Even before the pandemic, camping was growing in popularity. With the social restrictions and concerns for cleanliness over the past two years, people who might not have ever considered the activity gave it a try. Now, innovative adventurers are expanding upon the tailgate tent approach to create a customized experience that is less expensive than RV camping and more comfortable than tent camping.

If you already own a truck and traveling in style on a budget sounds exciting to you, you just need to learn how to turn your truck bed into the perfect camping setup. The good news is it is easier to do than you think. And it is much more affordable than buying an RV.

What is truck bed camping?

Truck bed camping is an economical way to have a weekend getaway. It is an even better way to travel and see the world. All you need is your vehicle, supplies and a little ingenuity.

The idea of truck bed camping is to turn the bed of your truck into a hotel room. The number of luxuries you include in your adventure is up to you. Your accommodations can be sparse or packed with creature comforts to make it a true glamping experience. 

What are the advantages of truck bed camping?

If you are wondering what the appeal of truck bed camping is, consider the following benefits:

  • Unlike an RV, which might not even fit in your driveway, you do not need any special storage space to park your truck.
  • A pickup truck may get double or triple the gas mileage that an RV gets.
  • Since it is smaller and easier to handle, you can go more places with a truck than you can with an RV.
  • The battery and fuel tank capacity of a truck let you camp for several days without a hookup.
  • Unlike an RV, which is not a commuter vehicle, you can drive your truck when it is not being used for camping.
  • Sleeping in the bed of your truck provides a warmer, safer and more comfortable environment than sleeping on the ground in a tent.
  • If you sleep in your truck, you don’t have to spend money on hotels, motels or hookup fees.

What do I need to consider when creating a truck bed camping setup? 

Safety

The most important element to consider is your personal safety. You do not want any animals or people entering your vehicle while you are sleeping. Additionally, you will want to store your valuables where they can’t be easily seen, so you don’t become a target of theft.

Tents vs canopy

If you camp in a location where you feel secure, a truck bed tent may be an option. These items are lightweight, affordable and temporary. On the downside, they are not as durable, secure or weatherproof as a canopy and must be taken down before driving.

How to designate space

To get the most out of the available space in a truck, you need to dedicate specific areas to certain functions. For safety reasons, the driver and passenger seats should be as clutter-free as possible. The best areas for storage are usually behind the front seats and under the bed. Be sure to secure all items in these areas so they won’t become a hazard if you have to stop short. The sleeping space should be in the bed of the truck. If you are traveling alone, however, there are inflatable beds that fit in the back seat. If you aren’t too tall for this option, the truck bed can be your storage space.

Privacy

When camping, your truck is your bedroom. You will want to hang shades in the windows to have privacy. Also, when the sun comes up, it might wake you, so hanging up some kind of light-blocking material is important if you want to sleep in.

Power

During the day, you won’t need lights, but you will want your entertainment devices — phone, tablet, speaker, etc. — fully powered. Even if you are having an unplugged weekend, your phone needs to be charged for emergencies. Additionally, depending on the temperature, you may want to run a fan. At night, you will need light, and if there is a bug problem, a mosquito killer will come in handy.

What do I need to create a truck bed camper?

Napier Backroadz 19 Series Truck Tent

Napier Backroadz 19 Series Truck Tent

The color-coded pole and sleeves let you set this truck tent up in just about 10 minutes. It has a full floor, rainfly and storm flaps for privacy and protection. The large door provides easy access, and the inside features a gear loft and a lantern holder.

Sold by Amazon and Dick’s Sporting Goods

Pittman Outdoors Truck Bed Air Mattress

Pittman Outdoors Truck Bed Air Mattress

This rugged truck bed air mattress fits over the wheel wells in your pickup truck. The built-in battery-powered pump makes inflation effortless, and the 1-year warranty offers peace of mind.

Sold by Amazon

Coleman Autumn Trails 30-Degree Big-And-Tall Sleeping Bag

Coleman Autumn Trails 30-Degree Big-And-Tall Sleeping Bag

To get the most comfortable night’s sleep, you need a sleeping bag. This one can keep you warm in temperatures down to 30 degrees. The big-and-tall design gives you extra room, and the comfort cuff provides extra softness around your face.

Sold by Amazon and Dick’s Sporting Goods

Yeti Tundra 45 Cooler

Yeti Tundra 45 Cooler

Cold beverages are always a plus. This Yeti cooler can hold up to 26 cans and has extra insulation to keep your food and drinks cold longer. The rugged design is certified bear-resistant.

Sold by Amazon

DEWALT 140-Watt Portable Car Power Inverter

DEWALT 140-Watt Portable Car Power Inverter 

If you’d like to work on or charge your devices, this portable inverter lets you do just that. It has a single 120-volt outlet and dual USB charging ports. It is fan-free, silent running and has an automatic low-voltage shut-off to protect your vehicle’s battery.

Sold by Amazon and Home Depot

Energizer Weatheready LED Camping Lantern

Energizer Weatheready LED Camping Lantern

This battery-powered lantern has three light modes: high, low and night light. It can run up to 650 hours in low mode and offers 360-degree illumination. The rugged, weatherproof design makes it ideal for camping.

Sold by Amazon

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