My DIY Truck Camping Set-Up

When researching truck bed camping set-ups in preperation for my own build, I encountered many elaborate build outs. Sliding drawers, integrated cubbies, and designs that converted from bed to sofa like a japanese puzzle box.

Spending hours clicking through innumerable truck camping builds, I grew dizzy from weighing all the potential options for my 08 Nissan Frontier. I hopped from Pinterest pin to YouTube video where digital nomads from Portland walked through their highly intricate truck builds. At this point analysis paralysis had long set in, and I found myself staring blankly at my empty truck bed unable to decide what should be built inside.

Should it have drawers? Should storage be underneath? How can I utilize space behind wheel wells? Where should stove be stored? What about water storage?

This isn’t at all meant to hate on the more elaborate builds, in fact I am utterly impressed by the craftsmanship and ingenuity among full and part-time truck campers.

Through all the information consumed and opinions offered on how to build my camping set-up, I managed to ignore some core factors in my decision.

  • I go camping maybe once a month.
  • I live in Texas, not Morro Bay.
  • I’m not handy.
  • My truck is used for stuff other than sleeping in.
  • It’s not socially acceptable to have a bed permanently mounted in the back of your truck in the Dallas suburbs.

Through these differentiators between me and the many of the people posting their truck builds online, I began to get some clarity on what exacltly in my set-up. I knew I needed to build a different kind of truck camping set up to fit my (very different) needs. Here is what I ended up with.

Although not perfect, I feel this set-up is ideal for my specific needs. Here are some of the factors that drove this design over others.

Benefits:

  • Removable/Modular: I can set up or tear down the entire bed set up in less than two minutes.
  • Lightweight: With all the parts cumulatively weighing less than 50 lbs, the bed set-up doesn’t significantly effect the payload of my Frontier.
  • Inexpensive: All the parts were purchased at my local Home Depot for less than $150.
  • Easy to store when not in use: Takes up about the same amount of space in my garage as a 6’ surfboard.
  • Good storage: I can store 4 big “under bed” storage bins under the sleeping platform. Plus a couple 70 L“Black Hole” duffels, and all kinds of other soft gear that fits between the bed slats. (Easy to grab too!)
  • Functional: It hold my weight! I am a pretty light so you may want to add a support beam or upgrade to 2x’s if you are heavier.
  • Easy to build: I build this in 2.5 hours with all my fingers still intact.

…..And a few drawbacks:

  • Hefty bins can slide around in transit. (Gear packed beside the bins would remedy this)
  • I can’t fully sit up on bed. (Vehicle and topper dependent)
  • Back storage bin can be tough to reach. (I’m looking to get a long stick with a hook on the end to grab that back bin)
  • Friends will be less impressed with you than if you had nifty drawers.

Overall, I’m really happy with the design. I run trail running races throughout Texas and Oklahoma, and being able to comfortably camp at the trailhead before a race has been a game changer for me. (More sleep, more time to eat breakfast before an early start time, etc.)

Cross Timbers Trail Run at Lake Texoma.

At the end of the day, the best truck camping set-up for you is the one that enables you to maximize your enjoyment of the outdoors.

3 comments

  1. Sounds like you just went down the path I just did in my own camper design. It’s hard to get it right! You have to spend time in it and adjust things bit by bit. I really like those fancy sliding drawers and what-not, but I needed to be able to break down and take out everything if necessary. Good job on with what you came up with!

    Like

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