Choosing The Best Truck Cap For Winter Camping
There are many different styles of truck caps made from a variety of materials. Which one you should choose depends on your budget. Please take into consideration the condition of your truck, the size of the motor, and the transmission. The last thing you want to do is get all prepared to go camping and you have too much weight for your truck to comfortably haul.
Aluminum Truck Caps
While Aluminum Caps are much lighter in weight than a fiberglass shell, they are much harder to maintain warmth during the cold months and cool in the summer. This is due to the fact that aluminum is cold metal. This means that the shell will transfer the outside temperature and radiate it inward. For example, a windy cold day would produce windchill temps and you wouldn’t feel the wind inside the cap, but you would feel the cold. So if you already have or choose to buy an aluminum truck shell for camping, you are going to want to insulate the inside of your shell.
Fiberglass Truck Caps
Fiberglass Caps are in my opinion, a far better option for winter camping because they don’t transfer the cold as quickly as aluminum truck shells but are much heavier. However, you still should line the cap with some sort of thin layer of extra insulation.
Homemade Wood Truck Caps
If you are handy with designing and feel comfortable around power tools, this may be an option for you. There are some advantages with DIY wooden truck caps as well as disadvantages. Let’s talk about the advantage first.
You can build the cap tall enough so you can sit up comfortably.
The ability to build the front of the cap to extend out over the cab to provide more storage space or possibly a sleeping space.
You can custom build small shelves for storage or interior lighting.
There really is only one disadvantage, Weight.
Wood is the heaviest material of the 3 types of caps.
You need to take the weight of the cap into consideration while you plan and build it. Don’t be afraid to change plans during the build.
Creating A Cold Sink
Even with a well-insulated truck cap, there are still a few things you will need to do to help keep you warm. One of them is creating a cold sink. This can be done simply by making an elevated platform on which you place your sleeping pad and bedroll.
Colder temperatures will settle on the floor of your truck bed while warmer air will stay near the top of your truck cap.
This can easily be done with a simple wooden platform made from 2×4’s and 3/4 inch plywood. You don’t need to be up off the floor much, the height of the wheel well is fine. Depending on the truck cap, some truck campers make their sleeping platform level with the truck bed. That may allow more storage room underneath, but not necessary for a cold sink. But be careful doing this, make sure you will be able to sit fully upright in bed. Being able to sit upright will make the camping trip more enjoyable.
Insulating The Truck Bed
This is one thing that most forget about and after a few winter camping trips out, you’d learn rather quickly. Put something down to insulate the floor of the truck bed. A Bedliner is a good start. Most beds nowadays have either a drop-in bed liner or sprayed bed liner. Either one is better than nothing. Having something between your stocking feet and the bare metal of the truck bed makes all the difference in the level of camping comfort. You can also install a carpet to help add a level of thickness.
In some instances where the camping set up has become more of permanent insulation, the owners have placed a sheet of 3/4 inch plywood to the whole floor area and installed foam-backed carpet directly to the plywood. That way it was easier and more comfortable for their feet.
Staying Warm While Truck Cap Winter Camping
Now you have the truck cap insulated, the truck bed covered, and have an elevated sleeping platform. These will help keep you warm but you need more. A good quality closed-cell sleeping pad paired with a low temperature rated sleeping bag can make the difference between a peaceful sleep and a restless one.
Keep in mind, the sleeping pad and sleeping bag may help you when you are sleeping, but what about when you are eating or just hanging out? What are a few ways to heat up the air around you quickly for those none sleeping moments? Electric space heaters and propane heaters are perfect for these small spaces. Each option has its own concerns. Let’s talk about them.
Propane Camping Heaters
A small propane heater like Mr. Buddy is more than enough to heat up a small space like a truck cap. Most propane heaters only have three settings, OFF, LOW, and HIGH. Well it is good to get the area quickly up to comfortable temperatures, this is not something you want to leave unattended or running while you are sleeping. You will also want to have a carbon monoxide detector with you as well. Most small propane heaters run off 1 pound tanks but can be fitted with a long hose so you can hook up to a 20 pound tank. These tanks take up a lot of space, so most people run the line outside and have the tank there. Concerned about the dangers propane present and just don’t like the idea of having a propane tank around? Don’t worry, we also have electric heaters and electric blankets.
Electric Camping Heaters
If you don’t feel safe dealing with propane, there is another option for you, electric heaters.
There are a wide variety of types of electric heaters used for small camping spaces. Infrared heaters and ceramic heaters are the two most common for camping situations. It’s true you don’t need to deal with dangerous explosive fuel like propane, but electricity heaters come with their own problems.
You need electricity. While some heaters will run off 12 volt which means you can plug into the 12v power point in your truck, or directly to your battery, it’s not advised. That’s a quick way to run your battery down risking you being stranded. So what are the options?
You can have a small solar power set up consisting of solar panel, charge controller and a deep cell 12v battery and a power converter. This works very well but can be very expensive. This set up is a more expensive option for someone that is off grid truck cap camping junkie and not for anyone that occasionally goes camping from time to time.
The benefit of the gas generator is that the power converter is built in. You can just plug the power cord in and you have power. The downside is you are relying on how much gas you have. The sizes available and the price of generators have dropped a lot over the past few years and this has made generators for camping a more viable option over the more expensive solar powered set up. Even the smallest gas generator out there is enough to run a small electric heater for hours at a time.