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mobilevagrant

Varies

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Posted: 06/26/22 03:19pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Background - I currently have a homemade 8 foot truck camper with a slant front that I built for a dodge dakota. It's just under 80" wide. The end of the camper sits on the tailgate. I had originally make it 6.5' long to fit with the tailgate up but it was too small so I rebuilt it longer(and fixed a lot of other mistakes in the trial build). The camper is currently on my 2500 Sierra(lifted up with 2x6s and plywood since the sides are about 3" taller on this truck) and I can close the tailgate. I use mid-grade straps to mount it inside the bed at the front and using eyebolts on the camper under the wings along the inside walls and then strapped to the frame under the back of the Sierra. Took it cross country and had with no isues.

The camper is configured with a twin bed across the front under the slant, a counter on the pass side with a 3 way fridge under it at the rear and a seat on the driver's side with a 5000 BTU house A/C again at the rear. It's framed with 2x3's and sheeted outside with 1/8" plywood. I did the poor man's fiberglass on the exterior and have had no leaks. It's not pretty but it works.

First question - I've read here and on several sites that a slide in camper should not sit on anything other than the truck bed. I am kinda confused as to why this should be so. I have a 14ft ladder rack on my 8 foot bed truck that probably weighs 250lbs. I have probably put over 1000 lbs of lumber on it with no problems.

It would seem to me that having the camper sit on both the bed and the side rails would give it more stability. If it is more than an 1" higher than the sides, then the camper could wobble side to side under crosswinds, which would not be desirable at all. Plus, if using exterior tie downs, won't that pull the wings down onto the rails to an extent? I also can't imagine the weight sitting on the rails will hurt anything.

Second question - Supporting a cab-over. I'm thinking about building a larger camper now that I have the bigger Sierra. I'm debating doing a complete floor over rail since it's not really that much tall overall(I'm only 5'8" and my current camper interior is about 6' inside). That would only really add 20" in overall height and still be lower than a 5th wheel in height.

I'm just trying to figure out the best way to do the cab-over. I didn't do on with the current camper because of the drag on the dakota(it's a V6 Mag-none and pulling a flat front trailer kills it - the slant front doesnt). I don't really know if I need the whole width of the camper for the cab-over(probably going to do 8.5' wide this time).

What's the best way to support the weight of the cabover with 2 adults in the bed? I was debating running 2 2x4's stood up down both sides of the whole camper but that would only support the sides..... Could I using cables at 3 or 4 places at the bottom front of the cabover going up and then back to the back ot the camper work? The cab-over would probably only be about 4ft out with the rest inside the main part with storage under.

Thanx

jimh406

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Posted: 06/26/22 05:30pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Your biggest issue is the truck. DIY probably means heavy and that’s not where your truck shines. I think I’d go with a popup style construction. That reduce the drag and weight.


'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, Toyo M655 225/19.5 Gs, Curt front hitch, Energy Suspension bump stops.


WarrenS65

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Posted: 06/26/22 05:52pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Several manufacturers are building their floor above the bed rails to give extra floor width so that's certainly doable. Campers are designed to be carried on the pickup bed, so if you're going to build one above the bed rails, you'll want to build it with a basement (great place for your tanks, batteries, and other heaving item storage). Remember, though the bed rails may be able to handle the weight you've put on them, if you build a camper that's 6' above that, you're raising the center of gravity and it will want to rock back and forth causing more stress on your bed rails.


Bel-Air Shells makes campers that sit on the bed rails, but they are really just a shell that sits on top of the truck. They don't have sides or a floor below the bedrails. They're really nice and well constructed for what they are, but they're not a self contained camper.
As far as I know, none of the fully enclosed campers are designed to sit on the bed rails.

Glen-L has been selling plans to build your own camper for decades. You can buy them for $48-$60.
Glen-L Camper Plans
There are some good pictures of their customers building the Oxford and Bayou models.

Here are some good examples of how people have done this before.
https://www.bing.com/images/search?view=........%3DkwNjNkhYLNa2zg%26pid%3DImgRaw%26r%3D0


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mobilevagrant

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Posted: 06/26/22 08:53pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

jimh406 wrote:

Your biggest issue is the truck. DIY probably means heavy and that’s not where your truck shines. I think I’d go with a popup style construction. That reduce the drag and weight.


Depends on the truck. The Dakota - no. The Sierra is a 2500 so yes, the drag doesn't bother it either(well maybe the mpg but it only gets 12-15 anyway). My GVWR is 7200 lbs. With me and a full tank it weighs about 5400, so I have 1800 lbs to play with. I believe my current camper is about 800 lbs dry weight. I haven't had a chance to weigh it yet - difficult to remove it from a truck at a scale.....

I actually tried to build an A-Liner Truck Cabin type camper to begin with but couldn't manage it. I also don't care for canvas sides because I boondock mostly. I actually own an A-liner pull behind now(needs rebuilt) and could probably build a TC that way now but it would likely be heavier from what I can see.

mobilevagrant

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Posted: 06/26/22 09:16pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

WarrenS65 wrote:

Several manufacturers are building their floor above the bed rails to give extra floor width so that's certainly doable. Campers are designed to be carried on the pickup bed, so if you're going to build one above the bed rails, you'll want to build it with a basement (great place for your tanks, batteries, and other heaving item storage). Remember, though the bed rails may be able to handle the weight you've put on them, if you build a camper that's 6' above that, you're raising the center of gravity and it will want to rock back and forth causing more stress on your bed rails.


Good points. Most of the models I have seen have slides and weigh upwards of 4500lbs. If I build it it won't be anywhere near that. And no slides. My current TC is 800-ish and I believe I could manage to build one at around 12-1300lbs dry weight. The basement is also another good point. Storage of the water tanks, batteries, and gear will keep the wight down in the bed. I would probably also mount the fridge and other heavy stuff on the floor to reduce top heavy-ness. I think I can come in under 11 foot on the truck which isn't really much higher than most prebuilt ones.


WarrenS65 wrote:

***Link Removed*** makes campers that sit on the bed rails, but they are really just a shell that sits on top of the truck. They don't have sides or a floor below the bedrails. They're really nice and well constructed for what they are, but they're not a self contained camper.
As far as I know, none of the fully enclosed campers are designed to sit on the bed rails.


I debated doing something like that where I could make use of the existing ladder racks and use removable panels, but the matress takes up so much room that having it side to side gives more floor space than front to back.

I will look at the links(thanx). The main reason I ended up building my own was cost and customization. I really couldn't find a non-cabover one that would work on the Dakota. I probably have about $500 in the current one(used a good bit of reclaimed material). I will probably budget around $2k for a bigger one(have access to more reclaimed materials). If I had the Sierra when I started I would have went bigger. My current TC is barely wider than the bed of the Sierra. I have 2 winch/jacks(one for each side) that I got free with a bad TC and it's harder to back the Sierra under the camper.

Honestly the biggest thing I couldn't really do with the current TC was have a kitchen sink and a shower - that's what I would like to have in the new one. I have a fold down table on the back above where the propane tank is mounted that I use for my grill/cooktop because cooking inside makes too much heat and fumes. I have a Buddy heater and it's too much for the current TC on 4000 BTUs so a diesel furnace is also a desire.

The cab-over part is really my main concern. The rest doesn't look too bad.

WarrenS65

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Posted: 06/27/22 01:19pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

If your A-Liner is one of the smaller ones, you could remove the axels, hitch, etc. and build a basement frame underneath then mount it like a camper.

If you wanted to keep the option of using it as a trailer, you could modify the a-frame tongue section so it's removable and do something similar with the axel. I had a car hauler with a removable tongue so I could store it in my garage. The tongue removed right at the front of the deck. The tongue was made of 3" OD square tube and there were two 3" ID receivers on the front of the trailer.

For your idea of starting with a ladder rack and building around it, I did that a bit over a year ago. I've camped in it about a dozen times. I made the front, sides, rear, and top all removeable so I could use it as an open truck when needed.

I'd post pictures, but I don't use any photo sharing sites. If you want to them, send me a PM and I'll send you a OneDrive link.

mobilevagrant wrote:

I actually tried to build an A-Liner Truck Cabin type camper to begin with but couldn't manage it. I also don't care for canvas sides because I boondock mostly. I actually own an A-liner pull behind now(needs rebuilt) and could probably build a TC that way now but it would likely be heavier from what I can see.


mkirsch

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Posted: 06/27/22 01:27pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

The only support the cabovers have on commercially built campers is along the side walls. It's not even 2x lumber. On a popup it's basically a 1x6. With a "north-south" bed, the overhang is around 6'.

Look at truss bridge design for inspiration. The trusses get built into your side walls and sheeted over. The road deck is your bed.


Putting 10-ply tires on half ton trucks since aught-four.

Grit dog

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Posted: 06/27/22 02:21pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

mkirsch wrote:

The only support the cabovers have on commercially built campers is along the side walls. It's not even 2x lumber. On a popup it's basically a 1x6. With a "north-south" bed, the overhang is around 6'.

Look at truss bridge design for inspiration. The trusses get built into your side walls and sheeted over. The road deck is your bed.


It's a bit more than 2 - 1x6s on a standard (not popup) camper overhead, but @mkirsch's recommendation is a good place to start, to design it. Similar design on your ladder rack, if it has a cab overhang. Need relatively stiff sides/cantilevered "joists" that run fore/aft with enough anchorage back in the main camper side wall.

Couple other comments. Reason not to bear on bed sides AND bed floor simultaneously, it'll never be perfect and at some point, either the bed side or the floor will be holding all the weight. Not to mention stability and stress on the bedsides if resting solely on them with an (arguably) similar or greater load then your lumber racks. Sure it might work for a while but if you've seen trucks with years of overloaded lumber racks, the beds are no longer straight/strong.
Keep it bearing on the bed floor only, or you're inducing unknown stresses into the truck bed sides.
Regarding the truck, 7200 gvw is a very light 3/4 ton gvw. Presume squarebody or GMT 400 or possibly pre "HD" GMT800 2500? But I think the non HD 2500s were 7700gvw at least.
GM 2500 trucks of that era went up to 8600gvw, with a few changes, but you're safe (presuming the truck is in good physical and mechanical condition) at 2000lbs of payload even with a very light duty Sierra 2500.


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wnjj

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Posted: 06/27/22 03:24pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Another reason not to use the bed sides for support: If you change trucks down the road you don't have to modify the camper to match.

mobilevagrant

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Posted: 06/28/22 02:07pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Grit dog wrote:

It's a bit more than 2 - 1x6s on a standard (not popup) camper overhead, but @mkirsch's recommendation is a good place to start, to design it. Similar design on your ladder rack, if it has a cab overhang. Need relatively stiff sides/cantilevered "joists" that run fore/aft with enough anchorage back in the main camper side wall.


Yeah, I was hoping to maybe angle the cab-over so the front is skinnier - maybe 5' for a Full/6' if I use a Queen. I've been working on a layout, and may just have about 1-2 feet of the bed hanging over the floor and mount into the floor to help with strength.

Grit dog wrote:

Couple other comments. Reason not to bear on bed sides AND bed floor simultaneously, it'll never be perfect and at some point, either the bed side or the floor will be holding all the weight. Not to mention stability and stress on the bedsides if resting solely on them with an (arguably) similar or greater load then your lumber racks. Sure it might work for a while but if you've seen trucks with years of overloaded lumber racks, the beds are no longer straight/strong. Keep it bearing on the bed floor only, or you're inducing unknown stresses into the truck bed sides.


Makes sense. I was thinking to maybe setting it up to clamp the wings to the bed sides to secure it better. Will have to ponder it.

Grit dog wrote:

Regarding the truck, 7200 gvw is a very light 3/4 ton gvw. Presume squarebody or GMT 400 or possibly pre "HD" GMT800 2500? But I think the non HD 2500s were 7700gvw at least.
GM 2500 trucks of that era went up to 8600gvw, with a few changes, but you're safe (presuming the truck is in good physical and mechanical condition) at 2000lbs of payload even with a very light duty Sierra 2500.


It's a '99, GMT800. First year of that style and the 6.0. Reg cab 8' bed. Door sticker says 7200lbs. They didn't intro the HD's till '01. I've had more weight on it than that, but only hauling stuff. With the camper being mounted for a continuos length of time in use, I'd rather go lighter to be on the safe side(plus saving fuel). I did upgrade the rear shocks to Monroe coil-overs earlier this year. I use the same on my Dakota. They make a big difference over a regular shock-only for hauling. I definitely recommend them.

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