Your First Truck Camping Trip: Essentials

So you have decided to give truck camping a try. That is a great first step! One that you surely won’t regret as long as you properly plan for it. Camping with your truck is an awesome experience. There can be risks though if you are ill-prepared. We would like to cover the essentials of planning your trip before heading off into the wilderness.

If you have gotten this far, surely you already have a truck. Now you must decide:

Which of the following camping set ups suits your needs best

  • Roof Top Tent: Can be used with both pick up trucks and SUVs. Suitable for setting up in any terrain as long as you can park the truck. Great for tight spots or where the ground is rocky or muddy. These tend to be expensive and are often heavy as well. You may need to check the weight capacity of your vehicle’s roof rack system.
  • Truck Bed Tent: A much more affordable option compared to the rooftop tent. You can also find similar tents that set up to the back of an SUV too. These are not heavy like a rooftop tent, so if you are traveling a lot of miles, it is a consideration for fuel consumption. So these save you money in both respects and they also get you up off the ground for sleeping.
  • Traditional Tent: You can, of course, use a traditional tent for sleeping. It won’t kill the bromance with your truck. It will not only be carrying your gear but the back of your truck will also be your worktop, possibly your kitchen, and also your tool shed while camping. It won’t feel left out just because you don’t sleep in it. For your first truck camping trip, we recommend keeping it simple in a regular tent or the next option.
  • Back of the Truck Bed: If you have a cap or canopy over the bed of your truck, you can set up a very comfortable mattress in the back of your truck. You will be sleeping with a roof over your head and will have no worries about the wet ground. You have to consider ventilation and the temperatures that you are sleeping in. Many canopies have sliding windows with screens that are ideal. If you don’t have windows, then you should find a screen that you can fit the back lifting window. Think Velcro! If you are going to buy a canopy that is good for camping, look for one that is high. That extra space is more valuable than you will ever imagine! You can thank me later.

There are endless possibilities for building out the back of your truck for camping. If you are a carpenter, the sky is the limit! There are many examples of what can be done online. But since this is your first trip, you should get a feel for truck camping first before building anything too extensive.

Make Sure Your Truck is Fully Prepared

Are you going to very remote places, far from help if needed? Will you be traveling on extended dirt roads or trails to access your dream camping place? If so, your truck may need more than just standard equipment and maintenance. You may need more aggressive off-road tires. Even on 2 wheel drive trucks, tires make a big difference! And if you do have big aggressive mud tires, you may need fender flares to cover them. From Toyota Hilux’s to Chevrolet S10 Blazers, they are available for most truck models. If the tires stick out wider than the body of the truck, you will be breaking local law in most places. By adding fender flares, you are effectively making the body of the truck wider to cover those tires. Adding fender flares brings your vehicle into legal requirements. They also protect the body of your truck. Without fender flares, wide off-road tires launch dirt and rock up against the body of your truck. Your paint will be damaged without them.

Take Care of General Vehicle Maintenance

It might seem obvious but it can be overlooked in the excitement of preparing for a camping trip. People easily forget to do basic vehicle maintenance. You must take care of your truck if you want your truck to take care of you! Is your truck due for an oil change, air filter replacement, or will it be due before the trip is finished? Are your tires in good condition and up to proper inflation? Also, be sure that your spare tire is inflated and in good condition along with the jack. If you aren’t knowledgable about vehicle maintenance, it is a good idea to have it serviced and checked over before heading out on a truck camping trip.

Bare Minimum Supplies List

Many supplies depend on where, when, and for how long you will be camping for. You will likely bring a lot more than this. But since this is your first camping trip, we recommend keeping the trip simple. As bare minimal supplies for any truck camping trip, be sure to have at least the following items:

  • Water Jugs of ample size: More than what you expect to need
  • Tools: Both for the truck and for camping tasks such as a hatchet, knife, etc
  • Lighting: Flashlights, batteries and 12V truck LED Lightbars
  • Coolers: For food of course…what else?!
  • Dry Storage Bins: For kitchen supplies and keeps other gear tidy too
  • Camp Stove: and gas!
  • Lantern
  • Matches and lighters
  • Sleeping bag and pillow: Plus an extra blanket just in case
  • Sleep mat or mattress
  • Insect Repellent
  • Folding table (if no picnic table) and camp chairs
  • Portable shower depending on facilities nearby
  • Tarp or Awning to create a shady place
  • Emergency backpack kit in case you need to hike out, including a first aid kit.
  • Power Inverter – For running home electronics off the truck’s 12V system
  • Bonus item -a solar battery tender to trickle charge the truck’s battery all day

Be Prepared, Be Realistic, and Have Fun

We can’t stress enough: Don’t get too carried away on your first truck camping trip. It is not a good idea to get too deep in the wilderness and far from mankind yet. Best to build up more experience first. Also, keep the length of your trip minimal especially if there is no town nearby for restocking. Remember, a truck camping trip requires research and planning. More technical and remote trips require experience. This just covers the essentials that you must be prepared with. Most importantly, you can’t pack fun but be sure to have lots of it while you are out there!

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