I pulled into the secluded campsite in the National Forest. It was even better than what I expected – silent, down a dirt road most cars can’t make it down (but my 4WD truck had no problem!), and surrounded by giant sugar pines.
The best part about it is I didn’t have to set up camp. I already had it ready to go in the bed of my truck.
Let me tell you, it’s a good 10x better than tent camping!
But if you’re like me, it’s usually not as easy getting good sleep while camping as it is when you’re at home. That seems like a given, right? But it doesn’t have to be.
I love road trips and off the grid camping too much to end them before I’m done having adventures just because my sleep is suffering. So I went on a mission to make my truck bed as comfy as possible.
Here are my best tips to make your truck bed camping experience a cozy one:
Get a Real Mattress
The hardest thing about backcountry camping for me is always sleeping. When I have to carry everything on my back, it’s not possible to luxuriate with a real mattress. It’s usually impossible when car camping, too, because who can fit an oblong mattress into their back seat?
But with a truck with a cover, it’s the only logical thing to do. So I implore you, don’t settle for an air mattress when you can put a real twin mattress in there.
Ours is a cheapie. It was one of the least expensive mattresses that they had at the mattress store. The clerk was even trying not to sell us on it, but it’s perfect for the truck.
Keep in mind that you have wheel wells to consider, so that usually means a twin mattress. That said, I’ve shared it with my boyfriend in the wilderness and friends at festivals, and it’s worked out for us just fine.
Get a Weighted Blanket
Trust me, a weighted blanket will make your sleep that much deeper.
Bearaby (the sponsor of this post) gave me a napper to try and I couldn’t believe how much it made me feel swaddled like a baby. There were a couple times when the wind or random forest sounds kept me awake, but as soon as I put the weighted blanket on it was like a grown-up pacifier, calming me down instantly and helping me sleep. It’s amazing how well it works. I wouldn’t have thought it was possible if I hadn’t tried it. It feels like a natural anxiolytic.
I slept 11 hours that night in the truck. I didn’t even think that was possible!
According to Bearaby, research studies show that sleeping with a weighted blanket reduces anxiety and stress while improving sleep. It can help to alleviate pain, lull insomnia, and bring the health benefits of hugging, along with a surprisingly long list of other benefits.
The Travel Napper is made from open weave, plant-based, organic cotton fabric. This makes it significantly less sweaty than most weighted blankets, and minimizes the environmental impact, too.
Lights, Coolers, and More
The only downside of the truck is that usually, you won’t have a screen to keep the bugs out. When I’m in a buggy area, I deal with that by attaching a mosquito net to the top of the cover (easy enough with duct tape) and tuck it around the mattress.
I also love having cute little unicorn lights. They’re squishy rather than glass, so they can handle some jostling. The longer strand also plugs into a USB outlet, which works perfectly with my rechargeable power bank. I just charge the power bank during the day with my solar charger and let the whole system run off of renewable energy. Even if you’re not in one spot to use the solar charger, I find it works perfectly on the car dashboard while I’m in transit.
Other little things that can make your experience more enjoyable, especially if it’s hot, are battery-powered swamp coolers. These will also plug into the power bank and work best if you can put ice cubes and a bit of water in them. Battery or USB-powered fans also work well. You can find any of these items at big box stores or Amazon.
Get out in the Middle of Nowhere
One of the most entertaining things to me is passing by the KOA campgrounds and other RV parks and marveling at how closely together everyone is parked. It’s like a parking lot! To me, that’s not camping.
I want to find those secluded spots under the stars, on public land, where I can be the only one out there for miles.
I know some people would probably not find this comforting, but consider getting out into the complete darkness and see if it’s for you. I tend to get the best sleep in forests, swaddled in my blanket and surrounded by giants. To me, that’s the essence of calm, and best of all there, are not lights or sounds to disrupt my sleep.
Park facing west
If possible, I park so that the sun will rise behind me. That way, if I get warm in the morning but am not done sleeping, I can push a window open without the sun radiating down on me. It also helps me to stay cooler for longer in the mornings, as the sun will be at the hood of the car rather than the back where you’re sleeping.
Depending on the windows of your truck bed cover (or truck tent), you may also wish to bring an eye mask along. I’m fortunate that my windows are opaque, blocking the light for the most part.
The best part about this setup is that it’s all doable for under $1k. So many truck retrofitting posts and videos make it seem like the only way to comfortably truck camp is to build compartments, but as someone who isn’t handy (or motivated to build out a truck), I loved that I could come up with a comfortable truck bed camping setup that helped me to get good sleep out in the wild.
*This post was created in partnership with Bearaby. All thoughts on the blanket’s awesome sleep benefits are my own.