Adventure vehicles, overland rigs, and campers have exploded in popularity over recent years. I’ve tested and reviewed a lot of them for The 101 and the Summer Gear Guide. And yet, somehow, I still couldn’t find exactly what I wanted on the market. So I decided to build my own.
Technically, “outfit my own” is more accurate. For the last several months, I’ve thrown myself into building out the interior of a Total Composites Truck Camper. Total Composites is a company that sells composite panels and the stuff you need to put them together to create large expedition-grade campers. Maybe you’ve seen one on the back of a Unimog or Mitsubishi Fuso. The neat thing about its build kits is that they allow people to customize them to their liking while saving money.
Andreas Schwall, the company’s owner, says he began getting more and more requests for slide-in truck camper kits, so he started selling them in 2021. It’s easy to understand why: the materials Total Composites uses make perfect sense for a camper that rides in the bed of a pickup. The walls are made from a layer of polyurethane foam sandwiched between two layers of fiberglass, held together via fiberglass extrusions, making an incredibly well insulated, lightweight, and extremely durable structure. In fact, my Wolf 6.5 model weighs just 795 pounds before windows—which is wildly light for how much space and insulation it offers.
The camper is finally finished, and I’ve even taken several trips with it. I’m going to walk you through the building process, explain why I did things the way I did, and provide a detailed account of this project’s scope.
Why I Chose This Camper
First, a little background: I’ve been obsessed with adventure rigs for as long as I can remember. If you’ve followed my work for Outside, you know I’ve tested all sorts of rigs and car-camping sleep setups for years, from ultralight bikepacking tents to luxurious Airstream trailers.
I’ve also owned a number of different rigs myself. I started out with a Craigslist camper shell on the back of my 2003 Tundra, then swapped it for a Go Fast Camper, then returned to the camper shell and towed a Hiker Trailer Extreme Off Road 5×8. I then sold the Tundra for a 2006 Power Wagon, threw a Softopper on the back, and continued towing the Hiker Trailer.
Why all the switches? Some may call it indecisiveness, but I like to think of it as a quest for the perfect adventure rig. My wife and I are avid hunters and skiers. We do a lot of late-season camping in the Rockies and quite a bit of full-on winter camping while chasing powder. All of our past rigs had their strengths, but we found ourselves wanting to be able to hang out and cook inside once the sun went down during long fall and winter nights. Plus, we liked the idea of not towing a trailer on snowy roads. That led us to a self-contained rig.
We thought about a van to replace our teardrop, but the prices are insane, and we wanted to avoid having an additional vehicle to insure and maintain. Since I already owned a pickup, I figured a truck camper would give us all of the driveability, nearly all the comfort, and far more off-road capability than a van for about a quarter of the cost. Bonus: your vehicle’s insurance typically covers a truck camper since it’s considered cargo, so you don’t have to insure or register and title it separately in most states.
There are a lot of truck campers on the market, and you can typically find better deals on used ones than on other types of RVs (take a look at your local Craigslist if you don’t believe me). Truck campers do have their downsides, though: they’re tight on space and can be very, very heavy, putting way too much stress on your truck or requiring a larger, three-quarter or one-ton truck to manage their bulk. I wasn’t particularly interested in a pop-up camper either, since I wanted to use this thing in cold weather. That pretty much limited my options to a few campers on the market.
The insulation on the Total Composites camper was a huge selling point. The R-12 insulation stands out in a market where much of the competition is lucky to get R-4. If you’ve ever spent a chilly night inside a poorly insulated camper, you know condensation is a nuisance. The cause of that condensation is “thermal bridging,” which happens when something like an aluminum stud or metal window frame acts as a conduit for the cold outside to come inside. Even if your camper has a heater, when there are thermal bridges, you get condensation and end up with a humid mess with streams running down the walls. Total Composites campers are constructed with no internal framing, which means there is no thermal bridging and, therefore, no condensation.
Ultimately, the Total Composites shell met my criteria. It’s about as light as a hard-sided camper can get, the insulation’s incredible, and, perhaps most important, the hard part of the build process (designing a structure, putting it together, installing doors and windows, etc.) was already done. It also allowed me to build the interior how I wanted, rather than make a bunch of compromises or retrofit something else.
I really had no business building out the interior of a camper by myself. I’m handy, and I’ve done my fair share of DIY projects, but I’ve never tackled anything of this scale before. In fact, when the camper showed up at my house, I was overwhelmed by figuring out where the hell to start.
But since the structural parts of these campers are already prefabricated, you don’t need that many tools to customize the interior. In addition to my own toolbox, I borrowed a few extra tools from friends. Here’s what I used.
- Cordless drill
- Impact driver
- Various drill bits
- Various hole-saw bits
- Circular saw
- Wire crimpers
- Adhesive for mounting things to camper walls
Nice to Have:
- Table saw
- Miter Saw
- Pocket-hole jig for cabinet construction
Deciding on a layout was one of the hardest steps in the whole process, but that’s probably due to my predisposition towards overthinking things. Thankfully, two of my very good friends who have built rigs before (a van and a pop-up truck camper) offered to help. They introduced me to SketchUp, a 3D modeling program to help me measure and plan the interior.
I planned several layouts but eventually settled on a basic design. Credit goes to Pronghorn Adventure Vehicles, an upfitter who builds out these shells, for design inspiration, and to my wife, Sarah, who is much better at designing spaces than I am. Her biggest request was floor space for us and our two dogs. With that in mind, we decided to put the galley and as many of the camper’s systems (batteries, plumbing, stove, etc.) against the front interior wall and use the camper’s existing shape for bench seats.
This design accomplished a few things: It kept the majority of the weight as far forward and low as possible, minimizing the load between the axles. Many truck campers have their galley and systems on one side of the interior, making one side heavier than the other. Our plan also maximized the floor space and simplified the building process.
Once I mocked up the layout in SketchUp, I had to figure out, through a lot of research and measurement, how to configure the various components and systems. This is where things got a little complicated—since the interior was custom, I couldn’t just look up existing units to see what fridge or battery would fit. But SketchUp helped me orient every component.
Next it was time to start building the galley cabinets, and let me say, if I can build cabinets, anyone can. I had zero carpentry experience, and it was a steep learning curve. But after my friends helped me make the frame, I bumbled my way through the rest and ended up with completely functional, strong cabinets. The best part: they don’t rattle or shift around like stapled particleboard cabinets you find in most other RVs on the market, and I’m confident they’ll last the life of the camper.
I used three-quarter-inch Baltic birch plywood, a common building material used in vans because it’s lightweight, strong, and aesthetically pleasing. In building a step for the bed, anything thinner wouldn’t have held body weight. I considered using the kind of 80/20 extruded aluminum you see in a lot of wedge-camper build-outs, but building them out of wood was faster and less expensive.
Some prior woodworking experience goes a long way (as does a skilled friend), but you can make simple cabinets with nothing more than a drill, circular saw, some screws, and YouTube. That being said, creating the cabinets was the most time-consuming part of the build for me. If I were to do it again, I’d probably pay a company like Goose Gear to build a custom interior or install a premade cabinet with the right dimensions.
While cabinetmaking was challenging, installation was easy. Total Composite’s walls consist of two inches of foam sandwiched between layers of fiberglass, with no studs or structure to screw things into, so I used adhesive to glue surfaces to the walls and screwed the cabinets into the reinforced fiberglass corners. I used the same Korapop adhesive that Total Composites uses to put the shell of the camper together—it’s an incredibly strong, construction-grade adhesive that’s easy to work with and clean up. I can assure you the cabinets aren’t going anywhere.
The next step was installing the electrical, water, heating, and refrigeration systems. Throughout my time testing and reviewing campers, I’ve discovered which components work and which ones don’t. A dysfunctional heater or fridge can ruin a trip or taint someone’s experience with a camper. In the RV industry in the U.S., these systems tend to be both overly complicated and cheap and, as a result, often fail to work when you need them to. In my opinion, there are four things every camper needs: electricity and lighting, running water, a heater, and a refrigerator. Here’s how I made them happen.
Most campers come with traditional group 27 deep-cycle, lead-acid batteries. They work fine, but there are downsides. They need to be replaced every few years and you can’t discharge them more than 50 percent without risking damage. That means if your rig has an 80 amp-hour lead-acid battery, you really only have 40 usable amp-hours. Bummer, right?
Those batteries also have to be stored outside, or in a separate sealed compartment, because they off-gas. One step up from lead-acid batteries are AGM batteries, which don’t off-gas but still can’t be drained all the way. That’s why I prefer to run lithium batteries in a camper. They’re more expensive, yes, but you can safely use 100 percent of the battery, and they tend to be lighter than their lead-acid counterparts. They also last a hell of a lot longer—my Battle Born 100Ah GC2 batteries are rated for 3,000 to 5,000 cycles and have a ten-year warranty. Each battery provides 100 amp-hours of energy and weighs only 31 pounds. Their compact square shape also allowed me to cram two of them, along with my other electrical components, into a tiny space.
One gripe some people have with lithium batteries is that they don’t work well in the cold. That’s actually a myth, and the Battle Born GC2s will continue to provide charge down to negative four degrees Fahrenheit. However, you can’t recharge lithium batteries if they’re below freezing. To prevent a problem there, these batteries have an internal management system that will use their own energy to keep their temperature above 35 degrees. The combination of small size, light weight, and the self-heating feature made these batteries perfect for my build.
As you’ve probably guessed, I’m not an electrician either. Thankfully, wiring up a 12-volt system isn’t that difficult. I knew I wanted to keep things simple and use high-quality components for the electrical system, so I looked to Redarc, an Australian company that designs two-battery systems and electrical components for overland rigs that traverse the Outback. They directed me to their Manager30 system, which basically combines six devices in one: a converter/charger for juicing up from AC power, a solar-charge controller, a DC-to-DC charger, a battery isolator, a load-disconnect controller, and a battery monitor.
Now, if that sounds overwhelming, I can assure you it’s not. To set up the system, you wire everything (solar panels, shore-power plug, your vehicle’s battery, and a 12-volt fuse block) to the Manager30, and it handles the rest. It chooses which power source to pull from based on what’s most efficient (for example, from your vehicle’s alternator and not the solar when you’re driving). And it can fit in a 16-by-20-inch compartment.
The camper came prewired with six LED puck lights and a ring light in the ceiling. All I had to do to get them working was connect them to a switch and a Blue Sea Systems block. I also mounted a 200-watt Redarc Solar Panel to the roof of the camper, ran the wires inside through a standard solar wire port, and hid them behind the pantry cabinet.
I spent about four hours getting things ready to be fully wired up. Once I had the backbone of the electrical system put together it was time for the fun part—wiring up the appliances and getting things installed.
I knew I wanted a sink with running water in the camper, which meant designing some kind of plumbing system. Originally I intended to install a single 20-gallon water tank underneath my main cabinet box, but it would’ve made the cabinet too tall and required an outside fill port. Plus, I’d have to worry about draining the system when it wasn’t in use. So I opted to copy a popular DIY vanlife water system instead, inspired by a Dave and Matt Van I’d tested recently.
That system uses two seven-gallon Reliance Jumbotainers as freshwater tanks, retrofitted with a Shurflo water pump. This allows for a couple of things. First, I can remove the tanks to fill them anywhere or store them when they’re not in use. Second, I used flexible tubing to connect the tanks and pump to save space and keep things simple. I installed a switch under the sink that turns on the pump when we want running water, and we swap the tanks when one runs out. As for the gray water, because we boondock and use biodegradable soap, we let the water drain out of a hole I cut in the front of the camper (but we can use one of the water tanks as a gray tank if we ever needed to).
Originally I’d planned to create a wet room at the entry of the camper so we could have a makeshift shower. But designing one turned out to be too complicated for me, and it also would have required more water capacity and the installation of a bulky water heater.
For hot water and cleaning needs, I opted for a Geyser system. The Geyser is one of the most innovative camp-shower systems I’ve seen. It heats up about two and a half liters of water with the built-in, 12-volt heater in around 30 minutes (or you can boil water and mix it with cold water for faster results). A built-in pump regulates the flow through the sponge attachment, so you get a 15-minute sponge bath. I was skeptical at first, but it actually works wonderfully. I love that it saves on both space and water, which helps me carry less and keep the weight down. I picked up a little dog pool off of Amazon that lets me rinse off inside during the colder months, and it will give us a spot to let our ski boots dry without soaking the floor.
Because we intended to use this primarily as a cold-weather adventure rig, heating it was essential. I installed a Planar diesel heater in our Hiker Trailer and loved it for its simplicity, efficiency, and dry heat. So I knew I wanted to go the diesel route in the truck camper. I thought about mounting one inside, or in a Pelican case on the outside the way I did with my Hiker, but I ultimately decided to go a different route.
I installed the Wallas Nordic DT, a diesel stove-and-heater combo commonly used in boats and Sprinter builds. I first saw one of these in someone else’s camper and fell in love with the look and its dual functionality. Choosing a heater that also functions as a two-burner stove fit with my goals of saving as much space and weight as possible, and since I was going to install both of those items anyway, this two-in-one solution definitely fit the bill. The stove measures around 13 by 13 by 7 inches, which is incredibly compact for two major appliances. To install, I simply cut a rectangular hole in the countertop for the stove to sit in, one small hole for the exhaust pipe to exit the camper, and one tiny hole for the fuel line to enter. Installing any other type of heater would have required several larger holes, which I wanted to avoid.
The Nordic DT has an on-off switch and a temperature dial. When the lid is open, it works as a cooking surface. When the lid is closed, it becomes a heater thanks to a built-in fan that blows heat out of a long horizontal opening. The model I have also has a high-altitude mode, which leans out the fuel mixture when you’re above 5,000 feet in elevation. We live at 7,000 feet and often camp above 10,000 feet, and so far we’ve had zero issues with it. There is a bit of a learning curve when it comes to cooking on the stove because, as with any flat-top cooking surface, your pans are often hotter in the middle than on the sides, so you need to adjust for that—I burned some hash browns one morning before I figured it out.
While I haven’t spent any nights in the camper below freezing yet, my testing makes me extremely confident that the Wallas paired with the camper’s thick insulation will keep us toasty. During several low-forties nights in there, we had to keep the windows cracked because our body heat was enough to warm it up. Winter camping, here we come.
My favorite camper refrigerator brand is Dometic. I’ve used its CFX line of powered coolers for years, both in the back of my truck and in my Hiker Trailer. For this build, I picked one of its under-counter fridges, the CRX 80. Unlike most RV fridges, this one doesn’t run on propane, just electricity. It’s incredibly efficient, pulling around 1.3 amp-hours per hour when the ambient temp is 77 degrees, and I fit it in the cabinets underneath my stove/heater rather than take up seating space with a cooler-style fridge.
The 80-liter size is great for long weekends, and I’ve been able to jam enough food inside for two people for a two-week trip. It sips electricity, and I’ve had no problems keeping everything cold (even ice cubes and ice cream in the freezer compartment). The fridge was the first component I added to my SketchUp design in order to get the dimensions for the cabinet boxes. Dometic offers several different sizes of the CRX model, so you should be able to find one that will work for your build.
Aside from the big ones mentioned above, there are also several other key components in my camper. First is our mattress, which is a Hest Dually Long. I had heard great things about Hest and had wanted to test one out for a while, so I was stoked when I realized a Dually Long, at 50 inches wide and 78 inches long, was nearly a perfect fit for the cabover bed portion of the camper (it slides in easily and overhangs by half an inch). After using it for several months now, I can confidently say it’s the most comfortable car-camping mattress I’ve ever used, full stop. My wife broke her back in high school and still suffers from back pain, so it’s pretty tough to find a pad that works well for her. The Hest is the first one she’s ever used that she raves about. I also like that it folds up and straps in half for easy transport. We’ve used it as a spare bed for visitors and even laid it on top of subpar mattresses during trips in other campers we’ve tested. (The Hest pillows are incredible too.)
The dining table is an EZ-Reach system. EZ-Reach is made in the U.S.A., and you can choose among several different mounts, tabletops, and lengths. The one we got swivels and tilts out of the way when not in use, and I can position it next to the countertop for more cooking space. You can also get several mounts if you want to move the table to various spots (outside, for instance), and the company has some cool accessories if you want to hang a book or iPad from it. I plan to replace the tabletop with a butcher block so we can use it as a cutting board.
To finish the bench seats, I ordered custom pads from Cushionsxpress.com. If you know your way around a sewing machine, creating your own would be an easy project, but I don’t, unfortunately. They’re fine, but I wish the fabric were thicker, and would go with a more durable Sunbrella fabric if I did it again. For the flooring, Sarah bought a burly outdoor rug from Home Depot and cut it to fit. We went that route instead of installing rubber flooring or something else because we wanted a soft surface for our dogs, and we also knew we’d need to clean it often. Rather than scrubbing flooring, we just pull the rug out and vacuum it or hose it down. Plus, since the existing composite flooring underneath is already durable and totally waterproof, there wasn’t really a need to add more on top of it.
Aside from the main galley cabinets, storage inside the camper consists of one tall cabinet on the back wall of the driver side, some Ikea racks on and over the counter, and several storage nets over the windows and bed. Netting is lightweight and gives us an easy place to store bulky, lightweight items like blankets and ski clothes.
The last piece of the camper storage puzzle is a PakMule cargo carrier on the truck’s hitch. While we have a good bit of floor space inside for bulky gear, I wanted the option to carry things like firewood, a big cooler for hunting, and whatever else out back. The PakMule is made from welded aluminum, overbuilt and incredibly strong while remaining light—it’s the best hitch-mounted cargo carrier I’ve used and an excellent way to add more storage space to a truck camper or van. I also added what PakMule calls its Porch system to create a nifty little platform that acts as a step or elevated outdoor spot to take off waders or ski boots.
I haven’t taken the camper to a certified CAT scale yet, but I did drive to the local recycling center to get a rough weight on it. When it’s all loaded up, it weighs about 1,300 pounds, which is significantly less than most hard-sided campers of its size. If you’ve followed my build here or on Instagram, you might have noticed that I got the camper when I had my 2006 Power Wagon, which was a ¾-ton truck. That’s the truck I intended to run the camper on, but things changed and I sold the Dodge for a 2018 Tundra earlier this year (I had a lot of reliability issues with the Power Wagon, realized I didn’t love driving a ¾-ton truck around all the time, and just love Toyotas). The Tundra’s payload is lower than the Power Wagon’s, though, so I was anxious to see how it’d handle the camper.
Quite honestly, it handles the load like a champ, especially after I made a few modifications. First, I added a set of Toyo Open Country ATIII tires in load range E. My Tundra came with load range C tires, which ride smoother but aren’t meant to carry weight like E-rated, light-truck tires. I also added a set of Black Rhino Dugger 18-inch wheels to keep tire sway to a minimum on the highway, and I’m running size LT265/75/18 tires (about a 33 inches). That tire-and-wheel combo is only slightly heavier and taller than the stock, so there wasn’t a noticeable change in fuel economy or power.
Next, I added some Firestone RideRite Airbags to the back, which is a pretty standard upgrade for any truck loaded with a camper. These help level the truck and provide more stability on the road. I also installed Daystar Cradles, which let the truck’s axle articulate better off-road.
The biggest upgrade came from the ARB/Old Man Emu BP-51 suspension kit. The BP-51 kit consists of new front coilovers along with new rear shocks and leaf springs. The shocks have larger, 2.5-inch bodies, and you can order the kit several different ways depending on your needs. I went with a medium leaf spring pack out back since the camper won’t live on the truck full-time and I have air bags, but I can change it to the heavy pack if I ever need or want to. I also added new ProComp Pro Series upper control arms to keep the angles in check with the new ride height.
The other beauty of this system is that the shocks are adjustable—you can change the rebound and compression of the shocks with a provided wrench, just as you can on your mountain bike. ARB has guidelines for adjusting the shocks depending on how much weight you’re carrying in your bed and whether you’re running things like a bumper or winch up front; that adjustability has been a perfect solution for me since the camper comes out of the truck when I’m not on a trip. Thanks to the BP-51s, the truck now drives like a dream. I have to give kudos to Wes Siler for the recommendation here (it’s what he runs on both of his trucks) because the BP-51s made an incredible difference in ride quality both with and without the camper installed.
You could certainly get by without a fancy suspension setup like this, but I don’t think I’d ever run a truck with stock suspension again after having the BP-51s installed for a couple months now. Before, when the camper was on the back, I used to have to slow way down on Forest Service roads and crawl when things got rough to avoid overloading the shocks and feeling as if the camper might bounce into orbit. It did fine on the road, but off-road, it just didn’t feel safe. Now I can hardly tell the camper is back there no matter what kind of surface I’m on. Handling feels tighter on pavement, and on dirt roads it feels like I’m just driving my truck, not a fully loaded camper. I barely feel washboard, and without the camper in the bed it feels like a downright race truck—I can drive 15 to 20 mph faster on dirt than I used to, which means being able to find a campsite, trailhead, or hunting spot a lot quicker and more comfortably.
What’s It Like to Camp In?
In one word: fantastic. I finally understand why all the van folks love their rigs so much. There’s no setup once you find a campsite, you have everything you need with you all the time (cold drinks, a sink, a place to change), you can park it in a normal parking spot, and you can navigate through cities more easily than with a trailer. The first time I rolled into a campsite at 11 P.M. with the truck camper, I was mentally prepared to unhitch a trailer, level it, and unpack things, and I didn’t quite know what to do with myself when I realized all I had to do was to open the door and go to sleep.
It’s also really, really nice to not have to worry about whether your trailer will make it up a rough section of road, or whether you’ll have a spot to turn around if it can’t. Even off-road-capable trailers still have that problem, and they often create a very long vehicle that becomes unmanageable on dirt roads. This camper will go anywhere my truck can go or, perhaps more appropriately, anywhere I want to take it. It doesn’t hang over the truck’s bed rails by much, and the only obstacles I worry about are low branches and really off-camber sections of trail, due to the camper’s height. So far, it brushes off hits from tree branches without issue, and it doesn’t mind being hauled up really rough roads at all. Time will tell, but I have absolutely no worries about the durability and longevity of the camper, and I am more impressed with the construction methods and build quality of Total Composites (and Overland Adventure Truck, which put the panels together) every time we camp in it.
All of the systems have performed flawlessly so far, save for one tiny mishap with the water jugs that was the result of my overfilling them. Despite running the fridge 24 hours a day, using the stove for cooking, and powering the lights, water pump, and Geyser water heater, I’ve yet to run the batteries below 60 percent (and that’s with charging only from one 200-watt Redarc solar panel on the roof—I haven’t even plugged it into the truck’s alternator yet).
Down the road, I’m considering adding another cabinet for more storage. I’ll also likely add a shelf in the tall, middle compartment underneath the counter as well as a net to keep things in place.
We also couldn’t be happier with our floor plan. When it’s just me in the camper it’s downright palatial, and there’s still plenty of space for Sarah and the two dogs (especially if we kick them out while cooking). Getting in and out of the bed is easy, the kitchen’s nice to cook in, and overall it’s just a really pleasant space to hang out when it’s nasty outside.
I also have plans to add a removable platform that will span the lower gap between the benches of the camper and allow another person to sleep down there, which will be great for hunting trips or anytime we want to bring someone else along. In addition to that, I plan to mount some Kuat Dirtbag fork mounts inside the camper for secure bike storage, a Kuat Switch ski rack on the outside to haul skis and fly rods, and an awning and shower cube on the outside as well. I’ll cover those additions in future videos.
Would I Change Anything?
In this camper? No. So far everything works perfectly and it functions just as I’d hoped it would. If I were living in this full-time, or taking extended trips, I’d likely consider going with an eight-foot flatbed version that’d live on a dedicated truck full time—you could easily fit a full wet bath in there, and if you bought a used truck you’d still come in well below the cost of a brand new 4×4 Sprinter.
Would I build out a camper myself again? Ask me again in six months. Fundamentally, I did this because I wanted a project, and it really comes down to how you want to spend your time versus your money, and whether you enjoy this sort of thing.
There are a lot of wonderful production-model truck campers on the market these days, and I certainly considered a lot of them before going with Total Composites. I considered a Scout; an Overland Explorer Vehicles Camp X; a Four Wheel Camper; a Supertramp; finding an old, used Northern Lite or Bigfoot and renovating it; and many, many other things. They all have their own pros and cons, and if you’re not as picky as I am or you don’t have an interest in building something yourself, there’s probably a great option out there for you.
Ultimately I couldn’t find anything that fit every need I had—the Scout came close, but I’ve heard a lot of reports of condensation issues in the winter, and I wanted a proper electrical system. I wanted more water capacity and have had problems with the LifeSaver Jerrycan system it uses. Plus, when I added everything to it I wanted, the price came in at $33,143.
The Total Composites 6.5-foot slide-in starts at just over $18,000. That’ll go up depending on how many windows you add. The rest of the build cost is up to you. It’s also worth noting that the lead time for one of these is only four months, which is significantly shorter than most campers on the market right now. I built mine out slowly over about five months, working on it when I had time. If I’d been able to block off one chunk of time to work on it, I bet it would have taken two or three weeks total. In terms of cost, I went with high-end components like Battle Born batteries, a Redarc Manager30, a large Dometic fridge, and a Wallas stove, so this wasn’t a budget build. Without factoring in my time, the components and materials added up to around $10,000, which would put the total cost of the build just under $30,000 (this doesn’t include the modifications to the truck, either). That’s in line with similar campers on the market, but I was able to use the exact, quality components I wanted and design everything for how I’ll use it, without having to sacrifice anything.
One thing worth noting: you could do this for way less money than I did by going with less expensive components and utilizing gear you already have, like a camp stove and sleeping pads, and still have a fully functional camper that’ll keep you warm on the coldest of winter nights.
On the flipside, if you don’t want to build one of these campers out yourself, you can have one of Total Composites’ upfitting partners do it for you and still get all the advantages of that shell. Overland Adventure Truck in Washington put mine together and also offers full interior builds, and Bear Adventure Vehicles in California does the same, plus offers some incredible models of its own, like the Black Bear, with an interior build that costs around $8,050 without a battery, solar, or fridge.
I think that’s the real beauty of the Total Composites camper kits—they allow you to design and build exactly what you want and spend as much or as little as you want doing it. They’re simple, they’re extremely well constructed, and they offer a blank canvas for anybody with even the smallest bit of DIY know-how. There’s also something particularly satisfying about camping in a rig you built yourself—and you can’t put a price on that.