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A project log for DIY Truck Camper

Open source truck bed camper for the masses.

DustinDustin 12/03/2021 at 19:410 Comments

I know it’s been  log time since I’ve written anything regarding this project, but I do have some updates. First is that I can get my old pickup back from the friend I sold it to for $1,000. I plan to buy it back and start getting it ready for a camper. It needs shocks and maintenance. It needs a fair bit of work, but is solid.

Next up is that I have most of the basic tools to build a camper on it. I have given up my tools over the years as I didn’t need them. I realize now that I really do need tools in my life. I was a tow truck driver for a while and bought the tools I’ve always wanted for myself. I got a nice big tool box system, new brushless Ryobi cordless tools, Milwaukee hand tools, and even a Hilti cordless hammer drill as my main drill. I have never owned nice tools in my life. They make a big difference in my willingness to actually work on my projects. I have a cordless circular saw with big batteries so I can cut all the main lumber needed to build a camper. I have a nice Diablo blade for it when the one it came with wears out. I won’t hesitate to cut soft metals with this saw as needed either. I have a cordless impact, bits, cordless tire inflator, screw jack that works with the impact, and various impact sockets and air fittings. It all fits into a nice tough case which I used as my tire service kit as a tow truck driver. I can use that kit to make extra money to fund this camper as well. I just have all the basics to get me started. For the first time in my life, I own nice, new tools that I picked myself. No more second hand or low quality tools. I will hold onto these tools for as long as I can keep them in service.

The biggest update is actually my living situation. I don’t care to get into how I ended up here, but it has been a very valuable experience so far. For the past few months I have been living in a 1973 Ford American truck bed camper, sitting on top of an old trailer. I’m renting it from a friend while I build up my own mobile life. It’s in surprisingly good shape, with nearly everything working. It has a working refrigerator, microwave, propane stove, water system, electrical system, vents, and a good amount of storage. I’ve added a portable mini washing machine for laundry, bedding, and various household items. It’s very cozy in here, and I find it has plenty of space for me. I could entertain a few people in here, but I don’t. Living here is motivating me to build up my truck bed camper. I have been working on other projects and documenting them on here, so it’s getting me in the habit of doing so. I have recently built my own heated water hose, and tapped directly into my friend’s 40 gallon water heater. I used some custom hose adapters I made from replacement parts to hook the cold and hot water together and control the temperature coming out of a single hose, to the camper. I no longer have cold water, but that is fine. The propane water heater needs all new controls, and I don’t feel like dealing with propane regularly. I can now get nice hot showers and do dishes and laundry whenever I need to. The bathroom is fantastic I here. It’s all water proof, so cleaning is very easy. I simply rinse and scrub everything down with the hand held shower sprayer and a scrub brush. I don’t ever want to own a bathroom that can’t be sprayed down like this again.

This camper is showing me what works and what doesn’t in a small space. I wouldn’t want to share this space with anyone, but it works for me. The loft that sits above the truck cab is my favorite place. I sleep up here and work on my laptop from up here. I want to build an elevated platform up here for my bed so I can store things under it, sleep a little higher up, and create a lounge with the rest of the loft, using tons of cushions and bedding. I love that I can reach the fridge and pantry from my bed. Makes snacking in bed very easy. I put a small pillar fan up here, and a Handy Heater that plugs directly into the outlet in the nearby kitchen. I can control lights, heat, and fan from up here. It’s become the most important space in the entire camper. I’ve decided to focus very heavily on the design of the loft for my first camper. I was considering not putting one in to simplify the design, but I enjoy it far too much.

Laundry in here has turned out to be far easier than I thought it would be. I have a portable washing machine that sits on the bench seat across from me at the table. The water and drain hoses reach the bathroom. I got a hose extension for the drain and it dumps right into the shower drain. Not going to the laundromat or intruding in my friend’s house saves me a ton of money and stress. I wash my clothes in the little machine, put them through the spin cycle, then hang everything up on hangers in the closet by the fridge to dry. My bedroom fan blows right over the heater and into that closet, drying my clothes in a few hours or overnight. I wake up every morning with fresh, dry clothes.

The restroom situation took some thinking, but has been fairly pleasant. I created a composting toilet using a trash can and saw dust bedding pellets. It gets emptied into a compost pile far away when full. No problems with smell or anything. I just keep the lid on the can. I can move it around as needed and free up the bathroom. It just sits on top of the flush toilet most of the time. I’ve never used the flush toilet as I have no safe way to empty it. No big deal.
I only have electric heat right now, and it does struggle to keep up on colder days, but I have insulated a bit better and it’s ok. I usually just wear a sweater and pants while home. I swapped out the 1500 watt utility heater for a trio of 350 watt Hand Heater things. They are god enough, and distribute the heat better than a single heater does. I can turn them on and off as needed. I have to shut one of them down to cook on the induction cook top, and all three need shut down to run the microwave. I trip the camper breaker every now and then. It’s annoying, but I can do everything I need. I got used to a far more limited power budget in a previous solar off grid camper, so this is a massive luxury to me.

As far as cooking goes, it’s very simple here. I have a Lodge combo cooker, which is a deep pan with a shallow pan as a lid. I have a portable induction cook top that works incredibly well with cast iron. I cooked a small turkey in it yesterday. I had an electric kettle to heat water, but it drew so much power that it ended up tripping the breaker most of the time. It was infuriating so I got rid of it. I replaced it with a stainless steel french press that I use directly on top of the induction cook top. It works great. I can just heat water or cook in it if needed. I use it daily. I can set a target temp and walk away, or set a power level. It has a timer as well. I love induction and cast iron and stainless steel.
For doing dishes I have a larger sink ad a collapsible dish drainer. The sink is unusually large for a small camper, but it is well worth the extra space. I may even put a double basin sink in my camper. I use all the standard drawers and cabinets for storing things. I’ve added hooks all around for hanging various utensils and clothes.

I have a Ryobi cordless hand vacuum for cleaning up small messes, and my friend gave me back the first vacuum I ever owned, from my childhood. It’s a old push model with no power. Simple but effective. I think it’s from the 1970s. Both help me live a perfectly clean and healthy life.

There is much more to say, but I am want to get off the computer and get something done. More updates to come soon.

Before I forget: I was going to get a touring motorcycle and travel the country, but I feel a truck bed camper suits me better. I like having a stable home that can hold all the tools and simple comforts I enjoy so much. I have never owned my own home, so it’s about time.

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