DIY Camper Series – Part 2: Turning the Bed into a Camper

June 24th, 2016 by

Welcome back campers! In this installment of our DIY Camper Series, we’re going to talk about the different designs and ideas that you can implement to make your truck bed a home on wheels and then some. If you didn’t read the DIY Camper Series Part One about truck cap selection, you can click here to catch up.

We went with the TW series from A.R.E. Aside from the LED lights and the power inverter, our truck topper doesn’t have other special add-ons. Hopefully by now you have made a decision on what truck cap is best for your truck and camping experience and and you’ve been able to put it on.

At the moment, the inside of the truck bed, or our soon-to-be camper, is barren. Let’s do something about that.

Storage v. Living Space

Before we jump into building out our camper, we need to make a very serious decision. We did a little research, and it seems like there are two popular options for transforming your truck into a camper. One option focuses on living space and sleep space, which is called “base camp” style. The other option focuses more on cargo space and the available sleeping space is referred to as “coffin” style sleeping.

When opting for “coffin” style, an elevated sleeping platform is installed at the height of the wheel well and the sleeping mattress goes on top of that and all of the cargo is under the platform on the floor of the truck bed. This sacrifices living space, and as the name suggests, most people say sleeping that way feels like sleeping in a coffin.

“Base camp” style has been growing in popularity because if the whole point of turning your truck into a camper is to have a home away from home, you need to have a comfortable and efficient living space. So in this style the truck bed has plenty of storage options that don’t clutter or constrict the sleeping space.

Before we move on, we’d like to point out Ryan from “Desk to Dirtbag” came up with a nice solution that combines both of those options. We thought it was a great idea, but we wanted to come up with our own design. Side note: there’s also many add-on products from A.R.E. we discussed last week, and one of those products were PickUp vaults.

With PickUp Vaults, you have two 48” x 94” x 5 5/8”* drawers. Plus, they come with side compartments for extra storage and you can load up to 2,000 pounds across the entire unit. The only problem? We weren’t a fan of the depth. If the drawers are about 6” deep, then that means you lose about 6” of headroom and end up with a little less than 4’. It’s doable, but during the brainstorm we opted for comfort and convenience and decided not to go with the vaults.

So after throwing some ideas around, we dissected the various styles for transforming a truck into a camper and combined them and added some of our own touches to make our own style — “Welcome Home” style.

“Welcome Home” Living

“Welcome Home” style allows for cargo, utilities, and comfort. Although the point of turning a truck into a camper is to live in the truck bed — sleeping, eating, and changing in that tight space is not the most sensible or comfortable thing in the summer, especially in the south. So we thought up a design that would be ideal for multiple weather conditions and situations.

So for “Welcome Home” style, we forego the raised bed platform, made a bed of our own, and added a cargo space on the sides of the truck bed. For extra cargo, we added a cabinet for cargo space. The cabinet is half the width of the truck bed and we positioned it against the back wall so it is completely out of the way.  

The bed platform we made is a large piece of sturdy wood that rests on the floor of the truck bed and features a kick-stand-like support and wheels. The wheels and kick-stand make it possible for you to easily pull the bed out of the truck bed, put the kickstand down, and sleep on the bed in the open air**. But if it were too cold or you found yourself in really bad weather, you can leave the bed in the back of the truck bed and be protected by the topper.

Even better, when the bed is not being used as a bed and you remove the bedding from it, you’re left with a large, flat piece of wood — so now your home also has a large dining table.

What if you could have a camper that you can live in, use as a social hotspot, and use to carry/transport your cargo? Well, we’re definitely on our way towards that.

Now we have a set design in-mind to transform our truck into a camper. However, to keep things short this round, we’re going show you how to build the “Welcome Home” style next week in the third installment of our DIY series, “Building out the Camper.”

Back View


*width and length based on truck bed measurements.
**Best for one person so you don’t roll off the sides. Otherwise, leave the platform inside and sleep on the mattress (inside or outside) when bedding with another camper.
Photo source and copyright: Jordan A. Rodriguez; Written by:  Jordan A. Rodriguez