We have been planning on building a camper box on the back of a Toyota Landcruiser for over half a year. Cody created different designs on Sketchup 3D and we discussed for hours which layout would be good, which side the kitchen should be on, what kind of equipment we should include and if the whole box should be able to be lifted-off or not. As we have previously been traveling Australia in a Ford Ranger with a roof top tent, we knew what was important for us and where we could compromise.

We finally arrived in Australia in the middle of February 2019. Within a couple of days we had decided on a 2003 Toyota Landcruiser which we named Elliot.

Photo of Elliot the 2003 Landcruiser on the day we picked him up from his previous owner.
Elliot the Landcruiser on the day we picked him up from his previous owner

The Plan

The idea was to build a camper box which would sit on the back of the Landcuiser and have a pop top. There would be a small space to sit, get changed, get out of the weather or away from mosquitoes and Australia’s aggressive flies. We made sure to plan for enough space to include a proper 18cm high foam mattress as opposed to a thin caravan foam slab as we would be sleeping on it every night for several months or even years. The front of the camper box would stick out over the cab of the Landcruiser. There would be an outside kitchen on the passenger side including a fridge we still had from the last trip, a stove, storage space and we decided to even make space for a gas-powered oven as Laura loves baking. On the driver’s side would be a tool box. Behind the cab we planned for space for the spare tyres. Under the camper box we would make four boxes with more storage space.

Screenshot of the final plan for the camper box, drawn in Sketchup3D.
The final plan for the camper box in Sketchup3D

When we had just started building, we found out, that we could get a self-contained certification in New Zealand, where we were planning on shipping the car to in 2020. This certification would allow us to camp in a lot more spots for free. So we decided to include a chemical toilet, grey water tank and a sink with S-bend to meet the requirements.

The Build

It took us just shy of 3 months to build the whole camper box. You can divide the build into three steps: The Frame, The Walls and Interior fit-out. We have written up an in-detail description for each step. Below you can find short summaries:

Step 1 – The Frame

The day after we picked up the car we started building the framing for the camper box. We started with the bottom frame and then built upwards. We had planned for a double door in the back, so we had to make sure to have enough structural integrity so that the box would stay in shape and not bend out in the rear. It also had to be strong enough to hold the roof and of course everything that went inside the camper box. To ensure the stability and to have something to attach the camper box to the chassis of the Toyota Landcruiser, we welded on two big C-Channels on the bottom. Building the frame took us only 3 days. Read more about the details of Step 1 here.

Step 2 – The Walls

We were lucky enough to have access to sheet cutting and bending machines at a friend’s workshop, this saved us a lot of time and struggle. We cut and bent all the sheets we needed for the walls, the doors and the roof. We always first welded on the sheets we already prepared, to then double and triple measure for the next parts. Like this we could make sure, that the doors will actually fit in their frames.

The interior skeleton of the camper box is also made from these aluminium sheets. There is a storage area under the bed and two seat benches. The right bench has storage space underneath, from the left one, the fridge in the kitchen can be accessed.

This step, including sanding took us about 21 days. Read more about the details here.

Step 3 – Interior fit-out

After having primed and painted the box, doors and roof individually, we removed the tray off the back of the Toyota Landcruiser and lifted the empty camper box on. We then attached all the individual parts, mainly the roof and doors, as well as the ladder.

We had the canvas done by a professional company. We have windows with mosquito nets on either side of the bed. A part above the back door can be rolled up to open up the back and make it feel like a balcony. There is a mosquito net that can be rolled down and zipped down to prevent any insects coming in.

Before doing the fun part of actually finishing the camper box, we had to do the wiring. The solar panels on the roof as well as the lights, USB and cigarette lighter points and the plug for the fridge had to be wired up and connected to the two batteries. The batteries are being charged by solar power and also while driving.

For the interior fit-out, we used jarrah (Western Australian native wood) floor boards everywhere where it would be visible: floor, cladding, drawer fronts. Cody had been given this wood many years ago and he had held onto it, otherwise we would have gotten a cheaper and more light-weight wood. For drawers and shelves we used MDF boards painted white. To finish the back and floor of the kitchen as well as the storage area under the bed we used a thin black carpet material.

The finished camper box, at the Francois Peron National Park, ready for overland traveling.
Finished camper box in Francois Peron National Park, Western Australia

The bed can be lifted up on gas struts and reveals storage space underneath. The tops of the seat benches can be removed. Under the right bench there is more storage, including the chemical toilet. The left bench allows access to the fridge in the kitchen from inside the camper box. There are three drawers as well as a slide-out table on the inside of the box.

In the kitchen we have as planned an oven which doubles as storage space for light-weight food. The drawer with the stove pulls out and includes another drawer for cutlery and plates as well as a work bench. Above the sink are two shelves for storage. On the right side of the sink is a shelf on draw runners as well as the 45l fridge-freezer.

Read more about the interior fit-out here.

Final thoughts

Building this camper box has been a major challenge. It was a full-time job for Cody, without weekends and with loads of extra hours and Laura helping where she could. We have been traveling now for 7 weeks and are still happy with the design. While this layout suits our expectations and needs, the general style could be changed to include for example an indoor kitchen or a bathroom. There are endless possibilities!

We have learnt a lot during the build and are happy to share this knowledge. Feel free to contact us, if you have any questions!

Timelapse of the build of the camper box

1 Comment

The Build – Step 1: The Frame – Bound for the Horizon · 06/07/2019 at 2:35 am

[…] Not interested in the details? Check out the overview of the build here. […]

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