Why sleep on the cold, wet rocky ground and risk disturbance by foraging animals or a surprise stream? If you have a truck, you can turn your truck bed into a luxury camping experience for two wherever you park your pick-up truck when you have a truck bed tent.
1. Why Use a Truck Bed Tent?
The alternatives to a truck bed tent are:
· Traditional tent.
· Camper van.
· Trailer tent.
· Truck cap.
A truck bed tent has significant advantages compared with a traditional tent:
· Your camping is consistent with the truck bed floor, providing a dry, level sleeping surface.
· You sleep above the ground and avoid most environmental hazards.
· The truck sides protect your sleeping area.
· You don't need to search for a suitable camping site – when you park, you can pitch your truck bed tent.
A camper van, trailer tent, or permanent truck cap are all more expensive options and less versatile than a truck bed tent. A trailer means you tow an extra item behind your pick-up truck, which adds unnecessary complication to your trip. When you are not camping, your pick-up truck is available for work and all the other things you do with your vehicle, but a camper van is always a camper van.
Truck bed tents are comfortable, convenient, and portable.
2. How Do You Install a Truck Bed Tent?
Installing a truck bed tent is super-easy; whatever the style or make of your truck tent, you follow the same process:
Step 1: Lower the tailgate and lay the tent on the truck bed with the door facing the tailgate to make it easy to get in and out of the tent.
Step 2: Attach the straps to the sides of the truck and the tailgate. Typically, you get three straps per side and three for the tailgate. You want to avoid over-tightening the straps as this puts a strain on the material and the poles. Plus, you want to avoid damaging the paintwork on your truck by placing something between the straps and the truck body. You don't need fancy pads – a folded cloth is enough to prevent rubbing and chipping.
Step 3: Add the poles to the structure following your truck tent instructions. The poles are often color-coded, and they slip easily into pockets in the fabric.
Step 4: Attach the tent to the poles using the clips provided.
Installing your truck bed tent is straightforward and logical. A truck tent without an attached floor is slightly quicker to install but only by a few minutes.
3. What Features Does a Truck Bed Tent Need?
Before you look at any truck bed tents, measure your truck bed. There is no universal truck bed tent that fits every vehicle, so you need to know your truck bed size before exploring the world of truck tents. Plus, you need to note if your tailgate lifts up or folds down so you can buy the right type of truck tent for your vehicle.
The essential truck bed features include:
· Type of truck bed tent.
· Type of camping.
· Construction and Durability
4. Truck Bed Tent Types:
The common truck bed types include:
· 4.1 A-frame – typical style that most people associate with tents. You don't get a lot of headroom with this style, but they pack into a small space, and that leaves you plenty of room for your other gear.
· 4.2 Umbrella – one of the roomiest styles with plenty of headspace. It is straightforward to erect, attaches directly to the truck, and doesn't have an integral floor. This style usually includes plenty of windows.
· 4.3 Dome – lightweight, flexible poles create the dome tent shape. These truck tents are often lighter three-season tents, but the dome shape is useful for shedding snow with heavier materials.
Your truck bed tent accommodates short and long truck beds and both tailgate types, but it is essential to buy the truck tent that fits your vehicle. When you get it home, erect it on the same day to double-check you have the right truck bed tent – don't wait to be on your first camping trip to find your mistake.
There is another type of truck tent – the hatchback, but this tent is for SUV and estate trunk style vehicles rather than the pick-up truck.
If you and your camping partner are extra-tall, it is worth noting that if you want to sleep comfortably in a truck tent, you need a truck bed that gives you 90 inches of sleeping room.
5. Camping Style
Your preferred season and number of people on a camping trip will impact your choice of truck tent.
Truck bed tents typically come as three- or four-season tents. A three-season tent is a bit cheaper because it doesn't need to stand up to freezing temperatures, hailstorms, or heavy snow. If you camp in the spring, summer, and fall but ever in the winter months, then you may want to save your money by investing in a three-season tent. If you can afford a four-season tent, you may prefer it because it uses thicker material, stronger poles, and is more durable. Plus, it gives you the option of that spontaneous winter break to enjoy the snow.
Most truck bed tents accommodate two people, but if you like to take your family camping, you can opt for a truck tent that links to a ground-based tent creating a larger communal space.
Most truck bed tents use nylon or duck cotton canvas for the body of the tent. Nylon is lighter to carry and generally water and windproof. Duck cotton canvas with waterproofing is heavier but more durable and provides a warmer interior in more challenging conditions.
When looking at the material of a truck tent, watch for additional features like:
· Waterproof coating - varies from 100% waterproofing to a treatment that encourages rainwater to form beads and run off the tent.
· Fire retarding coatings – a standard in most quality truck tents.
· Thickness – a thicker material is more durable in more severe conditions, but you may prefer a lighter fabric for use in hot summer weather.
· Sun protection – the fabric of the tent blocks most harmful rays, but some tents have a UV protection factor in the specification.
7. Construction and Durability
You can get an excellent truck tent at a budget-friendly price, but generally, you pay more for a higher-quality product because the additional details cost more.
7.1 Tent Poles
The truck bed tent poles can be steel, aluminum, or synthetic (fiberglass, carbon fiber, plastic). Steel is strong and best for camping in high winds and stormy weather. Unless the poles are stainless steel, you need to keep them dry to avoid rust. Aluminum poles are light and strong, and free from corrosion. Synthetic poles keep the weight low and do not corrode.
7.2 Build Quality
In the overall construction, look for taped seams (enhanced waterproofing) and reinforcing at high-stress areas where the straps attach, pockets holding the poles, and the quality of the zipped sections.
Windows give you a room with a view, add light to the interior, and allow airflow. Reasonable ventilation needs a minimum of three mesh windows, but you can get various windows' styles and placements. The best windows have mesh for airflow, and a rain fly to keep out the rain when necessary. A rear window giving you access to the truck cabin's interior is useful because you don't need to exit your truck tent to get at your possessions.
The door design needs to facilitate getting into and out of the truck bed tent. A large D-shaped door gives unrestricted access and holds open to air out the tent. A nice feature on some truck bed tents is a glow in the dark zip so you can see the door at night.
7.5 Storage Pockets
Built-in storage pockets are useful for putting your gear in a designated space and keeping your sleeping area tidy. Some items like a torch, first aid kit, phone, and wallet are best in a fixed location like a storage pocket.
7.6 Internal Floor
Some truck bed tents have an internal floor, but these tend to be thin and little more than a covering for the truck bed. Most people gain more luxurious sleeping accommodation with a truck bed mattress and a truck bed liner.
An awning on a truck bed tent is like a porch on the house – it increases your useable living space and weatherproofs the door from rain and sun. An awning can provide enough space to sit on the tailgate or set up a chair in the shade. When you are looking at a truck bed tent, consider the awning size or if you can attach one as an optional extra.
No one wants to struggle with putting up a truck bed tent in the pouring rain. Most truck bed tents are super-easy to put up with color-coded poles, so you don't need to struggle with a complicated diagram. It is worth practicing putting up your truck bed tent, so when you get to your camping site, you are confident in assembling your sleeping quarters in minutes.
Accessories make life easier by adding extra comfort to your camping trip. Most camping accessories work with your truck bed tent, but some specific accessories to look for as part of your purchase are:
· Gear lofts – a section hung on the poles to give you storage space in the roof of your truck bed tent. You can never have too much storage space when you are camping, and this makes creative use of your available space.
· Annex rooms – you can add rooms to your truck bed tent for storage, cooking, and other family members. These rooms sit on the ground, but they provide valuable additional space for larger camping parties.
· Gear hooks – inside the truck bed tent, you may want to hang a lantern from one of the poles or other small items like a wash kit.
· Waterproof travel cover – keeps your truck bed tent dry in transit.
The best truck bed tent is not the cheapest of the most expensive. A low-cost truck bed tent that you need to replace every season will ultimately cost far more than investing in a higher quality tent that will give you years of happy camping. But a budget buy may be the best way to try out truck bed camping for the first time – but your first time is unlikely to be the last.
If you have a pick-up truck and enjoy spending time outdoors, then a truck bed tent is the ideal way to go camping. It gives more opportunities to take a refreshing and economic break in nature to recharge your batteries and be in position for that amazing sunrise far from the crowds.