The fine art of the truck bivy

You get off of work on a Friday.

The drive is long to the trailhead.

It is dark by the time you arrive at the trailhead area.

You pull off to the side of the Forest Service road and find a place to park.

Your sleeping bag and pad are set up in the bed of your truck.

A quick night sleeping in the back of the truck is esp convenient. PCO Joan.

A camp chair is set up, and a cold drink is consumed. The night sky is lovely above.

The workweek is forgotten. You anticipate a wonderful trip.

You call it a night.

You hit the sack and fall asleep.

The following morning, coffee and oatmeal are made. You hoist your pack, lock the car doors, and head up the trail.

You just did a truck bivy.

PCO Joan


A truck bivy is my term for what is typically later night utilitarian camping.

A sub-set of car camping, but with a more utilitarian bent.

A truck bivy is a quick pre-trip camp when you want to be at or near the trailhead the following morning.

It is not for beautiful scenery or enjoying a good meal per se.

It is a way to maximize weekend time and, many times, a necessity.

I call it a truck bivy for a simple reason: Most people who do this type of late-night bivvying sleep in their vehicle or simply cowboy camp. Setting up a shelter in the dark is not fun and requires scoping out a good site.

Something I’d rather not do at 11 PM after working all day and many hours of driving.

A pickup (or the back of an SUV / wagon if you are on the shorter side like myself) is an ideal vehicle for this type of late-night bivy. Crawl in the back. Call it good. Or cowboy camp if the night air is dry.

PCO Joan

Obviously, there is no special gear needed for a truck bivy, but here a few things I found that have helped me over the years. Basically, the few extras are gear, so I don’t have to repack in the morning. I want to hit the trail ASAP in AM.  We always have these items packed in our ‘permacamping kit.’

  • Old sleeping bag:  An older sleeping bag, perhaps the bulky synthetic bag you started with, is just fine for this type of late-night bivy. Joan and I have two inexpensive rectangular synthetic bags zipped together along with a poncho liner and a fleece blanket each.
  • Camp chair and a small cooler: After a typically long drive after work to get at or near the trailhead, I am too keyed up to go to sleep right away. Sitting down, taking in the night sky, and drinking a beer I find is a good way to unwind after a full work week and the multi-hour, the usually coffee-fueled drive I just did to get to the trailhead area.

Want to maximize your recreation time? Leave Friday, drive, and do a truck bivy.

More efficient than leaving on a Saturday morning. And cheaper than a motel room on the way.

The scenery is often better, too.

(And don’t forget to pack for AFTER the trip as well)

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I used to be on BPL site
I used to be on BPL site
7 years ago

For lowlanders sea level dwellers, another advantage to driving to the mountain trailhead on the eve of the trip is acclimation to the altitude of 6000 ft for trailhead elevation.

Also I get to take photos of pre dawn twilight. Navy blue dark sky and hear the birds wake up and chirp at 4am

Also beat all rush from the trail tourists and large groups. I get the first 2 to 3 hours of solitude. Ponder life choices and the probability of a cougar stalking me at this moment.

7 years ago

Mags, what car are you driving? The one in the second picture?


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