Working on Exploring

Retired life where he’s just the driver

Our Custom Flatbed Camper build

Building his own camper has been Steve’s dream long before we met and after many months of conceptualizing and more months of design work, building commenced in May 2020. After a summer travel break building resumed Fall 2020.

Our travels through 2020 were in our current truck, a 2004 4×4 Diesel Ford F350 carrying a slide-in 2000 Lance Camper 1130. This setup is also known as the test bed. The travels allowed us to not only work out the kinks in the “franken” truck but also the electrical system. We worked out our roles, our rules, and made living adjustments to smooth out living together in small, close quarters yet give each other personal space along the way. Even more importantly prove to ourselves, we desire and enjoy the road trip lifestyle together.

We have worked out the kinks in the 2004 Ford F350 and will continue to commission it to carry the new flatbed camper. Below we cover the key priorities that went into the camper design. It’s great food for thought and a review of the trade offs to consider. You can also read more about our Ford F350 (a “franken” truck) background by clicking HERE.

To see the build progress youtube videos, Click the playlist button below:

Key priorities for the custom camper:

Improve the off-road mobility of the truck and camper

  • Improve the departure angle to 30 degrees
    • Eliminating the long, low, rear overhang of the ‘slide-in’ camper.
    • Move the spare tire from behind the rear axle/below the cargo box to the back wall of the habitat.
    • Move the main access door to the passenger side in front of the rear wheel.
    • Convert the fixed rear bumper and tow receiver to a higher, adjustable one.  
    • Permanently mount the habitat to the truck frame on a 3 point, flexible mount that allows the truck frame to twist freely without stressing the habitat.
    • Lower the overall weight and center of gravity of the camper.
      • Shift equipment/services (waste tanks, refrigerator, battery, etc.) to floor level or below and forward of the rear axle.
      • Replace the roof AC with a split system AC that is lower and forward.
      • Eliminate the AC generator.
      • Eliminate the propane storage system in favor of onboard diesel.
      • Reduce overall height and roof projections that can catch on ‘things’
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Improve accessibility/space utilization by eliminating the truck’s cargo body

  • Regain load capacity lost due to the weight of the truck’s cargo body.
  • Increase floor space from ~4’x11.3’ to 7.5’ x 12’.
  • Expand external storage space with 4, below floor-level compartments.
  • Increase seating space with a 2 seat dinette/couch ~2x truck camper space.
  • Separate the bathroom and shower and place them forward.
  • Create a lockable pass-through from the habitat to the cab.

Simple/redundant/efficient/powerful utility systems

  • Large electrical capacity + diesel for heating (no propane).
  • Increase PV from 760w to 950w and protect panels inside recessed roof well.
  • Three space heating sources; Electrical heat pump (mini-split AC system), hydronic heat system from diesel coolant heater or vehicle engine.
  • Three charging sources; solar, dedicated engine alternator, shore power.
  • Two hydronic heating sources; diesel coolant heater, vehicle engine.
  • Four through-ceiling vent fans.
  • DC electric, super insulated refrigerator (8x more efficient than RV 3-way).
  • No built-in range/oven. Portable induction plate, ‘insta-pot’ and convection microwave.

Reduce/eliminate ‘liabilities of traditional RV construction/design

Drastically reduce envelope leak potential

  • Virtually no seams requiring sealant.
  • Eliminate all external storage access compartment doors into the living envelope.
  • Exterior and interior of the envelope are continuous fiberglass.
  • Seven large, fixed, double pane polycarbonate windows.
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Progress – June 2020

The Finished Custom Camper we Named Maximus

Meet Maximus – the finished custom camper

There will always be changed, additions, refinements. Follow along via our blog and YouTube channel for updates and how Maximus does traveling with us!

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