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?
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.
- 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.)
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.