In late February my brother and I were wandering around Florida's Big Bend area near St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. As we crossed the St. Marks River at Newport, we saw a truck with a homemade camper pull into the launch ramp there by the US98 bridge.
We turned back and talked to the owner. Here's a photo of the camping rig... (click to enlarge)
You can't tell from the photo but the exterior wall is smooth aluminum with what looked like a very subtle etched pattern on the surface. If I understood the guy correctly, there's vinyl on the surface but it sure looked etched to me and looked great.
I didn't think to ask what the structural part of the wall is. Could be plywood or could be foam (or both). I also wish I had thought to ask how he had put the aluminum sheeting on the roof to get a waterproof surface.
But the most interesting part was how he did the the roof side-panels. Unlike our soft-sided campers, his roof is hard-sided using folding panels for the long side and flip-up panels for the ends.
Take a close look at this photo...
First, notice the white panel dominating the top of the photo. That's the rear end panel. It's down here and simply lays on a wooden stop (I think we see the stop at the very edge of the photo). Apparently the barrel-bolt we see in the corner secures the panel to the roof after it's swung up into position (once the roof is up). Note that the end-panel is lower than the folded-down side panel.
Next, look at the side panel. It's like a bi-fold closet door. As we see, the lower half of that folding panel has a window. When the roof goes up, the top half of the panel lifts the bottom half via a full-length hinge until it forms the side wall for the roof.
That brings us to how the roof is raised. Take a close look beside the red pillows. That's the roof-raising mechanism. That black vertical member contains one of the two electric actuators used to lift the roof. So apparently the owner hits a switch to raise the roof and as it goes up it unfolds the side panels. Once the roof is fully up, he manually raises the end panels and locks them in place. I believe he also said something about manually placing wooden vertical support members (inside) once the roof is up.
He built the rear door from scratch. He had looked for an RV door but couldn't find the right size and built his from two pieces of plywood and the aluminum skin. I don't have a photo but it looked like any other professionally-built RV door (but does not have a screen door).
The interior is tall enough inside with the roof down for him to use the camper without raising the roof, i.e. to stop for lunch, etc.
I believe he said he had two glued-down flexible solar panels on the roof and about 200 amp hours of battery capacity.
The guy lives in south Florida and has some type of seasonal job where he works for so many months then has a few months off. During the pandemic, he was off for an extended period. He said it took him about seven months to build the camper and he has about seven thousand dollars in it.
Sorry I didn't do a better job with taking photos of this unique setup. I only took these two as a kind of afterthought as we were chatting.