March 04, 2024 8 min read

Introducing HEST Quest! This year, we want to take a deeper dive into what IS the ultimate BEST set up for sleeping outdoors? Is it a van? A rooftop tent? The back of your truck? A truckbed camper? A tow behind trailer camper? A ground tent? With so many options for a base camp, we're on a mission to find the BEST. 

This year HEST has set out to answer the big question: What is the BEST car camping set up? 

Whether you are new to camping or a veteran overlander; everyone wants to know what is the BEST setup. What’s the most efficient, cost effective, easy, comfortable set up for sleeping outdoors?  HEST Quest will explore all the different setups; sharing the benefits and setbacks of each plus “how to’s” tips when it comes to building or shopping for your next mobile base camp.


Here is the overall scorecard and grading key when we looked the best truck camper category: 

Here is the average scorecard for the category based off the grading of four different types of set ups: 

What Type of Truck Setup is best?
The Truck camper is a classic and comfy choice for someone who is interested in preserving the utility of their truck while upgrading the comfort for their sleep setup. With even the most simple camper shell & platform, your truck can transform into a cozy, cruisy weekend sleeper. Add a HEST Dually into the mix, and your sleeping like truck royalty. 

In this blog we will explore a couple different platform options for your cozy 4WD truck camper nest:

DIY Simple Truck Platform Build
Flated Platform Bed
DECKED Platform Bed
Truck Vault Platform Bed

While each option has its benefits, there's always room for improvements in any build. Comparing them side by side is a good way to understand exactly what kind of truck camper upgrade will work best for you. 

How Many Does it Comfortably Sleep? 
Across the board here- all these standard truck bed camper (not including any additional Roof Top Tents) can sleep two adults comfortably with squeeze room for a kid (fur or human) or two if they're on the smaller side.

In terms of spacial comfort: the headroom can sometimes feel a little limited in a truck, which is variable depending on the height of your camper shell and the rise of your platform. Headroom space is something you should consider as you take steps toward building out your truck, especially for taller people. Over time on longer trips, you may get tired of the limited headroom in a truck camper. 

Other comfort considerations: your height compared to the length of your truck bed. If you are 6'0" and have a short bed truck, you can still get snoozy in there but you may be at a diagonal on the mattress. 

Is a Truck bed Camper Family Friendly?
Our Decked HEST Quest said it best:

 It’s just my husband, dog and I- I think it’s a hard set up for a family. We’d need extra sleeping space.

If your family grows out of the bed of your truck, adding a Roof Top Tent to the mix or a separate ground tent can create extra room for more sleepers. Also if you have a backseat in your cab: voila! a small kid or dog bed.

What about the 4wd/ Off Road Capability of a Truck bed camper?
In terms of off-roading: it doesn't get much better than a truck camper shell & platform in the 4wd department. The utility and drive-ability of a truck are fairly well preserved with a camper shell and platform. Especially if your setup isn't super heavy. Lots of other bigger truck slide in campers are heavy which does reduce your drive performance once you get out onto ruddier roads. 

The BEST 4wd performance of our Truck Camper HEST Quests: Flated Platform or DIY Platform Build
The Flated AirTopper & platform uses Air as to give it structure, so it makes it fairly lightweight compared to some other materials you can use for a platform. The DIY Platform is as lightweight as you can go in terms of wood or other heavier materials. 

What’s the kitchen/cooking set up like in a Truck shell camper? Is it inside or outside?
Across the board all of the truck camper options we explored were an outdoor/tailgate kitchen (Coleman stove and a cutting board on your tailgate). But for those of you looking to get a little fancier with your chef techniques:

The BEST truck kitchen from our truck camper options: Truck Vault
 The Truck Vault Base Camp 1 features a camp kitchen drawer: a complete kitchen set up that all packs away perfectly underneath your sleeping platform.

The camp kitchen drawer: a fully-extendable food-safe work surface complete with a bamboo cutting surface, two built-in spice and utensil drawers, and of course the camp-stove drawer. This last item provides a safe place to set hot camp stoves. While a stove is not included with the camp kitchen drawer, the stove drawer is compatible with many of the popular cooking apparatuses on the market including Jet Boil and Coleman.

How easy is it to set up camp, move around, go to town?
Of all the outdoor camping sleep rigs, your classic truck camper shell & platform are as easy to set up as open your tailgate & climb in! If you forgot to get ice or provisions in town, it's easy to pack up and move. No hassling with putting away a cumbersome pop top or Roof Top Tent, just close the tailgate & take off! If you want to reserve your spot. just don't forget to leave a camp chair or other marker behind so people know you're coming back. We know some truck campers who bring a changing tent just for this purpose! 

The BEST truck camper for ease of setup & movement: All of em!
Across the board, all of these options are easy to set up and change locations. If you're a campsite hopper, or if you're regularly using your truck to explore during the day or get to trailheads, the truck camper might be a great camping option for you.

Benefits/Pros: What do we love most about each set up?
Overall: the main benefits and of any shell & platform truck camper are:

  • Easy to install, set up camp and move around.
  • Off road capabilities - this relatively simple and lightweight vehicle camper option is fully able to 4wd. 
  • Budget entry level option to camper set up. 

Each set up has highlight BEST thing it offers:

  • DIY Platform Truck Camper: Ease of set up & complete removal if you want full utility of your truck back. Also AFFORDABILITY This set up is easy to build, doesn't require many tools or materials, and it's cheap.... especially if your thrifty! 
  • Flated Air Topper & Deck: The entire system can deflate! So it's easy to get your truck back when you have truck business to do. The lightweight frame also makes for great off road performance.
  • Decked Platform: Packed and ready! The DECKED drawers make it easy to store and organize all your camping tools & essentials, so you're always ready for an adventure. Also the durability of the platform: if you're hauling messy or bulky things that might mess up your sleep area, the DECKED durable plastic material won't break or get banged up. Plus it's waterproof so you can spray off the platform & your gear drawers stay dry. 
  • Truck Vault: Complete customization! If you have a specific need for your ultimate getaway truck: Truck Vault's Base Camp 1 is built to order, so it's easy to accommodate any additional customizations. 

Challenges/Cons: What is the main hurdle/setback of each Truck Camper set up? 
Sometimes you can't for see a pinch point or a problem in your build until it's been lived in, which is usually too late to change. Overall the biggest challenges of truck campers are:

  • Climbing in and out of the tailgate if you have to take an evening tinkle can be cumbersome, although still much easier than a Roof Top Tent.
  • Lack of Headroom! We mentioned this before and we'll mention it at least one more time in this blog... Headroom can be limiting.
  • Lack of insulation - if you're using a hardshell on top, it can get chilly in a truck even when insulated with a good Down Comforter and HEST Temperature Resilient memory foam. On especially frosty nights, you may get van envy for your friends who are toasty with heaters.

Here's each setup's biggest road bump, hopefully this will save you from a regrets:

  • DIY Platform Truck Camper: Lack of headroom! If you have an option to go for a higher hard shell, take it.
  • Flated Air Topper & Deck: The top/shell system doesn't lock, so everything needs to be stored under the platform or in the cab. Not great if you have large valuables like: tools or skis/ surfboards, although a locking roof box or storage rack could potentially solve this issue. 
  • Decked Platform: Took some time and effort to install the drawers. It's also fairly permanent so once it's in it's hard to take out. 
  • Truck Vault: Complete customization! If you have a specific need for your ultimate getaway truck: Truck Vault's Base Camp 1 is built to order, so it's easy to accommodate any additional customizations. 

What are the budget considerations for investing in a Truck Camper set up? 
Overall: a truck camper set up is a fairly affordable option to invest in for a baseline an adventure rig. Compared to the price tag for a fancy van or RV, a truck is a much more budget friendly option.

The BEST truck camper option for a tight budget: DIY Platform Build
If you're on a tight budget, or looking to save some $ the DIY Platform Build is the absolute best option here. If you're thrifty your material costs can be next to nothing. A great option for someone first getting into truck camping as well! With a low initial investment it's easy to upgrade or swap it out completely once you get a better idea of your long term needs.

The BEST investment truck camper:Truck Vault
Each Truck Vault is made to order, so the craftsmanship & customization options are great for someone who has a bigger budget to work with. 

What’s the swag level a truck bed camper set up? 

Truck campers overall are simple, classic and fairly discreet.

It’s a bit on an internal only swag factor- not a lot going on from the outside of my truck. But I like the unassuming nature of the setup. It’s my everyday car and my getaway adventure mobil that turns into a comfy bed wherever we decide to camp. 

A nice truck absolutely will turn heads, but in a low key understated way.

The BEST looking truck camper:Truck Vault &DIY Platform Build
For the minimalist, clean look: Truck Vault makes a beautiful system. Very sleek! The DIY Platform Build can be as intricate & bespoke or classic & simple as you make it, so if you want something custom and cool here's your chance to really go wild. 

Which HEST mattress works best in a Truck Bed Camper Set up?
HEST Dually with the works- fitted sheets, Double Comforter, Double Top Sheet, Pillows and Pillowcases


Also, follow along @hestoutdoors as we meet the people behind these different setups and build outs.