Total Composites DIY Truck Camper: Great Value, Fast Turnaround

It’s hard to argue that $16,000 is affordable — unless you’re talking about truck campers. That’s the starting price of Total Composites DIY truck camper, a composite habitat for your truck bed that’s a blank slate for resting however you want. This is how it works.

Total Composites truck campers are some of the first that allow the owner to start from scratch and make it their own. When I was shopping for a truck camper, everyone I found was packed with “features” I didn’t want, like a mid-range microwave and an expensive air conditioner that only works when I’m plugged in. It’s my goal to never be hooked.

There were windows where I wanted to put bunk beds. Faux wood paneling was everywhere, a design aesthetic that to me is like fingernails on a blackboard.

But the Total Composites camper is a simple composite box with legs and a door. You design and dress it up the way you want, starting with where you place the windows and how much.

I was intrigued by the idea of ​​a thermally efficient truck camper that I could outfit myself, one that comes as a blank slate and that I could design to suit my budget, style and needs. With an “affordable” starting price and a quality reputation and back-up warranty, the Total Composites truck camper seems like an impressive value.

Let’s see what this camper is all about.

Total Composites DIY Truck Campers

Total Composites was founded by Andreas Schwall, a German expatriate who moved to British Columbia, Canada. He was a cabinet maker, paramedic and builder of high-quality expedition trucks before moving to Canada to settle down.

“When I moved to Canada in 2001, I ran cabinetry stores, had my own woodworking shop, but the fascination with expedition trucks has never left me,” said Schwall. “All I could find in the US in the early 2000s was a crappy RV. I wanted to build my own.”

Fortunately, Schwall’s father, a German plastics engineer, had teamed up with a former Chinese customer to set up a factory in China and build commercial truck bodies to German standards, using German components, for the Chinese market. In 2015, Schwall imported one of his father’s highly thermally efficient, lightweight kits and turned it into a motorhome.

He soon ended up in the import world. Friends, including those from online chat rooms, followed his build and wanted one too. Interest snowed. Schwall modified the truck body design, improving wall thickness and features for RVs, not freight, turning Total Composites into a multimillion-dollar business.

Total composites: design for truck campers

Extensive research, expensive investment

Total Composites truck camper
Adding a few windows makes this camper considerably more enjoyable to spend time in.

For the first 6 years, Total Composites stayed with expedition-style RVs: large composite boxes mounted on commercial trucks. In 2021, it released its first truck camper that would fit into a normal consumer pickup truck.

“For years, people asked me if I could make a truck camper,” says Schwall. “There was no way to adapt the truck boxes we made for expedition use to a motorhome to fit in the back of a pickup truck. We couldn’t get the wheel in good shape. I rejected those questions, until one day I thought, ‘What the heck?’”

Schwall grabbed a tape measure and visited every truck dealer he could find to measure the beds. He then sat down to map out how to maximize internal space while maintaining trail performance.

“A lot Jeep Gladiator and taco owners got steel bumpers everywhere. And they like to go off-road. For the Taco-sized RV, I wanted to build a RV that would allow owners to close the tailgate and still use a steel bumper with a spare wheel,” said Schwall.

“For the F-150 camper, we maximized what we could do with the interior and bed size without hanging the camper over the back of the truck. User-friendliness was paramount. We wanted to be able to slide the camper in without modifying the truck.”

The day he decided to build truck campers was an expensive day for Schwall. To make truck campers, Total Composites had to invest in custom pultrusions, the fiber-reinforced polymer pieces that hold the camper’s corners together, which was an investment of more than $80,000.

“It was a huge commitment to develop it,” he said. “We brought the first pair together as proof of concept. With the feedback we got, we adjusted the overall dimensions and got to where we are today. †

Premium insulation

In addition to offering a blank canvas to build out as you see fit, one of the things that sets Total Composites truck campers apart is pop top or other truck campers is their isolation.

“Our campers really excel in the cold,” says Schwall. “You need less energy to keep them warm, they stay warm much longer and there is no condensation. You don’t wake up with soggy pillows and duvets trying not to touch the camper walls.”

Total Composites truck camperTotal Composites realized a condensation-free motorhome by eliminating aluminum beams and everything else that transfers heat and cold from the inside to the outside and vice versa from inside the wall.

The construction of the motorhome comes from the foam walls glued with fiberglass. Custom extruded fiberglass corners – Schwall’s Pultrusions – give the motorhome structural strength without thermal transfer. Because there are no structural materials that expand and contract at different rates with temperature changes, there is no stress cracking over time. But because there are no structural beams, building this camper requires glue and no screws.

Schwall says it’s a reliable, if unconventional, system. Total composites motorhomes and expedition boxes are all assembled with a low-VOC, UV-stable, food-safe polyurethane adhesive that remains flexible for at least 25 years. They sell the same to customers to glue roof rack fasteners, cabinets and more.

Total Composites truck camper
There are plenty of options for expanding the inside of the motorhome. This version is expanded with a bed, sink, cupboards, dining area and even a refrigerator.

Total Composites Truck Camper: Who is it for?

To date, Total Composites has approximately 350 expedition trucks on the road in North America and approximately 90 truck campers. Schwall recognizes that Total Composites Truck Camper is not for everyone.

“If you’re most interested in aerodynamics, or want your truck and RV to fit in a garage, this may not be the right setup for you. If you like winter sports, or if you want to spend a lot of time outside, even when the weather is bad, our truck camper is the right place for you,” he said.

I’ve owned a pop-up camper before and sold it recently, and I’m excited to try one. On the one hand it wasn’t a big deal to crash along the berm, but it was difficult. If I had to stop to run errands or grab stuff from the inside, I’d have to lift the roof. In this RV, I can throw groceries in the fridge, hop in the driver’s seat and carry on.

Behind the scenes: total composite production and materials

While the panels and angles Schwall uses to make Total Composites RVs are made in China, Total Composites truck RVs are worlds away from what you get when you order from Ali Baba.

“Buy from us and you get a motorhome made with German materials that are manufactured to German standards. We also have a proven track record. You have a service point and someone to talk to if you have any questions. And we don’t drop the ball in a warranty case,” said Schwall.

In addition, the company is authentic. He and his staff are avid campers and overlanders.

Total Composites truck camper
A top tax 12V fridge/freezer is an efficient and affordable option and can be easily integrated with a pull-out drawer.

“We don’t just stack things together like a regular motorhome manufacturer,” Schwall said. “It’s very important that people understand that we live and breathe these products. And we only recommend components that we use ourselves. What people get from us is expertise based on experience and a really good product that is a tool for fun and adventure. That is our goal.”

Total Composites offers a 2 year warranty on material and workmanship.

Get a DIY truck camper in just 12 weeks

Total Composites truck camper

There are other do-it-yourself motorhomes on the market, including the Scout Toho and Four-wheeled Motorhomes Project M† I called both to see how soon I could get one, and the answer was over a year. Project M costs less – it starts under $10,000 – but it’s pop-top, has no floor and lacks Total Composites’ insulation. The Scout is similar in design to the Total Composites truck camper, but comes partially equipped and costs significantly more – starting at about $26,000.

For now, you can pick up a Total Composites RV from a dealer in Washington State or from Total Composites’ headquarters in Victoria, British Columbia. Dealers in California, Washington, Alberta and eastern Canada are on the way. The lead time is currently three to four months, significantly less than the current industry standard.

The 5′ Total Composites motorhome, which fits Jeep Gladiators and Toyota Tacomas, fits in the tailgate, weighs 510 pounds empty without a door and costs $15,999. The 7700 Camper, which fits Ford F-150/250, and Aries 1500/ 2500, is 795 pounds empty and costs $16,999.

Total Composites truck camper

I was impressed enough to order one – especially since I can get one in a reasonable time frame. I will be building mine in May. Stay tuned for a good review after I spend some time with the Total Composites truck camper.

For more info or to order your own Total Composites truck camper, go to TotalComposites.com

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