If you have a pickup truck and you are fond of adventures, you probably don’t need to buy a luxurious RV. You can convert your truck bed into a camping home. Many truck owners want to use their truck bed space for fun activities and space to tuck in when camping out. After doing some research I’ve compiled a comprehensive guide to help you make your pickup truck camping easier and trouble-free.
What are the bare minimum things one should follow while camping on a truck bed? One should always follow a checklist for the truck bed before planning to go for a camping. Most important of them is to make it waterproof and to have all the most essential items necessary for the trip.
Here are the 7 Tips for Truck Bed Camping
01. SAFETY TIPS
Before you plan your camping trip, make sure you have all the safety measures in place. Leaving your home means leaving your comfort zone and time can be cruel. Without safety, it would not only spoil your trip but also become potentially dangerous.
If you are out on a remote arch with your family and are just enjoying the stars above, you will get the feeling how alone you are on your campsite. There is nobody miles away and you are on your own. If something goes wrong, there’s nobody to call for help. By now, you should get the point of how safety is of more concern than the camping itself.
Most of the camping happens in a remote location so, you have to be prepared. While camping you may only consider animals and reptiles as threats, but you are leaving out humans! There are no hard feelings but other men can be a great threat to you and family on your camping.
If there are other campers, by all means, be friendly, have a chat, have your dinner together but be alert and agile; you never know who you will run into.
Then again there are snakes, birds, and coyotes who can easily sneak into your camping site, without you even noticing. Moreover, you have to prepare for the elements; uninvited rain, sudden storm, is very much a real threat when you are out camping in the dark.
Here are Some Tips from Experienced Campers
Keep Animals Away
- Need to Keep your food sealed to prevents its smell getting to the animals
- Just Keep your food at a separate place other than where you will be sleeping
- If possible hang your food on your camp
- Carry bear spray. I use the FRONTIERSMAN bear spray.
- Get enough gear to keep you warm. You are not going to find any help once you reach your campsite
- Wear layers of clothes and top it up with waterproof clothing
- Avoid getting wet. If you have to, then wipe up immediately
- Cold weather drains a lot of your energy, so keep yourself fed and hydrated at all times
- Make sure the sleeping bag is rated for at least 15º colder than the temp you are expecting. MalloMe makes some of the best sleeping bags in the industry.
- Have a short burst of exercises to keep your body warm.
- Going for a hike? Mornings and late afternoons should be your ideal choice
- Wear light-coloured clothes, or long sleeve shirt with a breathable fabric
- Wear a wide-brimmed hat
- Keep yourself hydrated
- Cool off your neck with a wet bandana
- Set up your tent in a shade or create one using tent tarp
- Make sure to know the fire rules in your camping area
- If the fire is prohibited in your season, don’t take any risk of creating a campfire
- If you do light a campfire, make sure is fully extinguished before you leave or before to go to bed
- Complete put out the fire with water
- Cover the area with dirt after you stir the ashes
- Touch the spot and if you still hot, put more water and dirt
- Clear the campfire area from flammable elements such as dry leaves, twigs, paper or any other flammable fluid
Don’t Get Lost
- Before you leave for camping, let your friends, relative and park officials know of your plans
- Don’t the road you don’t know; use only popular and specific trails
- Let your friends know of your vehicle number, number of members, and even the colour of clothing you are wearing
- Let them know when you plan to come back
- Tell them at what time you will check in
- Keep everyone accounted for throughout the camping, especially at night
- Keep first-aid and emergency kits stocked and new
- Clear your surrounding and follow wildlife safety rules
- Use automatic tailgate light to prevent tripping
02. DON’T FORGET ESSENTIALS
Here is a list of Gear You Should Carry on Your Truck Bed Camping
- A high-quality weather-resistant truck bed camper or tent. Here’s where you can get one from Rightline Gear.
- Sleeping mattress or a truck bed pad for truck camping.
- A light cotton sheet to cover yourself.
- A regular pillow without memory foam.
- A couple of foldable chairs. These foldable chairs from Sunyear could be a good option.
- A truck bed inverter and dual battery for small electronics. This 1000W truck inverter from Ampeak should be enough for your trip.
- Carry wet wipes or solar shower, if you are planning for long camping.
- Large mesh net to keep bugs and mosquitoes away.
- A headlamp.
- A large umbrella is optional.
- A cable lock.
- Weather stripping to seal around the tailgate and hinges.
- Duct tape.
- A plastic drop cloth to avoid mud and dust.
- One ARB awning. Its a good one for me.
- A 400w power inverter. Makes it easier to use your laptop, recharge your phone or using lights
- A non-mounted rechargeable LED lantern or a couple of them. These rechargeable LED lanterns have around 400-hour runtime, enough for your trip.
- A GPS system such as from Garmin. Get Garmin Drive 51 LM with lifetime maps from Amazon.
- A second deep cycle marine battery. VMAXTANKS has some of the best batteries in the industry.
- A battery isolator so that you don’t drain your truck’s starter battery. Get your dual battery isolator kit from AA Ignition.
Auto Gear (With gear recommendations)
- A couple of snow chains
- An auto repair tool kit
- One fire extinguisher
- Universal lug wrench – in case you need to change your flat tire
- Road safety triangle reflectors
Clothing Gear (With gear recommendations)
- Quick-dry travel towels if you plan to shower on your camp
- A merino fabric wool shirts are a must as they don’t stink because you will not be doing laundry on your camp
- Thermal underwear, if you are camping in winter
- A couple of sleeping socks
- A rain jacket and a wind jacket or any jacket that covers both
- A pair of hiking shoes
- Slide-on sandals are optional
- Insect shield head buff
- A duffle bag to keep all your stuff together and organized
Other Electronics (Optional)
- A digital camera
- Spare batteries for headlamps and lights
03. KEEPING IT CLEAN
Keeping the Truck Bed Clean
No matter how careful you are, your truck bed can get messy. Obviously, you will be sleeping on your truck bed so you have to keep it tidy. Prepare your truck bed before heading out to your campsite. Thoroughly clean the truck bed leaving no dirt or grime. Uninstall other accessories such as toolboxes, cargo bars etc as you will be needing the full bed space to sleep over.
Take out unnecessary items which you may have left in the truck bed. If you often carry your pet then vacuum clean the area. Use a soft cover rolling tonneau on your trip, so that you can easily take it off while camping. Install weather stripping to keep it free from dirt and debris while you are on the road.
Keeping the truck bed interior clean
Keeping the truck bed interior clean is the toughest part. If you will be going for a hunt, you run the risk of leaving blood marks on the truck bed floor. So, seal up space with a camper when you are away. Check for worn seals and replace it beforehand. You could use stick-on weather strips to make things easier.
While camping, stack your boots, dirty equipment in a trash bag. If you have a dead game, stash it on tarps until you reach camp. You should get a broom or a battery-powered vacuum which you can use every night before going to sleep. Most importantly, carry a lot of bags to keep things organized instead of keeping things laying around the truck bed.
Keeping the Camping Site Clean
Sanitation is a common problem when you are camping in unexplored regions. You have to keep your camping surrounding clean because you don’t want to return with an upset stomach. Stagnant water and ravaging racoons could be a trouble, so, you have to stop creating a cosy environment for them.
Here are some tips:
- Scrape leftover into a garbage bag instead of on the ground. Dispose of the garbage bag in the bin, which is provided in most campgrounds.
- Use biodegradable soap for dishwashing so that even if you throw out before leaving you will not harm the mother nature and other creatures from poisoning their stomach.
- Dishwater and other liquid waste should be collected and dumped into a hole which is dug far away from your campsite. Moreover, keep in mind there are no streams or water sources nearby.
- Clean up your dishes and utensils using hot water. You could heat a pot of water on your stove while you are eating.
- Carry stackable plastic bins. One filled with warm, soapy water which you will be using to wash your stuff and another with cold water for rinsing. You could add a few drops of bleach in the water meant for rinsing.
- Bring a collapsible sink or an alternative to be used as a washbasin.
Keeping Bugs Away
- If you leave anything edible from chocolate bars to leftover, you calling for a lot of bug troubles. Not just that, you run the risk of inviting your wild friends from the woods and some flying scavengers too.
- Stash edibles, ice chests and other toiletries in the steel boxes, which are found in most campgrounds.
- Don’t keep leftovers and used toiletries inside the camp
- Dispose of trash or other items in a bug-proof bin. You could temporarily store it away from your campsite and
- dispose of it later before you leave
- Clean your area after every use
- If you have a picnic table, keep it cleaned with a sanitizer after using it
- Keep your camp kitchen tight and within your sight. Do so for edible items kept on the picnic table, because uninvited guests may swoop in and ruin your lunch.
- If your camping area is riddled with bears keep anything that smells like food far away from your tent including the clothing you were wearing while cooking. Sleepover wearing a fresh pair of clothes.
- Use hand sanitizer to keep your palms germ free. If you are using soap and a basin of water, don’t let it sit there for long.
- Try to avoid stepping on dirt and mud and if you did, stash them away in a bag before you enter your truck bed.
04. CHOOSING A CANOPY
This is a no-brainer, but sometimes people go overboard and get a canopy they don’t need. So, here are some tips to help you choose the best shelter for your truck bed.
Truck tents are by far the favourite options for most truck owners. It will give you a real camping experience at a cost-effective price. You will find a variety of truck tents in the market which is designed to fit your truck bed snuggly. It’s easy to carry and store, plus you will be raised off the ground, making it a more safe camping for you.
This is an option for those who are looking for something more sturdy and comfortable. These camper shells are like an extension to the cab of your truck. Plan it beforehand so that you can get a camper shell that fits the make and model of your truck.
These are also called soft tops and are made of fabric. They are part truck bed tent and part camper shell. This will give you added protection than a tent as well as give you an outdoorsy feel. The best part is, it can be removed and stored when not in need, unlike the camper shell.
Choosing a Tent
- Pick a tent size that best fits your needs. If you think larger tents are better, you can’t be more wrong. You will actually have to put on more effort to put up and break down.
- A smaller tent would also provide more flexibility to fix on specific campsites.
- If you already know your campsite, plan on the size of the tent accordingly.
- You may, however, have to get a larger tent or several smaller ones if you are going out with a family.
- Also, consider the wind direction while placing the tent.
- It would be a great option if you have double doors on your tent. Keep the fabric storage system to keep gear out of the tent and get more room for yourself.
- You can just ditch all of it and go for a hammock; however, you have to be sure it’s a hammock friendly environment.
05. BUILD A SLEEPING PLATFORM
Step 1: Designing the Platform
The first step is to precisely measure your truck bed. Find out how much space you can squeeze out for your sleeping platform and how much work needs to be done. This will also decide the amount and size of the supplies you need.
Now draw a layout of the platform. Keep a bigger centreboard if you were to store longer items.
You will need:
- 2 outer boxes which will go over the wheel wells
- 1 centre area to tie the outer edges
- A support board in the middle of the bed
Step 2: Get Your Materials
- 2 sheets of plywood which should be just right for trucks with a 6′ bed
- For a full size, truck get 3 sheets of plywood
- Angle brackets
- Duct Tape
- A table saw
- Electric drill
- Ratchet and sockets for bolts
- A staple gun
Step 3: Preparing the Boards
- Cut all boards into strips.
- Cut to the length and make ensure they are cut square.
- Fit the boards around the tie-down hooks
- Once all boards are cut. Place the boards to see if they fit together
Step 4: Fasten all Boards
- Fasten all boards using brackets and screws.
- You could assemble the platform outside the truck bed for ease and convenience.
- Make sure the boards align well. If the centreboard edges don’t rest on the support boards add some additional support.
Step 5: Finish Your Platform
- Cover the boards with carpet for a finished look
- Cut the carpet so that it fits each piece of the platform
- Fix the carpet with staples
- Cut out the finger holes
- Wrap the edges of the carpet with a duct tape
Now, that the platform is assembled, simply dismantle it and take it to your truck bed. Here, you can reassemble to the truck bed. Fix different section of the board with bolts. Now rest your mattress and you are ready to go camping.
06. CAMPING WITH YOUR DOG
Camping with a pet is not easy and if you do, you have to keep a few things in mind. You don’t want to carry your dog only to find out that no dogs are allowed on the site. So, before you embark on your journey research pet or dog-friendly campsites. If possible, call ahead to make sure that pets are allowed. Also care to check on leash laws, as some campsites only allow restrained pets.
Now, keep your dog trained so that she is comfortable on your campsite and does follow your commands. It would be great to do some outdoor training sessions.
Then, make sure you are prepared for emergencies. Before you leave, check up with her vaccination record, health history and collect contact info of nearby veterinarian. Also, make sure the dog’s microchip info and tags are up-to-date. The U.S. Forest Service recommends carrying some dog-specific first aid items:
- A bandana
- Tweezers for tick removal
- An emergency fold-up blanket to treat cold
- Needle nose pliers to remove thorn or porcupine quill
- Booties to protect injured paws
- The name, phone number, and directions of a nearby veterinarian or pet emergency clinic
Here are some extras
- Doggy water bottle and food and water bowls
- Dog backpack for day hikes
- Sleeping pad and blanket for your dog
- a local thrift store is a great option)
- Reflective Leash
- Clip-on flashing light
- First aid kit
07. CAMPING ACCESSORIES
Here are some camping accessories that will make things easier for you
Pickup Truck Air Mattress – They fit snugly to the truck bed and sit nicely over the wheel well. They are sure to give you a good night’s sleep.
Hammock – Maybe you are more of an outdoorsy guy, then a hammock is perfect for you. Sling it across the truck bed and you are good to go.
Awning – You never know when the weather will hit you for a hard time. Here an awning will be a great place to take shelter. You will find a number of awnings that are designed specifically to be used with a truck bed.
Hitch Mounted Grill – This is rather optional, but it’s fun. Grill your meat on a pickup truck BBQ that mounts on your hitch
A Piece of Flat Plywood – If you will be cooking, you need a flat surface to prepare your food. You can use the tailgate by placing a flat piece of plywood on top of it.
Pickup Truck Cooler – Yet another great accessory if you are carrying camping beverages.
Camping Heater – If you are camping in the winter, having a portable heater will give you a cosy room and a sound sleep. You could either buy an electric heater that hooks up with your truck battery or gets a propane heater.
Camping is a favourite outdoor activity among the Americans. Many go for long trips which means you have to be extra careful. After all, a brisk morning walk, fishing with your family and some music around the campfire will leave lasting fond memories for your family. However, as discussed above, take care of your safety, keep the area clean, stay vigil and of course have fun!
With a wrench in one hand and a trucker’s hat on my head, I’ve been knee-deep in the world of trucks for over a decade. From tinkering in greasy garages to cruising down open highways, my life has been one big trucking adventure. I’ve hauled, repaired, and revved up more rigs than I can count, and now I’m revving up your truck knowledge with articles that’ll steer you right.