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.

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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 fixed 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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42 Discussions

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csteinwc22

Question 12 days ago on Introduction

Do you have a plan or instructions on how to build this

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Turtlekami

Question 8 months ago

Approximately how much weight does the bed area hold?

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poohnopsterTurtlekami

Answer 4 months ago

The truck capacity is 1000 pounds and the camper weighs less that 400. I haven't had any issues with the vehicle handling. I once carried a Bobcat scoop of gravel (about 3/4 ton) in the bed and it sat considerably lower, was a bit uncomfortable to drive.

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csteinwc22

Question 12 days ago on Introduction

Where did you buy the styrofoam from? And you really use fabric to cover the outside panels

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MikeK31

7 weeks ago

Great job! What year is your truck and how long is the portion over the cab? Also how do you get it on and off the truck?

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poohnopsterMikeK31

Reply 6 weeks ago

The camper is bolted to the sides of the truck bed. It can easily be removed by just unbolting, provided there are 4 or more strong helpers. I have since sold the truck with the camper so I can no longer take measurements. I'm about 5'5" and the bed was about that long. A taller person could sleep diagonally though.

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jfrywashB

Question 4 months ago on Step 1

Do you have the plans to make the frame? I’m trying to make a similar project

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poohnopsterjfrywashB

Reply 6 weeks ago

I custom built the frame to fit the truck, so there were no plans. I used 16 inch centers for most of the framing just like in a house.

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poohnopsterjfrywashB

Answer 4 months ago

I didn't make any plans when I constructed the camper, just built it to fit the truck bed. I used 3 inch screws to connect the frame members and with the plywood glued to both sides it was quite strong.

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RoseQ1

5 months ago on Introduction

I am missing something! In the pic with the a/c sitting on the tailgate, the bottom of the door seems to be missing. Does anyone have a clarification for this? I wonder if it is removable like the side pieces at each side of the door openings. ???

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poohnopsterRoseQ1

Reply 4 months ago

I made a panel to extend the door to the bed of the truck. It was attached to the door with wingnuts for easy removal. Sorry but I don't have any photos of that, and have since sold the truck and camper.

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JessyM9

9 months ago on Introduction

This is a beautiful œuvre that you share with us and I thank you for that. I am Canadian and I am currently in Australia on a holiday visa/road trip around the country and this idea of building a camper with a 4x4 Vehicule like a pick up was something I was thinking about.

DIY and waaaay cheaper than buying a manufactured one, but I am concerned about the legality of this. As I sadly like to think, when it seems too good to be true or free for grabs, there’s always a law that awaits you with a so serious mind.

i have done some research and found a chart of sizes that we ought to respect in fonction of your Vehicule and this must of course change from country to country, but still, I am afraid this could be considered as more than a simple « load ».

anything to say about that? I might start this in the next weeks

cheers!

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poohnopsterJessyM9

Reply 4 months ago

I don't know what the laws might be in Canada or Australia but here in Alabama pretty much anything goes as long as the lights, turn signals, and mirrors are in working condition.

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BrandonH194

Question 1 year 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

1 year 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 1 year 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 1 year 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 1 year ago

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