DIY pickup truck camper shell

Updated July 20, 2017

So many pickup truck beds are open to the elements. Materials, provisions, sports equipment, furniture and any number of other things left in an open truck bed are at the mercy of two treacherous forces: weather and theft. There is a way to safeguard valuables, have a good time and not spend too much money: a do-it-yourself truck camper shell. When you design it to suit your needs, you decide the dimensions, you decide how many sleepers it can fit and you decide the materials.

Getting started

When you begin planning your camper shell, think about what services you want it to provide for you. It comes down to a test of value judgment. What's more important to you--utility or appearance? Security or easy access? Cold weather activities or warm weather activities? Room for bunks or simple sitting room?

You'll need to buy wood for framing, plywood and sliding windows. Depending on where and how you intend to use your new portable truck bed cabin, you'll also be looking for insulation solutions. Block off a weekend on the calendar for your big project. Many truck enthusiasts publish their plans on the Internet, and you can use them as a guide. You must also keep the legal load limit of your truck in mind. For example, a half-ton pickup can legally carry up to 454kg (1000 lbs).


A camper shell also be used to protect your personal belongings from theft. Because you design the camper shell, you choose the locking mechanisms. With a camper shell, you can pull into a campsite that accepts trucks and there is no need to unload and set up a tent site. You can keep your bags and equipment stored neatly in your truck.


Remember, a camper shell does not sit snugly onto the truck bed by virtue of gravity alone. You must fasten it down. That's where jacks come in. Jacks are metal components that attach the bottom of the camper to the truck bed's surface. When you're building the camper shell, plan to integrate jacks along the outside perimeter of the unit's bottom as well so you can remove the camper when you like.

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About the Author

Jon Ellowitz is a writer and educator from Brooklyn, NY. He's written on topics of a prodigious range. They include cosmetic surgery, legal advice, limo services, HVAC contractors, landscaping, plumbing, and dermatology. Ellowitz has a Bachelor of Arts in English from Skidmore College.