Cab-over Camper for Pickup

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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.

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28 Discussions

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BrandonH194

Question 3 months ago

Have you had any issues with the bed portion being unstable or flexing too much? I am wondering how much support needs to be added since my plan is to sleep perpendicular to the bed of the truck and extend the width of the camper by about a foot.

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BrianC486

4 months ago

First, let me say this looks amazing. Something like this would be just about perfect for my Dodge Dakota. Only question I have is...how do you remove it? I live in the cities right now (I know, I hate it) and don't have a high enough garage door. Maybe my own would have to be modified when I am able to build... Anyway. Love the work.

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MarissaM10

Question 6 months ago on Step 8

How did you attach it to the truck? Do you have any pictures? Is it solid?

I love your camper and am looking to do something similar. This is the first time I'm hearing of Poor mans fiber glass, rather than just several coats of exterior grade paint. Thanks!

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poohnopsterMarissaM10

Answer 6 months ago

I used 1 inch thick treated deck boards between the camper ant the truck bed. Then drilled 5 holes on each side and fastened with 3/8" X 2-1/2" bolts and large washers.

IMG_20180421_162935.jpg
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poohnopstervintageracer13

Reply 6 months ago

4 feet, the width of the plywood covering. I allows for 6 feet headroom inside the camper.

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poohnopsterrobbiecannon

Reply 6 months ago

The camper, including the microwave, air conditioner, and mattress weighs about 400 pounds.

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Camping Large

8 months ago

I have been a fan of yours for over a year. My problem was a 5'6" long bed on my Ford and the weight of my slide in camper was way beyond the limits. I was searching for remedies when I stumbled on your site. That was the solution.

I started last year and have the outside complete and the inside insulated ready for wall coverings.

To answer the skeptic of poor-mans fiberglass, the camper was left outside for 8 months now and it still looks great (except for the bird droppings) and NO LEAKS!!

Thank you again for the detailed instructions. I have about 2 months to completion and I will be ready for the first of many adventures with my new camper made just the way I like it..

I

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Cspot

11 months ago

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

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MichaelT177

1 year ago

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

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kadidlehopperMichaelT177

Reply 1 year ago

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

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earl tbMichaelT177

Reply 1 year ago

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....

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poohnopsterMichaelT177

Reply 1 year ago

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.

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TeresaM7poohnopster

Reply 1 year ago

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

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Sam'sSMichaelT177

Reply 1 year ago

here's the link to the idea, https://www.instructables.com/id/Poor-Mans-Fiberglass-make-nearly-anything-weatherp/

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earl tb

1 year ago

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

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pddonovan2011

1 year ago

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!

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burnerjack01

2 years ago

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.

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NathanP56

2 years ago

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.