Truck bed camping is a great way to explore the wild and experience the outdoors without having to carry a lot of camping gear. It involves sleeping in the back of a pick-up truck, which is an ideal option for those who want to go camping without any hassle.
From choosing the right gear to ensuring that your truck bed camper setup is secure, there is a lot to consider when camping in a truck bed. In this article, we will discuss everything you need to know for a comfortable and safe truck bed camping experience including methods, tips, and tricks we have learned through experience.
What Is Truck Bed Camping?
“Truck bed camping, also known as truck camping, is using the bed of your pickup truck as a sleeping and living space while camping or traveling. This can be done using a truck tent, a camper shell, or a self-contained truck camper.”
Truck Bed Camping Setup :
There are several methods and setups for truck bed camping, depending on your needs and preferences. Here are some popular methods we have discovered so far.
1. Camp On The Bed Of The Truck Using Truck Bed Tent :
A truck bed tent is a specially designed tent that fits over the bed of your truck, providing an elevated sleeping area and it’s a great truck camping setup to avoid the ground.
These tents typically have straps or clamps that secure them to the sides of the truck bed. They are relatively easy to set up and offer protection from the elements.
There are an assortment of truck bed tents available which are very much like a ground tent, but designed to be pitched on a truck bed to get you off the ground. This is a very clever solution to camp on the bed of the truck.
|1. Easy to setup
|1. You have to unload all your other gear out of the bed of the truck in order to set up the tent.
|2. Provide protection from elements
|2. It eliminates using the tailgate as a cooking surface, so you’re obligated to also carry and set up a table.
|3. Low cost
|3. Organization is a challenge
2. Truck Cap Camping Using Canopy / Camper Shell / Topper / Truck Cap :
One of my personally admired and cost-friendly, a canopy or camper shell is a hard-shell covering that encloses the bed of your truck. It provides a weatherproof and secure space for camping.
You can add a sleeping platform, storage compartments, and even windows for ventilation. If you love a DIY interior setup for camping, then this option is best for you.
Some canopies may come with built-in amenities such as a bed, kitchenette, or storage. Buy yours according to your needs from here.
|1. Readily available
|1. Expensive if buy new
|2. Protected from the elements
|2. Usually limited headroom
|3. Lots of DIY potential
|3. May limit usefulness for other hauling
Slide-In Truck Camper :
The most widely used and admired truck bed camping option, a slide-in truck camper. It’s a self-contained unit that slides into the bed of your truck. They come with almost all the amenities of a home. These campers typically feature a sleeping area, kitchenette, bathroom, dining, and storage space. They offer a more comfortable camping experience with amenities similar to a traditional RV.
|1. Expensive even if bought used
|1. Expensive even if buy used
|2. Integrated camp gear
|2. Less nimble on primitive trails
|3. Family friendly
DIY Setup :
If you prefer a more customized approach, you can create your own truck bed camping setup. This involves building a camper shell (mostly wooden) and building a sleeping platform or bed frame in the bed of your truck and adding storage compartments. Its all about one’s personal taste and creative skills that he will put in its DIY truck bed camping setup.
|1. Cost saving as compared to factory build
|1. Time consuming
|2. Build Into your specs
|2. Requires ample workspace
|3. Fun project if you enjoy DIY
|3. Weatherization can be tricky
Rooftop Tent Truck Camping:
While not strictly in the truck bed, a rooftop tent is another option for truck camping. These tents mount on the roof of your truck and can be accessed via a ladder. The rooftop area is used for sleeping while the truck bed is mainly utilized for storage, cooking, or any other camping activities. So, I’ll call it truck bed camping with a comfortable sleeping area and convenient for quick setup and takedown.
|1. Quick setup and always ready to go
|1. Quite expensive
|2. Sleep comfortably off the ground
|2. Its still a tent
|3. Retain cargo hauling capacity
|3. Ladder access may pose issues
Truck Camping Using Ground Tent:
To set up a ground tent for truck camping, select a suitable tent and find a flat campsite. Lay out the tent, stake it securely, and assemble the poles. Adjust the rainfly and tension the guylines for weather protection.
Though you are camping on the ground still a truck camping or semi truck camping because you carry the camp in the truck.
|1. Fast easy to go
|1. Lots of loading/ unloading
|2. Leave camp setup and explore
|2. Organization is a challenge
|2. Low cost
|3. Gear is unprotected.
|3. Truck is still a truck
Essential Tips For Comfortable Pick-Up Truck Bed Camping
When going for a camping trip with your truck, make sure to follow these steps to avoid any mishappening and confusion.
- Check Your Truck :
Ensure your truck is suitable for camping by considering its bed size, payload capacity, and towing capabilities. Select a truck that can comfortably accommodate your camping gear and provide a stable and safe experience.
2. Manage Your Gear:
Properly secure your camping gear and equipment in the truck bed to prevent shifting during travel. Use tie-down straps, bungee cords, or cargo nets to keep items in place and avoid potential hazards.
3. Balance Weight Distribution:
Distribute the weight evenly in the truck bed to maintain stability while driving. Place heavier items towards the center and secure them tightly. Avoid overloading the truck beyond its recommended weight capacity.
4. Invest In Quality Truck Bed Tent, Camper Shell Or Canopy :
Choose a tent, shell, or a camper that is compatible with your truck model and provides durability, weather resistance, and ease of setup. Features like ventilation, bug screens, and a rainfly should be considered.
5. Check The Weather Forecast :
Stay informed about the weather conditions in the camping area. Accordingly decide clothing, bedding, and gear for different weather scenarios and have a backup plan in case of severe weather conditions.
6. Campsite Selection :
When choosing a campsite, consider accessibility, amenities, and regulations. Look for designated camping areas or public lands that allow overnight parking. Research local regulations, permits, and any restrictions on where you can park or camp in your truck.
Sleeping Gears For Truck Camping:
For a cozy camping nights don’t forget to carry along these essential sleeping gears.
Sleeping Mattress And Pads:
There are several types of sleeping pads and mattresses to choose from, each offering different features and benefits. Here are some common options for your next truck bed camping.
- Foam Sleeping Pads: Foam pads are lightweight and provide insulation from the cold truck bed. They are affordable, durable, and typically come in various thicknesses and sizes. Foam pads are easy to pack and don’t require inflation or setup.
- Self-Inflating Sleeping Pads: These pads have an inner foam core that expands and self-inflates when the valve is opened. They offer a combination of comfort and insulation, as well as adjustable firmness. Self-inflating pads are thicker and bulkier than foam pads good for extra cushioning.
- Air Mattresses: Air mattresses for truck camping are inflated manually or with an electric pump. They offer adjustable firmness and thickness options, allowing you to customize your sleeping surface. Air mattresses provide excellent comfort, but they may require more setup time and may be less compact for storage.
- Inflatable Sleeping Pads: Inflatable pads are lightweight and packable. They are filled with air manually or using a pump, offering cushioning and insulation. Inflatable pads often provide better comfort and support compared to foam pads but may require more care to avoid punctures.
- Hybrid Sleeping Pads: Some sleeping pads combine foam and air chambers to provide a balance between comfort, insulation, and packability. These hybrid pads offer the benefits of both foam and air mattresses, with varying designs and features.
Choose the right quality bedding to enhance your sleep and comfort. We will suggest you some bedding options with details for your upcoming truck bed camping adventure.
Sleeping bags is mostly used for truck camping because of their convenience and warmth. Pick a sleeping bag according to the expected temperature range of your camping trip. Consider features like insulation type, temperature rating, size, and shape (rectangular or mummy). I personally like 3 to 4-season sleeping bag.
In freezing weather i prefer to bring blankets to layer on top of my sleeping bag for added warmth on colder nights. Lightweight and packable blankets made of fleece or synthetic materials are great choices. Fire retardant blanket is best choice if you are around a camp fire.
I use fitted or flat sheets to cover my sleeping pad and air mattress to keep it clean. It also give a more cozy and homey feel. Sleeping bag liners can also be used instead.
Bring pillows from home or invest in camping-specific pillows for optimal neck support and comfort. Inflatable pillows are lightweight and packable, while compressible pillows can be easily stuffed into small spaces.
For extra comfort, bring along extra cushions or throws to make your sleeping area more inviting. These can also double as additional insulation layers during colder nights.
Window Coverings :
Though we love camping outdoors but privacy is everyone’s ultimate priority. Do install window coverings or curtains to block out light and add privacy while sleeping. Reflective or blackout curtains work well to minimize sunlight and maintain a comfortable sleeping environment.
Bug Screens :
Bugs and pests are a big scare for me when sleeping. I use bug screens or netting to keep bugs out of the truck bed. This allows for better ventilation while keeping unwanted pests away.
Portable Fan Or Ventilation :
Ensure proper airflow and ventilation in the truck bed by using a portable fan or opening windows. Good ventilation helps regulate temperature, reduces condensation, and enhances sleep quality.
Earplugs and Eye Masks:
Packing earplugs and eye masks to help block out noise and light disturbances is a sensible decision, especially if you’re camping in busy or illuminated areas.
Truck Bed Camping Kitchen :
Slide-Out Kitchen System :
Setting up a truck bed camping kitchen offers various options. One approach is installing a slide-out kitchen system with a stove, sink, and storage compartments on a sliding mechanism.
Tailgate Kitchen :
Another option is converting the tailgate into a functional kitchen counter and workspace by securing a sturdy countertop and adding storage compartments. For detailed tailgate kitchen ideas read this.
Modular Kitchen Pods :
Modular kitchen pods designed for truck bed camping provide convenience and versatility, while portable camping stoves offer flexibility and can be paired with foldable tables.
DIY Kitchen Setup :
For a customized DIY setup, you can design and build your own kitchen using suitable materials. We made our DIY kitchen using the Titan DIY kitchen kit for a quick setup.
Bathing While Camping In A Truck :
When you are free camping or boondocking, how to take a bath, and where? sometimes become challenging. So, we have thoroughly researched some of the easy and efficient ways of bathing for you.
Portable Camp Showers: Options and Tips
- Pressurized Camping Showers: These showers also serve as water storage tanks. Fill the tank, pressurize it with a bike pump or air compressor, and adjust the water flow rate. They are also easy to carry.
- Electric Camping Showers: These showers use rechargeable or 12v battery-powered pumps to draw water from a container. They are great when water conservation is less of a concern but don’t offer flow-rate regulation.
- Gravity Camping Showers: Simple and compact, these showers work by filling a bag or bottle, hanging it overhead, and relying on gravity. The flow rate is usually low, but they have fewer moving parts.
Sponge Bathing and Other Options:
- Sponge Bathing: When water is scarce, use warm water, a washcloth or sponge, and soap for a sponge bath. Warm water on the camp stove, apply soap to the cloth, wash, and rinse.
- Utilize Natural Water Sources: If available and permitted, rivers, streams, lakes, or hot springs can be used for bathing. Always use biodegradable and environmentally safe soap.
- Public Showers: Look for access to public showers in established campgrounds, truck stops, city or rec center pools, public beaches, or gyms. These facilities usually offer pay-for-use showers.
Tips for Showering While Camping:
- Use a pop-up shower tent for privacy in congested campgrounds. Look for models with attached floors for easier cleaning and drainage.
- Opt for quick-drying towels that are compact and highly absorbent, making them ideal for camping.
- Keep your hygiene products organized in a toiletry bag, and consider carrying a dry sack for storing clothes when using public showers.
Toilet Needs While Truck Camping :
Creating a bathroom setup for pickup truck camping requires thoughtful planning.
Read our article on best portable toilets for truck camping for a better understanding of toilet options available in market.
Truck Camping Storage Ideas:
Well-managed and well-organized camping always requires some pre-planned hacks and ideas. While camping in the back of a truck make sure you are aware of these useful hacks.
Gear Storage Hacks For Truck Bed Camping:
1. Install a bed organizer to maximize the space in your truck bed. It usually consists of multiple compartments that can be used to store essentials like food, water, and gear. You can also find bed organizers with built-in coolers or racks for bikes or other equipment.
2. Storage bins are a versatile storage solution for truck bed camping. You can use them to store everything from food to camping gear. Look for stackable storage bins to save space and keep everything organized.
3. Use Plastic totes with lids to protect the gears. Don’t forget to label the totes for ease. You can use a tote as a makeshift table by flipping it upside down and placing a tablecloth over it to maximize space.
4. If you have a truck bed camper shell or canopy, you can hang gear from the roof of your truck bed using bungee cords or other types of straps. This is a great way to save space and keep gear organized.
5. A cargo net is another great way to maximize the space in your truck bed. You can use it to secure gear and equipment, or even as a makeshift clothesline.
Food And Water Storage Hacks For Pick-Up Truck Camping
- Preserve the food freshness by using airtight containers for food storage, such as Tupperware or Rubbermaid containers.
- Keep food and drinks cold by bringing a portable, spacious, and handy refrigerator or cooler.
- Be organized and keep snacks and small items fresh by utilizing versatile ziplock bags, which can also be used for storing ice.
- Ensure access to clean drinking water by bringing a water filtration system, allowing you to safely consume water from natural sources.
- Increase storage space and accessibility by using a hanging pantry, utilizing mesh or closet organizers attached to the truck.
- Enhance storage capabilities and organization with carabiners, which can be used for hanging water bottles, gear, or creating a makeshift clothesline.
- Simplify meal preparation and prevent food waste by packing food in meal kits, allowing for easier cooking and portion control while camping.
Truck Bed Camping Off-Grid Power :
When camping, it’s important to have a reliable power source to keep your devices charged and other electronic equipment running.
To power your essentials off-grid, solar power systems and portable power stations are ideal. RELiON lithium batteries provide reliable and long-lasting energy storage for appliances and devices. So, gear up and enjoy truck camping with off-grid power solutions from RELiON lithium batteries.
Another power source that we always carry with us every time we camp is Lithium Hua T200 Portable Power Station 200W 224Wh. Its a very handy off-grid power solution and my best camping buddy.
Truck Bed Camping Safety :
Camping safety is crucial when engaging in wild camping or dispersed camping without amenities like running water, electricity, or cell service. Here are some key points to ensure your safety during your camping adventure:
How to Encounter Strangers?
Leave signs that indicate you are not alone if camping solo. Sleep with your car keys nearby for quick access to the car alarm. Carry an air horn or bear spray for self-defense. Keep a bright self-defense flashlight for signaling.
Set up camp partially, so you can quickly drive away if needed. Consider camping together as a family and wear bright orange in hunting areas. Carry self-defense weapons only if legally allowed and properly trained.
Security And Theft
Carry valuables with you or keep them in a grab bag. Befriend camping neighbors to increase awareness. Secure gear or use cable locks.
Play music or use a “dog inside” sticker for deterrents. Use wheel clamps or hitch locks for campers. Carry diversion safes to hide valuables.
How To Avoid Emergency?
Make a checklist and pack essentials. Be aware of flood zones and avoid them during heavy rain. Arrive at new campsites during daylight to assess any risks.
Fill up your gas tank before venturing into remote areas. Scout unfamiliar roads or check online resources for accessibility. Install carbon monoxide detectors and keep fire extinguishers. Carry duct tape and repair tools.
Always Have A Plan “B”
Lack of cell service is common, so plan alternate communication methods like HAM radios, GPS trackers/messengers, or cell boosters. Inform others of your plans and location.
Carry a first aid kit, know how to use it, and restock it regularly. Know the direction to the nearest hospital. Have an emergency roadside kit, air compressor, tire repair kit, and a plan for breakdowns.
Avoid Wild Animals
Keep food and trash stored securely and do not feed wildlife. Hike with bear spray and make noise to alert animals. Use mosquito repellents and check for ticks regularly. Keep pets close to camp.
Truck Bed Camping Recovery Gears:
Following overland and off-road recovery gears is a must to carry gears that will serve as a rescue to recover your vehicle in case of emergency or bad terrain.
- Emergency communication devices.
- Off-road recovery shovels.
- Vehicle recovery axes and saws
- Off-road vehicle jacks
- Off-road recovery boards
- Vehicle recovery winches
- Off-road recovery kits.
- Land Anchors
- Off-road air compressor and tire repair kit.
Other Useful Truck Bed Camping Gears:
Here are some very camping gear for trucks I never forget to carry.
- Camping Chairs: Choose one that fits your budget and provides comfort for relaxation.
- Hammock: Invest in a quality hammock like the Sunnydaze Mayan thick cord for riverside siestas or leisurely reading.
- Headlamps: Opt for budget-friendly, waterproof options like Petzl Tactikka Headlamps for hands-free illumination.
- Tarp: A waterproof canvas tarp offers versatility and serves as an alternative to an awning in unfavorable weather.
- Cooler And Fridge: My camping buddy for 4 years, AstroAI 12 Volt refrigerator and portable freezel
- Lantern: The Black Diamond Remoji Lantern is rechargeable and perfect for illuminating your campsite.
- Camping Washing Machine: The Reaeng Mini Portable washing machine is foldable and handy for extended trips or on-the-go laundry with a spin dryer.
- Tire Table: Mount the Tailgate Tire Table on your truck’s tire for a leveled surface on any terrain.
Truck Camping In Extreme Winter Conditions :
Summer Truck Bed Camping:
Being a resident of the United States summer is an ideal time for camping and not many extra measures are required while camping in hot weather. By following these simple tips you can have a fun time even in summer.
- Always make sure you are fully hydrated. Drink plenty of water and refreshing juices. Always keep a water bottle with you.
- Wear light-colored clothes to reduce heat absorption.
- Camp in a shady area and take maximum benefit from the natural breeze.
- Plan outdoor cooking to avoid heating up your truck camper.
- Invest in a good air conditioner and power source.
Winter Truck Bed Camping :
Camping in extremely cold weather is critical and requires extra care and precautions. For a detailed and comprehensive guide for truck bed camping in extreme winters and snow precautions, I have written a detailed article on “Truck Winter Camping”. I recommend you read this for a complete winter camping guide.
The Best Locations & Destinations To Go Truck Bed Camping Around The World
To find top destinations for pick-up campers, and backcountry campsites near you, please read in detail our highly recommended article on best guide for free camping. After reading this article you will be able to find out the best locations for free and dispersed camping near you. Also, you will get ideas for parking areas for your truck while camping and we are sure you will find the most amazing views.
Truck Bed Camping Checklist:
Don’t forget to download your truck camping checklist before heading out for your next adventure.
|Q2. Can you camp out of a truck bed?
Ans. Yes, camping out of a truck bed is a fun and convenient way to explore the outdoors. Pack warm bedding, cooking supplies, and a portable toilet for a comfortable experience under the stars.
|Q2. Can you camp out of a truck bed?
Ans. Yes camping out of a truck bed is a fun and convenient way to explore the outdoors. Pack warm bedding, cooking supplies, and a portable toilet for a comfortable experience under the stars.
|Q3. What is a camping truck?
Ans. A camping truck, also known as a camper truck or RV truck, is a vehicle that has been converted or designed for camping and recreational activities. It typically includes features such as a bed, kitchenette, and storage space, and can range from small pickup trucks with camper shells to larger motorhomes built on truck chassis.
|Q4. Why it is called a truck bed?
Ans. It is called a “bed” because it resembles a large, flat platform that is similar in shape to a bed. The term “truck bed” has been in use since at least the early 20th century and has become a widely recognized term for this particular area of a pickup truck.