How to Find the Best Truck Bed Tent

Photo credit: Amazon, Wayfair - Car and Driver
Photo credit: Amazon, Wayfair - Car and Driver

If you're the kind of person who enjoys the great outdoors but dislikes the hassle of finding a suitable campsite and staking a tent to the ground, you could be the the perfect candidate for what's called a truck-bed tent. These clever and highly portable shelters turn a hard-working pickup truck into a clever, convenient, and comfortable four-wheeled campsite with plenty of all-weather protection and useful features. We don't usually endorse the idea of sleeping in your vehicle, but doing so in a truck bed tent sure beats waking up in soggy sleeping blanket, with a rock digging into your back and a mud puddle for a pillow.

The secret to mobile-campsite happiness is finding the truck bed tent that best suits your needs. For instance, if storage space is a consideration, a lighter and more compact truck tent could be ideal. When you're traveling solo and dealing with rapidly changing weather, having a tent that's easy to install is a priority. After all, what's the point of having a great truck tent if you're fighting hooks and straps, while getting soaked in the process?

Photo credit: ferrantraite - Car and Driver
Photo credit: ferrantraite - Car and Driver

You'll need to take weather into consideration, too. If you're camping in hotter climates, you'll want lots of ventilation and breathable fabric—though if you value your privacy, make certain the windows have easy-to-close flaps.

In many cases, a rain fly is included with a truck tent. This is basically an extra tarp that fits over the top of the tent to provide an additional layer of waterproofing during heavy rain. Keep in mind, a rain fly might also cover most of the tent's windows, which will limit ventilation in warm and wet weather. A breathable fabric is also important to help avoid condensation and humidity building up in the tent overnight.

Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

While every truck owner and camping fan will have their own set of shopping criteria, we've scoured online for the most popular truck tents to assess what features each has to offer. Use these tips to figure out exactly the right truck bed tent for you.

Choose the Right Size

This sounds like a no-brainer, but it's important to note that different trucks demand differently sized truck bed tents. Make certain the tent you're interested in is offered in the bed length to fit your vehicle. Many tent manufacturers have models in a variety of sizes, and some are customized for a specific bed length. Be sure the truck tent you buy is made for the truck sitting in your driveway.

Keep the Climate in Mind

This is the point where we tell you to check the weather forecast. No seriously, it's important to take into consideration the general weather conditions where you'll be using your truck tent most often. Heading to somewhere where the sun blazes? Then make certain your truck tent has lots of windows and perhaps an integrated awning to keep you shaded when sitting on the tailgate. If rain is a major issue, be sure to pick a tent that offers a rain fly, or a more durable material with seams that are stitched firmly and waterproofed.

You Want a Comfy Bed

We've mentioned staying dry when it rains and cool when it's hot outside. But let's admit, camping can sometimes be a literal pain in the back. If the idea of laying down to sleep on a bare metal pickup bed isn't your idea of camping comfort, then know that some truck truck bed tents come with floor liners, which provide extra insulation and a clean layer between your sleeping gear and the truck bed. Granted, this extra covering means clearing the truck bed of any gear before you pitch your tent in the back; you don't want to risk tearing the fabric on something sharp or sleeping on a pair of pliers. You'll still want a sleeping bag – or maybe even an air mattress – but a floor liner can be a major plus point.

Know How Difficult It Is to Install

If you're camping on your own, you'll want consider a truck tent that is lightweight or at least easy to install. Some heavy-duty designs deliver superb protection, but they can also be complicated and tricky to put up by one person. Keep in mind whether you'll have someone to assist with installing a more complex top, or if simplicity and rapid installation is key because you're traveling solo.

Make Sure There's Access to the Cab

You might be getting away from it all, though chances are good you'll want a few electronics charged and ready while you're roughing it. Make sure the truck tent you're considering has a flap that opens in the section that's closest to the truck's cabin. This allows you to plug-in electronics and keep them linked (with a long enough cord) and handy when you're in the truck tent. There are also tents made specifically for SUVs, which cover the tailgate and provide a veritable sealed-off camping experience. Better still, many of these larger SUV-focused tents can quickly detach from the vehicle, allowing the SUV to drive away, leaving the tent standing on its own.

Details Make a Difference

In researching various truck tents, you'll find that small details can play an oversized role when it comes to choosing the right one. Zippers that operate smoothly and don't snag means you can seal up your screened entry way and windows to keep out buzzing and biting bugs. But how about zippers that glow in the dark, too? This is one of many cool details you'll discover on a the best truck tents. Removable awnings, interior hooks for a lantern, pockets to hold small items, and even a skyward-facing window for true sleeping-under-the stars experience are all available on today's best truck tents. Choose wisely and you'll have an outstanding mobile-camping experience.

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