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|FourWheel Slide-On Truck Camper
On A Dodge Ram Pickup
Where is this headed? This photo has the right idea
History - how we ended up with a
and I needed a tough camper that could survive off-road and be reasonably
comfortable in remote areas. Full size campers are usually too tall and
too heavy for off-road use. Even low-profile pop-up campers are too tall
at times, but there is a limit to how small a camper can be while providing
enough space for two people who are stuck with each other for several
For our gear, we usually need more storage space for oddly shaped items
but fewer "conventional" cabinets. The appliances that are usually
installed in factory built campers are not intended for rough, expedition
service, and we have experienced too much trouble from propane furnaces
and refrigerators to trust them. What we wanted was an open floor plan
with minimal built-in features. After looking at the market and weighing
the features, the simple FourWheel Grandby shell best suited our needs.
We also needed storage space for tools, supplies and gear, and began
to think about the wasted space in a conventional truck bed. Hmmmm - A
utility bed provides large storage capacity with a low center of gravity.
With a utility bed cut to fit the camper, there would be no wasted space.
Diamond had experience building custom bed for campers, etc, and they
were willing to build anything we wanted. So we ordered the camper and
bed, and made plans to drive to California to get them.
Standard Features of the Grandby shell model:
Options we ordered:
Sliding front window
sliding side window with screen
over-cab double bed
Two 12 volt ceiling lights
- Convertible couch / double bed - installed on the drivers side opposite
- Boat Rack - for the canoe
- Ladder steps to the Roof - make it easier to climb to the roof
- Second vent with an electric fan - above the over-cab bed for summer ventilation
- Screen Door - to provide better airflow in hot weather
- Deadbolt Lock - for added security
- Jacks - long enough to get the camper on and off of the truck
||Driver's side interior with sofa bed
|Passenger's side interior with window
- Tiedowns inside the camper for gear and coolers - eye screws are used as
anchor points for bungee cords and tiedowns
|| A side awning protects the window
from rain, provides a dry place for cooking and eating, and can be enclosed
with tarps for taking a shower.
vinyl floor of the camper was cold to bare feed and very difficult to keep
clean in sandy locations, so we installed carpet tiles over the vinyl. The
carpet adds insulation for cold weather, holds water tracked into the camper,
and keeps sand and dirt from being spread everywhere inside the camper.
The tiles are easily remove to beat the dirt out of the carpet. I cut the
tiles to fit tightly, and they have never lifted or moved. These were a
||Simple figure-4 wood frames attach to the
window's velcro closures and allow the upper window covers to be used as
awnings for shade and rain protection. The original frames in the photo
used 1/4"x1" pine, vinyl tubing stapled to the wood for a hinge
at the top, and a dowel rod for the leg support. The revised versions are
constructed of brass hinges and 1/4"x1-1/8" poplar, feature longer
support legs and more velcro to resist wind, and they fold quickly for storage.
|| Two 4" PVC pipes mounted to the roof rack provide storage
for long awning, tent, and dining fly poles.
|| Four flood lights in the rear for backing through trees at
night. These are Hella 55 watt lamps from Ohio Light Truck Parts. Two are
attached to the hitch receiver below the bumper; two are mounted to the
back of the camper.
Items we plan to add to the camper:
- Diesel fired furnace
- Simple Shower system
- Ham radio gear and antennas
- Security system
- Front window screen
- Curtains for privacy and insulation - polar fleece remnants make great
Our Experience with the FourWheel
After having the camper installed, we left Woodland at lunch
time and headed for the California coast to run north on Hwy 1. The camper
is light weight and did not strain the truck at all. The smell from the new
vinyl and other materials wasn't too bad, but the weather was fair and we
slept with the windows open.
| The next day we hit a large pacific storm (we
would call it a tropical storm in the east, i.e. 50+ mph winds and heavy
rain) and skipped out first choices for campsites due to 25' surf on the
beaches, high winds, driving rain, and flooding. Seeking some shelter from
the wind among the Redwood trees, we found a relatively calm site that was
high enough to be safe from flooding. Our soggy rain gear, and rain
blown inside when the door was opened produced a miniature rain storm inside
the camper as water vapor condensed on metal surfaces. The wind was
blowing the rain sideways, so the windows could not be opened for ventilation.
cracking the roof vents open very slightly and opening the tie-down access
hatch, we managed to get enough draft to stop the condensation. The access
hatch was well baffled from the wind and rain by the truck bed.
Other notes from additional experience:
- The bottom sofa bed can be easily used when the the top down, and is large
enough for two very friendly people because it is wider at the front of the
camper where shoulders are the widest. After living in the camper tow two
months during a trip to Alaska in 2000, we plan to increase the width of the
bed for additional comfort when we sleep with the top down.
- Most of our clothing and bedding is stored out of the way under the sofa
- When electricity is available, a small electric heater on the lowest setting
will keep the interior warm . By cracking the overhead vents and using the
heater fan to draw air from the tie-down hatch, no condensation forms inside.
- Placing an ensolite pad at the foot of the sleeping bags prevents condensation
where the foot would hit the vinyl side of the camper.
- Loaded with passengers, the camper, tools, recovery equipment, food, gear,
maps, fuel, and water, my truck weighed 10,400 pounds - a bit above the 8800
lb GVWR and the 10,000 lb rating of my license plate. The truck required two
extra leaves in each rear spring pack, and Hellwig adjustable helper springs
to support the rear end. Standard light truck tires (LT255/85R16D) would wear
out the tread within 15,000 miles with this load. Replacing the wheels and
tires with 245/70R19.5G tires has eliminated the tread wear problem.
- The Fantastic Vent Fan really moves air in warm weather. Without it, we
would have trouble sleeping.
- This is a three season camper; it is not insulated well enough for serious
cold. Below 40°F, condensation builds on the camper's walls and fittings.
Below 20°F, frost builds on the camper's walls and fittings and if the
ceiling vents are not left open, they rain on the people sitting or sleeping
below. Below 10°F, ice forms on the wall surfaces and metal fittings,
and the door can freeze shut. Heat inside would help, but the aluminum framed
walls do not have much insulation and ice buildup in cold weather will always
be a problem. Still, it beats a tent!
our camper there was no drip channel above the back door. Rain ran off the
roof and cascaded down over the door, which was obnoxious for people trying
to enter or leave the camper. Other FourWheel campers have a drip channel,
but ours was either deleted because we ordered the shell model or someone
simply forgot to install it. I used some white vinyl siding J-channel
to make a rain gutter along the rear of the camper roof and another above
the door top. The J-channel was inexpensive, and a pair of tin snips removed
most of the nailing flange. The "gutter" was glued to the camper
with silicone rubber RTV.
| Velcro tabs were added to keep the sofa bed in place.
Without the velcro, rough roads and trails would bounce the cushions free
from the frame.
| The rear door sill is an aluminum extrusion
that is unsupported and vulnerable to damage from boots and coolers. To
protect the lip of the sill, an oak strip shaped to fit under the extrusion
and protect the lip from damage. The wood was sealed with several coats
of marine polyurethane varnish.
||Unsupported door sill extrusion
||Oak support protects the jamb from bending.
I forgot to have FourWheel Camper run 12 volt wiring to the storage area under
the bed. The original plan was to install two Optima deep cycle batteries
inside the camper under the sofa bed and tie them into the camper electrical
system, but later decided to mount them under the truck cab instead. FourWheel
camper did not provide an access to the electrical cable (my oops, since I did
not tell them I would need access) so it was necessary to cut into the wall
to get power for the furnace. I measured the power cable location, and used
a 2" hole saw to cut an access hole on the inside. The cable was tapped
with solder splices, then sealed back into the wall with my tap running under
the cabinets we installed.
We should have ordered the quad-cab version of the camper to get a larger over-cab
bed. The overhang would act as a sun visor for our regular cab truck, and rain
would not cascade directly into the cab door openings with the extra overhang
of the larger bed. The standard version channels rain exactly in the middle
of the door opening, making it unpleasant to get into and out of the truck in
Other FourWheel Camper Owners
See the Turtle
for what these campers can do. More
Dusch installed a 4Wheel Camper on his 1993 Dodge Ram W250. Rick dives
and his truck and camper are set up for serious off road camping.
Some details and photos are posted in
the gallery, more can be found on his photo
|Chuck Mackey installed a 4Wheel Camper on his Dodge Ram 2500 QC.
As I did, Chuck bought the shell model and built the interior to suit
his family's needs. Larger photos are posted in my Camper
gallery and a larger collection can be found on Chuck's
photo page (NOTE: while you are there, be sure to see
Swails built a 98 Ram Diesel 4X4 QC SB with a Diamond utility bed
and FourWheel Camper for an around the world expedition. Bill began
his trip around the world in May of 1999 with an extended trip to
Alaska. He found that the system was great for vacation type off
road camping but for full time living, the camper was not what he
wanted. Photos and details of Bill's 4Wheel Camper setup are posted
in the gallery.
Bill sold this FourWheel camper and Diamond utility
bed, replacing them with a custom camper system from Safari Vehicles.
For details of the problems Bill encountered, see his FourWheel
camper comments, which are posted at Earthroamer.com.
And check the side-by-side
photos of my truck and Bill's new camper - now that is a serious
||Jim Mast of vancamper.com
builds custom campers on Ram trucks. The site also features used campers
and owners photos.
Normally a FourWheel camper is
attached to the bed by installing four eyebolts in the bed floor, sliding
the camper into the bed, and securing turnbuckles from the camper to the bed.
To reach the turnbuckles, there are four access hatches from the camper interior.
The utility bed matches the profile
of the camper so closely that there is no space for the eyebolts and turnbuckles,
so our camper is bolted directly through the floor of the camper and bed.
To help prevent pulling the bolts through the bottom of the camper, old shock
absorber bushings and washers were installed on the bolts to provide some flex.
When off-road, this is much simpler
than the previous method we used to mount our Sunlite Popup. Details
of the system we used with the Sunlite are still posted.
Hellwig helper springs - support for
Truck Camper Links - from my bookmark file
OTHER interesting sites with related
Last update November 18, 2004