Pack Small and Live Large

Maximizing Storage in your Truck Camper

When I open the doors of my truck camper for show, people are astounded I travel with the gear that I do. My rig is a 2014 Eagle from Four Wheel Camper (FWC) mounted on a 2007 Ford Ranger. In keeping with my minimalist style, I sought out the smallest and lightest slide-in truck camper available for the back of my Ranger.

I’ve always had a knack for packing. My first trip abroad was in 1970 back when kids didn’t have many opportunities to travel internationally. I remember my mother teaching me how to pack, rolling T-shirts and underwear, using every space available to her in the suitcase. Later as a sergeant in the army, I commanded a section of eight soldiers and I was responsible for all of our equipment in and out of our armored fighting vehicle. As a paratrooper, I jumped out of aircraft carrying all the gear necessary to fight and survive for 72 hours on battlefields from the arctic to the desert. If you didn’t pack it, you didn’t need it or if you did need it and you didn’t pack it, you went without! Necessity is a great motivator and lessons learned from those years of packing and using storage space efficiently, remain with me today.

From those lessons learned, I developed a few planning principles to help guide decision-making when packing small and living large. They are: be creative, use space wisely, functionality over form, and if you don’t need it, don’t take it. After time, these principles became innate whether I was packing an overnight bag for a work trip or packing my truck camper for a season’s worth of adventure.

Be Creative

Think outside the box when it comes to planning and using space for storage. The only limit to packing solutions is one’s own imagination. If creativity is not your strong suit, seek out the advice of others in similar situations. Solutions exist and people with experience are always there to help. Social media has multiple resources for groups who share our passion, including this site.

The newer FWC have two polymer based scissor supports which raise and lower the roof, one at the front and one at the back. Seeing the space left open when the roof was open and closed as an opportunity for storage, I devised a system which would not impede the operation of the support but would make use of the support for storage. I ended up riveting modular lightweight load-carrying equipment (MOLLE) pouches onto the polymer support that would hang into an open space when folded and sit upright and accessible when the roof was raised. 

Be Creative: MOLLE pouches riveted to bottom half of scissor support hold a variety of light weight supplies for washing and shaving, a first aid, candles, tissues, etc. Note the flat pouch on the right holds an iPad and folds down securely into the space above the counter.
Be Creative: (Left) Space in front of the jump window beckoned to be used for storage, especially when the bed (right) covered the Front Runner Flat Packs when pulled out. The bench back was shortened to fold down without moving the flat packs.

Use Space Wisely

An old army saying goes, “Take care of the little problems and the big problems will sort themselves out.” As much as soldiers don’t like to admit, the saying holds up to scrutiny. Apply the same logic to packing small and using space wisely. For example, if you lack space for large kitchen equipment, ensure smaller pieces like kitchen utensils can be folded, clipped together or stored inside each other to save space. If this step is applied to all smaller kitchen equipment, you will create an excess of space for other larger kitchen items.

Use Space Wisely: (Left) MOLLE pouch attached to the bottom of the factory installed shelving unit and can crusher (Right) mounted in space beside the sink. Solving the little issues is part of solving the big picture.

Functionality Over Form

The ability of equipment to perform a function should always take precedent when packing or designing storage for your truck camper. Pretty rigs in showrooms at SEMA may win prizes, but when it’s -40 degrees Celsius and you are in your rig in the backcountry, you need to know where your gear is and how to access it easily.

It would be nice to keep a truck in it’s original form, especially for resale value, but that’s not my style. Using the space behind the seats in the extended cab to carry extra gear in bags became such a laborious and unorganized tasked, I ripped out the bench seats, carpeted the space and built a custom storage rack to suit my needs. The storage rack holds all my truck accessories (winch kit, survival kit, tire repair kit, air compressor), tools (socket set, wrench set, impact driver and drill) and camera gear stored in a variety of readily available hardened plastic cases. The coup de grace is a tool bench drawer installed as an integral component of the storage rack which slides in and out holding a camera with a large zoom lens.

Function over form: Storage rack in the extended cab incorporates a slide-out tool chest drawer to hold a camera and zoom lens for fast and easy access. This purpose-built grab and go drawer has been used several times for quickly capturing shots of wildlife found along the roadside. Note the extension cords mounted in the window of the jump door.

If You Don’t Need It, Don’t Take It

Pragmatism, concerning packing and using storage space wisely, boils down to one simple concept; if you don’t need it, don’t take it. Vise versa if you need it, take it, but tailor it to the mission. For example, my kayak is usually mission essential equipment. Having said that, the idea of a roof rack never appealed to me for various reasons so I have a 17-foot folding expedition boat packed behind the passenger seat in the front cab.

Most truck camper owners I meet are a pretty cool breed. Not all are hard-core adventurers, but many have varied travel experience and have settled into truck camping after experiencing many other forms of travel. Most truck camper owners know what they need to live comfortably out of a truck camper for the duration of their trip and the majority will tell you what they have and don’t really need.

If You Don’t Need It, Don’t Take It: When acquiring mission essential equipment, have a plan where and how to store it before you buy. When possible, tailor your purchase to suit the storage space in your rig. Behind my passenger seat you find a tri-fold solar panel and kayak with a pair of rubber boots with snow shoes on top.
If You Don’t Need It, Don’t Take It: In places like the Baja, extra refrigeration is a necessity. Note the Engel 12-volt fridge built into the dash. It ain’t pretty, but it works!

I once told my brother I was thinking about replacing my truck bed with a flatbed equipped with aluminum storage boxes for my truck camper. His reaction was blunt. “You don’t need all the stuff other people carry. You know how to do without.” His statement was very much true, but I was caught up in the, “he who hangs the most gear off his truck wins,” mantra. His observation brought me swiftly back to reality and I saved me $5,000 to $8,000 when I really didn’t need to! Needless to say, for a moment, I forgot my principles to pack small and live large.

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About Martin Spriggs 1 Article
Martin is a blogger and an truck camper and outdoor enthusiast who enjoys writing. He works as senior primary and public health care specialist with experience in emergency management and humanitarian assistance.


  1. Hey Jefe

    Thanks for your kind words and no, I haven’t ever loaded tubas or any instrument into an aircraft! When I was in the Canadian Airborne Regiment, we did work closely with the para riggers and loadmasters for all types of parachute operations.

    You guessed right. The extension cords are for plugging into shore power and for plugging into block heaters at night when I’m working in a residential area in northern Canada. I don’t carry a generator.

    Best regards


  2. Martin,
    I’m glad you posted this. I like your style. You can surely tell your military and organizational heritage down to the desert camo look bags. I was loadmaster for the 562nd Air Force Band (a long time ago) which did a bit of traveling by air. Ever try to load and travel with a tuba, string bass and timpani on a C-97 or C-123? I see many of the techniques acquired from that gig. My question is for what do have the extension cords? If you are off grid, the only place you can use them is plugged into your generator, if you take one. Then the question is, what do you power? Maybe they are for plugging the TC into shore power, no?

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