Looking back, I should’ve titled this series of blog posts the neverending story. There are some projects that you can quickly check off your list, but this is not one of them. Like the Energizer Bunny, this project seems to keep going. And going. And going. That said, my camper project has reached the point where it’s useable and that’s good enough for me. If you missed the first parts of my camper build story you can find part 1 here and part 2 here. What follows is my recap of the beginning of the end.
When we last left off I had fitted the roof mechanism, including frame, hydraulic struts and roof skin. Next on my list was adding the pop-up fabric. Originally I had ambition to sew up the pop-up so it included screened windows and a precision fit. In the interest of time, and hopes of ever finishing the project, I opted for a single piece of waterproof ripstop nylon for version 1. A quick shout out ot Ripstop By The Roll from whom I ordered the fabric. They offer a variety of ripstop material that I never knew existed. I went with 2.2 oz HEX70 XL ripstop, for those keeping track, in fashionable charcoal gray. Application was relatively easy via a combination of high-bond adhesive with an overlayment of screw-fastened trim around the edges.
With the exterior weatherproof I focused my efforts on the inside. I knew I wanted an internal cabinet to house a basic 12-volt system and hold other miscellany. Given I’m a crappy woodworker I knew I would not be creating it myself. I spent way too much time searching for the perfect cabinet online and landed on one from Ikea, because there’s no better therapy than trying to assemble a piece of Ikea furniture. Two days later it showed up on my doorstop and I went to installing it. Once installed I set to work building my 12-volt system. The plan was to use a small deep-cycle battery to power indoor LED lights, two outdoor porch lights and a couple of USB outlets inside. After a bit of Amazon sourcing, a couple of Prime package deliveries and a couple hours in the garage I had a working 12-volt system. I don’t remember, but I’m pretty sure I celebrated my accomplishment by sitting in the camper and drinking a beer. If you read parts one and two you may recall I had similar celebrations during other build milestones, but this time around, with a nearly completed camper, it probably didn’t look as strange to my family. This is mostly because they couldn’t see me in the camper drinking a beer. Alone. Basking in the glory of what I had built.
From here what followed was a number of little odd jobs, none of which I have photos for. I added a simple flip-up bed that my daughter can sleep on when she tags along. I added some internal latches to hold the pop-top down when in-transit. Most importantly I added access ports to tie the camper down in the back of my truck when installed. With the campers maiden voyage scheduled for the last weekend in July the last thing I wanted to worry about was the camper flying off at high-speed. Little did I know I should’ve been worrying more about getting the camper safely out of the back of my truck.
In true project fashion I had the camper project ready to go no more than one moment before I had to load it to leave town. You can sum up the marriage of camper and truck in one word: precarious. While I built the camper with mounts for camper jacks to ease in loading, I failed to account for two things. First, I either forgot or completely overlooked the fact that I had three triangulated feet for my four jacks. I was one short. Second, I failed to account for enough clearance between the sides of my jacks and the outside bed panels of my truck. What does this all mean? Simply stated, lifting the camper to the proper height and getting it safely resting on the back of my truck was a bear. A dangerous bear. Like a Grizzly you might encounter while strolling through the Alaskan woods while wearing a freshly caught salmon suit.
My Father-In-Law kindly assisted with loading the camper and I’m glad he did. More than once I had visions of the camper failling from mid-air and landing on him. Fortunately that didn’t happen, but if you saw the camper wobbling six feet in the air you’d understand what I’m talking about. I’m a calm guy and even I was getting more than a little nervous. In the above picture you’ll notice the forward most camper jack about to hit the side of my truck. This is the furthest we could go with the jacks in place. From here we removed the jacks from the side and pushed the camper in the rest of the way. I made quick work of tying it town and it was firmly secured in place. The anxiety of getting it into the truck subsided and was replaced with nagging thoughts of how the heck I would get it back out safely. For better or worse there was a three-day camping trip in-between that suppresed my thoughts of removal.
The next day we headed northeast to Two Lakes Campground in Drummond, Wisconsin, a healthy three and a half hour drive from Minneapolis. It was a long trip for the maiden voyage, but there was nothing to worry about. My trusty F-150 with its camper backpack strapped in the bed made the trip trouble free, well except for the roof vent cover that took flight somewhere along the road. Despite this minor setback the camper served as a great basecamp for my son and I throughout the weekend.
So, what’s the plan now that the camper has reached the useable phase? More quick weekend getaways are in order. I need to tweak the interior a bit to fit the whole family inside more comfortably. I also need to add some external latches to insure against the top popping up and flying off at highway speed. One of these days I’ll get the screened room accessory that complements my ARB awning. It will basically provide another 50 square feet of useable living space for family camper adventures. Finally, I need to re-imagine the jack points for the camper jacks. I want to avoid precarious lifting adventures like my first and at the same time simplify the removal process. You don’t even want to know what I did to get the camper off the truck. I’ll save that for another post.