How to Sleep/Camp in the Truck Bed? – Top Tips and Options!

Sleeping in your own vehicle is quite common in some of the cities. It certainly is an adventure and certainly at a cheap price. Although it is cheaper living in your own truck bed, it does take some preparation and some experience to make it a successful venture.

Today, in this blog I’m going to share with you my personal tips on sleeping or camping in your truck bed.

Outfitting Your Truck Bed to Make Room for Sleeping

There are many approaches to turn the back of your pickup into a bed. A common method is by designing an elevated sleeping platform where you get a lot of storage space underneath. Another way is to create a shelf near the cab end, where you bed rest low on the truck bed and the storage or shelf goes on top of your feet.

The Elevated Sleeping Platform

  • An elevated sleeping platform is the most common approach but it gives more importance to the storage. Although it gives a lot of storage space, it is not exactly the most comfortable option.
  • You will have limited headroom and if you are stuck in your truck for the weather you can’t really sit up or do anything to keep yourself comfortable with the elevated sleeping platform.
  • It also provides relatively high security to your gear. You can stuff you expensive items underneath the platform and keep the tailgate up to create a pretty unbreakable storage setup,
  • This is not a problem if you’re just going out for a couple of days on short trips. But for long trips, it will soon become a problem for you to keep up with your comfort.

The Back Shelf Platform

  • The back shelf style is favored by many frequent travelers and this is what they found to be most comfortable. If you are on a long journey, you will surely like the comfort and the space you get in exchange for a little clutter on one part of the truck bed.
  • This style, of course, gives you very little storage space and the little storage that you get is very vulnerable to theft. They are also more likely to fall off with a little bit of turbulence in driving.

How to Create a Sleeping Platform?

Step 1: Platform Design Measurement

  • The first obvious step is to measure the truck bed and determine how much space you can get out of the back of the truck. This also determines the number of equipment and material you need to create your sleeping platform.
  • Next, draw out a layout of the platform. In this step, you will create a bigger center board to store longer items.  

You Need:

  • Two outer boxes. They will go over the wheel wells
  • One center area to secure the outer edges
  • One support board

Step 2: Get Materials

  • 2 or 3 sheets of plywood
  • Angle brackets
  • Hinges
  • Carpet
  • Bolts
  • Ratchet and sockets for bolts
  • T-nuts
  • Screws
  • Duct Tape
  • A staple gun
  • Electric drill
  • A table saw

Step 3: Prepare the Boards

  • Cut boards into strips up to the length of the bed. Also, make sure that they are cut square.
  • Fit tie-down hooks around the boards.
  • Once all boards are cut arrange the boards to see if they fit

Step 4: Fastening Boards

  • Tie the boards using brackets and screws.
  • You could try assembling the platform outside the truck and later slide it into the bed.
  • Make sure the boards align well
  • However, if the centerboard doesn’t rest on the support boards, you could add some additional support.

Step 5: Finishing Your Platform

  • For a finished look you could cover the boards with a carpet. You will have to cut the carpet to make it fit each piece of the platform.
  • Fix the carpet with staples
  • Wrap the edges of the carpet with a duct tape

Now the platform is assembled. Next, you could simply undo it and take it to your truck bed to fix it there. Fix different section of the board with bolts. All you need is a mattress and you are good to go.

Choosing a Canopy

Although choosing a canopy is not that hard, people do tend to go overboard and usually end up buying a canopy that doesn’t fit. Here are a few tips to help you pick your canopy and the options you have.

Tents :

For a majority of truck owners, tents are their favorite option. It gives a good camping experience in a budget. With a tent, you don’t have to make any permanent changes to your truck bed. You will find a number of tents designed specifically for the truck bed which you can even get for the make and model of your pickup. It makes sure that the tent fits the bed snuggly. Moreover, it is easy to carry and store and is also raised off the ground making it a camping experience.

Camper Shell:

If you are looking for something sturdy and permanent, a camper shell should be a good option for you. The shells are like an extension to the cab of the truck. Moreover, you can also get them that fits the make and model of your truck.

Soft Convertible Top:

Soft convertible tops are a great option. Because it is convertible, you can take it off and on when you need. You could put is on when you are sleeping and keep it open when having a picnic. However, unlike camper shells, it can be removed and stored when not in need.

Picking a Tent:

  • People usually go for larger tents thinking it would be more comfortable. On the other hand, larger tents take more effort to put up and break down. It is advised to get a tent that best fits the make and model of the truck bed you have. In fact, a smaller tent would provide more flexibility to set-up in a campsite.
  • However, if you are going out with your family and will be sleeping on the truck bed, or other spaces, a larger tent would make sense in such situations.
  • Find a tent that has double doors and keeps a fabric storage system so that you can keep gear out of the tent.

Innovative Ways to Sleep in Your Truck Bed

  • Fold up a few pieces of cushion sheets and lay it flat on the truck bed to make for a bed. You can also purchase a sleeping bag for the bed, but make sure it is not blocked by the wheel wells.
  • You can create your sleeping platforms and various ways to best fit your needs. It is possible to make an elevated sleeping platform with minimal storage at the bottom and more space on the top.
  • Next, you have to find a way to protect yourself from weather and other intruders, which is where you will need a tent.
  • Find a tent that has a transparent top, so that you can sleep staring at the starry skies.
  • You can purchase modern camping shells which come from cedar to canvas. They add a sleeping room, provide kitchen space and even electricity for camping and other essentials.
  • You can also build your own camper to give more room for your sleep. If you have an elevated sleeping platform, you can create your own camper shell for more comfort.
  • When creating a sleeping platform you will basically be using the center space for sleeping and the space near the wheel wells can be used for storage. However, try to keep it simple and people go overboard with creating storage space with drawers and slides under their bed.

Expert’s Advice in Sleeping in Your Truck Bed

Please sleep in their truck bed for multiple reasons; it could be for camping, staying overnight after a long drive, or some just like their life on the road. Whatever the reason, the biggest concerns of sleeping in the truck bed area safety and comfort.

Adopting the on-road life

The first step into a stealth on-road life is to have a truck with a preferable camper shell outfitted with a sleeping platform inside but that looks from the outside. If you are planning to live in your truck bed for a long time on the road, you would be spending a lot of time parking in places and driving short trips across the city. Therefore, it is necessary to have a pickup truck that looks general that blends-in with the surrounding. You should definitely avoid any flashing stickers, decals or paint job if you don’t want to be pulled-over frequently.

Sleeping in the truck bed overnight

It definitely is trouble to sleep overnight in a car, van or truck for that matter. That said, you will be comfortable after a few days when you can legally park overnight in top spots. The golden rule is to never park in the same spot consecutively for two days. You will have to list out all legal overnight parking spots and switch between parking spaces every night. There are specific night parking spots that are used only for sleeping and then there are multiple day spots where you can park your truck and leave for work. Moreover, make sure that when sleeping in your truck bed overnight, don’t make much noise or stay up late for cooking or watching a movie with the lights on. You should be using night spot exclusively for sleeping over without room any other work.

However, keep in mind that if you are sleeping overnight in an urban space it could take some time to tune in with the urban noise at night. Sleeping in a city inside a pickup truck bed could be challenging at first, but if you can make it the first few nights, you are good to go.

Where can you park overnight?

If you want it out in nature there are a few options such as public land where you can actually park and camp legally for a few nights. Nearly all public spots from Bureau of Land Management and the United States Forest Service allow legal boondocking. You can look up on the internet for all boondocking spots on forums or website in your city. For a pickup truck, you can even park overnight in parking lots and at the trailheads in some National Parks.

For sleeping overnight in the city you will have to look for urban camping spots. Your best option is to park where cars and vans are usually left overnight. Hotel parking lots, 24 hrs grocery stores, Walmart, etc are some good options to look into. For the most part, you should be fine parking on the street when locals park their cars as long as you obey their local parking laws.

Where you shouldn’t park overnight?

A big danger of parking overnight is not from the cops but from local crimes. As you stay on the road, you will hear news of things happening around your city and with the time you will get a good idea of where you can park and where you shouldn’t park. For every city, there’s always a part of town that has a higher crime rate, which should definitely be avoided at all circumstances. You don’t need to be told that you should avoid dark secluded streets and parking lots. Some would even avoid parking directly in front of someone’s house just to avoid unnecessary trouble among locals.

Dealing with a cop

If you have done your homework, we don’t think you will have to face a police officer or a security officer. However, if you do get a knock in the middle of the night it is better to turn on the lights and talk to the officer. If you are within your legal boundaries, you shouldn’t have to worry about anything. However, even if you get a visit from a police officer you have certain rights to what questions you need to answer and what the police officer can search in your vehicle. But, it’s definitely better to be less aggressive and just cooperate with the officers.

Many would say that they are traveling and are just passing through. If you are asked to move out of the spot, you should definitely ask where you can park legally if you have to move out.

Your security

Like I said before, the worst thing is not about the cop but about someone breaking into your truck. The only way to make sure that it doesn’t happen is to park in a well-lit place and parking spaces that are known to be safe. Moreover, if you will be sleeping in the truck bed and someone breaks into the cab, there are a few things that you can do and a few things that would be unsafe to do. The best way to prevent this mishap is to be incredibly safe and follow some protocols. You should lock your truck even if you are leaving sight for a few minutes. If you live in a rough neighborhood, it would be wise to invest in a good alarm system, deadbolts, GPS systems, padlocked doors, etc. If you are carrying the expensive gear you could look into investing in a stainless steel storage box or chest.

When it comes to personal safety, some prefer to keep something like a bat, or taser in their truck. If you do get someone trying to break in, you could just bang on the walls or remotely start your car alarm to send them off. Then move your vehicle to a different location immediately after.

Top Tips for a Comfortable Stay in Your Truck

Keep essentials for a comfortable stay:

When you are not living at the comfort of your house, you will definitely need some quality gear with you in the truck bed.

Here’s a small list of items you should be having:

  1. Warm blanket
  2. Sleeping bag
  3. Sleeping Pad
  4. Camp Stove
  5. Pack of towels
  6. Tool kit
  7. Backpack
  8. Headlamps
  9. Swiss knife
  10. Nylon rope
  11. Gloves
  12. Hat
  13. Lighter
  14. Emergency light
  15. Hiking boots
  16. Camping pot and cutlery

etc.

Finding safe and free parking spaces:

You can’t just pull over anywhere, if you do, you will get into trouble and may even be towed. Like I mentioned before, there are many free places in the city where you can park and sleep overnight for free and legally. On the flipside, if it says that you’re not allowed don’t even try to sneak into it.

  • You could try looking into department stores such as Target and Walmart. They usually have large parking spaces and there aren’t rules against parking your car overnight.
  • Next, you should look into religious buildings such as Churches, Synagogue, etc. They are generally safe and don’t bother people parking at night. However, make sure you are not parking on a major service day.
  • Furthermore, you could look into your neighborhoods with on-street parking. However, look for signs such as “Pay to Park” or “Parking only for Residents” to avoid any troubles. You could also look for areas where others have already parked their cars, which means it’s a safe place to stay overnight. On the other hand, you should avoid parking on the highway or you will get towed; you should rather look for dirt turnouts which are used by a long-distance truck driver to sleep over.

Keeping your privacy intact :

If you do not appreciate waking up to scary faces looking through your window in the morning or at night for that matter. You should fit your truck bed camper shell with towels if it has glasses; if it doesn’t, you should at least cover you can windows. Another good way to avoid trouble is by facing your vehicles facing out so that you can quickly escape if there’s trouble. If the parking space has some vehicles, you should try parking in a crowded zone. Moreover, keep the truck under a well-lit parking space to avoid burglars.

About ventilation:

This is definitely a major deal. If you are locked up in your truck bed with everything shut to the brim, you will wake up in the middle of the night as sweaty, particularly if it’s summer. Which is why we suggest keeping at least the sunroof open just a few inches for ventilation if you have that option. Or you could take your windows down a little bit if you can. Just a little bit of ventilation is enough to make you feel fresh. Furthermore, to make it comfortable you should have a proper pillow, sleeping bag, sleeping pads, etc. However, you can use other stuff as your pillow and bedding if you like, but that’s not comfortable.

Food & Water:

If you are trying to live frugally, you should look into the type of food you are taking. Here, you should be living on little but healthy food, because you don’t want to get sick in your pickup truck bed. However, you can drive for cheap eats at Costco, SUbway, Del Taco, Dollar Stores, etc. On the contrary, you could also cook in your truck bed, but that would need you Propane stoves, and other utensils to start with. Next is, you will need a constant source of water supply for drinking as well as for cooking and washing clothes if you are staying in your truck for some time. You could try for an annual pass to your state parks for access to drinking water and also shower.

Heaters in winter:

Winters can be particularly challenging if you are not staying in a house. To survive winters sleeping in a truck bed, you will need a  radiator that fits in your space and also creates at least some warmth in your camper shell.

First aid and safety:

The day you plan to sleep in your pickup, you should get yourself a first aid kit. You will need it when you are all on your own and amidst the dangers of living in a truck bed. Buy a medium size kit from your local drug store and keep additional supplies such as epi-pen, gauze, signal mirror, etc. Also, take a basic life support training for the AHA CPR card. Moreover, you should have more supplies for other potential hazards if you are planning for hiking in the woods. Furthermore, for safety, you can have a CB radio. Channel 9 is allotted to report the urgent situation. If you can reach your mic and send out your location, you will get help pretty fast.

Conclusion:

Living in your truck can be an awesome experience and you may even make some social connections. Even if it’s just for a day, sleeping in the truck bed can be both a challenging and a fun experience. You probably won’t need much to live for a day, but if you are planning to do it on a regular basis, you should look into investing in some good sleeping pads and platforms. You will also need a constant power supply to keep things running in your truck bed. If you have never slept in your truck bed, we bet you are going to have a really fun time.

SEE ALSO:  Truck Bed Tent Camping: Buying Tips and Installation Guide

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