DIY Truck Camper

Living out of a pick-up truck isn’t as glamorous as you think. Insulating a truck camper shell is of primary importance in the winter months. I live out of a truck when I’m backcountry skiing and the low-cost DIY truck camper I made is keeping me warm in all conditions. 

Below are the 5 simple steps you can follow to turn your truck into an insulated room on wheels.

Step 1: Install An Aluminum Or Fiberglass Camper Cap

This is an important first step and without a shelter to insulate, you are at the mercy of the elements. If you’re on a budget – like me – finding a used shell is time-intensive. I scoured Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace for three months before one came on the market that was the right size and price. I ended up getting a used fiberglass camper shell for $100. I did replace the struts that hold up the window but everything else was good to go. 

Step 2: Measure The Camper Shell

Before spending money on insulating the truck camper, measure the interior. Focus primarily on the windows and ceiling, heat escapes through these regions first. Take your measurements, write them down, and then go to the local hardware store for supplies. When you are insulating a truck on a budget, there’s no point buying excess materials.

Step 3: Buy Insulation For The Truck

insulating a truck

Camper shell insulation is more cost-effective than you think, primarily because the space is so small. One sheet of insulation is likely enough to cover the entire truck bed. Here are the materials I used for a 6’1” pick up truck bed:

  • R-Tech 1.5” x 4’ x 8’ R – 5.78. 
  • Reflectix 24” x 25’ double reflective insulation roll

I used the foam board on the sides of the truck bed, it covers the windows while providing extreme R-value. They also provide a good privacy barrier that blocks light from coming in – sometimes a bad thing when I’m trying to wake up early. 

I use the reflectix on the ceiling because it’s lightweight and won’t fall down during the drive. It still offers great insulation and is easy to work with. It’s basically an insulated bubble wrap that looks like aluminum foil. 

Step 4: Cut and Affix The Insulation To Your Camper Shell 

Cutting foam board and reflective insulation is easy and can be done with your pocket knife. If your measurements are accurate, the pieces will fit where you want them to go. However, sticking them to your aluminum or fiberglass camper shell is tricky. Originally, I used velcro to hold them on but the adhesive that comes with velcro was not strong enough to stay put. Instead, I recommend using a super-glue like epoxy to hold the velcro to both the insulation and the truck cap.

Pro tip: don’t use the glue in below freezing temperature or it won’t set properly. 

Step 5: Spend a Night Inside And Plug The Gaps

The only way to really test your insulation is to spend a night in the truck. An insulated camper shell is going to have leaks where the heat can escape. Look for light coming through from the outside as telltale signs heat is going to escape through that exact location. Bring plenty of materials into the truck to make the patches required. Through real-world tests, your DIY truck camper is going to be a cozy space to hide away from winter in. 

Insulating A Truck Camper Shell

The undertaking of insulating your truck for winter isn’t as arduous as you think. For under $100 you can turn your bed into a safe and warm place to hide away inside of and wait for spring. Stay safe this winter, and stay warm! 

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