BACK­COUN­TRY BASE­CAMP

LIVE OUT OF YOUR 4X4 WITH SMART TRUCK-BED PROD­UCTS

4 Wheel & Off Road - - CONTENTS - BY Ben Bat­tles EDITOR@4WOR.COM PHO­TOG­RA­PHY BEN BAT­TLES

Live out of your 4x4 with smart truck-bed prod­ucts.

LAND­ING SOME­WHERE BE­TWEEN glamp­ing and rolling your­self up in a tarp on the ground like a bur­rito is liv­ing out of the bed of your truck. Do­ing it for a while forces you to make smart and min­i­mal al­ter­na­tions to your ev­ery­day life­style. Need­less to say, no flat screen TV, no fully loaded self-con­tained kitchen, and prob­a­bly no room for that espresso ma­chine. On the plus side, though, it’s not a tarp.

First and fore­most, we’ve al­ways found that (if fea­si­ble) sleep­ing in a ve­hi­cle beats pitch­ing a tent any day, hands down. We say this for a few rea­sons. First, it’s much safer and more se­cure in preda­tor (or dirt­bag) coun­try. Sec­ond, it’s night-and-day more im­per­vi­ous to in­clement weather and cold tem­per­a­tures. Finally, it’s mo­bile and ready to use at a mo­ment’s no­tice. There are oth­ers ad­van­tages—like not hav­ing to set up a tent in the rain, noise lev­els, and so on—but those are the big­gies.

Our own unique re­quire­ments for truck-bed liv­ing? There are par­al­lels in ev­ery­one’s needs here, but in a nut­shell, it needs to be rea­son­ably com­fort­able and com­pletely self-con­tained for one or two adults for up to a week’s worth of back­coun­try hunt­ing or, in a lot of cases, just plain camp­ing. All hunt­ing and camp­ing gear, sleep­ing ac­com­mo­da­tions, cloth­ing, and food has to be able to fit within the bed of the truck, se­curely, weather-tight, and well or­ga­nized. De­pend­ing on your own com­fort level re­quire­ments, mine is ac­tu­ally a very easy recipe to fol­low—with the right prod­ucts.

Years of camp­ing out of trucks and SUVs both big and small have al­lowed us to re­fine our es­sen­tial in­gre­di­ent list. We boil it down to the com­po­nents we feel are the bare ne­ces­sity to meet the afore­men­tioned re­quire­ments and to al­low us to call a 61⁄2-foot truck bed our digs for as long as we feel like liv­ing like a job­less vagabond. And speak­ing of jobs, if you hap­pen to be liv­ing with­out one, you’ll likely have to get a bit more creative than this, as nei­ther of these two main prod­ucts are par­tic­u­larly in­ex­pen­sive. Ev­ery­thing you see here, how­ever, would be money well spent, is ex­tremely durable, and does, at the end of the day, ex­actly what we need it to do time and time again with­out fail.

1 If you need to keep gear safe, se­cure, and well or­ga­nized in the bed of truck, we can’t think of many bet­ter so­lu­tions than the Decked bed box. Made from su­per-tough HDPE poly­mer and stain­less steel or coated steel com­po­nents, the con­struc­tion is both light-weight and highly durable. While not at all dif­fi­cult, as­sem­bly is some­what time con­sum­ing; we’d rec­om­mend set­ting aside half a day.

2 As­sem­bly time aside, the good news is that no drilling or per­ma­nent mod­i­fi­ca­tions are needed to your bed in or­der to in­stall the Decked sys­tem. It is se­cured us­ing hooked threaded rods that at­tach to the fac­tory tie-down an­chors at all for cor­ners through the “ammo can” stor­age pock­ets. Once in­stalled, it can be re­moved in about 15 min­utes if you find your­self need­ing more bed depth or pay­load ca­pac­ity.

3 Be­cause the Decked bed box runs over the top of the wheel­wells, pro­vid­ing a flat sur­face across the en­tire width of the bed, it max­i­mizes bed space and serves very well as a sleep­ing plat­form. It’s also lighter than com­pet­ing all-steel prod­ucts. With a 2,000-pound pay­load rat­ing on the top deck (paired with the op­tional Core Trax tie-down track shown here) you’re not giv­ing up much in cargo-haul­ing abil­ity. Fur­ther at­test­ing to the ge­nius of the de­sign, a bot­tle opener can be found con­ve­niently be­tween the two draw­ers.

4 The draw­ers of the Decked unit are bed-length and weath­er­proof, and roll out with amaz­ingly lit­tle ef­fort on hard rub­ber wheels that ride on steel tracks. Ca­pac­ity per drawer is 200 pounds. The op­tional weath­er­proof D-Box stor­age boxes fea­ture re­mov­able di­viders, lock into place be­tween molded-in stops to pre­vent shift­ing while un­der­way, and proved very handy when ad­di­tional gear or­ga­ni­za­tion or sep­a­ra­tion was needed.

5 Mov­ing on to our truck camp­ing shel­ter, the cap that fit our needs best was ARE’s CX HD model. Like all of the com­pany’s caps, you are able to cus­tom-build to your own needs and spec­i­fi­ca­tions on­line and have your cap shipped it di­rectly to the ARE dealer of your choice. ARE’s HD caps—avail­able in the CX (shown) and MX se­ries—fea­ture an in­ter­nal cage that triples the load ca­pac­ity of the roof racks (and side tool­boxes if you check that box), mak­ing it a great op­tion for a rooftop-mounted tent if you need more cargo vol­ume in the bed. The in­te­rior car­pet­ing op­tion makes it slightly more in­su­lated from cold weather, and also helps keep the deci­bel level down when your buddies refuse to call it a night around the camp­fire.

6 ARE’s op­tional Out­doors­man Vented Win­door on ei­ther side al­lows bed ac­cess along nearly the en­tire length of the cap, mak­ing it much eas­ier to reach gear closer to the cab. Like the rear hatch, they are also deeply tinted and lock­able for se­cu­rity. The cen­ter slid­ing win­dow is screened and of­fers good crossven­ti­la­tion when both are open. To date, we’ve only tested the racks to the tune of two kayaks, but they are ca­pa­ble of holding ap­prox­i­mately a dozen (or 550 pounds) if you can fig­ure out how to get that many up there.

7 The only down­side to the height of the Decked unit is that most adults will not be able to sit up straight with­out hit­ting their head on the in­te­rior of a cab-height truck cap, but in our minds, that’s a small price to pay for the ver­sa­til­ity that comes with this stor­age so­lu­tion. Of course, a raised-pro­file cap would likely fix that prob­lem, but we also wanted to be able to reach any­thing on the rooftop with­out a steplad­der. Us­ing the op­tional power strip, we are able to run our ARB fridge-freezer, air mat­tress in­fla­tor, and any­thing else that comes to life at 12 volts.

8 With a TJ Un­lim­ited in tow on a trip from New Hamp­shire to Cal­i­for­nia last sum­mer to hit the Ru­bi­con Trail, both the ARE cap and Decked stor­age unit proved in­valu­able pieces of equip­ment for keep­ing gear, clothes, food, and tools or­ga­nized, easy to reach, and out of the weather.

9 An­other huge ben­e­fit to the ARE cap and its fully lock­able and tinted win­dows is the added se­cu­rity for any­thing you’re car­ry­ing in the bed. Sure, if some­one wanted in bad enough, they’re get­ting in, but in the var­i­ous seedy ar­eas in which we’ve left the truck parked overnight, the peace of mind that the ARE pro­vided com­pared to a vul­ner­a­ble open bed helped ev­ery­one sleep a lit­tle bet­ter.

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