DIY Truck Camper Plans Available – 1st Preview Plans Now Available (Free)

DIY Truck Camper Plans Available - 1st Preview Plans Now Available (Free)

Happy Saturday, Readers! I’m excited to announce that the first preliminary version of Free DIY Truck Camper Plans are available to download.

This first version covers the basic design leading up to the pop-up roof, which I’ll explain in the next release. Along with more extensive details and step-by-step instruction, later versions will also include plans to build lots of DIY sustainable-design “appliances,” ex. a long-lasting cooler you can make for free, a built-in multi-use solar oven design, a way to use that solar oven to make ICE (really!), a makeshift space-saving indoor shower you can tuck away… and lots more coming up.

NOTE: At some point I’ll put the plans up for sale, but at least for the first few versions, they’re still free. BUT, it’s possible that I may simply release the next edition as “Part 2” and retire the Part 1 preview… So if this is something that interests you (or someone else you know), please get it while it’s available.


In other blogging-related news…

I like to share how my blogs are progressing, especially since a lot of you reading this are also bloggers and/or camping full-timers hoping to turn your blog into a little extra income. I know I’ve had a tough time getting realistic figures on how much money you can expect to make blogging, so here are my rough numbers.

It’s been about six months now since I set up my main site at, and about three months since I installed Adsense and Amazon ads. After a very slow July, my traffic has picked up a lot, and this week I’m finally averaging over 200 visitors a day. Adsense income has been slowly rising accordingly, and is up to $15 a month. At this rate of growth, assuming it continues, I can expect at this time next year to finally see about $200 per month from Adsense.

Obviously, that’s nothing like the full-time income anyone hopes for, but it’s not bad either. Because in the meantime, I’ll be doing a lot of stuff to increase the growth rate. Now that the camper is nearing completion, I can finally start getting around to publishing the photos and videos I shot, being more active on social media, writing more articles… and tons of other stuff depending on how much time I can find. On the money side, I can start looking into compatible affiliate programs and ad sponsorships, which will widen my income streams beyond Adsense and Amazon and pay a lot better in the short term. And of course, I’ll be selling ebooks full of plans for my DIY camping/boondocking hacks.

So overall, I’m very happy with the progress. The most important thing for me is that I’ve set up a good foundation that’s easy to build off of, even when I’m off wandering in the wilderness kicking at funny-colored rocks.

(Hope you like the animation I made. First one ever, so I’m pretty pleased with that!)


My DIY Homemade Truck Camper — Day 2 — Roof Installed And Painted w/ Hatch For Solar Oven

My DIY Homemade Truck Camper -- Roof Installed & Painted w/ Hatch For Solar Oven

CAMPER BUILD UPDATES — What You May Have Missed From The Past Few Weeks:

New Roof: I just put another day of work into the body of my self-built truck camper. It now has a solid roof — as opposed to the tarp that was covering it the last few weeks — and it’s sturdy enough for me to sit on (pic). (The pop-up function should be ready within a week or so.)

Homemade Door: I built a homemade camper door from free wood (pic) that came from some old drawers. To keep it closed, I’ve been using a spare doorknob set I had lying around, and a simple combination padlock for minimal security until a friend who’s moving to a new place gives me her old keyed-entry knob and deadbolt.

Innovative Solar Oven: I’ve been experimenting with a tiny roof/ceiling installed solar oven (pic) made from free cardboard boxes, aluminum foil and an oven bag. (The recommended materials.) The main innovation, besides the ceiling-installation, is that this solar box cooker opens from the front (pic – top left), so I can use it from inside the camper after opening up the reflectors above the roof. Despite some problems due to its small size and way-too-thin walls, I’ve been able to boil water and cook rice and pasta (inside view) with it.

mobile rik - living in a homemade truck camperIf you’d like to keep up to date with ALL the rapid developments, be sure to follow Mobile Rik – Living In A DIY Truck Camper on Facebook.

DIY RV Truck Camper Plans (Update) – Started Learning To Use Google Sketchup…

Using Sketchup To Design A DIY Popup Truck Camper

DIY Four Wheel Camper

Diving Into Google Sketchup this weekend, so I can generate different designs for homemade truck campers. Not too tough to get a sketch going, but still a lot to learn to “do it right,” so I can make useable plans with accurate measurements (and maybe even create a shareable model). Amazing that this software is free!

I was fortunate to find a really awesome model for a Toyota Tacoma Prerunner. Modified it a bit, dropping the tailgate and changing the color to match mine. I’d love to figure out if I can change it into a double-cab, too!

For the first day, I’d say it’s going pretty well, wouldn’t you? 😉

You can sign up at my main site to be notified when I’ve finished the first set of free DIY truck camper plans.

June 12: Weekly Update From Mobile Rik - DIY Camping GearFirstly, to any new followers of my new blog, I’d like to say THANK YOU! The likes and comments are really encouraging.

I actually have a main website (just updated!) on a self-hosted version of WordPress, but unfortunately, it doesn’t come with a ready community-building feature the way does. So that’s the main reason I started this little blog here. I expect that I may wind up using it for a more casual day-to-day blog, while occasionally re-posting some feature articles from the main site.

Today I want to draw your attention to a few popular articles on my main site that have just received major updates, along with a few new ones. You may recognize a title or two, if you’ve read an old version on my little blog.

Just Updated:

Brand New:

The new versions have been enhanced with more photos, videos, and more elaboration in parts. If you see a title of an article you liked, it’d be great if you could swing by and leave some comments on the “new and improved” version. 🙂

– Mobile Rik

How To Make A DIY Portable Workbench For Your RV (Or Tiny House!)

[Reposted from]

Mobile Rik's DIY Portable Workbench For Projects In Small SpacesWould you find it handy to have a sturdy space-saving portable workbench you can easily stow away?


You can bet I totally do! I was looking for an easy way to do my projects on the road, when I came across the Sta-bull Ta-bull project on To say it was exactly what I was looking for is a bit of an understatement. As you’ll see in the video, I rushed so quickly to get the parts I needed that I made a number of short cuts that proved, shall we say, “very educational.”


Essentially the Mobile Workbench is a portable “saw-horse and vise” style workbench (ideally a Black & Decker Workmate 125) with a removable work surface, fold-up peg board wall to keep your tools handy-but-out-of-the-way, and a drawer to store any tools that you wish to stay with the work bench.

portable workbenchFeeling like I needed a usable workbench “like, yesterday”, I was a bit dismayed to discover that the recommended workbench isn’t sold in stores, although the Workmate 125 is easily available through Amazon or Ebay for $30 with free shipping.  Not wanting to wait for it to arrive, I checked my local Harbor Freight and picked up a cheap imitation on sale for just $16.99. Upon assembling it, I quickly figured out a few reasons why I should just order the Black & Decker (described in the video) and return the cheap U.S. General to Harbor Freight. But since I had a zillion projects on my agenda, I decided to just, as they say, “make it work!”

Knowing that I’d eventually swap it out for the Workmate, I wanted a way to make a less-than-permanent installation, leading to what’s become an interesting variation in quite a few respects. Some of the changes I made as what I consider to be all-around small improvements. But the biggest change was the “flexible” way I attached the top to the bench, so that you could potentially use it with different sets of legs, if you wanted to upgrade later or just rotate between different workbenches. 



black and decker workmate

The Black & Decker Workmate 125

Parts & Instructions

Here are the parts recommended in the original project (in normal color), arranged according to what goes together, with any of my revisions listed in blue:



(1) Black & Decker Workmate 125 Work Bench ($30) <– Strongly recommended

– OR –

(1) Any lightweight portable workbench



(1) 24″x24″ section of 3/4″ plywood (about $10-15)

– OR –

(1) 24″x24″ section of 1/2″ scrap plywood/OSB/MDF +

(1) 24″x24″ section of 1/4″ scrap hardboard (about $1 from the scrap bin)

(1) (small amount of spare wood glue or All-Purpose glue to adhere the pieces

(1) (alternative) small pack of finishing nails or carpet tacks if you want an easily replaceable surface



– (1) 18″x24″ Peg Board ($3-5)



(To make it retractable)

  • (2) Small 1″ hinges w/ screws
  • (6) 3/8″ machine screws
  • (6) nuts that fit the screws

(To make it stand up)

  • (6) screws that came with the hinges
  • – (2) 1/4″ wide x 1/2″ long thumb screws
  • – (2) 1/4″ inner diameter threaded screw insert that the thumb screws fit into


  • (4) 3″ Toggle bolts
  • (4) Washers

– OR –

  • (2) 4″ Machine screws
  • (2) large wing nuts that fit the screws
  • (2) 8″ sections of 1″x2″ wood


  • (1) Sterilite® 6-Qt. Shoe Drawer
  • (4) Wood Screws to attach the drawer to the top

– OR –

  • (1) Any 6-Qt. Plastic Box
  • (4) Wood Screws to serve as drawer “rails”

Watch the video to see how it all fits together!

Overall, it’s really not a tough project at all. The only thing that really created a detour was my need to come up with a creative way to make the work surface usable with different legs.
Provided you just go ahead and get the Workmate 125, I think attaching the top the way does it will work well, as long as you countersink holes, so you can have a flat work surface… especially if  always have a power screwdriver handy to pull out the toggle bolts, because the bolts are long.
For attaching the pegboard wall, I think using the thumb screw and screw-insert trick you see in my video is a good improvement.

NOTE: At some point I may break the long video into parts. For now, here’s where the sections start:

  • 0:00 Intro
  • 2:24 Parts and Strategy
  • 5:16 The workbench surface
  • 7:51 Connecting the surface to the bench
  • 11:24 “Clever” way to integrate a makeshift drawer
  • 18:15 Testing the makeshift drawer
  • 20:53 Installing the pegboard wall
  • 23:34 Evaluating the results

Like this project? Reblog it! 🙂


I’m Mobile Rik:
Join me at my home site, where I’m building an ultra-frugal sustainable DIY RV Truck Camper to Live Off The Grid.
Follow Me: FacebookTwitterGoogle Plus


How To Make Your Own DIY Camper Refrigerator To Save Tons Of Energy – Part 2

So how do you actually construct your own DIY refrigerator?

One area that most commercial refrigerators skimp on is insulation. But by combining the top-loading ice-box style design with ice-box class insulation — (i.e. 3″ of styrofoam) — you can have a design that allows very little heat to leak in compared to a standard refrigerator.

Typical chest freezer. (If you want a chest *refrigerator*, they’re hard to find. But you could MAKE one!

<< Read Part 1 – This is Part 2

Besides the insulated box, the only other significant components are the cooling mechanism, the thermostat, and any “standby power” that runs 24 hours a day (which in RV propane refrigerators would be the pilot light). All of these can be hacked and improved.

For a homemade refrigerator, you can move the compressor-condenser unit to a more ventilated area so it can dump the heat away from the refrigerator.

To save even more power on an AC-powered fridge, you can also install a modified circuit that puts the thermostat in front of the power switch, so that it only turns on when more cooling is needed. You may be surprised that this isn’t currently the case, but it’s because repeatedly “cold starting” the compressor wears it out faster. But with the redesigned efficient fridge, you may find as others have that it rarely turns on at all. The famous DIY refrigerator design by Tom Chalko, who converted a chest freezer into a refrigerator (PDF) used only 0.1 kWh/day (less than 1/10th of today’s most efficient front opening refrigerators), turns on for only about 9 minutes a day!

A similar idea can be applied to automatically turn off the pilot light on a propane fridge.
If you can find a chest freezer to convert — or buy one from Sundanzer — that may be easiest in terms of work. But if you’d like to customize the size and everything yourself, you can simply make a container out of wood or even a large cooler, insulate the heck out of it, and install the electronics and cooling system, which you can salvage from another small refrigerator. The only things that need to go inside the fridge are the temperature probe and metal evaporator unit, while the rest can go somewhere out of the way. Thinking about it that way, it’s really not that hard at all! 🙂

Heck, as long as you’re going the Do It Yourself route, here are some other questions for those up to the challenge:

  • A refrigerator works by pumping out hot air into the environment as “waste.” Can you recycle that waste into something useful, like hot water?
  • In most climates it gets much colder at night. Can you think of a creative way to use the normal day/night cycle to make your fridge even more efficient?
  • Can you make a more efficient passive (evaporative) camp cooler that reaches lower temperatures and uses less water?

And in the meantime until your project is complete, there are tons of ways to improve the efficiency of your current refrigerator, which I won’t list, because you can easily find them all over the web.

English: Embraco type FGT 80HA compressor made...

Refrigerator compressor unit. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here are a few ideas for campers (and off-the-grid survivalists, for that matter) that aren’t usually listed :

  • Can you alter your dietary needs to require less refrigeration? Besides cooking only what you can eat right away, think about healthy fruits and veggies that need less cooling, dried foods like what’s in trail mix, pickled foods, and even vacuum-packed versions of your favorites. (It’s almost like a healthy-eater’s bonus.)
  • To prevent unnecessary fridge-door opening, what if you place everything you’ll need for the day into a cooler? If you do this at night before you go to bed and place the cooler in the coldest part of your camper, you can take advantage of free passive cooling.
  • (Note: You probably shouldn’t attempt to store your frozen goods in a cooler for too long on a hot day.) But a weird trick to keep your cold freezer air from dumping out when you open it might be to put up a baffle — even a simple piece of cardboard or better yet, a piece of plexiglas — inside the freezer. Just add a hole big enough to reach in and pull out what you need.
  • The same idea can be applied to your refrigerator, but it’s probably more tricky, because of the shelves. Instead, you could follow this guy’s clever $2 idea and hang plastic sheets like the ones in the grocery store warehouse.

Hopefully I’ve provided enough inspiration for some of you to make a go at finally plugging up that huge leak in your daily battery budget, whether that means you’ll get another few hours of TV or another few days of boondocking! Even if you have solar panels, the energy savings from a more efficient refrigeration system could potentially mean that you won’t need an expensive solar upgrade to keep the lights on an extra hour. And the neighbors will certainly appreciate it when you don’t have to run the generator… possibly ever again. Now that’s huge.

Tip: For any of you attempting a chest freezer to refrigerator conversion, or simply want an external thermostat to bypass standby power, the model that’s commonly mentioned is the $60 one from Johnson Controls.

Mobile Rik is converting his Toyota Tacoma into a DIY Truck Camper outfitted with a completely passive evaporative cooling fridge with electricity-free zeolite icebox. A conventional AC-powered system is embedded (unplugged) as an emergency backup. Stay tuned for the full article!

How To Make Your Own DIY Solar Panels And Save Hundreds Of Dollars

A photovoltaic (PV) module that is composed of...

A photovoltaic (PV) module that is composed of multiple PV cells. Two or more interconnected PV modules create an array. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Have you been wanting to add solar panels, but are concerned about the high price?

That’s totally understandable! Buying PV solar panels and having them installed can be really expensive.

A quick Google price search for solar panels shows that for a small “starter” installation (around 50-100W), you can expect to be paying between $2-4/watt for the panels (so around $100-400), plus more for mounts and installation. In addition, you’ll be paying for cables, electronics, and batteries to store all the electricity you’ve harnessed from the sun. All this will typically add up to $1000 to $2000 if you were to get a “basic” RV setup from a solar energy dealer.

But the great news is… If you’re handy, you can save a ton! The more skill you have with basic installation and electronics assembly, the more you can save. In fact, if you’re able and willing to go the total DIY route and invest some of your own workshop time, you can build your own panels for just $1/watt or even much less.

The first tip for those of you who are willing to do some assembly and soldering is to purchase your panels in “kit” form. DIY solar kits come in a lot of different combinations, but you’re essentially looking at a boxed kit with panels, cables, mounts, and possibly a charge controller, which you’ll hook up to your own batteries using their instructions. To find these kits, just Google “RV solar energy kit” or better, “diy solar kit”.

English: Solar_Panel

English: Solar_Panel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Assembling your panels from a kit is a great idea if you like building things and would enjoy learning how the whole system works. You’ll save a bit of money in the process, in exchange for your own time and effort.

Really the best part, though, is that once you learn for yourself how a solar energy system works, you’ll be in an even better position to save a lot more on your upgrade. Once you’re comfortable with how the whole thing works, you’ll begin to figure out which of the modular parts are easy to upgrade and you can be on the lookout for deals on panels, cables, and electronics. In fact, if you buy a good kit, it probably has suggestions for upgrading.

Once you’ve gotten your head around how it all works, you’re in a position to really save a lot of money by assembling components closer to actually building them totally “from scratch.” Of course it will likely never be economical to actually create your own high-output solar cells, because the volume manufacturing process is what brings the cost down. But what you can do to save a lot of money is to buy the individual solar cells yourself and solder them together to make your own solar panel, at whatever wattage configuration you like. In fact if you’re smart about how you wire them together, you can even make them work better than the manufactured ones.

The easiest way to find individual solar cells is to search Ebay for ‘solar cells.’ You should be able to find packs of PV squares available for about $1/watt or less! (Get the tabbed kind to make it way easier on yourself.)

Watch the video below to get an idea how to solder them together. Basically all you need to do is series-connect together however many you need to reach your target voltage — around 14.8V plus a pre-chosen fudge factor of a few volts — and parallel a few lines of those to add wattage.

BUT what if you could save even more?? Let’s say, cut the cost down from $1/watt to about 30-40 cents per watt… Would you be interested in that?

If you’re a fan of dirt cheap “function over form” DIY, ie. if you don’t mind how things look if it’s way cheaper and works just as well…

Řezy solárního panelu.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A further way to cut your costs in half or even a third is to search Ebay for “broken solar cells”. What you’ll find is a few creative sellers who cater to DIYers who realize that broken solar cells work just as well as whole ones. They may be fragments, or they may have just a small chip in them — either way, they can’t sell them as “perfect” so they need to get rid of them.

Study a few listings and ask the seller questions to make you’ll be able to work with them. Since they’re broken, some or all of them may not have tabs, so you’ll have to solder them yourself. No biggie, but it does take more work. If you’re willing to put in the research, you can save a ton on panels, or for the same money, you could build a much bigger system.

Of course with a bigger panel system, you’ll need to upgrade the other components as well. You’ll likely want bigger cables, more battery storage, and a charge controller that can handle the higher current. Realistically, it would be best to plan your installation from the beginning to account for future upgrades. In another article I’ll explain how to calculate your needs and how to save lots of cash on the other components as well.

About the author:
“Boondocking vagabond” Mobile Rik is converting his Toyota Tacoma into a Homemade Truck Camper stripped of unnecessary “modern conveniences” and outfitted with sustainable hacks for desert camping, including electricity-free refrigeration, waste composting, and ample solar-powered cookery and computing. Stay tuned for the full article!