Best Lightweight Materials For CamperAnthony Day
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You will get numerous paybacks by investing in durable, lightweight construction materials when building your camper or renovating and renewing an old camper.
Exceeding 3.5 tons will cost you more in road fees and fuel and lowers your CO2 emissions. Keeping your construction materials light allows you to pack more essentials for your camping trip while remaining safely within your Camper's Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM) rating. Your Camper is rated to be able to comply with a specified GVM legally. Exceeding this GVM can land you in hot water and may get you a stiff penalty.
The sub-frame and axles of a camper are always best made from C-section or tubular galvanized steel and treated to withstand stone chips and rust. The top structure can be built from modern lightweight material with strength, a high insulation value, and rustproof and easy-to-maintain materials.
Avoiding materials such as wood, plywood, marine ply, and fiberglass will make your task of building the Camper easier and quicker and eliminate the need for frequent maintenance. Modern materials are widely available directly from manufacturers, the big box stores, or Amazon.com.
If you are attempting to build your Camper or renovate an old camper, you will do well to use some of the modern lightweight materials on the market. Let's look at what is available in the market for camper build projects.
What Are The Best Lightweight Materials For Camper Builds?
Building the superstructure of your Camper, you have to consider the aerodynamics, insulation, fire resistance, UV resistance, Ozone resistance, mass per square surface, and the maintenance required of the materials you plan to use.
Here are a couple of materials that are highly recommended and will make the task of designing and building your RV easier:
1. RENOLIT GORCELL
RENOLIT GORCELL is made into a honeycomb sandwich construction combining various surface types and finished over a hexagonal honeycomb structure.
The core thickness of the honeycomb structure Core varies from 5mm,10mm, 15mm and 20 mm. (0.2",0.4",0.6",0.8 inches)
- Very lightweight: specific weight of the honeycomb core of 12 to 20.48 lbs./square ft. (60-100 kg/m³
- Easy to form
- Environmentally friendly: the entire sandwich construction is 100% recyclable
- Extremely durable
- High compressive resistance
- Highly stable
- High thermal and chemical resistance
- High stiffness
- Water- & weather-resistant
- Humidity & fungi resistant
Renolit panels can be used for flooring, walls, roofing, cabinets, and furniture construction of RVs or campers.
2. Thermo-Lite Board
Thermo-Lite Board consists of a closed-cell foam core covered with a hard, durable fiberglass reinforced shell. Thermo-lite boards are tough and strong, and they are available in sheets or pre-cut sizes. The product is durable and will last for a lifetime, and is ideal for applications subjected to static and dynamic loads.
- non-moisture absorbent
- Rot Free
- Dimensionally Stable
- Provides Good Bonding Surface
- Good Impact Strength
- Good Sound Insulation
- Good Thermal Insulation
- Resistant to Contamination
- Wide Temperature Range Use
- Self-Extinguishing when the heat source is removed
Thermo-Lite Board is available with different surface finishes. It's manufactured in thicknesses from 0.25 inches to 2 inches, dimensions up to 60 inches wide and 144 inches long, and a density range of 9-46 lbs./ft³, depending upon the surface finish.
3. XPS Panels
XPS panels are made from fiberglass-reinforced thermoplastic sandwiched over a foam core and have the following characteristics:
- Strong inner skin (higher toughness and impact resistance)Instead of short fiber, the continuous fiber introduced in the skin resin gives the panel strength much higher than traditional glass fiber.
- Lightweight - The fiber content of the thermoplastic skin is about 60%, much higher than that of glass fiber skin (only 30% to 35%). The thermoplastic panel is about 50% lighter than a glass fiber panel of equivalent size and strength.
- Green and odorless - The panel skin is formed by lamination of glass fiber and Poly Propylene (PP) resin. PP is a food-grade plastic for it is green and odorless.
The surfaces of both sides of the panel are smooth and flat. The XPS foam is sandwiched between the polypropylene and glass fiber reinforced side panels. The exterior surfaces are easily color-coded with an easy-to-clean gel coat layer.
The polystyrene core is made from high-density extruded sheets that impart high strength and great thermal insulation.
4. Aluminum T-Slots Profile Extrusions (8020 Aluminum)
The T-Slot profiles aluminum allow rail can be cut to length using common workshop tools and are easily assembled into any shape required with a selection of assembly pieces like corner brackets and connector strips.
Grainer also has a range of parts available to assist with the assembly of structures using the T-slot profile extrusions.
- Product Type - T-Slot Aluminum Channel
- Color – Silver (can be anodized)
- Weight per Unit Length - 0.51 lbs./ft.
- Bore Diameter - 13/64 inches
- Extrusion Texture - Grooved
- Nominal length - 8 ft.
- Material - Aluminum
- Number of Open Slots - 4
- Profile Height - 1 inch
- Profile Width - 1 inch
- Overall length - 97 inches
- Profile Shape - Square
- Slot Width - 0.3 inch
- Yield Strength - 35,000 psi
- Finish - Anodized
- Temper - T5
Building the framework of your Camper using a lightweight anodized aluminum framework bonded to extruded foam boards will yield a strong, waterproof, and well-insulated camper that will weigh significantly less than one constructed from plywood.
5. Aluminum Composite Panel (AliGloss)
AliGloss is an excellent product ideal for the outer skin panel and roof of camper vans and RVs. A high-density foam core provides excellent thermal insulation and is fire retardant. The outer skin of the panels is coated with UV and Ozone resistant high-quality polymer resin.
The interior facing skin is also painted with a protective coating that provides a good surface for adhesion and corrosion protection. The boards are available in standard sizes of:
157.48 inches x 59.00 inches x 0.16 inches (4m long x 1.5m wide x 4mm thick)
The aluminum composite panel weighs 1.54 lbs./ft. Square (7.5 kg/square m) at 4 mm thickness. The AliGloss sheeting is 3.4 times lighter than steel and 1.6 times lighter than pure aluminum sheeting of equivalent gauge.
The sheets are designed for use at a temperature of -58°F (-50°C) to 176°F (80°C) and have a thermal expansion coefficient of 0.024mm/m/°C.
This aluminum laminate is ideal for the outer skin construction of campers and RVs and is easy to cut to the required shapes and sizes. The material is ultra-lightweight, strong, fire-resistant, and very durable.
6. PermaTimber QuickBoard Ceiling & Wall Lining
QuickBoard has the appearance of timber but is much better than wood in many ways. The boards are ideal for use as ceilings, interior walls, or wall linings. The boards are made from laminated polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and are easy to work with using normal shop tools.
PermaComposites also have a system of trim pieces designed to help you fix and finish their QuickBoard to the interior of your Camper. Choosing QuickBoard as an interior finish has several advantages:
- The material surface is pre-finished and will not require any treatment normally associated with wood, such as oiling, painting, or staining. You select the surface finish and color of your choice.
- QuickBoard is very cost-effective as it will not require any maintenance. The material is scratch-resistant and is easy to clean with a damp cloth.
- QuickBoard is easy to work with and install using their custom fixing and finishing system.
- The material is insect resistant and mold resistant and will not attract or encourage any pests or growths inside your Camper.
- The QuickBoard is rated for interior use and will not emit harmful chemicals or fibers.
All of the materials proposed are available from big-box stores of can be ordered and delivered via Amazon in the US and Canada. Keeping your camper conversion light will pay back in improved fuel consumption.
Remaining within the Gross Vehicle Mass defined for the commercial van that you choose as the basis of your camper will ensure that you remain in the design envelope specified by the vehicle manufacturer.
The design envelope defines the power to weight ratio in which the vehicle has been designed to operate in. The heavier your van, the more demands you will place on the engine, transmission, suspension, and brake systems resulting in higher maintenance costs.