This is the part you are probably wondering about the most, and rightly so. I’m not the first person to sleep in their vehicle to save money. I’ve read about, and know of people personally who have done it.
There are a few general rules to follow when picking truck camping locations in public. But I’m going to cover that later. First, I want to share with you what I feel the best locations are for sleeping in your vehicle.
Avoiding the Police
The reality in the United States is that many things are illegal, even if they don’t actually cause any harm to anyone. In most cities and states, sleeping in your vehicle and/or trespassing are arrestable offenses. While parking in vacant lots and on country roads at night is a viable option, I don’t think it’s the best one.
I actually recommend that you secure a location where you have permission to be. That way, should you attract the attention of the police, you can have a short conversation without lying, and then you’re good to go back to bed (and not to jail).
If you have family locally, you might ask if you could park somewhere on their property or in their driveway. If that’s not an option, I would then ask your friends and employer(s) the same thing.
Of course, their answers to that question will vary depending on how cool and/or open minded they are (your mileage may vary). This is also a fantastic way to see if people know, understand, and accept you for who you truly are.
I have incredibly cool bosses that also accept that I’m kinda crazy. When I asked if I could sleep at work the conversations both pretty much went like this:
Me: “I know this is an odd request, and feel free to say no, but can I park my truck in our lot at night to sleep so I can save money to travel?”
Boss: “Geez… You want to do what?”
Me: “I’m trying to save a few thousand dollars to travel internationally, so I don’t want to pay rent right now. I was just wondering if I could park here at night?”
Boss: *laughing* “Yeah, I don’t care. If that’s what you want.”
You have to have the courage to put yourself out there a bit and lay your pride on the line. If you succeed, you now have a safe, legal, free place to sleep at night.
Of course, you probably shouldn’t ask your employer if you risk getting fired as a result. Both of mine already knew about my travel plans and weren’t really all that shocked to hear the question.
Use some social tact.
If you don’t have friends and family in town and your employers aren’t an option, you could always just post an ad on Craigslist that you’re looking for a small piece of property on a farm somewhere to park your truck (at night only). Mention that you won’t leave any waste or trash and that you can pay $50 a month. If someone bites, you’re set. And don’t be surprised if you end up with a hot meal once in a while as a result.
Truck Camping on Public and/or on Private Property
Like I said, this is probably illegal (so you seriously shouldn’t do it). However, here’s how I would run it if I had to.
1. Rotate spots. Have enough suitable locations in the back of your mind that you don’t have to visit the same place more than once or twice a month.
2. Avoid rest stops, hotels, malls, plants, hospitals, or any location patrolled by the police or local security. Also, avoid places that don’t have any other cars parked overnight.
3. Some possible locations are: exceptionally large apartment complexes, unofficial carpool lots, parking lots with many other cars in them at night, national forests, country roads, side streets with all night parking, etc…
If sleeping in your truck is something you’re considering, keep in mind that there might be other options out there. You can reduce your rent costs a number of ways. For example, you could live with more people, sell your home, or move in with a friend (or your parents).
While truck camping is intriguing to read about, it’s not all fun and games.
I had plenty of nights where I didn’t sleep more than an hour or two, sometimes for multiple nights in a row. You get cold once in a while, and occasionally some not-so-friendly people end up hanging out around your vehicle while you’re trying to sleep.
Again, sleeping in your vehicle isn’t as safe, warm, or convenient as an apartment or house. If you decide to do this, you do so at your own risk. Sometimes bad things happen, be careful and use your head.