Truck Camping On A Budget
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Camping is a great way to get back to nature and enjoy the outdoors, but it can be expensive.
It’s not just about buying gear like tents, sleeping bags, or camp stoves. You also need food for camping trips which can quickly add up as well.
Truck camping on a budget is possible! By packing light and cooking over an open fire you can save money while still enjoying the experience of being out in nature.
Dutch ovens are perfect for this type of adventure because they’re lightweight and easy to use with minimal cleanup afterward.
They’re also affordable so you don’t have to break the bank when trying something new!
My college friend Harry used to tell me that if if you buy a pickup truck, to always get a hard-top cover for the back of the truck. That way if you ever have to, you can live in the back of your truck.
I’ll admit, that’s taking preparation to the next level. I don’t have a hardtop for my current truck. But I do enjoy the fact that it will go over almost any terrain I will encounter.
Sleep In The Bed
To save money camping, you want to avoid having to buy an RV because they cost more money to maintain, and the costs go up as you travel. Essentially it’s renting an apartment when you use an RV and that can get expensive.
Tent camping is more affordable but not everyone wants or can sleep on the ground.
The next best thing is to sleep in the bed of your truck and that’s why hard-top covers are a good idea. You can sleep without needing an extra tent in a sleeping bag…and avoid getting rained on!
It also means you don’t have to go through the hassle of setting up a campsite, purchasing firewood, setting up a tent, and finding the perfect spot.
It’s easy to pull into the parking spot at the campsite or grassy area where you find privacy and sleep safely in your truck bed.
When others see that you’re just sleeping there for the night they won’t give you odd looks…in fact people will nod their heads in approval after realizing you’re not breaking into the truck or car.
For getting back to nature, there’s nothing like sleeping under the stars on a cool night. As long as you’re safe from bears (and people) it can be an enjoyable experience whether you have a tent or sleep in your truck bed.
To save money on buying a hard-top cover, consider this alternative:
Buy an old car cover and add straps to anchor it down over the back of your pickup truck. You can also use bungee cords for added security. It’s not as sturdy as going with a hard-top cover but it will work.
Another option is to buy a tarp and tarp poles and hang it over the back of your pickup truck. You can pick up tarps for around ten dollars at most home repair stores, so it’s an affordable solution.
You can also buy cheap mosquito netting from Amazon, Walmart, or the Dollar Store. You can cut a size that will fit over your entire bed, and buy outdoor tarp stakes to anchor the corners and sides of it.
This may not look “professional” but who cares? You’re camping not trying to win first place in the county fair award for the best-looking tent!
Next, you need bedding for the truck bed.
Technically, you could sleep on the bed itself but that will be uncomfortable after a few hours.
However, having a mattress on top will make it more comfortable for you so you don’t feel the cold hard steel of the truck bed underneath you.
Because you’re off the ground and don’t worry about the dirt as much, you could bring blankets or quilts from home instead of a sleeping bag.
Go Camping Off-Road
One of the benefits of having a pickup truck is that you can go camping off-road without too much trouble. If you have a four-wheel-drive truck, you can even go on rocky terrain and mud puddles if the situation allows it. That means you don’t need to look for campgrounds that are close to roads…you’re able to find your own private site that’s close to nature.
Just make sure to follow the rules for camping because you don’t want to get busted for trespassing.
However, there are plenty of spots that do allow you to go off-roading.
There is BLM and National Pars that have areas where you can drive through as long as you stay on the designated dirt paths.
Look for local hunting areas in the off-season or unused pasture.
While most of us have a GPS, if you are going to go off-roading, you need to learn how to navigate without GPS.
We have an entire module on this in our essential outdoors skills course.
Stick To Canned Food
Because you will truck camping and not backpacking, you can bring more food and drinks with you.
Canned food including soups, tuna fish, and beans are portable and lightweight.
And you can find them at grocery stores or order online if your local store doesn’t carry certain brands or products.
Plus they are easy to improve if you want to heat them up with a fire or small camp stove.
If you are going on long journeys, frozen meats and vegetables can keep longer than other foods.
They will last several days in coolers and insulated bags without having to have ice constantly added to the cooler.
Bonus Tip - You Can Get A Small Camper For Low Price
I know we’ve talked about sleeping in the bed of the truck but if you have a spouse they may not find it as romantic as you do.
You can purchase a small tear-drop for less than $10,000. While they are small, basically big enough to fit the bed, some do have a tiny toilet inside the camper.
And they typically have an outdoor cooking area where you can place a gas stove or charcoal grill.
Truck camping on a budget can be done with just a few simple tips. If you’re looking for the best deals, check out Walmart or Amazon where you’ll find tarps and other camper accessories at discounted prices.
You might not have room to bring all of your bedding from home like blankets and quilts so use an old car cover instead. And if you want food that’s lightweight yet easy to prepare, stick with canned goods over frozen meats or vegetables because they need less ice in cooler bags. Finally, consider how much space is available before buying any big campers - it may be cheaper to buy something small enough only takes up part of your truck bed rather than one that fills the entire thing!
If you want to learn even more about camping then check out our Essential Outdoor Skills Course.