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10X10 Mod Tournament 1: Medium Mods

That U-shape isn’t for you?  Side-entry steps leave you hanging?  Can’t see past the slide?  Snickers isn’t satisfied?  We have 10 amazing truck camper mods for you!

February 10x10 Mod Contest

Welcome to the first 10X10 Mod Tournament.  Please review the following ten medium mods and vote for your favorite.  We will announce the winner next week.  For more information about the 10X10 Mod Tournament, including how to enter, click here.

Click here to vote for your favorite 3 mods from this month’s contest.

1. Jim and Joan Thompson, Edgerton, Wisconsin
Dinette Into A Desk With Office Chairs
2011 GMC 3500
2013 Lance 1191

We are fortunate to be able to work from the road for four or five weeks at a time using our laptops and cellular internet connection.  We had room to work comfortably in our fifth wheel.  However, when we bought a truck camper, we found the dinette seating unbearably uncomfortable for using a laptop, or for any kind of extended sitting.

Our 2013 Lance 1191 has a deep slide-out featuring a U-shape dinette.  We needed to convert that area into a more comfortable place to sit and work.  When we’re not working, we wanted a more comfortable place to sit and read (or in my case, knit).

We decided that whatever we did should be reversible in case we decide to sell the camper down the road.  We knew we would want be able put it all back into a stock U-shape dinette without any extra holes in the walls.  We also didn’t want to add a lot of weight to our rig, and we wanted to accomplish our changes without losing storage space.

We’ve accomplished our goals!  Here’s what we did:

Lance 1181 Slide Desk Modification

1. We removed most of the dinette except for the boards that form the back of the seats and the large storage area that’s accessible from the outside.  Everything came out easily with a screwdriver.  No glue joints had to be broken.  We put hardware into plastic bags and labeled them, taking photos as we worked.

The photo above shows what we left in place.  We also removed the bunk bed.  The bunk bed was heavy, cuts down on headspace in the slide, and is something we do not need.

Supports for bunk bed in Lance 1181

2. In the above photo, you can see the supports for the bunk bed on the wall.  You can also see that we moved the window valance and shade up almost to the ceiling.  When the shade is up, it no longer covers one-third of the glass.  What a difference!

moved the bunk bed supports down

3. We moved the bunk bed supports down and mounted them on the dinette seat-back boards – as shown above.  We bought an unfinished 24-inch by 80-inch hollow-core slab door from Home Depot, cut it to length, then stained and finished it.

The door sits on the bunk bed supports and slides forward for use as a desk.  If it ever sags, it can be flipped over.

We found some 54-quart plastic storage boxes that are just the right height to sit on top of the outside storage compartment.  We can fit three of these boxes length-wise in this area.  They sit back against the wall and allow the knee-space we need when we are facing the window using the desk.

The boxes seem to give us a little more storage than what we lost by removing the drawers under the dinette.  A stretch cord across the three boxes (not yet in place when the photo was taken) holds them in while traveling.

Lance 1181 dinette desk

4. When we are on the road, the desk is held in place with a couple of clips that go through the supports, as shown above.

comfortable office chairs tied down

5. Next, we brought our comfortable office chairs into the camper.  We are both tall people with long legs, so the placement of the chairs was all planned out beforehand to make sure we had leg room.

The spacing is just right to be able to sit facing the window to work, with the desk pulled forward about eight inches as shown in the photo above.  We can also push the desk back against the wall and swivel the chairs to face the camper’s interior for relaxing or reading.  With the desk against the wall and the back of the seat in the corner, I am able to recline as much as I would want to.

Office chairs in truck camper

6. As you can see from the photo above, we have just enough room on the slide for the chairs.  It would not have been possible to leave our outside storage intact without having the extra slide depth from the deep U-shape dinette slide.

Next, we needed a way to keep the chairs from moving around and possibly falling off the slide floor while traveling or sitting in them.  We took the two table supports from the center of the slide floor and mounted one under each chair using the original hardware.

Like most office chairs, our office chairs have a center shaft that extends down from the bottom.  We positioned the table mounts directly beneath the center shafts.

To keep the chairs from jumping out of their holders, we replaced two of the screws on each table mount with I-bolts that go through the floor of the slide with a fender washer and locknut.  The I-bolts allow the chairs to be solidly strapped down.

We do not move the chairs, and they’re in exactly the right position for either working or lounging.  When we travel, the chairs are turned back-to-back with a stretch cord between them. The photo above also shows the wiring for the slide, in the background.  We repositioned this wiring simply by moving the clips that held it in place.

If we want to eat facing each other, it is a little tight, but it works.  We normally bring a folding table with us.  Usually, we’re in a campground that has an outdoor table and we prefer that anyway, but this is a good option to have.

Before embarking on this mod, we spent a lot of time thinking about our priorities, and we had decided that comfort for working and relaxing was more important than being able to have an indoor table where we could sit facing each other.

7. We painted the exposed edges of the wood seat-back panels brown and filled in the screw-holes with wood filler.

Obviously, this mod would be nicer without the dinette seat’s back panels, and we realized that removing them would make getting in and out of the bed with the slide in very easy when stealth camping.  But, because the storage box is built to fit between those two seat-back panels, removing them would have meant making spacers to put between the ends of the storage box and walls.  We decided to start here and try it out.

We can remove these panels down the road, or we can put it back to a dinette very easily.  All we would be out is some time and the $35 we spent on the door and stain.  None of the new screw-holes we made will be visible when the camper is returned to its original U-shape dinette.

The door weighs about 15-pounds and the chairs average about 40-pounds each.  With the removal of the bunk bed and dinette, we think the slide is no heavier now than originally configured.

We just completed a four week trip throughout Montana and Idaho.  We found it best to take turns getting in and out of our chairs.

We also discovered that accessing the storage boxes requires that you be smarter than the box (and by the way, the box lids are an unnecessary complication).  Those were our only learning curves.  Overall, we were amazed at how well it worked, and how nice it was to have a comfortable place to sit for working, lounging, or eating.

It took me 100 hours of thinking and about five hours of doing to complete this modification.  It cost me $29 for the door and $6 for some stain.  We already had the polyurethane, office chairs, and fasteners.  In my opinion, the skill level of this modification is easy.

2. Charles Coushaine, Punta Gorda, Florida
Safer Steps For Side Entry Camper
2001 Ford F350
2012 Chalet DS116RB

My truck camper is in one of two elevations when in use; high when mounted on the truck, and low when it is off the truck and lowered down.

Pivoting And Folding Steps while camping

This presents a challenge for the factory entry step system.  In one instance, the lowest step is too high off the ground.  In the other, just perfect.  To address the gap when the camper is mounted on the truck, I decided to build an additional set of pivoting and folding steps.

My goal with this folding step design had four criteria for success. These were:

1. Safety.  The folding steps must be securely fastened to the camper when in use so that the steps cannot come off for any reason.

2. Strength.  The folding steps must be attached strong enough to support at least 300 pounds.

3. Ease of Use.  The folding steps must be able to be attached and removed from the camper with no tools, be rust proof, and fold for ease of storage.

4. Adjustability.  The folding steps must be adjustable to account for uneven terrain.

Little giant step for side entry camper

In this modification I purchased a four-step Little Giant Step Ladder, took it apart, and added an eye-hook attachment to the top step of the ladder to hook it to the camper.

Eye hook to attach steps to camper

Being all aluminum, the steps required additional support to the inside of the top step to to make the steps robust.

eye hooks and rods

I then added a 3/4-inch diameter stainless steel rod across the steel supports for my original steps.

Use of original camper steps and new steps

This rod then feeds through the eye hooks while three pieces of PVC pipe keep everything centered on the door.  To account for ground variations, I attached a set of Torklift All Terrain Landing Gear that adjust for varying ground slope.

Pivoting And Folding Steps for Chalet side entry camper

Watch this video to see the build in action:

The steps perform perfectly!  The steps were easy to attach to the camper and provided us with very stable entry and a consistent step height all the way up into our side-entry camper.

Making sure entry steps are level

It took me eight hours to complete this modification and cost me $350.  In my opinion, the skill level of this modification is hard.

3. Wes Hargreaves, Wetaskiwin, Alberta
Adding Windows To Slide-Out Room
2016 Ford F-450
2006 Snowbird 108DS

One of the important reasons why we travel and explore is to see things.  We do not want to miss a viewing opportunity.

Unfortunately, we have found that visibility while sitting in the dinette is limited.  We could only look in one direction.

Slideout With Three Windows

One example that comes to mind is when we were camped beside the ocean in Cambell River, British Columbia.  My wife missed a pod of Orca whales moving north.  I  happened to be out walking our dog, Madi, and saw the event that lasted a few minutes.

Because of our truck camper’s orientation at the campground, the main dinette windows did not allow an easy view of the water.  Hence, the reason for the mod.  Now we can see in three directions and, hopefully, won’t miss an important happening on our travels.

For me, the mod was not too difficult since I am a cabinet maker and worked in the RV industry for many years.  That said, it can be unsettling to cut big holes in your camper.  My advice is to double and triple check all your measurements before you start.

I looked for small windows with a shallow frame to use for this modification.  I only found a pair of custom made units that would end up with a $600 price tag, plus shipping.  Ouch!

Plexiglass Pieces For Slide Out Window

Left over from one of my projects was a few chunks of 1/2-inch thick plexiglass.  It had the odd scuff, but was generally in usable condition.  By using my table saw, I was able to cut two pieces at the right size for my application and machine a “rabbet” around the perimeter of the plexiglass.

Plexiglass Double Pane Windows Slide Out

Be careful to only to leave about 1/8-inch on the outside of your slide.  This will have to sneak past the rubber slide seal when the slide travels.

Adding Plexiglass Window In Slide Out

Also make sure to use a file or sandpaper and ease all the perimeter edges so the slide seal easily travels over things without damage or getting hung up.  Additionally, check how much clearance you have with your slide.

After the rabbet has been machined into the plexiglass you now have the ability to measure the size of hole needed in the slide’s ends for the install.  This is where the double or triple check comes in.

Most wall thicknesses will be around 1 to 1 1/4-inches.  Make sure where you decide to install these windows does not interfere with anything inside the camper and is high enough to clear the seat’s back.

Turn off or disconnect both the DC and AC power to your camper.  Take a deep breath and run a pilot hole through the wall allowing a place to start cutting with the jig saw.

There are two trains of thought here.  If you do not want to use a router to clean things up after the jig saw, cut on your line carefully.  If you are going to clean things up, leave your line on.  Make sure the hole is 1/8-inch larger both up, down, and across.  It gives you some wiggle room.  Having to trim a little off to make things fit is a pain.  Now your hole is cut.

Making Window For Slideout Parts

Important: Check the lights and any other electrical work in the slide.  It is not unusual to have a small 12-volt line in the side walls to run the lights in the ceiling of the slide.  I had one on one side and had to repair it.  Be sure to have a good look.

Extra Window In Slide Out Camper

To install the plexiglass I used white silicone for the exterior sealant.  I applied it to the rabbet area of the plexiglass and pressed it into place.  I used a good quality masking tape to hold the plexiglass in until the silicone cured, which was about 24 hours.

Don’t trim off any of the silicone that squeezes out during the install until the 24 hour cure time is over.  Cut this excess silicone with a sharp razor knife and remove.  You should have a permanent and attractive seal.  Because I used white silicone you cannot see any of the cut area through the plexiglass.

Inside Window For Slideout Added

For the interior trim, my camper cabinetry is oak colored so that is what I used.

There are two components needed to trim out the inside; a window hole liner and the surface casing.  Don’t sweat these.  An easy way to get them in place without fasteners is something the RV industry relies on – silicone!

The four pieces that make up the liner can be made of thin material.  I used 1/4-inch.   Carefully hot melt them together.  Put silicone behind them and slide them into place.  At this point use clear silicone.  That way if any shows it’s no big deal.

The casing is next.  Hot melt the casing.  Then, put two blobs of clear silicone behind each side of the casing.  Use some hot melt to attach the casing to the wall in the dinette.  The hot melt will hold everything until the silicone has time to cure.  Do not rely on the hot melt for any long term holding.  It’s just acting as a clamp until the silicone has time to adhere everything.  Now for the hardest part – cleaning up.

Window In Slide Out From Inside

My camper is still in storage until May when we load up and head out, but my wife has done the big test and sat in the dinette with the new windows in place.  She gave me a thumbs up.  An extra bonus is that we have added light in the camper.

It took me six hours to complete this modification and cost me $50.  In my opinion, the skill level of this modification is medium.

4. Mark Joslin, Parker, Colorado
Removable Alignment Guides In Truck Bed
2006 Ram 3500
2005 Lance 1181

In previous rigs I’ve had commercial alignment blocks as well as homemade alignment blocks.  For this truck camper rig I wanted something better.

Removable Blocks For Truck Camper Alignment

I wanted easily removable, yet fully functional alignment blocks for the bed of my truck.

Rear Alignment Blocks For Slidein Camper

I wanted a way to secure the blocks to the bed without having to crawl under the bed to secure them.  In previous designs I drilled holes in the bed and secured wooden alignment blocks via a wing nut on a threaded rod into each block.  That was a pain.

Four Alignment Blocks

For this iteration of my alignment block journey, I built each of the four alignment blocks out of three pieces of 2×6.  I cut them at a 45-degree angle.  When they are bolted together, the 45-degree angle would form the face for the camper to slide on while aligning itself into the bed of the truck.

Alignment Blocks Remove Easily

Since the cross grain of a 2×6 isn’t all that slippery, I added Kydex to the face of each alignment block.  To secure each block to the bed, I used the existing tie-down points and made the inner 2×6 shorter than the outer two.  Then I drilled holes in the outer blocks to accept a framing nail to pass through one outer 2×6, then the bed mounted tie down, and then the other outer 2×6.

Alignment Block Build

I used carriage bolts to hold each assembly of three 2x6s together.  Once assembled, the wood was polyurethaned.

Removable Alignment Blocks In Truck

While not commercially made, these look and function great for my nearly 5,000 pound camper, and they’re totally removable.  They do not interfere with the bed mat and no new holes needed to be drilled in the bed of the truck.

The guides work perfectly.  The anchor method is fantastic as it holds each alignment block to the bed.  This is important.  When the camper is removed, if the blocks can move they’ll jam themselves between the bed wall and the camper.  Usually they release in spectacular fashion with the camper moving much more than expected.

Blocks Store In Camper Storage Area Easily

It took me four hours to complete this modification and cost me $6.  In my opinion, the skill level of this modification is medium.

5. Tim Zeh, Greenville, South Carolina
Truck Step For Dogs
2005 Chevrolet 3500
2007 Arctic Fox 1150

Snickers, our older Chocolate Lab, couldn’t get in or out of the truck.  The running boards made it harder for her to get up and down into the back seat of the crew cab.

Dog step for Snickers to get in truck

I had a 2-foot by 2-foot piece of plywood in the scrap pile and made a diving board for her to get up and down from the truck.

I was able to wedge the plywood between the truck and the running board, but the wood was at an angle and wasn’t too sturdy.  I added a piece of 2×4 with a groove in the back which fit over the rails of the running board.

Dog Step For Truck

I cut the door’s edge to eliminate overhang.  The step still had too much bounce so I made a support block which I pinned in with a 1/4-inch by 2 1/2-inch carriage bolt.  I finished the step with paint and added carpet stair treads to keep Snickers from slipping.

Storage Of Dog Step In Truck

Snickers loves the step.  The support block made a real difference.  The step stores easily behind the front seat and sets up in seconds.  The things we do for our pet children.

It took me one hour to complete this modification and cost me $5.  In my opinion, the skill level of this modification is medium.

6. Bill Harr, Stockton, California
Adding A Battery Separator
2005 Toyota Tundra
2013 FWC Hawk

Last month my two year old battery died in my truck.  I was traveling in Europe, so my camper had been sitting.  The camper’s batteries were fine since my 250-watts of solar kept the camper batteries charged.  But, the truck’s battery went dead.

Luckily, the truck’s battery was within the free replacement period, so I got a new one.  I am sure it was ruined by discharging to near zero.  All newer trucks have a draw for alarms and computers.

Switch To Bypass Battery Separator

I put in a switch to bypass the battery separator so the solar charges the truck’s battery along with the camper.  I have an old school separator under the hood of my truck.  I had a Sure Power separator, but when the camper batteries got too low, the separator would not reconnect.

The new switch is an old push-pull.  I put the switch under the hood so I just open the switch when I leave for camping and close it when I park the truck at home.

I tested with a VOM (multimeter) after the truck had been parked for a couple of days with the separator working.  The voltage was 13.2-volts on the camper side and 12.4-volts on the truck side.  I closed the new switch to bypass the separator and the voltage went to 13.2 on both sides.  This should keep my truck’s battery charged when it sits.

It took me a half hour to complete this modification and cost me $20 or less.  In my opinion, the skill level of this modification is medium if you have any electrical knowledge.

7. Mike Tassinari, Peabody, Massachusetts
Front Cabover Storage Compartment
2002 Ford F350
2016 Lance 1172

In the Lance 1172 on the driver’s side, they have a little hamper in the front of the camper.  This was not enough storage for me.

Added Front Cabinet Lance Camper

When I was at Lance Campers in California I bought a finished door, LitePly wood, and plastic molding.  I then designed and built a prototype of a cabinet out of scrap wood.  Since I am not a carpenter, I had a carpenter copy my prototype with the materials I purchased from Lance Campers.

Added Front Cabinet Lance Camper Open

I removed the mattress to do this installation.  I then removed the little hamper and put it aside.  When the finished cabinet was done, I installed it in the very front of the driver’s side.  I put a 1-inch by 1-inch piece of pine wood from my prototype and screwed it into the finished wood.  Then I used sheet rock screws to adhere it to the walls.

Added Front Cabinet Lance Camper Hamper

I now have 1-inch by 1-inch of pine wood on each side to screw the cabinet to the walls and nose of the camper.  Then I hung the door and installed the two shelves.  Then I laid the hamper against the new cabinet and re-screwed it to wall.  We now have a cabinet that no other Lance 1172 has, and it gave us more storage in the cabover.

Added Front Cabinet Lance 1172

It took me two days hours to complete this modification and cost me $300 to $400.  In my opinion, the skill level of this modification is hard.

8. Ray and Brenda Fair, Hopkinton, Massachusetts
LED Lighting and Wire Shelves In Kitchen Storage Area
2013 Silverado 2500 HD
2015 Eagle Cap 850

Storing items of different sizes in the panty required a different approach than just loading everything onto a shelf.

Kitchen cupboard organization

Small packages such as rice-in-a-bag, hot chocolate, and oatmeal that normally come in multiple numbers in a box take up too much space when you only need a couple of each.

Extra kitchen wardrobe shelves

When the two or three items are placed on a shelf among the cans, bottles, they are easily overlooked.

Cans on kitchen shelf

To resolve our little problem, wire corner racks (10-inches by 10-inches by 4-inches) were purchased from our local box store.  Three racks were stocked together and tie wraps were used to keep them together.  A wire rack to hold soup and vegetables was also added.

Kitchen storage shelves

I also added interior LED lighting to the pantry so that we can see the items in there.  It brightens up the space and makes finding food easy.

The lighting system is from American Lighting.  It contains three puck lights and an accompanying 120-volt transformer with an on/off switch. I mounted each puck with the hardware provided to the side wall of the cabinet above each shelf.   Next, I soldered the on/off switch and mounted it to the top side of the cabinet’s door frame.

It took me 1.5 hours to complete this modification and cost me about $35 for all the wire racks and lights.  In my opinion, the skill level of this modification is medium.

9. Ron Richardson, Costa Mesa, California
Switch For Basement Fan To Keep Tanks Warm
2014 Ram 3500
2012 Wolf Creek 850

My Wolf Creek has heated tanks for cold weather.  This is to keep the basement fresh tank, grey tank, and black tank from freezing.  Also, heated is a relative term because the tanks just need to be kept above freezing.

Northwood does this by circulating air from the camper to the basement tanks and back into the camper.  This is done with a fan that comes on when the propane heater is on.  But what if you have heat from another source?

This last fall we went to the Grand Canyon for Thanksgiving.  We stayed at Trailer Village which had full hookups, so we used an electric heater.

Fan To Heat Basement When Cold

A switch was added so that the fan could be operated by the propane heater system or manually.  The switch that was used was a Double Pole Double Throw (DPDT).  A single pole switch was tried, but that caused the heater to cycle on.

The DPDT switch has six connections.  It has both positive and negative wires in sets.  One set goes to the fan, and the second to the propane heater system.  These were both part of the original system.  Then a third was added to the battery.  Also a 5-amp fuse was added to the battery (manual) supply.  The switch was added next to the fan and labels were made.  The labels tell the user which way to flip the switch.

On our recent trip to the Grand Canyon the temperatures ranged from the 20s to 40s. We used an electric heater and ran the manual fan all night.  The tanks did not freeze!  The mod took one hour to complete and cost $10.

10. Dewey Lackey, Brentwood, Tennessee
Ladder to Access Cabover Easier
2003 Silverado 3500
2014 Lance 1172

Ladder To Overcab in Lance 1172

I made a three step ladder for easier access to the bed and adjacent area.  Previously we had been using a fold-up foot stool.  We are in our seventies and needed a little more height.  We also wanted something that would not turn over or collapse.

Ladder To Overcab screws

I purchased one piece of kiln-dried white oak (5.5-inches) and made a ladder.  I counter sunk 2-inch deck screws at each end of each step.  Before adding the finish, I cut and glued support pieces under each end of each step.

Ladder To Overcab support piece

Since our camper has a large slide that comes in next to the bed area, the ladder could not be permanently attached.  From the same piece of white oak, I cut a brace 1.5-inches wide and 2 inches longer than the opening to the bed.  When installing it, I put one end of the brace (which is attached to the ladder with two inch screws) on the right side between the mattress and the wall.

Ladder To Overcab brace

Then I swing the ladder up and into the area on the other end, pull it down, and press it down to the step-up area.  A slight bevel on the ladder is necessary, and will be determined by the distance to the brace.  This might be different for different manufacturers.  When we are ready to close up, we remove the ladder and stow it on top of the mattress.

We have been pleased with the ladder.  It gives us several steps to the bed area, instead of one step and some old muscles.

It took me two hours to complete this modification and cost me $12.  In my opinion, the skill level of this modification is easy.

Click here to vote for your favorite 3 mods from this month’s contest.

Disclaimer: The modifications above are submitted by Truck Camper Magazine readers. It is your responsibility to make sure that any do-it-yourself modification project you undertake is safe, effective, and legal for your situation.

Enter Your Mods Now!

If you’d like to enter a modification you’ve done on your truck camper, click here. You can enter as many mods as you want, at any time. Good luck mod makers!

 

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