How to Pick a Truck Tent for Your Pickup

How to Pick a Truck Tent for Your Pickup

Got a pickup truck? If so, you can turn your truck's bed into a tent.

In this article, we’ll help you consider why you should get a truck tent and what factors to consider so you get the winning match of convenience and functionality. 

Why Get a Pickup Truck Tent?

Why should you get a pickup tent? Here's a few reasons why:

  • Truck tents are elevated. This means a more even sleeping surface, you're away from bugs and other critters and it's also cleaner (especially when the rain hits and the ground turns into a puddle of mud).
  • Truck tents are roomier and have more height. Truck tents are generally a lot roomier than a traditional two man tent. Moreover, most ground tents afford quite a bit more standing room making getting changed and moving around a lot easier. 
  • Easy access to vehicle power and storage. With a truck tent, you'll be able to easily access the 12V power inside your vehicle to to allow for easy charging of all of your electronics.
  • Great for tight camping spots. Often it's hard to find room for both your truck and a place to pitch a tent. With a truck tent it's all the same spot.

How Many People Can You Sleep in a Truck Tent?

Overall, you can sleep two adults in a truck tent and even two adults and a child, although it gets tight with the third small body. Most truck beds (and therefore tents) are about 63" wide (about 5') but also have wheel wells in the middle reducing the effective width to about 4'. For reference, most adult sleeping bags are about 2' to 2.5' wide. 

What Size Pickup Truck Tent Do You Need?

Pickup truck tents typically come in one of three sizes: 8', 6.5' and 5.5'.

Truck Bed Model Length Width
Full-size Long Bed 8' 63"-66"
Full-size Standard Bed 6'2" to 6'5" 63"-66"
Full-size Short Bed 5'3" to 5'8" 49"-63"

Truck tents will typically accommodate one of three truck bed sizes: 8' lengths, 6.5' lengths and 5.5' lengths (plus or minus a few inches). You need to pick the model according to your truck bed length. Remember, your bed length is always measured excluding the tailgate.

Overall, there is quite a bit of leeway in your truck tent sizing. For example, a truck tent that officially states it will fit a 6'5" truck will fit 6'3" to 6'8" box without much problem. And in fact, a smaller truck tent will always fit a larger truck bed, you'll just be left with a bunch of empty space at the front of your box and not utilize all of your potential camping space.

 

Truck bed widths are fairly standard, except in smaller compact trucks, so width isn't as big of consideration as the truck length.

For detailed discussions on sizes, visit Truck Bed Dimensions.  

How to Install/Setup a Pickup Truck Tent

Most pickup tents install much like a regular ground tent with the exception that there will be clips that go onto your wheel well to keep the tent firmly attached to your truck. And of course, there's nothing to stake line or any guy-lines to worry about. 

There is one pro-tip for setting up and installing your truck tent: set it up on the ground first AND THEN move it to your pickup truck bed. 

What Features Should I Look for in a Truck Tent?

There's a few primary features to look for when selecting a truck tent:

  • Size according to your truck width. As I mentioned above, your truck bed size is going to be the number one criteria you need to use when selecting a truck bed tent.
  • Awning or no awning. Some truck bed tents come with awnings over the front door. Others do not. This feature is nice for helping to keep water out of your tent and also provides a bit of a landing area when you exit.
  • Floor or no floor. Most truck tents today come with sewn in floors but some do not. Most prefer to have a sewn in floor. 
  • Tent Fabric: Tents are basically going to come in two varieties: some type of Polyester PVC-coated fabric or canvas. Polyester is the most common material type you've probably run into for traditional tents. Canvas is rare and much more expensive but also much more durable.

Can I Put a Regular Ground Tent in My Truck Bed?

The final question to address: if you have a traditional ground tent, can you just stick it in your truck bed? The answer is yes IF it'll fit. The problem is that even the smallest dome ground tents are too wide to fit into your truck bed. A smaller one-man tent like the North Face tent shown above will easily fit however. The downside is you're losing a lot of the roominess that comes with using an actual ground tent.