On the Road: Living in Adventuretruck

For those that want to jump in on the #vanlife bandwagon…

On my recent trip to Idaho, I lived in the back of my truck for more than two weeks. Here’s some information on truck living, from building a quick bed to what a camp kitchen looks like to where you can park. I’d love to hear any ideas and tips you have! 

Building a truck bed:

While there are some awesome built-in systems for truck living (tons of cool pictures on the internet) that really maximize storage and functionality, I needed to compromise on my bed because I still use my truck as… well, a truck. I haul things, and need the entire space. I decided to build an easy system that I could break down quickly by myself, store in the truck or garage, and quickly put back into place.

truck loren
My buddy Loren’s sweet setup. He’s currently touring and documenting the 27 National Monuments set under review by Mr. Trump. Check out his blog here.

I decided to use two 1x10s for the braces and two cut sheets of OSB for the platform. I know it’s not the sturdiest foundation, but it holds me and a dog or another person around my size. I found a king-size memory foam mattress pad that someone wanted to get rid of and used a knife to cut (read: crudely hack) it to fit. When I need to remove the bed, it’s as easy as rolling up the foam, sliding the two OSB panels out, and taking out the beams. Sometimes I leave it deconstructed in my truck bed (depending on what I’m hauling), and other times I just stow it in my garage.

In addition to the bed, I also installed a “security system” of chains that hook onto the rear window latches of my topper. Since I can’t lock my truck topper from the inside once I’ve settled in, these chains act as lock. Someone might be able to open the window an inch or so, but they can’t reach the chains to unhook them. I also normally keep a knife and pepper spray in my truck cab, so I just bring those into the back with me at night.

You can see my chain setup in the lower right picture. Pictured: my Siberian husky mix Sage, a natural model

To block the sun and to give me privacy, I installed curtains around the topper. I bought some cheap shower curtain rings that have clips on them and used Gorilla super glue gel to adhere them to the ceiling. I bought some fabric at a steep discount because it was the last of the bolt, and cut it to fit the length and width of the truck. I have screens on my sliding topper windows, which I recommend, because you can get nice, fresh air even with the curtains pulled. Just as a safety measure and additional privacy, I put up a big sunshade in my truck cab across the windshield.

Staying clean on the road:

Just like in backpacking, truck living can make it tricky to maintain good hygiene. I always keep a pack of baby wipes on hand for cleaning and a nightly “bath.” Since I don’t have to worry about item weight like in backpacking, I also keep a toiletry bag with all my normal hygiene items. There are places to shower on the road. My favorite is at the YMCA, but you can usually find showers at other community centers, truck stops, friends of friends of friends’ houses, etc. I also keep a roll of toilet paper in the truck, because I normally camp where there are no bathroom facilities. (See my “poo post” for more detail about going in the woods.) I do keep a trowel in my truck since I don’t have to consider weight or space.

To help me out mentally while truck living, I like to keep everything nice and tidy. I make my bed in the mornings, keep my clothes and gear organized (everything has a home!), remove all trash (this includes in the cab!) and air out the truck. If you’re going to be spending more than a few days living in your truck, invest in some sort of air freshener.

Living in the truck – my gear:

Ah, the joy of not having to weight everything or make sure that it fits in a 50-liter pack! I take a lot of gear when I live out of my truck, because I can. For my bedding, in addition to the sheet that’s always on the bed, I take a full size pillow, quilt, and summer sleeping bag (Mountain Hardware Lamina 45). For clothing, I keep it all in one bag (love my 50-liter RAB kitbag) and have it secured under the platform. I hang my Luci lantern from the ceiling (using an extra curtain hook I glued to the center) and read or work on my laptop. For cooking, I keep a tub of kitchen stuff – frying pan, spatula, dish rag, soap, spork, bowl, small cutting board, propane canister, etc. I carry a gallon jug of water, and sometimes a cooler. I also include my backpacking kitchen kit (MSR pocket rocket stove, MSR fuel canister, Snow Peak pot and lid) if I just want to make quick coffee or something in the morning. For my main cooking, I carry a two-burner Coleman camp stove. I secure all this gear under the platform on a bungee going across the tailgate hooks and each item is attached with a climbing quickdraw.

truck bed life draws.jpg

Where to park:

There are so many options for parking when you are truck living. While in Idaho, I camped mainly on BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land that I discovered by word of mouth or via thedyrt.com. I also camp in rest areas a lot. Other options are campgrounds (when I feel like splurging and paying for a spot that also gives access to restrooms and showers), Walmart/Sam’s Club parking lots, and friendly people’s driveways (at their invitation, of course).

So, there’s the basics of my truck living. I have other friends that live out of their trucks full time and are much more experienced and have lots of tricks and tips. Loren, for example, has a built-in system that includes a sliding desk. He also has a really rad Coleman camp sink.

I’d love to hear your tips, tricks, or questions about truck living!




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