My Favorite Pop-Up Slide-In Truck Camper Design

[Reposted from]

Of all the RV/camper designs, my favorite is the Pop-Up Slide-In Truck Camper.

slide in pop up truck camperHere's why I like 'em:
  • Off-Road Capability -- By putting a slide-in camper on an off-road truck, you can access more remote areas than you ever could with a traditional small-wheeled vehicle.
  • Fuel Efficiency - The low profile saves gas by virtue of its reduced frontal area, which is the largest contributor to wind resistance.

Off-road readiness is important to me, because my main motivation for the nomadic lifestyle -- beyond my monastic drive to "live simply" -- is digging for fossils, gold, and gemstones. i.e. I'm a rockhound. I drive a Tacoma Prerunner, and I want to be able to get to those remote sites, "drop anchor" and spend a few days or weeks exploring the territory and digging.

And though I don't spend that many days driving, the distance between sites is significant enough that I do find myself on fast country roads and freeways where wind resistance becomes a serious factor.

So the pop-top design is a really clever way to not only keep the frontal area down for the drive, but also keep the center of gravity low for off-road stability. For my purposes, the combination is tough to beat.

I've figured out that there are quite a few companies who will custom-build these pop-up slide-in campers. The aluminum frame campers are pretty impressive.
Phoenix Camper PULSE
Phoenix PULSE Camper Self-Contained
But the really big variable in my opinion is the interior design. Some companies do a much better job at efficiently fitting the essentials into that little space. The most impressive I've seen is Phoenix Camper's PULSE design that incorporates both a toilet and shower into a 6'x5' floor plan. They do it by combining them into one unit, as a sit-down shower.

Here's a quote from an interview with the designer:
I had a Tacoma customer who wanted a fully self contained camper. He only had a six-foot bed, did not want the camper to go beyond the tail lights of the truck, but he did want hot water, shower, cassette toilet, kitchen cabinets, and all of the other amenities that people often want including a refrigerator, jacks, converter, stove, and two separate beds. He wanted a camper where three adults could sleep and still have a restroom.
The video below shows off one of those designs. I love looking at them for ideas for when I build my own DIY truck camper.

Note: My opinion on my "favorite" has been seriously swayed by the Wedgetail truck camper design from Australia that offers a flip-top design that opens into a full-size tent with balcony. I'd LOVE to figure out how to make one like that, and I just may. :)

Hi, I'm Mobile Rik! Visit my home site and check out my growing collection of projects and ideas for building a super-frugal sustainable DIY RV Truck Camper to Live Off The Grid.

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Why Rent A Campsite When You Can Camp For Free?

[Reposted from]

Free Campground Question 1: How much are you paying to camp?

Question 2: Has it been worth it, or are you looking for a cheaper way?

Don't get me wrong... Paid campsites definitely offer some familiar conveniences to new or occasional campers or those who want their RV lifestyle to resemble a "rustic resort"...

But I'm guessing since you landed on this page that like many long-term or full-time campers, you're getting tired of the expense.

Considering that even if you're able to find an under-$25/day long-term campground, you're still looking at a monthly budget that resembles renting a room in the city. If you can afford it, that's one thing. But if you're trying to stretch a small fixed income, the monetary outlay -- not to mention other inconveniences of sharing an popular campground with city-folk -- must be starting to wear on your patience!

Did you know that it's completely possible to camp for free?

It's true! There are tons of free campsites, along with many under $12. Many of them are on public land, and they vary in the type and amount of "hookups" (approaching NONE)... but they're totally free to use.

Here's an example of a free campsite:

Chiriaco Summit - Chiriaco Summit, California
(1 votes, average: 3.00 out of 5, rated)
A free dry camping area behind the General Patton Museum. No facilities at campsites. Fuel, gift shop, post office, mini-mart, and restaurant nearby. Check out the website for more services and facilities. Look for sign "Free Dry Camping" at east edge of museum parking lot directing you to camping area behind museum. Multiple camp sites areas along several east-west dirt roads. Dirt roads OK for cars/RVs. Some freeway noise, but site is out of sight of service road....

Here's a $6/night campsite:

Corn Springs Campground - Desert Center, California
(7 votes, average: 3.29 out of 5, rated)
Camping Fee: $6/night. Nine camp sites including one group site is available with tables, grills, potable water, and shade ramadas. Handicap accessible vaulted toilets are also available in this campground. The 10 miles of gravel road to the springs from I-10 is very rough: average speed about 12 MPH. The Corn Springs Campground is located deep in a canyon of the Chuckwalla Mountains, and is situated by a stand of more than 60 native California fan palms. This oasis supports abundant wildlife and is an important stopping place for migratory birds. Corn Springs was a major occupation site of prehistoric Native American Indian groups....

If you hadn't already gathered as much, these listings are reproduced from an online directory chock full of cheap and free camp grounds.

It's called: FreeCampsites.Net

English: Grande Ronde Lake Campground in Wallo...
English: Grande Ronde Lake Campground in Wallowa-Whitman National Forest in northeastern Oregon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Most of the cheap and free sites are in the scenic wilderness of the Desert Southwest of California and Arizona, which respectively have 218 and 124 listings apiece. Most other states have between 10 and 40 $11/day and under sites listed. Many also accept the usual discounts.

So if the thought of giving your a shot at casual or long-term "boondocking" is sounding appealing, check out the directory, and see how much "rent money" you can begin saving every month, while seeing a bit more of the country you may have been missing all this time!

Mobile Rik:
Visit my home site and check out my growing collection of projects and ideas for building a super-frugal sustainable DIY RV Truck Camper to Live Off The Grid.

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Enjoy Your Right To Free Camping On BLM Public Lands

Is your budget feeling a bit stretched by the high cost of long-term camping?

Then you may be surprised to find out that there are huge areas of the American West where you can simply pull off the road and camp for free. And when I say "huge," I mean HUGE!

All you have to do is look at your map to find areas marked as National Forest or BLM land, and you'll see that they literally are everywhere. These lands are owned by the Federal Government. (BLM stands for the Bureau of Land Management). And you have the right as a citizen to politely pull off the road and set up camp, so long as there isn't some local ordinance against it. It really is that easy.

Public lands held by the National Forest Servi...
Public lands held by the National Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management in the Western US. Data from (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Many of the cheap and free campgrounds listed on FreeCampsites.Net are within BLM or National Forest lands. Some are hardly more than a picnic bench and a fire ring, and maybe an "iron ranger" box for you to honorably deposit your small camp fee. But the simple fact is, that if are a self-sufficient boondocker, you don't need to spend any time at all researching official campsites. You can simply drive into a pretty area, find a spot you like, and camp as long as you like.

There is usually just one rule that you should check on, and that is the one about the "dispersed camping" time limit. Typically the rule is that you can't spend more than 14 days in a row in the same spot. After 14 days you'll need to drive to a different location at least 30 miles away until a certain amount of time has passed (usually 14-76 days) before you can return.

Note: Some experienced boondockers will tell you that the farther you get off the beaten path, the less likely a ranger will even know you're camping out there. While it's cool to know that one could actually get away with a much longer stay, I prefer to keep to the "honor code". (And after 2 weeks, I tend to get excited to check out new areas anyway.)
The other rules of dispersed camping are the usual ones that any mindful camper follows: 1) Always pack out your trash. 2) Avoid camping within 100 feet of springs, so that water is accessible to wildlife. 3) Don't leave campfires unattended.

Other good guidelines to follow are:
  • Minimize your ecological impact. Choose to camp at a previously used site, if possible, and stay on existing travel routes rather than trample existing vegetation. Don't make new fire rings. Just clean out the old one. Use already-dead wood for the campfire. Living trees are what makes campsites appealing, so leave them be.
  • Be nice to future campers. Don't ruin the fire ring by adding cans and bottles or throwing dirt onto it. The next person will just have to clean it up.
  • Leave no trace. Use a fire pan to contain your fire and easily remove all evidence you were there once you're done. Bury your human waste 6-12 inches deep, away from waterways and campsites. Pack out your trash and pay forward a few good deeds by picking up a bit more.

The best way to find out the specifics of BLM land in your destination area is to search for the state and local region and request information from the local offices.

If you prefer a more do-it-yourself approach, you can also purchase BLM maps that cover a whole state, or zoomed-in topographic versions if you want to scope out potential camping sites from a birds-eye view.
(You can also find other cool information like mining claims by searching the site or Google.)

Mobile Rik is building a solar powered DIY Truck Camper for precisely this purpose. Stay tuned for his progress!

Boondocking Off The Grid Means Free Camping!

Wanna stop spending all your "rent money" on campsites? Then learn how to Boondock!

"Boondocking" basically refers to camping long-term completely off the grid without external power, gas, waste, and water hookups.

Car Camping at Hunting Island State Park, Sout...
Hunting Island State Park, SC (Wikipedia)
Thousands of people everywhere are boondocking right now. Many are far out of your sight, enjoying the wilderness, like a pioneer. Others are doing it right under your nose, living quiet lives in and out of their tiny-home vehicles, driving off whenever they see fit.

While urban boondocking seems to be a decaying art form as cities crack down on "overnighting" (even making a dent on Walmart's long-time encouragement of 24-hr RV parking), the American West still has thousands of square miles of scarcely explored public wilderness that can be camped absolutely freely, as your public right.

If you have an RV or vehicle suitable for conversion, you too can be a boondocker, and finally stop paying "double rent" on both your stationary home and your mobile one.

To make it work, you'll likely need to upgrade your systems -- (I highly recommend solar power) -- And believe it or not, it's possible to do the upgrade for about the same as a month's "rent" at a campsite -- and after that... years of "free" power!

Of course, the other task is to adjust your lifestyle towards conserving more electricity, water, and other forms of energy that we take for granted in our first-world lifestyles... but I'll just assume that you found this website precisely because that's what you're interested in! :-)

English: A Class A motorhome with the slide-ou...
At the end of this article, I'd like to point you to a number of articles from long-time experienced boondockers, which I've found most helpful. If you have a background in survivalism, off-grid living, and you have a bit of "street smarts," boondocking will be right up your alley. If you're more coming from the perspective of a vacationer looking to save some money, there are plenty of good sites with helpful tips for managing your resources and staying safe.

Boondocking introduces a lot of concerns that we're usually not used to thinking about. Many of them naturally revolve around issues of safety and survival. Besides scaling back on our first-world "conveniences" offered by unlimited electricity and water, we also have new security issues of having our entire lifestyle packaged into a tiny moving room on wheels with frequent chances to be stranded in questionable areas or in the middle of nowhere. An advantage is that as long as we're in it, we can always just drive our little house away. But it's more complicated.

It's very weird to be faced with the issue of "I may not be allowed to park my house here overnight." Trying to "stealth camp" in urban areas always runs the risk that a copper will come knocking on your window at 4am. So a lot of the advice you'll find on the web is about finding good places to get some sleep. Walmart used to be a good standby, but that's less the case now, as some no longer allow it. Casinos are still pretty friendly to RVers staying from 1 to 3 nights, but you should check in advance.

But once you're equipped, the real joy is to get out of town, into some National Forest land, and enjoy being able to just pull over anywhere and sleep under the stars. Under dispersed camping rules, you can typically camp up to 14 days in one place before moving on. Is your RV equipped to spend two weeks completely off the grid?

Some nice sites about Boondocking: - Public database of GPS coordinates to boondocking locations.
CheapRVLiving - Great articles on the boondocking lifestyle.
Camping and Boondocking on Public Lands - A whole blog dedicated to boondocking.

Hi, I'm Mobile Rik! Visit my home site and check out my growing collection of projects and ideas for building a super-frugal sustainable DIY RV Truck Camper to Live Off The Grid.

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How To Make Your Own Homemade DIY Truck Camper

Do it yourself camper RV
DIY Truck Camper (source:
[Reposted from]

Want a great way to save *thousands* on an RV? Build one yourself!

If you have some basic construction and carpentry skills, you'll be pleasantly surprised to learn just how easy and totally inexpensive it can be to slap together your own DIY truck camper from hardly more than a small bundle of 2x4s, some plywood, a bucket of screws, and some paint. Bolt it all onto your truck bed, and depending on your design choices, you could conceivably have an actual working RV for less than $150.

 It naturally seems like there must be something special about building an RV, but if you really think about it, a "mobile home" is really nothing more than a tiny house -- That happens to be sitting in the bed of your truck. Constructing one is actually a lot like making a shed. Depending on your design decisions, it may be even easier, or a lot more complicated -- And that's entirely your choice! You'll probably want your little "truck bed shed" to be light-weight, and it should be built to withstand high winds and mild earthquakes... both depending on how you prefer your driving experience. :) 

Bob Wells' DIY Truck Camper
For myself, the pop-up slide-in camper I'm building for my short-bed Tacoma Prerunner, is going to be doing a lot of off-roading to fossil digs and rockhounding sites. I'd like it to stay light on the tires, but $1000+ in aluminum framing is out of the question. Fortunately, since I don't intend to fill it with much in terms of built-in furniture and a humongous water tank, I can afford to use some heavier-than-typical construction. Hence, I'll be making mine from cheap and super-sturdy 2x4s. Like I said -- It's a truck bed shed!
For a much simpler design than a "slide in" offers, you can simply make the "top half" of an RV-type camper shell and just bolt it right onto your bed rails. With a bit more work, you can even turn it into a full-size camper with a cabover extension like Bob Wells at explains in detail how to build. The required wood, you'll see, is minimal -- about fifteen or so 2x4s and a few sheets of strong plywood -- to make a good sturdy home-built camper.
Of course I'll need a door, which I'll either fashion myself from some plywood or an actual salvaged RV door. Windows? I haven't decided if I'll really need glass windows, or if I'll keep it solid below and depend on the cut outs in the pop top. If I do opt for windows, I already have some tempered glass I saved from thrift store coffee tables... but meanwhile, I have a Craigslist alert set to look for a junked camper window.

Slide-In Camper or Bolt-On Camper Shell?

On the other hand, the Slide-On Camper design gives you the flexibility to park your camper on stilts while you go adventuring, with your truck bed open to get supplies. The trade-off is the added complexity of constructing a solid floor and bottom-half that both accounts for the wheel-well risers and essentially "hangs" from the camper's top half when it's on stilts, ideally supporting one or more people jumping around inside when it's jacked up. (For an all-out full-featured DIY slide-in camper build, check out Dan Rogers' Homebuilt Glen-L Truck Camper. Lots of photos.)

Since the Slide-On design typically spills over the rails a bit, the typical direct Bolt-On camper design has on overall cleaner smooth-sided look that carries over into more fuel-efficient aerodynamics. But what if you really want the extra width? Then you get to make a design choice. When you build your own camper, you don't need to worry about what's "typical" -- You can do whatever you like. If you'd like the added width of a slide-on, but don't want to bother with building a fully self-supporting "tiny house on stilts," you can feel free to just bolt on your own wide-body camper top, provided you can figure out how to support it on the rails. [Alternatively, you could keep the smooth-sided profile, but explore building "slide outs" to extend the sides out a few more feet once you're parked. I'm getting more and more intrigued by RVs with slide-outs. Some of them are really amazing.]

 (Next up in Part 2: What about a DIY Pop-Up Camper?)

Hi, I'm Mobile Rik! Visit my home site and check out my growing collection of projects and ideas for building a super-frugal sustainable DIY RV Truck Camper to Live Off The Grid.

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