Truck Camping 101: What to Know Before you Go

Truck camping is one of the most unique ways to explore the great outdoors. It offers a level of independence that can’t be found with other types of camping. It’s also one of the most affordable ways to get outside. But with so many options, it can be hard to know where to start. This guide will walk you through everything you need to know about truck camping before you hit the road.

Deployed rooftop tent

What to Bring

Truck camping is ideal for people looking for spontaneous, easy-to-pack-for trips. All of your gear can be self-contained within your mode of transportation. Some things are essential for any camping trip, including a place to sleep and food to eat. Here is essential truck camping gear that should be in your starter kit:

  • Extra clothing
  • Pillow and sleeping bag
  • Camp chairs
  • Flashlights
  • A camp kitchen setup such as a camping stove or way of cooking over a fire. This can be a simple fire grate, a skottle, or a burner stove. You can also opt to bring shelf-stable food that doesn’t need to be cooked, like canned tuna and cured meat. Most people pack a cooler, but there are also portable refrigerators that can be installed right in your bed, under a truck cap.
Rooftop tent on truck cap

Truck Camping Styles and Options

There are a few main truck camping styles, and they come with their advantages and disadvantages:

  • Ground sleeping. This is where you store all of your gear in your rig, and sleep in your bedroll on the ground. It’s not ideal as there’s no protection from the elements, but you do get to experience nature in its truest form. It’s also a fun way to get kids into nature early on in their life.
  • Tent camping. Use your vehicle as a central gathering space, but setup a small adjacent tent. Depending on the weather, this can be a good way to increase your space – but if it’s rainy or snowy, you’ll be tracking mud back and forth between your two setups.
  • In-cap camping. This is where you install a truck cap and setup a sleeping system within the protection of that cover. You can use a variety of sleep pads, bags, a foam mattress, and even standard household sheets and blankets to make the space as comfortable as possible. We’ve even seen people put all sorts of decorations and fairy lights in there!
  • Rooftop tent. You can install a rooftop tent over your cab on a roof rack or – depending on weight rating – directly on top of your cap. We’ve even seen people install rooftop tents on racks above a tonneau cover to maximize utility, essentially creating a “sleeping platform” above their gear. Rooftop tents are a phenomenal option because unlike a drop-in truck camper or truck bed tent that takes up your whole bed, rooftop tens allow campers to use the full storage space in their bed while sleeping in comfort off the ground. Rooftop tents are also easy to clean, as they have a smooth floor that can be swept out just like a normal ground tent.
  • Teardrop trailer. You can pull a small trailer built specifically for exploring the outdoors. These can have all sorts of amenities in them, but they aren’t necessarily as maneuverable as the truck on its own.

Can you Drive with a Truck Tent?

Yes, you can drive with a truck tent – it just needs to be closed up securely before you drive away! This is an extremely popular option for a truck camping setup. It’s probably the easiest way to truck camp, as you just need to drive to the campsite with your truck and its attached tent in tow.

Truck camping near truck with a Bedslide

Essential Truck Camping Tips

Before you set off on your trip, do your research. Determine where you’re going and how long you’re going to stay so you can pack accordingly. Consider who will be going, and what can make the trip more comfortable for them.

If you’re going truck bed camping with pets along, it’s a great idea to bring a kennel so they have a comfortable space all to themselves. Many dogs have an instinct to burrow into their own space where they feel safe and secure, so it’s helpful to provide that. And don’t forget plenty of food and water for them, too!

If you’re going with family and friends, make sure you’ve created enough sleeping spaces for everyone. You may be used to laying a sleeping bag out under your truck cap, but that will only fit so many people. This is where rooftop tents can come in especially handy, with many configurations that help campers get comfortable.

Truck camping in the desert

One of the main questions we get asked about camping in a pickup truck is where folks are supposed to use the bathroom. Outdoor retailers offer a wide array of toilet solutions, ranging from things like a “Luggable Loo” that can hang from your tailgate, all the way up to high-ten folding solutions with bags and pop-up privacy canopies. It’s important to never bury waste bags (even those labeled compostable). Always dispose of human waster properly, per local guidelines.

When researching where to truck camp, you can turn to sites like for reservations. You can also take advantage of publicly accessible spaces in the National Forest system or through the Bureau of Land Management. Campendium is a good way to locate all available sites near you – just make sure to take note of posted signs, and pack out whatever you pack in!

Truck camping is one of our favorite outdoor experiences, offering an accessible and straightforward way to get out in nature. The freedom to go anywhere, anytime, and not having to worry about driving home at night is priceless.

If you’ve been considering truck camping, now is the time to start planning!

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