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Incredible Adventure Rig: Toyota Tacoma and Fiberglass Camper

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Today’s post is a guest post from one of my long-time readers in the Pacific Northwest, Ming, she has been such a consistent commenter on my blog that after awhile I’ve started to feel like I know her, like she’s an old friend!   Over the years we’ve discussed different rigs and the pros and cons of many of them. But I must say I am very envious of what she has finally chosen for herself! It’s very hard to beat this combination! But, I’ll let her tell you her own story. This is a guest post from her blog, you can find it here:

We picked up the camper yesterday from Tufport  ( And, of course, celebrated by taking it to the park for a picnic celebration. Here it is on the forklift on it’s way to the back of the truck. Now I have to build the beds, storage and table.

Why this truck and this camper?

The Truck: I chose a Toyota Tacoma 2 Wheel Drive, 4 Cylinder Truck. The Tacoma is supremely reliable. It’s small enough to be used as a city vehicle, even with a small camper on it. It’s my only vehicle. It has great fuel economy, especially with 2 wheel drive. It’s tough enough to be able to handle dirt roads and get me to out-of-the-way spots where I like to camp. Should I need 4 wheel drive in the future it’ll be easy to move the camper on to a new truck. This is one of many reasons I didn’t go with a van or other type of RV.
The Camper: Initially, and for a very long time, I wanted a Four Wheel pop up camper manufactured in the U.S. But, in the end I decided on this small fibreglass shell for three reasons:

  1. For the same amenities, it was 1/2 the cost after the currency conversion, import duties, special Canadian modifications, installation costs etc. etc.
  2. After trying out the pop up function, I decided my back couldn’t take the strain of pushing up the camper top. And, the camper was not usable with the top down. And, Popping it up would ruin the stealth factor I needed for long term travel through cities and towns.
  3. I like the sturdiness and weather proof quality of the fibreglass shell. The Tufport should last 25 years minimum without leaks and deterioration.

I inspect every last inch of it before they put it on the truck.

How much does it cost?

The camper shell before modifications costs $6500.00 Cdn. After all the modifications the shell was around $10,000 ($7,000 USD). The truck needed some modifications to make it Camper worthy. I installed air bags ($870 including installation) to improve the suspension to carry the 500 lb. shell. And I upgraded my battery to an Optima Yellow Top ($400) to be able to run the fan and light for hours and to recharge phones and laptops. I plan to do the build of the interior with the least cost manageable. I chose to build the interior myself because I don’t like conventional RV plans and I want to build an interior that suits how I want to use the camper better. Cost is also a consideration for choosing to do it myself.

Optima Yellow Top

It will take a while to save up for power solutions. I already have a 27 watt portable solar panel. I plan to upgrade to 300 watts eventually coupled with a lithium battery bank and a small electric fridge to replace the cooler. $3000 plus USD.
I’m particularly happy about the Bomar boat hatch/skylight and the Maxxair Fan. I did a lot of research before I decided on these two modifications. I chose the Bomar because Bomar sold the biggest boat hatch I could find in Canada. Light is very important to me. I’ve fantasized about skylights for years. I wanted a Heki RV skylight, but it had to be ordered from Europe and they can leak. I chose the Maxxair because it’s possible to install a hood over it so it can be open in the rain, very important to reduce condensation in wet weather. I live in the Pacific Northwest.

Photos below: Above my head in the left corner in the photo below is another modification, a combination 12V socket and dual USB ports for recharging electronics and computers. Ahead of the fan is a light fixture for which I will buy an LED bulb, they use 1/10th the power of an incandescent.

I took it out for a spin and a tryout. We went to Garry Point Park and parked it in a favorite spot for sea and sky gazing. You can see the boat steps folded  up on the wall beside the door. I can access the roof without carrying a ladder. The fiberglass camper allows me to walk around on the roof. Something I could not have done with a Four Wheel pop-up camper, which I was seriously considering for many years.

Sit and gaze. Think about finishing it inside. Can’t wait to start.

Photos Below:  All the views. Now to build it out for camping and keep the views intact.

Tufport did a great job, but one major disappointment was that the windows were not where I specified. I wanted 2 1/2  feet of space on the wall between the end of the camper and the window so that I could build a counter and storage of that width there. There is only 2 feet! I have to rejig my plans.


Sitting in the camper and using it has gotten me thinking about my original plans. The windows are low and my plans for seating are too high to see the views out of the windows while seated at the table. As you can see from the photos, being able to see out the windows will be half the pleasure of this camper. Now I’m thinking about how to build the bed/seating so that it can be lowered when it is in bench/table configuration.
The table is between two benches and is removable so that that area becomes part of the bed. The bed is not marked here it is the rectangular area with the table in the center and the rectangle behind that area. As you can see there is storage under the bed and everywhere else.
Of course, in reality, things might change.


Today I head out to Home Depot to get some wood cut to measure for the bed. We want to take the camper for a trial run before the end of October. This means that at least the bed has to be built by then. Stay tuned for the build
I will attempt to post an ongoing description of the build. Initially, I’m doing a temporary ‘throw it together’ so we can get out by the end of October for a trial run. This will inform future decisions about what needs to be done.

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  1. Ming

    Hey Bob, thanks for the feature! You asked me for a guest post ages ago, it took a while to work out all the details and then make a post about it.

    • Lucy

      NICE setting & SOOO light . Congratulations and enjoy it !
      My regards, Lucy.

      • Ming

        thank you Lucy!

    • Bob

      Ming, it was worth the wait, you hit this one way out of the ballpark!!

      • Ming

        thanks Bob, I must thank my super talented ghostwriter and blog expert, without whose help this post may have been delayed by a few more years!

    • Susan (Lotus)

      Nice set up, Ming. I hope you’ll give a tour when it’s complete. Thanks for sharing..

  2. Sylvia Jones

    Thanks, Bob, for getting Ming to tell her story. She has great tips about thinking it all out. Preparation and planning are key ingredients. I am writing everything down so as not to lose all this valuable info. I know I can do this!

    • Bob

      Yes you can Sylvia!!

    • Ming

      go Sylvia! You can do it!

  3. Calvin Rittenhouse

    Thank you very much. I know from your comments here how much thought you put into all of this, and I appreciate your sharing it. You save my brain some “heavy lifting” by doing that. In particular, the deciding issues with the Four Wheel camper and the link to your blog that gives me your post on the decision about your bed will inform my decisions if I use a truck-and-shell setup. That’s looking a bit more likely lately.

    • Ming

      thanks Calvin, that’s exactly what the guy who bought my truck canopy said, and he bought the beds and rubber truck mat too!
      Then he installed carpeting on the ceiling, LED lights, got some curtains made, then took off on a trip!
      Best of luck on your vehicle decisions, I’ll be curious to see what you decide on and how you set it up.

    • Bob

      Calvin, for a minimalist like you, it is very hard to beat a pickup and shell!

  4. Whitey

    Hi Ming,the quality is obviously there and that unit will last the rest of your life, unless you get “2 footitis”. Will you use teak/mahogany and build it out like a sailboat?
    What is the interior height?

    • Ming

      Hi Whitey,
      I am using regular SPF (spruce, pine, fir – cheap wood) for the bed and shelves for now as I have a tight deadline for the December trip. I want to see how I use the space before I make the final design.
      The interior height is 5 feet, perfect for me as that is my height too, I just have to tilt my head a little. It is a good compromise, as 6 feet would make my rig taller than I’d like for COG in tilted roads and for low hanging branches on logging roads.

    • Bob

      That’s a very good point Whitey, when you figure the cost per year for a very high quality but very durable, long-lasting item, it often comes out far ahead of the cheaper solutions.

      • Whitey

        Thanks Bob, I live in the same neck of the woods as Ming and moisture is a constant concern with wood framed/aluminum clad campers and rvs. So many of them leak and rot unless you go with a fiberglass behemoth at 2500 lbs dry and as tall as a 3 masted schooner. Oddly, most of those monsters have the word “lite” incoprorated into their names or product descriptions.
        Ming found a great alternative right in her back yard. Amortized over its useful life and adjusted for resale value, quite a bargain.
        You might consider something similar but full sized, especially when the US dollar rises in the near future. Slide in campers aren’t registered here so it’s just a matter of slapping down the cash and driving away.

        • Ming

          yes, exactly! I thought of the losing battle it would be to keep a traditional (heavy) wood framed camper waterproof and ran the other way.
          And Northern Lite has stopped making fiberglass campers that fit the Tacoma, so any of those units that you find used will be around 25 years old.

  5. Jennifer Wiltrout

    Great post. Ming has done her homework and dI’d a terrific job. Too bad the manufacturer messed up on the window placement. Hope there will be progress reports on the inside build.

    • Bob

      Jennifer, there will be another post on the build very soon!

    • Bob

      Coming soon Jennifer!

    • Ming

      thanks Jennifer!
      It turns out that they thought a forward placement of the windows would weaken the structure too much, once it was time to install them. I’m ok with that reason, rather than thinking that they just forgot our discussion!

      • Bob

        Structural integrity ahs to take priority to everything else.

  6. Cae

    Wow! This is a great way to go, imo. 500 lbs to start means that it’ll probably be 800 to 900lbs when it’s built out, including personal gear. That’s pretty good! And, it’s got a full-on roof with rack! Skylight hatch and covered fan, too! I’m kinda jealous as this design really checks off almost all my boxes for an ultimate truck camper set up!
    I’ve got a 4×4 Nissan Frontier with the 4 cylinder engine, with camper shell. I’ll be very interested to see how your Taco handles this rig when built-out and fully loaded. Please do a follow-up. Thanks!

    • Ming

      thanks Cae,
      there are so few campers that the Taco’s anemic 1200lbs carrying capacity can handle. And the 4 cylinder is not that powerful, but it gets great gas mileage! 25mpg with the last truck canopy shell.
      So far, until I put in solar and batteries, it is only 300lbs more than my previous rig with canopy shell, which handled the mountain grades ok, just a bit slow on the steepest ones.
      The roof rack, fan and hood, skylight and box to raise it a few inches, 12V outlets, and boat steps are what bumped up the price so much from the basic shell price, but these are things I would have a hard time adding in later, as they had to glass in wood framing for all these things.
      I also asked for supplementary wood framing in strategic spots to anchor my interior build and eventual insulation. Tufport was a great company to work with.

  7. Joe S

    Now we’re talking! Good stuff Ming. I have a ’13 Tacoma TRD 4X4 and have been searching for a camper (currently have a Snugtop shell). This camper is something I’m going to look into. I already installed Firestone Air Bags so I’m good to go in that department.

  8. Ming

    thanks Joe,
    those air bags are great, my stock rear suspension was already so soft with just the Leer truck canopy, I cringe to think about what it would have been like with the Tufport.
    There are a few different design of fiberglass shells out there, Telcobilly’s forum post was an inspiration. I like the Tufport T59 because it was shorter and wider, so I could have a less tall wind/ tree limb profile and I could build the bed to go sideways.

  9. Cindy

    Hi Ming,
    Nice rig. I currently have a 2006 Toyota Tundra v-8 4×4. I am looking for a camper to go on it. I didn’t realize how little a 1/2 ton can carry. Are you going to insulate your Tufport? How will you do that? I am very interested in how you get this road ready. I have looked at the Bel Air and Capri camper online. I am in Minnesota so it would be a long trip to pick either up.
    Have fun with your rig.
    Thanks for sharing.

    • Ming

      Hi Cindy,
      yes, your truck can carry so much more weight than mine! The size and turning radius though… the Tacoma size and gas mileage was a huge shock, moving from a Honda Fit. Parking in the city is a whole different ball game.
      As I mentioned before, I asked for a lot of wood framing to be glassed into the walls of the camper so that I could do my own insulation and have something to screw my build into. They will insulate for you for an extra $2500(!). They also framed out the windows for me.
      This is why I am glad that I bought new, they did a lot of custom work for free: extra wood framing, they made the camper longer – 6.5ft instead of their usual 6ft, and they effectively insulated the top part of it for me. Normally, they use conduit to stiffen the roof, but for me they used a 1/2 inch thick cardboard honeycomb that gets soaked in the resin they use for fiberglassing. They lined the entire top half of the camper this way, leaving only the walls from the top of the windows down as uninsulated single layer fiberglass. So I only have to insulate the walls, and I will probably only get to it next year. I plan to get some sort of foam, 1/2 or 3/4 inch, cut pieces to fit between the wood framing, and screw on some thin plastic wallboard that they showed me at the factory. Apparently I can find that plastic at the hardware store.
      For now, I’m just concentrating on the bed, maybe a table, shelves and a counter for cooking, storage and curtains. I’ll bring a buddy heater and oil lamps for heat, and I have several different types of stoves for cooking. Baby steps, but enough for a really snug home on the road well protected from the elements.

      • Ming

        and good luck with your camper shopping, I considered both of those brands, but they did not make anything for the Tacoma.

  10. Sonny

    Ming you should check out the You Tube channel “Into the Mystery 13” for some very innovative ways to construct extremely lightweight cabinets using rigid foam board. There are about three videos on the subject.

    • Ming

      Hi Sonny,
      thanks for the tip, I look forward to checking out his channel. I love to see how others outfit their rigs.
      I backed a kickstarter campaign for some programmable LED strings (dimmable, color changeable) running off USB a while ago. Hopefully they will arrive in time for my trip, they should help light the interior. The overhead lamp is too bright and incandescent. I hope to pick up a LED bulb for it in Q maybe?

      • Bob

        Ming, you will find LED lights in Quartzsite to be a dime a dozen in every conceivable size and shape!

        • Ming

          oh good! Does the same hold for getting a solar panel installed too?

          • Bob

            Ming, there are two installers in Quartzsite, I highly recommend Discount solar for installs, they are expensive very excellent. I forget the others name but I don’t really have an opinion. Yours is going to be more complicated because of the fiberglass camper so it ould be tougher.
            The prices of panels in Qzt are not that great, you can do better on the internet or stopping n Flagstaff at Northern Arizona wind or sun.

    • Bob

      Thanks Sonny!

    • Tara

      I just watched and read about the lightweight cabinets made w/ foam. Ingenious! They look very sturdy and lightweight. I think this is a great option for Ming.

      • Ming

        indeed, they do. I’ll have to play around with that!
        I’m more familiar with Coroplast construction, having made various projects with that material.
        Here’s a link to one guy’s projects:

  11. Mike

    I love the fiberglass, how neat, durable, clean… could spray it all out with a hose.
    Very nice!

    • Ming

      thanks Mike,
      indeed you could, an there are no entry gaps for rodents either! 🙂

  12. Fred Edwards

    I’m also interested in the insulation question above. What are your thoughts on how or if insulation is necessary. Cool camper!

    • Ming

      thank you Fred!
      As you can see from the reply I made above, the top of the camper is already more or less insulated. I plan to make insulation “plugs” for the skylight and fan too.
      Because of time constraints, I probably won’t insulate this year. I’m sure that once fully insulated, the camper will be more comfortable, with less condensation, but I will probably still be OK this year. I have lots of insulated clothing, down sleeping bags, I’ll have a buddy heater and oil lamps for heat for the waking hours. I plan to make my curtains from fleece blankets.
      In my last rigs I had little insulation, no heating, no indoor cooking/ hang out space, and have camped in temperatures that went a few degrees below freezing at night. I would not go snow camping in much lower weather than that until I insulate though, I think. That is one advantage of the Four Wheel campers, they do come with insulation already built in.

      • Calvin Rittenhouse

        Thank you for this piece also. I plan to avoid snow or that kind of cold in any case. I also noted the need for a place to “hang out.” I have an idea (or ten) for that in my Plan A minivan, but it would be an additional issue in a truck-and-shell unit because Plan A uses a tent that’s hard to find in a truck size.

        • Ming

          That was a problem I kept running into with my car and truck and canopy set-ups. There was no problem in finding tarps and tents that I could pitch to connect to the car/ truck.
          My problem was the energy it took to do so, and especially the energy it took to dismantle it and deal with drying out the wet stuff when I got home to my tiny apartment.
          Then there was the fact that these structures would not stand up to big winds, so I would have no outdoor shelter when you need it most and a need to scramble to take it down when those conditions hit.
          If you find a shelter that is quick and easy to put up, packs small and can stand up to desert winds, I’d love to hear about it as this camper is small for 2 people and an outside shelter would be very useful.

  13. jenniferaguilar20111

    Congratulations , really great post

  14. jenniferaguilar20111

    The only main thing I would change in this brilliant design is the rear door. The access door at the rear of the camper should fold down, not up and double as a staircase. Not only would it look awesome, but it would also ease entry/exit of the vehicle.

    • Ming

      thanks Jennifer, that sounds great, I’ll suggest it to Tufport! 🙂


    This is the most inspiring story I’ve read in a while:
    It’s a long page *and* there are a TON of pics so make sure you have a decent signal to view it. I have loved this lifestyle for many decades but felt forced to live it vicariously through Bob Wells and Randy Vining until I was old enough to retire early at 62. Had I saw the above page when I was in my 20s, who knows how differently things might have played out? But no regrets — we’re living the dream NOW and that’s all that matters. 🙂 (Currently in Arcata, CA where my son lives — headed to Lodi, CA — where Annie’s sister and BIL live and then it’s back to The Slabs to begin winter #2! Last year — fulltiming — we traveled 20,000 miles — loving it more every day!)

    • Bob

      Like you say Jim, better late than never and nothing is gained by regrets. Onward!

    • Lucy

      Jim, I read the article, the young man is truly a free-will gypsy, W O W !!
      Thanks for the link. Lucy.

    • Ming

      thank you Jim, for this remarkable story! Yes, who knows what I might have done if I had seen this a few decades ago. But back then there was not the technology that allows us to keep in touch so easily and various other things that make camping so smooth, so it may not have appealed as much as a way to live then as it does today.
      I did always camp all my life though, so I guess I’m just taking it to the next level now.


    Per upgrading your rear suspension to handle the added weight of a camper (and I know you’ve already spent your money so please don’t take this personal), you’ll be light years ahead by adding overload springs. Air bags are a bit of a joke and you’ll find a small mountain of ‘take-offs’ at any legitimate suspension shop. Overload springs add more capacity without raising the rear of your rig significantly — usually just enough so the truck bed is level or even a little higher at the back end = normal ride height.
    All air bags do is keep your stock suspension from bottoming out but they do this by raising your COG higher than it needs to be and the *only* benefit is the stock suspension no longer bottoms out. With overload springs added, the overloads *only* engage when the extra weight of the camper is the truck. When the camper is OFF the truck, your stock (and usually wonderful) suspension is restored and the overload springs don’t even touch their ‘lift’ brackets.
    I hauled large (12’+) and heavy campers for many, many years and trust me, a quality suspension upgrade (like those provided at Boise Spring Works in Idaho — no personal affiliation) is one purchase you will never regret. We still have our large (12’6″ — measuring from front of truck bed to back end of camper . . . doesn’t include the length of our ‘extended’ cabover where the bed runs front to back) slide-in truck camper and even on our 2000 F350 crewcab with 4WD and 8′ truck bed, the weight of the camper causes what I’ve always called “droopy butt”. If we ever start hauling that camper significant miles (like to tow our boat to OR or WA where towing “doubles” — with the boat behind the fifth wheel we live fulltime in — is not allowed), a proper suspension upgrade will be at the top of our wish list.

    • Bob

      Thanks Jim.

    • Ming

      Hi Jim,
      thanks for the info on the overload springs. Is that something that can be added to the air bags, or is it instead of?
      What problems could I expect from the air bags? They barely seem to be breaking a sweat with this light camper. The installers put in 10lbs (they can take up to 100lbs) of pressure because they had to put SOME air in, and it’s still riding a tad high in the back with the camper on.


        It’s instead of . . . and you may find that even 5 PSI in your air bags is enough — you want just barely enough air to keep the ‘bumpers’ from hitting your rear axle in normal driving — you’ll feel it if it happens 🙂 Your camper is light enough that the air bags *might* even work for you, but I would just barely air ’em up — you might even need to use a hand pump (like a bicycle tire pump) to get just what you need and not a single PSI more. Did they use conventional tie-downs to hold the camper to your truck? My brother had a large truck camper on his 3/4 ton Dodge and it raised the COG so much — a real E ticket ride inside that thing going down a mountain road! So that’s the biggest issue with air bags = they raise everything up to keep it from bottoming out but there is no added control or progressive spring action. They also have bolt-on gizmoes which put pre-load on the springs but I can’t recommend them either.

        • Ming

          thanks for the info, Jim. They bolted the camper onto the truck. They take out the bolts that hold the truck bed onto the frame and use longer ones. I noticed that they used sealant on the bolts too, to keep water out. I don’t think I’ll be taking it off unless I change trucks to move it onto the new truck.
          I ran into a guy who had a Tufport on his truck and asked him about it. He said he had one for 20 years and just ordered another one for a different truck. I asked if he had ever had any leaks and he said no. My leakage case sounds like a rare one and it hasn’t leaked since they fixed it, even though we’ve had the rainiest fall on record so far.

  17. Bill DeLanney

    Very nice setup. Just to change the subject I would like to ask Bob a question. Have you read the book, Blue Highways, by William Least Heat Moon? One of my favorites and I sometimes read things on this site that have been similar to experiences in that book. Just curious.

    • Bob

      Bill, I have read it and agree, it’s a great book!


    When I was single back in the day, I used to dream about building my own camper interior when I had little more than my trusty old ’72 Chevy 3/4 ton Camper Special truck (I owned that truck for 34 years and ended up driving it a quarter of a million miles). I was working and living in serious cold country at the time so good insulation was absolutely critical. I’m also tall (6’4″) so all these lovely little floor plans where the beds go side to side are non-starters for me. AND I worked out of my truck so I needed a place for most all my tools and parts to go (some of them rode up front on the dash, the passenger side of the bench seat and the cab floor as I almost never had a passenger).
    As the old truck had an 8′ bed, what evolved (in my mind — and I’m a carpenter — it *could* have happened) was a queen-size bed (6’8″ long = real life size *not* RV length = 6’3″ = room enough for company and/or a dog, eh?) running front to back with room at the foot of the bed to put me shoes on before I stepped outside. The bed platform would hinge up (easy enough with beefy gas shocks) inside the canopy (truck cap) for tool storage in the UNinsulated area beneath the bed. There was some speculation that I might have to leave the tailgate down and make the camper shell more like 10′ long but the box under the bed could also just be left shorter — leaving more space under the foot of the bed. Either way, the idea was to leave enough room for a porta-potti in one rear corner and a propane heater (no power required) in the other corner. In many ways I like to leave the tailgate open and down as a sort of front porch — convenient to pee off of in the middle of the night withOUT having to put me shoes on OR get dressed even (depending on where I’m at of course 🙂
    For anyone else tall who still has to sometimes actually work for a living (or just likes to keep a lot of shstuff with him/her at all times), it still seems in many ways (to me at least) the ideal arrangement and I’m kinda’ surprised that no OEM that I know of has never built an interior like this. (An awning over the rear wall/door/tailgat could also be easily added.) I was convinced the small interior volume — above the bed and at the foot — wouldn’t take much at all to heat through the night and some shallow storage areas (down both sides of the mattress) would hold all my essentials that I didn’t want to freeze. At the time (and maybe still?) there was a bar (and a small grocery store) at the edge of Missoula, MT where RVers could park all winter or as long as they wanted to for FREE. If you wanted electricity, you had to pay for that. I suppose they found it a good way to guarantee themselves a certain amount of business — especially through the always lean winter months. My GF at the time lived in Missoula (and was totally adverse to my grand plan) but had I actually built the above ‘doghouse’ anyway it would’ve saved me countless dollars and pissed-off trips all the way back ‘home’ to Boise. Sometimes I’d get ‘home’ after driving all night and couldn’t even remember what the freakin’ upset was all about (and we’d “make up” almost immediately). Ah to be young again . . . but ONLY if I get to keep *everything* I know NOW 🙂 If anyone is interested in hiring someone to build this for them (top-shelf work; reasonable prices), I know a guy.

    • Bob

      Thanks Jim, great information!

    • Ming

      that sounds a bit like the setup I had in my truck canopy. It would have worked for a long time for one person, it was a bit too small for 2 people + dog.


        Yeah — even without a dog — it seems two people need at least three times as much room 🙂 We currently travel with two rather large cats. They have their own kittie kondo in the basement (under our bathroom) for traveling and when we’re gonna’ be someplace for more than a few days, I put their catio together. It’s a cube – 4’x4’x4′ with large shelves and a ramp. Cody and Inyo love it and spend most of their time out there. If they feel threatened, they just zoom back inside the kittie kondo 🙂

        • Ming

          lucky kitties, they have such an interesting life!

        • Cathy

          I’d love to see a picture of Cody and Inyo’s kittie kondo you made. It sounds wonderful 🙂

  19. Nancy bee

    Jim thanks for the info on overload springs.
    My 76 Datsun pickup flatbed (which I dearly loved) had been a dually and came with overload springs. I didn’t load It enough to engage them. But it sure was a mystery when I first looked at the springs. Wait a minute, what is that wierd spring.


      Yeah — it’s surprising to learn how much weight some of those little trucks are rated for. Before the slide-in truck camper we have now, I had another monster on my old Chevy truck (3/4 ton) that I used to work out of. It was a beast all by itself (particleboard cupboard doors throughout = heavy!) and then I had all my tools and parts in there too. The stock suspension was seven leaf springs and all of them broke in half over time — even the bottom one which was 1/2″ thick. The guy at Boise Spring Works said I was lucky the whole rear end didn’t adios out from under the truck — taking the brake lines and emergency brake cable with it!
      They weren’t into overload springs yet so they built me a new suspension with nine(!) leaves on each side and for the first time the truck sat level — actually a tad higher at the back end which is a good way to start out. This was many moons ago and it cost me $1,000 but it totally transformed my truck — like night and day. Only prob was with the camper off, the suspension was so stiff, it rode like a lumber wagon — you could feel your fillings loosening up 🙂 Another little tip — especially if you’re in one place for more than a few days — is to run the camper jacks down and take some weight off the springs. Longer-term storage causes leaf springs to flatten out — and then you’re back to “droopy butt” until you go in and pay to have your springs re-arced to make them curve and be ‘springy’ again. Most rigs (especially newer ones) have very light suspensions because everyone wants a truck which rides like a car. That’s fine until you put some weight on it and start using it like a *real* truck 🙂 I had air shocks on the back of my El Camino back in the day — those things were a ripoff too.

      • Bob

        Thanks Jim, good advice.

  20. Cathy

    Thanks for Ming’s feature Bob. I’m 5’2″ and this gave me a lot to think about in choosing a rig …like being able to see out the windows when sitting down! and am I really comfortable? uhm, R E A L L Y? Great nuggets for thinking. Thank you AGAIN Bob.

  21. Pat Kittle

    I have a home-made camper on my 2-wheel drive 4-cylinder Tacoma.
    When deciding between 2-wheel & 4-wheel drive I decided on 2-wheel with an after-market limited slip differential. It’s an excellent compromise, at least for me. I can go into detail if you like.
    I checked out your “Build Your Own Camper” page a few years ago when a friend and I built mine (he already built his own). I hadn’t been back to your site until very recently. Congratulations, you’re doing a great job!
    — Pat

  22. Pattymae625

    I am so totally impressed by what I read and saw both on this site and Ming’s site. I have to admit that I am overwhelmed my all the information and don’t understand it all, but have booked marked this information for further study. Thanks Bob & Ming for sharing. It will help me down the road for when I can join you all.
    And Ming, I’m in the Puget Sound area, if you are willing, I would love to meet you and see your set up in person. Thanks

  23. Brian

    I just ordered one of these for my Tacoma. I am going to use a lot of these ideas for mine. It will be for me and my wife. If I find out it’s too small for both of us and will add a roof top tent for more sleeping area.

  24. Sam

    I like Columbus tent’s low profile. Wouldn’t it be too heavy and/or tall on top of the camper? I was wondering if one can install a slide out underneath the camper for additional space?

    • Brian

      My Tufport will have roof access steps installed on the back. Not sure if the ladder on the Columbus would reach the ground and I don’t think an extra 100lbs would be that big of a deal.

  25. Rosie

    You neve4 mentioned the dimensions of the camper.

  26. Sherry

    Ming, do I see a toilet in your floor plan?

  27. Georgia Cooper

    Great content! Do you have any tips on writing? btw, I know of a roofing company if you are interested in roofing company tacoma. Please get in touch! Thanks, have a good day.

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