Truck Camping Essentials


By Taylor Abney @taylorabney.adventures on IG

Is truck camping any different than regular camping? It’s not. The main difference is sleeping in a vehicle and off-roading. There are many upgrades to consider when converting your vehicle into the most badass over-landing rig, but you really don’t need much to get started. Begin with what you have, and go from there. Going out and buying a bunch of equipment with no experience with that equipment is really not the best way to get started. Hopefully this guide helps you get on the trail!

How to get Started

  • Make do with what you have, and get creative.
  • Don’t have a sleeping pad? Layer up some blankets. We’ve used yoga mats.
  • Can’t find biodegradable tissue paper? Just put it in an old grocery bad and carry out.

If you want to hit the trails, camping, you will! Don’t let not having the perfect gear stop you from attempting truck camping. Obviously, there are some ground rules; you must have safety gear (first aid, roadside, etc.) and recovery gear (hi-jack, jumper cables, etc.). You do not need an expensive roof top tent, inverters, tables or grill tops. These are all nice luxuries, but you can certainly live without.

Have You Attempted it?

Prior to becoming nomadic, I didn’t have any exposure to truck camping. Over the past 2 years, I’ve truck camped from New Hampshire to Florida, Arizona to Oregon. We can say there has been some diversity added to the portfolio. I’ve scraped ice off windows, melted with mosquitos, and resided in swamps and deserts. All of the environments with my trusty 4Runner. Every experience has been trial and error. On the road I am often without service, problems must be solved with reverse engineering. Think, “What do I need to do? How will I do it?” Mentally run through the trip, imagine it, and picture the necessary items for a successful trip. Of course, not everything can be predicted, and that’s when experience comes in. Like tweezers; I truly didn’t think of them as a necessity, and honestly the thought was “I don’t need to pluck my eyebrows.” After multiple splinters, the lesson was learned. Tweezers have so many uses when on the road.

Desert Camping

How Much Stuff Do I Need?

Whatever your vehicle size, make sure the driver seat area isn’t cluttered, and the area is
comfortable with minimal items left outside. Anything that feels excessive should be eliminated or stored in an exterior cargo box. There are also great options for attachable bed and cargo tents. However, my husband and I prefer to be as mobile as possible and sleep the vehicle. The key is simplicity and organizational systems. If you are having trouble downsizing, find multi-purpose items. Get crafty with storage, less is more, one is none and two is one. So whatever you think you need, make sure there is two. Otherwise, have a backup plan or alternatives if you cannot have two or a necessary item.

First: We are assuming you have a vehicle already equipped with emergency and recovery equipment. Second: Keep it simple.

Pack List

To save you some pain, this is a list of truck camping essentials. Some items deserve deeper explanation, and honestly one article is not enough. So keep an eye out more on this topic.

For each section I choose one thing to elaborate on. This list is constantly evolving because lessons are always learned on the trail. The researching is never ending. We can go down a deep rabbit hole of what gear is best, however, let’s assume to start with what you have. Borrow what you can! Save for the best equipment; buy once, cry once. A small budget will make someone a minimalist quick, and minimalism will teach you to use something until it’s no longer useful. Use ingenuity to get things done, and it’s truly beautiful when the light bulb turns on. Camping, after all, is minimalistic.

Camp Spot in Sedona, Arizona.


LIST: Biodegradable tissue paper, shovel, tweezers, nail clippers, SPF, bug bite salve, deodorant, dry Shampoo, and body wipes.

I often am asked, “How do you shower?” There are many ways shower when wipes just won’t do. Nature baths are my first choice. There is nothing more freeing, but that isn’t always an option. Many truck stops and camp grounds often have shower accommodations.

Shovels are a must for both fires and pooping


LIST: Breathable, quick-drying pants temperature appropriate, flannel (mid layer cover up also good for sleeping), base layer (can double as sleepwear), socks (include booties or slippers for night), bathing suit, and shoes that are easy to get into.

The number one pain about truck camping is having to get in and out of the vehicle often. I like to keep slip on footwear readily available for those late night bathroom trips. Soft leather boots allow for an easy tuck into the door or under the seat for convenient storage and accessibility.


LIST: Portable light (lantern, flashlight, headlamp), water bottle, power banks, backpack, dry bag, extra bags for storage, waterproof phone case, duffle bag, duct tape, bungie cords, camp chair, hammock.

The gear list could go on forever, but if you’re like me, try to get by on very little. Focus on survival gear that may be missing from your vehicle essentials.

LIST: Fire starters, lighters, emergency blanket.

Plan your list around main activities. If you are eating out often, you could choose to bring less cooking equipment and stick to essentials. Dehydrated food options and a Jet Boil can get you by.

If you want to focus on comfort, then look into expanding your sleeping gear. Try to stay within the budget you have set for yourself and only get what you need. Be sure to add one thing you didn’t need but love.

Panels by Rago made hanging gear possible and freed up much needed space


The length of your trip will dictate at lot. If the trip is short and the destination is near a local grocery deli or food stand, this option can be more affordable than getting groceries. It also prevents many groceries or perishables from taking up space in your cooler or food storage containers. Options like that are convenient and can help maintain space. We do prefer cooking, and these basics get us through most any meal.

LIST: Aluminum foil, plastic sealable bags, ice chest, paper towels, utensils, cutting board, portable stove, sauce pan, spatula, portable sink, biodegradable dish soap, sponge, plates
(paper or reusable), insulated/portable cups/bottles, frying pan.

A non-stick pan is worth it. I’ve owned a high end camp cookware pan, and it honestly wasn’t worth the weight savings. It was too thin, and high heat cooks often resulted in burnt food. The mess was often terrible and the pan would be rendered unusable without a good scrub session. Seasoned cast-iron and steel pans are also ideal and can prevent a headache. Just wipe everything out, and you’re good to go.

Brandon fixing us venison and rice in the parking lot of a beach park.

Types of Food

What will types of food options will work with your setup? For instance, most food is not convenient to cook in a portable stove. Portable, easy to eat, preferably not perishable foods can be a real time saver. The cooler fills fast, and that space is best saved for meat, eggs, and other perishable basics. I also like to save room in the cooler in case we hit a local farm stand along our way. Instant mashed potatoes and quinoa are also great sides, and easy to store. Dehydrated fruit and granola are fantastic substitutes for sweets.


LIST: Heated blanket , appropriate sleeping gear, portable Fan,

Keep an eye on the weather patterns in the area of operation, and plan for everything. No matter what trip we are on, we always bring our Dewalt battery operated fan. Most major power tool companies make fans. It’s a pretty neat capability to have cross-compatible power sources for a variety of tools you may want to bring.


LIST: Sleeping bag, top sheet (cotton, flannel, silk) or liner, thick blanket, pillows, towels, sleeping pad. Questions of the sleeping situation are a very popular topic. If you have sleeping pads for camping, start with those. There are also options for vehicle specific mattresses, general portable mattresses, and
mattresses from inflatable to memory foam.


LIST: Trash bags, pen/notepad, duct tape, tarp, small dustpan with brush.

Luxuries to Have

Naming just a few great upgrades to pick from. No fancy stuff here.

LIST: Window covers/net, awning, cargo boxes, string lights, and table.

Make your list

Lay out all of your gear, kit, and travel essentials and cross compare to this list. After multiple trips YOUR
list will evolve. Some gear will need to be upgraded or perhaps you will find something
wasn’t needed at all. I am not here to tell you what to buy, just what will get you your first trip!

Views to be had. Sleeping with the hatch open is pretty epic.
Always keep them feets dry

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