- June 2007
I checked out your slideshow that you presented in portland oregon a few months ago and was totally inspired. I had just returned from yosemite, where i was introduced to climbing and its history there. I read about harding and robins and seen clips of potters insane ascent of el cap and half dome, but just gazing at those walls was like nothing els. Anyway, I’ve been climbing since. the great climbs out in utah and colorado have brought me, my dog, and my toyota pickup out to rockies to stay for longer than i can afford to check in, rent out, or camp (commercially). So im living out of the back of my pickup now and i figured, with all your experience in this field, you’ve probably picked up a few good thoughts on truck living. would you mind giving some advice on the art of 4 wheel livin?
Well, you have already figured out the first tip: don’t try to live in your truck in Yosemite! Utah and Colorado are where it’s at, you can camp free and mind your own business and climb and climb and climb…. And you have already figured out the second tip: you need a dog!
Preferably one that is 40 pounds or less and fits nicely in the passenger seat. I got my first truck (a 2wd Ford Ranger) about nine years ago. I was living in an Oldsmobile before that. Which actually works pretty well, if you take out all the extra seats and put a piece of plywood down where the passenger seat used to be, for your bed.
But when I finally got a pickup, my friend Elaine gave me a great layout suggestion. I’m on my third Ranger now, and I’ve got it set up the same way, and I’m just as happy in the truck as in a house. The tip is not to do the traditional, full length platform build-in that most people do, where you have a truck topper, and then you build a big platform all the way inside the truck bed. Because then you are sleeping in a very coffin-like space, and have to tunnel in and out all the time. And then it’s hard to get things that have been stowed way under the platform, deep towards the truck back window side. You can’t really hang out in there, just sleep, which is crucial for cold or rainy times. You start wishing you had a van, which you don’t!! You want a truck! So you can four wheel and stuff! I mean, this is Utah after all!
So Elaine’s tip, which changed my life forever, was to keep it simple. She had a piece of 3/8” plywood which she had set over the truck bed rails, inside the canopy. But it just made a shelf starting from the far back inside of the truck bed (behind the pickup back window), and coming out about halfway across. And that’s it. You can put a normal sized crash pad in the bottom of the truck bed, and it fits perfectly between the wheel wells. So you keep your stuff organized in big bags or bins, and then at night, you make sure there’s some extra padding way under there for your feet, and you sleep with your head towards the tailgate and your feet under the shelf. This is perfect for many reasons. First, you have full headroom, because the shelf only comes up to about waist level when you have your legs under it. Second, you have a shelf in there, and you can put your stove in there if you want to cook inside. Third, you have a shelf in there, and if it’s a sketchy camp situation (or raining), you can stack all the bags and bins up on the shelf, and no one will know you’re sleeping in a truck. Fourth, you have a shelf in there, and if it’s cold or rainy, you can prop your back against one side of the truck and stretch your legs out crosswise and cook on the shelf, or read, or whatever, and have a full-on sofa/lounge chair setup inside there. Fifth, if you happen to find a stray dog one day (which happened to me last summer in Rifle, a too-big husky dog) who needs to bivy with you for a while, you can let that one sleep on the shelf, while Dog Number One sleeps on the crash pad with you.
I did have the normal platform setup in one of my Rangers for a while, because it came with the truck when I bought it from a friend. I tried it for a while, and it was terrible. A total space waster, and so much less comfortable when you can’t hang out inside there with full head room. I tore it out and used one of the pieces of plywood for my shelf, and life got good again.
Also, when you’re not living in your truck, the shelf makes the truck bed more useful too. It helps for hauling around lumber, furniture, whatever. You still have a full-size space in front of the shelf, but it’s more efficient when you can stack things in the back half of the truck bed.
Right now you’re probably laughing, thinking, “I know! I already have the shelf!”
Okay, here’s tip number four: tape a lighter to a piece of string, and tie that around the knob on your propane stove. That one changed my life forever too.