Truck Camping: Tips & Must-Have Gear

Truck Camping: Tips & Must-Have Gear

Camping is one of our favorite ways to get time in the great outdoors. With summer now well underway, there’s no better time to think about the ways to get camping time in. There are many different types and camping styles — everyone can camp in a way that speaks to them.

If you have a truck or access to a truck, then you could set off on a truck camping trip with little else needed! Truck camping is a very American way to see the country and sleep under the stars.

To help you get off to a great start on your truck camping trips, we have assembled the important info, tips, and must-have gear for a successful truck camping trip. Let's get started!

What Is Truck Camping?

If you go online and search for truck camping, you will find two different camps of people. You will find some die-hard truck campers who have tricked out their trucks with all the amenities to build trucks that are basically RVs. On the other hand, you will see some people who sleep in their trucks with no changes except for the pillow and blanket stored in the backseat.

Both of these are truck camping and are fantastic pursuits. Today, our focus is going to be more on the minimal end of the spectrum. We’re going to cover the necessary tools, equipment, and accessories to make it a comfortable and fun camping experience without needing to turn your work truck into a moving hotel.

Truck camping allows you an affordable, mobile, and minimalistic style of camping that is perfect for solo campers, small groups, and young campers looking to explore the world.

Truck Camping Essentials

In order to truck camp successfully, you are going to need to get together the right essentials. While you can truck camp with little more than a full tank of gas, if you want to be comfortable, consider these elements:

Tent/Sleeping Setup

The first and most significant challenge posed by truck camping is creating a sleeping setup that is comfortable, safe, and functional. Some truck campers will choose to sleep in their car with the seats folded down. This can be effective in a pinch but is far from the most comfortable choice.

Another common option is to get a tent that fits in the bed of your truck. These can be a much more comfortable choice, with the added advantage of getting your tent up off the ground where it can be a bit safer and more secure.

If you want to get even higher up off the ground, then you can also consider a rooftop tent. These tents go on top of your roof rack and require a ladder to reach. The added benefit is even more secure, knowing that you are off the ground and away from dangerous animals.

Like with the rest of your loadout, this is deeply personal to your preferences; there is no wrong answer.

A Great Cooler

Unless your truck is super cool and comes with a minifridge built-in, you’re going to need high-quality cooling campers. You want to look for several factors in a cooler for truck camping.

First and foremost, consider your capacity. The larger the capacity, the more food and beverage you can store. The other factor to consider is the insulation, or how well a cooler keeps ice frozen and cold.

The best coolers should offer you great size and insulation that can keep your food and ice frozen and cold for days so that no trip will be disrupted by melting ice or soiled food.

Here at Patriot Coolers, our Rotomolded Hard Sided Coolers are the perfect solution for Truck Campers. Our hard-sided coolers come in 20-quart and 50-quart sizes, holding 17 and 50 pounds of ice, respectively. 

The rotomolded plastic sides offer enough insulation to keep ice frozen for up to five days straight. The no-sweat sides ensure that even if your truck AC goes out, condensation won’t drip into the rest of your gear.

Emergency Car Maintenance Equipment

The Boy Scouts might not all be of driving age, but they know perhaps the most critical lesson: Always be prepared. Just like if you were driving your sedan to work, you need to bring along emergency care maintenance equipment. While there are some issues that will require professional assistance, a few things can pop up that you’ll need to be able to handle.

Your emergency car kit should include things like a spare tire or two and a tire jack to replace popped tires. This is especially critical if you are going off-road at all. You should also have a pair of jumper cables if your battery dies or you come across someone who needs a charge.

Additionally, you’ll want a spare gas can, so if you get stuck somewhere without gas, the trip isn’t over yet.

Snow chains are an excellent tool in case you end up in a cold-weather area. The summer does not mean that it’s all sandy shores and blue skies. North Cascades National Park in Washington and White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire are just two of the many places that boast year-round snow in the continental United States.

Speaking of national parks, each park has different rules regarding parking based on vehicle size, time of year, and day of the week. Review them before pulling out of your driveway. 

Camping Kitchen Equipment

If you want to eat any sort of hot food that isn't cooked directly from the heat of a campfire, bring along some classic camping kitchen equipment. 

Your most important item will be your camping stove — usually compact stoves fueled with a gas canister. These stoves can be small enough for a backpack or large enough for a small grill. You should also have some cooking utensils, pans and pots, and utensils for eating.

Plan what you pack around your meal plans. You might want your insulated coffee mugs for an early morning cup of joe or a large reusable water bottle for staying hydrated on the open road. 

An Emergency Kit

The final absolute must-have for your truck camping adventures is an emergency kit. An emergency kit should contain both a first aid kit and other essential emergency gear.

A well-stocked kit should include items like an emergency blanket, flares, some food rations, and other emergency items like water, flashlights, and any medications you may require.

Having these emergency items packed up in a kit and ready to go means that in the worst-case scenario, you can easily find and grab all of the true essentials before you have to get out.

Truck Camping Tips

Now that we've covered the absolute must-haves for a successful truck camping trip, here are some of our best tips for your truck camping success.

Find a Good Mechanic

When you are going truck camping, your experience and abilities can only be as good and successful as your truck. When you get into the habit of truck camping, you put your truck through very different wear and tear than your average driver.

You want a mechanic that understands what kind of impact you’re expecting and what that means for the specific needs of your truck. They may have upgrades to recommend or provide you with an alternative maintenance schedule to ensure your truck is ready to go. 

Prioritize Minimalism

This simple fact can be very easy for truck campers to forget when accumulating possessions on their trip. There are a lot of upgrades, build-outs, and hacks that you can use in vans that aren't practical with the beating trucks can take.

This means that you’ll have to live a more minimalist lifestyle and get really good at packing your truck safely so that items are secure and won't get damaged. Consider lining certain areas of your truck with foam to add extra protection for your goods.

Optimize Your Organization

When you are living in your truck while camping, you might discover very quickly that there is not a ton of space in your truck. The best way to maximize the truck’s storage space is to stay as organized as possible.

Everything should have a place where it belongs in your truck. You can label these places or dedicate them to memory, but you must have a place for everything you own.

Truck Camping Tips & Must-Have Gear: Takeaways

Truck camping is very adaptable and mobile but comes with many of its own difficulties and challenges. If you aren't ready for the realities of truck camping, you could have a bit of a learning curve.

Truck camping can be a great experience if you prepare with the right gear and tips. Bring a camping stove, cooking utensils, an emergency kit, and jumper cables. Without the right gear, you could end up in a pinch.

If you can follow these tips and assemble the essential gear, then you are ready and set for a life-changing trip. You may just fall in love with exploring the world in your truck.



​​Rotational Moulding - an overview | ScienceDirect Topics

Camping recipes | BBC Good Food

Park Fees and Pass Information | California Dept. of Parks and Recreation

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