Introduction

MEET THE CHAMPIONS

j+a-with-trailer.pngJustin and Ariele Champion, two people swimming against the current, exploring what makes us happy and keeps us wild. Followers of the tiny living movement, we started our journey by renovating a vintage travel trailer into our dream tiny home. It was a 1973 Roadrunner named Virginia Blue.

To haul Virginia, we purchased a Ford f250 Super Duty truck with a 6 1/2’ short bed named George. We stored Virginia in the car dealer’s parking lot in Everett from whom we purchased George. Our initial goal was to renovate Virginia ourselves in about six months; a couple of dreamers trying to make it happen.

We spent weekend after weekend working on the renovation. Having experienced Boston’s 2015 winter, we knew we had to finish Virginia before winter to keep her protected. Once we demoed Virginia, we realized the extent of the secrets she had been hiding and realized this project was out of our hands.

p5-working-through-winter.png

In an effort to save Virginia, we recruited a camper renovator we found via Google search–the only person in Massachusetts who could take on our project. We jumped on the opportunity to have professional help. “Professional” help. ...We go back and forth wishing we had known what we know now about this person’s abilities. In the end, we learned a lot from working with someone: patience, communication, getting things in writing, and knowing when to quit. Unfortunately, it cost us our trailer.

In November 2016, we moved the camper down south and began work again with new motivation, excitement, and promise. So when we found the first spot of mold, it did not seem like a big deal. We treated it topically with a bleach solution and let it dry the best we could (in the cold, damp winter). The mold wasn’t surprising given the way the camper was treated for so long under someone else’s care. So I guess we weren’t surprised, only completely devastated, when Justin found extensive mold growing on the plywood underneath the siding and various spots spread throughout the interior. Sure, we could remove the siding and rip up the rest of the camper for that matter. But, it’d cost us another summer. More money. And more importantly, more emotional and mental strain.mold-in-camper.png

We aren’t writing this to emphasize the negative side of this story. We just want to tell a real story about renovation because sometimes things just don’t work out as planned. We put our bodies, minds, hearts, tears, and laughs into this project on and off for nearly two years. Maybe we weren’t the right people or it wasn’t the right time. It made us reset and remember why we wanted a camper in the first place. Virginia Blue had become larger than life, larger than our goal of traveling, and so large that she was holding us back.

So we decided to move on. We sold her to someone who has the passion, knowledge, and resources to complete her the way she deserves, which is important to us.

So now what? To keep our dream of living more simply as well as traveling anywhere and everywhere, we decided to purchase a 2017 Airstream 22FB Bambi Sport – same dream, different trailer.

Oh and her name is Dorothy (aka Dot).

WHY WE TRANSFORMED OUR TRUCK CAP INTO A TRUCK CAMPER

Originally, George’s purpose was to safely haul around Virginia whever she pleased. But Virginia’s renovation extension gave us time to put our multi-purpose minimalist hats on and think about how to repurpose George into a sleeping/hangout area, while preserving his utilitarian function as a pick up truck.

As our interest and research in the vagabond life has expanded, we’ve become enamored with the “van life” (#vanlife) movement. Renovate an old van into sleeping quarters with a tiny kitchen and travel anywhere even campers can’t take you? Sign us up! So, while the camper renovation process was chugging along, we thought we would make our own camper out of the truck! Can you say #trucklife?

diy-truck-camper-livingNow, George is outfitted with a utility truck cap that has a built- in toolbox, rug bed liner, colorful curtains and ceiling cover, screen window, storage/cooler combo, reclaimed wood wall, and a USB-powered electrical system of his own to take us on quick weekend camping trips or long cross-country ventures where we need the freedom of not hauling Dot.

George’s transformation has changed the way we think about simple living. To be honest, he's really what kept Ariele and I going through our experience renovation Virginia. He was a shelter, giving us a comfortable space when we needed a place to sleep. He became a storage unit, which housed all of our belongings as we moved from sublet to sublet.

And while we love our Airstream, Dot, George embodies the raw spirit of what it is to be free and mobile.

WHO IS THIS FOR?

We’d love to show you exactly how we did this project because this mobile movement isn’t just for millennial music festival- goers. It’s for anyone looking to bring out the wild in themselves. This guide is for anyone wishing to travel and camp with ease. You don’t have to be full-timing to benefit from a camp in your truck bed!

Read on:

  • If you are looking to convert your truck into a sleeping space
  • If you don’t like to put up a tent
  • If you want a camping space that is more like a bedroom (with off-grid electricity!)
  • If you have a tiny home and need a “guest/hangout space”
  • If you’re curious to know the supplies, time, and know-how needed to complete a minor renovation like this. (Spoiler, we started out with little to no “know-how!”)

WHAT WILL THIS GUIDE TEACH YOU?

We’ll guide you step-by-step how to convert the bed of your truck into a livable camp. It will be weatherproof, comfortable, functional, and down right cozy. The guide will help you from choosing the right truck cap to tips on how to do the job right the first time. We went through trial and error so you don’t have to.

You’ll learn how to:

  • Weatherize your truck cap
  • Get off-grid electricity and lighting
  • Install a BedRug liner
  • Make your own screen windows
  • Properly install a ceiling cover and curtains
  • Install a reclaimed wood wall
  • Install an UnderCover Swing Case for storage/cooler combo

Supplies

WHAT YOU'LL NEED

Follow the link for each product to view on Amazon.com. Keep in mind, the cost of products can fluctuate.

Product

Price

Quantity

Total

Mexican serape blanket

$35.43

2

$70.86

Fabri-Tac glue

$9.99

5

$49.95

Camper Mounting tape

$5.77

1

$5.77

Industrial strength VELCRO

$20.66

5

$103.30

Neoprene stripping tape

$32.91

1

$32.91

Heavy thread

$6.38

1

$6.38

Sewing needles

$1.79

1

$1.79

Hockey tape

$9.99

1

$9.99

Car Power Inverter

$26.98

1

$26.98

Mobile Power Bank

$64.42

2

$128.84

UnderCover Swing Case

$189.00

1

$189.00

USB extension cord

$5.49

1

$5.49

USB power strip

$7.99

1

$7.99

USB LED string lights

$5.99

1

$5.99

USB LED light bulb

$5.99

1

$5.99

Fiberglass screening

$8.98

1

$8.98

Mini dehumidifier

$35.51

1

$35.51

BedRug

$438.00

1

$438.00

TOTAL

 

 

$1,133.72


The only items not on the list are eight 5/8” bolts, washers, and nuts and Timberchic for the reclaimed wood wall. Check out your local hardware store for the the bolts, washers, and nuts and go to www.timberchic.com for a free sample and quote.

TOOLS NEEDED FOR PROJECTS

  • Hands (these will be your most valuable tool)
  • Heavy duty fabric scissors
  • Non-fabric cutting scissors
  • Painters tape
  • Hammer drill
  • Sharpie
  • Set of sockets for hammer drill, including a 5/8” socket
  • Set of wrenches, including a 5/8” wrench
  • Dremel tool with saw blades (or a small hand saw)

If you don’t have any of the tools listed, the we recommend heading to Amazon.com or your local hardware store.
DIY Truck Camper Checklist

SKILLS NEEDED FOR PROJECTS

We’ll show you how to complete each project step-by-step. However, for bigger projects like weatherizing your truck cap, it may be a good idea to look for resources in your area. If you’re a true DIYer and you want additional assistance outside of this ebook, then YouTube is a great resource to find helpful tutorials.

Preparation

GETTING STARTED

When we started this conversion project, we were novice construction workers. When Justin bought our set of Milwaukee 18v power tools, he had to go to Home Depot and ask how to put the drill bit in the hammer drill. We all have to start somewhere; don’t be embarrassed to ask those who know what they’re doing for help. We grow through learning.

The majority of the research and ideation was done online. The great thing about the Internet today is so many people are creating valuable, helpful content and most of it is free.

After many hours online, we identified a system for uncovering answers to questions or problems with next step action items. Here are three tips to DIY project problem solving:

  • Google is a great place to start. We used Google to find answers or ideas for the projects we worked on. If you need a place to start, then Google should be your go-to.
  • YouTube can be a great teacher. YouTube taught us the skills for the majority of the projects we worked on. Whether it’s installing an UnderCover Swing case or weatherizing your truck cap, YouTube is a great source to find helpful
  • Amazon has almost everything you’ll need. Once we found what we needed, we headed to Amazon to make purchases. Amazon offers such a wide variety of items and they make it easy to find things you need. Plus they offer recommendations from customers on specific products, which helps a lot with quality

PRACTICE PATIENCE

Patience leads to a more level head, which means a solid finished product. Mistakes are bound to happen, even with a step-by-step guide. Enjoy the process of each step as you perform it.

WORKING LOCATIONS

If we can renovate our truck in a city, we think anyone can find a working space. Ideally, you have your own garage, land, or know someone that’s willing to let you work in their driveway.

But if not, you can still figure it out. If you do live close to other people and do not have a driveway, you’ll have to learn to be stealthy. Here are some incognito tips that worked for us:working-on-your-diy-truck-camper

  • Act normal. No one will expect you’re converting your truck into a camp unless you tell them. We live next to Commonwealth Avenue, which is a busy street. However, this is where we completed the majority of our
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Some projects will be louder than others, like cutting reclaimed wood panels with a Dremel tool. Before you operate anything that makes a noise, make sure to look around and see if anyone is around. Use good judgment; if a project you’re working on has the potential to draw attention and disturbance, then work with care to your surroundings.
  • Work in shifts. Working in shifts will help you keep a level head, as well as reduce the chances of people catching on to what you’re doing. We worked in 2-3 hours shifts at a time per project. Take breaks and come back with a level head, especially if there’s a project that’s giving you grief.
  • Close your access doors. We chose not to cut into the truck cap to install a vent. Instead we close the access door in its locked position, which gives about a 1” ventilation gap. Unless your spot is private, you’ll need to do this for the majority of your projects. No one ever looked inside the truck cap when Justin was working, but he always ducked out of the way just in case. Better to be safe than
  • Don’t stay parked in one spot. We moved around constantly to avoid the same people watching our actions. We worked on many different curbs around Boston. We even worked in various MBTA parking lots and parks around the And if you can find a spot that has a private corner, then you can work with an access door open.

PURCHASING YOUR TRUCK CAP

George is outfitted with a A.R.E Deluxe Commercial Unit (DCU) truck cap that has a driver-side toolbox. Before we planned on converting our truck into a camper we purchased this truck cap to serve as a mobile storage unit for Virginia. When we moved apartments in Boston after our first downsize, we were able to fit our entire apartment in the back of the truck.

p17-truck-cap.png

We recommend the DCU truck cap for a camp conversion because it offers: 

  • Side access doors that open up for panoramic views
  • Interior aluminum framing, creating a strong, easy to work with foundation
  • Toolbox for storage

Brand new, these truck caps can go for $1,500+. However, you can find great deals on Craigslist. We purchased ours for $650; retail price for our cap was $2,100!

p18-ladder-rack.pngAlso, we decided to put a ladder rack on the top for two reasons:

  1. It expands our storage space in case we need it. The roof rack can hold up to about 500
  2. It offers anchor points for putting up awnings and hanging lights, rope, etc.

The ladder rack cost about $350, which includes installation. If you don’t already have a truck cap, then definitely keep an eye on Craigslist for a DCU unit with one. 


SURROUND YOURSELF WITH POSITIVE ENERGY

 There will be times when you get frustrated. There will be times when you make mistakes.

 What will keep you going is surrounding yourself with people that believe in what you do. Positive energy is a strong motivator, one that will keep you moving forward towards your goals.

diy-truck-camper

Thank you to all of our friends and family for your encouragement and support through this process. You helped us keep our eyes on the prize.

Weatherproofing

WEATHERIZING YOUR TRUCK CAP

Every shelter needs to be protected from the outdoors. No one enjoys raindrops splashing on them when they’re trying to sleep or waking up in a cold, damp space. When we purchased our A.R.E. DCU truck cap, we didn’t have all the materials to seal or secure it to our f250, George. We placed the utility cap over the truck bed, used two clamps on the passenger side to secure it down, screwed in a bolt on the driver side, and called it a day. Because we’ve never had a truck before, we didn’t know it would need to be weatherized; you live and learn

Once we decided to convert George into a truck camper to travel with our tiny home, Virginia Blue, weatherizing and securing the truck cap came in at the top of our list. 

Materials needed for this project:

  • Camper mounting tape
  • 1.5” long bolts with 3/8" threading
  • 3/8” locking nuts
  • Washers for bolts

Tools needed for this project:

  • Hammer drill with 3/8” socket; used to tighten bolt and nut
  • 3/8” wrench; used to tighten bolt and nut

STEP 1: APPLY ADHESIVE TO YOUR TRUCK CAP

p22-mount-truck-cap.png

First, spread out a blanket that’s bigger than your truck.

Next, have someone help you flip the truck cap upside-down and lay it down gently on the blanket.

Apply adhesive truck bed insulation tape around the entire bottom of the truck cap, except for the rear hatch. If you cover the hatch area you won’t be able to open and close your tailgate easily. You may want to add a few layers of tape to the bulkhead to ensure nothing gets in or out.



STEP 2: MOUNT TRUCK CAP ON TRUCK BED 

Open the tailgate to your pickup truck. Have someone help you flip the truck cap right side up and carefully place it onto the pickup truck bed. Make sure the truck cap sits evenly on both sides of the truck bed.

STEP 3: SECURE TRUCK CAP WITH BOLTS

Get yourself into the back of the truck bed and bring two aluminum hardware clamps with you.p23-truck-cap-mount.png Apply the clamps against  the truck bed rail and cap; we have a toolbox on the driver- side so, we could only clamp the passenger-side down.

Next, drill three holes on both sides of the truck cap about 24” to 30” apart. There may already be holes in your truck cap, but don’t be afraid to drill new ones if you need to. We have a 6.5’ bed, so if yours is longer then you may want to drill a fourth hole.

Next, place a washer on each bolt and place in the hole you drilled. Once all bolts are in place, screw in the locking nuts to secure the truck cap in place.

Next, determine if there’s a hole near the right rear tail light assembly for the wiring of your truck cap taillight. If there’s not, then you may need to drill a small hole. 

STEP 4: WIRE BRAKE LIGHT

p24-brake-light.pngRemove the taillight assembly from the truck cap to locate the wiring. Find the wire and make an incision, strip the casing, and butt connect the high mount brake light.

Pull back a piece of insulation from the brake wire and connect the high mount stoplight wire to the truck’s brake wire. 

Connecting the brake light is a tedious process, one we had help with to ensure we didn’t mess up George’s wiring. If you want further assistance on how to do this, then head to YouTube and type in “wiring truck cap tail light”.

And there you go! Now you have a weatherproofed truck cap. Now you’re ready to start the rest of the transformation. Want to view the finished product? Watch the video now.

Truck Bed Rug

INSTALLING A TRUCK BED LINER

Every shelter needs to have a comfortable space (or, at least it should). We thought about making something, like custom cushions, but what we really wanted is something that molds to the design of our specific truck bed.

We did some research on Google for “comfortable truck bed floors” and low and behold, we found the BedRug Bedliner, a solution practically made for our project. A BedRug solved our needs, as it has the look and comfort of carpet, yet is super tough and can withstand any harsh elements you throw its way; not even battery acid could phase it. Plus, it’s made with 3/4” foam, similar to that of life jackets, so it does not absorb liquid.

Materials needed for this project:

  • BedRug
  • Bedliner kit
  • BedRug
  • VELCRO

Tools needed for this project:

  • Hammer drill
  • Tie down hooks (may be a son-of-a-gun to remove)
  • Small knife(used to poke holes to install tie down hooks over BedRug)

STEP 1: REMOVE THE CURRENT BED LINER

p28-remove-bedliner.pngIf your truck bed has a bed liner, then you’ll need to remove it. We had a Rugged Bed Liner which came with our truck when we purchased it.

The Rugged Bed Liner is a bit rigid--it’s made from a solid piece of plastic–and was installed without any bolts. we tried our best to yank it out from under the bed rails without breaking or tearing it. This way, you might be able to make a few dollars by posting it to Craigslist (we ended up getting $50 dollars for it).

STEP 2: REMOVE TIE DOWN HOOKS

Once everything is removed from the back of the truck bed, remove the four tie down hooks in each corner and clean out the truck bed. If you have an older truck, then these tie down hooks will be in there pretty tight.

STEP 3: CLEAN TRUCK BED

If you want the BedRug to install properly, then make sure you’re starting with a clean truck bed. Sweep all debris and dust out and spray with a hose. 

STEP 4: PUT THE BEDRUG TOGETHER

Remove the BedRug from the box and read the installation instructions (pretty basic stuff). First, zip the BedRug together. Take your time with this step as the BedRug has been folded up and the zipper may take a few times to follow its track.

STEP 5: PLACE BEDRUG IN ITS POSITION INSIDE TRUCK BED

Pull the BedRug into its secured position. It's kind of an awkward piece to get in there so Justin had to crawl underneath the BedRug and yank it towards the bulkhead.

It’s important to note that you should not start placing VELCRO down until you’re sure the BedRug is the correct fit and you’re satisfied with where it’s placed. While VELCRO is removable, it’s not fun to install and you don’t want to lose your cool and start kicking things.

STEP 6: APPLY VELCRO TO BEDRUG AND TRUCK BED

Start applying the VELCRO strips throughout the truck bed per the instructed areas.p30-apply-velcro-to-bedrug.png We placed the VELCRO strips in the following order:

  • Floor
  • Bulkhead
  • Tailgate
  • Sidewalls

Once all pieces are placed in the specified areas, select an area (from above) and pull the BedRug back keeping it from contact with the truck bed, remove the adhesive protective film and carefully place the BedRug into its secured position. 

Wash, rinse, and repeat this process until all areas are completed.

STEP 7: MAKE SURE EVERYTHING’S IN TACT

Make sure to do a once or twice over across all areas, checking that the adhesive was applied and make sure that everything is secure.

STEP 8: REINSTALL TIE DOWN HOOKS

p31-reinstall-tie-down-hooks.png

Pull back the VELCRO in the areas where the tie down hooks are located to determine proper position. Cut two small holes for the screws in each location, then re-install the VELCRO so the BedRug is in its secured position and screw in each tie down.

Note: To save yourself time with the next project, make sure to flip the tie down on the back driver-side of the truck bed. If you forget this step, the Swing Case won’t close. We learned this through troubleshooting during the next project.

You’re done! Now you can sit back and enjoy your new comfortable truck bed. We actually hung out in the back of the truck bed the rest of the afternoon. Want to view the finished product? Watch the video now.

Wheel Well Storage

INSTALLING AN UNDERCOVER SWINGCASE

Our A.R.E DCU truck cap has a tool box on the driver side that extends the entire length of the truck cap. From tools and supplies to personal items, the tool box is a helpful addition and a very wise use of space. However, this storage area can only be accessed from the outside.

If you plan on sleeping and hanging out in the truck bed, then you’re going to need storage inside the truck. Our truck bed storage goal was twofold: something small and out of the way that can also serve as a cooler (like a short- term ice box).

 After going to the all-mighty Google to find options, we found our unicorn; the UnderCover Swing Case. This beaut is exactly what we were looking for, and more.

  • Tucks away to the side of the truck bed next to the wheel well
  • Has a lever that, when pulled, swings out the case
  • Doubles as a cooler
  • Can be removed easily to tote around
  • Holds up to 75 pounds

While the installation of the Swing Case is a fairly simple process, having a BedRug Bedliner, which is about 3/4” thick, makes this process a little more tedious. 
Materials needed for this project:

  • UnderCover Swing Case kit

Tools needed for this project:

  • Electric screw gun with 7/16 inch socket (used to screw bolts into truck bed)

STEP 1: CONNECT MOUNTING BRACKETS

Screw the mounting brackets together, making a capital “T” shape on its side.

STEP 2: MOUNT BRACKET TO SIDE OF TRUCK

p35-mount-bracket-side-of-truck.pngThis is where things get tricky. The Swing Case doesn’t account for the 3/4” thick BedRug. We mounted the brackets several times and the lock just wouldn’t catch.

To make this work, you need to apply pressure to the mounting bracket, pushing it against the back of the tail light and the floor, and screw in the top and bottom screws. Don’t install all of the screws, in case you need to adjust positioning.

Next, slightly bend out the base of the mounting bracket. This helps realign the bracket, so once you secure it to the side of the truck bed, it’ll be straighter.

 

STEP 3: ENSURE SWING CASE LOCKS IN CLOSED POSITION

p36-swing-case-closed.png

Mount the Swing Case on the bracket and test shutting it in the locked position under the wheel well. When trying to secure the Swing Case in its locked position, apply pressure as if you were shutting your tailgate. If it catches, then you’re golden.

 

 

 

STEP 4: FINISH SCREWING IN MOUNTING BOLTS

p37-finished-mounting-bolts.png

Once you’re confident the Swing Case will stay in its locked position, remove it from its mount and screw in the remaining base mounting screws.

And there you have it. Now, you’re effectively utilizing the dead space under the toolbox next to the wheel well for storage. Want to view the finished product? Watch the video now.

 

Homifying the Space

INSTALLING A RECLAIMED WOOD WALL

Ever since we decided to convert our truck, George, into a functional living space, we dreamt of a reclaimed wood wall. Not only would it cover the industrial makeup of our A.R.E DCU truck cap, but it would also create that homey feel of being in a cabin.

There’s nothing pretty about the interior of a DCU truck cap. It’s built for function, not style. The layout is basically a blank canvas, which lends itself to endless creative possibilities; the driver side toolbox has a flat surface and the ceiling and side walls are made up of 1” thick square aluminum. With the right mindset, the interior could be seen as framing, similar to that  of a house. It’s a perfect setup for a reclaimed wood covering.

While cruising through Facebook, we came across our friends’, Samantha and Rob, stunning lake house rental project in Maine. They were using this beautiful reclaimed wood throughout the house and we saw they tagged this company called Maine Heritage Timber. Excited to learn more, we talked to them about the reclaimed wood product and they explained that Maine Heritage offers many different varieties, including a thin reclaimed wood option with a peel-and-stick backing for easier installationthis is exactly what we’re looking for.

Additionally, they explained that Maine Heritage’s products are made with preserved growth timber and reclaimed wood from the bottom of the Penobscot River (the byway that once made Bangor, Maine “the lumber capital of the world”).This is the type of history and product that George would be proud to be outfitted with. We checked out Maine Heritage’s site and learned that they offer free samples, so we put in a request.

Once we received the reclaimed wood samples, we fell in love. What’s interesting about Maine Heritage’s thin peel-and-stick product, Timberchic, is it comes in many different sizes (width and length) and colors.

Materials needed for this project:

  • 1 box of 3” timberchic; used to cover the bulkhead
  • 1 box of 5” timberchic; used to cover the toolbox
  • 1” thick sponge neoprene stripping

Tools needed for this project:

  • Dremel tool with saw blade; used to cut wood
  • Painters tape; used to make straight cuts
  • Sheet of printer paper; used to make angle

STEP 1: INSTALL TIMBERCHIC ON TOOLBOX

Peeling-and-stick one plank at a time to cover the flat toolbox surface. Start at one end and work your way to the other end.  It’s like a game of Tetris.

p41-install-timberchic-on-toolbox.png

Before installing each plank, make note of the holes in the wood and place the circular black stickers that come with the wood in these spots to cover the white of the toolbox.

We were pleasantly surprised with how sticky the adhesive tape took to the aluminum surface it was placed on. The only way this wood is coming off is if you break it.

Once you reach the bulkhead, you’ll need to cut the Timberchic pieces to match the tailgate end. We used a Dremel for this, as the reclaimed wood is about 1/8” thick and we wanted to treat the wood with care.

To make this process easier, measure where the plank will be cut before installing on toolbox and use painters tape to make a straight line. To finish the toolbox section, start by folding an angle on a sheet of paper on the far left wall. You’ll use this to mark the Timberchic and make a cut that fits flush with the wall. This may sound make-shift, but it works.

p42-bottom-and-top-plank-cuts.png

Once you use the paper to make your first cut, use this wood panel as a template to place painters tape on the remaining pieces to be cut; all angles are the same on the tail gate and bulkhead.

The only areas that will need extra cuts will be the bottom and top planks. You’ll have to cut a 90-degree angle slice out of the wood to fit in smoothly. 

STEP 2: OUTLINE BULKHEAD WITH STRIPPING ADHESIVE

Again, the reclaimed wood is fairly thin, so the insulation tape provides a cushioned backing for support so it won’t break if pressure is applied to it. Spread the stripping out on the lower part of the truck cap and the sides, no more than 5” apart. Too much of a gap will create a weak spot, increasing the chance of the wood breaking if pressure is applied to it.

STEP 3: INSTALL TIMBERCHIC ON BULKHEAD

p43-install-timberchic.pngPer our earlier notes, the make-shift measurement we took at the back of the toolbox will be the same for the bulkhead installation. The only difference is the top plank will need to be rounded off.

You'll notice there's about 1 1/4" gap between the top reclaimed wood panel and the roof. This is because you’ll be installing industrial strength VELCRO for the bulkhead curtain. Plus, the serape blanket ceiling will cover this up anyway.

We decided not to place reclaimed wood on the underside of the toolbox, as we want to leave our options open in the future for a shelving unit. And there you have it! A reclaimed wood wall for your truck camper living area. Want to view the finished product? Watch the video now.

Interior Design

INSTALLING A CEILING COVER AND CURTAINS

Of all the projects to help transform our f250 into a truck camper, the ceiling cover and curtains process was by far the most tedious, yet rewarding. However, if you want the job done right, the first time, then you need a steady, caring touch and a lot of patience.

The first time around, we’ll admit, we rushed installing the curtains and ceiling cover. We have had some setbacks that kept us from our deadline, but were determined to finish on time. Doing so, we didn’t have the patience to complete a project well and our mistakes slowly crept up to bite us.

Our biggest mistake and regret which led to us having to redo everything; gluing as we installed as opposed to letting the glue dry for 24-48 hours. The glue seemed to dry fast enough, so we thought It would be okay. We thought wrong. Additionally, we didn’t apply enough glue in the areas that needed it. While this mistake was 50% patience, 50% DIY newb learnings, it’s something that we may have noticed if we were working with more of a caring touch.

If you want results that you’re proud to have your name attached to, then you need to give it the time and care it deserves. Justin was reminded of this when walking back from lunch one day with one of his colleagues who told him to practice patience. Even though this was not a new concept, it’s important to be reminded. It’s as if we were in our corner during a boxing match, having lost sight of our end goal, and had the words we needed to get our head back in the fight.

We’re telling you this before we share this DIY project, because we want you to learn from our mistakes. We all have obstacles that make us pivot and adjust to reach our end goal. In the words of the great Red Auerbach, “be quick, but don’t hurry.” Say this to yourself whenever you’re up against a deadline and you’re feeling it slip away from you.

Materials needed for this project:

  • Two Mexican serape blankets (blanket actual sizing: 56” x 78”)
  • Four bottles of Beacon Fabri-Tac Permanent Adhesive (you’ll have some left over which will come in handy for other projects)
  • Four boxes–or 60 feet–of black industrial Strength VELCRO (you’ll have some left over which will come in handy for other projects)

Tools needed for this project:

  • Fabric-cutting shears; used to cut blankets
  • Non-fabric-cutting shears; used to cut VELCRO strips
  • Disposable gloves; used to protect hands from Fabric-Tac
  • Flexible measuring tape; used to make measurements
  • Sharpie

STEP 1: MEASURE THE INTERIOR OF THE TRUCK BED

Before purchasing any of the above materials, measure the interior of your truck cap: length, width, and height (truck bed rails to the floor). Our A.R.E. DCU utility truck cap is outfitted with 1” aluminum framing, so we measured the length and width of each aluminum rail.

To make it easier on yourself, we recommend using a flexible measuring tape. This way you can move around with ease, as the working area can be tight.

STEP 2: MAKE A SIMPLE MEASUREMENT

p48-bulkhead-curtain.pngUsing the measurements of the truck bed interior, draw a simple pattern of your design with a pen and paper. Measure everything again to make sure the pattern dimensions are correct. If everything checks out, then you’re ready to purchase your materials.

Final thought; there will be two aluminum rail cutouts for the bulkhead curtain to fit into place. This is the only area that will require you to cut into the blanket, as seen below.

STEP 3: CLEAN THE INTERIOR OF THE TRUCK CAP

Whether your truck cap is used or new, clean the area where you’re going to apply the VELCRO strips. In this case, the VELCRO is going to cover all ceiling rails as well as the curved side rails leading up to the access door(s). This is an important step as a dirty truck cap can impact the bond of the VELCRO.

STEP 4: CUT VELCRO STRIPS AND INSTALL IN TRUCK CAP

Use the measurements from your pattern to cut precise VELCRO strips. Try to be as exact as you can, as the longer the strip the stronger it’ll be. Tip: Because this is industrial strength VELCRO, make sure to use the rough side–also known as the hook–on the ceiling. This way the softer side applied to the blanket–also known as the loop–won’t stick to the BedRug floor.

Regarding the curved aluminum area, the VELCRO won’t stick here very well (learned that the hard way). Instead of cutting one long strip of VELCRO for the aluminum rail, cut the VELCRO just before the curve and cut 3” pieces of VELCRO that attach to the side of the railing. This will help reinforce the grip and keep the blanket from sagging around the curve.

p50-velcro-strips.pngRemember, the VELCRO strips are 2” wide, but the the aluminum framing sizing varies. This means you’ll need to cut the strips according to each area it will be applied. The cuts don’t need to be exact, but try and cut as straight a line as you can.

To make this process easier, try and find two measurements that are somewhat equal, like the length-wise aluminum framing from the bulkhead to the tailgate. This way one cut will equal two installations (with the addition of minor cuts if needed).

Once all the aluminum rails are dry, outline each railing with the cut-to-size VELCRO strips.

 

STEP 5: CUT BLANKETS AND APPLY VELCRO STRIPS

Mark up the blankets with a Sharpie based on the pattern measurements:

  • Areas to be cut
  • Application of the loop-sided VELCRO to attach the blanket to the hook-sided

Make sure the side you mark up is the side that will be facing the ceiling.

We used one blanket for the roof and one blanket for the curtains (the tailgate curtain attached to the ceiling curtain to make up for the 6” ceiling gap). Try and mark cuts that preserve the blanket's edges. This way you’ll reduce having to glue seams.

Tip: Be extra careful with your blanket edge cuts. The blankets can become frayed if they go without glue for long. Use the Fabri-Tac to glue your seams.
p51-glue-your-seams.png

Here is a good technique to adopt for a longer-lasting bond between the VELCRO and the blanket; spread out the Fabri- Tac glue on the adhesive side of the VELCRO before placing on the blanket. Once placed, add Fabri-Tac glue around the sides of the VELCRO. This will strengthen the bond between the blanket and VELCRO.

DO NOT skimp on the above step when applying the VELCRO to the blankets. Remember, practice patience and make sure your VELCRO is good and bonded to your blankets. Once all the glue is applied, let it sit for up to 48 hours. Once dried, tug on all the areas of the VELCRO and make sure it's on there to stay. If you find an area that needs an extra caring touch, then help it out with some Fabri-Tac.

Once you feel good about the VELCRO-to-blanket bond, you're ready to install.

STEP 5: INSTALL YOUR BLANKET CUTOUTS

Start by installing your bulkhead blanket.  Attach the blanket's VELCRO to its counterpart at the top of the bulkhead. Next, install the ceiling cover. Start by attaching the VELCRO to its counterpart on the toolbox-side strip that extends from the bulkhead to the tailgate.

Next, Attach the middle intersecting VELCRO strip to its counterpart. Then attach the remaining VELCRO strips to their counterparts. Installing the blanket roof in this way will help reduce excess sag, keeping the blanket taught and in place.

p53-tailgate-curtain.png

Lastly, install the tailgate curtain. Start by connecting the blanket ends where the VELCRO hook and loop meet to complete the ceiling cover. Connect the blanket to the aluminum framing above the tailgate. Make sure the blanket is nice and tight from the adjoining ceiling-to-tailgate connection.

Next connect the VELCRO adjoining strips to their counterparts above the tail gate and let the blanket hang down to the floor. 

And there you have it. Making use of a blanket as curtains and a ceiling cover in your truck camper project. Want to view the finished product? Watch the video now.

Electrical

INSTALLING A SIMPLE OFF-GRID ELECTRICAL SYSTEM

The ability to plug a cord into an outlet and access electricity is nothing short of magical. Sometimes, we on-grid folk don’t take the time to appreciate the intricacies that go into building an electrical system. That is, until there’s a blackout…

While we don’t plan on living in our f250, George, it would be nice to take him out on excursions where our tiny home, Virginia Blue, can’t venture off to. Having a simple electrical system will give us the ability to access power when we need it. 

When we started doing research, we found many options, including several off-grid emergency systems created by expert, Steven Harris. That being said, most creations are a bit more involved and complicated than we were looking for.

And then it hit us–Ariele and I just updated our phones and received a free portable USB battery bank to charge our phones on the go. Surely there’s a solution like this that offers more power that we can leverage for our off-grid power source.

A few searches later on Amazon and we found what we were looking for–a multi-function mobile power bank with the following benefits:

  • Enough power to jump a dead car battery (38,000 mAh)
  • Powerful flashlight with emergency SOS flashers
  • Adapters for multiple devices
  • Two USB outlets

We purchased two of them. This way we can use one while the other charges, giving us constant power when we need it.

Materials needed for this project:

  • Two 3’ USB extension cords
  • Two Four-port USB power strip with individual switches
  • 33-feet warm LED light string
  • USB LED light bulb
  • Car power inverter with AC and USB outlets
  • 15 1/2” strip of VELCRO; used to secure materials
  • Two DinTo® 38000mAh Multi-function Emergency Mini Car Vehicle Jump Starter 

Tools needed for this project:

  • Fabric-cutting shears; used to make cut for light bulb
  • Non-fabric-cutting shears; used to cut VELCRO strips
  • Sewing needle; used to connect LED light string to ceiling cover
  • Black thread: used to connect LED light string to ceiling cover

Before installing, plug the USB power strip into the mobile battery bank and plug all the lights into the hub ports. Turn on your mobile power bank. If everything works, then you’re ready to get after the project.

STEP 1: INSTALL THE POWER INVERTER

p58-power-inverter.pngCut a strip of loop (soft) and hook (rough)-sided industrial strength VELCRO about 5” long. Attach the hook-sided VELCRO to a flat surface under the cigarette lighter port; attach the loop-sided VELCRO to the flat side of the power inverter. This will allow you to connect the power inverter to the truck and easily remove when parked.


Now you can leverage your truck to charge your mobile power banks, as well as give you access to a three-prong electrical outlet while driving if you need it.

STEP 2: INSTALL THE MOBILE POWER BANK

Cut a strip of loop and hook-sided industrial strength VELCRO about 5” long. Attach the hook-sided VELCRO to the bottom of the tool box about 6” away from the end towards the bulkhead. Doing this will leave room for the USB power strip.

Next, attach the loop-sided VELCRO to the back of the mobile power bank. This will allow you to connect the mobile power bank to the toolbox and easily remove when It needs to be charged.

STEP 3: INSTALL THE USB POWER STRIP

Cut a 3/4” strip of loop and hook-sided industrial strength VELCRO and attach it to the USB power switch hub and place it next to the mobile power bank. 

STEP 4: CONNECT USB EXTENSION CORD 

p59-connect-usb-extension.pngRun the 3’ USB extension cord from the mobile power bank, up the side of the wall (this helps hide it).

Once it reaches the ceiling cover’s location, run it along-side the VELCRO line on the outside aluminum rail until it reaches the location for the USB LED light bulb. This will keep the ceiling cover nice and flat without a visible cord bump running through it.

If you have extra USB cord slack, then stuff it behind your BedRug near the bulkhead opening. As long as your truck cap is weatherized, you don’t have to worry about moisture harming the cable.

STEP 5: INSTALL LED LIGHTBULB

Identify where you want to hang your LED light bulb and make sure the cord will reach the USB extension cord. Make an incision in the ceiling cover for the USB light bulb–about 1” wide. The end of the LED light bulb will have a USB connector, so make sure it fits through the hole easily.

STEP 6: HANG WARM LED LIGHTS

p60-warm-led-lights.png

Start by measuring the ceiling area to make sure 33’ will be enough to cover the area. We have a 6.5’ short bed, so we were almost able to cover the entire area twice.

Next, attach the LED string lights to the serape blanket along the path you measured. Ariele did this with black thread and a needle, sewing it to the blanket ceiling cover about every 6”.

And there you have it. A simple off-grid electrical system to keep you powered up when you need it. Want to view the finished product? Watch the video now.

Window Screen

INSTALLING A FLEXIBLE RIP-AWAY SCREEN

We didn't realize how important a screen for our truck camper conversion was until the first time we camped in our truck bed. The A.R.E. DCU utility truck cap access doors provide amazing panoramic views. But, without the rip-away screen we wouldn't be able to sit comfortably in our truck camper with the access door open. No matter the weather, the rip-away screen allows us to let fresh air circulate the truck bed while keeping insects out.

Materials needed for this project:

  • Black cloth hockey tape
  • One bottle Fabri-Tac permanent adhesive glue
  • 9’ of black, industrial strength VELCRO
  • One roll of Fiberglass screening

Tools needed for this project:

  • Fabric-cutting shears; used to cut fiberglass screen
  • Non-fabric-cutting shears; used to cut VELCRO strips


STEP 1: MEASURE THE ACCESS DOOR 

Start by measuring the length and width of the access door where you're going to place the rip-away screen. This will give you a pattern with which to cut your screen. To be safe, make sure to measure top and bottom, left and right. Don't assume the side parallel to the one your measuring is the same.

Make sure to measure all truck cap elements that will impact the screen cutout. For example, we added 1" to the top and bottom of our measurement to account for VELCRO placement on the truck cap.

STEP 2: OUTLINE ACCESS DOOR WITH VELCRO

Once you have established your screen placement, you can cut 1" VELCRO strips using the hook side to outline your truck cap. Make sure to use the non-fabric shears for this. When applying the VELCRO to the aluminum surface, make sure everything is clean and dry. This will help ensure a strong bond between the VELCRO and truck cap.

STEP 3: CUT ACCESS DOOR SCREEN

Take your pattern and use it to measure the cutting area on your screen. The good thing about cutting along a screen is there are tiny little boxes you can use to cut a straight line–you just have to cut within the parameters of the box, using the lines as a guardrail.

STEP 4: OUTLINE SCREEN WITH VELCRO

p65-apply-fabri-tac-to-velcro.pngOnce you have your screen cut out, lay it flat. Based on the pattern, cut 1" VELCRO strips that measure the border of the screen. Make sure to use the loop side of the VELCRO, which is the soft side. This way, it won't stick to your BedRug.

Before applying the VELCRO to the screen, apply Fabri-Tac to the adhesive side of the VELCRO strip and spread it out like you're making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. 

Next, apply the adhesive side of the VELCRO strips to the screen. 
p66-adhesive-side-velcro.pngMake sure the VELCRO is facing the floor, as the glue will seep through and you don't want to have the screen dry to the floor. Hold the screen in your hand as you do this.

Now, let it sit for 24-36 hours in a place where the screen won't be touched. Once everything is dry, you're ready to apply the backing tape. We chose hockey tape, as it's fabric based.

STEP 5: APPLY HOCKEY TAPE TO REVERSE SIDE OF VELCRO

Before you apply the hockey tape, it's time to make another peanut butter and jelly by spreading another layer of Fabri-Tac glue on top of the screen and adhesive side of the VELCRO. 
Then apply the hockey tape to the glue. Adding a layer of the Fabri-Tac will help bond the hockey tape to the back of the VELCRO. This is what that side will look like. Now, let it sit for 48 hours.   

p67-bond-hockey-tape-velcro.png

You're done! Now you can attach your screen and enjoy the breeze (and necessary ventilation!) in your truck camper while keeping the bugs out. Want to view the finished product? Watch the video now.

Dehumidifier

PURCHASING A MINI DEHUMIDIFIER

No one likes waking up in a damp area. Justin went camping before George’s transformation was complete. The BedRug was installed, so he knew the space would be comfortable enough.

When he woke up the next morning, everything in the truck was wet because he had to leave the side access-door open for air circulation. This was not ideal, especially since we have things back there that moisture can damage, like our reclaimed wood wall or ceiling cover and curtains.

After doing some research we found the Eva-Dry Mini Dehumidifier, which offers the following benefits:

  • Wireless; charge by plugging into an electrical outlet
  • Powered by crystals that absorb moisture
  • Covers a space up to 500 square-feet

We LOVE this product. We tested it out by sleeping with the side access-door open and woke up to a completely dry environment. If you want to learn more, then watch our review.

Conclusion

NEXT STEPS

Looking back, our truck camper conversion was one of the best, most rewarding projects of our lives. We’re beyond satisfied with the finished product and even happier that it was something we did (and completed) ourselves. We hope this guide helps inspire you to follow your dreams. Life is too short not to spend it doing something you love. Remember:

  • Be patient. It will pay off in the long.
  • Be quick, but don’t hurry. Make sure to take the time to do it right the first time.
  • Enjoy the process. Every project is a milestone that should be celebrated.
  • Do one project at a time. Don’t bite off more than you can Stay focused on the project at hand.
  • Don’t give up. Do what you can to keep yourself motivated. We believe in you.
  • Start today. Don’t put your dreams on hold. There’s no better time than to start right now.

Even when you finish your truck camper conversion, the project is never really done. There’s always something that can be added, tweaked, or improved. Because we are constantly thinking of the next idea, we have a few projects that we’re already thinking of to take George to the next level.

Foam bed/couch: We’re currently using cushions from Virginia to serve as our bed in George. We’ll be buying new cushions for Virginia, so next step is cut to size the old ones to fit the dimensions of the truck bed. This will make it more comfortable and easy to set up. 

Truck bed storage containers: There’s still space between the wheel wells that can be utilized. Next step is to get some storage boxes to fit between the cushions and wall.

Organize the toolbox: The toolbox area is so valuable. We learn this the more we go camping. Currently, the toolbox is outfitted with a hodgepodge of tools and supplies. Next step is to organize the tool box to include: 

  • Emergency roadside kit
  • Small propane heater/grill
  • Cooking supplies (utensils, plates, spices, silverware, )
  • Flexible hose
  • Campfire supplies (fire poker, small axe, )
  • Tarp(s)
  • Overnight supplies (towels, toothbrush, soap, )

You never know when the mood will strike to go adventuring. Being prepared will make it that much easier.

Ready to get after your project! Stay organized with our free DIY truck camper checklist. Learn from us and save yourself the time and money.