Back in 2006, I received my dad’s 1999 GMC Sonoma pickup. Essentially, an S-10 with good makeup, this type of truck does not get made anymore —a compact pickup truck that is as basic as it gets.
In addition to the small size, it had a stick shift, a 4 cyl engine, with no power locks or power windows. The six-foot bed meant it hauled stuff reasonably well, and I could easily fit in some outdoor gear. Tellingly, I sold it in less than an hour on Craig’s List a few years later when my then-wife and I bought a different vehicle. I am not the only person who appreciated a compact pickup.
Though not the best vehicle for Colorado with its winters, I immensely enjoyed the truck.
And the best part of the truck? The truck tailgate.
The truck tailgate made a handy seat, a place to cook a quick meal the night before a trip, a place to look at maps, or stage equipment.
It ended up being my favorite part of the truck and what I missed when I owned an SUV.
When Joan and I borrowed her parents’ truck during Christmas 2019, I quickly remembered how much I enjoyed having a tailgate. We’d sit on it, prepare lunches, use it as a table, etc. All things I did a few years previously.
In June 2020, we purchased our Tacoma and immediately started appreciating the tailgate as the best part of the truck.
Be it dispersed camping trips during the winter months or a quick evening of camping just before our trip, and the tailgate proved the best piece of gear.
And that’s the Gear Pick of the Year for 2021 – A truck tailgate!
Why a gear pick of the year for 2021? Because my favorite pieces of gear mean gear that I don’t think about, don’t have to futz with, and just works. And the tailgate fits that bill!
Arguably, it is one of the most used pieces of gear in our combined equipment list.
Let me count the ways we use our tailgate –
- A kitchen counter for quick food or hot drinks at the trailhead or quick camping trips
- A place to look over maps or guidebooks
- A handy bench
- A table for extended dispersed camping
- An ottoman for those over 5’6″
- A handy place to take photos for shoe comparisons!
…and many more!
There’s no question about how much we enjoyed and used our truck tailgate this past year. And why it is such an integral part of our outdoor system.
Where to get it? While you can purchase a tailgate separately, I find a tailgate works best when paired with a truck. Alas, due to supply chain issues, both new and used trucks are in high demand vs. when we purchased the vehicle. Your favorite search engine is your friend.
May the odds be ever in your favor!
 In 2021, the unibody Honda Ridgeline, Hyundai Santa Cruz, and the Ford Maverick fill this niche to some degree. But no 6′ bed and limiting the usefulness vs. the Rangers and S-10s of the past.