Truck Camping Essentials (Printable PDF Checklist)

You’ve got the truck and the desire to go truck camping. But what else will you need? How different is Truck camping from normal camping? What other gear or equipment should you take?

Truck camping is great fun for family camping and can be as complicated as you enjoy making it or as simple as packing up and heading out with what you’ve got.

If you’ve never truck camped before but are thinking seriously about it, have a look at our truck camping checklist and see how much gear you already have at home!

We’ve also included some handy hacks, hints, and tips for those just starting out on their truck camping adventures. Check out our truck camping essentials, adapt what works for you and get on with your next adventure, sooner!

Sleeping

  • Specialized truck bed camping tent OR Fold-out rooftop sleeping canopy OR normal ground tent OR on a mattress under a fiberglass canopy
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  • Tent, poles, stakes/pegs, mallet, rainfly, or tarp (for sleeping or even storage if you camp for a few days)
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  • Groundsheet, or tarp to keep dirt out of the truck
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  • Sleeping bag, sleeping pad, air mattress, sheets, blankets
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  • Pillow
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Related: Going out truck camping? Check out our review of the best truck tent.

Kitchen

  • Camp table
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  • Camp chairs
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  • Tarp or shelter for cooking area
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  • Portable camping stove or campfire materials
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  • Portable fridge
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  • Extra stove fuel, lighters, matches, firewood, firelighters
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  • Cooking pots and pans
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  • Large bowl
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  • Stovetop kettle
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  • Cooking utensils (Wooden spoons, tongs, flippers, spatula)
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  • Can opener, corkscrew, bottle openers
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  • Cutting board and knives
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  • Cooler with ice or ice packs
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  • Rubbish bin/bags
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  • Bucket/Basin for dishwashing, scrubber, detergent, tea towels, dishcloth
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  • Large drinking water container with potable water or water purification system
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  • Food containers and resealable plastic bags for food storage.
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  • Foil and paper towel
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  • Marshmallow cooking sticks
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  • Dustpan and brush for cleaning out your tent
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Eating

  • Plates and bowls
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  • Knives, forks, and spoons
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  • Mugs and water cups
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  • Wine glasses!
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  • Water bottles
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  • Food
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Wet weather protection

  • Tarp, poles, ropes, stakes
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  • Rain jackets
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  • Umbrella
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  • Clothesline and pegs
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Clothing & Footwear

  • Bag for clean clothes
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  • Quick-drying suitable outdoor clothing for the season
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  • Suitable nightwear
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  • Sun protection (Hats, sunglasses, sun shirts)
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  • Trekking boots, water shoes, slip-on shoes
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  • Socks
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  • Swimming gear (swimsuit, towel)
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  • Plastic bag for dirty/wet clothes
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Toiletries

  • Toothbrush & toothpaste
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  • Deodorant
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  • Soap, shampoo
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  • Quick-dry towel
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  • Hairbrush
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  • Shaver
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  • Toilet paper
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  • Medications
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  • First aid kit
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  • Insect repellent
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  • Sunscreen
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  • Chapstick or lip balm
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  • Reading glasses/contact lenses
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  • Toilet shovel – just in case
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  • Waterless hand sanitizer
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  • Baby wipes
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Lighting

  • Lanterns
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  • Candles, matches
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  • Headlamps
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  • Rechargeable torches
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  • Flashlights
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  • Spare Batteries
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  • Portable solar panel for recharging
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Entertainment

  • Field guides, star charts, and books
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  • Binoculars
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  • Notebook and pencils (pencils write on wet-ish paper)
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  • Music player, Bluetooth speakers, phone, tablet, etc
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  • Musical instrument
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  • Ball, frisbee
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  • Watercrafts
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  • Hammock
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  • Camera
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  • Fishing gear, bait, license
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  • Deck of cards, jigsaw, board games.
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  • Small backpack for day hiking
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Truck Camping Items

  • Full tank of gas before you leave
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  • Leisure battery OR solar panel for powering electronics OR generator
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  • Jumper cables
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  • Mixed tool auto repair kits
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  • Fire extinguisher
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  • Road safety triangles
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  • 12v fan
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  • Tire hitch OR rooftop cargo carrier
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  • Spare tire
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  • Leveling blocks to even out the bed
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  • Ratchet straps for securing cargo
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  • Roadside assistance plan
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  • Vehicle service manual
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  • Windshield sun visor to keep the truck cool during the day
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  • Truck-mounted awning
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  • Tailgate ladder – good for kids
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Useful things

  • Multi-tool/Pocket knife/Scissors
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  • Duct Tape
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  • Extra guy ropes
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  • Bungy/shock cords
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  • Tent pole repair
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  • Hammer/saw/axe
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  • Compass or navigation device
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  • Reflective blanket
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  • Mosquito net
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  • Credit card/cash/Identification
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  • Repair kits for tent, tarps, water toys, blow-up mattresses
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  • Bear spray for errant bears. Also works well on unwanted human intruders
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  • Whistle
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A people mover and a 4x4 set up in the forest camping.
Truck camping gives you flexibility and security when camping in the bush.

Tips and hints for first-time truck campers

  • Start simple and low cost to see what works for your family camping style, climate, and environment.
  • Keep your set up quick and easy to set up or you won’t keep using it if it’s too much trouble.
  • Your first decision will be whether you sleep in the truck tray, in a fold-out rooftop tent, or in a specialized truck tent bed. Or even a normal ground-based tent. There are some great options out there. Check them all out before you decide.
  • Try and make all things you take with you multi-use. For example, an ax can also be a hammer in many cases.
  • Truck camping will be trial and error to start with. Try a new setup each time and see what works for you over time.
  • A big advantage of truck camping is the battery power you can use for blowing up air mattresses, powering fans, screens, and lights.
  • For a longer trip, a 12v fridge might be the go for keeping food chilled.
  • Tarps are still a good idea for rain shelter, sunshade and to mark your spot if you want to drive away for some reason.
  • Truck camping allows heavy luxuries like leisure batteries and solar panels to be included as you don’t have to manhandle them far from the truck.
  • You have the space. Make the bed as comfortable as you like with a good mattress, blankets, and pillows.
  • You can always take a second car if you have a large family and use the truck as the base for your campsite.
  • Or big families might just need a trailer to take all their extra bikes, canoes, tents, and fishing gear in!
  • Truck camping can be just like car camping with the advantage of being able to sleep in the truck bed and off the ground.

And a few other things to consider before you leave

Always check the weather forecast before you leave and make sure you are set up for what’s predicted. While you are online looking at the weather forecast, find out what dangerous animals or toxic plants might be in the area you are going to camp in and what fires you are allowed in your campground.

It’s a good idea to make sure you have the campsite booking number, address, phone, direction, and a printed confirmation with you just in case your phone reception is patchy when you get there. And if phone coverage is bad, a paper-based map can make sure you actually get there!

Always leave home with a full tank of gas in the car and remember to tell someone exactly where you are going and when you’ll be back. Email them your itinerary too, if you like.

Stay safe! Happy Camping 😊

Next up: Should you take a truck tent or a ground tent with you? Check out our comparison – are truck tents worth it?

Related: Nylon, polyester, canvas … which is the best for a tent? Find out in our guide to the best tent material for camping.

Author at Wilderness Redefined camping website

Kara grew up in New Zealand where camping in the backyard as a child turned into multi-night trips in the National Parks as a teenager and then a full blown backpacking adventure for a year in Asia, by herself in her early 20's. Camping, bush walking, car camping and road trips still feature heavily in her current life style. She lives right next door to a World Heritage National Park on Springbrook Mountain and highly recommends having them as next door neighbours!