Guide to Camping in A Pickup Truck Bed

People love to go camping; it can be for a weekend getaway or an extended trip across the country. Either way, there are so many places to visit and things to see.

The one thing with camping is that you can practically stop anywhere. However, another type of camping where you don’t need to rely on a campground to the extent of camping in tents requires.

Truck camping is a fantastic way to travel and stay on a budget. While you still need some camping gear, and you can get carried away with some cool stuff. There are all the basics you need to know to get you going. (Read Activities to Do While Camping)

red pickup truck

In our guide, you can learn all the basics of comfortable camping in the back of a truck. By the end, you’ll learn all the important tips and ideas for your camping setup and how easy it can be to head off into the sunset for your next truck camping expedition.

Can You Sleep in a Truck Bed?

When you head off on your camping adventures, sleeping will be one of the key aspects of your outdoor experience. Here you can find the way ways you can sleep when truck bed camping.

Truck Camper Shell Camping

You can find this is one of the easiest ways to camp on the road. If you’ve got a camper shell or canopy already on your truck bed, then it’s best to use it. A camper shell can be kept basic, or you can come up with an elaborate design to include totes for storage, curtains and your sleeping platform.

Truck Bed Tents

A truck bed tent is an inexpensive way to get into camping while using the back of your truck. The benefit of this kind of truck bed camping is it offers the most straightforward entry, as there are limited setup costs and not many modifications. You have your elevated sleeping area, and you can even use your tailgate as your table.

The downside with this method is you won’t have a rigid truck bed sleeping platform, and you will still be messing around as if you were using a ground tent.

Ground Tents

Although not exactly making the best use of your truck bed, and you won’t sleep in it, you can throw in your camping gear and into some plastic totes and toss in your tent and head off to a campground.

You can use the tailgate for your camp kitchen, and all you need is a piece of plywood for a flat surface, and you’re good to go.

Is It Illegal to Ride in the Bed of a Pickup?

If there are more campers than can fit inside your vehicle, you can find they are not allowed to ride in the back of your pickup in many areas. Violations can be encountered because of the seat belt laws for driver and passengers. (Learn How to Make Coffee While Camping)

What are the Camps Called That Go in the Bed of a Truck?

The configurations you see here are the ultimate for truck bed camping. The truck camper is designed to slide onto the bed of your truck, so it can then act as a small RV.

If you see these, you will see they offer sleeping areas, seating areas, a full bathroom and a kitchen.

They are the most expensive way of truck bed camping, although it adds the most convenience.

One downside with these is the amount of weight they can add to your truck. Not every full-size truck will be suitable, so you would need to make sure you check out all the pros and cons if you decide to take up this type of truck camping.

You also find some truck bed camping cabover models where there is a section sitting above your vehicle cab. It is here you tend to find the raised sleeping platform.

How Do You Insulate a Truck Bed for Camping?

If you go truck bed camping to get the feel of it, you can quickly find the bed of your truck can be uncomfortable when you sleep, and it is the one area the cold travels easily.

No matter whether you use a shell or a truck bed tent, you will have to insulate the bed to avoid cold and damp in your camping gear. Truck bed tents can suffer the most as other designs have more construction, and insulation will be a key area.

One of the easiest ways is to use pieces of foam board. You can use one-inch thick or more if desired. You can cut these to fit your truck bed camping vehicle, so you only need to drop them in place when you’re ready to pitch for the night. Truck campers most often use an air mattress in pickup trucks to add a secondary area of insulation.

If using a camper shell, you will use this foam and cover it with plywood or other material for a more permanent fixture.

You can find the sleeping area has moved with the newer Pop-Top campers. With these, you have a popup tent with a sleeping pad raised over your cab and often made from memory foam rather than an air mattress. This offers quality sleeping, and all you need is your sleeping bag.

Essential Camping Gear and Equipment

Besides the above, which deals with your camping setup for protection, truck bed camping requires a few other things to make the experience comfortable and accessible.

Here are the key areas you need to make sure you have camping gear in place and also a couple of things that can make life on the road easier.

Sleeping: Truck beds aren’t known for comfort. As we saw, insulation and an air mattress and a sleeping bag are the basics for comfort and warmth. If you purchase dedicated truck bed mattresses, these vary in sizes and can be designed to sit around wheel wells. When looking for your air mattress, make sure it suits the bed of your truck. Besides your quality sleeping pad, sleeping bag and other comforts, make sure you have extra clothes, pillows and a couple of blankets. (Read Best Way to Store Sleeping Bags)

Power: Camping used to be all about getting away from it all. Nowadays, we all have things that need charging. If you have a cell phone, you may need a power inverter to connect to your cigarette lighter. If you don’t have a dual-battery setup, make sure you have an emergency jumper in case of a dead battery.

Cooking: A tailgate can make the perfect cooking surface as it’s solid and the right height. Throw in a piece of plywood, or you want to fasten it to your tailgate, and you have a ready-made cooking surface.

If using a pickup truck camping tent, make sure your stove is nowhere near your tent’s fabric. Make to pack all your cooking utensils and washing gear such as soap, sponges and containers full of water.

Other accessories: A lot of this will depend on the extent of car camping with your truck you wish to undertake. Truck tent camping with a tent as your protection isn’t a permanent fixture, and you can’t drive with these erected. While convenient, it can also be a downside as you need to dismantle your tent and make sure all the gear you want to take is dry.

Hardshell designs let you get creative with truck bed camping, your canopy and your storage solutions.

You can find campers build raised beds with built-in storage space to keep gear and a foldaway kitchen and fridge. However, once you pull up for the day, tent sections have built-in bug nets where you can seat a couple of camp chairs.

blue pickup truck


When you decide to use your pickup truck and turn it into a truck camper on your next camping trip, the things you’ll bring along are very similar to those you’d take on a regular camping trip.

However, with all truck bed camping, your gear most remains in place rather than you pitching your tents and moving your gear from your vehicle into your tent. (Learn How Much Does It Cost To Go Camping?)

The platform of your pickup in truck bed camping is now your home for the duration. If you are using a truck tent, then you’ll need to take the bare essentials. It is a good idea to have a secure area to store your gear, because if you go hiking, then there can be anyone who takes an interest in your things.

Truck bed camping can be one of the best ways to experience the great outdoors and offers lots of adaptability and flexibility for all your camping expeditions, be it at the side of the road or in the middle of a forest.

Guide to Camping in A Pickup Truck Bed