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Discussion Starter #1
Been thinking a lot about what I would want for shelter when camping and four wheeling. We're not much into the idea of grabbing a shovel when nature calls, and I'd really like something that's four-season capable. Trailers look potentially problematic especially if one needs to reverse, but despite these trucks being almost full-size, no one makes a popup cabover camper with decent bathroom facilities. A lot of them have awfully nice kitchens but frankly I'd rather cook outdoors than otherwise.

So I was bored and fiddlefarting around with some layout software. It's not really meant for this (2d, so I have to manually create each of the three dimensions of views manually) but this was what I came up with:

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If someone would build this it would make me very happy, especially if it wasn't more than half the price of the damn truck.
 

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You need to talk to one of the pop-up camper places, I'm sure someone would do a custom

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Looks like you got quite a bit of fresh and gray water tankage.

Weight distribution looks good.

Got room for a deep-cycle house battery and 12 volt water pump somewhere?

Is that a "wet" shower where the cassette toilet is located?

Hot water heater?

Air conditioner?

How will you lift or lower the roof?
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Looks like you got quite a bit of fresh and gray water tankage.

Weight distribution looks good.

Got room for a deep-cycle house battery and 12 volt water pump somewhere?

Is that a "wet" shower where the cassette toilet is located?

Hot water heater?

Air conditioner?

How will you lift or lower the roof?
So the floor changes elevation. Above and in front of the wheel wells it clears the wheel wells, leaving that ample space for water tanks. Behind the wheel wells the floor is sitting on the floor of the truck and on the space that's normally where the tailgate goes. On the side view picture, the cabinetry/storage below both the navy-type bunk and below the countertop dips into this lower area. My assumption is I'd fit infrastructure like a battery and an air conditioner in this spot.

I'm still thinking about how to work it, but I'd like to do without the tailgate and find some other way of supporting an overhanging camper. If I do that then I can widen-out some behind the bed, and while a few inches on each side to have the outside of the camper be flush with the outside of the truck isn't a whole lot, it helps with the cassette toilet positioning and the rear door. Pushing the cassette toilet back this far means it's accessible from the outside to dump it too, so even if there's a mishap pulling the cassette, it's not spilling on the inside of the camper. One thought on how to support the camper is to replace the factory hitch with a Drawtite model, which has open ends to its square-tube crossbar, so something could slip into the ends and use the square socket to hold itself positioned. If I can do without the tailgate then making a shower pan would be cool, I could put some kind of drain to dump straight out the bottom into a hose and out away from the truck.

Obviously I'd be blocking the tail lights with the as-drafted approach, so I'd need to supplement with lights on the back of the camper.

Fridge and water heater would probably go in the cabinet under the countertop on the driver's side, though depending on the size, perhaps under the navy bunk. obviously a water pump has to go somewhere too. I've also thought about making the navy bunk fold up and out of the way, but that's really only useful if the thing is light enough to allow for cargo inside of it. I'm trying to be realistic that it won't be that light, plus I might need somewhere to permanently store the jacks so it could possibly be field-removable.

I do plan to put windows into the sides, in the parts that slide up. They're not shown on the drawing obviously, they would go hand in hand with the support frame design and I'm not to that point.

One idea as well, make hard-sides that can pop-in to the front canvas-covered area on the outside. Again the idea will require some flushing out.
 

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Discussion Starter #6

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What @Nissan4Life said. FWC also makes a "shell" model. Has the cabover bed but nothing else. Might be better to start with that and focus on the interior than start from scratch. You can also order the shell model with a few options like the rollover couch/bed.

Those FWCs also hold their value like Toyotas or Jeep Wranglers. I'd be impressed if you are able to resell your home-build for the cost of materials.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
What @Nissan4Life said. FWC also makes a "shell" model. Has the cabover bed but nothing else. Might be better to start with that and focus on the interior than start from scratch. You can also order the shell model with a few options like the rollover couch/bed.

Those FWCs also hold their value like Toyotas or Jeep Wranglers. I'd be impressed if you are able to resell your home-build for the cost of materials.
I don't really ever buy anything with resale in mind.

We'll see. There are apparently a couple of newer camper builders in the state, normally they do the bolt-to-the-bedrails types using aluminum square-tube, maybe they'd have some interest, maybe not.

Unless you are willing to build it yourself though, that is the closest thing that you are going to get.
One of the biggest issues with the FWC models is weight. The empty weight of the not-upfit model is 840lb, before accounting for gear, passengers, and water. it looks like FWC uses a lot of wood or wood-like materials in their construction.

I can't deny a competing idea is buying an older Dodge B3500-based Roadtrek Class-B van and doing a 4wd conversion, but from what I've read on that it's not so easy due to the design of the front subframe. Basically the same as doing both an SAS job and a slamming the rear axle of a pickup with notching the frame in a single go.
 

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I can't deny a competing idea is buying an older Dodge B3500-based Roadtrek Class-B van and doing a 4wd conversion, but from what I've read on that it's not so easy due to the design of the front subframe. Basically the same as doing both an SAS job and a slamming the rear axle of a pickup with notching the frame in a single go.
One of my daydreams was to buy a 19' Cruise America rental and put on a 4WD conversion. After 120k miles or so, Cruise America pulls all their branding off, puts on generic decals, and sells them as the Thor Majestic 19C. Yes the vehicles have had 120k miles of hard driving, but they were purchased from Thor to be rentals from the get-go, so everything inside is heavy-duty, easy to clean, simple to use, and easy to repair. I don't understand why retail RVs don't have the same number of access panels and long-wearing materials that rentals do.

My daydream stopped because those Thor Majestic 19Cs still go for $30k. Plus a 4WD conversion which would add $10k. Plus possibly a new Jasper engine at another $5k. At that point, I could get a used late-model 3/4 ton pickup with a new Lance 825 and only be missing the cab-to-camper pass-through.
 

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Since they started importing the 4wd sprinter vans, the 4wd conversion support has really gone down the drain.
 

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I have been tooling around in this the last few months.
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This last weekend we had to drive down a dirt road to find some camping. A camp ground host recommended against me taking the rig due to the 2wd and low clearance. Blahh not more than a gravel road with an occasional oil pan ripping rock. It is all about tire placement.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
One of my daydreams was to buy a 19' Cruise America rental and put on a 4WD conversion. After 120k miles or so, Cruise America pulls all their branding off, puts on generic decals, and sells them as the Thor Majestic 19C. Yes the vehicles have had 120k miles of hard driving, but they were purchased from Thor to be rentals from the get-go, so everything inside is heavy-duty, easy to clean, simple to use, and easy to repair. I don't understand why retail RVs don't have the same number of access panels and long-wearing materials that rentals do.

My daydream stopped because those Thor Majestic 19Cs still go for $30k. Plus a 4WD conversion which would add $10k. Plus possibly a new Jasper engine at another $5k. At that point, I could get a used late-model 3/4 ton pickup with a new Lance 825 and only be missing the cab-to-camper pass-through.
Yeah. It was common to convert Dodge B-series vans to 4x4 back in the day, since the same basic vans were produced from 1971 to 2003 and from '71 to '98 the front suspensions are basically identical, but the biggest problems I saw with working on the Roadtreks were the long overhang of the Dodge van, and the additional stuff added on to the underside combined with the lowered floor making any 4x4 conversion require a pretty substantial lift, making it particularly topheavy. Plus garages I've owned have all had doors with 7' tall openings, so even a stock Roadtrek won't fit.

I have been tooling around in this the last few months.
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This last weekend we had to drive down a dirt road to find some camping. A camp ground host recommended against me taking the rig due to the 2wd and low clearance. Blahh not more than a gravel road with an occasional oil pan ripping rock. It is all about tire placement.
My neighbor across the street builds those. he literally buys the old first-gen Eurovan westies and cannibalizes them to build westfalias into the latter, facelifted eurovans. He even has a 4wd one.
 

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Yeah. It was common to convert Dodge B-series vans to 4x4 back in the day, since the same basic vans were produced from 1971 to 2003 and from '71 to '98 the front suspensions are basically identical, but the biggest problems I saw with working on the Roadtreks were the long overhang of the Dodge van, and the additional stuff added on to the underside combined with the lowered floor making any 4x4 conversion require a pretty substantial lift, making it particularly topheavy. Plus garages I've owned have all had doors with 7' tall openings, so even a stock Roadtrek won't fit.


My neighbor across the street builds those. he literally buys the old first-gen Eurovan westies and cannibalizes them to build westfalias into the latter, facelifted eurovans. He even has a 4wd one.
I also had an old road trek built off a dodge Ram van. 2wd and I lifted it 3".

Where do you live? Colorado. Wonder if I know (of) him.
 

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I also had an old road trek built off a dodge Ram van. 2wd and I lifted it 3".

Where do you live? Colorado. Wonder if I know (of) him.
Arizona actually. For all I know he may be widely known, but I haven't checked.
 

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I've got the same end-goal: walking out of my house and in to my "rv" and go camping ... in some comfort. I bought the Frontier specifically for this. I'll post some things I found that helped me in my thinking, I hope you get some ideas also.

*) 4wc Shell Models, but, like you said, they weigh a lot.
*) 4wc Project M, which is more like a truck cap with an "inside" popup tent. It keeps the trucks tailgate, which was a no-go for me; I don't want to clamber over a tailgate every night.
*) ARE MX cap with a walk-in door, gets you the back door and some headroom, but no cabover. Also, they don't seem to make them for Frontiers anymore. Which screwed me over.
*) Commercial aluminum with a door on on the back. Again, no cabover, but available from several cap companies. This is what I panic bought, from ARE, after finiding the MX?Walkin was no longer available.
*) GoFast campers, etc. These are essentially the same as the "Project M" (or, more correctly, Project M is copying the others.) These are truck caps, with cabovers, that pop up from inside for a sleeping area. Again, the door issue was a thing for me, and it seemed fidly.
*) Check out "Sin Rumbo" on youtube for an interesting non-cabover design.

I'm going the "Sin Rumbo" route, with an aluminum shell with a "normal" door/no tailgate. A "singe" bed down each side with a movable table in the middle that folds down to turn the entire thing to a one big bed. This lets me live inside the truck in bad weather, but still allows for a big couples bed. I'm doing a Clam/Gazelle popup shelter with 3 rain sides, and a small portable toilet for emergencies, as well as the usual "7 gallons of hot water on the roof in a black tube for hot water showers" thing. With a solar and propane system I should be able to get away for <$5k, total ... a lot less than the "commercial" popup campers being sold for $12k or so.

The weight and cost of the commercial units were just too much for me, and I wanted the "normal" rv door instead of the truck tailgate, or something close to it. The "instant" popup canopy is how I solved the "no cabover makes sense to me" issue ... basically, every decision I make for this has to be "instant" or close to it; I don't want to mess with things, I want to pull up and be be done with setup about 5 minutes later.

Hope some of that helps with your build!
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Hope some of that helps with your build!
Our priorities are different but we do have a lot of the same attitudes about weight and cost. I paid $25,000 out the door after taxes and tags for my truck. I am unwilling to spend $20,000 on a Four Wheel Campers popup canopy, and frankly I'm uncomfortable with the idea of hitting five figures if I'm honest.

What bothers me is I just don't see where the money is going, which makes me question the effectiveness of the various manufacturer's processes. It seems like it would be perfunctory to design an upper-half and a lower-half, where the upper-half is basically standardized, with the lower-half receiving some minor customization for various truck models. This video on fiberglass commercial truck canopies illustrates what I mean:


It looks like they've got a standardized top half and rear doors, with a lower half that's particular to the model of truck.

The problem with weight goes hand in hand with the problem with cost. For $20,000, it seems like they should be using advanced composites like carbon fiber, carbon/kevlar blend, or at least S-glass fiberglass molded through an infusion process designed to minimize the heavy resin to only what's needed for product. Admittedly I have similar feelings about regular fiberglass pickup canopies that bolt to the bedrails though, the Leer I have for my truck is so damn heavy that it really takes three people to install it, the Predator canopy I had on my D21 Hardbody is light enough that Dad was able to build a roller frame that he backs up to and can slide the thing off onto by himself. Old posts on this site indicate that my Leer was probably around $1800 when it was new.

I'm very surprised that carbon fiber or carbon/kevlar composites haven't made their way into this market, especially since new techniques for reusable bagging made of silicone have been developed in order to dramatically reduce the amount of waste products generated in the course of infusion. My shell brings my truck from around 4700lb to 5100lb the one time I pulled up on the scales at the metals place, when my max GVW is 5818 that ~400lb difference is pretty substantial, enough that watching all of these videos on carbon fiber has made me consider trying it myself, albeit more like the Throttlestop Garage guy that is producing parts intended to be painted/coated rather than show parts intended to leave the carbon fiber matrix visible.

Anyway, back to the popup campers, I'm surprised that even if the exteriors are made with older techniques, I'm surprised that the interiors are still wood-based products. Even if the exteriors remain wood-based, switching the interiors to carbon-composite products for cabinetry and drawers would result in weight savings for these popups, and given the sheer prices involved one would think that it would still be profitable.
 

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The problem with weight goes hand in hand with the problem with cost. For $20,000, it seems like they should be using advanced composites like carbon fiber, carbon/kevlar blend, or at least S-glass fiberglass molded through an infusion process designed to minimize the heavy resin to only what's needed for product.
Same here. I think it has to do with how universal an item is, along with (at least in the case of 4WC) a cult following that can keep the price stable.

For example, $20,000 can get you a pretty darn good towable trailer. But a towable trailer can be towed by a Starbucks chariot. A truck camper requires, well, a truck, and bigger truck campers require 3/4 ton trucks. Now your buyer's market went from "anyone with a CUV and a trailer hitch and beyond" to "someone with an F-250 or bigger".

I agree with your sentiment on fiberglass camper shells/toppers/canopies/whatever else they're called. Not sure why they have to be that heavy or expensive. If I had to make a guess, I think the cost is partly because they have to spend all this time/money to make molds and store them somewhere until someone orders one.

I also dislike how non-transparent companies like Truck Accessories Group is. They literally do not have contact information and route all customers through dealers. You spend thousands of dollars to order something that you don't even know what it will exactly look like.

Companies like 4WC and Casita respond directly to customer inquires and provide dimensional drawings and weights of each option. I had no idea what the dimensions of my DCU's tool box or the windows or windoors were going to be, or where the ribs or other structure was, until it arrived at the dealer.

My optioned-out ARE DCU was $2,300. It weighs 190lbs empty. The weight, which is also unknown until you weigh it yourself, is one reason I chose it over fiberglass.

For a DCU on a previous truck, I wanted to replace the locks with a generic key instead of using the truck's ignition key. I ordered the locks through a local ARE dealer. Instead of, you know, shipping them via USPS/UPS/FedEx, they shipped them truck freight with the next order of camper shells to arrive at the dealer. It took 6 weeks to get two locks that could've fit in a $6 USPS Small Flat Rate box.
 
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Just saw a video on YouTube of a company called SCOUT, they showed a small camper/pickup setup.

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OP you seem to be somewhat new to your research. FWC/ATCs don't use wood construction. It's aluminum frame + aluminum skin. If you can make a robust, lightweight truck camper lighter than them then more power to you. Also consider they've got a history back to the 70s of making these things and generally people like them thus the high resale value.

I'm right there with you concerning the price. $25k for a truck camper which is small and puts you at your GVWR and uses tech/construction techniques from decades ago is a hard pill to swallow. Thus the Project M and GFC style campers hitting the market. Good luck and let us know if you DIY.
 
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