Truck Camping: The Complete Guide from A-to-Z

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Are you looking to convert your pickup into the ultimate adventure mobile? Truck camping is by far one of the best ways to get out there and travel, whether you will be going on weekend trips or a year-long outing.

Look to further than this resource for all your truck bed camping needs, from choosing a canopy, building out the back, selecting a mattress, and even the gear you need in order to get out there and get going. We’ll be going from more beginner concepts to more advanced and detailed information, and then finally, some road trip and travel resources to help you get out there on the road.

Truck camping is one of the most freeing and liberating ways to travel the world, and I’m so glad to have you here on Desk to Dirtbag, the Internet’s most detailed resource about truck bed campers.

Don’t miss out on joining the amazing Pickup Truck Camping group on Facebook.

Truck Camping 101

Here’s where to start if you’re new to the world of truck camper setups… We’ll be covering the many different truck camper setups, buying a new canopy, getting your sleep system setup, and building out the back.

Discussing the pros and cons of four common approaches to truck camping...

Comparing Roof Top Tents, Canopies, Slide-In Campers, and Truck Bed Tents

If you are starting with a blank slate, then it is important to consider the pros and cons of the main approaches. How do truck tent campers compare to roof top tents? What about a traditional slide-in camper? Should I just go with a canopy camping setup? Let’s go over it all here before you make a decision about one or the other…

4 Crucial Considerations When Buying a Truck Canopy for Camping

4 Considerations When Buying a Truck Canopy for Camping

Whether you are buying a used or new canopy with the intention of camping in the back, there are a few important considerations to keep in mind before you buy. These four items are what I’d consider crucial when adding a canopy to your truck. If you’ve already got a canopy, then you may just want to skip this one.

Truck Camping 101 Elevated Sleeping Platform versus Backshelf

Elevated Sleeping Platform vs. the Back Shelf Approach

There are two primary approaches to building out a truck canopy camping setup: either the elevated sleeping platform with gear storage below, or the backshelf approach. Like anything there are pros and cons to either approach, but here’s what to keep in mind when considering your build options.

Truck Camping - Choosing a Sleeping Pad or Truck Bed Mattress

Choosing a Sleeping Pad or Truck Bed Mattress

One of the most important aspects of truck bed camping is being comfortable while sleeping. I highly recommend not neglecting this aspect, but to get a quality truck bed mattress or truck bed sleeping pad. I’ve used a variety of setups over the years, both camping solo and camping as a couple. In this article we’ll discuss what has worked out the best and how to ensure you have a good night’s sleep.

What You Need to Get Started Truck Camping
What You Need to Get Started Truck Camping

Not sure where to start or what you need for your truck camper? Thankfully, this is an extremely accessible and affordable way to travel and enjoy the freedom of the road. Here are all the most crucial resources that you need to hit the road ASAP.

Truck Camping 201

How to Build the Ultimate Truck Bed Camper Setup - Step by Step Directions

My Truck Bed Camper Setup: Step by Step Directions

Lots of people have found my truck canopy camping build online and have replicated it themselves. But many have also reached out asking for more detailed plans or designs about how to build my truck bed camper setup, which is something I couldn’t really provide… Until now! I took advantage when I had my truck emptied out for cleaning and shot

7 Awesome Products for Life on the Road
7 Awesome Products for Your Next Road Trip

I’ve been living in my awesome truck setup for a while now, and I’m definitely starting to get a clearer picture of which items I brought along that I truly like, use frequently, and have really proved their worth over time on the road. Despite my imploring you to Stop Buying Things, and Start Doing Things, I just wanted to

truck camping videos
Truck Camping Videos

As much as I’ve written about the subject of truck camping over the years, the written word usually only goes so far to explain my setup, how things work, and the pros and cons. The places where the written word fails to do justice can often best be supplemented by video, which is why I put together this

Answering all your questions about the world of pickup truck camping...

Pickup Truck Canopy Camping Frequently Asked Questions

I get a lot of questions about truck canopy camping thanks to this blog, but rather than write individual articles about each person’s question, I put it all together in one huge resource that covers all sorts of miscellaneous topics that didn’t fit elsewhere. If you’ve still got questions, there’s a good chance that I’ve covered them here.

The Ultimate Guide to Pickup Truck Camping

A Guide to Outfitting and Living in the Back of Your Pickup

This is a monster post about truck camping, a huge guide to outfitting and living in the back of your pickup truck from the fundamental approaches, inspiration I turned to, and insights about life on the road.

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

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

Maybe not everybody wants to live in their truck, but it is a pretty awesome way to travel and live life on the road. Thanks to my truck I’ve traveled across the American West twice for months on a time and even drove all the way to Patagonia at the tip of South America.

Truck Camping - Dual Battery Setup

Why You Need a Dual Battery Setup

Besides the actual canopy and build-out, a dual battery setup with an isolator is pretty much the best addition you can make to your setup to improve life on the road. It basically allows you to run electronics from the back without having to worry about killing your starter battery. Very important!

Casino Camping: A Great Resource for Road Trips and Overland Travelers

All About Casino Camping

Did you know that many casinos across the US offer free camping, free drinks, cheap food and entertainment, and even offer up free money to play? Pretty awesome, right? Find out more about this underutilized resource for those on the road.

Visit the truck camping gear store to get outfitted and get going!

Pickup Truck Camping Gear

Here’s my super comprehensive guide to everything products for getting ready, getting outfitted, and getting on the road for your truck camping adventures. This is an incredibly freeing lifestyle but is important to be both well prepared while avoiding overpacking.

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.

Instructions

  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.

Notes

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 ryan@desktodirtbag.com.

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

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Please let me know with a comment on the blog below or reach out to me on Facebook or Instagram. Feel free to share a photo on Instagram with the #desktodirtbag hashtag once you put this into action!

Read Next: Road Trip Planning Guide

#PTC Swag

About the Author
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Ryan

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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. Since then he set out traveling to Colombia, drove across all of Central America, and also wrote a best selling book: Big Travel, Small Budget. He just finished driving his old truck across all of South America. Follow the adventures on social media or read more about me.

Comments 8

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    I just purchased a 2019 Tacoma and am interested in checking out the possibilities of using it as a camper. Your guide sounds like just what I’m looking for. Thanks!

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    Hi Ryan,
    I am a great fan from your book, to the Facebook posts and now here on this blog. A quick one, I have been planning to acquire a battery isolator or portable power station. I had seen your post about it somewhere but now I do not seem to find it. What brand would you recommend and what should I be looking for before the installation?

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    Hi! Great article, super helpful. Do you have any favorite spots around Northern California for truck camping? I’m planning a trip with some friends, but we aren’t sure where we can legally park and camp for the night.

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      Author

      I remember some pretty nice primitive boondock camping in the Smith River National Recreation Area — not sure if you want that far north. A lot of my time was stealth camping along the NorCal coast, which isn’t exactly budget friendly. Check out freecampsites.net for some better ideas.

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    I’m 67 single and ready to travel on my slim budget. I’m happy to have found your site. Looking forward with the joy of anticipation and adventure! Marsha

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