Pickup Truck Bed Designs


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Trad climber
Topic Author's Original Post - Apr 24, 2012 - 12:56pm PT
Hey people. I know there are other similar posts out there but I didn't find the exact info I was looking for so here we go again.

I got Nissan Frontier (6' bed) and have a raised topper on the way. I want to make the classic plywood dirtbag bed and wonder if anyone has especially cool or unique designs that are worth considering? Main concerns: sleep on the bed, storage space underneath, not fixed (i.e. removable even though I know it would be a little work), modular is a plus (so I could remove half and keep half if necessary).

Bonus points, I think I found a way to make a fold-up bench seat on one side of the bed (half-length of bed, towards the tailgate side). Hoping that there will be enough headroom to convert it to bench mode and sit upright inside the cap sometimes without sacrificing much/any storage space. I'm planning to use mainly plastic bins under the structure for storage. That way I can move them to make leg room on that part of the floor when sitting at the bench.

Another question, having power supply in the back. Does everyone run it straight from the main battery or do people use a separate battery just for this? Is there some sort of inverter / power supply box that I should look at?

How about basic 3" foam as a sleeping pad for me an my GF. Anyone have suggestions there?

Thanks in advance!
Jon Beck

Trad climber
Apr 24, 2012 - 01:18pm PT
I made a couple of panels that were supported by the lip of the shell, used angle iron from bed frame rails. Very strong steel, hard as hell to cut, used a chop saw with an abrasive wheel. Drilling is difficult, I blew holes with at an oxy/acetylene cutting torch

You do not really want a battery back there unless you really need a second battery (running a coffee maker and a microwave?). The inverter you need will depend on how many watts you need. I ran a wire from my main battery, run a fat wire, ground through the chassis and fuse it at the battery.

Ice climber
Bernal Flats, CA
Apr 24, 2012 - 01:47pm PT
This is one of the best I've seen:



Apr 24, 2012 - 03:39pm PT

Any ideas on how to lock those cabinets so that it'd take more than a little effort to break into? Obviously, if someone wants in, they'll get in.


Social climber
Joshua Tree
Apr 24, 2012 - 03:47pm PT
The deck setups are not ideal in my experience. I had a 99 Tacoma fitted out that way...Leer topper with the added height (about 6" or 8" higher than the truck roof), deck even with the bed rails and stoarge underneath...hated it. Not enough headroom, can't really hang out inside, PITA to get bins that are way under the deck, can't situp and cook inside, can't get bulky stuff in the back easily (like a mtn bike).

A simple shelf up by the cab, about a foot wide works pretty good.

Here's a pic from Steph Davis's setup that shows what I mean:


Apr 24, 2012 - 04:21pm PT
I've been using that same setup in my '81 Toyota, Elcap. Super easy, way more comfortable for sitting out the rain. I end up cuddling duffles/haul bags/crates/general junk, but I'm comfortably hugging. Anything fancier would be more than the value of my truck. Thinking about putting a deep cycle in on its own circuit to have some power options.

Trad climber
The state of confusion
Apr 24, 2012 - 06:39pm PT
Check on mountain project--Mal Daly had a pretty neat
setup too!
James Wilcox

Boulder climber
The Coast
Apr 24, 2012 - 08:07pm PT
Is there some sort of inverter / power supply box that I should look at?

What do you plan to run?

Trad climber
Reno, NV
Apr 24, 2012 - 08:48pm PT
I too used to have the setup where the "bed" was raised up so i could get bins underneath it and then i could sleep on top. PITA is an understatement. Hated it every moment. Not enough space to sit up even with your head tilted down.

What I ended up doing is making the bed just above the height of the wheel wells. 2 2x10 on their side right up against the bed worked well. Then ran 2x6 flat across the 2x10's (Which were datoed or notched so everything was flush across the top. I then sheeted it with 5/8" plywood. I am able to get small stuff like skis, tents, ropes, ect underneath which is enough.

I made a hatch that could be pulled up at the cab end so that I could get to stuff that slid way forward. I also made little flap doors with the hinges so I could access the areas in front of a behind the wheel wells which again i can store stuff in. (I store stuff like chains and jumper cables there). Then, i put in carpet padding down, and put carpet on top; plenty comfortable to sleep on. If i want to access the cubbies, i roll back the carpet, and open the flap.

The last thing i did was put a shelf in by the cab like has been mentioned already. I put all my boxes and such up there, then slip my feet underneath to sleep. I LOVE it. I can sit up, have tons of space, is easy to access all my stuff, and when all closed up it is super clean.

As far as power goes, I dont have anything set up in this truck, but on my previous truck it was set up with 2 batteries connected together so they could be charged off the battery, an inverted, and a switch that would separate the batteries. When going down the road I had the switch in the off position so both batteries would get charged. Then when I was stopped and needed power from the inverted I turned the switch to off, and the inverted could only access the power in the axillary battery. With this setup you can charge the spare battery, but you can always be sure that you have power to start your truck.

I hope this all makes sense and if anyone is interested I can get some pictures posted up.
James Wilcox

Boulder climber
The Coast
Apr 24, 2012 - 09:33pm PT
If you're planning on using an inverter I'd think using a seperate
battery would be best. Inverters rip a fair amount of juice, and you'd hate to deplete your chassis battery while you're parked.
If you're just going to run some 12v led lighting than just using the chassis battery is proably ok.

Trad climber
the basement of Lou's Tavern
Oct 9, 2014 - 09:27am PT
Thinking of building platform with sliding drawer underneath in a 99 taco (V6) similar to this whole threads convo, just had one question:

What does this do to gas mileage? Ding it a bit? Send it into the shitter? A big concern? little concern? This is my daily driver and during the week it would be empty, only full of crap when the weekend comes callin.


Trad climber
The pitch of Bagalaar above you
Oct 9, 2014 - 09:53am PT
With or without a shell?

I added a hi topper ARE shell, and fully built bed with dual batteries, folding table etc...

I have not noticed a change in GM.

07 Tacoma build

Slide over deck for double bed with custom cushion.
Fold up Table
12V electrical system
Blue Sea Fuse box
12V squirrel cage fan
12V LED lighting
400watt Inverter
Solar panel/regulator on the way
6 GAL water tank under deck
12V water pump
Marine access door panel

Trad climber
the basement of Lou's Tavern
Oct 9, 2014 - 09:56am PT
Yeah already has a shell.

I wouldn't have suspected a drop but a friend of mine (not a climber) brought it up so if thought it best to ask before getting started on this project.

Thanks for the reply.

Any other thoughts out there?

Edit: cool stuff btw. That higher shell really gives you more options back there eh?

Trad climber
The pitch of Bagalaar above you
Oct 9, 2014 - 10:08am PT
I am 5.8 and can sit up comfortably toward the tailgate (up to the folding table) then it pinches down toward the window. ARE wedge topper model.

I have a regular cab Tacoma, which does not fit the leer version of the high topper (extended cab only). It has the same height all the way to within a foot of the back window.

Adding the high topper is the absolute best thing I have done to my truck for comfort.

A pile of dirt.
Oct 9, 2014 - 10:55am PT
You REALLY want the higher shell unless you're a vampire (aka like to sleep in a coffin).

Grey Matter
Oct 9, 2014 - 11:01am PT
A very general rule of thumb is that a 10% increase in vehicle weight will cause a 3.5% decrease in fuel economy.

Trad climber
the basement of Lou's Tavern
Oct 9, 2014 - 11:32am PT
I have thought of this head room thing, and for a $200 project to improve what I already have with a standard Leer shell on the truck I just figured I would deal with it. But y'all are really talking about the lack of head room being so annoying I may reconsider.


Think I'll hang out in the bed of my truck for a bit while I mull it over.

Also, yeah that really general rule of thumb looks good to me. Of course more weight will do SOMETHING to the fuel Econ, stands to physics right? , but my buddy made it out to be some huge concern. Doesn't look like it is.

But that head room tho...


Mountain climber
Tustin, CA
Oct 9, 2014 - 12:20pm PT
Wow great thread and you guys have some serious DIY skills. I suck, but just by coincidence finished my bed set up last night. Well it's not done, but it's done enough to try it out this weekend and then afterwards I will make some tweaks, sand it, paint it, etc etc.

I did install a mid rise shell on my Tundra. Learned about the headroom problem on my previous trucks that only had cab high shells. They work ok but honestly they are kind of a bummer.

I'm 5' 8" and can sit up and when the center is stored below (on bed floor) I can stand up - albeit hunched over.

Anyways, I made this without any plans or measurements, alone and with a skill saw. Please have some mercy on my shtty cuts : )


Mountain climber
Tustin, CA
Oct 9, 2014 - 12:26pm PT
Oh, have not noticed any change in MPG and have had the shell on for a few months. I read up on all that and basically, the consensus was no change.

The shell is FUGLY but it does what it's supposed to do:


Technically expert, safe belayer, can lead if easy
Oct 9, 2014 - 12:52pm PT
I have an '04 Tacoma with a high top SnugTop, with a similar (though simpler) platform built into (like Roots's)- the platform height is just above the wheel wells. I'm 6'4", so the high top is critical...even with this, I can't sit upright...not too big a deal for a relatively short road trip, but it gets annoying after a while.

I can't stretch out in the bed, either- had to build a removable extension onto the platform. Not ideal, because the tailgate & topper door have to be open.
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