It’s been a very long time coming, but finally I am at the point in this project when I get to build the camper body.
After the test resin infusion went reasonably well I started work on the actual mould for the floor and step well.
Before getting into the details of the mould building and infusion processes, I should probably outline the type of camper body I intend to build.
My intent, right from the beginning, has been to design and build a custom hard sided pop-top camper body. I knew that this type of body would not be simple, but little did I know at that time how much of a challenge it would actually be. The basic concept of a hard sided pop-top is not really all that technical, but when you add a pass-thru it adds a whole other level of complexity. To be honest, I always used to wonder why there were not more hard sided pop-top campers built commercially, but after designing mine I now fully understand why… it’s not easy and requires a lot of work!
Contrary to what many people may think, there’s not an unlimited number of layout options inside a camper. You have a finite space to work with and in that space you need to fit items that will ultimately dictate the layout. Basically, it’s sort of like a game of Tetris.
You need somewhere to sleep, an area to prepare meals and another area to eat what you have cooked or relax. If you plan on living in the camper you will probably want a toilet and a shower and a decent sized fridge. And don’t forget… you need some space to store all your stuff too! This does not mean that you don’t have any layout choices, but the choices you have are definitely limited, or defined, by what you want to include in your camper.
I have spent many, many hours walking around caravan, motorhome, 4×4 and boat shows looking at how commercial entities have done their layouts. If nothing else, this can give you ideas of what is possible, even if it’s not really what you want to do yourself. However, the biggest problem with these types of shows is that they are all normally focussed at people that want to by a camping “solution”, they rarely ever cater to people looking to build their own camper.
One option I did consider was to build my camper body with pre-made composite panels. When I originally started this project, companies that produced flat panels, and sold them to the pubic, were severely limited. That is definitely not the case now and this is definitely a viable option, as it would result in a fairly speedy camper build.
At the end of the day, I did not want to build a “fridge box”, so I discarded the idea of using flat panels for my own build. All of my hatches and the door will be moulded, which should result in a nice, integrated look. There will be no aluminium extrusions used either, which greatly reduces the possibility of having cold bridges.
As I have mentioned previously, the current plan is to do a resin infusion of all of the body parts. This is not what I had originally thought would happen, but after my trip to Queensland (two years ago – yikes!) I changed my mind and have decided to go down this route. The end result of doing the resin infusion is that the end product should be stronger and lighter than doing a hand layup.
I estimate that the finished camper should weigh somewhere between 400kg and 500kg, which I think is quite reasonable, given its design.
For ease of reading and my own personal reasons, all of the camper build articles will be broken down into smaller “progress articles”, as the building of this body is quite involved and will take a considerable amount of time and effort to complete.
Even though it is somewhat depressing, I will detail my failings, as well as the successes of this camper build. If my failings can help anyone else not have these issues then documenting them is probably worthwhile.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing and if I could do some parts differently, I certainly would, as there have been a few pretty significant issues along the way.
Probably the biggest contributing factor to many of my problems is that I did my trade as a Fitter, not as a Shipwright, so doing complex work with fibreglass has been a challenging path. In fact, many things to do with fibreglassing seem quite counterintuitive, compared to how I would do a similar task with steel. Getting up to speed with the nuances of working with fibreglass has definitely been a steep learning curve, but slowly, I think that I am getting there. Sadly, having to make mistakes to learn is a very frustrating way to move forward, but not having ready access to anyone that works in the composite industry means that I have to teach myself pretty much everything.
However, I am definitely becoming more competent working with fibreglass these days and things are progressing, which is nice.
The first camper body article will detail how I built the floor and step mould. Stay tuned!