Camping is a great way to explore with your family, relax, and connect with nature. The alluring sights of trees, animals, and the sky stretching far into the horizon are a welcome break from the hustle and bustle of living in the city or busy towns.

Whether it is a weekend out fishing with friends or a week-long trip exploring the wilderness, truck bed camping is the perfect blend of ease, utility, and a low-cost budget when compared to other camping forms. However, like any other camping trip, it is easy to get overwhelmed with the wealth of necessary information that comes with camping in the back of your truck.

Truck bed camping can be fun and easy, and we will prove it to you at the end of this article. Below, you will find out all you need to know about truck bed camping and the essential items to make your truck bed camping a bang.

An overland on a car.

Truck Bed Camping Is Underrated

Sleeping in the back of your truck might sound like a weird idea for any camping trip. Admittedly, when people think about camping, they think about tents, a fire pit to roast marshmallows and the works- but just because you aren't sleeping on the ground doesn't mean you are not enjoying the entire camping experience.

Truck camping is an efficient, easy, and affordable way to enjoy camping. It is as comfortable as it gets on any other camping trip. Plus, it just makes a lot of sense. Why should you bother making a sleeping place on the floor when you have space in the back of your truck. Your truck isn't just a means to get to your camping site. It might as well be an efficient sleeping space. Think 2-1 versatile purposes!

So, why should you consider truck bed camping in the first place?

Well, sleeping in your truck bed provides many immense benefits, of course, starting with affordability. Camping in your truck bed means you do not have to worry about the heavy-duty tents and supports needed to sleep on the floor. While, of course, this does not mean you won't need essential gear and items to go truck bed camping. It just means you will spend less and can efficiently work within your budget. If you are trying to save money and go on a quick camping vacation, truck bed camping is the best option.

Let's also talk about convenience, flexibility, and mobility. With a truck bed camper, it is easy to pack up and go. This is especially important in fight-or-flight moments where your safety is being compromised. Truck bed camping also saves you from the discomfort and hotel fees during inclement camping weather. What happens to your ground tent when a sudden storm begins, and the ground turns to sticky mud? Exactly. You are much safer in the back of your truck.

When truck bed camping, you do not have to worry about setting up camp and bringing it down repeatedly. Everything you need is set up inside your truck, which means you can go anywhere at any time. Camping in your truck is an easy way to get around. At least, it is much better than an RV for moving around. Have you seen the size of those things?

Contrary to popular opinion, truck bed camping has various accessory options and different setup choices. This provides plenty of storage modifications for your equipment, clothes, and all the work. As an added plus, truck bed camping is low maintenance. We are all for saving money when it comes to camping.

Taking all these into context, it is easy to see how exciting, easy and affordable truck bed camping can be. But just because truck bed camping provides ease, security, and mobility on a budget does not mean you should just pack up and hit the roads.

Like any other camping trip, it is essential to be well informed on the art of camping in your truck bed. There are crucial tools and equipment you need to bring with you, a lot of planning to do, and a strategy to figure out how you will be living in the back of your truck for your camping trip.

Sleeping In Your Truck Bed

Sleeping in the back of your truck sounds uncomfortable, but it doesn't always have to be. Provided that you make proper arrangements to optimize your space, choose the perfect shield type, and pick out the best sleeping equipment, sleeping in your truck bed can be as comfortable as sleeping on the ground and even more comfortable than sleeping on the car seats. 

A standard truck bed is 8 feet long and 5 feet wide. While this might seem crampy, with the proper setup, it is easy to visualize a sleeping area with just enough space to store all your essentials for every trip.  When camping in your truck bed, you are open to three sleeping styles and shelter choices: Truck bed canopies (also popularly called camper shells), truck bed tents, and truck bed campers. While all three are great options, your choice depends entirely on your budget, plans, and of course, comfort.

Truck Bed Canopies

A camper shell or truck canopy is a truck bed topper that doubles as a camping utility. They are often lightweight and can be easily installed on the back of your truck.

Truck bed canopies come at various brands, materials, designs and prices, but they all serve the same purpose: for the protection of your equipment and to provide shelters during your camping trips. These forms of camping shelters are highly comfortable, versatile, affordable, and provide adequate protection from foul weather.

Canopies provide excellent security and enough headroom for comfort regardless of setting up your sleeping space. When fitted correctly, a truck bed canopy doesn't leak, meaning you do not have to get wet every time it rains on your camping trip. 

Truck bed canopies also provide a variety of design and color customization options. You can choose a canopy with lots of windows if you want to enjoy the sunlight and view or one with fewer windows if you're going to be stealthy. 

When choosing canopies, ensure that you buy one with a perfect fitting for your truck from a trusted supplier. Also, make sure the material of the canopy can withstand inclement weather. This will ensure durability and save you from unforeseen and uncomfortable camping situations. The process of setting up your canopy depends on the type of canopy you use. 

Truck Bed Tents

Truck bed tents are literally tents on the back of your truck. They are easy and affordable installations for first-time campers, and when installed correctly, they serve their safety purpose.

Truck bed tents are easier to set up as, most times, you just need to pop them up. They provide great space and let you enjoy the feel of camping in a tent that comes with your average camping trip. Tents are inexpensive, give an elevation off the ground, and require no additional set up equipment like racks. 

However, unlike canopies, truck bed tents do not offer excellent protection from foul weather. They do not also allow a permanent setup, and you will always need to take them down, especially when you are driving. Truck bed tents are also not as secure as canopies.

Regardless of these, truck bed tents are a great option if you want to go camping on a budget. They are also lightweight, easy to move, and can quickly be taken down to convert your temporary residence to an average truck.

To set up your tent, all you need to do is sweep the truck bed, slide the poles in as instructed, and anchor your tent. Voila!

Truck Bed Campers

Truck bed campers are the most expensive option and are great for campers who want to enjoy maximum space. Campers are also an excellent choice for individuals who go on camping trips frequently and do not mind splurging a bit more on luxury, comfort, and storage space.

Unlike canopies and tents, some truck bed campers are a more permanent installation and will require a bit more technicality. Some other designs are as easy to set up and fold down as a tent.

Truck campers can be slide-in campers made of hard material or wood or demountable pop-up campers made of more lightweight materials, with the former being the heavier option. There are various truck bed campers to choose from depending on your truck's size, design, and budget.

The process of setting up your truck campers depends on the type of truck camper you choose. Regardless, every option provides extra space and a chance to get creative with your sleeping setup.

No matter what method you choose for your camping trip, it is vital to set up your shelter properly to avoid cold drafts and entrance for wetness. No one wants to get cold and wet on a camping trip.

How To Set Up Your Sleeping Area

After choosing your type of shelter, the next important thing to figure out is your sleeping space. While you might be tempted to just throw your equipment into the back of your truck and squeeze yourself in a corner, this is a setup that defeats the purpose of your camping trip. Your goal is to relax and unwind, not get sleepless nights from uncomfortable sleep positions.

If you do not own a truck camper, it is essential to maximize your truck bed space. Often, depending on your type of shelter, it is better to optimize both storage and comfort by creating an elevated platform with storage space around and beside it. An elevated platform like a sheet of solid wood on two raised corners will provide space for your sleeping mat or mattress on top and areas for equipment storage. 

Besides your shelter, to ensure that you get comfortable during your camping vacation, it is essential to choose quality sleeping essentials. Your sleep stuff should be comfortable and help you maximize space.

You will need:

  • An inflatable mattress, sleeping pad, or small memory foam mattress for comfort.
  • A sleeping bag for insulation. Ensure the material is suitable for the temperature range of your sleep.
  • Pillows- from home or some of those nifty camping ones.
  • Blankets ideal for the temperature range you will encounter.

Other Essentials

After setting up your sleeping space, it is essential not to forget important aspects like power and kitchen.

1. Power

While many people go on camping trips to avoid technology and electricity, most people still need electricity to charge their cell phones or camping fans. While your car battery or portable power banks seem like great options, power inverters are an even better option. Inverters convert DC currents to AC currents and come in various types, designs, specs, and of course, prices.

2. Truck Bed Kitchen Needs

The kitchen setup varies with the camper type. Some have full amenities, while some require customization using the tailgate as a counter and a folding table for more space. When considering the cooking amenities, you should pack according to your storage space and only take the vital equipment.

You will need:

  • A camping stove: Budget-friendly propane stoves that run off gasoline are versatile and budget-friendly.
  • Essential silverware and cooking kitchenware
  • Dish soap and sponge for washing up
  • Can opener
  • Buckets
  • Lightweight cutting board
  • Titanium pots and pans (probably one of each)

3. Water Storage

Water should be stored in water storage containers like gallons and water bottles. Your water containers should be inexpensive, durable, and easy to refill. 

4. Food Storage

Food storage is essential on any camping trip, especially on truck beds with smaller storage space.

  • If you bring cold food along, make sure to cool them in the freezer before packing them in a small cooler. If necessary, take another small cooler for drinks.
  • Dry food can be kept in storage containers and tote bags.

5. Bathing And Toilet Essentials

Bathing and using the looks are two less glamorous parts of camping. However, if you work your water connection properly, you will be able to make the most of your camping trip. Many campers bathe in a stream close to camp and do their business in a hole in the ground, while others prefer to use a portable toilet. Essentially, this is up to you. You can choose to use a bucket to heat water to bathe, use a portable shower, or go with any other option you find easier and more comfortable. 

6. Privacy

Your level of stealth while camping entirely depends on your truck bed camp setup. The more inconspicuous your camping canopy is, the more privacy you get. Privacy while camping goes past simply staying hidden. Privacy is also a feeling of safety, especially when you consider your surroundings.

For additional privacy, you should consider hanging up curtains and installing locks in your truck camp setup. Window curtains or covers go a long way in protecting you from peering outside and also helps to keep light entrance into your temporary home minimal.

An overland on a Jeep outside.

Tips For Truck Bed Camping 

Truck bed camping can be understandably overwhelming. Here are some tips to help you have a fantastic truck bed camping experience:

  1. Elevate your sleeping area to optimize space.
  1. Don't over-engineer your setup. This will result in a more permanent and less flexible truck bed camping area.
  1. Choose a suitable camping shelter and weatherize it. Do this by ensuring it fits your truck bed perfectly and plugging any leaks or open spaces.
  1. If privacy is crucial, opt for an inexpensive curtain.
  1. Security is essential. Fit in locks to safeguard your valuables. A lock on your tailgate is vital.
  1. Stick to a suitable camping area. Don't go exploring an unmarked path, and don't leave your truck parked too close to the road
  1. Always plan for the worst.
  1. Bad gear is terrible news. Ensure that you pack the necessary equipment and cross-check to ensure they are in excellent working conditions.
  1. Keep your truck clean and organized. This should be a necessity, not a tip.
  1. Pack a first aid kit.
  1. Always have extra water and fuel.
  1. Park your truck facing west. This way, the rising sun does not disturb you

 

Suggested Essential Gear List

To help you enjoy your camping experience, here are some essential gears you should pack:

  • Awning for extra shade
  • Water bottle
  • Anti-condensation mats
  • Camp chairs
  • Personal toiletries
  • Headlamps or torchlights
  • Big net and insecticide 
  • Portable solar panel
  • Multipurpose camp tools (camp saw/ax, can opener, Knife, and mini shovels)
  • Portable toilet
  • Battery inverter and extra batteries
  • Spare tire
  • Duct tape
  • Fire extinguisher
  • First-aid kit
  • Trash bags
  • Truck tool kit

Pack Up And Go

The best thing about truck bed camping is you can be anywhere you want to be. As long as there are durable roads leading to your campsite, there is no limitation to your movement. With a truck, your camping adventures will remain highly flexible.

All truck bed camping equipment is a cheaper investment when compared to other forms of camping. With the many truck bed camping setup options, you can always choose to tweak your space and make changes however you like. All in all, truck bed camping is one of the best decisions any camper will make.

April 18, 2022 — Russ Hennings