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The Survival Camper Project - The Beginning


The idea of a survival camper came up when I was thinking about bugging out into the mountains. At first I thought I would just drive as far as my car would go on a tank of gas and then take off on foot or with a bike into the mountains. The idea was to go ultralight. The biggest concern was food. It is hard to pack enough food for more than a couple days in a backpack and still be able to travel with it. Another concern was defense and food procurement. I could not carry a gun and ammo with me. Even a bow and arrows adds too much weight for long term hiking.


So I started to consider a camper of some kind. The first idea was to get a small pop up camper to pull behind my little car. So I started to look for an affordable pop up camper. Of course, this is not comfortable in the winter, but sure beats a tent for long term living.


Then I ended up with a pickup truck. This changed things. Size and weight was no longer an issue with a truck. I started to look for any type of camper. The cheaper the better. I was on a budget, but wanted a camper. So I started looking around and found my free truck camper in the classifieds. It was not perfect. But hey, its free.


The photo above shows my 1970s era truck camper sitting on my newly acquired 1969 GMC truck.





After getting this camper, I started to look around online at what other people have done with their truck campers. I also read about a lot of positive points of having a truck camper. The first point is that you do not need to pay any extra insurance or license plates. It is part of the truck. No extra costs. That leads to another nice point. You can stay virtually anywhere that you can park a vehicle. It is after all on a truck. It is part of the truck. You do not need to unload, park and adjust a camper. Just park the truck. Backing up and maneuvering is also no problem with a truck camper. Your turning radius is not affected as with a trailer camper. Finding parking space is also not a problem.


These truck campers may seem small at first glance. But inside these things have tons of space. They sleep 6 adults (according to the owners manual), but actually can sleep 4 - 5 comfortably. There is seating for 3 - 4 adults at the dining table. There is a bathroom with a toilet and closet space. There is another closet. There are many storage shelves, drawers and hidden spaces to store provisions and supplies. There is a fresh water tank. There is a kitchen sink with running water. There is a 3 burner cook stove with an exhaust hood. There was an air conditioner, fridge and a heater. Those were taken out before I got mine. There is a propane tank storage area. In the above cab bed there is a storage shelf above the bed and a storage box at the head of the bed. The master sleeping area is almost 4 foot by 8 foot. It is very comfy.




In the above photos you can see that the camper was is pretty good shape for its age. From the owners manual I downloaded, it appears to be a 1975 - 78 Coachmen truck camper. The serial number is missing from the outside of the camper, so I had to guess a bit. Sort of looks like and alien from "War of the Worlds" on its three legs.



Above you can see the closet, two drawers and the electrical compartment from top to bottom in the foreground. In the background you can see the missing fridge and heater compartments. This does not bother me because the original fridge was so huge and took so much space. This now opens up a huge storage compartment.



Above you can see the dining room table and sofa seating. The table can be dropped and the cushions arranged to make a bed for two adults. There are three more storage spaces under the sofa seats.



In the photo above you can see the kitchen area. The stove hood is down because I was cleaning out the fan vent and also patching up a leak. You can see the old water damage on the back wall. Fortunately there was no structural damage yet. The sink has a wooden cover for traveling or to make more work space in the kitchen area when the sink is not needed. There is a 12 volt water pump and a large fresh water storage tank. This camper has fresh running water, but no hot water. There are more cabinets above the sink.



The image above shows my survival camper storage space above the dining area. This also folds down to make a bed for another two people. I prefer to use it for storage though.



Above is the photo of the main bedroom area. This is the cab over bed. It fits a queen sized mattress. You can see my fishing pole reels above the window on the shelf up there. There is a seven foot long shelf along the whole back wall that is perfect to hold all my fishing poles.


I have been considering the possibility of buying a small fridge. I want to run pure solar power in the camper, so it will need to be very energy efficient. The heater will probably be replaced by some kind of waste veggie oil burner or a small wood stove.


Future projects for the camper will include installing solar panels and a battery bank. Installing a Bedini Radiant Energy Generator of some kind to extend the life of the batteries. Converting all the lights to LED. Adding more shelves above the master bed area. Addition of a car stereo system and DVD player. Expanding the above cab storage space a bit. The addition of some sort of heat source. Building shelves in the original refrigerator compartment and putting a door over the space. Moving the electronics control box and wiring to where the original heater used to be and putting a door over the hole. The battery bank will also fit inside the original heater compartment. Under the dining table is another storage space currently only reachable by removing the seat cushions and reaching way down into the compartment. A future change will be to make this accessible through a door instead. Addition of 12 volt 120 mm computer cooling fans to control air flow in the camper. These will each have a variable speed control. And the addition of a solar powered motion sensor security light above the doorway.


I will post updates ad the project advances.

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Troy Reid


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