I used to practice minimalist truck camping… I’m just kidding. When I first started camping I wasn’t a minimalist, I was UNPREPARED. One of the most beautiful things about heading out into the backcountry is the unknown. I welcome the unknown when I’m truck camping and love not knowing exactly where I’ll sleep each night and discovering new things along the way.
However, I’ve encountered some unknowns that I’m not so fond of. These include flat tires, dead battery’s, broken equipment and more! The unexpected is going to happen when you’re camping and its so important that you are prepared with the right equipment to tackle any adversity that may come your way.
Over the years I’ve managed to get myself into many precarious scenarios that could have been easily avoided by carrying the proper gear. I still continue to add/change the gear I carry, but there are 15 items I will never go truck camping without.
Listed are the 15 most important tools to that everyone needs to include in their truck camping setup.
An air compressor tops the list as the most handy tool to have in your camping rig. If you use your vehicle to camp and you like to get out in the backcountry or anywhere away from civilization it is likely you’re going to experience a flat tire or two. For those with trailers this becomes even more common as trailer tires tend to be more feeble. Having an air compressor allows you to patch holes in your vehicle tires, release air for 4×4 driving, air up tires, or fill anything else that may need air along the way!
An axe is another one of the most important tools to have in your truck camping setup. Axes are simply the ultimate camping tool. I absolutely love my Fiskars X15 axe and do everything with it including sleep with it. Okay, I’ll admit, I only sleep with the axe when I’m urban camping in my truck in case of an intruder, but seriously, I’m always using it. I love having a big fire when I’m camping and it’s important to have a solid axe that can chop wood and kindling so you can keep that fire blaring all night long. Axes aren’t just useful for fires. I often use my axe to chop down trees that are blocking logging roads and use the back end as a hammer when setting up camp. I’ve even used my axe to clean/cook a fish when I forgot my filet knife.
Even if I am not planning on backcountry hiking I always leave my water filter in my truck. If you are planning on spending many days/weeks in the backcountry it is essential you have a method of water purification prepared. In the wilderness travel plans can change at the blink of the eye and you may need to stay longer than you originally planned.
In the heat dome in British Columbia I was drinking so much water to stay hydrated that I ran out of my drinking water 3 days before I was planning to head back to civilization. We were too far from town to source water so I sat in the river and pumped water jugs full using my MSR Miniworks microfilter pump. Needless to say, without a pump our excursion would have been ruined and we would have been dangerously dehydrated. There are many alternatives to pumping. I would recommend a Platypus Gravity filter if you are staying in one place for a while. You can hang them from a tree or in your vehicle so you purify water on the move!
Whether your hiking or camping, purifying water is non-negotiable and you should figure out a method of water purification that works for your style of camping and keep it stored in your rig.
Propane is the fuel for my stove and heater in my camping setup. Without it, I wouldn’t be able to cook hot meals, boil water or stay toasty in the winter. I always carry a 5lb main propane tank for my stove and fill it up before excursions. I like to keep 2 1lb green propane tanks in my truck in case I happened to run out. Eating is one of my favourite parts of camping and I wouldn’t be able to enjoy a hot meal without propane!
A headlamp is one of the most important multi tools and safety instruments that you want to keep on your person at all times while truck camping. From cleaning dishes when the sun falls, to trying to fix something under the hood of your car, or to hike back to your vehicle after a long days adventure, a headlamp is a must have! Flashlights are okay but it’s super frustrating to balance them on something or hold it if you are trying to use your hands. My Petzl Tikkna headlamp was a game changer!
Always keep some extra AAA batteries in your vehicle in case your headlamp runs out of juice.
After getting my ford f-150 stuck in a few precarious situations on Yukon 4×4 roads I decided to install a Smittybilt X20 Winch to my truck. A winch and winch plate only cost about $1000 and is without a doubt the most useful upgrade I’ve made to my truck. I’ve winched myself out of muddy campsites, helped others get out of snow banks and even pulled entire trees off of the road. If you are planning on doing any backcountry camping in your vehicle alone, you need to be completely self-sufficient. A winch allows you the ability to get yourself out of sticky situations that would have otherwise required a tow from another vehicle.
Tire Plug Kit
The vast majority of our 4×4 vehicles are equipped with one spare tire. But what happens when you puncture more than one tire? If you are driving gravel, dirt or rocky 4×4 roads it is possible that more than one of your tires could puncture. For this reason, I always carry a Tire Plug Kit and think it is a must have tool for all 4×4 enthusiasts. A Tire plug kits allow you to ream out the puncture, plug it, refill your air and continue along until you return to civilization and can get a professional patch on the tire. $30 for a plug kit is a heck of a lot easier and cheaper than calling a friend, or speciality company to deliver a spare or drag you out of the bush.
In winter and summer I always keep my handy Smittybilt Foldable Shovel in my truck. I’ve dug myself out of snow and mud too many times to count! Shovels are one of the most important tools when you are travelling on 4×4 roads and will actually be the tool that is most often useful if you vehicle gets stuck.
Jumper Cables & Jump Starter Box
If you don’t always carry jumper cables in your vehicle you should! If you’re charging electronics, or forget to shut a light off in your vehicle, the battery can die. Jumper cables are crucial to have even if you are zipping around town and your car dies.
If you want to be extra prepared, pack a jump starter box. If you are by yourself somewhere remote and your vehicle dies you will be in quite the pickle. I purchased a Noco Boost Plus and it has saved me on multiple occasions (I’m that guy who always forgets to turn lights off). If you do a lot of winter camping having a starter box should be a no brainer, sometimes your battery is going to deplete faster without a block heater in the frigid temperatures. Carrying a starter box can give you that extra piece of mind that you won’t get stuck in the wilderness on a freezing cold night.
Duct Tape is the king of the quick fix. I’ve used duct tape for quick patches for air mattress, sealing my tarp and tent and even holding my hiking poles together. Gorilla tape is my go-to brand. I even recall Adam and Jamie from the Mythbusters creating a boat solely of duct tape. Simply, Duct Tape Rocks.
Next to duct tape my favourite quick fix item are Zip-Ties. Zip ties can be helpful in a million ways. I’ve used them to secure tarps, as a makeshift loop on a broken tent and even as a zipper for my rain jacket.
Ratchet Straps & Bungee Cords
You never know when you’re going to have to carry something on the roof of your vehicle or strap something in the bed of your pickup. Ratchet straps and bungee cords are a great thing to keep in your truck all the time. I use my straps to keep kayaks secure, ensure gear doesn’t fly out of the truck bed, and even to strap trees for firewood on the roof-rack of my truck.
I use rope every single camping trip. The uses vary but typically will involve, securing tarps, acting as a clothes line to dry gear away from the reach of critters and tying my kayak to shore so it doesn’t float away in the wind/waves.
JB Weld is the ultimate adhesive and sometimes you have to make a fix that needs to be sturdy. JB Weld can be used on brick, concrete, automotive, metal and more. Believe it or not I used JB weld to patch holes on a friends aluminum boat and it saved our entire fishing trip!
This one is pretty broad but I think every camper should have a toolkit with an assortment of the basics. Keep a pair of work gloves, pliers, wrenches, screwdrivers and cutters! Tools always come in handy so chuck your toolkit into your vehicle!
The great thing about truck camping is that you have loads of room for storage in your vehicle. These 15 items don’t take up much space and trust me, if you camp enough, they will surely come in handy one day. You can thank me then.
Let me know in the comments what your most important gear essentials are for truck camping!
Keep On Exploring!
EVERYTHING YOU MENTIONED IS ABSOLUTELY CORRECT. TIRES!! I MIGHT ADD, GET SIX PLY NARROW TIRES ON THE TRUCK, THEY WILL EVEN HANDLE THE DALTON HIGHWAY.