DIY Composite Flatbed Camper Build

Terra Ops

Adventurer
A note to anyone considering wet layup, it can be done affordably (epoxy FG over hardware store XPS foam), and it isn't that hard. Should be more efficient than gluing on sheets (strength/weight). You can also more easily do curves. Reinforcing edges and corners is also easy, just add more layers.

But if you want a really nice smooth even surface you'll kill a lot of time trying to acheive it. I knew this from the start, and I'm not going to try. I'm planning a final texture coat to sorta make it look ok.
This sounds very interesting in regards to strength and weight. Your absolutely right about the sanding! Lot of time to sand, not to mention prime and paint if you want a finished look.
Do you have a link to this product or pics of what your doing? My only thoughts/concerns with wet layup is flexibility. Could potentially crack.
 

Terra Ops

Adventurer
Really enjoying this thread, thank you ! ! !

Wonderful of you to share this great DIY project.

Think that this approach may well help a lot of folks to give it a go.

May I ask about the interior angle pieces, please ? Did you paint them prior to installation ?

By the way, had tried to contact Creative Pultrusions about the Transonite panels they offer, but no response. Think you are absolutely correct about companies not wanting to deal with little guys... too bad.
Thanks for your comment, glad its of interest.
The interior angles were done the same as the outside "see previous". All were painted prior to installation.
Some will need to be touched up from the clamping.
 

Terra Ops

Adventurer
Most of the plumbing/parts have arrived. Who knew there were so many different types of connectors, threading's, etc.
Not to mention trying to find it in the store!! Several trips back and forth, I think I'm ready:)

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rruff

Explorer
This sounds very interesting in regards to strength and weight. Your absolutely right about the sanding! Lot of time to sand, not to mention prime and paint if you want a finished look.
Do you have a link to this product or pics of what your doing? My only thoughts/concerns with wet layup is flexibility. Could potentially crack.
I should probably get a build thread going, but I'll tell you that I shopped around and found epoxy for <$30/gal (plus shipping!) at Ebond and 30" 1700 (17oz biax) cloth for <$4/sq yd at Fiberglass Site. US Composites is another good source of material.

Wet layup shouldn't be any less flexible and prone to cracking than a premade sheet. Why do you suppose it would be? I'm also getting 40-50% glass content and that includes filling the foam after it's been textured with a dog brush. Previously I used a carpet seam roller and wallpaper perforator on the foam, but the dog brush seems the best.

From the photos anyway your panels look very smooth and shiny. If that is important to anyone, I wouldn't advise trying wet layup. It would take forever and you'd use a lot of faring material. I don't mind my camper looking a little janky and home made. My main incentive for building my own was to maximize space with low weight (bed removed, camper mounts to frame) and decent aerodynamics (cabover portion curved on the sides and top).
 

rruff

Explorer
Here is what I'll need to power; propex 12v heater, 12v back pack AC, 800w microwave, single burner induction cooktop, Norcold fridge and various external LED lights.
I'm thinking a 300ah lithium battery should be sufficient, not sure so I welcome thoughts on this as well. I have a blue sea relay charger already installed on the truck. This combined
with Solar should be sufficient charging. Any thoughts or recommended vendors??
Whoah! That's a lot of electrical load. People don't use electric heat and AC off grid for good reason. Just as a for instance, if you run a 500w heater for 10 hours, that's 5k wh, or ~420ah. Just for heat. AC isn't much better. And you need to account for no-sun days too, plus ~70% of rated capacity for lithium (better than 30% for LA!).

Best to look for other ways to stay warm and cool.
 

Terra Ops

Adventurer
I should probably get a build thread going, but I'll tell you that I shopped around and found epoxy for <$30/gal (plus shipping!) at Ebond and 30" 1700 (17oz biax) cloth for <$4/sq yd at Fiberglass Site. US Composites is another good source of material.

Wet layup shouldn't be any less flexible and prone to cracking than a premade sheet. Why do you suppose it would be? I'm also getting 40-50% glass content and that includes filling the foam after it's been textured with a dog brush. Previously I used a carpet seam roller and wallpaper perforator on the foam, but the dog brush seems the best.

From the photos anyway your panels look very smooth and shiny. If that is important to anyone, I wouldn't advise trying wet layup. It would take forever and you'd use a lot of faring material. I don't mind my camper looking a little janky and home made. My main incentive for building my own was to maximize space with low weight (bed removed, camper mounts to frame) and decent aerodynamics (cabover portion curved on the sides and top).
I misunderstood what wet layup is. I thought you meant "only" epoxy and no glass.
I almost started down the same road with the exception of using carbon fiber. Just seemed too labor intense at the time, then I came across the panels.
Would love to see your build thread.
 

Terra Ops

Adventurer
Whoah! That's a lot of electrical load. People don't use electric heat and AC off grid for good reason. Just as a for instance, if you run a 500w heater for 10 hours, that's 5k wh, or ~420ah. Just for heat. AC isn't much better. And you need to account for no-sun days too, plus ~70% of rated capacity for lithium (better than 30% for LA!).

Best to look for other ways to stay warm and cool.
The propex HS 2000 only uses 1.9amps and the 12 volt AC uses 49 in regular mode, less at night. There are rigs already running this configuration with no problem and no generator.
One thing to keep in mind is the insulation value of the panels. With no cold bridging, the envelope is very tight and efficient. For the no sun days I'll just start the truck and charge from it, assuming
I'm in one place for a while.
 

Terra Ops

Adventurer
Oh, it's a propane heater! No worries there. What AC is it?

Have you put together a list of expected amps/day?
AC is a split system, 12 volt back pack for trucks, just do a search for it on Alibaba. Seems the European/Asian markets have them
more readily available than here in the USA.

Yes I have just speced out the power demands with the help of a friend. Learned about a very important DC charger specifically for lithium batteries.
I'll get more into that later. Here is his blog, check out the documents tab https://diplostrat.org/

Thanks for stopping by Fred:)

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rruff

Explorer
There are some issues that need to be addressed with LiFePO4. This is the best treatment I've seen: http://www.pbase.com/mainecruising/lifepo4_on_boats&page=1

I was recently informed that the alternator on my truck will not set the voltage high enough to charge a LiFePO4. A voltage step up is required. I'll probably just hook it up to solar and not use the alternator at all.

You also want to make sure you don't charge when it's below freezing (or even 40F is better).

My setup is going to be very simple and primitive compared to yours. My wife says she doesn't care to have a fridge, toilet, shower, running water, heat, AC, etc. And I know I don't care. Most of the power will be for running laptops.
 

Terra Ops

Adventurer
Thanks for the details on your build!
Could you share an estimate of cost and man-hours for the shell?
Fiberglass skin: $2300.00, I did purchase extra for another project, so maybe $2100.
Dow 60 foam board; $1100.00.
Aluminum: Approximately $1,000.00.
Epoxy: $460.00.
Sikaflex; $435.00
Man hours, I really have no clue as I didn't keep a log. My best guess is that it may take approx. 2 hrs per panel.
Assembly went rather fast, just have to do it in stages to allow for the glue to set.
Hope this helps:)
 

lostih

Observer
Thanks for the great documentation. I am heading down this road for my DIY camper as well, but am having a hard time sourcing the FRP panels affordably. The local supplier wants around $5 sqft for the panels. In your research did you find any west coast suppliers?
 
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