Interested in getting started truck camping? Here's how to turn your truck into your new home on wheels...

Living in a Truck or How to Turn a Canopy into an RV

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Printable Truck Camping Guide Available at End of ArticleIf there is one thing, in particular, my website it is known for, it is for all the time I’ve spent living in a truck and all of my truck camping related tips, tricks, and builds. But even so, I was surprised to say the least when the folks at Popular Mechanics reached out to me about doing an article about how to live in a truck.

Can You Live in a Truck Camper?

Well, yes, of course, you can if you’re willing to do live life a little differently. Truck canopy living is at once both incredibly freeing but also somewhat limiting. The basics of it are not unlike van life but just confined into a smaller space. Many people will purchase a new truck canopy and then make some modest modifications to the internal setup by building shelves, platforms, etc.

I recommend building a transformer style setup and using hard plastic boxes for storage of gear rather than being bulky (and heavy) drawer systems. Either way, with the drawer setup or the transformer setup, you can sleep on top of the platform, but the more comfortable approach for long-term travel is the backshelf approach (thus the appeal of the flexible transformer approach). It is the best of both worlds approach that will better suit most travelers.

Living in a Truck or How to Turn a Canopy into an RV truck-camping, travel, how-to

If you’re willing to live in a small space with few belongings, going from free campsite to free campsite (with the occasional store parking lot thrown in) then you may be a good candidate for truck canopy living. It makes it easy to spend your days driving from place to place, exploring the world and all it has to offer. Hopefully, you love to drive, at least! 🙂 

Living Out of Your Truck

We had just pulled into Ibarra, Ecuador after driving across the border from Colombia with my trusty old truck when I hopped onto a phone call interview with a writer from Popular Mechanics. While I’ve got a Skype based phone number, I still need a good internet connection, and this hotel wasn’t exactly it.

Despite the lousy connection and dropped calls, we were able to work through the informal interview about truck camping, and they turned it into an article for their September 2017 issue, titled “How to Turn Your Truck into an RV”.

The article is short and sweet, covering the basics of camping in a vehicle. It was incredible to be featured in this iconic publication which has been around for more than 100 years and has a circulation of more than 1 million subscribers!

I mean, I used to read Popular Mechanics when I was a kid, and here I am suddenly featured in its pages.

This wasn’t just an article for their online blog either, but an article featured in print! There was no way I was going to find a print copy in South America, but thankfully I got some mailed back home to check out in person.

Interested in getting started truck camping? Here's how to turn your truck into your new home on wheels...

In the article, we talk about setting up the truck bed, including sleep space, hygiene, cooking, dual battery setup, food storage, and building your truck camping setup. Of course, there’s a whole world of truck camping gear like choosing a canopy, sleeping bag, water storage, and other ways to make your long term truck camping adventure a little more pleasant if you are living out of your truck.

Check out the short truck camping article in Popular Mechanics

Living in a Pickup

If you are looking for more truck camping tips and tricks, be sure to check out the numerous detailed articles that I’ve featured on my travel blog over the years about how to live in a truck. I really do love the life of living in a pickup because it means I can travel cheaply while traveling far and wide.

If you liked this article about living in a pickup, then be sure to give the Popular Mechanics article a like, share, tweet, or anything else to help spread the word!

How to Turn Your Truck Into an RV via Popular Mechanics

Read Next: How to Start Truck Camping

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The Most Common Truck Bed Camping Mistakes

Pickup Truck Camping Guide

Turn your pickup truck into the ultimate adventure mobile. This printable truck camping guide will help you through the process.


  1. Get a truck if you don't have one! 🙂 I've traveled all over the world in my 1991 Toyota Pickup. The bigger the truck bed the better. Short beds have workarounds but they are not ideal unless you are quite small.
  2. Find a new or used canopy for your truck. Read this guide on what to look for when buying a canopy. My top recommendation is to find an elevated canopy like the Leer 122 (what I use).
  3. Decide on what sort of truck bed sleeping platform you want to build. The two most common are an elevated sleeping platform or the backshelf (and side-shelf) approaches. I did a transformer setup for the best of both worlds, here is my step-by-step guide building the transformer style setup.
  4. Purchase essential gear to start truck camping which includes a sleeping pad or mattress, sleeping bag, two-burner stove, cooler, storage boxes, etc.
  5. Go on a test truck camping run at a free boondocking campsite without amenities to test your setup. Read more about finding free camping in the USA.
  6. Consider your electronics system and how you will charge devices while on the road. You could get an outside system like the GoalZero Yeti but I recommend using a dual battery and isolator under the hood.
  7. Join the Pickup Truck Camping group on Facebook for an amazing, like-minded community where you can ask questions and get answers from experienced truck campers. Be sure to pick up your #PTC stickers, shirts, and swag!
  8. Review the detailed truck camping gear and accessories (plus a packing list) and start planning your epic truck camping adventures. Might I suggest this national park road trip, the most scenic drives in the USA, or this west coast USA road trip? Here is more info on road trip planning for you, based on 10s of thousands of miles of adventures.
  9. Sign up for more truck camping tips, tricks, and info delivered straight to your email inbox from yours truly.


I hope this helped you get started with truck camping! I know it can be confusing when you are just getting started, which is why I started writing so extensively about it.

If you have any questions about truck camping, road trips, budget travel, or anything else shoot me an email at

(I love getting questions! That is how I get ideas for my blog posts and what to write about!)

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Living in a Truck or How to Turn a Canopy into an RV truck-camping, travel, how-to


Head Writer and Adventurer at Desk to Dirtbag
Ryan is an author, adventurer, perpetual wanderer, and self-proclaimed dirtbag (but that might not mean what you think). Originally from Seattle, he headed to Washington D.C. where he spent five years working for Congress before heeding the call of the wild. He set out truck camping to road trip across the American West, and then across all of Central America and South America. When he isn't on the move, you can find him living as an expat in Colombia. He is also the author of the best selling book: Big Travel, Small Budget that will help you travel more for less. Follow the adventures on social media or read more.

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Comments 2

  1. Cool! I love your lifestyle! You could do it without kids, but it’s hard with them! Especially, school age or college level. I do travel extensively, too! Always trying to find good deals, mostly in Europe. However, this December I’m planning to visit Peru because our manager is originally from there. He adviced me to do it during this month,because it’s summer there. I live in LA. What are your recommendations in terms of places/cities to visit? Taking buses, trains? I travel independently in Europe where public transportation is very convenient.

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