Truck Bed Tent Camping Info Guide – What You Need to Know

Truck bed tent camping is taking sleeping outdoors to new heights! It’s a great way to take your truck off the grid to go camp without having to fork out thousands of dollars for elaborate overlanding setups. Truck bed camping literally allows you to camp in your truck without having to climb ladders; keeping you safer and feel more comfortable out in the wild. And truck bed tents won’t cost an arm and a leg or your back to camp in the wild!

Camping in the bed of a truck is opening doors to new and safer ways of camping outdoors.

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Truck Bed Tent Camping Info Guide

Why pickup truck tents are better than tent camping on the ground?

If you want to go camping but have reservations of sleeping on the cold and wet ground, you’re not alone. Heck, it’s the reason I wouldn’t even entertain the thought of tent camping ever again. 

However, in writing this article, I put that thought in the back seat and would consider doing it even at my age (and being a woman).

After reading this, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the truck bed tent camping option. Because honestly, even I didn’t realize the benefits of truck bed camping.

Otherwise, we would have been doing it when we owned our pickup trucks?

And, I’m thinking you haven’t either. 

If you’re an outdoors person who already has a truck, why not use your truck as a tool? You already use your pickup truck to carry cargo and all of your gear.

So, make it a combo! Expand the use of your truck bed by turning it into a tent on wheels!

Cost

Dollars to donuts, truck bed tent camping is so much cheaper than going out and buying an RV or camper. You’re not shucking out big bucks for RV insurance, expensive equipment and worrying about black tanks.

But say you do already pull a big fifth wheel or tow a camper. But some of the backwoods places to go fishing, hunting or camp are just too far off the grid to take your camper.

Truck bed camping allows you to still enjoy going off grid without having to trade your RV in for a high profile RV or van.

And here’s the cool thing. Truck bed tents are even far less expensive than those rooftop tents used for overlanding

In fact, truck bed camping tents run about the same cost as quality ground tents.

Safety

First, let’s talk safety for a minute. Tent camping in itself presents its’ own safety issues. Truck tents are considered safer and offer more protection than camping in a tent on the ground.

When you tent camp on the ground, you are open to a wide range of things that could hurt you and your camping partner.   

For one, wildlife in the area. We’ve read and heard stories of bears, coyotes and javelina nosing around tents at night.

And what about when you’re camping in rattlesnake country?

Also, especially for those who enjoy camping near river banks, unsuspecting rising flood waters could put your tent and you in danger of being swept away.

But pickup truck tents protect you as your tent is elevated off the ground and protected by heavy metal floor surface and your truck bed box.

PRO TIP: If you’re going camping where bears are present, before heading out into the wild! Camping in Bear Country? Safety Tips That Could Save Your Life

Ground Surface

Nice smooth camping spots are hard to come by when camping off grid. You may find a great camping spot with a sensational view, only you find yourself battling those tent stakes getting them into the ground.

But with a truck tent, you’ll always have a flat surface to pitch on.

But also, ground surfaces may present issues with comfort. We’ve all experienced sleeping on a rock or tree route, even with a decent sleeping pad.

Once you install your tent and layout your sleeping bag mattress, you’ll sleep like a baby!

PRO TIP: You may need blocks to level and stabilize your truck on hilly terrain. You can use stackable leveling blocksleveling ramp stabilizers or curved wheel levelers. (All pictured below; links included)

Gear containment

While that’s fine and good, using a pickup truck tent, your gear is contained either inside your truck cab or in your tent.

Well, guess what? As mentioned above, everything that you keep in your tent is subject to wildlife and weather. But, when 

Why can’t I just setup a regular tent in my truck bed?

I guess you could cheap out on putting a regular tent in your truck bed. However, there’s a few factors that you need to take into consideration. 

First, just putting a regular tent in your truck bed will be subject to blowing out because you can’t stake it down.

Even with you sleeping in it with a few pieces of gear insides still runs the risk of becoming airborne in strong winds; you included.

Second, a regular tent is size prohibitive for a truck bed. You’ll only end up frustrated in trying to make a square peg fit into a round hole.

PRO TIP:  You don’t have to have an RV to use RV LIFE Pro. It’s a great trip planning using their RV LIFE Trip Wizard. It includes a mobile RV GPS app and RV lifestyle education.

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How to choose the Correct Size Pickup Truck Bed Camping Tent

Pickup Truck Bed

First and foremost, truck bed tents are not created equal. Pickup trucks come in 3 sizes; full-size, mid size and compact size.

But, most important for this kind of shopping, there are 3 general sizes of truck beds; long bed, short bed and compact size.

Full-size pickup trucks are cargo carrying vehicles that have decent size truck beds.

Popular brands of full-size trucks (2022) are Ford F-Series, Dodge Ram, Chevy Silverado, GMC Sierra, Nissan Titan and Toyota Tundra. They will have either a long bed or short bed size ranging  from 5′ 5″ to 8′ 2″.

Compact size pickup trucks offer the same benefits of a full-size truck bed but with a smaller truck bed.

These trucks are growing popular again due to their versatility and maneuverability due to their smaller stature.

Popular brand compact size trucks (2022 & 2023) are Ford Ranger, Dodge Dakota, Chevy Colorado, GMC Canyon, Toyota Tacoma, Nissan Frontier, Honda Ridgeline and Hyundai Santa Cruz. They may have a long bed or short bed sizes ranging from 5′ 6″ to 6′ 1″.

There are mid-size trucks. However, they cross over from the full-size truck category to the compact size truck category depending on who you ask.

So, when shopping for a truck bed tent, not only do you need to know the year, make and model of your pickup truck. 

And depending on which pickup truck tent you’re looking at, your truck bed measurements are super important also.

If your model truck is missing from a truck tent manufacturer’s sizing guide, it most likely means that there’s not a tent to fit it (currently).

Either way, using a tape measure, size your truck box precisely.

How to Measure Your Truck Bed

      • Start with latching the tailgate up or in the closed position.
      • Measure from the forward edge (front) of the truck bed nearest to the cab
      • Extend your tape measure until you reach the inside of the tailgate
      • Make sure you take the measurement along the bottom of the bed, not the top
      • Confirm with each manufacturer’s truck tent sizing guide.

Make certain you take into consideration of the wheel wells and additional hard-mounted truck bed accessories such as an auxiliary fuel tank or truck bed tool box.

Therefore, include those accessories measurements accordingly.

PRO TIP:  Check out our Top 18 Pickup Truck Bed Accessories for Work & Play!

Materials & Construction of Pickup Truck Tents

While of course, you could just run out and buy one of those hard-shell truck bed caps and call it a day.

However, those are impractical for those who use their truck beds for carrying cargo that exceeds the height of the roof of the truck cap.

But, for those who want to outfit their truck bed to go camping, you’ll need to consider what materials it’s made of, weight, and if it’s an all-weather truck bed tent.

Don’t forget also, any tie downs or extra gear you’re going to be storing and/or protecting inside the tent.

Tent Profile & Footprint

There’s a lot of different size and shape variations in truck bed tents. You have to decide whether you want a tent that allows you to stand up inside or just offer a lower profile for sleeping.

Tents that allow you to stand inside offer more breathing room; giving it that same ground tent feel but higher.

Lower profile truck tents do offer more wind resistance. But, you’ll be doing everything either sitting or laying down. 

Also, some truck tents offer extra accommodations such as awnings or even a separate small room. Others may have a half-dome shape for simplicity.

Tent Floor 

Truck bed tents may or may not have a tent floor.

The advantages of having tent with sewn in floor is more protection from the elements. Your gear, sleeping bag and belongings will remain dry inside the tent. 

Whereas if your truck tent has no bottom, you run risk of everything laying directly on your truck bed is going to get wet.

However, a floor-less truck tent does offer versatility of being able to set it up over other stuff that may be in your truck bed.

In other words, you won’t have to move anything to install your floor-less tent. The tent goes right over top your entire truck bed.

Pickup Truck Bed Tent Camping Supplies

There’s a few camping supplies you’ll need to make your truck camping setup comfortable, safe and useable.

The first thing you should get after purchasing your truck bed tent is a sturdy 3-step ladder so you can get up and down from your truck easily.

Also, if you’re truck bed is roughed up from use or has been rhino-lined, you may want to throw down a truck bed liner mat to protect your tent  floor as well as your air mattress.

Then of course, the next is your air mattress, sleeping bag, and pillow. After all, the whole principle of a truck tent is for sleeping.

If you’re going to be the only one sleeping in your truck tent, then you’ll gain some extra space to store your extra camping gear and supplies inside your truck tent.

But also, for things you want locked up like your generator, power supply and solar panel kit, propane fire pit, camp stove and/or grill.

Not only will that keep them safe from thieves but also from curious bears who want to break and take your stuff.

After which, you’ll need to organize your gear accordingly; placing the items you use most closer to the doors. Otherwise, you’ll be constantly digging for things you need.

But, you really don’t want huge footlockers or big bins that are heavy to lift and maneuver inside your truck.

And again, do you really want to be fumbling through a big box to find what you’re looking for.

I highly recommend storing your camping gear in smaller stackable plastic bins that allow for easy manageability and maneuverability outside and when packing them inside your truck or truck bed.

Also, the smaller size also allows you to store them under your truck when you’re parked for a bit of time. 

Then label them with permanent Sharpies and waterproof labels accordingly; cooking supplies, dry foods, camping tools, and camping gear for easy identification of contents inside.

Here’s a great shopping list of basic camping supplies for your pickup truck tent camping kit:

PRO TIP: Don’t want to bring your big pillow from home? Check out our friend, StrykerADV, who shares his review on 3 Camping Pillows that are perfect for truck tent camping, motocamping and overlanding!

Best Pickup Truck Tents

Best All-Weather Truck Tent (Waterproof Canvas)

Kodiak Canvas Truck Bed Tent
Kodiak Canvas Truck Bed Tent

*****

Best Truck Tent for Hunting & Fishing (Camouflage)

Napier Backroadz Camo Truck Tent
 Napier Backroadz Camo Truck Tent

*****

Best Truck Tent for Full-Size Trucks (Lots of Room)

Rightline Gear Truck Tent
Rightline Gear Truck Tent

*****

Best Truck Tent for Compact Trucks (Low Profile)

Guide Gear Compact Truck Tent

Guide Gear Compact Truck Tent

*****

Best Truck Tent with Automatic Setup (Easiest!)

Fofana Truck Bed Tent
Fofana Truck Bed Tent

*****

First Timer’s Truck Bed Tent (Affordable!)

Wasagun Truck Bed Tent
Wasagun Truck Bed Tent

*****

Our Top Picks of Truck Bed Tents

Our top picks of pickup truck bed camping tents that rate some of the best overall camping shelters for truck beds:

As you just read, truck bed camping is a great way to still enjoy tent camping but without fear or worry of things that go bump in the night.

Regardless of how you camp, whether it’s tent camping or boondocking in your RV, be respectful to all that’s around you. Recreate responsibly and always follow the leave no trace principle.

Not only will you have a more enjoyable camping experience, but your fellow campers will to!

Need Camping Gear?

Outdoor Camping Gear for Small RVs and Campers

Best Portable Screen Tents and Gazebos

Top Portable Generators for RV Camping

Outdoor Camping Gear for Truck Camping

15 Best Rechargeable Camping Accessories for Off Grid Use

More camping articles to check out:

Camping in Bear Country? Tips That Could Save Your Life

Keep Rattlesnakes Away From Your Campsite or Tent

How to Minimize Trash While Camping

8 Camping Dangers: What to Be Aware of in the Wild

How to Recreate Responsibly in the Outdoors

Campfire Safety Tips to Help Prevent Forest Fires

Campfire Alternatives During Burn Bans

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2 Replies to “Truck Bed Tent Camping Info Guide – What You Need to Know”

  1. Generally , truck bed tents are great. I have owned a Napier sports truck tent for an 8 ft bed for 20 plus years and it is still going strong. I also have the newer Backroadz version that has the vestibule that extends over the tailgate. There are two critical things to know about truck tents. Make sure that the one you purchase incorporates side panels or a rainfly that extend over the side rail to the truck bed, otherwise rainwater will pool in your bed. There are at least 20 different manufacturers of these truck tents and I have yet to come across one that effectively covers the truck bed rail at the rear of the truck cab. ( The end result is that rainwater flows off of the rainfly and into the gap between the tent and the truck bed. )The simple solution that I have employed is to add an 8′ by 6′ rain tarp that runs over the top of the tent dome ,forward to the cab, where it tucks into the narrow gap between the cab and the truck bed rail. I use bungee cords attached to the four corners to hold the tarp in place and then install the rainfly over the tarp.

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