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The Art of Truck Camping

A truck camping setup: A hard cover is raised over the bed and camping supplies lean against the back wheel.

The idea of truck camping is appealing to anyone who loves the outdoors, but doesn’t want to purchase an RV. If you have a truck already, there’s a lot you can do to turn it into the camp-mobile of your dreams! These upgrades range from minor, easy and on the cheap to a DIYer’s glamping fantasy. It’s all about what suits your needs — just keep a few simple concepts in mind.


Maybe you have a hard cover or canopy in place already. That will work great! If you don’t, it’s simple enough to build a sparse frame out of PVC and cover it with a tarp, or buy a pop-up tent that fits in the back. Whatever your solution, it should focus on weatherproofing to keep you and your stuff dry, and it should provide some level of security, though you can always lock valuables up in the front.

StorageThe Art of Truck Camping

Pack your gear based on pre-made lists, so you don’t forget anything and have what you need for different situations (i.e. drinking water if you’re not camping near any). The key to storage is two-part: organization and expansion. For optimal organization, build a customized raised-floor bed, ideally with drawers or some other sliding mechanism to store and reach things all the way at the back. Store similar things together (cooking supplies, clothing, etc.) and in separate bins for easy access. The expansion part has more to do with what you store. A couple of poles, rope, bungees and a tarp can extend coverage off the back of the truck to create space to relax once you’ve arrived. Even if there’s no rain, you’ll likely be happy to have the shade.

Sleeping and Privacy

Sleep on top of the platform. You won’t need that much space, as you’re only lying down. You can make it as plush as you like with a mattress, or just throw a camping mat and sleeping bag down if that’s your style. If you have a solid canopy with windows, you can easily install bars with shortened, opaque shower curtains for privacy. The two important things to remember here are keep it comfy and keep it clean.

Eating and Entertainment

Bring prepared meals as you would for any other type of camping trip — the simpler the better. Make sure to wash all your utensils after every trip, so they’re ready for the next one. Back to the expansion idea, you can easily set up a makeshift living room or hangout space by packing camping chairs and a surface that can double for meal prep and eating. A pack of cards and pair of dice take up minimal space, but offer near-endless game options for groups of all sizes.

Some folks are inclined to go all-out, installing things like A/C and sound systems — you name it. That’s great if you think it’s worth it, but it’s also easy to have a great time with much less. In the end, it’s about your needs and budget. So grab a map and get out there!

Check out all the truck bed covers available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on truck camping, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Photos courtesy of Blair Lampe.

Blair Lampe View All

Blair Lampe is a New York-based professional mechanic, blogger, theater technician, and speechwriter.  In her downtime she enjoys backpacking wherever her boots will carry her, rock climbing, experimental theatre, a crisp rosé , and showering love on her 2001 Sierra truck.

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