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Truck Camping 101 – Getting Started with Truck Camping

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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.

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.