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Open Roads Forum  >  Truck Campers

 > Considering building camper from scratch...

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urbex

Glendale, AZ

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Posted: 10/18/20 10:17am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Looking for opinions on building a new camper from the ground up, to bolt down to a flat bed. 99% of my camping is boondocking and involves going off road in the southwest desert, I haven't so much as stepped foot in a developed campground in over 30 years and have zero desire to ever do so in the future.

I have a 1980-something Lance LC980, with significant water damage rot in the structure, and I don't feel that it is worth fully repairing/rebuilding. Not quite to the point of imminent collapse, but even with the repairs I'm currently doing to fix an anchor that almost pulled out, I doubt I have more than 1 or 2 seasons left in it without major work.

I don't have nearly the budget needed to buy a brand new camper, and virtually every used camper I've looked at has some degree of water damage already, even when the owner swears it doesn't. The few that appeared to be rot free had other reasons why I ultimately decided against them.

Having been through 3 TCs with water damage including this one, and knowing what's involved in even a "minor" rot repair...I'm seriously considering just building something new from scratch with a full width floor, to take advantage of the flatbed. I'd also like to build it so it can be bolted to the flatbed as opposed to using tie downs. Flatbed is 100% steel, and is already attached to the truck with spring loaded mounts.

I realize that the wider floor isn't necessarily going to give me more real estate inside, as I'm still going to have things like kitchen appliances, counter, seating, etc raised up anyways, but it would be easier to make more enclosed storage rather than attempting to panel in the areas normally over the wheel wells...at least it makes sense in my mind, anyways, lol.

I'm thinking of welding up an aluminum tubed main structure, as it seems like that would be far easier to add bolt down mounts without potentially damaging a wood structure, and handle the rigors of off road use better?

Assuming I roughly copy the size of my current Lance and reuse most of the hardware - inside cabinets, appliances, light fixtures, sinks, holding tanks, generator, etc., but with all new plumbing pipes, electrical wiring, etc...is this even a generally sound idea?

Could something like this be done for around $5,000? I already own all the fabrication tools needed, and am very comfortable with welding aluminum/metal fabrication.

Or am I just way off my rocker here?


1990 Ford F350 CCLB DRW 7.3 4x4
1990 Lance LC980 truck camper


Kayteg1

California > Nevada

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Posted: 10/18/20 10:34am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Start with checking pricing and availability of siding.
If you can weld aluminum frame, you will make much stronger camper than most of manufactures do.





midnightsadie

ohio

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Posted: 10/18/20 11:09am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

go for it, had a friend years back did the same thing turned out great and was solid as a rock. retired took him just over 7 months done.

Lwiddis

Camping near Pearsonville, CA

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Posted: 10/18/20 11:23am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Proceed! I think it would be an interesting project. Go for strength in the frame but not extreme rigidity IMO.


Winnebago 2101DS TT & 2020 Chevy Silverado 1500 LTZ Z71, 300 watts solar-parallel & MPPT, Trojan T-125s. TALL pole for flags. Prefer USFS, COE, BLM, NPS, TVA, USF&WS, state & county camps. Bicyclist! 14 year Army vet - 11B40 then 11A - (MOS 1542 & 1560)


jimh425

Western MT

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Posted: 10/18/20 11:48am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

I guess if you need a hobby it’s fine. Otherwise, I don’t think it makes sense to rebuild using old components. I don’t think it’s likely to be strong enough for doing true offroad. You’ll bend the truck frame as well when you carry significant weight.

Any way, look at all of the available floor plans for ideas on what you can cut out to make it simple. Finally, many products are expensive right now with wood products up to double what they were this time last year.


'10 Ford F-450, 6.4, 4.30, 4x4, 14,500 GVWR, '06 Host Rainer 950 Dbl Slide, Torklift Talon tiedowns, Glow Steps, and Fastguns. Bilstein 4600s, Firestone Air Bags, Hankook DH-01 225/19.5 Fs, Curt front hitch, Energy Suspension bump stops.


Kayteg1

California > Nevada

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Posted: 10/18/20 01:05pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

I have seen/hear about lot of such projects and 99% of takers have no clue what they are getting themselves into.
Lot of such projects after 5 years are incomplete and sell for 5 cents on the invested dollar.
So tell us what are your qualifications beside welding?
I retire from house remodeling and did Sprinter conversion this year.
Having the experience - the idea of building from scratches never enter my mind as I have pretty good idea what I am getting into.
So having Sprinter bus, with interior already done - I used interior and appliances form old TC. That way I was able to accomplish the project in 5 months, working about 4 hr a day, but in 110F heat I could work for 1/2 hr and spend another 1/2 in swimming pool.
So I hope you are sitting home jobless right to even consider such project.
Than my experience from camping in South is that about 8 months a year you need AC most of the day if not 24 hr. Meaning boondocking will come with significant limits.

valhalla360

No paticular place.

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Posted: 10/18/20 05:24pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

If you are a skilled woodworker and you just want a project, it's certainly doable.

Keep in mind weight at every step. It's really easy to build a SMALL 5000lb truck camper...much harder to get it down around 2000lb and still be strong.

Using the appliances and guts from your current truck camper (assuming they are in good shape, is a great idea as the box is fairly simple and cheap to construct. It's all the fiddly bits that quickly add up to lots of $$$$$.


Tammy & Mike
Ford F250 V10
2008 Copper Canyon 5er
Catalac Catamaran 34'
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KKELLER14K

BEAVERTON OREGON

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Posted: 10/18/20 05:37pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Working on a tiny house 5th wheel....I'm in your corner. Jobless to consider such a build? You got to be kidding me..wow! I can't believe the statement..shocked. I built the entire house I live in, everything from the ground up. Golden parachute..no mortgage, not enslaved to the bank. You think I or someone couldn't build something if we had a job? That statement is way in left field...I'm even guessing it is a troll statement..there are many many of us who have the knowledge and capability...especially that the OP has a greater experience with campers to begin with..you go and do it...don't let anything stop you. When the time comes, chime in and give us an update..don't stop believing.

* This post was last edited 10/18/20 05:56pm by KKELLER14K *   View edit history

ticki2

NH

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Posted: 10/18/20 06:00pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

If you have the time , the talent and the tools, there is no reason you can't build a better mouse trap . Judging by my own experiences on projects of this nature I think you will probably double your initial estimate depending on the quality of the materials used and how much you can beg borrow and steal . Go for it and good luck .


'68 Avion C-11
'02 GMC DRW D/A flatbed

urbex

Glendale, AZ

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Posted: 10/18/20 09:18pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

This isn't about proving that I can do it, or doing it better than the manufacturers. Or even any kind of "bent on doing it, come hell or high water!", lol. It's much more about considering all my options, and that after 40 years of experience on this big spinning rock, I've come to realize that there are better ways to learn than "the hard way". Though there's also a component of doing it exactly the way I want it, rather than settling on a "standard" floor plan of a commercially built camper (or pay MUCH more for a full custom job).

I've also learned that despite a lengthy session of several hours spent on the internet researching, that really was more like 5 minutes of research, and 4 hours 55 minutes of getting horribly sidetracked on YouTube and Wikipedia, that MANY of my projects ended up involving WAY more than I ever expected, in needed skills, time and money. Remember that "hard way" that I mentioned? Yeah....[emoticon]

So I'm attempting to avoid jumping into anything blind, and at least try to be as prepared as I can be before deciding one way or another. Admittedly, I'm not all that sure of what exactly to use for the main structure, as far as particular alloys and sizes of materials. I can certainly build stout, as my other big hobby is 4x4 rock crawlers. Currently working on a 4 link coil over suspension, and full drivetrain swap with a 4 speed automatic trans on a Suzuki Samurai. I know exactly how to set that up, but building with low weight in mind was never a concern.

My initial thought would be 1" square, .063 wall 6063 tubing would work well, and strike a decent balance between strength and low weight. I haven't even gotten to the point of doing even any rough drawings though, much less full plans to get an idea of how much material this is really going to take. Hence my posting - hoping to find someone that's been down this road already, and would be able to say that I'm on the right path, or "sorry, no...you're going to end up WAY over what you're thinking", lol.

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