How to Convert a Pickup Shell to a Camper

by Zach Lazzari
Pickup shells can provide ample space for camping.

Pickup shells can provide ample space for camping.

Pickup truck shells can be converted into campers with basic tools and materials. Expensive pickup campers are available for purchase but if you build a simple camper, you can travel without excessive weight. A variety of designs are available that can be used to convert the shell. Regardless of the design you choose, you must be able to access your gear and provide a comfortable platform for sleeping.

Clean the interior of the pickup with a broom. Remove all debris and gear that is inside the bed of the truck. Measure the maximum width of the bed. Do not deduct for the wheel wells or the lip created by the camper shell.

Measure the height of the bed. This measurement will be from the bottom of the truck bed to the bottom of the camper shell lip. Build a frame for the bed with vertical 2-by-4-inch boards for the legs and horizontal 2-by-4s for the platform. Build the frame inside the truck bed.

Screw a piece of plywood to the frame to create the sleeping platform. Leave the area beneath the bed open for gear storage.

Cut the bed in half for easy gear access by building a center support into the frame. Add hinges to the edge of the frame and connect the plywood halves to the hinges. Open the bed halves individually to get at gear beneath the bed.

Add a sleeping pad to the bed for comfort. Add battery-powered lights to the ceiling for reading and nighttime activities.

Items you will need

  • Tape measure
  • 2-by-4-inch lumber
  • Wood screws
  • Plywood
  • Hinges
  • Mattress
  • Battery-powered lights

Tip

  • Connect a battery to the alternator with a battery isolator for power in the camper.

Warning

  • Consider the weight that the bed must support. Add extra legs and center supports for heavy loads.

About the Author

Zach Lazzari is a freelance outdoor writer specializing in hunting, fly fishing and the general outdoors. He guided fly fishing trips for 10 years in Colorado, Alaska, Montana and Patagonia-Chile. Zach lives in Montana and splits time between the river and keyboard.

Photo Credits

  • pickup 4x4 car from above image by alma_sacra from Fotolia.com