toyota tacoma truck camper

How to Build a Lightweight Truck Camper: The Ultimate DIY Guide

Building your own truck camper is a great way to get out and explore the world on your own terms. Not only does it save you money in the long run, but it’s also a fun project that you can complete with just a few basic tools and some carpentry skills. If you want to learn how to build a lightweight truck camper, you’ve come to the right place.

We’ll cover topics like what a truck camper is and why building your own might be a good idea, as well as walk you through the entire building process step-by-step. So whether you’re a seasoned DIY-er or this is your first time picking up a hammer, you can do this.

What Is a DIY Truck Camper?

A truck camper is a small living space mounted on a pickup truck’s bed. It allows you to explore the world without spending too much money or sacrificing comfort.

The camper’s design can be as straightforward or complex as you want. Still, the most common types are lightweight cabins that consist of a sleeping area and a kitchenette. Sometimes, there could be an additional room or shelves/boxes for storage. They usually have at least one window on each side to let in natural light, but not much else in terms of interior decoration.

There are two main types of truck campers: hard-sided and soft-sided. Hard-sided models are typically made from wood or aluminum. The soft-sided ones utilize canvas walls that can be rolled up whenever you want (this makes setup time much quicker). These campers can also come in different shapes and sizes, depending on what you need.

build a lightweight truck camper
The camper can be hard-side or soft-sided. Photo: Cabineer

How to Build a Lightweight Truck Camper: A Step-by-Step Guide

If you’re like most people, a DIY truck camper probably sounds like a pretty good idea. Not only will it save money in the long run (and who doesn’t want that?), but it’s also a fun project that needs just a few tools and some carpentry skills.

Now let’s get into how to build a lightweight truck camper of your own.

Step 1: Choose the Right Truck

The first step is choosing the right vehicle. You’ll want to find a pickup truck that has a bed long enough to accommodate your camper and all of your supplies.

If you’re not sure whether or not your truck is up for the task, there are a few ways to find out:

Check the payload rating. This number indicates how much weight your truck can safely carry, including the camper and all of your gear.

Measure the truck bed. The length and width of your truck’s bed will dictate what kind of camper you can build.

Do a test run. Load up your truck with all of your camping gear and take it for a spin. See how it handles when it’s fully loaded, and make sure that there is enough clearance between the cab and camper so that you can safely get in and out of both.

Step 2: Build the Camper Frame

Now it’s time to build your camper frame. You’ll need a few tools for this part of the job, including Sawzall (or another type of reciprocating saw), drill bits or screwdriver, tape measure, level, hammer, and nails or screws.

The frame is the foundation of the camper, so take your time and get this part right. Start by measuring the length and width of your truck bed, then subtracting a few inches from each measurement to give yourself some wiggle room (you’ll thank yourself later).

Cut your lumber to these dimensions, and create notches at the board ends using the Sawzall. This will create a frame that fits snugly into your truck bed.

If you’re using screws instead of nails, pre-drill the holes in the lumber before you start driving the screws in. Doing this will prevent wood splitting.

Step 3: Assemble the Frame

Once your frame is cut, it’s time to assemble it. Start by putting one of the end boards into position, then use a level to make sure it’s straight. Nail or screw it into place, then repeat this process with the other end board.

Next, attach the sideboards to complete your frame. These should be placed at a 45-degree angle to support both ends of the camper and keep everything square. Use a level here to avoid any wobbly edges. Once everything is secured, you’ll have a fully assembled frame.

Congratulations! You’ve just built the foundation of your DIY truck camper.

Step 4: Install Insulation and Sheathing

Now we’re getting somewhere. Let’s move on to insulation and sheathing the frame you just built. This will make the camper cozy and protect from weather elements (like rain or snow).

You’ll need insulation roll cutters, spray adhesive, a stapler gun with staples (or screws), and a level.

Start by spraying the adhesive onto the frame, then quickly roll out the insulation and staple it into place. Make sure to use a level as you go so that everything is nice and straight. If you’re using screws instead of staples, pre-drill the holes before you start screwing in.

Once the insulation is in place, it’s time to add the sheathing. This is a thin piece of plywood that will help protect your camper from rain and snow. Cut it to size, then spray adhesive to attach it to the frame.

diy truck camper
You can customize the camper any way you want. Photo: Hiatus Campers

Step 5: Install the Roof

The last step of how to build a lightweight truck camper is installing the roof. This is another crucial step in the process, so make sure you take your time and get it right.

Start by measuring from the top of the frame to the desired height of your roof. Cut two pieces of lumber to this length, then notch the ends to fit snugly into the frame. These will be your roof supports.

Once everything is cut, it’s time to assemble the roof. Staple (or screwing) the front and back boards into place, then do the same with the sides. Make sure everything is straight and level before moving on.

Finally, install the roof supports. Position them at each corner of the roof and keep them angled to fit against the top of the frame. Nail or screw them into place, then give your camper a final inspection.

You’re all done! This is how to build a lightweight truck camper. Now it’s time to start packing for your next adventure.


Building your own truck camper can be a fun and rewarding experience, but it’s essential to take your time and do it right. If you follow these simple steps for how to build a lightweight truck camper, you’ll get a sturdy and reliable trailer (not to mention the bragging rights!).

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