This is the season for spending some time in the great outdoors. The sweet smell of the rivers and flowers in bloom and the crisp crackling of the campfire. The last thing you want to be concerned with is how much you might have to spend to get out there. Finding a good camper shell or cab-over camper can be a challenge especially if you're on a tight budget. In the meantime, why not build yourself a simple bed cover with PVC pipe and fittings? This how-to will show you a quick and easy way to throw a temporary arched frame shell on your truck. Whether you need to bug out or to quickly cover your bed in precarious weather, this shell will be perfect for a low cost yet effective truck shell.
All you will need for this project is the following (for a short bed):
1.) A pickup truck
2.) (5) 10 foot lengths of 1 inch Schedule 40 PVC Pipe.
3.) (6) Side Saddle Snap on Tee's for 1 inch PVC pipe.
4.) A large thick tarp at least 12 ft. by 16 ft. (you may get away with smaller but this is the size we used and it worked perfectly on a short bed Dodge)
5.) A bag of (10) #13 Snap Clamps for 1 inch PVC
6.) Optional: (2) #2C Cable Clamps for the tailgate cables.
Step 1: For my truck the length of my parallel braces are 67.5 inches. Measuring from arch to arch. So I cut 3 of my 10 ft. pipes to that length and glued a Side Saddle Tee on each end making sure they face the same direction. These parallel braces will hold the front hoop to the back hoop.
Step 2: Install your 10 foot pipes in the front and back pre-existing stake holes in the top rail of the bed. This might be a little bit of a strain, and you may need two people.
Step 3: Attach the parallel braces to give the structure a rigid frame. As seen in the picture, you'll want to even the braces out so that it creates nice spacing for the tarp to lay down smoothly.
Step 4: Pull your tarp over the top of the structure. For this part I used a 12 ft. X 16 ft. tarp. It fit really well but you could probably get away with a smaller tarp too. I would use a heavy duty tarp for this so that it lasts well in the sun and will last longer outdoors. You could even use a bug netting or a lighter tarp if you wanted to keep it cheap or if you're not worried about weather.
Step 5: Finally, after getting your tarp situated on the hoops you can clamp the tarp to the pvc pipe. It takes approximately (10) 1 inch Snap Clamps to secure the flaps and loose areas. I used (2) Cable Clamps to attach the tarp to my tail gate wires for more security. In another rendition you could create a neat covered entrance. If you arrange your tarp long ways with the bed you can actually enclose your bed so that you can have some privacy and make your bed water tight. Overall, this is a quick an inexpensive way to make an arched bed camper with PVC pipe and fittings. Have fun! Check out the full video here.
Happy building! If you need any help or would like to order pvc parts please give us a call or visit our online store. 530-272-3382
Circo Innovations, Inc.
Build. Grow. Protect.
Maker of the Snap Clamp