Author Topic: DIY: Truck Camper  (Read 19973 times)

tash

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DIY: Truck Camper
« on: November 25, 2008, 10:37:37 AM »
Here's my thought's on the subject. I don't mind pulling a trailer. I've got a stout 5'x8' tilt trailer that I use a couple times a year to haul stuff around.

Something I've been seriously considering is making a cabin like structure on skids that I can winch onto my utility trailer, bolt it down, and basically turn it into a camper trailer. I could offload the cabin when I wasn't using it. It's basically like a camper thats put on the back of a truck but instead would be a trailer. I would build it out of angle iron, probably 1x1x(1/8). I've already started doing sketches and cost vs weight comparisons.

My guess, all said and done, is it would cost about:
$100 for about 120 feet of angle iron (.8 lbs per foot)
4 or 5 sheets of 3/4 plywood (75 lbs a sheet) or 1/2 (50 lbs a sheet) at about ~15 bucks a sheet
plenty of wood sealer
misc bolts, hardware, hinges, more cut off blades, more grinder pads, etc, etc
PLUS whatever luxuries I wanted (bed, toilet, sink, kitchen, skylight, AC/heat, seating, etc)

The most important concern I have would be cabin weight. I'm guessing it would weigh 500 lbs bone stock.

Attached is a sketch of my envisioning of the cabin.



Thoughts??
« Last Edit: February 23, 2009, 05:56:02 PM by Trioxin »

Offline chris

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DIY: Truck Camper
« Reply #1 on: November 25, 2008, 11:31:56 AM »
Sounds like a great idea. My only concern would be making sure the weight of the cabin sits over the axle, and not too much forward or back.
« Last Edit: February 23, 2009, 05:56:35 PM by Trioxin »
Thank you for a constructive and positive contribution to the post!  I much rather see these types of responses than the negative, pessimistic posts of some other members.  - tankman1989


tash

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DIY: Truck Camper
« Reply #2 on: November 25, 2008, 02:22:00 PM »
the sketch looks really elongated but its not that bad. I am trying to make it make as much contact with the trailer all the way around so that it does focus the weight onto the suspension over the wheels. I know, it's not recommended to have more than 500 lbs on the hitch itself. When I'm done it's basically gonna be a camper (I hope) and BOC (bug out camper).

I'm working on the design now as this is my winter project. I'm gonna do a better display using sketchup. I'll post it sometime soon.
« Last Edit: February 23, 2009, 05:57:09 PM by Trioxin »

tash

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DIY: Truck Camper
« Reply #3 on: November 26, 2008, 11:28:47 AM »
updated design ideas:

« Last Edit: February 23, 2009, 05:57:39 PM by Trioxin »

Offline TimSuggs

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DIY: Truck Camper
« Reply #4 on: November 26, 2008, 02:02:56 PM »
Tash,  take the time to look at the similarities between your trailer bed and a pickup trucks bed, and then build it to fit either.  Increases the resell options, and the haul options as well.  I have designed several such "slide-in's" for pickup truck uses, but they were armored escort modules for patrol or bug out convoy duty.  The idea behind the armored modules was primarily for meeting up at rendezvous points with arriving family's and then providing an armed and armored escort for the more vulnerable family trucksters in the "convoy".  Lead escort vehicle has a lot of front armor for those little surprise roadblocks you might find around the next bend.  If you have everything already made, it takes about an hour to convert from pickup truck to "escort".

Tim Suggs
Birmingham, AL. USA!
« Last Edit: February 23, 2009, 05:58:02 PM by Trioxin »
Tim Suggs
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tash

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DIY: Truck Camper
« Reply #5 on: November 27, 2008, 07:45:52 PM »
tim - after a little bit of searching I found a website that shows the bed dimensions for various trucks. I'm guessing I should shoot for a meld of ford, chevy and dodge??? You think there's one size that's more common than the next?

I'll have to put some thought into it. I'm not sure I'm gonna wanna sell though. Usually I try to destruct and reclaim as much out of my projects as I can.

I dunno... I'll probably PM looking for some construction advice if that's alright with you?
« Last Edit: February 23, 2009, 05:58:29 PM by Trioxin »

Offline TimSuggs

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DIY: Truck Camper
« Reply #6 on: November 28, 2008, 06:16:39 AM »
tim - after a little bit of searching I found a website that shows the bed dimensions for various trucks. I'm guessing I should shoot for a meld of ford, chevy and dodge??? You think there's one size that's more common than the next?

I'll have to put some thought into it. I'm not sure I'm gonna wanna sell though. Usually I try to destruct and reclaim as much out of my projects as I can.

I dunno... I'll probably PM looking for some construction advice if that's alright with you?

PM me anytime!

Tim Suggs
Birmingham, AL. USA!
« Last Edit: February 23, 2009, 05:58:56 PM by Trioxin »
Tim Suggs
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Murder Capital of the South

Bonehead

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DIY: Truck Camper
« Reply #7 on: December 02, 2008, 02:29:19 PM »
I think the idea of a removable cabin for the trailer is fantastic, looking forward to seeing some pictures!  What will the weight of that be, though?  Most 5x8 trailers aren't set up to handle a lot of weight, you may eat up a lot of the capacity with the structure, empty.
May need to be on a double axle trailer to be useful.
« Last Edit: February 23, 2009, 05:59:20 PM by Trioxin »

Offline creuzerm

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Re: Does a 5'x8' utility trailer plus a DIY cabin = a camper trailer???
« Reply #8 on: December 02, 2008, 09:56:21 PM »
I have seen some trailers a lot like what your talking about.
Most of them I have seen used a commercial pickup camper. You should be able to get these pretty cheap (My dad has one that he isn't planning on using anymore, gas is too expensive).

The best of these trailers where made using gooseneck trailers with the camper set on the front with the cab-over sitting over the gooseneck. I have seen these as home-made horse trailers, tractor pull trailers, race car trailers, and 4 wheeler haulers. I have even seen one bolted into the middle of a hacked up school bus where the back 3rd was a flatbed car hauler. THAT was a freak of a vehicle.

I have seen a camper on a small trailer like what you show in your sketchup picture once. I don't know if it was just stored there or if they really used it like that.
I have  seen a few camper shells on pickup-bed trailers. You know, where they cut the front off a truck and make what's left into a trailer. I want to say we bought one of our pickup campers off a trailer like that. I can't remember for sure though.

For the weight...
My dad and I have made rigid ice fish houses. We use 3/4 inch plywood for the floors which are on skids. The roof is 3/8s plywood. The walls are made from 2x2 studs. We glue and staple a blue tarp on the sides, and then screw on lattes - I think they where counter top material, like an 8th inch thick. We then glued foam insulation to the inside of the tarp walls. This creates nice waterproof, rigid walls that hold heat pretty well.

The fish houses we made where 8x10 and 8x12. They split in the middle, making 2 four foot wide sections that would fit in the back of a pickup truck. They where light enough that one guy can load and unload them, in fact, we had to freeze them to the lake or a light wind would blow them into shore. They where strong enough that the trip to the lake didn't tear them up.

We made oversized saw-horses for our pickup camper that is the same height of the truck bed. We use the jacks to get the camper off the truck, but set the camper down on the saw horses. We had some straight line winds blow a previous camper off it's jack stands.

An important thing to remember is that it will get FILLED with stuff. My mom always packed everything but the kitchen sink - as the camper had one built in. Make sure your trailer can hold a literal ton of stuff, and that your vehicle can pull that.
We got a flat tire out in Montana or Wyoming once when we where camping with the camper. We drove the jack through the road trying to change the tire. Dad had to split some firewood into rough planks with the hatchet to get enough weight disbursement so we could pick up the truck and camper to change the tire.

As for making it fit a pickup truck, if you don't have a pickup truck, the dual purpose design is not necessary, as this could be the kids playhouse or a garden shed when it's not on the trailer. Or you can cut round holes in the floor, and make a ice fish house out of it for the winter time!
Live for today, but prepare for tomorrow...

tash

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Re: Does a 5'x8' utility trailer plus a DIY cabin = a camper trailer???
« Reply #9 on: December 02, 2008, 11:27:08 PM »
I think the idea of a removable cabin for the trailer is fantastic, looking forward to seeing some pictures!  What will the weight of that be, though?  Most 5x8 trailers aren't set up to handle a lot of weight, you may eat up a lot of the capacity with the structure, empty.
May need to be on a double axle trailer to be useful.


That's what I'm in the process of calculating right now. I have a chart that says how much a given foot of angle iron weights relative to it's size (len of side 1 x len of side 2 x width). It's a pretty good chart actually. It's right HERE for anyone interested.

I know that I pretty much maxed my trailer out at around 2000+ lbs. That doesn't include the pressure treated 2x6x8 that is the floor board. I was able to unload and evenly distribute an entire pallet of sod onto it and pulled it for a good 30 miles with no problems.

I'm hoping that I can keep the cabin weight EMPTY to under 500 lbs if possible. That will allow for an additional 500+ lbs of stuff (bed, bug out stuff, water, etc) plus me and the misses. That will pretty much max it out, but I do plan on having some sort of floor jack setup for when it's stationary.  That would also allow me to unhook my rig from the trailer.

I've still got a lot of planning to do before I start but I know that once I get started I'm not gonna wanna stop. It's gonna be a great ride I can already tell.

tash

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Re: Does a 5'x8' utility trailer plus a DIY cabin = a camper trailer???
« Reply #10 on: December 02, 2008, 11:28:41 PM »
creuzerm - you make some good points...

I'm gonna have to ponder them tonight and tomorrow and I'll get back at you soon. I need to compile my thoughts and questions.

tash

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Re: Does a 5'x8' utility trailer plus a DIY cabin = a camper trailer???
« Reply #11 on: December 03, 2008, 08:53:06 PM »
So I've got some questions for everyone. I need your help.   ???

What type of material should I make it out of? Do I wrap it in plywood and then cover it with something? I was thinking plywood but maybe galvanized steel would work too. what are camper shells usually made out of? what would be the best way to fasten the plywood to the angle iron. I was thinking maybe large rivets. bolts would work but would add a lot of weight and unless i use a lot of loctite they may back out.

Do you think 1 inch x 1 inch x 3/16 (or even 1/8 as it's cheaper) angle iron would be sturdy enough for the frame? Should I use 1/2 inch square tube instead.

Would building it out of 2x4 stud work?

I know that aluminum would be lighter (and most costly) but I don't have a tig (or gas fed mig) welder, only a mig (flux wire core, no gas).

These are some of my questions. Once I know HOW to build it I can form the end design better before I actually start building it.

Thanks for everyone's time regarding my plethora of questions. :)

Offline creuzerm

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Re: Does a 5'x8' utility trailer plus a DIY cabin = a camper trailer???
« Reply #12 on: December 03, 2008, 09:22:47 PM »
On your way past an RV dealer, stop in. You would be surprised at how little there is there.

The walls are a light sheetmetal.  If you can find some inexpensive aluminum siding (know anybody replacing it on their house with vinyl?) Vinyl siding is pretty strong too. You treat the leading edges well, and it should hold on going down the road at 60.
Old offset printing plates work well, you scribe an X corner to corner to make it more rigid. We did this with an earlier fishhouse. It's hard to find printing presses that aren't all digital now though - we found some local newspaper plates 20 years ago maybe. You could read the paper through the paint. It was pretty cool

You could also fiberglass the outside - think fiberglassed wood hull kayak/canoe/boat. Light, strong, and durable. It's also very paintable.

I would build it out of 2x2s, 2x4s ripped in half. This is strong enough if you brace it well.

If you where ask me to design one today, it would be 2x2 construction, half inch plyood floor, 3/8s inch plywood roof. Walls would be foam sheet filled. Either tarp or that plastic paneling board used in bathrooms, commercial kitchens, etc. The inside would be wood paneling. The roof would be a rubber roof over the plywood. I can see putting some aluminum or metal angle on the outside corners to help with tree branch strikes.

Hrmm, maybe find an old trailer house, scrap that out for stuff? Sheet metal, windows, etc. Metal prices are pretty low right now though. Won't work if your in the city or if the Missus likes a nice yard.

Ah, I think your best bet is to watch craigslist or freecycle and look for a pickup camper. You can dissemble it, and reassemble it into your trailer. Most all the parts you need, stove, sink, furnace, door, windows, sheet metal, etc.
Live for today, but prepare for tomorrow...

tash

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Re: Does a 5'x8' utility trailer plus a DIY cabin = a camper trailer???
« Reply #13 on: December 04, 2008, 09:25:35 PM »
...Walls would be foam sheet filled. Either tarp or that plastic paneling board used in bathrooms, commercial kitchens, etc...

Creuzerm - Could you explain this one a little more please? Thanks.
« Last Edit: December 04, 2008, 09:30:29 PM by tash »

Offline creuzerm

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Re: Does a 5'x8' utility trailer plus a DIY cabin = a camper trailer???
« Reply #14 on: December 05, 2008, 11:11:32 PM »
2x2 construction right?

Skin the outside with either a tarp or that commercial kitchen paneling.

2 sheets of 3/4 inch thick foam insulation between the 2x2 studs (remember, 2x2 is really closer to inch and a half by inch and a half). Glue the insulation to itself, the outside layer, the studs.

finish the inside with panneling.

Clear as mud? Maybe Sunday night I can make up a Sketchup of what I am talking about.
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tash

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Re: Does a 5'x8' utility trailer plus a DIY cabin = a camper trailer???
« Reply #15 on: December 06, 2008, 08:30:43 AM »
Yes, for the 2x2 construction. sorry.

I think I'm following... yeah....

It pretty much all makes sense with the plastic wrap and the hardboard type insulation.

What size plywood would you put on the outside of the walls? You mentioned the floor and roof but I think where I got hung up, or maybe I just can't read... it wouldn't be the first time lol, but I didn't understand if you mentioned the sides.

I was thinking maybe 5/32" inch out the outside walls. It would provide enough protection without adding a lot of weight (which is crucial) and cost.


Offline creuzerm

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Re: Does a 5'x8' utility trailer plus a DIY cabin = a camper trailer???
« Reply #16 on: December 07, 2008, 11:25:24 PM »
I wouldn't put any plywood on the walls.
Your trying to cut weight. Don't put anything into your trailer unless it's needed. Plywood walls aren't needed.
Whatever you where planning to finish the outside in, metal siding, vinyl siding, I would attach right to the 2x2 studs.

If you REALLY wanted a wall board of some sort, I would go with something along the lines of
      http://www.farmtek.com/farm/supplies/prod1;ft1_building_material-ft1_polymax_wall_4;pg106835.html
I have seen something like this for kitchens. Thin, strong, waterproof, and light.
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tash

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Re: Does a 5'x8' utility trailer plus a DIY cabin = a camper trailer???
« Reply #17 on: December 09, 2008, 01:33:07 PM »
I wouldn't put any plywood on the walls.
Your trying to cut weight. Don't put anything into your trailer unless it's needed. Plywood walls aren't needed.
Whatever you where planning to finish the outside in, metal siding, vinyl siding, I would attach right to the 2x2 studs.

If you REALLY wanted a wall board of some sort, I would go with something along the lines of
      http://www.farmtek.com/farm/supplies/prod1;ft1_building_material-ft1_polymax_wall_4;pg106835.html
I have seen something like this for kitchens. Thin, strong, waterproof, and light.

that polymax stuff looks awesome. You know if you can get that stuff at lowes or homedepot. A quick search didn't return anything but I could be searching for the wrong term.

What do you think about hardipanel?

I'm really struggling right now trying to determine what I want the outside to be.

I'm also considering fiberglassing it as well. Not fun but kinda light weight, paint-able, and will last a life time. Only problem, I've not used fiberglass yet and it's kinda expensive. It can't be that hard. Or am I wrong?

This is my major hold up, coming up with a solution for the outside. If anyone has some more thought I'd love to hear them. Remember, this thing has the potential for running down the highway or going down some dirt trail.

Thanks :)

tash

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Re: Does a 5'x8' utility trailer plus a DIY cabin = a camper trailer???
« Reply #18 on: December 09, 2008, 01:54:42 PM »
For anyone interested I came across THIS website during my recent web research. It's got a lot of great info. Hopefully it's of some help to you like it is me.

djturnz

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Re: Does a 5'x8' utility trailer plus a DIY cabin = a camper trailer???
« Reply #19 on: December 09, 2008, 04:01:42 PM »
Maybe You've done this but you keep mentioning storing your preps, bed, seating, bathroom.  Do you realize how small 5x8 is?  That doesn't afford much room for anything.  Hell prisoners get more space in their cell.

I am not saying not to do it, I'd just hate for you to be disapointed at the lack of actual space.

tash

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Re: Does a 5'x8' utility trailer plus a DIY cabin = a camper trailer???
« Reply #20 on: December 09, 2008, 10:18:07 PM »
All said and done it should be around 9 feet long x 6.5 feet wide x 6 feet high. I marked the dimensions on the floor of my garage with some tape. I know it's pretty small but for camping a few night's it shouldn't be that bad. At least I can stand up in it and so can the wife. The bed will be elevated with storage room under it. As long as it's dry and we can sleep in it, that's about all I need from it. It's hard to plan on what it should do until I actually start using it. And actually, it's not that much smaller than the campers that fit into truck beds. I'm sure in the future I'll want something bigger but for now, I hope you're right and that it'll be big enough even though it's small.

tash

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Re: Does a 5'x8' utility trailer plus a DIY cabin = a camper trailer???
« Reply #21 on: December 12, 2008, 09:41:29 AM »
So... I'm beginning to have to reservations about this projects...

My main concern is if my trailer will be able to handle it. It's a stout 5x8 trailer made out of 3/16 x 2 inch angle iron. It's heavy to begin with. Add the 8 - 2x8x8 pressure treated lumber as the floor and that adds quite a bit of weight. It's also a tilt trailer so it has more steel for the framing.

I really want to have a DIY camper trailer, but I don't think my trailer could support it without major modification. I've wanted a camper trailer like that for a LONG time. Modification would probably include replacing the leaf springs, removing heavy wood for a screened floor, replacing both wheels and tires and getting  3 standard sized wheels and tires to replace it all (one spare). The current wheels (rims) are an odd size and finding a replacement tire was actually rather difficult.

Basically, I'd half to replace the trailer with a larger one if I wanted to do this project the right way. But that defeats my motto of doing what you can with what you have. Plus I got the trailer for $50 bucks a couple years ago. It's basically cost me nothing other than floors, 2 used tired, a trailer jack and turn signals.  (that actually sounds like a lot lol)

I don't think I can justify getting rid of it just to get a bigger trailer that I use maybe once every month or two for various activities. But, if I had the camper, the wife and I would definitely take more camping/single over night trips. Yes, I could buy a pull behind, but that seems like cheating to me.

Thanks for letting me vent... It's all been running around my head and I had to get it out.

Bonehead

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Re: Does a 5'x8' utility trailer plus a DIY cabin = a camper trailer???
« Reply #22 on: December 15, 2008, 01:23:35 PM »
How about a sturdy tent that could mount on the trailer using bolts rather than stakes?  Not the same as a cabin at all, but with gear (and the tent) stored in several dry boxes, it could still be a quickly loaded, moved, and set-up camping setup while being light weight.  The tent would be up on a dry, level, sturdy platform rather than the ground, and you could haul a lot of gear in a set of boxes on the trailer to wherever you were headed.  A good tent will stand up to a lot of weather, could even pack a heavy canvas awning to go over the top for another layer of shade in the Summer.  It would be more of a home-made pop-up trailer, keeping closer to the "make do with what you've got" concept.  Just a thought.

Offline TimSuggs

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Re: Does a 5'x8' utility trailer plus a DIY cabin = a camper trailer???
« Reply #23 on: December 15, 2008, 03:33:02 PM »
Here's another "idea" for a brain snack.  This is a variation of what the last poster was talking about with the tent on a box idea (WELCOME to the group btw...).  Think of a base box for storage of BO essentials, machine gun emplacements, etc. and then slap a movable roof panel the same size as the box, that would be supported by (your favorite building material) PVC pipe.  It's gonna look like a freestanding carport  on a box for a mental picture.  Route a groove into the box top, and in the bottom of the top and use the corrugated plastic (like the yard signs are made out of) and joiner strips to make your wall sections out of.  Zip tie them to the support poles and you got a windproof, waterproof, small (and I mean small...) animal proof enclosure.  The plastic is also bendable and curvable if you wanted to round out your corners.  And I'm thinking less than 4' tall for the top "sleeper" area.  And that's big enough to sit Indian style in and probably larger than the original TDT idea.  We get the plastic signs made up for City Stages and I think the material is available up 4'x8'.  Like I said, just a little brain snack...  Hope it helps.

Tim.

Tim Suggs
Birmingham, AL. USA!
Murder Capital of the South

tash

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Re: Does a 5'x8' utility trailer plus a DIY cabin = a camper trailer???
« Reply #24 on: December 15, 2008, 06:01:15 PM »
bonehead... now that's not very boneheaded... quite a good thought! oh yeah... and you too tim....  ;) hehe

Those are some dang good ideas. I knew I liked you guys for some reason. I don't care what the others say about you... you're both cool in my book LOL :)

I'm gonna have to chew on that one for a little while... I like where it's going thought... +1 for you both

Offline creuzerm

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Re: Does a 5'x8' utility trailer plus a DIY cabin = a camper trailer???
« Reply #25 on: December 19, 2008, 01:27:16 AM »
Look up the local camper stores. See where they are at. When your in the neighborhood, stop in. Look the units over. Have the guy try to sell you one.

I have to find a link for you. There are a kind of trailer camper that is basically a portable outdoor kitchen with a small space to sleep in. I am thinking you would love the design. I just can't find the link right now. I don't remember what they called them.
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tash

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Re: Does a 5'x8' utility trailer plus a DIY cabin = a camper trailer???
« Reply #26 on: December 19, 2008, 08:28:49 AM »
I'm looking forward to the link creuzerm. Sounds pretty cool.

So I've started to consider another option and I would like everyone's opinion. I was reading this website about the art of living in your car/van/truck and doing so discretely. They use the term 'stealth parking' for when they need to boondock anywhere. The premise being to not attract attention to yourself by what you're living in. An 'rv' for example has no stealth ability whereas a mini-fan has a high stealth ability.

So I got to thinking... a pull behind cabin is not that stealthy. It would stick out like a sore thumb. If I plan on using it during a bugout or just an out of town trip I'd like to be in the static. A regular truck with a cabin, in the south, is so common place that if you see anything else it would stick out.

Now to the main point. I've got a fully paid for fully loaded 2001 Isuzu Trooper Limited 4x4. It's got all the amenities. I have been considering trading it in for a mid 90's full sized diesel truck, prob a ford f250 or f350 with a crew cab. They are very comparable in the trade-in/resale values.
1. I've always wanted a full sized truck
2. I can build my own camper for the back
3. I can get rid of my utility trailer and get a smaller trailer for the atv (I couldn't pull the atv if I had the cabin on the trailer)
    3a. I don't have the atv yet. I plan on trading my fully paid for motorcycle in this summer for an atv. It should be a straight trade.

These are some of the thoughts that are running around my head.

Comments?? (Bueller?................Bueller?)

tash

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Re: Does a 5'x8' utility trailer plus a DIY cabin = a camper trailer???
« Reply #27 on: January 09, 2009, 08:51:44 AM »
Well, it looks like all my planning is no longer necessary... and yeah... it's got a hemi :)



I guess it time to start planning on building a camper cabin instead  ;)

Offline sassiesmom

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Re: Does a 5'x8' utility trailer plus a DIY cabin = a camper trailer???
« Reply #28 on: January 30, 2009, 09:20:33 AM »
Nice Truck!!

How are the camper plans going?  With your extended cab on the truck you could get a nice sized overcab section and even if you wanted, you could extend the camper a couple feet out the box.

Keep us posted...I'm curious!
Cathy

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tash

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Re: Does a 5'x8' utility trailer plus a DIY cabin = a camper trailer???
« Reply #29 on: February 06, 2009, 09:26:02 AM »
Nice Truck!!

How are the camper plans going?  With your extended cab on the truck you could get a nice sized overcab section and even if you wanted, you could extend the camper a couple feet out the box.

Keep us posted...I'm curious!
Cathy



Thanks! :)

I'm still working this issue. I've considered building my own slide-in camper and am in the process of doing all the research. This has been a great resource http://cheaprvliving.com/

I am also looking into the idea's that Bonehead/Tim had suggested. I'll probably build a frame out of 2x4's that can be bolted to the trailer and make a small cabin. It could be easily taken down and stores very compact. I've got an old screen tent that I'm thinking about donating to making the outer cabin material. It would at least provide a weather/wind proof enclosure. Not perfect but easily doable. Once I start down that path I'll definitely take pics and post updates. Thanks for the encouragement.