Last Updated on September 7, 2021
On my last camping trip, I decided to hang up my old Coleman Sundome finally. It's a solid tent, but when a rather large spider found its way inside, I knew it was time to stop sleeping on the ground.
In search of a good option, I checked out the prices of many rooftop tents and was mortified - most of those come for a thousand dollars and upwards!
There were, of course, truck bed tents, but if I wanted to sleep on the floor, I would have slept in a ground tent. On top of that, a truck bed tent has to be fitted in the back of the truck, which may not leave much space for other camping goods.
My 2015 Chevy Silverado had lots of space in the truck bed, and I had always wanted to experience camping in the back of a truck.
So I searched around the internet and realized that a tent cot might be the perfect solution for me. Lots of people were putting in DIY truck bed tent cots, and the pictures looked amazing. In this article, I will share what I learned.
The Problem With Setting Up a Tent Cot in The Bed of A Truck
A standard pickup truck bed is about 6'6" long and 5' wide. Longer trucks can have a bed up to 8' long and 5' wide. Some trucks have super small beds as well.
In comparison, the most popular Tent Cot, the Kamp-Rite Tri-Fold Original, is about seven feet long when set up (Overall dimensions: 84″L x 28″W x 35″H). The Kamp-Rite Tri-Fold Oversized tent is about seven and a half feet long (90″L x 32″W x 47″H). Do you see where I am going with this?
Tent cots can be a bit too big to put them straight onto the bed. But you can build a platform to hold them. That's what we are going to talk about in our workarounds below:
Truck Bed Cot Workaround 1
All Dodge Ram 1500 models have a bed width of 51 inches, which will never be enough to fit in a tent cot. One simple DIY way is to build a platform that can hold the tent cot's legs (the legs of the Kamp-Rite Original are about 48 inches apart).
All you need is to set up four milk crates and maybe a couple of 2x4's to account for the eleven inches height that the Kamp-Rite Original gives you, and you can place your tent cot on top.
Truck Bed Cot Workaround 2
While the previous idea will cost you pretty much nothing except for the tent cot itself, you might have wondered how stable the system is.
Well, if you have a Tonneau Cover in your pickup, you can build a much more stable base. If you have an old rack on your pickup, add the rack legs onto the tonneau cover (see here), and you have the support beams which can hold your tent cot (in place of the 2x4's that we used earlier).
For the tent, unbolt the legs off your tent cot, and just put it on top of the rack. You will need to add a wooden ply in the middle to provide a support beam in place of the tent cot's slats.
Once your tent is ready, you can bolt it to the rack assembly using four U-bolts.
Both of these solutions used Kamp-Rite tent cots, the Double and the Oversized. Check our Best Kamp-Rite Tent Cot article for these and other options.
Truck Bed Cot Workaround 3
If you are looking for a stable base but don't have a sliding tonneau cover or rack legs, you can build your support base for the tent cot in the back of your pickup.
Here's what you will need:
- A drawer liner
- Four hole washers
- Truck bed liner
- Spring nuts
- Camper shell clamps
- Two 10-foot sections of Superstrut
- Angle grinder
- Cutoff wheel
- A tape measure
- A drill press
- Masks and safety glasses
First off, measure the width of your truck bed, making sure that you add a couple of inches to the width of your rack. Now take out the bolt from your camper shell clamp, and drill a thread using your 3/8th inch drill bit on the other side of the clamp instead. These clamps will hold the bed steady.
Next, cut out sections of your Superstruts based on the bed width that you measured earlier. Cut out drawer liner and put it underneath your clamps to protect your truck's body. Cut the four-hole washer into four separate sections as well.
Next, put the lengths of Superstruts on your pickup's body and clamp them on using the camper shell clamps, washers, and spring nuts.
And there you have it - a nice base to put on your tent cot!
It might be possible to fit a smaller-sized backpacking tent cot in the back of the truck longitudinally. The Uboway below might be the best option as its rainfly connects directly to the tent body instead of staking to the ground, which is precisely what you'd need on the bed of the truck. Other options may work too, but the rainfly would have to be attached to the truck bed anchor points, if any.
UBOWAY Tunnel Backpacking Cot Tent (dimensions 75 x 47 x 45 inches).
Getting a tent cot set up in the back of your pickup is a smart way to sleep overground without having to shell out a lot of money on an RTT. It requires a bit of effort, but it will be rewarding for you in the long run if you can spend the extra hours.
It's a cool way of staying above the ground while camping with your pickup. Happy camping!