Pickup Camper Shell Camping

Dr. Marneaus

Member
Premium Member
Hi! Not really sure where else to place this, as my truck isnt going to be used heavily for camping or overlanding, more like just the occasional "on a whim" camping trip or fishing trip, etc.

I have a 2004 dakota 4x4. It's lifted about an inch and on 32's. Nothing special at all, but it's my daily (well, i daily a company vehicle, but its my "real" or "normal" vehicle). The truck is from NH originally (my dad bought it new) has had alot of rust repaired and was resprayed by my brother back in Rhode Island, then it made its way to me. It;s nothing special, but i plan to keep it as long as it holds together and lasts.

I used to run a tonneau cover but wanted something more useful. As mentioned I'd like the ability to sleep in it with SOME comfort, as well as make it useful, but not purely dedicated to camping. I needed to still maintain the same utility as a truck with a camper shell, because it'll still be used as a truck. I shall chronicle my little project below:

I picked up a camper shell for a couple hundred bucks


i plasti dipped it black so i dont look like a banana or yellow pages delivery service.



then in installed some inexpensive LED's as general utility lights not just for camping. should he helpful just for loading/unloading on regular camping trips and with plain cargo.



Now here's where things get ugly. apparently i suck at upholstery. I wanted to cover the wires and was considering some insulation for the top of the shell. In the end I decided against any actual insulation since i figure it cant be any different than sleeping in a tent and will rely on my sleeping bag for warmth. I bought a giant fleece blanket and foolishly attempted to glue it to the top.
The actual top came out okay, but then i didnt get everything straight and had to make a bunch of random seams in the back and got some wrinkles. I'm not proud.....but it'll do. I havent gone back through yet with contact cement and glued down the edges around the windows. I've got a bit of "touch up" to do, but it likely wont make much of an improvement. please dont laugh at me lol.



So, one of the big issues about sleeping in a pickup bed is the cold floor, being that air is under you. Again i dont plan on any arctic expeditions in this thing, but at least wanted SOME insulation from the sheet metal.

I picked up a 4x8 of 1 1/2" insulation sheathing, and a 4x8 of luan underlayment. I cut to fit, and glued the luan to the top of the foam so that I can move around on top of it without crushing and denting the foam. this should at least keep the bed from sucking my warmth away. I made it 3 separate panels that can be removed or stacked at the front of the bed for easy storage. Or they can just hang out in there as long as im not doing any heavy materials moving


Next, i picked up a cheap ($19) 5x7 rug at walmart to be installed either with or without the insulation panels. Cut it to fit the wheel wells and cover the floor. I went around the cut edges with a hot glue gun to prevent it from fraying. Why anybody would pay $400 for a "bed rug" kit is beyond me!



Lastly, i know this is only good for warm weather camping, I picked up a twin sized air mattress for $7 at walmart. This will work and be more comfortable than a thermarest or similar thin pad for the majority of camping that I do in the truck. If i do have to camp in the cold, I'll bring one of my thin insulated pads rather than this one which will not keep me insulated at all.


As you can see in a few of the pictures, i also wired in a 12v socket near the switch for the lights. This will run my phone charger or whatever I need back there. All the wiring for the lights and the outlet was done on a quick disconnect spade connector so i can just pop it off when necessary to remove the shell, and everything will go with the shell except 1 wire running in the bed from the 12v on my 7 pin trailer harness.
 

Dr. Marneaus

Member
Premium Member
Anyway, fits well, i can sit up without hitting the top of the shell, and it should be fairly comfy!


Future mods may include cutting out some panels for the windows to keep it darker inside, probably just using cloth and velcro, or maybe some of the mylar bubble wrap. if it DOES get used for cold weather camping on a regular basis I may make some removable panels for the top out of the mylar bubble wrap radiant barrier to help keep the heat in.

No real plan to spend any more money on it though.

Not counting the shell itself, I spent about $125 doing all of the interior items, the insulation, the fabric, the lights, the outlet, the rug, including the cost of adhesive spray and wire and all that jazz. So, its not super pretty, but I think it'll do for my needs.
 

Dr. Marneaus

Member
Premium Member
Very nice!

A wool blanket under and on top of an air mattress really improves your warmth at night.

Thanks.

I keep a harbor freight wool blanket in each of the vehicles as part of the standard emergency kits, so that could always be used to supplement the insulation.
 

jfrey123

Well-known member
I dig it. Can't imagine anyone would really hate on the upholstery job, you did it yourself and you're happy with it and that's all that matters.
 

Dr. Marneaus

Member
Premium Member
I dig it. Can't imagine anyone would really hate on the upholstery job, you did it yourself and you're happy with it and that's all that matters.
I omitted the pics of the really bad sections shown in detail, lol. Trust me, it looks bad!

anyway. Doesnt really matter I guess.
 
Don't forget about Mill's End fabric by Renown. They have all those fabrics and more for projects like that. Foam mattresses, wool, everything You could think of.
 

Dr. Marneaus

Member
Premium Member
Don't forget about Mill's End fabric by Renown. They have all those fabrics and more for projects like that. Foam mattresses, wool, everything You could think of.

I called mill end and it was going to end up costing about $250 to get 112 (28 feet at 4" thick) board feet of high density foam for the mattress/insulation combo deal.

I didn't call them for the fleece though. A kingsized blanket was $18 on Amazon and probably could have been mostly seamless of i hadn't botched it and got it all crooked.
 
I called mill end and it was going to end up costing about $250 to get 112 (28 feet at 4" thick) board feet of high density foam for the mattress/insulation combo deal.

I didn't call them for the fleece though. A kingsized blanket was $18 on Amazon and probably could have been mostly seamless of i hadn't botched it and got it all crooked.
I know what you mean. Unfortunately it's less expensive to buy a cheap alternative and chop it up than by the material and do it yourself. Good work!
 

Nevadabackroader

New member
I love camper shell camping. Its perfect for me. I spent many nights sleeping in the back of my old 88 Toyota. Bought a bed kit for it but didnt use it until I got my 02 Tundra. I had a nice Leer campershell on it. Recently upgraded to an 01 Silverado and sprung for a Caravan for it. Cant wait to go out in it.


New rig. Bed kit will be too small in it but I'm going to modify it and just use the extra space for storage.
 

WJeeper

Member
Here are a few pics of our truck bed camper. Has a caravan style camper on top.










*Camping up HLT a month or so ago.
 

Dr. Marneaus

Member
Premium Member
Nice setups guys! I like the idea of using a truck bed trailer as a little camper! Almost like a teardrop. Would be a neat project for me to get an old j-truck bed and so something similar to tug behind the wagoneer.... i know where there are a few j truck camper shells too....
 

jfrey123

Well-known member
Truck bed campers seem awesome as far as pricing goes. Thought about doing it with my trailer but I don't want to commit it to a base camp, I normally set up camp and then drive around in the Kia with trailer to gather firewood.

Also, my pickup bed trailer can't be stood in or stepped in anywhere behind the axle unless it's hooked up to the Kia. I think a lot of those trailers are weighted similar, and if you stand near the end it'll tip backwards unless you leave it attached at the ball or rig up a jackstand setup on the rear.
 

WJeeper

Member
Truck bed campers seem awesome as far as pricing goes. Thought about doing it with my trailer but I don't want to commit it to a base camp, I normally set up camp and then drive around in the Kia with trailer to gather firewood.

Also, my pickup bed trailer can't be stood in or stepped in anywhere behind the axle unless it's hooked up to the Kia. I think a lot of those trailers are weighted similar, and if you stand near the end it'll tip backwards unless you leave it attached at the ball or rig up a jackstand setup on the rear.
If you look at my last pic, it is not hooked up to the jeep. 2 fold down jacks on the back. no standing anyway due to room, but it is very sturdy.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/2-pk-LONG-S...d=100338&rk=6&rkt=18&mehot=pp&sd=151028076825
 
Top