Truck Bed Camping For Beginners: Gear, Tips, And Tricks

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There are many different styles of camping. For example, you can walk out into the middle of the wilderness and hang a hammock to sleep in for the night, or you could invest in a cool camping RV that can be used year-round in all kinds of weather. However, both of those camping styles are extremes in the camping spectrum. Instead, you can use an asset you may already have — your truck.

Truck bed camping has become wildly popular in the overlanding and off-grid camping world. It allows you to take your truck and create a camping shelter that you feel comfortable with. Camping in your vehicle also gives you the opportunity to camp in more secluded areas because you're not dragging a camper with you, and it also makes you pack lighter, giving you a more nature-oriented experience.

There are many types of gear and tips to help you curate the best personal truck bed camping experience for you. This article contains several recommendations for types of gear and advice for camping based on personal experience and honest reviews from buyers. A more in-depth explanation of our methodology for these suggestions can be found at the bottom of this article.

Types of truck bed camping shelters

In terms of truck bed camping, there are three main types of shelter you can get: a camper shell, a truck bed tent, and a rooftop tent. Each one serves a purpose and gives you a specific type of camping experience. Camper shells are used to enclose the bed of your truck so you can maximize your storage space and keep anything you're traveling with safe. Although, you can also camp inside the enclosed space. All you need is a comfortable mattress like the Rightline Gear Truck Bed Air Mattress that comes with a 4.2 out of five rating from over 1,200 buyers.

However, you may want to go with the truck bed tent route. With a shelter like the Napier Backroads Truck Bed Tent, you'll have both leg space and headroom to sleep comfortably in your truck bed. This tent has a 4.6 out of five rating from over 5,500 buyers and is incredibly durable while being spacious enough for two people.

Another option is to get even higher off the ground. You can achieve that with a rooftop tent. Keep in mind that this can prove to be the pricier way to go, considering you'll also have to purchase a rooftop mount for the tent, but if you plan to frequently camp, it may be a worthwhile investment for you. There are many impressive rooftop tents that you can look into. The type you'll want will depend on the size you need and if you want a fold-out or pop-up style.

Safety and repair precautions and equipment

Safety while out in the wilderness is essential. Of course, protection from animals, such as bear spray, is important, but it's also necessary to have equipment if you hurt yourself or need to repair a tire. First aid kits, a tire repair kit, and a portable jack should be stored somewhere in your truck while camping. Additionally, consider keeping an inflator with you as well. Slime's tire inflator will fill up your repaired tire and allow you to safely make it out of the woods, where you can later assess the tire's condition.

Additionally, having the proper tools to remove debris after a storm or having a power bank to keep your smaller electronics like your phone charged is important. Makita has come out with its outdoor adventure line that has several power tools to help out in any time of need. The electric chainsaw is one tool you will be happy to have when driving down an unmanned road and a fallen tree is blocking your way out. Makita even has a power source that runs off the same 18V battery system, which would definitely come in handy.

Lately, and it may not seem like much, but adding a piece of plywood that is the length of your truck bed can be a great safety precaution because it will give you one seamless camping bottom. This is so you don't get your foot stuck in between the truck's bed and tailgate while climbing in or out of your shelter.

Other truck bed camping gear to have on hand

Many pieces of camping gear could be listed here to help upgrade your campsite. However, we're going to focus on some of the essentials that can make a difference in your camping adventure. When searching for your camping spot, you may find yourself on sloping terrain that is difficult to level your vehicle on. A good set of leveling blocks can make a huge difference in this situation. With a 4.3 out of five rating on Amazon from nearly 500 people, the Home on Wheels RV Leveling Blocks is a great option because you can stack the blocks as needed and add a chock for stability. The pack only comes with nine leveling blocks and one chock, so we recommend purchasing two for well-rounded safety and leveling.

Having a way to cook is also a necessity. You can always set yourself up with hobo dinners; meals prepped in aluminum foil that gets cooked over or inside a campfire. If you want to cook yourself, bring a small butane camping stove like Coleman's Classic 1-Burner Butane Stove. It's completely portable, as it comes packed inside a carrying case and can easily be assembled and dissembled.

Lastly, many people may forget to bring a dry bag. Weather is unpredictable, so you may find yourself in a situation where you need to keep personal items dry. The Earth Pack Waterproof Dry Bag is a great choice as it comes in all different sizes and colors for your camping needs.

How to find free camping spots

There are many apps that you'll want to install before trekking out or even planning your next truck bed camping trip. iOverlander is one of the top-rated and personally recommended apps for finding nearby propane stations, water stations, and all types of wild camping. Simply open the app, select the tabs of services you're looking for, enter the location, and start browsing. All of the spots have been uploaded by other camping persons, and many come with comments and even photos to see if that is a good spot for you.

If you live near a national forest, many allow the ability to stay in a camping spot that is usually designated by a fire ring of some sort. Most of the time, the allowed camping time is 14 days within a specific period. If you plan on camping out longer than that, you'll need to move to the next spot outside a certain distance, usually between 25-30 miles. Some state forests, like in Pennsylvania, only require you to sign up for a permit to camp on the land for a specific amount of time. Be aware that each state's rules and regulations for camping off-grid is different. You need to make sure you do the research and get any permits required so you are prepared if and when authorities check on you.

How we chose these products for truck bed camping

The products that were chosen and discussed in the article were selected based on personal experience with off-grid truck camping, a variety of user reviews, and research already done from other SlashGear articles. The ratings for each item are at least four out of five stars and below $200, making them all realizable and affordable. Of course, we encourage you to do more research on camping products to make sure that they fit your needs, whether you're parking at a campground or trekking out into Colorado's backcountry.