Sometimes a tent or cabin isn’t in the plans. Truck camping is an awesome way to get off-grid and live off the gear you are already in. Let’s talk about why and how to truck camp. Here is what you need to know to make your truck camping adventure successful.
Truck camping was never really on my radar a few years ago. In fact, I had never even considered it. But then, I realized, I have truck camped 100 times a didn’t even know it. Remember that road trip you took to visit family when you were driving home from college and pulled over to sleep in the car when you got too tired? Congrats, you have truck camped.
From my early years in the Army sleeping in my Abrams Battle Tank to my current setup in my Ram 1500 with a drawer system and sleeping platform, I love to truck camp (and tank camp). My bird-dog and best friend Hank is a big fan of truck camping too. So what if my zippers down, STOP LOOKING!
What you need
- Blanket or Sleeping bag
- Clean underwear (I said that in your moms voice)
- Camping area or Public Land Spot
- A cool doggo to tag along (optional)
Now while the title says “truck camping” you don’t need a truck. In-fact, an SUV, car, or van works fantastic. Heck, you may even be able to lay down your seats in a small car and make it work. What matters is you sleep in your rig. Big, small or somewhere in the middle, size doesn’t matter, you sleeping in it does.
You see, this is truly minimalistic camping, you don’t need much. No need for fancy tents or RV’s, this is the camping that anyone can do at any location.
I personally use a Ram 1500 with the 5’7 bed and a topper/camper shell. Now, I’m 5’11 so you don’t need to be a math expert to realize it might be a bit cramped, and it is. However, I sleep in it diagonally and bend my knees a bit when sleeping. Is it ideal? No, but it gets the job done. Fair warning, when you wake up you are gonna want a nice stretch.
Here is my setup:
Because the sleeping surface of the bed of a truck is hard, I have a few of my wife’s old yoga mats rolled up that I stack up for a make-shift mattress. Between some old yoga mats and some blankets, that’s all in need for a smooth night of sleep.
In my rig, because I have the camper shell, I can slide the windows a few inches open to get a breeze in the summer all while keeping the door shut. If you are in a car, van, or SUV, just crack the windows a bit and you will be good.
Blanket or Sleeping Bags
Using a few blankets or sleeping back is all you will need to stay comfy and warm while you sleep. Depending on your area’s weather, you may want to adjust the thickness of these to account for how hot or cold you will be. Here in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and Wyoming, a warm sleeping bag is a must as the temps in the high elevation still hit low even in the peak of summer.
Amazon has a sweet two-person sleeping bag that will keep you and anyone else with you cuddled up for the night and warm. This one here is highly rated and at a great price.
Additionally, when temps get really low, I keep a Buddy Heater nearby that runs on the small green propane tanks to keep my truck camper warm. These heaters are small, powerful, and safe from Carbon Monoxide poisoning concerns indoors. Frankly, they are ideal for indoor and truck camping uses. Grab one of these heaters here, prices have gotten much better over the years.
This is self-explanatory. Whether you need a full-on meal or can live off trail mix all weekend, your gonna want some food to keep you moving on your trip. I personally bring some dehydrated meals that are high calorie, carb-dense and provide good fuel for my hiking or mountain biking without taking up much space. These here are made with quality ingredients and seem to be healthier than most.
If you don’t already have one, your gonna want a way to heat you water for your meals and these MSR small backpackers stoves are AMAZING, grab one here. MSR has done this one right and it packs up small but provides quick, clean heat.
Really? Do I need to touch on this? Well, maybe touch wasn’t a good choice of words…..unless it was?
This seems like a no-brainer but it matters. While you can technically just pull over and sleep, unless you want a cop or rapist (extreme, I know) knocking on your window at 3 AM, I suggest you find a legal camping spot to sleep.
Free camping areas on the Bureau of Land Management as well as the National Forrest offer some outstanding camping areas that won’t cost you a penny. In addition, there are some in every state.
Not sure where you can sleep? Or even better where you can sleep for FREE? Check out this write up on locating FREE public land camping areas in your current area.
A Cool Doggo
Meet Hank, this dude loves to hunt, hike, camp, fish, and just hang out. He is the best truck camping partner and you need one too.
So that’s it! You’re ready to truck camp! Pack your gear and hit the road! As always, thanks for stopping by and go GET OUTSIDE!
Mike is a resident of Northern Colorado and an avid outdoorsman. Camping, hiking, and fishing take up most of the entire year for Mike and his family. Prior to Settling in Colorado, Mike was a law enforcement officer and former combat veteran of the Iraq war. Living and thriving off-grid is a task Mike can handle.
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