Living in a Truck: A Manifesto

Meet my tiny universe.

This is where I lived for the summer. Below are 10 of my best tips for living in the back of a truck (or any small space)

#1: Stay Clean(ish)

This applies to your person and to your truck. I make a point of cleaning up the cab a bit every time I refill, and getting my bedroll out requires a certain amount of open space. The entire red mat on the left in the photo must be clear for the bed to unroll. When you’re living in a small space, a small mess can become a big mess quickly. On the upside, even large messes rarely take more than 15 minutes to clean up. Also, these are a great idea, and a good deal.

#2  Have Bins

Or drawers. Or crates. Or shelves. You need something to keep everything in your small space organized and out of the way. In the same token, you don’t want stuff you need every day (like clothes) to be hard to access. If I were going to set up the truck again, I would find somewhere else to store less-used clothes so that the green drawers could be a set of two, and fit standing up.

The organization system I had for the truck worked well. I mostly cooked using the cooler as a counter, and all my food and kitchen related items were easily accessible in the open top crates. The blue bin in the back stored re-fill items, like extra rolls of toilet paper, cans of camp fuel, or packages of baby wipes.

#3 Get Indoors

You might notice that I don’t have the traditional dirtbag truck build. Instead, I use a shelf, an idea I picked up from Steph Davis. The great thing about this for me is that it avoids creating the tunnel like space that most people end up with after building storage underneath a deck. I can even sit up straight inside my truck (with a regular-height Leer cap) because I am so short. It’s win-win.

Taller folks (like my friend Tom, who is 6’4″) would probably need to get a van instead to get sittable-space. I strongly encourage having it if you’re going to live in your vehicle. It means that your vehicle can be a home on four wheels, somewhere you can hang out when you need to, instead of just a bed on four wheels. It also means that if the weather is bad for some reason, you can cook inside your vehicle. In windy conditions, this saves time and fuel, because your food will cook faster. If it’s raining, it means that you don’t have to put up a tarp to stay dry while you cook.

Home on 4 wheels

#4 Actively Avoid Accumulating More Stuff

See #1. Depending on your financial situation and the amount of spending money you have, it can be tempting to buy more stuff. This makes it harder to keep your space clean, and it also makes it harder to stick to your budget. The fewer possessions you have, the better.

#5 Bring Something Homey 

This was important for me, because I was on the road by myself. Most of the time it’s awesome, but sometimes, it’s lonely. I brought my favorite, most comfy, best-blanket-in-the-world and slept with it most nights. Bring something that will make your feel connected and loved, because at some point on the road, you might need it.

#6 Bring Entertainment

You’ll want to be able to entertain yourself, but also other people. If you like reading, a Kindle is a great idea, because it will save you a ton of space in books. If you read all your books, you can explore the large number of books Amazon will sell you for free. Be warned: some are scarily bad! A deck of cards or an easily packable board game are also great to have, in case the weather’s bad or you have to kill time until your climbs come into the shade.

#7 Bring Extra 

… of important but small and easily misplaced items, like head lamps or lighters. In fact, for lighters, you probably want something on the order of 3, not counting the one in your pack. Tie one to the stove, so you won’t lose it. Get a cheap light up key chain and keep it somewhere you can find it easily in the dark, like your glove compartment. Your back-up light can then be used to find your real head lamp.

#8 Get an Inverter

This makes charging your phone, ipod, kindle, etc easy to do if you’re driving around. If you don’t already own them, buy jumper cables at the same time, just in case. I know more than a few folks that have drained their batteries by powering things using their car.

#9 Be Comfy When You Sleep

If this means putting up screening so you can crack a window, do it. My bedding was very simple–the ridged plastic bed liner that came with the truck, covered by the red yoga mat you can see in the picture, on top on top of a 2 inch thick foam pad I got for free from a friend. I sleep deeply and well no matter where I am, so I didn’t need much in the way of creature comforts for my bed. I met people who sleep on mattresses though. Know yourself–you’ll want to be able to get a good night’s sleep.

#10 Be Safe 

Don’t park in sketchy areas. If you have a bad feeling about something, listen to it! I slept in a few rest stops along the way (generally not advisable) and more than a few Wal Marts. My rule was always to never sleep anywhere I didn’t feel safe, and only sleep in places where someone else was already sleeping. This worked out quite well for me, and I never felt threatened by anyone while I was on the road.

Anything I missed? Sound off in the comments!

8 thoughts on “Living in a Truck: A Manifesto

  1. Pingback: City Love, City Hate | One Girl, On the Rocks

  2. Pingback: how to be a dirtbag climber girl | One Girl, On the Rocks

  3. Choosing a spot to park up for the night is something that I still get a bit hinky about. If there isn’t anyone else sleeping out where I am I try and go for out of sight, a quiet residential area (moving on early in the morning), or a well trafficked public place.

    • Yeah, after the first rest stop (thanks, Iowa!) and WalMart (thanks, Nebraska!) I felt ok sleeping wherever. I could lock myself inside the truck, which helped w/ my peace of mind. And I never parked anywhere that didn’t have cell reception. In the end, folks seem to find out what they’re comfortable with pretty quickly, and then just do that for the rest of their trip.

  4. Pingback: Living in a Truck: A Manifesto | The Man And His Steed

  5. Hey,
    I came across your blog because I am interested in doing something similar myself. I am also a single, female climber looking to roadtrip across the US. Do you mind sharing some of your beta with me? What did your budget look like? How much money did you have to save before hand? Did you feel safe traveling alone? How did you find climbing partners to climb with during your trip? Anyway, I’d love to hear from you. Your trip looks amazing and I can only hope to do it one day too.

    • Hi Jennifer!

      Budget – I have a whole post on this planned for when I come out of blogging retreat! Basically the big three (four) expenses are going to be gas, food, camping fees, and (social spending/beer).

      I roughly guesstimated fuel costs for my route based on # of miles between areas, gas mileage of my truck, and a $5 gallon of gas (prices were high before I left). I added about a tank per week, also conservative.

      Depending on how you eat now, you might want to add about $100 to your monthly grocery budget and use that as a conservative figure. This accounts for food spoilage/buying ice.

      Camping fees can be estimated or looked up pretty easily.

      I felt safe travelling alone! My tolerance for sketch is apparently pretty high, but I felt 100% safe when I was around partners.

      You can get a feel for how easy it is to find partners using MP. Some areas will have a central gathering point where it’s easy to find folks, like Miguel’s at the Red or the Bivy at Smith Rocks. Other places, like Ten Sleep, it can be a bit harder (but not impossible) to find people to climb with.

      Good luck! Shoot me an email at if you have more questions! :)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s