DIY Camper Series Part 3: Building Out the Camper

July 1st, 2016 by

Welcome back to our DIY Camper Series, Part 3: Building the Camper. We’re excited about this project and glad you’re still with us, because this is where all the magic happens.

In our second installment of the series, “Turning the Bed into a Camper,” we discussed popular DIY truck bed camper styles and dissected their differences and benefits. After some talk, myself and the writing team came up with what I’ve dubbed the “Welcome Home” style.

“Welcome Home” Style: Core Components and Functionality

“Welcome Home” style has a few core components that allow it to function as an open-air style or closed in truck. The purpose of this is to make it a comfortable living space even when the weather is bad. Taking a look at the side image, you can see we have a lot more going on than just cargo space.

The three main components of this truck camper are:

  • A specially-made table/bed platform (homemade)
  • 1-2 storage cubbies placed on the side of the truck bed (purchased)
  • Portable Gazebo style tent (purchased)
  • More accessories that you may want to add to the truck bed:
    • A cabinet (homemade or bought)
    • Roof racks overhead (homemade or bought)

Some of the above objects can be purchased at the store and some of them can be made by yourself, if you are up for it. Keep in mind, the specs that we use in our truck bed could differ for your own camper depending on the size of your truck bed.

Specially-Made Roller Table/Bed

This specially-designed table/bed is what allows the dual-functionality of the “Welcome Home” style camper. The table/bed consists of two pieces of sturdy wood or plywood.

The bottom piece of wood is bolted down to the truck bed and has two wheel tracks installed on top of it. The top piece of wood has wheels that roll through tracks and table legs for support that fold up under it. The wheels allow a user to easily slide the top piece of wood out for use as a table.

When the bed is extended outside of the truck, it becomes a big table for cooking, eating, and socializing. Directions and supplies needed to build this special bed are below. When you are ready to go to sleep, fold up the stands and slide the bed back into the camper.

Exhibit A: Side View

Storage Cubby

You can purchase either a square storage cubby that has 4 different cubes within it or a storage cubby that has 8 cubes. Both of these options are available at almost any home living store, or you can make your own and we’ll discuss  how to build it below.

You can either have the storage cubby on one or both sides of the bed, like this.

Exhibit B: Back End

Portable Fold-Up Gazebo

To the far left of Exhibit A is a heavy duty party tent gazebo (optional, but recommended). There are many different types of tents you can purchase, but we chose this type for a few different reasons. Most importantly, it has three walls that offer protection from the sun and bugs, and the fourth wall can be rolled up and is wide enough to fit around the truck bed topper.

So, prior to extending the table/bed platform, we back up our camper into the front of the open gazebo wall, and presto! Our truck camper is no longer confined to a small space. With a foldable table or two and some fold-up lawn chairs, you have your very own indoor picnic/entertainment area while outdoors. It’s uncanny.

A variety of portable fold-up gazebos can be purchased at most lifestyle stores, but it would be easier to find at an outdoor living store for camping and hunting, or online.

Other Accessories

Mini Fridge

On the right, we added a little mini-fridge. In hindsight, it would’ve made more sense to place it in the image where the cube organizer is, since it has to be plugged into the power inverter overhead.

Roof Racks

Speaking of things overhead, we have two racks attached to the roof of the topper for hanging clothes and storing even more cargo in case the cabinet isn’t enough. When discussing truck cap selection in the first part of our series, an interior clothes rod was one of the add-ons A.R.E. offered. We opted out of that because the roof rack doesn’t just need to be for clothes.


Against the back wall of the truck bed is a cabinet for storage space. We figure small items that one may use frequently through the day will be placed in the bins, where as the cabinet can secure other items such as cookware, clothes, electronics, etc. Because it is bolted down into the truck bed, it can also be used as a safe with or without a padlock.


Welcome Home – Let’s Build It!

Below are all of the supplies needed and how to build the various components below.

Before we start suggesting accessories you may wish to have in your camper, let’s go through how we’re going to build it. Most of the work is already done, but when it comes to the bed platform(s), the overhead roof racks, the cabinet (and the cubby), it’ll take a little time, energy, and the right supplies to make it work. Here’s what you’ll need:

Tools and Accessories


Power Drill

Sixteen bolts. Choose length based on thickness of truck bed floor and truck cap roof. We’ll need 16 more bolts, but the diameter of the bolt depends on the wheel (see below). 128 nuts and washers to secure each bolt

16-20 Phillips flat head screws, #8 or 0.16”; 3” in length should be more than enough

Sealant or rust preventive coating

Wooden door knobs or handles (screws may or may not be included)

Eight door hinges (screws may or may not be included)



Two sheets of plywood for the top and bottom pieces — both 48” x 74” x 3/4” (or 1” if you want it thicker. It will be easier to find a 4’ x 8’ piece to trim down from 96” to 74”)

For the table stands

Two 2×4 x 3ft pieces of wood. Most tailgates (when opened) are just under 3ft from the ground.


Two 2×4 x 16ft pieces of wood

Caster wheels (dimensions based on track space, but we’re aiming for 4” wheels that can hold up to 225lbs)

Four cubes of wood

Most of this set-up should be self-explanatory, but we’ve provided a quick walkthrough with sketches. Some of the bed platform installation may be trickier if you opted in for the bedliner from A.R.E., but not by much, so enjoy it.

Bed Platform

Take the first sheet of plywood for the platform and set it up somewhere in the middle of the width of the truck bed. Set it about a foot or so away from the back wall. A bolt will go in each corner of the plywood; mark each corner with painters tape; this will help you keep in mind where you’re going to drill. Also check under the truck to make sure you won’t be drilling into anything that could cause damage and/or create dangerous situations.

If it’s all clear, drill your holes for the bolts in each corner. After drilling the holes, apply rust preventive coating to each side of the newly formed holes. Then install the platform and bolts.
Secure with washers and nuts to the bolts on the underside of truck.

Bed Tracks

We want to cut each 2×4 x 16ft down to 70”. Because it’s 16ft long, cut in half, each piece will be 96”. We’ll have 16” left over to use after trimming it down.

Once you have them down to 70” long, drill two of them 4” apart into the platform, 2-3” from the top and about an inch inward from the side. This creates one track for a 4” wheel. Cut the leftover wood into two 2x4x1 pieces to screw into the end of each set of tracks to act as a stop for the wheels.

Repeat these steps for the second track.

Rolling/Sliding Bed Platform

Install the wheels as directed onto either side of our second piece of plywood directly parallel to the positions of the track. Line up the side with the wheels and slide it into the track. Roll the platform all the way back and place a cube in the track in front of each wheel to keep the platform from sliding forward.

If done correctly, the bed platform should be able to slide nearly all the way out, with the back end resting on the tailgate.

Table Legs

Because the sliding bed platform can also be used as a table, we need to add some legs. This can be done prior to installation of the wheels/drawer sliders or after. Install the door hinges into the corners that will be furthest from the tailgate once extended.

The hinges should be positioned so that the top opens towards the bottom and vice-versa on the same side the wheels are installed on. This is so that after installing the 2x4s with the hinges, they will open outward and fold inward. Be sure they won’t be in the way of the bed tracks when folded up.

Before installing the 2x4s, slide the bed platform out and make sure each 2×4 connects the underside of the bed/table to the ground. We cut them a couple inches longer than we needed to make sure they connected. If they’re a little short, it’s back to the store. If they’re a little longer, we can trim them down. Just don’t take off too much.

Now install the 2x4s, fold up the new table legs, and slide the bed platform back into place. Slide it back out to make sure it works without hindrance, and the legs meet the ground.

Take a break to admire your work.

That was honestly the hardest part. The rest of this is fairly easy.


You may not be able to find the exact dimensions. You can always go bigger and then cut them down to size based on your needs. Below are the quantities and sizes needed for our project; make sure you get enough sheets of plywood to yield the pieces described below.

Wood and Supplies

Two sheets of plywood 10” x 36” x 1/2”

Two sheets of plywood 10” x 30” x 1/2”

Two sheets of plywood 30” x 36” x 1/2”

Velcro and Gorilla Glue (optional)


Cut one of the 30” x 36” x 1/2” sheets of plywood down the middle. Take the two 10” x 36” x 1/2” sheets of plywood and screw each end into the side of one of the 10” x 30” x 1/2” sheets near the edge.

Now connect the opposite ends to the side of the other 10” x 30” x 1/2” sheet near the edge. You should now have a box with no faces.

Screw one of the sheets of 30” x 36” x 1/2” plywood into the edges of the box on either side. On the opposite side, install the remaining four hinges into the open face of the box along the edges on the outside.

Screw in your door handles or knobs near the middle of each halves of the sheet of plywood we cut in half on either side. Now, on the same side, install the hinges into these halves in their appropriate places near the edges.

The cabinet should be able to open and close freely. It would be a good idea to also bolt it down into the truck bed near the back wall. If desired, you can glue velcro to the back wall and the back of the cabinet to secure its backside and the bottom.

There should be several inches between the cabinet drawers and the bed platform so they don’t smack you in the head; although, unless you’re alone, no one should be driving your truck while you’re asleep in the camper anyways.


Things like the cubby can be built or purchased, that’s up to you.


You may not be able to find the exact dimensions. You can always go bigger and then cut them down to size based on your needs. Below are the quantities and sizes needed for our project; make sure you get enough sheets of plywood to yield the pieces described below.


Two 2x4s 30” long

Four 2x2s 4” long

Two sheets of plywood 3” x 35” 1/2”

Four sheets of plywood 3” x 3” x 1/2”


Measure out where you want each roof rack to go. Horizontal, vertical, it’s your choice. Take some painters tape and outline the edge of where each rack should go. This will help you keep in mind where you’re going to install them.

Take each sheet of 3” x 35” 1/2” plywood and drill the holes into the truck cap within the lines of tape.

Go on top of the truck cap and thread the bolts through the holes; use nuts and washers to secure them. Remember to use rust preventative coating on the holes. It would be wise to cover any exposed bolts to avoid injury when moving around.

Screw the ends of the of two 2x2s onto each end of one of the 2x4s. Repeat the process for the other.

Now screw each sheet of 3” x 3” x 1/2” plywood into the bottom (not connected) of each 2x2s.

Now that your roof racks are assembled, you just need to screw the 3” x 3”sheets into the sheets of plywood currently bolted into the truck cap in their appropriate places, about 2.5” inches inward from each end.

That’s about it people. All the woodwork is done. Once again, the cubby can be made about the same way we made the cabinet, just with a shelf or two and dividers.

If you purchased an AirBedz mattress from A.R.E. you can test this baby out tonight.

The next and last installment of our DIY Camper series will cover some accessories you may wish to purchase to better improve upon this project, as well as discuss the possibilities. For now, enjoy your new camper my friends!

Photo source and copyright: Jordan A. Rodriguez; Written by: Jordan A. Rodriguez