light-Weight Camper for My Tiny Truck

About: Let's all do some off grid living to stick it to the 'man,' man!

- First off, if you are looking at this and you are yelling in bold "IT'S NOT EVEN FINISHED!!!"  or you are the type that is yelling in bold

  "IT'S NOT EVEN STARTED!!!" I'll yell back at you "I THOUGHT IT WOULD BE BETTER TO UPDATE THIS AS I GO!" So that's what

  I'm doing. Also doing the instructable like this gives me the insentive to finish this thing. 

- I misspell and "misgrammar" (?) lots of things... I'm preemtively sorry.

- I being an Oregon native I speak differently. I might use words like "spendy." This time it's a preemtive "deal with it!"

- This will take awhile, especially with the summer job uncertainty.

- Like most people "I hereby decree that from henceforth" I am in no way mentally, physically, legally, or theologically responsible for 

  anything that happens to you. 

That being said, enjoy (for what it's worth), ask questions, and don't make me angry, please.  


Step 1: The Plans...

Every good project starts off with weeks of planning and obsessing over every detail of building before it even has one part of it made.

     Like I said this will be off grid and in the back of a little half ton toyota. I want the "camper" to still be mobil, but provide food, clean water, and heat so that I won't die if I ever live in this thing. If there is one thing that you guys should take away from this as to use the junk that is lying all over your property from failed projects or stuff that kinda wizard of oz's itself on your property in a strong wind. Don't go to walmart unless you absolutely have to. most people know that most of the stuff there is made in China I think YOU can hold yourself personally responsible for a percentage of the health crisis in Asia and eventually for the death of a human being caused by pollution.... I do.

     Sorry for the tangent. This thing has to be light, like less than a couple hundred pounds, so that means I will be using things like cardboard lumber. I also don't want to have to plug it into any power or water supply, so I will use things like sun jars in the roof and a rainwater filtration system of my own disign, but not massive ugly solar pannels that I can't afford money wise or weight wise. Since I'm a Boy Scout I don't want it to have too much technology besides maybe a smart phone for emergencies and an old ipod for music. Also I want it it to be aesthetically pleasing so that I don't go insane. Wow I sound really selfish withall of those "I wants"

     Food... "A crust eaten in peace is better than a banquet partaken in anxiety." (Aesop) I'm thinking aquaponics here. I'm not planning to eat the fish though, just going to use their waste (poo...) for plant nutrition. I wouldn't want to eat the fish anyway cause I'm thinking of using alge eaters, plus I'm afraid of blood, so that means I'm preatty much destined to be vegan (yay...).

     Other Ideas I'm thinking of is making a wood gasifier to run my truck on as seen here. But instead of making out of metal I'm making it out of ceramic (unless you wan't to weld one up and ship it here for free). I don't know how to weld and I really don't have time to learn so don't try to convince me. This field sink is also a really good idea that I'll probably do a spinoff on.

Just making sure that you know that I am not "prepping" for the end of the world here.

Step 2: Materials (also Known As Debt)

ya... the list will keep building...

I will get exact amounts of stuff you need once each part gets done.


- diagonal, cedar wall planks from the 70's (shown above)

- cardboard... lots of cardboard....

- Wheatpaste

- 5 gallon bucket(s)

- Extra cool Sawyer water bottle filter

- PVC pipe (various sizes)

- Solar garden lights

- Peltier chip (i'll discuss this later)

- mason jars

That's all i can think of for now.

Step 3: The Aquaponics System

The picture above is the plan for the aquaponics system this will hopefully grow stuff, and for a little extra fertilization of the plants (besides the fish poop) I'll add the nutritious ashes from the wood gasifier that will run my truck.



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    please dont take aquaponic advice from this article... everything listed is a nightmare waiting to happen.

    I have never in my life seen an individual with such a poor concept of the English language and the principles of communications. If there was any value in this article it would be lost through his inability to properly communicate. Please spend your time getting an education.

    Now I don't want to push Chinese products but the country from what I've read seems to run on gasifyers. For cooking they burn almost anything and are clean burning also for generating power they are cheap to buy will run your truck. So just reverse engineer one so it's USA. I'm just saying

    I was looking at peltier chips because someone around here did a lunchbox with one and I was thinking of making a yogurt incubator with one, I thought I'd warn you that they weren't terribly powerful for the price. Anyway, sounds like a cool truck camper, hope it works out well for you!

    In step 3, maybe put the water out tube a couple of inches above the bottom so that if there is an unexpected leak, your hard working fishies can live to poop another day. :)

    I love this and will keep checking back to see your progress!

    2 replies

    I love this project too, but now I realize that the weight would be too much for any truck to run on woodgas while still being structurally sound. Also the hole point of this project is too get off the grid but the government makes that impossible to do with registration, insurance, fuel, food, ext. It all takes money, and the government takes money. Now I'm thinking something like a sail cycle (google "whike") and ultra-lite backpacking gear. That would be tax free and insurance free and most of all... Mobile. So I guess this instrucable is more for ideas for people like you who want to give back to nature or lessen your expences and not for people like me who want to get completely away.

    I am looking to do something close the same thing. I want to make a variation of this. I think I want mine to be a shelter.
    Possibably Also think about making the shelter or the gas recycler/greenhouse out of a trailer.

    I'm probably not.going to make this (it's more fore ideas since I don't have the funding). But for Oregon there shouldn't be anything illegal about it as long as it has proper mirrors, lights, ect. And I've contacted the Oregon dmv and they didn't have a problem with it. There is an old guy that lives out of Grants Pass, Oregon (just south of where I live), who lives in a truck like this that also gas a garden on the roof. So why do you think it is illegal?

    Just a small idea, you could also add in a 2 liter lightbulb. This is a 2 liter bottle filled with water and a few tablespoons of bleach and refracts the light enough to amplify it.

    Neat idea but I do have one big reservation. I was just reading up on aquaponics systems and they look HEAVY: you need enough water to hold all the fish that will 'fertilize' your plants, then you need some growing media, which is usually either ceramic balls, or expanded shale, then you need a frame that can hold all that weight. Also the plants will require good access to light: these systems are typically outdoors or in greenhouses. Since you need the back to be enclosed, I think you'd be looking for a greenhouse type solution, which sounds like it could be expensive, especially if you want to reenforce it to stay together on a moving vehicle. Finally, the pumps, tanks, and grow media are all going to cost money. I don't know what your budget for this is, but I was looking into a backyard system and the real cost to set everything up turned me off for right now. I would imagine that setting up extra containment so nothing splashes or falls out while moving would only increase the costs.

    I'm not saying you couldn't do it: but to have a system that produces enough food to be meaningful, it would take up the whole back of your truck and probably over load it as well. Even if it didn't overload it, the weight will kill the fuel milage and handling. If you are really set on this I agree with vandejake: you need to look into a heavy duty vehicle for this.

    4 replies

    with the aquaponics system I was just thinking of growing herbs and small things like that to liven up food. the aquarium i was going to use is one of those aprox. 5 gal. plastic aquariums that you might grow mice in. for nothing to spill out all you need is some duct tape to cover some of the holes on the lid. using a manual primer pump would take down the pump costs. It probably wouldn't be a true aquaponics since it would use soil as the holding medium.

    Interesteing idea. I'm fascinated by the idea of aquaponics, so a cheap system would be really interesting to me. I'd never thought of just aiming for an herb garden. It sounds like this could be a good setup for an indoor herb garden for people who don't have a big yard to set something up.

    Were you going to use a standard bubbler to keep your fishes aerated? taping everything up will make your aeration choice critical. I think most aquaponics setups aerate the water during the stage while it is in the plant beds. How about drainage, were you going to filter the pot drainage to keep dirt out of the fish tank, or were you thinking about just adding fresh water to the system and using the tank water as irrigation for the plants? One of the reasons for the bead like grow media is that the frequency of watering used to properly feed the plants and control the fish waste would normally waterlog soil. I assume that with manual pumping, and soil to provide some nutrients, you won't be putting that much water through the plants, but is manual pumping frequent enough to keep your fish healthy, or will nitrates build up between pumping sessions? how about light, were you planning to just set it by a window and park so the window gets lots of light?

    Sorry to bombard you with questions, but you sound like you have put some thought into this and I'm curious to see what your thoughts are.


    All the questions give me something to do! I'm thinking of setting the whole system by a window. For aeration, my ideas were to use some sort of ebb and flow of air and/or an aerating plant. One bad thing about the aerating plants is they take up nutrients. The ebb and flow idea will probably use reed valves for the air intake and the bubbler tube. If push come to shove, a solar pannel and pump should suffice. The water that goes to the plants will be fed by gravity, but the water from the plants will be pumped back into the tank, along with fresh water, unless that would make the fish die. this system will be pumped at least once a day. As for drainage and filtration, well the dirt naturally filters the water and the drainage holes will have some sort of mesh over it. The gasifier ash supposedly makes a great firtilizer. that is about all I can think of for now.

    If you are going to use an ebb and flow for aeration, why not use it to fill the grow beds for your plants? also, how would you get this to run without some sort of power input? I don't know fast fish waste builds up, but I could envision your fish being healthier with a more constant filtration system, rather than a twice a day system. (The author of this instructable: had fish die due to ammonia spikes and he used an ebb-flow system with a 15min cycle)

    While most aquaponics systems use bacteria cultured in the grow bed, I know some fish tank setups get the bacteria growing in the tank. If you got that working you could just throw in your aerating plants, or duckweed to suck up the extra nutrients that might hurt the fish in between filling the grow bed. The downside is, as you pointed out, this robs your grow bed of nutrients.

    also you may want to check what the gassifier ash does to your water using a simple aquarium test kit. I know that campfire wood ash can make a lye solution in water that I would think would be bad for your fish, but maybe the gassifier burns the ash down differently than a campfire.

    I have been thinking of getting a decent 3/4 tonn diesel manual truck with a good sized (31 foot) trailer, cover the roof with solar panels install a wood stove and away you go. You can also use home made bio diesel from vegi oils kerosine and even algae. but the box idea is good i would go with a 5 tonn truck or a bus something to maximize your space and diesel production for the coming apocalypse

    great idea love to see it work keep us posted when you are out living like a hippy, and remember the MTO/ cops will leave you alone if your rig looks good!!

    vandejake EET CET

    1 reply

    Sounds awesome! I'ld love to see a small bio desel producer driving down the freeway. Hopefully the are some small ones out there. I too would have loved to do a trailer, but I don't think my truck could handle that much extra weight. Well anyway, good luck

    Good Plan, However... the DOT and Federal Government has a little problem with using the public roads without paying fuel tax, I.E. You can't run a wood gasifier on a passenger vehicle (such as a 1/2 ton toyota pickup or dodge neon) Legally. However, you may be able to pay your road tax separately somehow... Issue 2 to ponder... Wood gasifiers (as designed by the federal government for the farmers during ww3) are not compatible with modern fuel injected engines. The free designs provided by (i believe) FEMA are compatible with carburated engines. Check their plans for welding requirements, you may not need 200 lbs of clay and a wet sponge to build this.

    2 replies

    So I emailed ODOT and they were perfectly fine with it as long as I found a conversion factor from woodgas to gasoline and paid that in 30 cents a gallon, so problem solved!

    Ok, so the fuel tax accually originated in Oregon in 1919. so there is one.