Occasionally I am out in the woods somewhere and I’m too lazy to set up a tent. Sometimes I have reason to believe there’s going to be a significant amount of rain, and I don’t want to wake up in a puddle again like that time when I was a camp counselor hiking in Pisgah back in ’94. I was so soaked and smelled so bad at the end of that trip I think a few of my campers might have passed out from the stench.

If I’m car camping, often I just sleep in the bed of my truck. After all, it has a camper shell on it. I should be able to camp in it.

The only problem is that my truck’s bed is six feet and one inch long, and so am I. That might seem like a perfect fit, but the 6’1″ figure includes the closed tailgate. The real figure is what’s called the “cargo length,” which is 6′ and 51/64″. Already I’m screwed. When you consider that we humans grow up to an inch or two after a relaxing night of sleep, 6′ and 51/64ths just ain’t gonna cut it. I order my sleeping bags 6’6″ long for these reasons.

Oh sure, I can just bend my knees, but dang it this is America. I don’t care if the government is completely broken, I still need room for my all-American legs to stretch out. And I need some room to wiggle my toes. And I also like to sleep on a pillow. America!

Here’s me waking up in the bed of my truck at Carolina Motorsports Park in Kershaw, SC a few weeks back. Note all-American legs poking out onto the tailgate and the all-American rain all over my feet.


I had an idea. What if I threw a tarp over the rear end of the tent with a single pole to hold up the tailgate end? That way I could be snug and dry inside my camper shell without my feet getting wet, and I could also open the windows on the side of the shell to let some air in.

Now you might be saying, “Okay dummy, now you’re setting up a tent to avoid setting up a tent,” and you have a point. Still, the truck bed does offer slightly more protection from the elements, and lots more protection from ants. Ants are jerks. Everyone knows that. All they want to do with their lives is climb on people and bite them all to hell. I hate ants.

Of course, there are plenty of truck tents already on the market, but they’re meant for trucks without a camper shell. I already had some spare rope and stakes laying around, so I decided to give it a swing. I hunted around my local outfitter and found a single, rather long, aluminum pole and a cheap tarp, so I set to work.

I waited for a beautiful afternoon without a hint of rain so I could tinker with my Truck Tent prototype in peace. Here’s what I came up with.

Being a prototype, my truck tent does have a few problems. For one thing, the tarp I bought because it was so cheap is really, really cheap. In fact, it already got a run in it, and that was on a perfectly sunny afternoon with zero wind. Also, it’s way too big. I don’t need a full-on Viking longhouse, just dry feet.

Another problem is I think I could use two more poles for the back. I’m worried about the tarp rubbing on the top of my camper shell if the wind gets up. It’ll scrape a stripe into my paint.

Lastly, tarps are just too dang loud. Any little bit of wind sends them flapping like mad, raising all kinds of racket. They’re fine for tossing over a stack of cordwood if you have a few rocks to weight them down, but up in the wind they’re loud enough to keep you up all night.

I’m thinking maybe a square piece of canvas with grommets could be the thing to have, but I am open to suggestions. Help me design version two! Slap down your comments in the section below, and/or feel free to tell me I’m out of my mind and I should just go get an EZ-UP and be done with it.

Or, you know, just set up a tent.

Thanks, y’all!

# Comments

  • mtbgreg1

    Or, you know, just get a truck with a longer bed 😉

  • mtbikerchick

    I’d still rather be completely enclosed in a shelter of some sort…but I can see where that would be really uncomfortable for you with those long legs! The canvas with grommets sounds good. If there was a way that you could angle it from the top of the camper shell down towards the ground and then stake it…instead of going straight out like the first prototype…but I don’t know that that would work either…

    • jhodgson

      Hmm, yeah that could be really helpful in a storm. I’ll have to give that a shot for version 2! Thanks!

  • Jeff Barber

    Ha! I love it.

    What if you got one of those 10×10 canopy tents and pulled the truck up under it? It wouldn’t be DIY and it would cost more than a tarp and a pole. Still, those things are super easy to set up and cost less than $100.

    Heck, WalMart even has a 10×20′ tent “carport” for $88! Just park underneath that thing. 🙂

    • jhodgson

      Yeah they’re only about $100 or so, but they’re also super fragile. The night my feet got wet in the photo below, the storm destroyed two EZUPs of neighboring campers.

      They seem like a good option until you’re buying your second and/or third one.

      • Jeff Barber

        True, you’re not getting protection from blowing rain either–just the straight down kind.

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