Slide on camper downfalls?

Submitted: Tuesday, Apr 14, 2015 at 14:36
ThreadID: 117480 Views:10945 Replies:8 FollowUps:12
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Hey guys n gals.

My wife and I have been oztenters for a while and when with the boys I just swag it but recently I purchased a roof topper for the ute and found when towing the boat I had to pack up the roof topper each time I wanted to go to the boat ramp.

I have a single cab hilux (steel tray) with a great canvas canopy setup which I love but was thinking of building my own slide on.

While researching I have seen some that have the door on the rear and some on the passenger side and wanted to know from owners if there is any disadvantages / advantages of either? I can imagine unhooking the boat roadside to get into rear door would get tiresome?

Would also love to hear of any other do's and dont's or what would you do different next time?

Thanks in advance :-)
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Reply By: duck - Tuesday, Apr 14, 2015 at 16:28

Tuesday, Apr 14, 2015 at 16:28
have had a few & made a few & building a new one at present for my new Isuzu NPS 4x4

The layout that suits you is the question, but this is a couple of Question for the Door Position
1) if you are towing a door at the back is often a pain as your stairs don't normally work well as the draw bar gets in the way & trying to park at an angle so the stairs miss the draw bar, normally means your bed is often on a tilt etc & I have had a few good falls from the stairs on the draw bar
2) (No trailer) In a shopping type car park back door works well can enter/exit with the shopping etc...
3) Side door works great when towing (pending layout) but in a shopping type car park no good unless you can park to get access as often the stairs need to pull out/over down means you need some room beside you
4)most slide on campers on 4x4 are high so you need a lot of stairs to get in & out, Get a good quick fold set
5) Do not skimp on the legs as when its up in the Air & the wind is blowing, its raining & your about to back under or drive out this is when most hate a slide on & will test you
6)Check the lay out & where the weight is as I see a lot where the weight is over hanging causing all sort's of problems
7) Windage & weight are the 2 main things keep this under control & a slide on can be great or the worst thing you have ever had & it is normally one or the other & nothing half way
regards Duck
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Follow Up By: mrdontargue - Friday, Apr 17, 2015 at 14:25

Friday, Apr 17, 2015 at 14:25
Hey duck,

Thanks for the info, I will definitely look at the side door option - I didn't even think of there're dust! Do you have a suggestion for the legs! I did see an American one called happijac that I started looking into or do you suggest something else?

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Reply By: Peter_n_Margaret - Tuesday, Apr 14, 2015 at 17:05

Tuesday, Apr 14, 2015 at 17:05
We had a slide-on on a Ford F350 for 12 years.
In addition to what 'duck' said, the main issues are weight, weight and WEIGHT.
I reckon the Hilux is a bit too light in load capacity to be viable.

Despite the advertising, getting them on and off is a pain and we eventually fixed ours permanently and registered it as a motorhome and saved some money.
It also meant we used it a lot more because it was always ready to go.

If you can build a slide-on, you can also build a motorhome, but start with a 4WD with higher load capacity and build it from fibreglass sandwich panel to keep the strength up and the weight down.

OKA196 Motorhome
AnswerID: 552443

Follow Up By: duck - Wednesday, Apr 15, 2015 at 08:49

Wednesday, Apr 15, 2015 at 08:49
I agree, if you build it yourself, sandwich panel is a great way to go But again be wary as some panels are as heavy as timber or steel framed & check out what type of panel it is

I am a boat builder so I made my own sandwich panel & all my internal fittings/walls etc.... are of sandwich panel with end grain balsa in the crush points, I've use a timber look (fibreglass) on doors etc. to soften the interior but still have it as a wash/wipe down finish

Mine has no internal frame the panels do the work & has a 2.2mtr 2.1mtr over hang over the cabin that is a pop top in this section & each side panel is 6.6mtrs x 2.2mtrs
There is a couple of company's in Melb & Sydney that specialise in panels & will make panels to size if you look about

also remember that your tray will twist so must your camper or your camper will try to keep the tray straight/square & something normally has to give/brake OR fit spring loaded tray brackets that lets the tray stay square & lets the chassis twist this is what I have used on several trays now with great success
The Qld builder of warrior campers uses this method

If you can keep the water tanks under the tray or as low as possible keep the centre of gravity as low as possible & it will help it from feeling like a wallowing whale to drive

remember the golden rule weight, half what you what to take & half it again & you will still have to much

regards Duck
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Follow Up By: mrdontargue - Friday, Apr 17, 2015 at 14:35

Friday, Apr 17, 2015 at 14:35
Hi peter,

Cheers for the info. Weight is one reason I was starting to change my camping style as my ute is 3100kg decked out with all my gear, water tank full, fuel tank full and most of my gear. I just had a look online and the GVM of my model hilux is 2810kg so I better half the beer allowance!

I will take everything off and put it back to bare tray and see what it weighs then take it from there but I am still a bit young to mount it permanently to the chassis permanently ;-)

Thanks again for the info mate
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Reply By: Bob Y. - Qld - Tuesday, Apr 14, 2015 at 19:32

Tuesday, Apr 14, 2015 at 19:32
Have to agree on potential weight issues.

We've got an aluminium slide-on canopy, with double bed, kitchen and room at front for 2 fridges, 2 x 120 amph batteries. Maker reckons it is 400 kg without all the stuff we've put in it. So with a heavy steel tray, 80L water tank, solar panels etc, etc doubt if we'd be too far below GVM. There's a couple of photos of it on my profile page.

Saw a similar unit to one below at Cairns caravan show 12 months ago, and Ol' mate reckoned it weighed 600kg......not much leeway for water, beer 'n food.

Have seen a camper, don't think it was planned as a slide-on, built on tray of Mitsubishi Canter, and made of sandwich panel. Turned out pretty well, but then the builder is one of those blokes who seem to make it look easy. He ended up taking it off the Canter and made a caravan out of it.


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Follow Up By: mrdontargue - Friday, Apr 17, 2015 at 14:38

Friday, Apr 17, 2015 at 14:38
Hey bob,

Thanks for the help mate. General consensus from you guys is definitely the weight and even though I have upgraded my brakes and suspension my fuel economy agrees with the weigh bridge!!

Can I ask what jack legs you have on your camper and how do you find them?

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Follow Up By: Bob Y. - Qld - Friday, Apr 17, 2015 at 18:04

Friday, Apr 17, 2015 at 18:04
Yeah, know what you mean about economy..........or lack of it. Coming home at Easter, into a bit of a headwind, and sitting on speed limit on the bitumen, was back to about 16-17L/100. :-(

The legs were made by the bloke we bought the camper from. I don't like using them much so the camper has been staying on the ute most of the time. The business has changed hands since we bought ours and new owner supplies a commercially made leg. Think they're electric, and about $1200 per set.

The new owner calls his business Dynamic Engineering & Fabrication.
Website is here You might get some ideas off his site, and I found him good to talk to when I met him at Cairns caravan show last year.


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Reply By: Ali L - Tuesday, Apr 14, 2015 at 19:37

Tuesday, Apr 14, 2015 at 19:37
We have a hilux dual cab and like remote camping towing a dinghy. After looking around at many of the 4wd shows we decided to build our own slide on camper. It is made from timber and aluminium.

It is approximately 1.9 X 1.9m with a 3m tent that folds out sideways on the passenger side so we can use it overnight without unhitching the boat. We can also access all storage areas, kitchen, frig and "pantry" drawers without erecting the tent.

We have made a 2 part annexe that is either 4.9m X 1.5m or 4.9m X 3m. We only set up the latter when we drive the car out from underneath. The camper has adjustable jacks with stainless steel tensioners that keep the rig level and stable.

The tent opens over the kitchen area meaning we are dry and comfortable without the need for an awning. We have a regular sized door nearest the passenger door and a 1.6m opening door on the opposite side. That gives us versatility in varying weather conditions and a sense of spaciousness when we have the annexe attached. The larger opening door is on the annexe side.

We use a ladder to access the bed which has 2 single mattresses with approx 200mm gap between them. 1 large mattress proved too hard to make beds etc plus the hubby and I sleep at different temps so our set up is perfect for us.
For storage we replace the jack feet with wheels and slide it into a corner of our garage.It takes us about 20 minutes to get it off or on the Hilux. .
We built it in 2009 and have used it for lots of quick weekends away (kept on the car) and several long trips where we set it up minus the car. It was great fun designing it and even more fun using it.
AnswerID: 552457

Follow Up By: mrdontargue - Friday, Apr 17, 2015 at 14:41

Friday, Apr 17, 2015 at 14:41
Hi Ali,

Would you have any photos you could email me or any pointers on what you would change or absolutely love? It looks like you are on a winner with what you built and sounds like the type of setup I am aiming for.


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Follow Up By: Ali L - Friday, Apr 17, 2015 at 20:04

Friday, Apr 17, 2015 at 20:04
I have not used the forum much and am not sure how to insert or send pictures.
We still have the specs we gave to the canvas guy and I made a portion of the annex from thermal curtain lining - cheap light,, weight and remarkably robust.
Really like:
1. The interchangeable legs as we can wheel the camper around the garage for easy access.
2. Minimal wind resistance as the "box" sits at or below the cab roof.
3.External awning over the bedhead
4. Huge amount of usable space.
5. Versatility of 2 stage annex
1. The canvas guy could have done better job
2. Originally the tent cover was removable making it really hard to put on when the car was still attached. Have since modified that
FollowupID: 838204

Reply By: Troopy8thwonderoftheworld - Tuesday, Apr 14, 2015 at 21:13

Tuesday, Apr 14, 2015 at 21:13
Like yourselfs we have tried all sorts of set ups and vehicles and finally bit the bullet and built a slideon and love it, I now build them For others.good luck you will love it for some ideas check out geckocampers & on facebook
AnswerID: 552461

Follow Up By: mrdontargue - Friday, Apr 17, 2015 at 14:44

Friday, Apr 17, 2015 at 14:44
Hey mate, just checked out your website and was wondering if you had any other photos available as I'm not on Facebook. Many thanks
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Follow Up By: Troopy8thwonderoftheworld - Friday, Apr 17, 2015 at 18:18

Friday, Apr 17, 2015 at 18:18
If you send me your email address I can send you some more info & photos 0400 524 868
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Follow Up By: Troopy8thwonderoftheworld - Friday, Apr 17, 2015 at 18:27

Friday, Apr 17, 2015 at 18:27
Thanks yes it's all marine grade alloy and fully welded and finished with two pack paint,water tank,hot water service,shower,slide out kitchen & stove,deep cycle battery & solar system,SS key way leg mounts
Sorry I've been very busy building them ,the web site is under construction !
FollowupID: 838191

Reply By: 671 - Tuesday, Apr 14, 2015 at 21:57

Tuesday, Apr 14, 2015 at 21:57
I have had both a slide on and a permanent bolt on camper on a single cab Hilux and have had no problems with either of them. Both were pop tops because they had to be low enough to drive through one garage in order to get to another one down the backyard.

The slide on had a rear door while the other is on the side. The doors are small and do not extend up into the canvas when the roof is up. Assess is by crawling in from a small aluminium ladder. I have been retired for fifteen years so I am not as young as I used to be but neither my wife or I have any trouble getting into them.

We don’t tow anything but if we did, I would imagine stepping up off the drawbar into the rear door on the first one would have been just as easy as using the ladder.

I agree with the others who have mentioned weight. It is more often than not a real killer with a slide on. If you build it yourself though you should be able to get around it.

My slide on weighed 180kg empty and all heavy items like fridge, battery, toilet, jerry cans of water etc were up the front.

The permanent one that I am currently using bolts directly to the chassis in place of the aluminium tray. It weighs 220 kg empty but when you deduct the weight of the tray, the overall weight of the car and camper is 90 kg lighter than it was when carrying the slide on. The car is always around 200 kg under GVM when fully loaded for remote desert trips (Beadell tracks and the like) and even lighter when we go into coastal mountains.

That is the way I would recommend you do it, particularly with a big single cab size steel tray.

The thing you have to watch with any make of cab/chassis ute is the weight behind the rear axle. If you have too much then the end of the chassis will flex up and down on rough roads and can easily crack or bend. If you combine heavy weight in the car with tow ball weight, it makes the situation even worse.

Lifting a sagging rear end with heavier springs or air bags at the rear will not take the weight away.

I suggest you have a look at the chassis bending article in the current edition (April) of 4X4 Australia magazine. It is the first one that I can remember seeing in a magazine. I think it could explain a couple of points a little better but overall it is excellent and long overdue.
AnswerID: 552466

Reply By: tonysmc - Wednesday, Apr 15, 2015 at 11:18

Wednesday, Apr 15, 2015 at 11:18
What to do. Definitely door at the side, as have a look at the back of any car that has driven on a dirt road and the amount of dirt it collects at the back. If it doesn’t seal perfectly this ends up inside and if you can seal it, every time you climb in and out your touching dirt covered handles, panels etc and it still ends up inside.
Put the fridge next to the door (as far forward as possible) so when shopping, lunch etc, you can access the fridge without putting the roof up if you’re making a pop top. It amazes me how many commercial pop top campers have the fridge as far from the door as possible!
When building the unit have water containers assessable and removable from outside. This way you can carry it to a refilling point and don’t have to be parked next to a tap and hose. I have 3 x 20 water jerry’s, so if I have a problem with 1 it doesn’t affect all and are easy to carry and replace.
A lot of people are build vans from Monopan panel. I believe this would be perfect for a slide on as it is much lighter than sandwich panels.

AnswerID: 552480

Follow Up By: 671 - Wednesday, Apr 15, 2015 at 19:21

Wednesday, Apr 15, 2015 at 19:21
You are right about dust Tony. I used Holden door wind lacing to seal the doors on both of the campers that I built. I fitted a flat steel flange around the door opening and simply pushed the seal on just like you do on cars. I have never had a problem with dust entry, even on the camper with the rear door.

I took the car over a few of the major Outback tracks including the Birdsville and Oodnadatta in very dry conditions and still no problems

I checked a few door seals in caravan parts companies and none of them looked anywhere near the quality of car seals.

FollowupID: 838087

Reply By: Mick O - Wednesday, Apr 15, 2015 at 11:33

Wednesday, Apr 15, 2015 at 11:33
Built one 4 years back. Details here.

Building the 4x4 vehicle
''We knew from the experience of well-known travelers that the
trip would doubtless be attended with much hardship.''
Richard Maurice - 1903

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Follow Up By: mrdontargue - Friday, Apr 17, 2015 at 14:47

Friday, Apr 17, 2015 at 14:47

How good is your build thread info!! That's a great help and you have inspired me to think about doing one as well.

Cheers mate
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