Looking to upgrade your camping trips, but don’t want a tow camper or RV? Have a pickup truck? Enjoy working with your hands? Then look no further than these do-it-yourself truck campers! We’ve found plans for a variety of trucks and truck bed sizes, as well as price points to make getting started easier. Read on for our picks, and things to keep in mind when you go to build your own!
What Is The Best Truck For A Truck Camper?
Truck campers of one kind or another can be used with most trucks. There are lightweight, smaller options and heavy, larger options for every kind of truck camper. When considering a camper design, you should primarily consider your truck’s payload capacity - that is, the amount of weight it can carry.
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Be careful not to confuse payload capacity with towing capacity! You should be able to find this information in your owner’s guide, or do some quick calculations to figure it out. Your camper should be well under the payload capacity to prevent strain on your vehicle, and most importantly minimize safety risks while driving. For more information, read our post on payload capacity and why it's so important.
What Trucks Have A High Payload Capacity?
A few trucks with a high payload capacity are:
- 2020 Nissan Titan - Nissan proclaims that the Titan XD Crew Cab variant boasts a maximum payload of 2,240-pounds.
- 2020 Dodge Ram 1500- According to Dodge, the Laramie Longhorn variant boasts a payload of 2,000-pounds in the right size.
- 2020 Chevrolet Silverado - Chevy says, depending on the specifications, the Silverado has up to a 2,280-pound payload capacity.
- 2020 Ford F-150 - The most popular vehicle in the US, this truck possesses an impressive range of payload capacities. Depending on the configuration, F-150 can carry between 1,142 and 2,309-pounds (via Ford).
As long as your truck camper remains below your truck’s maximum payload, you should be able to use it safely. However, with a smaller truck, you might have to sacrifice some features, or possibly make a soft-sided truck camper instead to maintain the integrity of your vehicle.
In short, the best truck for a truck camper is probably the one you already own!
How Much Does It Cost To Build A Truck Camper?
The cost of a DIY truck camper ranges from a few hundred dollars to upwards of $6,000. How much it costs to build a truck camper depends entirely on:
- Additional features
Material choice will influence the cost a great deal, and there are advantages and disadvantages to each choice. Aluminum framing will be more expensive than a wood frame, and have a different weight. The siding choice will also influence the cost, with metal or fiberglass being more expensive than wood or plastic.
Cost also depends on the amenities you want to have; while electrical wiring is possible, it increases the cost of your camper, especially when it comes time to buy fixtures. To give you a rough idea, one of the campers on our list cost under $1,000 to build (including a refrigerator and microwave), while the most luxurious camper on our list cost around $6,000 and is fully furnished!
In general, the more features you want in your camper the more expensive (and time-consuming) it will be to build. If you're wondering how much it costs to buy a new truck camper, here is our list of our favorite truck campers, with prices ranging from $6,450 to $50,150. Use this inclusive list to compare to our DIY favorites...coming up next.
How Can I Turn My Truck Into A Camper?
To turn your truck into a camper either:
- Add a truck canopy and modify your truck bed for sleeping and storage.
- Build or buy a dedicated truck bed camper for your truck.
Read on to see our favorite DIY truck campers, and why we love them!
1. Building A Truck Bed Camper - Part 1: The Frame
This clever pop-up truck camper was made with the owner’s Nissan Frontier, showing that even smaller trucks can be used for a truck camper. According to the owner, the camper is roughly the size of a two-person tent when the roof is popped out, making it the perfect upgrade for your camping adventures! This is a 5-part series detailing the owner's building process, from the frame to weighing the finished camper. Definitely worth the watch.
2. Make a “Skate-Away” DIY Truck Camper
These plans are perfect for those who want to take their home with them, but leave the picket fence behind! They create a lovely little camper that is small, light, and airy. Many windows keep the tiny home from feeling enclosed, and the bed/futon combination is a clever use of space.
3. Easy Truck Camper Install! - Start to Finish
If you already have a canopy for your truck bed, you could be halfway to a truck camper already. With some modifications, your truck bed can become a great place to sleep without losing much functionality. Having the roof already in place cuts down on the time and cost of making one, and might be an easier way toward DIY a camper. This video takes you through adding shelving and a convertible sleeping space to your truck bed.
4. Cab-over Camper For Pickup
This no-frills camper is perfect for someone wanting something simple to get away for the weekend, and provides a good base for future embellishment if so desired. The creator even gives a breakdown of the materials and prices. Keeping the total cost under $600, this is a very approachable budget project.
5. Glen-L Importer Camper
For those who prefer detailed schematics, Glen-L offers a variety of plans for building truck campers. Plans include variations for larger and smaller trucks. While his plans are not free, his site offers a wealth of pictures and commentary to assist you in building your camper. We recommend giving his site a look to see how he constructs his campers, even if you do not intend on purchasing one of these plans. We like the Importer for its compact size and the clever use of space, and it features a double bed with a slide out section!
6. Adventure Truck 2.0
The most ambitious (and expensive!) on our list, is the aluminum framed Adventure Truck 2.0 camper. It features a pop-up cabin, stylish interior, lights, water, and an array of storage options. Costing the creators roughly $6000 to build, this is not a budget option. However, we find it inspiring, and hope it gives you some ideas for upgrading your truck camper.
As you can see, the sky's the limit when it comes to a DIY truck camper project! Just keep in mind your truck’s payload when you are planning and building your camper. Find the plan that fits your needs and budget, and get creative!
If you need some help looking for accessories, look no further than our list, "13 Truck Camper Accessories You Should Consider." Remember, the greatest benefit to a DIY camper is that it will be made by you, for you. So, go ahead and make the most of it!