Why are you building that? The last thing you need is another project. That’s what I know a certain someone is thinking about my latest garage project.
There’s probably more than a little truth to the statement, but winters are long in Minnesota and you have to stay busy, right? Besides a gearbox teardown and other automotive excitement on the winter checklist I got the hare brained idea to build a custom pickup camper for my Ford F150 by scratch. You might say it was fueled by many late nights scouring the Expedition Portal Forums with one hand on the keyboard and another holding a delicious IPA. I’d have to agree at least a little bit with that statement.
So, why the heck do I want to build a pickup camper? Beyond pure impulse and enjoyment of building things, I see it as a good opportunity to get out and explore with my family. There’s nothing wrong awitha little more quality time with your loved ones, right? It could serve as a great basecamp for race weekends, both those where I’m racing and those where we’re simply spectating, and also a good platform to get out and enjoy the multitude of parks within a days drive. Who knows, maybe we event take it on a road trip out west.
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the design. Programs like Sketchup make it easy to put ideas into 3d models and I’ve worked through several different iterations in the tool. Going in, there were a few things I knew I wanted to accomplish:
- Lightweight – The goal is to have it be somewhere in the neighborhood of 500 pounds in total
- Compact – It has to fit within my 5.5 foot pickup box and have a small-ish profile. By integrating a pop-up I can collapse the camper into a smaller footprint. The pop-top will also make for quick setup and teardown.
- Flexible sleeping for two adult and two children – I’ve integrated a standard full-size bed over the roof and the dinette area will convert into bunks that can accomodate my little ones
- Not overly complicated – The initial buildout will consist of basic sleeping and shelter elements, however the design will allow for the addition of a sink, cooktop, etc., if I decide to add them in the future.
- Affordable – The plan is to use commonly available building materials that I can piece together with tools I have at home and my “free” labor. Once could spend upwards of $20k for a fully built camper, however by doing it myself I’m confident I can do it for less than 1/20th of that cost.
Armed with general design I placed an order with Discount Steel in Minneapolis (amazing customer service there by the way) and got to building a frame over Thanksgiving weekend. I spent Wednesday night, Thursday night and Friday night making slow progress. Usually during Thanksgiving a house if filled with the smell of roasted Turkey. Our house, or at least garage, took on the aroma of fine metal dust and melted steel.
The goal is to get the camper to a useable state in the month of December, mostly because I’ve been assigned other “more important” home improvement projects within the house.
With any luck I’ll have the main frame complete within a few days. Stay tuned for updates.