Truck Tents: How to Camp in Your Pickup Truck's Bed

You don't need a rooftop tent to get a good night's sleep when out in the wild.

Pickup truck with a tent in its bedGetty Images

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There are all kinds of ways to camp. You can find adventure with just a backpack and a hammock, or you can go glam in a permanent canvas tent with a comfy bed and electricity. Many of us want something in the middle, though, and that's where a truck tent comes in.

What Is a Truck Tent?

A truck tent is just what it sounds like: a tent designed to fit in the bed of your pickup truck. Camping in the bed has the advantage of getting you off the ground so there are no worries about sleeping amongst the creepy-crawlies. However, truck tents can be a lot easier to get into than rooftop tents, which usually require ascending a ladder and gingerly climbing into a space that often has limited headroom.

Truck tent prices can be as low as $140 or so, but you generally get what you pay for when it comes to camping gear, and an inexpensive setup might not offer everything you want. Spending around $300 usually nets a useful awning and rain fly. You can go big and spend about $800 for a heavy-duty tent with a built-in mattress.

Here's What You Should Look for in a Truck Tent

The tent you choose should fit the bed of your truck. Full-size trucks like the Ford F-150 and GMC Sierra can have beds up to eight feet long, meaning they'll need a bigger tent than the one you'd get for the Toyota Tacoma's five-foot bed.

Another thing to consider is the time of year you like to camp—think about tent materials that will keep you warm if you're going to be out in more than one season. A single-season tent is great for the summer, but you'll be plenty cold if you use that tent in December. A good compromise is a three-season tent, which should keep you comfortable in the spring, summer, and fall. That said, be aware that some truck tents don't have a floor. You might want to buy something that goes between your body and the pickup bed, especially in the chillier months..

Think about how much overhead room you require in your tent. Some tents allow for as much as six feet of headroom, but, unlike their shorter counterparts, taller tents are more likely to be buffeted by strong winds. You can also find truck tents with rain flies and awnings to add a bit more protection. If the rear window of your truck opens into the cab, look for a tent that has a matching rear window, so you can reach inside without ever having to leave the tent.

You May Need Some Extra Gear

A few key pieces of gear can make your truck-camping expedition even more comfortable. Tender sleepers should consider bringing along a piece of plywood to use as a base layer so the truck bed is as flat as possible. However, if you're less sensitive to things like ridges in the bed of the truck, you might be fine with just a sleeping pad or air mattress. Depending on the truck, a full- or queen-size air mattress might fit in the bed; there are also special truck-bed air mattresses specially designed to accommodate the wheel wells.

A word of advice: Consider setting up your tent before you head into the wild. There are few things worse than arriving tired and hungry at a campsite—likely at night—and then struggling to set up your gear. Although truck tents tend to be straightforward to assemble, you should familiarize yourself with any quirks before heading out.

On the whole, truck tents can be a great way to enjoy safe, warm, and comfy sleeping quarters during a trip, helping ensure that you'll wake up well rested and ready for adventure.

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Emme Hall
Emme Hall loves small convertibles and gets out to the canyons in her 2004 Mazdaspeed Miata whenever she can. You can also find her in the dirt in her lifted (yes, that's right) 2001 Mazda Miata, or racing air-cooled Volkswagens in races like the Baja 1000. She's taken first place twice in the Rebelle Rally — once driving a Jeep Wrangler and then a Rolls-Royce Cullinan the second time. She was also the first driver to take an electric vehicle to the Rebelle Rally when campaigning the Rivian R1T to a top-five finish