While there are many reasons to choose to build a tiny home of your own one of them is more pressing than others – and that is when you are about to be out on the street!
Even worse, maybe you already are.
Countless people are havings serious hardships right now – and more will soon be in the same situation. Yet the fact remains that people need shelter – we all need a home of some kind. When you have very little time and even less money, what are your options? When it comes to homes you can buy, not many options are attainable – and they are all expensive. The same with trying to build even the smallest of traditional homes – it will cost thousands upon thousands of dollars and take considerable time and effort too.
Yet there is one option that can be built and made weather-tight very quickly and for less than $500 total out of pocket money to do it in many cases. It is even possible to get it done in 3 days or less if you are seriously motivated.
Build your own Micro Truck Camper!
If you are looking for the cheapest route you can even build the shell out of particle board and cut your costs considerably since the stuff is far cheaper than plywood – and so long as you paint it well and keep it painted and sealed it will hold up for a long time. Years in some cases – which is more than long enough for you to improve your situation in life and then build something far better to replace it with before it wears out.
Or you can simply go back over it and skin it with 1/4 inch ply and then fiberglass it when you can afford to do it – and make it last virtually forever if you really like the thing that much.
Keep It Simple, Light, and Cheap!
Resist the urge to overbuild or overcomplicate the build if you need shelter fast and you need it as cheap as possible. On the other hand, if you have a big budget and plenty of time, then you can get as fancy as you like – but do not forget about weight!
For those who want to go fast and go cheap – you will want to build it no higher than about 5 feet or so from the bed of your truck. That will have it only sticking up above the cab of your truck a couple of feet or so – give or take – and it will not seriously affect your fuel mileage or handling of your truck in most cases.
No, you will not be able to fully stand up inside it – unless you are very short – but then again why do you need to stand up inside it anyway?
The answer is you don’t! Everything you need to do inside you can do easily and comfortably from a sitting position. You can work on your computer, prepare and eat food, watch videos, take online classes (take some of mine on Udemy!) and just relax and rest. Then you can convert your sitting area into your bed and lay down to sleep – maximizing the use of your small space and keeping it light and cheap.
Remember, you have outside too!
So there will be plenty of room and plenty of space to stand up all you like. Just keep that in mind and keep the total height of your camper low which helps you get it built faster, cheaper, and lighter than it will be if you increase the height to standing headroom.
The sides will match the sides of your truck with no more than 1 inch of overhang if any. The rear will stop just prior to your tailgate – so that when you build it this way you can still open and close your tailgate with the camper onboard.
Building it this way helps make it faster to build, lighter to carry, and overall much cheaper too!
You will need less than 24 2×4’s and about 8 to 10 sheets of particleboard, a few boxes of coated deck screws, a few tubes of Liquid Nails, some sealant, a piano hinge, and a few other things.
You also need a place to work – that can be anyplace you can park your truck and set up some tools and not be disturbed or disturb others. Keep in mind you will need a source of power for your tools and you will need some tools to use. Maybe you already have them. If not, you may be able to borrow them, rent them – or buy them from yard sales and flea markets, etc. if you don’t want to buy them new.
What you will need;
- Circular saw
- Power drill/driver (corded or not)
- Bits/driver tips
- Table saw (to rip down your 2×4’s)
- Caulking gun
- Roller/pan/brush – painting supplies
- Tape measure
- Builders square
- Sawhorses (2) * optional but makes life much nicer!
There will be other things you will need too such as paint. Any exterior paint will do for now and you can buy leftovers and returns for very little. Use it for the first coat or two and then if you need a different color buy a can or two of the good stuff and use that for your final coats.
I suggest painting the main body the same color as your truck – but paint the very top either a light grey or white to better reflect the sun.
You want the thing to look like a work truck cap and to blend in with such things and be as unremarkable and as unnoticeable as possible. That gives you more options.
Phase One Objectives of Your Build
The first phase of building your new tiny home is to get a weather-tight shelter that you can occupy and sleep in and live in immediately – and then from there you can continue improving it and building it out to whatever level of fancy suits you or keep it as spartan as you desire.
That means phase one is focused on building the thing structurally and getting it protected from the elements so it can protect you from the elements.
What you will have will be an enclosed box with a door and not much else. Later you will want to add vents, windows or hatches, and perhaps many other amenities – along with insulation and systems. That all comes later.
But for now, completing the shell will be enough to get you to the next phase of your build and it will be enough to give you a place to sleep, to keep your stuff and be protected as you continue to improve your tiny truck camper over time as you can afford it, as you need to and as you want to do so.
Final Thoughts and Remarks
Some people do not own a truck – so what to do then?
Personally I would sell whatever I owned and get a truck – but that’s just me. You may choose to do the same or you can also build a very similar camper on a tiny trailer – either a used trailer which you can find almost anywhere for a few hundred bucks or less or you can buy a new one.
If you get a new one check harbor freight first. They have several that will work – but you will have to put the trailer together too. Just keep that in mind.
Keep in mind that dragging a trailer around is going to give you fewer options and it will call a bit more attention to your rig when you are parked vs a truck only with a tiny camper in the bed that looks like a work cap. Just something to keep in mind – particularly if you will be stealth camping/covert camping to save even more money initially.
In future articles, posts, and videos I will discuss how you can take your shell from a shell on up to a much nicer camper/home. But this is enough to get you started – so start building your camper!