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Building his own Plywood Truck Camper


When Chase Lawler wanted a wooden micro camper for the back of his pickup truck, he couldn’t find anyone who sold them or even custom-built them.

So he decided to design and build his truck camper using plywood instead of metal and fiberglass. Chase uses it for festivals, skiing, surfing, and just exploring.

Since a full-sized mattress fits inside, it’s pretty comfortable. And there’s still room to keep pillows and gear inside too. The camper is waterproof and sealed with polyurethane. Lawler is offering to build them for clients prices starting at $880.

Chase’s Plywood Truck Camper

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Images © Chase Lawler

The Ultimate Quick Guide to Building a Plywood Truck Bed Camper

The DIY trend and the tiny house movement have revolutionized the way we think about portable and compact living spaces. A key component of this trend is the truck bed camper, an affordable, customizable option for adventure-seekers and travel enthusiasts. This guide focuses on building a plywood truck bed camper, offering insights and answers to common questions.

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Why Plywood is Ideal for Truck Bed Campers

Plywood stands out as the material of choice for truck bed campers due to its balance of durability, weight, and versatility. Unlike OSB, plywood is less susceptible to moisture damage and can withstand the varying conditions of road travel. Its strength makes it suitable for both the frame and the interior structures of the camper.

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Designing Your Plywood Camper

When designing a plywood truck bed camper, consider the weight distribution and structural integrity. Use thicker plywood for the base and floor (around ½ to ¾ inches), ensuring it can support the weight of furnishings and occupants. For walls and internal structures, thinner plywood can be used to minimize weight.

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Plywood Types and Treatments

Choose marine-grade plywood for areas exposed to moisture, like the camper floor. For exterior walls, consider treated plywood or a protective coating like polyurethane to enhance durability and water resistance. Pressure-treated plywood is also an option for added resilience against the elements.

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Insulating and Lining the Camper

Insulation is key for comfort. Foam board insulation, sandwiched between plywood layers, offers a balance of thermal regulation and space-saving. For the interior walls, you can either varnish the plywood for a natural look or use laminate or thin paneling for a finished appearance.

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Images © Chase Lawler

Customizing Your Camper

Personalize your truck bed camper with built-in storage, foldable furniture, and custom shelving, all achievable with plywood due to its ease of cutting and assembly. Consider adding a raised platform for a sleeping area, with storage underneath, maximizing the limited space.

Windows and Ventilation

Incorporate windows and ventilation for light and air circulation. Use proper sealing around the windows to prevent moisture ingress. Skylights are also a great option for extra natural light.

Electrical and Plumbing Considerations

If you plan to include electrical or plumbing systems, design these elements before finalizing your plywood structure. This allows for the proper integration of wiring or pipes within the camper walls.

Finishing Touches

Finally, consider the aesthetics and functionality. Paint or varnish the exterior to protect against the elements and give your camper a polished look. Interior decorations, efficient lighting, and comfortable bedding can transform your plywood truck bed camper into a cozy, functional travel home.

Conclusion

Building a plywood truck bed camper can be a rewarding project, offering a custom, cost-effective solution for on-the-go living or recreational travel. By carefully selecting materials, designing for space efficiency, and personalizing your build, you can create a durable, comfortable, and unique tiny home on wheels.

Sources & resources

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Alex

Alex is a contributor and editor for TinyHouseTalk.com and the always free Tiny House Newsletter. He has a passion for exploring and sharing tiny homes (from yurts and RVs to tiny cabins and cottages) and inspiring simple living stories. We invite you to send in your story and tiny home photos too so we can re-share and inspire others towards a simple life too. Thank you!
{ 16 comments… add one }
  • Denise
    December 12, 2014, 10:28 am

    Neat, clean lines and well done!

  • Liz
    December 12, 2014, 10:59 am

    The guy built a topper and put a mattress in it. That isn’t a camper. It’s a truck with a topper and a mattress. That’s all.

    • Hell's Mechanic
      December 12, 2014, 2:20 pm

      Pretty much my thoughts.

      • Matthew
        February 9, 2015, 1:44 am

        Yeah I’ll join the negative group on that. How do you live in this. How do you shower, cook, go to the toilet. Its pretty much a mattress thrown in the back of a vehicle. This is not Tiny House worthy.

    • Cooltruth
      May 17, 2016, 6:44 pm

      I’d add a single burner propane stove for cooking. Maybe a campsink and a solar shower, a can to pee in would come in handy. A cooler to keep foods cold could probably be fitted in there. Good camper for traveling stealthily as it wouldn’t be too conspicuous. I like plywood especially if weather proof so you’d stay dry inside. Looks nicely built.

    • John
      July 17, 2017, 8:34 pm

      He might be starting out so don’t discourage his enthusiasm and his creativity

  • Jon
    December 12, 2014, 12:32 pm

    Might have been more cost effective and sustainable to buy a used topper …

  • Jack Palmer
    December 12, 2014, 2:37 pm

    What makes a full sized GMC a “micro truck” ? Like others have said, “a plywood truck topper with a mattress” . What makes it a camper? The mattress?

  • Comet
    December 12, 2014, 6:37 pm

    Yeah–we built something like this about 30 years ago to truck goats around in–and ours even had a hay loft! And a very cute step sided lil’ red pick up truck to go with.

    For almost $900 that is a LOT of money for a few sheets of plywood some 2×4’s and hinges and nails.

    I expected to see at the very LEAST some sort of mini kitchen with a 5 gallon water spigot; a stove; and a “sink”.

    Nope.

  • Paul
    December 13, 2014, 2:23 pm

    Ooooh, critical much? So, yeah, he built a topper (as you American’s call it) and added a mattress. And you are critical because it is called a micro camper? If it was a tent on the ground you wouldn’t hesitate to say that it is camping now would you?

    And Jon, as it said in the article, he wasn’t able to find a one where he is, selling new or used. That is why he built it.

    Comet, seeing as making one of these would be custom built for each vehicle how is $880ish excessive? It isn’t just a few sheets of plywood, 2 x 4’s and hinges and nails. It is time too. Would you build one for peanuts? Yeah, thought not. Labour is time which equals money. Oh, and by the way, 3 windows in there as well. Not to mention he is a master craftsman in the building/repair business.

    Nope, doesn’t seem excessive to me.

    • Tommy
      October 13, 2022, 2:12 am

      Well said sir. Seems everyone has a critical opinion about someone who builds what they want for their purposes. These are the people who sit on their lazy asses and complain about criticize others.

  • Jennie
    June 23, 2015, 3:32 pm

    This is really cool! The skills that go into this kind of thing! Amazing wee camper!

  • Will
    August 30, 2015, 5:46 pm

    I kind of dig it. I don’t know that I would call it fully flushed out, but the idea is solid and the inspiration is there to customize to your hearts content. I might have fully enclosed the unit with interior walls and a floor, but this was his work and I’m ok with it. He made it and didn’t sit on the side lines griping.

  • Corey
    November 21, 2015, 2:13 am

    Not rocket science obviously, but for the cost of the materials, which always cost more than you figure on and the time to gather them together and build it. It’s probably a fair price. Not all have the skills to build it well.
    Also not everyone has the tools or space to do it on their own. Some just want to go buy it and get it done. For these reasons I think he has a good product at an affordable price that will definitely be marketable. Here’s to all those budding entrepreneurs!

  • Richard B. Dickman
    June 25, 2021, 4:59 pm

    Would like to also be able to transfer for use onto a pickup truck bed as a slide-in.

  • Marsha Cowan
    December 5, 2023, 5:17 pm

    Nicely done! Looks comfortable and practical.

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