Truck Camping: Your Guide to The Great American Road Trip

Truck Camping

Truck camping is a great way to travel. It’s cheap, easy and comfortable. I decided a long time ago that I wanted to travel the world. I figured the best place to start my journey would be in the United States, considering I was already there. The US has a lot of beautiful things to see. And what better way to see it then the Great American Road Trip?

Truck camper, Car, Motorcycle or RV?

I had originally planned on travelling across the US on my motorcycle, a Harley Sportster Iron. Travelling by motorcycle is bad ass, but very uncomfortable. It’s also cheap on gas, but you end up spending more money on campgrounds and motels. 

Travelling by car would incur the same accommodation expenses, and an RV would simply be too expensive. Truck camping involves putting a camper top on the back of your truck, and making a home inside. Most truck beds are large enough to sleep two people comfortably and store gear. Compared to a motorcycle, It uses more gas but it’s more comfortable, more secure and allows more storage space. 

Truck Bed Camper

The Build

The first step in setting up my truck was buying the camper top or “cap”. This was by far the biggest expense, costing around $1400. There’s a lot of companies that make camper tops, with the best (and most expensive) being Leer or ARE. I went with the Leer 100R. It was the cheapest option I could find that fit my truck.

There are many different ways to setup the inside of your new home. Most of the designs focus on balancing storage space with sleeping space. Go with a design that suits your needs the best. I built a very simple sleeping platform and a small cabinet on the side that I use to store food and personal items. You can use any type of wood, but to save money I cut up some old pallets. 

Truck Camper
The early framework

For one person, the inside is more than enough space. With two people, it gets a little crowded but is still comfortable enough. The sleeping area is a little bigger than a twin mattress. You can maximize your sleeping space by building an elevated platform, and using the underneath for storage. This however, reduces your headroom and overall living space.

The Gear

For cooking, all you need is a small propane stove and various cookware. I use paper plates and cups because I hate washing dishes. With the tailgate folded down it makes a perfect area to cook and prepare food. For all my water needs I have a 7 Gallon Aquatainer, which works very well. 

I try to buy fresh food on the road whenever I can. I have a small YETI Cooler that I keep my perishable food in. It’s tough and keeps ice frozen for up to a week in decent conditions. YETI coolers can be really expensive, but RTIC Coolers are supposed to be almost as good, at half the price. I’ve never used one but the reviews are good.

Climate control can be the most uncomfortable part about truck camping. When it’s really hot I leave the windows open and run a small electric fan. When its cold I just pile on the blankets. It’s surprising how warm a small space can get with just your body heat. A regular space heater uses far too much electricity and would drain the battery in less than an hour. 

To run all of my electronics, I built an entirely independent electrical system using a marine battery, power inverter, solar charge controller and solar panel. The battery and inverter is stored in the cabinet, and the solar panel sits on the roof. The system charges throughout the day and powers my fan, lights, cellphone, laptop and all of my personal electronics. Hooking directly in to your truck’s electrical system can drain your main battery and leave you without a working vehicle.  

Check out my post; Truck Camping: Complete Gear List

Truck Camping

The Pros and Cons

The most obvious thing missing in such a setup is a bathroom. Finding a place to do your business isn’t usually too difficult. When you’re in the city, there are plenty of restaurants and shops with free bathrooms. When you’re camping, you can just go the way nature intended.

Taking a shower is where it gets tricky. I have a small camp shower that’s great when I’m camping in the summer. However, in the winter and in the city I use DUDE Shower Body Wipes. They’re easy to use and leave me feeling clean. I still try to take showers as often as I can, but the Shower Wipes are good when no shower is available. 

Truck Rear

Doing laundry on the road is much easier. I own very few clothes, and most of them are made of merino wool. They don’t stink and need to be washed less far less then cotton or synthetic clothing. I have a small plastic tub that I use to wash my clothes and then I hang them to dry.

Check out my post of Minimalist Packing and Merino Wool

So far, travelling in my camper truck has been great. It’s a private home that goes with me anywhere. With no bathroom or climate control, it can be uncomfortable at times but it’s vastly cheaper than an RV camper and much more comfortable then a motorcycle or car. 

Happy Travelling!


Disclosure: Some of the links in my posts are affiliate links. If you purchase the products, I receive a small commission. However, I only recommend products or services I personally use and highly value.


    1. Hey Agness,

      I would recommend fall, spring or summer. Winter is just too cold in certain places to be comfortable sleeping and living in a camper. I have an indoor propane heater I use sometimes though, but isn’t great for extended use. Tourist destinations and national parks can be very crowded in the summer, so the fall and spring may be a more appealing option.

  1. have you looked into showering and doing laundry at truck stops and also i have about a 15 gal water supply i made out of 3″ pvc pipe around the inside edge of the camper and i added an air valve where you can put some air pressure in it and shower by just using a sink sprayer.

    1. Hey Izzy,

      I’ve personally used truck stops several times. I haven’t found all that many with showers though. When I’m in the cities I like to use YMCA’s more. That shower you built sounds great. I’ve seen a lot of different ideas of varying complexities. Maybe one day I’ll upgrade and put a more permanent shower in.

  2. I would be possible to have a squat shower (just what it sounds like) in your truck if you have 4′ of clearance, a 3ft shallow bucket, a jug, and a way to heat 1-2 gal of water.

    1. Hey Jess,

      For my comfort, there is just not enough room in a truck bed for a squat shower. If you have a van setup, this could be a lot more feasible. I would stick with using body wipes or just taking showers wherever possible.

    1. Hey Laurie!

      I bought some black fabric from the fabric store, and sewed some velcro patches on to them in several places. You have to have a carpeted camper top for this to work however. Hope this helps!

  3. Hi John,
    How did you get the velcro to stick to the carpet in the camper? I thought about velcro but didn’t think it would be strong enough to stick to the carpet.
    I just ordered my camper and I don’t even have it on the truck yet.

    1. Hey Laurie!

      So far Velcro has worked just fine for me. I used a fairly thick black fabric to make the curtains, and the velcro still holds. The trick is to get the right kind of velcro. The best is the industrial strength like you can find here on Amazon:

      Just sew those patches on to the curtains with a strong sewing machine and they should serve you well. If you don’t have a sewing machine, I suppose you could try gluing them with heavy duty fabric glue, but I have yet to try something like that.

  4. What kind of Mattress Did you buy? I saw you mention memory foam. I’ve heard memory foam pillows get hard when it’s cold I’m wondering about your mattress.

    1. Hey Kyle!

      I bought a memory foam mattress on amazon. It was like 70 bucks or so. It might have had regular foam as well, but it doesnt seem to freeze. The lowest ive slept on it at was about 5 degrees F. It was still soft. And a really good insulator for the cold.

        1. Hey Logan,

          I use a Mr Buddy propane heater in short bursts to get it warm. Its safe for indoor use, but I never use it too long. To stay warm while sleeping I pile on a bunch of blankets, or use a sleeping bag. If I can avoid it, I generally dont go to places where it gets down to 5 degrees! Thanks for the question.


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