UTE Camper

Converting my Pick-up into a 4x4 Camper

Second Outing

  Posted 14 September 2018

Another outing, this time for three days at Thistledown in Gloucestershire. Learning from the first trip last month the biggest improvement was adding a solar panel. As long as the weather is reasonably bright, the kids' iPads remain charged and fridge contents won't turn to mush!


We were in the "Orchard" area where other campervans were set up. Only tents are allowed in the main camping areas, which is a shame because there is more open space for games and it backs onto woodland for the kids to explore.

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Solar Panel

  Posted 07 August 2018

During the trip last weekend it was clear that the small 70ah battery was unable to keep up with the needs of the fridge and other electrical items. Without a charge it lasts about 24 hours. One option would be to get a bigger, or second battery but I'd rather invest in a decent solar panel. This providing continuous power during the day and hopefully buffer some into the battery for use overnight.

Solar Panel 1

The camper already uses a CTEK Dual 250S charger which has both alternator and solar inputs. No need for a separate regulator - the panel can connect to it directly.

I went for a 130W flexible panel from Photonic Universe. It didn't need to be flexible as the roof is totally flat. But these are panels narrower (540mm) than the rigid type and will fit on the roof without sticking out the side. I also bought 5m of 4mm cable with MC4 connectors to match those on the panel.

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Maiden Voyage

  Posted 23 July 2018

The UK heatwave continues and at last we had a weekend to try out the camper. The four of us (plus dog) took a trip to Harrys Field in Hampshire to test it out and meet up with friends.

Boys Say Hello

The boys insisted on sleeping on the lid with Mum, relegating me to the worktop 😳

Mounting the camper on the back this time I put on some 4.5mm rubber matting on the tray to ensure it didn't move when on the move.

Over the weekend it never rained at all, so we didn't need to spend much time inside during the day. It's comfortable enough to sleep in though and so nice in the morning to be able to actually stand up, change clothes, wash and make coffee etc.

Here's a rundown of what worked and what didn't:

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Add Graphics

  Posted 09 June 2018

Between work and the kids football we've not had a chance to get out with the camper yet. In the mean time I've been doing some small jobs. One thing I mentioned in previous posts was adding external graphics, and back in February I got some from Fatstripe-Signs on eBay.

Graphics 1

So yesterday I dug them out and knowing this could go horribly wrong, read through the [very brief] instructions and gave it a try. Here's how it went...

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  Posted 28 May 2018

I got the matresses finished, the last of the "big jobs" before taking it out on a maiden voyage. They took more foam and material (and expense!) than originally expected but it's comfy to lay on and generally turned out OK.

Matress 1

The straps keeps the bedding in place when the lid is closed

The foam blocks are 560x1000mm, 50mm (2") deep. So the lid needed 6 of them to cover the entire area. Plus two more for the matress on the worktop, one more for the table.

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More Storage

  Posted 20 May 2018

The drawers are finally done. They took ages to finish but was worth it to make use of the available space.

Drawers 4

The bottom one remains as a hinged door, where heavier items can be put. Other minor changes are:

  • Replacing the drain outlet on the grey water tank with a larger 25mm (1") item, connected to a flexible hose from a washine machine. Hopefully that'll drain faster and be less prone to blockage.
  • Fitted an Andersen Plug to the CTEK charger. This will plug into the truck so that the battery charges on the move.

I'm currently making the mattresses. For these I went back to Dunelm for 7 more lengths of 2" foam for an eye-watering £112. They're being covered in the same blue material as the seats and if all goes well, should be done by the weekend and just about ready for its first trip 😀

Storage Drawers

  Posted 22 April 2018

In preparation for taking it out on its first trip I'm concentrating on where to put things. Top of the list is the drawers.

The initial intention was to have baskets behind the hinged doors, but that's far from ideal. I could not find any baskets the right size for a start, and things could easily fall through get lost. Plus opening the door, then pulling out the basket to access the content seemed a bit of a faff.

So I put together some wooden drawers using:

Drawers 1

It was a bit time consuming, especially as the drawer needs to avoid the huge water tank at the back, but it uses all the available space.

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Steps and Waterproofing 🌧

  Posted 15 April 2018

Now outside, the camper has been given a good dose of winter weather and a few leaks have been apparent. All of them could have been avoided with a line of silicone sealant where the corners are rivetted. The only solution was to drill out all rivets, squeeze on a line of sealant and refit them. Lesson learned for sure 😫

Steps 2

Now weatherproof, I fitted the steps, add some lino to the floor and waterproofed the tent.

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  Posted 18 March 2018

Having got it on the back of the truck I thought it best to have the means to take it off again. For this, four tall jacks - one on each corner - was needed to lift it a couple of inches. Just enough to be able to drive away, leaving the camper in place.

Jacks 14

Updated pic with additional support on jack body

It's more conventient to work on it here and refit the interior before taking out properly. Here's how that went.

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Older posts are available in the archive.

What are you doing?

Boys eye view

One of the joys of camping is reflecting on ways of doing it better. It's especially so for overlanding trips and more again if travelling with others.

In 1998 when I first got the bug for overlanding I had a Defender 90 with an Echo roof tent on top. I was single so it was all pretty easy back then. It was still comfortable in later years travelling with the wife, despite the extra bedding and bags of shoes. We could spend three weeks in a '90 and roof tent and still be on speaking terms.

Michelle and Landie

When the kids arrived, camping was more sedate: Devon and Cornwall in a family tent as opposed to long foreign trips. But they were good travellers and when the youngest got to four years old I started thinking about overlanding again. And how to fit everyone in. The reality was that the Land Rover was just too small. We were sorry to see the it go, but it was time to move on.

So why not just get a four-man ground tent?

When on an overlanding trip you're always on the move. Ideally you want to set up camp or pack away in a few minutes. Plus have easy access to your gear when stopping for a coffee or lunch and not rummaging around under tent bags and bedding! Ground tents of course suffer the usual downsides of cold uneven ground unless you bring more gear (for insulation) with you.

Why not stick with the roof tents?

Twin Roof Tents

A few reasons I've decided to move on from roof tents:

  • They're a bit cramped
  • They're not so comfortable to hang out in if the weather is bad. You don't have access to the cooker, fridge and can't make a coffee.
  • Everyone needs to remember to bring the next days clothes up into the tent. Forget and it's a cold trip down the ladder in your undies the following morning.
  • A night pee means clambering over everyone to get down the steps.

All the above is bearable with one or two people but takes discipline for four and that 'aint us! There must be a better way.

I finally decided to create something similar to the Trayon slide-on camper. Looks a simple design, how hard can it be?


Trayon's slide-on camper

I'll be making regular updates here to share my experience. Please subscribe or check for updates and feel free to leave comments.

Mounted Camper

Recent Posts
Second Outing (14 September 2018)
Solar Panel (07 August 2018)
Maiden Voyage (23 July 2018)
Add Graphics (09 June 2018)
Matresses (28 May 2018)
More Storage (20 May 2018)
Storage Drawers (22 April 2018)
Steps and Waterproofing 🌧 (15 April 2018)
Legs/Jacks (18 March 2018)
Camper Mounted (04 March 2018)
Legs and Struts (10 February 2018)
Bits and Pieces (03 February 2018)
Making the Tent - 3 (27 January 2018)
Making the Tent - 2 (04 January 2018)
Making the Tent - 1 (30 December 2017)
Tent Frame Done (27 August 2017)
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