How to make your own slide-in pickup camper

Updated February 21, 2017

Building your own slide-in pickup camper is a fairly serious endeavour, but thanks to ready-made building plans, you don't have to go it alone. If you want to build a pickup camper that can be slid on and off your truck, the best route to take is to use a set of plans purchased from companies such as Glen-L or Butler Projects. For about £32, you can get a detailed list of materials, schematics and helpful advice to get your pickup camper built correctly. This project can be done in a garage, and slid onto your truck when you're finished.

Measure your truck to ensure you purchase the right size plans for your pickup. Also determine the towing capacity of your truck by consulting your owner's manual. When you find the towing capacity, factor in the extras that will be added to the camper later, such as camping gear, food and human cargo. Because of that, don't plan to build a camper that maxes out your towing capacity with the "dry weight," or empty weight of your camper. Once you've determined the size and weight you can haul, purchase your plans and study them carefully.

Buy your camper materials, and ensure you have the right tools to do the work. For a quality slide-in camper, you'll need fibreglass or aluminium siding, plywood, lumber, industrial glue, windows, doors, various screws and other hardware. Follow your camper plans carefully to make sure you get the right materials. You'll also need at least some basic carpentry tools, such as a drill, saw, level and measuring tape.

Build the frame. You'll begin this process by cutting your floor piece, attaching it to your side and front walls, and then installing ceiling joists. Your back wall will consist mostly of a door opening with two small framed walls on either side. Since you are going to take your camper on and off your pickup, you'll want a solid frame before moving on.

Put insulation and siding in place. Some basic truck campers use plywood as siding to save money; for a slide-on slide-off model, however, you'll probably want to go with the lightest materials possible. Fibreglass or aluminium siding is ideal for this job, depending on the specifics of your camper plans. As you install siding, leave room for your vents, windows and the door.

Install your vents, door and window, caulking around each opening to make it weatherproof.

Install moulding on the corners of the camper. Caulk the corners, and cover them with aluminium moulding.

Install electrical and water components to the camper, including lighting, electricity, cooking gas and water. Get help from a professional electrician if you're not confident working with wiring.

Put interior features in place, including beds, tables, sink, storage areas, flooring and curtains.


Use reclaimed materials whenever possible to save cash and to tread a bit lighter on the planet. You can purchase building materials such as lumber, plywood, and plumbing and electrical components from rebuilding centres such as Habitat for Humanity's ReStore. If you're feeling adventurous, build the camper with your own plans and creativity. Many people have done it before, with varying levels of quality.

Things You'll Need

  • Drill
  • Saw
  • Measuring tape
  • Level
  • Camper plans
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About the Author

Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.