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I've seen tents for sale that fit in the back of a truck, like this:

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https://www.canadiantire.ca/en/pdp/napier-backroadz-truck-tent-0340183p.0340184.html


What's the benefit of having a tent in the box of a truck compared to a regular tent on the ground?

At first glance, I can't think of much of an advantage, other than not sleeping on the cold ground in cooler months. The downside for me would be the loss of space in the truck box to store stuff and using the tailgate as a table.

Eastern Ontario; Summer camping on crown land.

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  • I guess some people just really like their trucks. It might be fun to tinker with your truck by adding a sleeping room to it (ie a tent). At least, more fun than setting up a tent on the ground.
    – User1974
    Jun 20, 2023 at 17:53

7 Answers 7

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I can think of a few advantages:

  • You're off the ground, which means you're not at risk of getting flooded out or allowing animals access (ants, snakes, rodents, etc).

  • You can set up wherever you can park, and don't need a flat space clear of rocks or other uncomfortable things to sleep on. You don't need tent pegs either.

  • Your gear (well the tent mostly) stays cleaner.

Obviously there are disadvantages too, like the loss of storage space, you have to pack up if you want to drive anywhere for the day, and the limited space.

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  • 3
    There are also truck tents that mount high so there's no real loss of storage in that case. But the whole idea of, "Hey, camp is all set up, let's drive to the trailhead, or to whatever." takes away a lot of the appeal to me. Jun 12, 2023 at 16:07
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    @DonBranson That would be a negative if your objective was camping. However, if camping is incidental to your true objective it could be an advantage. Jun 12, 2023 at 23:31
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  1. Easier to setup, pack up and keep in proper shape in my experience
  2. Much warmer during the cold months
  3. You can pre-setup a lot of things you going to need during the night

The only 2 downsides I've had are: limited space(not an issue if you're solo/duo camping) and walking out during the night(I always forget how elevated this whole thing is).

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A buddy of mine swears by his. He likes it because:

  • Being off the ground means you're far less likely to get ants, snakes, scorpions, etc. in the tent. The chances of wildlife trampling your tent while you're away are near zero.
  • The truck shields you from the wind on several sides, which helps with comfort and makes it almost impossible for the tent to blow away.
  • You can camp on almost any terrain (uneven, sharp rocks, etc) and not feel a difference. Camp in a swamp where the water is ankle deep and you'll still wake up bone dry. No more nasty midnight surprises when high tide comes up a little bit more than you anticipated.
  • Some of those tents connect to the interior of the vehicle through the rear window. The SUV version of those tents are sometimes completely open on the back side. That essentially gives your tent heating and air conditioning, power outlets, etc. You can win over reluctant friends and family with this one.
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  • Getting the "why" first hand is high value. Jun 14, 2023 at 16:15
  • "truck shields you from the wind" - nope. Not w/o some skirt boards down there; it's actually worse. No ground heat and there's basically a heat exchanger under you for the wind to go by on. dis-advantages of truck tent? Cold AF. buddy of mine swears by his because reluctant friends and family will actually go, because camping with the AC on isn't.
    – Mazura
    Jun 14, 2023 at 17:24
  • @Mazura I mean yeah that's not real camping but if it can convince someone to go that otherwise wouldn't, it's still a win in my book.
    – bta
    Jun 14, 2023 at 19:24
  • @Mazura I had one for years, and yeah it does shield you from the wind. If you are expecting "ground heat", you're camping in far different places to me. Even in the few places I've camped where the ground would warm up during the day, it tends to be brutally cold by dawn, and you lose heat quicker to direct ground contact than to air.
    – Auspex
    Jun 15, 2023 at 10:36
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The downside you mention:

The downside for me would be the loss of space in the truck box to store stuff and using the tailgate as a table.

When camping solo, that leaves 3 seats for stuff. That storage space should suffice for a while. And depending on how much stuff you actually need, it could even work for 2 (not too big) people. The configuration you show has a truck with a double cabin. The experience I have with double-cabin trucks is you can fit a lot of stuff in there.

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  • Yeah, shouldn't be an issue solo. My setup only gets a bit crowded when I'm duoing and it's a multi-day camp. Otherwise shouldn't be any issues to be frank
    – BrownT
    Jun 14, 2023 at 8:28
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To be quite frank, I do not really see much of an advantage. And I say that as someone who has a roof-top tent mounted on a low rack just above my truck bed, with a tonneau cover in place over the truck bed. So I have the entire truck bed (protected) for gear, a king-sized 3" foam sleeping mattress in the tent, and a slightly larger distance to the ground (but much lower than if the tent were on the cab top, with better fuel economy as well). This is in a Tacoma with the 5 foot truck bed - I'm more than 5 feet tall and would not trust that the truck bed-tailgate gap would be comfortable.

One pro of those is that they likely come out more easily so you only put it in when you are going camping. Downside is, that is one more thing that has to be done to go camping...

Of course, the one very large advantage is price relative to, say, a roof-top tent install. If it works for you and gets you out camping it is a good thing in the end.

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Summary: From the point of view of someone who felt most alive when backpacking far off trail, I see the truck set-up as: (a) a useful introduction to wilderness travel or (b) as a convenient ancillary to wilderness travel, but not as an end in itself.

The truck set-up can extend the season for outdoors fun to, e.g., the winter in the mountains, when the weather is too cold or unsettled or snowy for comfortable tent camping, and too unsafe for ambitious hikes or backpacking.

The truck set-up described would be a good place to collapse after a long backpacking trip or an arduous hike, and probably less expensive than a hotel in the long run. It would be level, and could be made luxuriously soft with a real mattress or other heavier padding that would have been impossible to carry. I also agree with the point about snakes.

The truck setup could be a way to ease into wilderness gradually, taking more and more ambitious hikes until one feels ready to sever the umbilical cord. The truck set-up may be a near-necessity if one is travelling with small children.

The enormous downside, which may not be important for the OP, is that they cannot go off road, and certainly not off trail. Thus, they are confined to seeing what is visible from a campground, a trailhead, or a roadside turnout plus whatever short hikes they take. One cannot experience anything approximating true wilderness except off-trail, and definitely not from a motor vehicle. And the vehicle has a roof, which means the night sky is at best obscured unless one sleeps outside the truck.

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  • 2
    Another obvious downside: You must already own (or I suppose rent) a pickup truck. This would be useless if you drive a car, SUV, minivan, or any other sort of vehicle. Jun 12, 2023 at 21:03
  • @DarrelHoffman there are other options in those cases, but if you've got a pickup you can't just throw a mattress in the back like you could in a car (unless the weather is very good), or fit out a van as a camper (as I have).
    – Chris H
    Jun 13, 2023 at 10:43
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    It could be good for those whose activities are single-day, who can't/don't want to carry a lot. Trail runners, mountain bikers etc. camp at the trailhead, out at first light, knowing you can stay out until dusk. My van is great for that. I use the van for the first and last nights and a tarp for the main part of a trip. In practice I'd be more likely to ride from home. I reckon truck camping is also useful when there isn't much wilderness. In the UK you're never more than a few miles from a road
    – Chris H
    Jun 13, 2023 at 10:50
  • @ChrisH Not sure what kind of cars you're talking about, but I don't know of many that have room for a mattress in the back. Vans, minivans, some SUVs, sure. I think my car could fit a mattress (up to a double maybe, forget queen/king size) for the purposes of transporting it home from the store, but not without leaving the trunk open, and there certainly wouldn't be enough room to sleep on it. Best option in that case is just recline the seats all the way back - not viable for more than 2 people of course. Jun 13, 2023 at 16:39
  • @DarrelHoffman I'm looking at the longest estate cars/station wagons (as well as people carriers) for when my van has had enough. Shorter friends have done the same in modest hatchbacks. For them a custom-cut foam mattress is one way to go (as is common in caravans/RVs), but the thicker self-inflating camping mattresses work well too, inflating after shutting the tailgate.
    – Chris H
    Jun 13, 2023 at 17:01
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One downside, you can only camp in places where you can physically drive to.

Some quiet idyllic camping spots will be unreachable, whereas you might hike/tramp into them and be more isolated.

And you can't take the vehicle for a trip anywhere without striking camp too.

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