The Ultimate Truck Camping Setup

This post is for those people who bought a pick-up truck with the intention of making it the perfect base camp for all their adventures for years to come. I’m talking climbing, biking, hiking, and of course, camping. Here’s the setup that will work for just about anyone.

For the longest time, I was envious of all those dirt-bags at the trailheads with their trucks loaded out in the bed of the truck with a sleeping platform and everything. To me, they had it all. A vehicle that could get them anywhere, a place to lay their head wherever they stopped, and all their gear for any adventure stowed away underneath. Well I’m writing to you that I’ve finally got it! Court, Gregor, and I embarked on a massive road trip (2,500miles) to Banff National Park where we explored along the way. And in order to accomplish this goal, we needed to build a bed in the back of the truck that wouldn’t interfere with all the gear (and crap) we needed to store underneath. This post is also a helpful tip on how to organize your gear and camping stuff for an efficient access.

The Bed

My goal was to build a sleeping platform that would still allow all of our gear to slide in and out. That meant the bed needed to be above at least the height of our YETI Cooler and Storage Containers.

This meant the traditional Tacoma bed supports over the wheel wells would not work for me. I needed to go higher, but the higher I went, the more headspace I would loose to sleep in. And this bed had to support (and be comfortable) enough for myself, my girlfriend, and our dog Gregor.

The construction was simple, I took 3 Yakima crossbars, cut them down to be the width above the deck rail system, and secured them with U-bolts over the OEM hangers. Then for the platform, I picked up some 4×6′ 3/4″ finished plywood. Cut it down the center so that I can stack it if needed, added some hooks underneath to prevent it from popping up, added a few other things, and poof… a bed!

The Storage and Organization

Once I got the bed situation figured out, now comes the organization of all the gear. Unlike the bed, this has been a work in progress ever since Court and I started dating. And now, I think we finally have it dialed in. 

This guide is for those who like their comfort when car camping, yet still feel like you’re roughing it.

Box 1: The Camp Box

In here, there is everything you need for cooking, eating, cleaning, fires, you name it. This has grown little by little each year to the box it is today. This comes with us on every camping trip. There is a mess kit and cookware already in the box so we don’t ever need to re-pack it before every trip. We have soap and dishes in there, as well as newspaper to start fires with.

Box 2: Sleeping Gear

In here, is all the gear needed to setup camp. This is the tent, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, pillows, etc. Keeping this separate, we always know where our gear is, ensuring it stays dry. Having a dedicated box for this stuff is also important so it also isn’t overpacked in case something falls out when we set up camp in the dark.

Box 3: Misc 

For this trip, we needed another box dedicated to our random stuff we’d need. This box contained all our spare shoes/boots/sandals, both of our hiking/biking bags, cast iron pan, etc. This was crucial so that we didn’t just have boots lying around the bed of the truck, getting lost or everything dirty. 

YETI Cooler: 45 Tundra

This is the perfect sized cooler for up to 4 days of food, drink, and ice. Even better if you’re on a long trip with the ability to stop into town to fill up on more food and ice. This thing really does live up to the YETI quality. I’ve kept ice in here for 4 days down in the hot Moab sun. Plus, it makes for a great seat at camp.

Bike Rack: Kuat NV 2.0

I know, the first thing you’re thinking. Are you kidding me, those racks are wicked expensive. Yes, that is true. But you cannot match the quality that a Kuat hitch rack has. The craftsmanship alone makes it worth it. Having locks built into the rack is ideal when leaving the truck to go on hikes.

**BONUS** Kuat Pivot

Don’t you just hate, when you’re trying to get into the back of the truck, and the damn bikes get in the way? Worse yet, post ride, you can’t even enjoy a beer on the tailgate because the rack gets in the way. The solution is here, the Pivot. The Pivot arm swings away with the ease of a simple latch. Makes camping 200x better, I promise.

Water Container: 7 Gallon

If you’ve spent enough time camping in the backcountry, you know how quickly water gets used up. So it’s important you’re always prepared. This 7gal container, with spout, ends up being the perfect size. This container can last 4 days of constant refilling of bottles and Camelbaks as well as cleaning dishes.

Everything else

Every car camper needs a camp chair. Can’t have a night around a campfire without it, right? And as for the nights we didn’t cook over the fire or go into town for dinner, we had the Coleman Stove. Any stove does the trick, but we have an older stove that takes camp fuel which is refillable instead of those toss-away propane tanks that is the norm. Not that everAnd lastly, every camper needs a bundle of firewood, or two. 

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