There came a point where I needed a better system for a base camp than cramming myself into the back seat of my pickup or roughing it in a tent beside the truck having snow and wetness work its way into everything. One of the key’s to kicking off any trip is to get a good nights rest and I needed a cozy nest for this. I also employ a few techniques to make surviving a small space comfortable, see my post on; Truck camping survival tips.
One thing to note here is I do not have a shop or fancy tools. I kept this setup really simple staying as classy as I could. Anybody can do this. You can do this.
My reasons for choosing a canopy setup were numerous including:
- Stealth Mode; in many cases I don’t want it to be so obvious I am using my truck as shelter. I am a Mountain Ninja.
- I didn’t have the space for an RV nor did I want to spend the money on an RV.
- This setup is incredibly practical and easy to maintain.
- It is custom to built to meet my needs.
I spent hours scanning the internet for ideas about how build out my canopy camper and in the end I really just went for it and came up with something that worked for me. So here is my build and my recommendations for this type of setup;
If you are lucky you can find a used Canopy for a decent discount. This didn’t seem to be working out in my favour so I bought a brand new Leer Canopy. I highly recommend going for a new canopy, this is going to be your home on wheels after all. I have two recommendations when picking out the canopy:
- Make sure it is insulated with an interior Headliner. This will help to keep moisture down, hold a little bit of warmth, and having spent some time under the canopy I believe it reduces noise.
- Get the tallest canopy you can. I didn’t have budget for this in my project, it’s not a deal breaker. Just remember extra headroom would be a luxury.
Tools and Materials Required to do this project:
- Skill Saw
- Paint Brush
- Tape Measure
- Hand Saw
- Hand Block Sander – Fine
- 3/4″ Plywood – I chose a good quality Maple, for my project 3 sheets were required
- 2×2″ I went through about 8 of them
- Screws; lots and lots of them
- 3/4″ Corner Brace – 20x
- 2″ Corner Braces – 24x
Step One – Polyurethane
Coat all of the wood you will be using will a good outdoor Polyurethane base. Trust me on this, do not skip this step.
This will protect your setup from damaging moisture. Also you are going to be able to keep your base camp supper clean since you will be able to easily wipe surfaces.
Step Two – The Frame
Create frames for each side of your truck bed, as in the photo below. Keeping in mind either side will be a small storage space and the middle of your truck bed space will be drawers. How high you build the frame is up to you, every millimeter you go higher is less space for your head but more for storage and vice versa. My whole platform setup with plywood on top is about 12″ high. Your main goal here is to build the frames high enough to cover the wheel wells and consider the depth of the storage you wold like.
Next cut 4x lengths of 2×2 to span across the center. Evenly space the middle pieces and use the 2″ corner brackets to secure the lengths of wood in place. You will want to use 3x braces in the center pieces to create a slot for the wood to rest, this will secure it in one place. Use 2x Braces on the end pieces to create a partial slot to help keep them in place. The photo below only shows the bottom brace in place, you will want to place them on the sides as well.
A quick note on why I didn’t just screw the whole frame in place. I designed this setup to be easy to remove if needed. Easy to take out in case i need to use my truck for something else, easy to clean and easy to maintain as needed.
Step Three – Platform
For my main platform I used the full width of a 4′ sheet of plywood. The only cut required was to trim the length of the 8′ sheet of plywood down to 5’11 to fit the 6′ box.
Having a nice wide heavy sheet forces the frame to sturdy up and creates a solid base.
Next I cut two pieces on either side to fit snuggly beside the main platform. Having two pieces allows for easy access to the storage pocket created below.
Step Four – Drawers
I made the easiest, most practical drawers possible, and they work great. It is easy to caught up in the idea that you need some sort of sliding track for your storage drawers. To me all this would do is create more moving parts that could break and jam the drawers. The whole idea here is to keep things simple and functional.
So Basically I made two boxy drawers the full length of the truck. They are screwed together along the edges and further secured by 3/4″ corner braces. The drawers easily slide in an out from the bed of the truck.
And that’s it. I’ve been using this setup for one year now, long road trips, mountain base camp, surf trips, climbing and skiing. It’s fantastic.