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Truck Camping 101 – Getting Started with Truck Camping

The camping industry is a more than $20 billion a year industry (and growing), with more people now than ever before getting into the exciting world of truck camping.


Opening up a whole host of opportunities to camp that simply wouldn’t have been accessible before, camping out of your truck can be a game changer. You’re able to use your truck the same way you would have any other vehicle to get around town, to explore new places, and to move from campsite to campsite – but you’re also able to have your entire “headquarters” based out of the back of a pickup truck, too.

That being said, getting started as truck campers when you are a beginner can be a little daunting.

There are a lot of ins and outs that you want to take care of before you jump right in. That’s why we have put together this quick guide.

Below we dig a little deeper into (almost) everything you need to know about getting started with truck camping – all in an effort to help to shine a light on the most important details so that you can start adventuring ASAP.

Find the Right Truck for Truck Camping

Right out of the gate, you are going to need a pickup truck to act as the “foundation” for every other aspect of your road trips.

Truck options to pick and choose from these days (at pretty much every price point, new and used) there are a handful of things you want to make sure that your vehicle as that you might not have thought of that first.

For starters, you need a relatively lightweight, compact, and fuel-efficient truck and about adventuring. You want something that is rugged and mobile, something that is durable, and something that has plenty of space in the interior and the truck bed for all of your camping gear and equipment – but you also need something to help you get around town, to get supplies, and to get you into and out of your camping spots.

Off-road capabilities are a huge plus, and at the very least (at the VERY least) you need to be sure that you’re getting a truck with four-wheel-drive built right in.

Toyota Tacoma For Truck Camping
Toyota Tacoma

Whether or not you go with a full size pickup or a compact is entirely up to you, but there’s a reason why a lot of folks choose the relatively compact Toyota Tacoma as the “backbone” of their camping experience.

Reliable, durable, off-road capable, and super fuel-efficient, there’s a lot to fall in love with when it comes to the Tacoma as a camping solution.

Traditional Tent or Rooftop Tent Setup?

Traditional Tent or Rooftop Tent Setup

The next piece of the puzzle that you are going to have to figure out is whether or not you are going to be using your truck to support your campouts or if you are going to be using it as an actual base of operations and your “living quarters” – all while the line all the other features truck has to offer.

Plenty of people use their truck to get into and out of campsites that they wouldn’t have been able to check out before only to pitch a tent or a hammock, using their pickup truck as a bit of a “pack mule” to get all of the gear and equipment they need in with them.

Other folks like to use rooftop truck tents, however, that turn the pickup into the actual camp itself. This frees up the interior of the vehicle and the truck bed for even more storage space, and lots of folks convert the truck bed into a bit of a camp stove/camp storage solution that works in conjunction with the rooftop tent up top.

Other still go for a popup camper that installs right into the truck bed, combining the best of the RV camping world with your new truck. That’s definitely an approach to consider if you have the budget for sure!

Those just getting started with truck camping might want to keep things simple and inexpensive, packing a tent with them to see if they like the experience before investing in dedicated rooftop tent set ups.

Figuring out whether you’re sleeping in your truck or outside of it is mission priority number one. It informs every other decision you’re going to make about your camping setups.

Camping in the back of your truck is the best outdoor experience ever. Or, it can also be your worst nightmare, depending on what is in the list of your truck camping gear. As truck camping involves loading up your truck roof rack and setting off to an adventure, the type of camping gear you carry can make camping a success or failure.

Photo Credit: Instagram @survival.camper

However, before you rush to your voyage, check whether you have the complete pieces of equipment and tools for a safe and unforgettable experience.

Truck Camping Accessories

Power source for your electronics

A portable power inverter is considered essential for truck camping. It permits you to convert charge from your truck battery to usable power for camping items. Your inverter should have enough outlets and power for your electronics. Unfortunately, your car battery power is not reliable as it might run out and leave you stranded. Alternatively, you can carry a portable generator or power station.

A reliable power source will convert current to charge your camping electronics such as:

  • Power banks
  • Camera
  • Mobile phones
  • Portable fridge
  • Portable solar power
  • Rechargeable Battery
  • Battery Charger
Jackery Portable Power Station Explorer 240
8,815 Reviews
Jackery Portable Power Station Explorer 240
Jackery Explorer 240 is equipped with a 240 watt-hour (16.8Ah, 14.4V) lithium-ion battery pack, no fuel or gasoline needed, no fumes, no clanging! Pack light for your next camp trip with Jackery portable power station.

Last update on 2021-07-26 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Emergency Kit 

An emergency kit is an important truck camping essential that should not miss on your adventure. It can be the determinant of death or life in an emergency. Your kit should fit easily in a backpack if you need to trek or hike for safety.

Emergency Survival Kit 47 in 1 Professional Survival Gear Tool First Aid Kit
5,894 Reviews
Emergency Survival Kit 47 in 1 Professional Survival Gear Tool First Aid Kit
Uniquely customized by U.S military veterans, our survival kit includes 28pcs emergency survival gears, 16pcs medical supplies, 10pcs fishing tools and 4 in 1 Molle EMT pouch to suit all your needs. Includes folding knife, muols to better suit your needs. The all in one survival kit includes tactical folding knife, wire saw, pen, fire starter, compass, emergency blanket, folding pliers,flashlight, tactical defense whistle, saber card, bottle clip, carabiner, etc.

Last update on 2021-07-26 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Every emergency kit should have matches, flashlight, multi-tool, water jug, first aid kit, water filter, non-perishable food, batteries, and a knife. You can also customize your kit to suit your needs on place and length of camping.

Canopy

A canopy or awning is a must-have truck camping equipment. It gives you shade, especially when it is hot. If your truck lacks enough space for canopy, you can install an awning.

Camp chairs

A comfortable place to sprawl after a long day of hiking or driving is a must-have truck camping gear. Carry a cozy chair for each person in the camping group. Invest in foldable chairs to save on space in your truck.

Water tank

While camping in the back of your truck, you will need fresh water for cooking and drinking. The size of your water tank depends on the number of people in the camp and the camping period. You can choose a heavy-duty plastic tank, aluminum tank, or better still, a collapsible tank.

Ensure you have enough space for the water tank as it can occupy a lot of space. If you are only camping for a day or week, then small water bottles can serve the purpose.

Truck Camping Sleeping Gear

You can never overstate on the value of a sound and comfy sleep while truck camping. Having acquired a good bed tent, make sure you get the best gears for it. What are the items needed for a complete truck bed camping gear?

Air mattress

To enjoy your rest at night during camping, you need a comfortable air mattress. Unless your camping involves storytelling around a bonfire the whole night, you will appreciate a good night’s sleep for the perfect camping experience. For a perfect camping night, an air mattress is a major part of the truck camping essentials.

A good air mattress should:

  • Easily fit in your truck.
  • Maintain air for long without deflating.
  • Have an internal pumping device.
  • Should not be easily pricked by other items in your truck bed
Sibosen Inflatable Car Air Mattress Back Seat
111 Reviews
Sibosen Inflatable Car Air Mattress Back Seat
This portable car inflatable mattress helps cushion your body when sleeping in your car, truck, or SUV while traveling or camping. You can quickly inflate or deflate by simply plugging the electric pump (included) into the car's cigarette lighter socket and pump air into the mattress with nozzles.

Last update on 2021-07-26 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Sleeping Bags

It doesn’t matter if you are camping for only a weekend or weeks- a sleeping bag is an essential accessory. You can get a one-person or two-person option sleeping bags, depending on your privacy needs. A warm-weather sleeping bag is lightweight, waterproof, portable, and has a comfortable compression sack.

Hammock

Besides an air mattress and a sleeping bag for your naps, you can suspend a hammock between trees for absolute relaxation. A hammock is a truck bed camping accessory that should easily accommodate two people.

Camping Clothing

A wardrobe of fast-drying, warm wool, and synthetic clothing makes enormous progress to your truck camping. This makes your laundry easy and decreases the amount of clothing to carry in your truck. Here is a list of the recommended camping clothing.

  • Fleece jacket for comfort on a brisk morning.
  • Wool shirts as they dry easily and do not keep body odor.
  • Synthetic pants that are comfortable and dry easily.
  • Wool socks that can be worn for 2-3 days.
  • A down coat to keep you warm during the nights.
  • Travel underwear that is easy to wash and dry and made from anti-microbial material to reduce body odor.
  • Comfortable and durable shoes

Kitchen Gear

Other than having sound and comfortable sleep while camping, making a delicious meal is important. Below is a list of all your truck camping kitchen types of equipment.

Camp Stove

Camp Chef Explorer, Two Burner Stove, Two 30,000 BTU's cast-aluminum burners, Cooking Dimensions: 14 in. x 32 in
6,129 Reviews
Camp Chef Explorer, Two Burner Stove, Two 30,000 BTU's cast-aluminum burners, Cooking Dimensions: 14 in. x 32 in
  • Includes 3 ft. hose and regulator
  • Includes detachable steel legs and 3-sided wind screen
  • Compatible with most 14 in. Camp Chef accessories
  • Two 30,000 BTUs/Hr. cast-aluminum burners
  • Appliance-style temperature controls

Last update on 2021-07-26 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

For easy home-cooked meals, while camping, you should invest in a camp stove. A camp stove is an important truck camping accessory that does not take up space. You can never compare sandwiches and granola bars to a hot home-cooked meal.

Cookware

It would be best if you stocked your camp kitchen with essential utensils such as mugs, thermos, pots, and pans, serving spoons, plates, spatula, fork and spoons, scissors, cast iron sets, knife set, hand towels, lighter, can opener, trash bags, and hot pad. Disposable dishes are handy, but they are expensive and take up a lot of space. Instead, carry some outdoor dishes per camper that you can wash after use.

If you are camping in a place without running water, it is easier to use disposable dishes. Use biodegradable utensils to reduce pollution.  

Conclusion

Advance proper planning for your adventure will help you to acquire the basic camping truck accessories. The above four truck camping gear is the bare minimum for an ideal truck camping. It is common to discover that you are missing some essential gears during your actual trip. Sometimes even the most experienced and organized campers find that they didn’t bring camping gear or two. Always keep a list and add the missing item before your next camping adventure.

Tips and Tricks for Truck Camping

If you’ve camped before in RV parks and campgrounds, then you need to try this exclusive way of camping. Unlike before, you will depend solely on equipment found in your truck. This means that you will not only need to depend on your camper’s holding tank for all your water uses, but also on your camper’s battery for electrical power and it’s propane system to cook and run the refrigerator.

This means that you cannot leave the lights on when you are not using them or take long baths. You will obviously do these things but you’ll swiftly drain your batteries and run out of clean water.

In order to avoid such mistakes and others from happening, we will look at tips and tricks to have up your sleeve. So, without further adieu, here are some truck camping tips and tricks to help you while truck camping:

How to conserve water

When truck camping, water is a precious commodity; use it sparingly. Never leave your taps running when using them. Use half a bottle of water to brush your teeth. Take conservative showers, wet your body, turn of the shower, lather up, and then rinse off. For personal hygiene, use biodegradable wipes.

conserve water

Use disposable plates, cups and bowls to save on cleaning water. For cooking pots wash them in a basin or tub and save the water for flushing the toilet. Always remember that the more you save on the amount of clean water you use, the more you limit wastage of waste water.

Sources of portable water

Without a doubt, knowing where to get portable water at little or no cost is good tip when truck camping. These sources are city parks, ranger stations, county, gas stations, truck stops and campgrounds. Use a hose to get water from sources without spigots.

To top up on the capacity that the camper can hold, carry bottled water and extra water containers. You can also get water from natural sources such as streams, rivers and lakes but you have to filter the water first before filling your holding tank.

Do not drain your batteries

Always keep your AGM batteries and wet cell at 50% and above charge and 80% and above your lithium ion batteries. By doing this you will increase the batteries lifespan. Never rely on a basic alternator charge circuit as the main mean to charge your batteries when truck camping instead have a generator or solar as the primary source.

The size of your solar system depends on your camping needs. For most trucks, a 200 watt solar system is sufficient. For generators invest in quiet inverters. You can also install a high amperage wind turbine.

Conserve power

This is easily one of the best tip to have up your sleeve when truck camping. Another truck camper’s tip and trick is to have more than two AGM or ion batteries for camping. If your battery compartment can hold a battery at a time, install another power unit to have two. Only use fans, lights, TV, and water pumps when needed.

Make sure that your bulbs are LED. If you are truck camping in cold weather, use a zero degree sleeping blanket and not the heater to keep warm. If your camper does not have a battery monitor, install one to avoid the guesswork on the state of your batteries.

Use the toilet sparingly

Avoiding water wastage is a big challenge to campers. The truck’s holding tank is not big, so try to reduce your visits to the toilet. Use gas stations, rest stops, restaurants and pit toilets whenever possible. Do not fill the toilet bowl after flushing but use a little water to cover your toilet’s rubber seal.

Where to dump the black water

One primary rule for campers is to dump the black water at only approved sites such as campgrounds and RV dump stations. For the camp trucks with cassette toilets, dump the black water in toilets in campground pit latrines, county or restrooms.

Avoid dumping the black water in open spaces and in the wild at all costs. It pollutes the environment and it is illegal. You also are inconsiderate of other campers who may camp there after you.

Always be ready

Unlike in campground camping, truck camping will take you to isolated places without cell networks, so you should always be ready for any type of contingency. Some items to have for preparedness are an emergency roadside kit, a Ham radio, a fully-stocked first-aid kit, an axe, a water purifier and a portable compressor.

If your truck camping includes travelling to no man’s land a lot, carry a shovel and a winch to dig out of the mess. Another important truck camping tip is to always include personal protection such as a dog, bear spray or firearm.

Do not litter the environment

This is easily one of our top truck camping tips for all campers. Keep in mind this golden rule when camping. Be considerate of the environment and other people. Always pick your trash and extinguish your campfire and leave the campsite better than you found it. When lighting your campfire do not burn wood pallets as they leave nails behind. Leaving trash on public land is against the law and extremely inconsiderate.

Where should you truck camp?

After loading your truck cap camping with all the camping necessities, where do you head to? You are allowed to camp on timber company properties, wildlife preserves, state land trust, state forest, or on private property but with permission. Choose a good camping site using blogs, maps or Google Earth.

To know the roads that can be used for overnight camping, talk with the park rangers. You can truck camp on any road as long as there is an open road and no sign prohibiting camping.

Conclusion

If you own a truck and are ready to forego some personal comforts, you will find the above truck camper tips and tricks handy. So, with the above tricks you’ll find your next truck bed camping less costly and absolutely fun.

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