How To Build A Slide In Truck Camper
Need to be able to leave your camper behind while you do “truck stuff”?
Then let’s help you learn how to build a slide In truck camper.
“Demountables” are a very popular goal amongst DIY truck camper builders, if my readership is any indication. The ability to leave the camper at home or park it at the campsite while you drive into town for supplies is a huge draw for many.
It *is* however quite a bit more complicated than simply bolting a camper to the truck bed. I'll tell you right off the bat that I decided pretty quickly when researching my own camper build to go with a simple "bolt-on" design, because it's way cheaper, lighter, and easier to build than a slide in.
The extra features you'll need to purchase and construct in order to gain the convenience of a demountable are the topic of this article. I'll also explain a bit more my reasons for passing up on a slide-on design, not only to simplify things, but to regain a few features lacking from slide-ons.
("Slide IN"...? "Slide ON"...? Is one of them more correct than the other, or are they totally interchangeable?) One thing I know for sure... it's definitely not a "Slide OUT"...And you'll have to tie your slide-on camper down, so that it hopefully doesn't become a "Slide OFF" (LOL).
There are a few important ways a Slide In Truck Camper differs from a straight bolt-on design.
- You need to build a narrow floor box that essentially hangs from the walls. This generally adds quite a bit of weight, because it needs to be sturdy enough to support the interior on its own when you leave it on jacks, and (thinking in reverse) should be strong enough so that if you were to set the camper on sawhorses, the narrow floor box should be able to support the weight of the camper above it.
- You'll need to purchase jacks. A set of 4 jacks runs about $300-400+. Though you could probably find deals on used ones, I'm not aware of any ways to DIY them for cheaper. (But I'd love to find one, and I'll update the post when I do.)
- You need to tie it down when driving. This involves two elements: The actual tie down hardware ("turnbuckles") and creating attachment points at the rear and sides. Though I've seen many old-timers using DIY tie-down solutions like rope, straps, and chains, commercial hardware can get you a more solid secure connection to the truck that will reduce stress on the camper when driving off road. (See my article on how to secure a camper to the truck.)
- You'll probably lose a bit of interior space because of the wheel wells. Since slide-ons need to fit between the wheel well risers, you typically lose quite a bit of perfectly usable space in the "bench" areas. You can get fancy to reclaim it, but it starts to complicate the engineering a bit, because you begin dealing with cantilevers on weight bearing parts of the floor-bench area. That said, it's possible to turn the wasted space into storage bins using access doors. And if your risers are small, you might not lose much space at all.
- How will you get it on the truck? I'm presenting this question simply as something you'll need to plan out. Most builds I've seen begin on the garage floor, then before it gets too heavy to lift moves up to cinder blocks or sawhorses, then onto the truck once it's complete. I've heard stories, though, of occasionally getting stuck in situations where the camper is off the truck and, for some reason or another (maybe a jack slips or you accidentally back into it wrong), the camper is on the ground with no good way to lift it back on. Again, just something to think about.