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Discussion in 'Vintage & Off The Wall Campers' started by dbhost, Jun 25, 2019.
Please delete this. I am not sure how to cancel this post once I start typing it...
There are no dumb questions, well wait actually...
@dbhost please don't deprive me the pleasure of laughing at someone else's stupidity! (joking!)
Ask away. I like dumb questions, as i usally asked them at some point in the past and now have the answer!
I was floating the idea of, and asking if anyone here had done a fiberglass / foam camper. A.K.A. foamie. I don't see a lot about them, but there is one Foamie Truck camper build I have seen that intrigues me.
My thought process might have been dumb, but here goes.
#1. I have a barter deal on a pop up. Which is great, however the drawbacks to the pop up are...
- Very limited ground clearance, hard to take off road.
- Soft sides. So even though you are in a camper, it is still a tent of sorts, with all the security, and environmental plusses and minuses that go along with that.
- Storage. My HOA rules are funny. There are no rules against keeping a truck with a slide in camper in my driveway, but I can't keep a dedicated RV such as a trailer, a class C, etc... Because they consider a slide in to be the same as one of those portable offices that the oil field guys use, and that is a BIG deal here... The HOA trys banning that and they would probably end up with some serious union applied hurt somewhere in a bayou.
- Towing a trailer, even a little pop up, is drastically more complicated than driving my pickup with a slide in camper in the bed. (I've experienced both over the years).
- Doesn't allow me to reuse much of my existing camping gear / appliances.
A DIY truck camper alleviates those issues, but comes with plenty of its own.
- I have to build the dang thing. However I am pretty good and fast at fiberglassing. Doing foam core construction would however require an aluminum framing to support the overcab, the floor and the lift points, I have acccess to a friend that is adept at aluminum welding though, so no big problem there.
- Total height. I CAN build a pop up cabover type camper, but I would think the engineering behind that is a bit beyond my wheel house...
- MUCH smaller interior volume of a truck camper compared to a pop up.
- Overcab sleeper isn't exactly easy for me with my back issues, and my 5' 0" wife to get into and out of...
So given those drawbacks, I was looking for solutions to the drawbacks both ways, pop up trailer, or DIY truck camper...
Sounds interesting. I can only suggest getting away from the HOA. Then you're options are limitless.
Can't help you with the camper, the only thing I can think of is to research the rules there for homemade campers. My state has an issue with everything and I would be required to to go through a bunch of redtape However every state has different rules.
It's a good idea and I want to see you do it!
I think the real problem with any truck camper is weight. It creeps up on you:
(Have you looked at ExPo's popup truck camper page? There are some home builds there.
That is so cool!
There are several posts on foamie builds on TNTTT.com, but mostly for small trailers. A couple of build posts on Expedition Portal, IIRC one is for a slide in truck camper without a cabover.
Yeah, the cabover is the big wrinkle...
So I spent some time getting measurements and making templates for the cabinet build I am doing, and talking with my friend last night.
So 2 items of note.
#1. We are definately doing the Pop Up, for now. He has agreed to let us keep it on his property until we finish...
#2. He's SERIOUSLY enthusiastic about a truck camper build, and intrigued by the concept of a foamie. There is a shop semi locally that is willing to let us snag some of their scraps that works with Nida Core, and I have a fair amount of R-Max 3/4" R3 material. I am going to fab up some test panels for strength testing of the panels to come up with a decision. Nida Core would be thinner, and I seriously suspect it would be WAY stronger, but only provides R3.3 of insulation.
We are talking LONG term project. I am 50 now, if we are done with a working / finished camper by the time I am 55 I will be happy. And of course we are toying with the idea for now. There are a lot of moving pieces that need to fall into place first...
And mind you like I said, my friend is interested in the project. I.E. we might end up building 2, one for my truck, one for his truck. He travels for work, the pop up wasn't secure enough, and the Class A is too big and can't get anywhere near some of the job sites... He needs a camper for one guy, not the whole family. (He's keeping the class A.).
Roof coating will be Henry TropiCool coating and with the space involved, even with lots of heat gain, a 5K BTU window unit AC should keep it nice and cold up to 100 deg F outside temps... I am not worried about cold weather at all. The plan is to use 4 @ 7 gallon reliance AquaTainers with split siphons as a bank of water tanks. Cheap, easily replaceable, and easily removable to be filled in the purified water kiosks if need be.
Some design requirements would be.
#1. NO BOOTH / DINETTE. At least in mine. My wife and I are both larger people, and we can sit next to eacy other no problem. A bench on one side with a table that slides away for access and easily removes and stows is ideal.
#2. King side overcab bed. This might be the only truck camper in history to do this, and I am not sure I can legally squeeze it in, but I am sure going to give it the old College try!
#3. Onboard propane system. A 20lb cylinder is fine. There are 30lb models which are great, but I am not going to be boondocking in winter for weeks at a time.
#4. Plumbed propane distribution that can be connected / disconnected to allow usage of standard camping appliances.
#5. Integrate and use / reuse the following appliances.
- Coleman classic 2 burner propane camp stove. No fancy piezo lighter. I like my long snout BBQ lighters just fine thank you.
- Mr. Heater Portable Buddy Heater. There is about a month out of the year where heat is needed. Longer if we travel north to visit family which is likely...
- Hot water heater / hot on demand shower. My current Zodi is going to be too hard to mount. Considering going with an Ecotemp L5 or similar. This should be plumbed to provide heated water to a shower or the sink for washing hands, dishes etc...
#6. Compressor fridge and sufficient power supply to run completely off grid.
#7. 5K BTU Window Air Conditoner.
#8. External, secure cage mount for Westinghouse iGen2500 inverter generator
#9. Something I should have mentioned already, floor length sized to the bed of the truck plus the length of the tailgate down, That gets me 8.5 feet...
#10. Steps or ladder to the overcab.
#11. Designed in hinged steps / stairs to allow access to the camper itself.
Materials selection will be for cost, durability, and weight...
Are you sure you want to leave the tailgate on? You get more storage if you take it off and extend the floor and let the rear wrap around the back of the truck. And your tailgate will stay prettier longer. (Northstar, for example, sells up to 8.5' floor for a shortbed. We have an 8' popup on a shortbed.)
Most TCs are 8' wide now so I don't see any problems getting a king bed in there. Well, getting it in there could be tough, but it should fit once you do!
Do you want interior shower or toilet?
I love truck campers and the spouse is extremely lucky that new trucks won't carry old campers without surgery because otherwise I'd have a junkyard of 'em!
I've never heard of a foamie! Of course now I'm deep into google...thanks
To answer your question. No, I am actually not certain. I have some concerns with structural strength though. I have said here before, and I make no secret about it, I am considerably overweight (obese) and i am trying to do something serious about it before a heart attack or I finally give in to the Dr. suggestion of gastric bypass. I am adjusting diet and adding excersize even though arthritis has other ideas for me. I know the tailgate would offer additional support for the floor getting in and out of the camper.
I need to experiment with fiberglass over foam, to see if over a long expanse, say that 8' span, it can be made to withstand the combined weight of my wife and I.
I think glassing in additional reiforcing members would do the trick, such as aluminum channel. I can make the attachments via riveter without much trouble, and again, glass it in against the foam.
Of course if a foam / fiberglass camper can support its own weight on camper jacks it should support my wife and I...
Anyway, I digress. The truck this is going on is a 2004 Ford F150 4x4 with a 6.5 foot bed. I would need to relocate the license plate if I were to drop the bottom of the camper to bumper level, but that would gain me space to add a port o potty and possibly shower. However my original thinking was a tub shower / port o potty in a cabinet we can slide out to use and put away. I'd rather do the stinky stuff outside of the camper... FWIW, I would think with proper bracing, and not hanging it too low, I can do a 30" (max) overhang after the bed ends on the truck giving me a total of 9' interior floor volume.
I like the link @SteveP posted, good info, however the builder didn't do a very smooth job on the overlaps. I know a few guys doing marine fiberglass I might touch base with on this project...
I am thinking, that for cabinetry, I might want to go with foam / fiberglass cabinets with perhaps some lightweight cedar beadboard doors. It would be a trivial matter to come up with some light cedar drawer boxes to glass over as well to fab up any needed drawers.
I think honestly the most daunting part of this project is how on earth to safely plumb propane to be able to utilize items like a Buddy Heater, and a Coleman stove in the camper. Yes I would insure 100% that I have plenty of fresh air and a carbon monoxide detector...
FWIW, with the foam / fiberglass construction, and a liberal coating of Henry Tropicool on the roof, the 5K BTU window unit AC should be quite enough to keep the interior comfortable, and be able to easily run off of a Harbor Freight Tailgator generator or better. FWIW, the intended generator is a Westinghouse iGen 2500.
So digging for data on doing a Foamie truck camper, and issues / concerns RE: strength are not easy, but not impossible to come by. I found a demo for a strengths of materials college class where a guy had a wing mockup made with an aluminum / wood construction, and a wing mockup using fiberglass over polystyrene foam. He suspended the entire assembly across what looks like cinder blocks, and had 2 guys jump on it. The aluminum / wood side failed rather spectacularly, the fiberglass over foam was solid as a rock.
I have used wood framed / aluminum skinned overcabs at my current weight + about 25 lbs with no issues. I am all the more confident in the capacity of fiberglass over foam construction...
The idea is actually pretty simple. Do a sandwich of 1.5" polystyrene foam board, and layup the skin out in / outsides using epoxy resin over woven fiberglass mat.
I need to get after the truck itself with the measuring tape soon, and take some measurements. I am figuring on flaring out after the wheel wells, but that really doesn't by much in the way of interior volume...
If I don't need the tailgate for support of the floor, which it looks like I won't, I can either improve my departure angle, OR make for a way to have an interior shower with gray tank... I am leaning heavily toward departure angle as the intent is to use it off road...
I was talking with a boat / marine repair friend of mine that has been doing hull repairs for years. He laid up a demo for me, mind you he's a big guy too, our collective weight is a bit over 600 lbs. He took some 3/4" foam cutoff, that was 8' long and laid up some fiberglass mat on it, applied the epoxy resin, rolled it smooth and let it cure a few days last winter. He showed me the results of it. I wish I knew what thickness / weight the mat was, but it was fairly heavy woven mat.
He set it up on some cinder blocks. and we both stood on it. And then jumped on it a few times. Nothing. No cracks, no breaks just solid. Not like leaped on it, but bounced up and down of course...
He showed me how to reinforce certain areas, the stress points, they lay on additional layers of mat and resin.
And then he showed me a couple of youtube videos of a reasonably thin guy doing similar testing a steel plate, a 3/4 plywood panel, and then a foam / fiberglass panel that looked like it started out with 1/2" rigid foam. The foam over fiberglass was pretty much bomb proof. The other stuff broke, or deformed quite easily.
I am still working on laying out the interior space, placement for tanks and such. I am not certain, I need to measure, but I think I need to put access doors inside in front of the wheel wells so I can utilize 7 gallon Aqua Tainers and keep their weight in front of the axle. Again still working that idea...
Not sure a shwoer room is a good idea at this point. I am pretty limited to about an 8' run of floor to work with, and I will need room for the bed (overcab) couch / second bed, and kitchen. I am thinking a slide out toilet, and curtain / tote gray water containment for the shower is probably my best bet...
If you look up Eureka SlideInn there is a guy that had one built with a 48" overcab that is close to what I am looking to do. Unfortunately Eureka went out of business when the owner died last year...
I don't even know where to begin!
I love the color!
I'd worry about being able to fit under bridges.