I have spent a night in around-zero weather (30ish give or take) in my 15 deg bag and a fleece union suit and I didn't enjoy it too much, and I'm not even that cold sensitive. Is there a portable (so it's not permanent) solution to add some thermal insulation to the inside walls of my truck cap to make it sustain down to about 20 deg outside weather while keeping it around 40 inside.
Since the space is not all that large (6' bed on a Tacoma) and the roof of the cap is regular, I imagine my body could warm up the area as long as this prospective insulating solution was in place. I'd probably go with a foam roll mat under you, as your biggest heat loss well be conduction through the metal bed.
As the space isn't that great, the cap shouldn't need insulation, but this will depend on your sleeping bag. You might want to look at Reflect ix, a thin, well-insulating material used for car windshield shades, among other things.
For the floor, conventional camping sleeping pads are probably the best bet. One thing to consider, You could use an adhesive thermal insulating liner on the underside of the bed cap, it would be semi-permanent but I don't see it causing any adverse affects if left in place year round.
This material could be used for the bed and the cap, it is made to dampen sound and insulate the inside of vehicles from heat from the engine bay/firewall but would work equally well at keeping it inside. As for losing heat from the top, get a warmer sleeping bag or just put a blanket over the existing one on cold nights.
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One of the most important aspects of truck bed camping is being comfortable while sleeping. One of the biggest mistakes that I made when I got started with truck camping was neglecting my sleeping setup.
I set out from the PNW in the dead of winter and passed through Idaho and Utah (read: *really* cold in January). I survived those early days but quickly realized that my initial sleep setup was not ideal… The pillow turned out to be fine, so long as the weather was above freezing.
And let’s face it, I’ve got a truck, I’m not carrying all this gear on my back up a mountain, so size and weight isn’t the biggest concern (though it should be considered). After a month or so on the road I quickly turned to REI and picked up the Therm-a-Rest Neo air Dream Mattress, a 25 inflatable mattress with a thin foam topper and a nice fabric cover that zips on and off.
I would not recommend using a huge truck bed air mattress that fills the entire area of the wheel wells, those are generally more of a “neat idea” than something well-made for truck bed camping in any and all conditions. Be sure to pay attention to the R-Rating of an air mattress, and be aware that the cheaper you buy, the more likely you are to find it spring a leak.
During our first trial run truck camping trips around the Pacific Northwest we just decided to use my two backpacker Near mattresses (the All-Season and X-Lite) which are both 20 wide. They were the perfect size for my truck bed, and they wedged together nice and snug with no gaps.
I also worried that the ultralight backpacker material would spring a leak with such frequent use, or get a splinter or something from the wood. Ultimately, for the hassle of blowing them up and storing them, the concerns about durability, and the aforementioned plastic-y problem, I began looking for other options.
My truck bed has a space of approximately 39 between the wheel wells when sleeping in Base Camp Mode, and there are surprisingly very few options out there with that size. It’s a 3 thick foam truck bed mattress with a fabric topper.
The dimensions are perfect width-wise, but it is slightly over 6 long which is longer than my truck bed. All-in-all the Eton Sports Cot Pad is an affordable and viable option for those looking to maximize their sleeping space and don’t want to worry about the potential problems of a truck bed air mattress that can spring a leak.
Ideally, I’d like to see a cross between the Eton Sports pad and the Near Dream. It would be the size of a twin bed (39 wide by 6 long) and include an easily removable and washable fabric topper like that which is currently on the Near Dream.
Enjoy this post about choosing a truck bed mattress or sleeping pad? You could get an outside system like the Gallery Yeti, but I recommend using a dual battery and isolator under the hood.
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