A Truck Bed Camping Guide

truck bed camping

Truck bed camping is a comfortable form of camping, which involves sleeping in your truck or in a tent, which is erected on top of the back of a pickup truck. Most truck bed campers choose to freedom camp in legal areas or to park their truck at traditional campgrounds. 

If you’re the type who is adventurous, spontaneous, and who loves to embark on a last-minute road trip at the drop of the hat, it’s well worth learning more information about becoming a truck bed camper.

The Benefits of Truck Bed Camping VS Camping in an RV

  • It’s a far more affordable option than traveling in an RV.
  • If you use a four-wheel-drive truck, you’ll be able to access more remote locations, then you’d be able to explore in a large RV.
  • It’s easier to drive a small truck than an RV.
  • You’ll be able to use your truck on a daily basis as well as on your cross country camping trips.

The Benefits of Truck Bed Camping VS Camping in a Tent

  • You’ll have far more protection from the elements such as the wind and the rain.
  • You’ll be able to securely lock up all of your belongings in your truck.
  • A truck offers a lot more privacy than a traditional tent.
  • It’s a lot safer to camp in a truck than in a tent. 

The number one reason why you may want to consider becoming a truck bed camper is that camping in your truck provides the ultimate level of freedom. As an example, you’ll be able to enjoy long weekends away in comfort. Better yet, you’ll also be able to travel for weeks or months at a time, without ever having to worry about having to find a bed for the night.

Different Sleeping Options

Sleeping In a Truck Bed Tent

truck bed tent
Photo by DiamondBack Truck Covers

One option that you may want to explore is sleeping in a truck bed tent. What is a truck bed tent? It’s a tent, which can be conveniently placed on the back of a pickup truck. In order to access your tent, you’ll need to use a small retractable ladder, to get up to your tent.

What are the benefits of sleeping in a truck bed tent, rather than in a tent which is firmly on the ground? You won’t have to worry about sleeping on wet, uneven or rocky terrain and you’ll be safe from any wild animals, which may live in the area which you’re camping in.

Sleeping Underneath a Pickup Truck’s Enclosed Canopy

truck bed camping
Photo by Mitch Barrie

If sleeping in a tent isn’t for you, consider sleeping underneath the enclosed canopy of a pickup. Just be sure to select a truck that offers a canopy which provides plenty of headroom and which is waterproof. To ensure that you won’t hit your head on your canopy in the middle of the night and that you won’t have to worry about rain leaking into your sleeping area.

Also, make sure that you have adequate ventilation if you’re interested in sleeping in a pickup truck’s enclosed canopy. In order to ensure that you’re not stuck breathing in the same stale air for hours on end. 

Sleep In a Build-out

Mitch Barrie
Photo by Mia & Steve Mestdagh

Your third option is to sleep in a build-out. You can opt to sleep on an elevated platform, which can be lifted up to reveal a hidden storage compartment. Or you can choose to build a bed, to place the floor of your truck. If you plan on taking frequent road trips, you’ll love the convenience of being able to sleep on a proper bed and having adequate storage for your living essentials.

If money isn’t a factor and your primary goal is to have the freedom to travel in comfort, with some of the creature comforts of home, it’s well worth designing a custom build-out. As there are companies that specialize in creating custom build-outs for their clients. The sky’s the limit if you choose to have a custom build-out created. You can even have an entertainment system built into your truck if you love binge-watching Netflix. 

How To Ensure That You’ll Be Comfortable

  • Purchase a self-inflating sleeping pad or a comfortable mattress.
    If you have limited space in your truck, your best option may be to sleep on a self-inflating sleeping pad. Although if you plan on camping in a larger truck, you may want to opt for a regular mattress.
  • Invest in a few good quality pillows. Trust me, you’ll enjoy a far better night’s rest if you invest in a few, good quality pillows. Such as memory foam pillows that adjust to your head and neck.
  • Purchase a high-quality sleeping bag and an extra blanket. On cold nights, you’ll appreciate being able to place an extra cozy blanket on top of your sleeping bag.
  • Install a camping fan to prevent yourself from breathing in stagnant, stale air. I highly recommend purchasing and installing a reliable camping fan.

How To Make The Best Possible Use Out Of Your Available Space

Consider Sleeping On a Raised Floor

truck bed camping
Photo by brewbooks

If you sleep on a raised floor, you’ll be able to utilize the space underneath your raised floor, to store your everyday essentials and camping equipment. As an example, you can build pull out drawers into the base of your raised floor. One of the easiest ways to create a DIY raised floor is to use 2 by 4 lumber and plywood to create a cheap raised floor.

Have a Slide-Out Truck Kitchen Installed

In order to enjoy your favorite meals out on the open road, it’s well worth having a slide-out truck kitchen installed. That will ensure that you’ll have plenty of room to prep and cook your favorite dishes.

What You’ll Need For Your Truck Bed Camper

  • A first aid kit
  • A mosquito net
  • Lighting
  • An icebox (to store your food)
  • A camping stove
  • Kitchen utensils and cutlery
  • A toolbox
  • Plenty of drinking water
  • A heavy-duty flashlight
  • A portable shower and a camping toilet(unless you plan at staying at campgrounds)
  • A large plastic container (which you can use to store your muddy or wet gear)
  • Fold-out camping chairs and a table

How To Become a Truck Bed Camper On a Budget

If you’re on a tight budget and are keen to start traveling as soon as possible, your cheapest option to become a truck bed camper may be to purchase a pickup truck with a canopy. As you won’t have to worry about building a raised platform. All you’ll need to purchase is a self-inflating sleeping pad. To ensure that you sleep comfortably. 

Over time you’ll be able to purchase more equipment such as a fan, a portable shower, and a second battery to power your electronics from. However, as long as you have a self-inflating sleeping pad you’ll be able to comfortably camp at campgrounds that offer toilets and showers. Alternatively, you may find that it’s a cost-effective option for purchasing a truck bed tent. 

However, if you’re on a budget, you may want to steer clear of renovating a truck and having a bed built into a large truck. Also remember the smaller your truck is, the less that you’ll have to pay for gas on lengthy road trips. Such as cross country road trips.

How To Save Money On Your Road Trips

Once your truck is set up, there are a few extra ways that you can save money on your camping trips. For example, you can pick up cheap meals such as sandwiches from the gas stations, instead of stopping at expensive cafes for lunch. 

Other ways to save money on your road trips include freedom camping to avoid paying for a campsite, driving smoothly to avoid using extra gas and buying some of your supplies second hand. For instance, instead of purchasing a brand new fan for your truck, you may be able to pick up a cheap pre-loved fan online.


How Yo Keep Your Truck Bed Setup Clean

muddy shoes
  • Remove any wet or dirty clothing before you enter your designated sleeping area. Place muddy or wet clothing in a waterproof bag or container. Due to the fact that mud and dirt can be extremely hard to remove from your truck. Mud and dirt have a tendency to get stuck in small crevices. 
  • Use a cleaning spray and a microfibre cloth to clean your truck out on a regular basis. Between each trip make sure to use an effective cleaning spray to clean out the back of your truck. Ensure to remove your raised floor, to thoroughly clean your truck, if you opt to build a raised floor for your truck. If you plan on taking long trips, make sure to pack your cleaning products, so that you’ll be able to keep your sleeping area spotless over an extended period of time.
  • Avoid eating in your truck. Instead, pull out a few fold-up chairs and eat outside of your truck.

Electricity And Dual Batteries

dual battery

While you can choose to camp without electricity, it’s useful to charge your electronic devices such as your laptop, phone, and camera. If you’re interested in truck bed camping, you may also require electricity to power your truck’s fans or lights.

Whatever you do, don’t use your truck’s battery in order to charge your devices. Instead buy a second battery, which you’ll be able to use to power your electronic devices. If you use your truck’s battery to power your devices, you may end up blowing your battery. It’s way better to buy a cheap second battery, that you can charge while you drive.

Remember, that you’ll also need an inverter, to convert your second battery’s DC current to an AC current. As your electronic devices will run off an AC current.

Tools And Gear


As well as keeping a fully stocked toolbox in the back of your truck, you should also have an emergency tire for your truck, as well as jumper leads, in case one of your batteries run flat. You should always travel with two batteries, to be on the safe side. 

Also, make sure that you have a heavy-duty torch in your truck to be able to check out any potential problems that might occur. Especially if you plan on driving in a truck that is more than five years old or if you choose to purchase a second-hand truck. 

Security Tips

  • Make sure that none of your valuables can be easily seen from the outside of your truck. In order to minimize intruders from targeting your truck. As an example, if you choose to sleep under the canopy of a pickup truck, you may want to opt for a dark-colored, canopy. So that anyone who walks by your truck, won’t be able to see your valuables. 
  • Don’t park your truck in unsafe areas. It’s well worth carefully choosing spots to park your truck in, to decrease your chances of having your truck targeted by thieves. As an example, where possible, you may want to park your truck in a campground for the night or at a designated campground for freedom campers. Some of which feature plenty of lighting and 24/7 security. 
  • Always lock your doors at night.


If you plan on investing a lot of money into your truck, it’s a great idea to look at taking out insurance for your truck. To ensure that you’ll never be stranded far from home, without enough money to get your truck fixed. Insurance is also important as if you get into an accident, your insurance may pay for any damage which was caused to your truck or the other individual’s vehicle. 

Final Thoughts

So if one of your goals for the next few years is to embark on as many camping trips as possible, it’s well worth further investigating the possibility of truck bed camping. As you’ll be able to travel long distances and to explore countless towns, cities and national parks, on a tight budget. 

Better yet, you’ll also be able to travel in comfort, instead of sleeping in a tent on uneven terrain. In fact, you’ll never have to sleep in a tent which has flooded, in the rain again. 

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