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Pickup Camper with Full Kitchen
Plans to Build a Sleeps 4 Expanding Truck Camper

Cover of plans for building an expanding truck camper that sleeps 4 adults
Pickup Camper with
Full Kitchen
Plans to Build a Sleeps 4 Expanding Truck Camper


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Get a restored copy of these vintage Sleeps 4 Expanding Truck Camper Plans with 17 Pages of Enhanced and Enlarged Figures and Illustrations and Searchable Text.
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Build an Expandable Camper
Two plywood boxes, sliding one
over the other, open up to make a
truck camper that sleeps four.

By A.S. Ryan

Part I
With the roof raised, facilities in the camper are readily available. Mom gets lunch.
With the roof raised, facilities in the camper are readily available. Mom gets lunch.
If you've been figuring that the cost of a truck plus a camper is a bit steep, or you're already a pickup truck owner but the budget won't stretch to a camper, here's a collapsible plywood unit you can build yourself. Just follow the blueprint on the following pages.

Opened up, this camper has over six feet of head room, lots of living space, and sleeping places for four. Closed, and lowered for minimum wind resistance, it's easy to drive, yet has enough head room to seat passengers while traveling. Removing the rear cab window makes easy access.

Two bumper jacks raise or lower the upper section, and hinged sides unfold to give two full-length bunks. Plastic side curtains button around the bunks to enclose the entire camper.

Raise the roof, using bumper jacks and extension supports at each end. Top door opens out, bottom door inward, to let you exit over tailgate if necessary.
Raise the roof, using bumper jacks and extension supports at each end. Top door opens out, bottom door inward, to let you exit over tailgate if necessary.
How to plan yours. Make careful measurements of your truck box to determine the size of the unit you'll build. Some of the dimensions given apply only to my truck (a 1965 Dodge six passenger pickup).

Find the minimum inside height by seating the tallest in the family on a board across the wheel wells. Most truck beds have at least four feet between wheel wells. This lets you use a full sheet of plywood as the floor. Test position all the main structural pieces after cutting. Be sure there's room to raise the tailgate.

Support raised roof inside with flip-up braces, outside with bolted on safety brackets. Stairs and bunk supports store inside camper when not in use.
Support raised roof inside with flip-up braces, outside with bolted on safety brackets. Stairs
and bunk supports store inside camper when not in use.
Set up for the night by opening out the side bunk and roof panels and bracing them with conduit. Lower braces rest on hooks that are bolted to the truck.
Set up for the night by opening out the side bunk and roof panels and bracing them with conduit. Lower braces rest on hooks that are bolted to the truck.
How to build it. First, lay out and cut the lower ends and side pieces, using B-B, concrete form grade fir plywood. Use the flattest panels you can find. Don't cut the door openings yet. To the end pieces, attach the guide strips (battens) that align the upper section for raising.

Assemble the ends and the lengthwise structural pieces of 1/2" and 3/4" plywood. This is easier to do with the section turned up side down. Use 6d finish nails and a good waterproof glue, and make sure all corners are square. Glue-nail the floor in place.

Cut out a door in the lower section. Put a temporary brace across the opening (save the cutout for a door). 

Cut out the truck cab access window. Attach doublers to lower sides, as shown in blueprint. Attach the fold-down sides to the lower section with five 3" hinges or a piano hinge.

Enclose the camper by attaching plastic, or canvas curtains around the side bunks. Snap buttons hold them securely. Windows open to provide ventilation.
Enclose the camper by attaching plastic, or canvas curtains around the side bunks. Snap buttons hold them securely. Windows open to provide ventilation.
Put foam gaskets between the camper body and bunk sections to limit vibration, and use spring-loaded hooks to hold the sides up.

Raising the roof tree. Assemble the roof by supporting the upper end pieces in vertical position (braces nailed temporarily do it), and glue-nailing two-by-four roof beams in place. Cover with 1/2" exterior plywood, using one full panel at center and a smaller curving panel on each side. To bend these, cut lengthwise grooves every 3/8" beginning about 1" from the edge. Make test cuts and bends on scrap. Glue-nail the panels to the end pieces and the beams.

Attach the two-by-two molding at roof sides, beveled as shown in the drawing. Cut the wind deflector crosspiece at front to fit the curve of the cab, leaving about an inch between them.

Drawing with dimensions showing the construction of an expandable truck camper.
Sheets 1 and 2 of truck camper construction details including front, rear and side templates.
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To determine the size of your camper, measure your truck's dimensions as shown above. The Standard pickup can sleep four, plus one in the cab (below). In Part II, plans for the kitchen facilities will show how to build a table that lowers to make a cross bunk.
To determine the size of your camper, measure your truck's dimensions as shown above. The Standard pickup can sleep four, plus one in the cab (below). In Part II, plans for the kitchen facilities will show how to build a table that lowers to make a cross bunk.
Cut out the upper rear opening (saving the cutout for the door), and screw an angle iron across the top of the door frame to stiffen it for jacking. Drill a hole in the center of the iron to receive a stud screwed into the top of the jack extension to keep it from slipping off. (A hole in one of the cleats on the front panel does the same job.) 
A cross brace bolted to the jack extension keeps it
vertical while it's being jacked up. The jack extension is sized to provide enough height to raise the top in position to receive the roof supports.
With top lowered for travel, there's enough headroom to sit inside the camper. Six passenger truck (below) sleeps two in its cab.
With top lowered for travel, there's enough headroom to sit inside the camper. Six passenger truck (below) sleeps two in its cab.
Hinge the 1/2"-plywood upper sides to the roof molding. These open up to form a roof for each side bunk. Add weatherproofing to the inside edges of the end panels and the folding roof sections. Put two windows in each of the open-out roof sections. Be sure the windows open outward.

Finishing it off. Paint the upper and lower sections before you put them together. Sand all rough edges, and countersink and putty all nails and screws. Coat the camper inside and out with an oil-base, sandable primer, and finish all surfaces with high quality enamel. Cover the top with canvas, or fiberglass and plastic resin.

Expandable Truck Camper in the lowered for travel.
Expandable Truck Camper in the lowered position for travel.
Up she goes! Telescope together the upper and lower sections, and test raise them several times. Adjust the batten guides until they're nonbonding. Sand them glass smooth to aid sliding action.

Hinge four one-by-two uprights (two at front, two at back) to the lower section of the camper to support the upper one in the raised position. Put catches on them to hold them in the up position. Also, fit two angle iron and block assemblies (as shown in the blueprint) to each end of the raised top. These are placed on the outside and bolted through the end walls. They provide extra bracing and act as a safety support when the top is up.

When raising the top, unhook the folding sides so that the side curtain snaps don't catch on the lower section.

Before placing the camper in the truck, remove the truck's rear window. Then, with a neighbor's help, lift each section onto the truck. Run four bolts through the floor and truck bed to hold it in place. Make the conduit supports to lengths that keep the foldout bunks level, and the bunk roofs sloped slightly outward (for rain runoff).

Cut and sew plastic or canvas curtains to fit around the bunks, and attach them with canvas snaps. Fix up the interior to suit your needs, or follow the plans in Part II for outfitting the camper with storage cabinets, gas stove, sink, and icebox.

Part II
How to Add a Kitchen to Your Camper
Truck camper ice box and counter top plan with dimensions.
Construction of the icebox cabinet.
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Before you start building, measure your truck or trailer carefully, and change the dimensions on the plans to suit. Test fit the parts before putting them together. Assemble the cabinets with 6d nails and a good waterproof glue.

The big pieces. First, cut out and put together the plywood panels for the top, back, sides, and partitions of the two counter units. If the kitchen goes into a camper where the rear panels of the camper can be the ends of the two cabinets, you don't have to fit the cabinets with plywood ends. Make sure the panels are put together square.

Add the drawer runners and the shelves before attaching the front trim. Saw up the front trim from 3/4" pine stock. An easy way to assemble these trim pieces is to lay them out on the floor and put glue on all the butt joints. Put bar clamps across the assembly. Make sure it's square; then drive corrugated fasteners into all the joints. Drive them into the side that goes to the inside of the cabinet so they won't show. When the glue is dry, glue-nail the trim to the front of the cabinets.
Picture of the completed truck camper ice box and cabinet.
Icebox Cabinet
Build the drawers and doors as shown in the drawings, sizing them to fit the various openings. Put on bullet catches to keep them from opening while traveling.

Install the seats, hinging the lids and attaching one-by-two cleats to the front edge of the storage area. These hold the table in the lowered position to make a bunk.

Make the dining table of 3/4" plywood, hinging a short section to fold up so you can get in and out of the seats on each side. The table seats four to five if one person sits on a camp stool in the aisle. The table attaches to the cab end of the camper with two swing-up brackets, and is supported on the other end with a fold-down leg.

Picture of truck camper sink and stove counter.
Sink and Stove Counter

The icebox. Make the icebox lining from 18-gauge galvanized steel. Coat it with epoxy enamel and assemble it with sheet metal screws. Caulk the seams with silicone and insulate it with 2"-thick urethane foam sheets. Insert the icebox unit through the cabinet rear before attaching the plywood back.

Mount a plastic dishpan big enough to hold a 50 pound chunk of ice inside the icebox on an angle iron frame. Attach a hose connector in the bottom of the dishpan, and run a drain hose through a hole in the floor.

The sink is the boat galley kind with a hand pump. Water is stored in a five gallon plastic tank belted in the storage area beneath the sink. Store a length of plastic garden hose there, too, for filling the tank.

The stove. A standard two-burner stove fits in the opening in the counter top beside the sink. The gas line runs from two one gallon propane cylinders mounted under the rear of the icebox. It runs through a hole in the camper rear panel, along the bottom edge of the panel, and in again on the stove side. Bolt a wood brace to the plywood walls to hold the cylinders in place. And be sure to keep the gas turned off at the cylinders while traveling.

See that the propane tanks and the water tank are installed back out of the way, yet easily accessible through doors in the bottom of the cabinets, or through small doors in the end of the camper, whichever is easier.

Cutaway view of the truck camper interior showing the kitchen and fold-down dining table.
Cutaway showing truck camper interior layout.
You can wire the camper so you can have lights and run appliances or tools when you stop over at campgrounds where electric hookups are available. Just mount an outdoor receptacle on the end panel of the camper. Run Romex cable from it to a couple of receptacles (one in front and one in back) mounted on the camper wall. 

Light sockets on extension cords can be run to hang from the camper roof.

To finish your kitchen, set and putty over the nails, sand rough edges, and coat with a sandable
primer. Paint all the outside surfaces with enamel.

Plans and dimensions detailing the construction of a truck camper counter, with drawers, contain the sink and gas stove.
Construction of sink and stove cabinet with drawers and storage.
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How to build a table that turns into a bunk.
Sleeping bunk in the  left photo becomes a dining table (right) when you lift up the center section. It's supported on one end by two brackets, on the other by a folding leg. In the bunk position, the leg is held up by magnets.
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