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A detailed look at construction: #2

I recently came across these photos 1 & 2 of the construction of a camper. You can see how the frames are constructed and wouldn’t you know it? They use Qubelok!

That means no welded frames, all plastic connector joins and the outside aluminium sheet/skin holds it all firmly together.

They’ve also managed to have the fibreglass lid (likely around 20~kg) attach to the frame with a piano hinge (aka continuous hinge) with seemingly no ill consequences (they’ve sold a lot of these units over the years).

Here are some of the construction features I’ve been able to determine from photos and other sources:

  • The Foldover Lid/Bed is a made from foam-cored fibreglass (Check out ATL Composites for some examples of foam core sandwich panels)
  • The upper tent is made from Billabong Dynaproofed 10.9oz canvas – (Wax Converters Textiles)
  • EPDM Rubber Sponge dust/weather seal is used for where the edges of the fibreglass lid and body of the camper meet when closed up.
  • The entire internal frame is made with Qubelok and if you look closely at the photos linked above, you’ll see the connectors are held in place by either rivets or clamped with a nail punch/pinching tool.
  • The benchtops act like large gussets for two of the corners and the other side has two small triangle shelves to strengthen those corners.
  • 100mm Aluminium ‘I’ Beams are used as the support base with a 12mm plywood floor.
  • You’ll also notice the thick aluminium angle on the inside edge of all 4 corners of the camper, allowing the bolts for the jacking points to go straight through, making for a stronger brace.

The other construction methods are fairly straight forward and can be determined from the various photos available online.

Next post will be about some of my early concepts of various Qubelok/Aluminium Frame camper designs. Happy building!

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A closer look at construction: #2

This camper is pretty impressive and definitely warranted a closer look.

Sketchup

Sketchup

It was one of the first Ute campers I had come across and wondered whether it would be a good base on which to design my custom camper. I took to Sketchup (3d design software) and came up with some very basic/rough ideas (note the cantilever bed for the Dual Cabs).

This camper is one of the lightest ute campers at around 370kg. Somehow they’ve managed to keep the weight way down but still using the usual materials (aluminium, fibreglass, wood, etc).

The construction is very similar to the Wedgetail, aluminium frame, fibreglass lid/bed, etc, etc.

I recently made a game-changing discovery about how these are built and will write up a post about this soon!

Wedgetail Campers
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A closer look at construction: the wedgetail camper

So how do the pros make their campers?

It figures since I am planning to base my design closely off the Wedgetail Camper’s layout that I should look into how they are made & what they are made from.

The construction methods employed for the main framework on this camper is all welded aluminium square tube. According to their website, the base framework is made from 4 longitudinal 60 x 40 box section beams with cross bearers in between. The internal frames for the kitchen and seating, etc are also all aluminium welded tube.

Wedgetail Camper Lid

Wedgetail Camper Lid [+]

 

The camper lid/fold over bed is made from fiberglass with a honeycomb core, there are also a few aluminium pieces in there as-well (I think there may also be some framing, in addition to the accent pieces).

Wedgetail Storage Pod

Wedgetail Storage Pod [+]

 

The fold down storage pod/platform, by studying the photos, appears to be made of 40 x 40 box section (see pic). That unsupported area you see is where the shower base is (you can see the drain angles). This area is supported inside with a floating deck which obviously spans across to be supported by the framing underneath.

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Where to begin?

First things first:

What are campers made of?

Well all the resources I looked at suggest they can be made from all the usual materials:

  • Wood – Pretty common among hard top slide-ons & caravans. Cheap for the DIYer.
  • Fiberglass & Composite Panels – Used more and more these days – lightweight & strong. Composites are expensive & DIY would be a lot of work.
  • Aluminium – The most common (at least in Australia), lightweight, no rust, but hard to weld.
  • Steel – Would likely be the easiest (for me anyway), any cheap arc welder would be fine for the framework, but it’s heavy & can rust.
Camper Construction

Wood Camper Construction

Each material will of course need an in-depth look into it’s specific benefits vs disadvantages, keep watching for posts regarding these materials.

Through all this, simplicity of the design and ease of development should be at the forefront. It will be a fine balance between strength, weight, cost, quality and effort.