Tips for Camping in a Pickup Truck Bed

By Beverly Bird; Updated June 08, 2017

Countryside, hillside and lakeside: Setting up camp with your pickup truck

Tips for Camping in a Pickup Truck Bed

Truck bed camping is a great alternative for hunters and anglers. It simplifies the pursuit of their passion. They can drive right up to wherever the fish are biting or the game is gathering, and there's no hassle of pitching a tent to spend the night. Some outfit their truck beds with nearly every amenity known to man, but even just having a camper shell can make for a pretty comfortable stay.

What you’ll need

Pack with purpose. Place cooking and mealtime prep items in one bag or container and clothing in another bag or container. You’ll be able to lay your hands on what you need without rummaging through your vehicle, and it makes for easy storage when you need to make room for other items.

Preparing meals ahead of time and storing them frozen in a cooler makes cooking time easy. Just thaw them out and warm them up on a camp stove. Take plenty of clean water in multigallon jugs, or use cleaned-out 2-liter soda bottles. You can even freeze them and use them for makeshift air conditioning, and then drink the water when they thaw.

Don’t forget other basics that are necessary for any camping trip: compass, extra batteries, matches, maps and a phone charger. If your camper shell doesn’t offer a 12-volt power supply, take along a portable. It gets dark out there at night, so bring a headlamp or flashlight or preferably both so you have one for backup. Stash a spare set of keys somewhere in the truck.

When it’s time to bed down

Even when they’re equipped with camper shells, truck beds often aren't the cleanest places in the world. Sweep it out and mop it well before you head out, then make sure the lid/shell is secure. If you don’t have a lid, seal the bed up with a tarp as best you can. Some dust will probably find its way in as you drive, so take a broom as well. You may have to repeat the sweeping process when you arrive.

Consider building a sleep platform, at least a couple of feet high. All those containers and bags full of food and supplies can be stored in the space underneath. The setup creates a two-for-one space in limited quarters. Pop an air mattress on top of the platform or lay carpet or foam padding down – or better yet, do both. It’s much more comfortable than sleeping in a tent on the ground.

Remember to move your electronics and a spare set of clothing to the truck cab before you call it a night. Even camper shells may not be totally foolproof against the elements, particularly in nasty storms. And, of course, if you don’t have a camper shell, you’ll want to rig up a secure tarp. Err on the side of caution and make sure your storage bags and containers are waterproof, too.

The critters who call your campsite home

Animals are what you’re after if you’re a hunter, but you don’t want to share your bed or your camp with them. Use all common precautions to keep them away. Place your food somewhere animals can’t get to, and this means not in your truck. Bears are more than capable of breaking and entering to get to good stuff they can’t find out in the wild. Hang food high in a tree, if possible. At the very least, place it distant from your campsite.

Fishing often means heading into mosquito territory, particularly in the summer. A camper shell should keep these pests at bay, but string up some mesh cloth over any openings. Mesh works well for lack of a shell, too. Just secure it with duct tape or a fabric fastener.

About the Author

Beverly Bird