Living in Your Truck




About: Hi :) Thank you, humbly for taking the time to explore my projects. I thoroughly enjoy learning and working with my hands, and hope that you find what I create, and the intentions behind them both worth you...

Living in your vehicle is quite easy, and a humbling experience to boot!

Here are some things necessary to keep in consideration when living in your truck...

Step 1: Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Keep in mind that in order to survive and have a good quality of life, you'll need a structure like this. The strong base allows for a healthy state of mind and affords one the wellness needed upon which to build and continue a humble life on the road.

The pyramid is interpreted like this: to maintain quality to one's life, the bottom most layer must first be fulfilled. Only after that can the next layer really ever be finished, and so forth.

This Instructable gives an idea of how to fulfill the initial bottom layers.

A great book to have on your person is: How to Stay Alive In the Woods, by Bradford Angier.
Lots of basics of survival can be learned there, and it behooves one to always be prepared for the unexpected. I mention this book at this point because Mr Angier shows a multitude of ways to fulfill the aforementioned bottom tiers.

Step 2: Food

Food can be relatively easy to come by. Most people would never go 30 days eating the same food every day. When it comes to survival and self preservation, it becomes fathomable to live off anything as plain as a couple potatoes a day just to get by.

If saving cash is high on your list, frugality isn't anything to be ashamed of. You can maintain a low trickle of expenses by frequenting cheap eats offered in places like Costco ($1.50 hot dogs w free drink), Del Taco (Buck-and-Under Menu), Subway ($5 Footlongs), Dollar Stores (different food items of varying shelf life can be had here).

Cooking can be done with a simple backpacking stove. Fueled by propane/butane, these little rocket stoves heat up food items quickly (5minutes) and are an integral part of outdoor living.

If you had the time, you can also devise a way to wrap/protect food and cook it in your engine bay during lengthy drives. This is somewhat of an art and takes practice to perfect. Start easy and experiment with potatoes wrapped in foil left near the car headers or any consistently high heat source (if I may suggest, first wrap the potato in a wet napkin and poke it with a fork before covering with foil). Over time and with great care and observations, you'll get the hang of this particular method. Practice makes perfect in this manner:)

Step 3: Water

Water is a strange thing... It's everywhere but it can be difficult to attain.

It can be used for washing, cooking and drinking. It comes in many forms, so the simplest way(s) to have access are as follows:

-A gym membership gets you access to warm showers.

-An annual pass to your state parks gets you access to potable water (and shower access, too).

Consider the annual cost of a gym membership and a parks pass VS renting a room. You'll find the former to be significantly more friendly in the wallet.

Here's one method to have water available in your truck:

Step 4: Shelter/Vehicle

If you're already equipped with a truck, the best purchase you can make is the camper shell. I prefer a high-top. These are just the regular shells; not the campers that come with refrigerators and benches and such. I prefer these because they do just fine for shelter and space, and don't overwhelm the truck's appearance with the imposing size of cab-over n pop-out campers, etc.

Most RVs get sub 20 mpg. My truck gets 18-22 so I can get around and not have to worry too much about fuel expenses.

Step 5: Warmth

These kinds of radiant heaters take little space and work wonders in small spaces. They may not heat your surroundings to 72 degF, but when it's 50 outside and windchill is a factor, 65 in a camper shell with a tiny heater still sounds mighty comfy.

In case of seriously cold cases, I'm also equipped with a propane heater. The particular model is Mr Heater Little Buddy. (***Follow all instructions and use these heaters properly).

Step 6: Creature Comforts

On the road, all the space you can utilize will be helpful. Since your whole life will be with you at all times, you need to organize and understand the raw necessities you'll need to have vs ones you want to have.

Remember, needs and wants are different things. Over time, you'll refine your belongings based on the direction your journey is headed.

I've found that I need the following:
-Plenty of storage (for supplies, gear, tools and food)
-First-Aide Kit
-Mental Stimulation

Step 7: Security, Storage, Privacy

The camper and roof storage has locks. The truck has an alarm, and for extra measure, you might want to carry a weapon or two. Pepper spray (I imagine) can be just as useful as a first line of defense.

Besides the space in the camper, you can also use the space on top. I have a Yakima box next to where I keep my surfboards.

Privacy is attained by way of humble supplies found at Walmart as well as reclaimed material from around the house. Drapes line all four sides and cover every window in the camper. I leave the truck cabin open so it doesn't look like I'm living in the truck. It is my opinion that it's also a good thing to be able to separate 'living quarters' from 'working space'.

Step 8: Stability

My stability is afforded by a great career. I work in the healthcare industry. The money is good, although sometimes the hours are lacking. As it is, lets just say: I live in the silver lining of life's "cloud".

Step 9: Freedom From Fear

I don't fear the local crime rates because I don't stay in sketchy areas; and as far as fear goes, there must be something scary abound for me to fear. This is just in regards to people that can potentially harm me. So, most times I'm really just making sure I maintain a minimum income, and have the bottom of my hierarchy of needs covered.

It goes without say: never put yourself in a situation that can potentially overwhelm you or others.

Step 10: First-Aide

This is simple: buy an adequate first-aide kit at your local drug store -and beef it up w extra supplies. Signal mirror, heat blanket, large gauze, tourniquet, whistle, epi-pen, tweezers and a nail clipper, etc etc. you can never be too prepared when it comes to needing to save your own or another's life. I also suggest taking a class on Basic Life Support to acquire your American Heart Association CPR card.

Your kit won't be the same as the next person's. yours might be tailored to hiking in the woods or living on the beach or even the desert. All the same, the aim is to make sure the contents are adequate for your potential hazards and injuries, and that you or your companions (if any) understand the use of the contents of said kit.

Step 11: Safety

Having a CB radio really helps during loooong drives alone. Sometimes it's nice to just listen to people chatter back and forth. As humans seem to be social beings, this type of equipment alleviates any notions of being alienated.

All social reasons aside, the best reason to have a CB is for safety. Channel 9 is the designated frequency to report urgent situations. Monitored by local authorities, as long as you can reach your mic and send out your "20" (radio-lingo for 'location') then you can bet that help is "just a call away".

Step 12: Power

400w Inverter with 2 three-prong outlets and a USB port. Helps maintain power in your electronic devices whilst on the go.

Step 13: Wellness

Some of the things I keep on my person are picnic blankets, books, jars/containers, extra fuel for fires, food --you know, the typical items:) But, another thing to consider is the quality of your life during your journey and adventures in your vehicle. Sometimes (when I'm in a conducive area) I collect pine nuts and keep them on the side for whenever I'm just bored or observing and absorbing the day. I also have surfboards because... well, I love surfing! The point is, I maintain that if you are to continue in such a path as life on the road, you should also keep grounded and zen-like by mastering your sense of self and composure. Activities that interest you (that are harmless to others) can help to maintain said sense:)

That picture is of a pigeon that was hanging out in the sand under the warm sun while I laid out on the beach post surf session... And there's a horrible shot of my lovely GF getting low on her backside bottom turn:)

Here's an actual list of what I carry:
Gym bag, pad locks, bike carrier, surfboards, fleece blankets, sleeping bag, tools, axe, various cooking devices and pots/pans, first aide kit, flash lights, lanterns and ambient lighting, musical instruments (didgeridoo, ukulele, guitar, cajon or djembe drums, maracas), wax for surfboards, surfboard repair kit, skateboard, stool, bench, pantry bin, fishing poles n tackle kit, a few electronics (in case I'm near wifi or have access to rent movies from the library), dirty laundry bin/bag, survival guide, expandable load/separator bars, bungee chords, small cooler, jug of potable water, canned foods, can opener, folding table, umbrella, wetsuit, swim fins... and I'm sure I'm forgetting a lot more things!

Yes, they all fit --I've got a lot of storage space:)

Step 14: Why Do It? Why Not?

Many people of many circumstances and backgrounds and such live in their automobile. Whether it be an RV or a simple hatch-back, one appeal is the cost. Here is the unrealistic (but truly plausible) cost of living in such a manner. Please be forgiving when critiquing the outlook, as this situation applies to my situation, and yours may differ. You can see that with a stable income and no heavy perpetual bill (as in a mortgage), it looks reasonably affordable to live a mobile life.

I should add that renting storage near your stomping grounds is a viable method to hold your larger things. This is where you can keep seasonal items like sweaters during the summer, or sandals during the winter --you get the idea:) I should have factored this expense into the budget... Erm... Oops! X)

Though there are many factors that can be taken into consideration when budgeting and just plain getting by, it still remains a viable argument that mobile living is both quite affordable and tolerable.

Here's my GF, beautiful as ever --she gives me the strength to persevere, and is the reason I won't give up achieving. When times are tough in any aspect, it helps to have a support system. She's my guiding light, so don't forget your loved ones are near if you're ever in a slump or need some lifting up.

Step 15: Evolving

"There's nothing constant but change."

I forget who spoke these words, but I'm going to keep this Instructable evolving. As time goes on, I'll have to make more and more refinements to accommodate for the changing seasons and locations.

Please feel free to visit and revisit this particular page for possible future changes and updates, and comment as necessary. After all, as good music is meant to be shared, such is good health and intention.

If you've any questions or need specifics, I'd be glad to share. Just send me a comment and I'll do my best to reply timely.

Good luck on your journey and mobile adventure!




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    164 Discussions


    4 weeks ago

    I have a 9-to-5 job, but I live in South East Asia where the open roads are perfect for short weekend or cross-border drives. I find that I am mostly paying for an apartment that I do not need so much space for. Considering this alternative truck living lifestyle where I think will give me balance.


    1 year ago

    Thanks for your knowledge. The road is coming SOON!


    2 years ago

    How do you dry your clothes without looking conspicuous? I can only think of using the laundromat for this but is there a way to do it without spending the money on this?


    4 years ago

    My wife and I did this for a while, and I want to share our experience:

    We would park at a Hiliday Inn or like, at the back, close to the dumpster, which afforded more privacy, and access to rear entrance, where we could enter and use bathroom and ice machine.

    If rear entrance was locked, just walked in the front, as if we belonged there and exited via back door.

    In the morning, we would look for open room doors, since a lot of people checking out leave it open.

    We would raid maid carts for towels, put Do Not Disturb sign up and showered and whatever else we had to do.

    A goog breakfast is absolutely necessary. Go to a buffet.

    At times we went to hotel's free breakfast bar (they don't always check room key) and took some fresh fruit, hard boiled eggs and rolls for lunch.

    2 replies

    Reply 2 years ago

    Totally dishonest dude. Where's your integrity. You are robbing others of their livelihood however small you rationalize it to be.


    Reply 2 years ago

    Seconded. I work at a major vacation rental property that's managed like a hotel. Reading that, I was a little disgusted. I have a co-worker living out of her truck, but the most she does is use showers in the pool changing room at a very off hour to avoid issues, and with permission from management. People who work in hospitality already go above and beyond daily for people, and to think there are others who still want to take further advantage like that (raiding housekeeping and stealing food) doesn't make me feel great. If you were less shady, and maybe actually tried to do the human thing and create a positive relationship with a hotel manager, you might find you can use a shower without sneaking around so much. But stop stealing food and stuff from properties. That really sucks.


    3 years ago

    This article is perfect.i just started living in my truck. Luckilyni have a full size supercab so until i can afford a topper this is good. I know im new at this livig but to save on food costs could always get a fishing license. Im a survivalist so i already had most of my own food catching items and a cpl holder for more food ideas. Fishing license is like 10-15 dollars and small game if done within season is either trapped or cost of a bullet/pellet. So fairly cheap. Also i used to work at a grocery store in produce and sometimes you can buy the produce at a greatly lowered price. 50/75% off depending on store and location.
    Another way for food is food banks. Sometimes you can get to 3 or 4 a week and have a lot of different food for free. Now i didnt choose this lifestyle it chose me but i have come to realize how much better life is without all the things we thought we needed to live. Now i do storage auctions so im traveling and when i go to flea markets instead of hotel i will soon be able to sleep in bed of truck. God bless texas and its warmth.
    Also a good way to make food is road side parks. They usually have bbq grills. Just get a few branchs and make a fire and you can have a hot meal of hotdogs.


    3 years ago

    one of the best, most honest instructables so far. Your GF looks great, and i wonder what band you play in. With my wife I'm doing this since we built our old 250$ camper up in 2008, playing everywhere with cello band. Hopefully prices will come down on these outdated energy slurping bank-abused homes.


    3 years ago

    you're right styrofoam or urethane would be a better choice


    3 years ago

    that's really impressive and it make me feel like dreaming! over here in Canada it can go pretty cold during winter so it's impossible to live that lifestyle.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Nice set of thoughts about living on the road.
    In the western portions of America we have had little luck with the CB radio anymore, seems people are using cell phones for emergencies now. Even a cheapo unit for $5 will have an SOS feature that calls 911 without needing to have active phone service. CB is better for getting directions and traffic warnings, but only if anybody is talking on them anymore.

    Have a great time with your minimalist lifestyle!


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Hi, This is excellent information. Thanks for sharing this.


    4 years ago

    Hi Nancy,

    We've gotten away w using PO Boxes


    4 years ago

    How about an address? If you would need to apply for jobs, etc


    4 years ago on Introduction

    I currently have a camper, but am saving this for when that needs replacing. Excellent post, though I do wonder what power you are and what sort of advantages different powers might have/utilize in this construction. I suppose you were trying to keep it unbiased though, which is admirable.
    All in all great information, thank you for uploading it!


    4 years ago

    This has got to be the best Instructables post I've seen. I love it.the pyramid chart, and the excellent camper shell interior. It's what I've been wanting in my life !


    4 years ago on Step 4

    People more sensitive to fiberglass particles might want to avoid house type insulation that could float particles from road vibration. In a warmer climate an indoor/outdoor foam backed carpet will cover surfaces.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    I'm retiring soon and will live out of my truck. I gave up on truck campers as they are too big and cost too much. Besides, gas mileage sucks and I don't need all the room. I decided on a truck cap like you are using. I was going to go with an aluminum work cap but most people I take to say they don't last as long, aren't as waterproof, and are horrible with temperature changes. I'm going to get a good, tall one, with lots of window and electrical options. Pay for it now while I'm working and have more comfort when I retire with little cash. I guess a pension (at a young age) gives me an advantage over those who have to work when they travel. Thanks for all of the great advice. I plan on spending little on camp sites and more on gas and food. It doesn't hurt to bank extra cash if vehicle needs repair.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    The only constant in the universe is change -Einstein

    Very Nice. Every once in awhile we should all spend a little time just listening to the world instead of trying so hard to change it.