Essential Tips To Start Truck Camping For Beginners

8 min readSep 10, 2021


If you’re searching for a way to explore the country without blowing your budget, then truck camping is a must-try. Truck camping is as simple as sleeping in your truck bed instead of setting up a tent on the ground. It is one of the easiest ways to set off on an adventure with the benefits of mobility and versatility.

You can set up in a camping ground, near the ocean, and even someplace with a stellar view. You also have the freedom to drive anywhere, anytime making it ideal for short trips with multiple itineraries.

Truck camping is an affordable alternative when hotels are expensive and not readily available. It is also a good substitute when you don’t have a budget for recreational vehicles. You don’t need to convert your pickup truck into a camper or make various modifications to enjoy the outdoors. Your vehicle is enough to give you a secure and comfortable way to unwind, go fishing, start a bonfire, or simply stargazing. If truck camping sparked your interest, this truck camping 101 could help you start with the setup before you hit the road.

Plan Your Sleeping Arrangement

Truck camping offers several options for sleeping arrangements. Keeping it simple is a way to go when taking an overnight stay or a weekend trip. A minimal setup with a sleeping bag and a pillow on your truck bed is enough to make you feel comfortable doing truck camping for a short period. Suppose you’re planning for frequent and longer trips. In that case, this is a good time to consider a more comfortable sleeping area and upgraded setup that still fits your budget. To give you an idea, here are some sleeping arrangements you can make with your truck:

  1. Sleep in the Truck

This one is the most basic and readily available sleeping arrangement with no required setup. You can easily fold the seats into a flat sleeping area. If you have a double cab pickup truck, you can use the rear bench as a sleeping area. You also have the option to black out the windows with covers for some privacy. This setup is safe since it offers protection from both unexpected rain and even wildlife.

2. Truck Bed Tent

A truck bed tent is one of the most popular truck accessories for camping. It is an easy-to-pop-up tent inside the truck bed, providing a safe and comfortable shelter for truck camping. This tent is ideal for getting off the ground and avoiding sleeping on rocks and uneven spots. You can make it more comfortable by adding a truck bed air mattress and netting to keep the bugs away. It also saves you from waking up in a puddle after sleeping through the rain. This tent setup is the standard and most affordable option for beginners. It provides protection against rain, high winds, and wildlife.

3. Canvas Truck Topper

This tent is the cheaper alternative to buying a camper shell for your pickup truck. Canvas truck topper is lightweight and weatherproof like most tonneau covers. It is mounted atop the truck’s rear covering the entire bed to provide a safe camping shelter. You can add an air mattress or padding to make it more comfortable to sleep in. You can also use this for utility and storage purposes for your cargo and camping equipment while driving.

4. Roof Top and Overland Tent

Rooftop and Overland tent is a more expensive option for those willing to splurge. It is ideal for anyone who prefers a more elevated setup. You need to install a tent on the vehicle’s roof rack with an attached ladder as access to get inside. It comes with a sleeping pad that can fit at least two people comfortably. The elevation from the weather and wildlife makes the spending justifiable, especially for those committed to truck camping for an extended period. This kind of tent works on both trucks and SUVs. There are plenty of easy-to-install and durable truck racks available in the aftermarket to accommodate this tent.

Gather Camping Essentials

Truck camping is not complete without essential camping items. Your truck bed offers plenty of room for your camping gear and equipment, however, you need to plan the kind of camping you want to do before purchasing camping items. You can avoid buying unnecessary stuff that might simply take up space in your truck. Here are some of the camping essentials often used by frequent truck campers.

  • Dry Storage

Dry storage is a must-have to keep your daily essentials organized. You can use a large plastic bin as a personal pantry for your food and cooking supplies. Use plastic containers to store your camping accessories like a first aid kit, flashlight, and toiletries. Plastic bins and containers are easy to clean and affordable. If you’re going to place your dry storage in the truck bed, ensure that it is secured by a tonneau cover while driving.

  • Coolers

You need a cooler to keep your ice, water, and beverages cold for a longer period. It is also used to help your perishable food items last longer. High-end coolers like rotomolded coolers are popular because they have longer ice retention than standard coolers and are built to last a lifetime. They have dense insulation that keeps the warm air out and prevents your perishables from spoiling. Rotomolded coolers are a good investment for anyone planning for long-term camping.

  • Water Jug

You must have access to water at all times when traveling to prevent dehydration. Having a large water jug is a sustainable way to ensure that you have gallons of water available for drinking, cooking, and even washing your dishes. It is better than buying disposable water bottles that will occupy most of your storage space and add up to the amount of trash you need to dispose of.

  • Camping Stove

Bring a decent camping stove to cook quick and easy meals while camping. Some campers use a portable two-burner stove with a small propane tank to cook their meals. Just be sure to keep your cooking area clear of flammable materials, including dried leaves and foliage.

  • Cooking Equipment

If you’re going to cook while camping, these kitchen items can come in handy: cooking utensils, cast iron skillet, reusable dinnerware, seasonings, kettle for coffee and tea, and camping lighter. Enjoying a great meal is a great way to improve your camping experience.

  • Personal Care Items and Travel Towel

It is important to maintain good personal hygiene while camping to avoid infection and diseases. Bring a change of clothes, toiletries, and quick-dry travel towels whenever you need to shower, especially if you’re going to travel for an extended period. While some campgrounds provide designated shower areas, you may also bring portable showers if you’re planning to go off-grid.

  • Canopy/ Awning

Make your camping more comfortable during hot weather by providing additional shade with a canopy or an awning. There are lightweight and easy-to-install canopies that you can attach to your vehicle that are inexpensive.

  • Camping Chair and Hammock

Add a place of leisure by bringing foldable chairs to set up in a campsite. You can sit on your tailgate, but it’s not going to be a cozy place to read or enjoy a campfire. Bringing a hammock that you can hang between two trees can also act as a lounge to relax during the afternoon.

Bring Vehicle Tools and Equipment

Getting stuck in the middle of the road due to mishaps is the last thing any driver would like to experience. You can achieve hassle-free truck camping by making sure that your vehicle is always in good condition. You also need to prepare your truck and gather the right tools you need to ensure a safe and long trip. Here are some essential equipment to bring for your vehicle.

  • Spare Tires and Jack

When driving on unpaved roads or off-road, your tires can sustain some beating leading to flat tires. Make sure that you have a jack and a properly inflated spare tire with you. Install all-terrain tires to make your truck more versatile and be able to access any terrain with ease. Regularly check your tires before heading out to a new area.

  • Toolbox

It is a universal rule that your vehicle must have a toolbox at all times. Having a toolbox is essential whenever you need to perform vehicle repairs on the road. Basic vehicle maintenance and repair skills are essentials, especially when there is no auto mechanic shop nearby. You can also use some of the tools when setting up camp.

  • Jumper Cables and Battery Charger

Jumper cables come in handy whenever you need to give a jump to a disabled vehicle battery and supply power to crank the engine. You can also use this for other drivers who need help with their car batteries. A battery charger can help recharge the battery after it has been revived by a jump start.

  • Power Inverter

A Power Inverter is a must-have camping item if you’re bringing things like a crockpot and electric kettle. The power inverter converts battery power into energy that you can use to run the electronics. It is also convenient for charging devices like phones and laptops. You need to make sure that your inverter has enough watts to power your items.

  • Lighting

A good lighting setup can make camping more convenient, especially at night. You can use a rechargeable lantern to illuminate large open spaces and improve the visibility of your area. A rechargeable lantern can go for about 200 hours with only a single charge. LED light bars and fog lights are helpful when driving at night and during unexpected rain that hinders visibility. Flashlights are handy when you need to illuminate your space instantly or need to signal other people.

  • Gas Can

Keep an emergency supply of fuel in case your trip burns more fuel than expected and there are no gas stations nearby. Make sure that the gas can is tightly secured and has no spills or leaks.

  • Recovery Tools

Weather interruption is beyond your control. If you find yourself stuck in a muddy area caused by heavy rain, having the proper recovery tools can help you get out of the situation. Installing a winch can be helpful if you’re doing serious off-roading aside from truck camping.

You don’t have to worry about changing your plans at the last second whenever a campground is full or the weather won’t hold up. Maximize the amenities a truck offers by using it as your camper. Truck camping is a fun way to explore many different campgrounds and remote locations. Experience the great outdoors in the comfort of your vehicle anywhere at any time.

Originally published at on August 30, 2021




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