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The only thing more popular than buying a camper van is converting your rig into an overland camper. There is no shortage of rad companies that can do this for you. However, it’s not uncommon for this kind of camper conversion to still cost tens of thousands of dollars. Is there a way around spending gobs of money and still using your pickup truck as a camper? Yes, there is. Here’s how you can turn your pickup truck or any other vehicle into a camper for cheap. 

Updated: 7/15/23

How to convert your pickup truck into a camper for cheap

One of the few must-haves in a camper rig is a sleeping setup. For this micro-budget camper, Autoblog recommends a small air mattress from Walmart that runs $12.88. A twin-size mattress is probably the best option for most cars. However, if you want to use a truck bed, you can certainly fit a larger bed. You might want a convenient way to pump it up along with the air mattress. There are many plug-in air pumps that can plug into your vehicle’s cigarette lighter outlet. You can get items like this for less than $20. Walmart carries an option for $17.99. 

The next step in camper comfort is securing your privacy. This is easily achieved by simply buying some window shades. Not only do these block your windows, but they can also allow you to roll your windows down without fear of bugs or other critters getting air. Get privacy and fresh air for around $10. 

Most of us already have blankets and pillows. This is an easy step that you can take from the house for free. Or if you care to buy a set for the camper. Pillows and blankets shouldn’t come as much of an extra cost unless you’re bougie. 

Can you build a camper kitchen?

A kid standing next to a set of camping stoves. A great was to camp on a budget without fully doing a camper conversion.
Kid boiling water to make after lunch | Mathew Sumner/MediaNews Group/East Bay Times via Getty Images

You might not be able to build the same kitchen you find in the Rivan R1T, but getting a kitchen setup for your DIY camper is simpler than you think. While many people will prefer to build a campfire outside the camper for cooking and pleasure, there are times when this isn’t preferred or even possible. It’s wise to pack a small gas burner stove for these timese. You can find small versions for as little as $9.99 on Amazon. 

Once you cook your grub, you’ll be happy you spent the $20 to get a small folding table to eat at. Another $20 can get you a small camping chair. You’ll need water, not only to drink but also for dish cleanup. A simple plastic 5-gallon water jug costs around $10. Lastly, a small cooler will make your culinary options all the more exciting. You can pickup up a small Coleman (or something equivalent) for under $20. 

Do DIY Camper conversions make for good campers?

friends camping in the '60s.
Couples camping | Getty Images

Not only can you, but in many cases, doing a low-key camper conversion like this is probably better. Often, major camper truck conversions turn what was once a good daily driver into a purpose-built camping rig. 

Going this way with a camper conversion allows you to not only save monster dough but also keep your car or truck cool for daily use. 

According to AutoBlog, you can do this entire DIY camper conversion for under $100 if you’re so inclined. It can also be upgraded if you want to feel fancy.