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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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