How do you build a diy truck camper for dirt cheap?

i’m sure a lot of people are in a similar boat. I’m looking to make my own diy truck camper really cheap. Would love to see others rigs and any lessons you learned from the experience.

I did this this year and so far I am happy with the setup. I am slowly developing or adding to it though.

I found a used topper on Facebook marketplace that was the right size and color for my truck. It was not in the greatest shape, but it was cheap. I looked for about 3 months before finding this one. I picked it up for $150 bucks.

I did have to buy a new seal for the topper to truck bed surfaces. I also had to make a few repairs to some of the latch hardware. I still do have some leaks to trace down when I get hard rain. In hindsight if I had held out for a better topper, I would have saved myself some effort even if it cost a few hundred dollars more.

My first version I simply used a folding camp cot in the bed with just enough space underneath to use plastic storage bins for my gear that I could slide out to access. I used Velcro to attach reflectix sheet to my side windows and a simple tension rod with a cheap curtain for the rear hatch window for privacy at night. At this point I had maybe $200 in the hole setup.

I later added some flooring via thin ply panels and short pile carpet squares. Four section cover the entire floor and they are easy to put in and remove. I can store them easily inside the garage or house since they are less than 3’ wide and 4’ long. About this same time I also realized I needed to seal the tailgate so I bought a tailgate weather/dust seal and installed that.

I then build a wall from more of the thin ply and 2x4’s to enclose the tail gate area. This allowed me to leave the tail gate down and still have the bed closed off. It also allowed me to have an opening to fit a small window style ac unit that slides out over the tail gate and cools the camper when I have access to AC power.

Things to look for in your topper;

  1. Carpet lined is a really nice feature. It adds insulation and helps with sound. It does not sound like you are inside a plastic barrel or drum.
  2. Screened windows for bug free air flow. Saves you the trouble of making screens and finding a way to attach them.
  3. Work style side opening windows or panels are very nice for loading gear in and out, light during the day, or simply having more ventilation. The downfall is they can be leak points and if they are glass you will need to configure some sort of shade/curtain for privacy and screens to keep out the bugs if you want to leave them open at night. There is a bit less security with the side windows as well.
  4. High tops are really nice for that extra headroom allowing you to sit up in a chair or elevated sleeping platform. They are not as aerodynamic or attractive as the cab roof height toppers but it is hard to put a price on cubic volume.
  5. A topper with led interior lights is nice and saves you the trouble of installing something.
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There is a great FB group called Pickup Truck Camping that is super helpful. Lots of people sharing their builds.

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