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.

Essential Truck Camping Gear You’ll Want to Load Up

You are going to obviously need quite a bit of gear when you go camping, but the truck gives you an opportunity to get all of that gear and equipment off your back and off your shoulders (for the most part, anyway).

This allows you to bring a lot more with you when camping than you might have been able to otherwise – but you still need to be smart and strategic about the gear that you load up.

You want to start off with essential truck camping gear that you would have brought with you camping whether or not you have the truck with you in the first place.

We are talking about your sleeping bags, air mattresses, tent, blankets, clothes, hiking shoes, folding camp chairs, utensils and cookware, your cooler, your food and water, your bug spray, your hygiene products, your flashlights and everything else that a regular camping adventure requires.

On top of that, though, you’re also going to want to include gear specifically designed to make sure that your vehicle gets into and out of the woods without any difficulty.

We are talking about jumper cables, a spare tire, a tire repair, a fire extinguisher, an extra can of gas, recovery straps, jacks, and a little bit of extra cash for a credit card should you need to call the truck to tow you out or have someone help you recover your vehicle off the beaten path.

How to Pack My Truck for Camping

At the end of the day, it’s always a good idea to try and keep up camping set up as simple and as straightforward as possible – eliminating everything you don’t absolutely “need” from your packing list, even though you have a pickup truck to help you bring a lot more than you would have if you were backpack camping, for example.

Really try to build a lot of redundancy into your gear, looking for things that can be used for multiple purposes that aren’t going to take up a lot of space.

Always make sure that you have emergency first aid on hand, that you have navigational tools (GPS units, compasses, charges for your phone, etc.), and clothing for less than perfect weather on hand as well.

Truck camping is definitely going to make your life adventuring a whole lot easier in a lot of ways, but it’s also possible to get a little overconfident just because you’re able to bring so much with you in the truck feels like it’s able to get you into and out of jams that would have been disastrous you were on your own.

When you’re just getting started, try to keep your initial camping trips pretty easy to handle, and then adjust your load out as necessary to fit your needs.

Experience is always going to help you dial things in. There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all loadout, but if you arm yourself with the inside information above, really think about what you need (what could go wrong), you’ll be in a much better position to get the most out of truck camping every time you decide to go off the beaten path a bit.

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