By David Link
The pickup truck – It’s an American icon, work tool and adventure vehicle. More often than not, it’s also the thing that those without one are always asking to borrow, usually along with your muscle. A truck can be one of your most valuable allies, and for some they can get you in just as much trouble as they get you out of. Finally, a truck is a place to store your gear in case you need it when you’re out and about. We break down the most popular outdoor gear that you might find in the armrest or glove compartment, under the seat, out back in the truck tool box, or even in the bed itself.
If you own a truck, the unfortunate truth is that someone might snatch something out of the bed when you’re not around. This concern can be countered by a truck bed cover or a truck bed toolbox, but the primary place where the majority of gear is stored is in the cab. We rank the top items to stock in your cab by importance.
Number one and number two are essentially interchangeable as the two most important items to pack into your truck. A flashlight can aid in outdoor, emergency, and repair situations, and from a dead battery to a problem in the undercarriage, it can be a great advantage to click the flashlight on should you need it. Since space is far less of an issue, a large, powerful steel tubed flashlight is the tool of choice here. Better yet, for those situations that require serious illumination, a larger hand-held spotlight can find a home in many trucks. The lumen output of these spotlights far surpasses that of any flashlight, and in conjunction with the headlights, there’s few jobs that can’t get done after dark with these tools. Several spotlight models can even plug into the vehicle should you run low on batteries.
Whether it is a crash or an outdoor accident while camping, a first aid kit is a must-have in any truck cab. These can fit under or behind the seat, and a basic kit should suffice for most situations since you’ll usually be able to transport the victim after appropriate treatment or at least call for help. DIY first aid kits are always the best since you can pack them full of additional supplies that are important to you, but don’t overlook the essentials. The Red Cross maintains a good list of the minimum equipment that should be found in any kit. Best of all, if you’re heading away from your truck you can just grab your kit. Just remember to replace anything you use and check the supplies yearly for expiration dates etc.
A good selection of tools should make it into your truck regardless like screwdrivers, pliers, and a small hammer to name a few. Whether or not these tools reside in your truck, you should also consider a top quality mulit-tool to supplement these. A multi-tool fits perfectly in the armrest or glove compartment, and it’s compact design means you can grab it and go if time is of the essence versus digging around for the right tool. It goes without saying, but get a quality multi-tool from a company like Leatherman or Gerber and skip the cheap giveaway clones.
One of the most important things you can stock in your truck is an emergency blanket. Mylar blankets are cheap and usually very small, so start there, but do yourself a favor and get a real blanket as well. If you break down or get stuck in winter conditions you may have to wait out rescue for a good while, and the combination of the two blankets will ensure that you don’t freeze in the meantime. Of course, the real blanket can come in handy in other ways like long road trips or extra cold nights on car camping trips.
This almost goes without saying, but keep a few physical maps of your area in the glove compartment. These days we’re so used to using our smartphones or GPS to navigate, but you can lose service or run out of power, so when you need to get home, that map might end up being your best friend.
Once again, you might not always have power when you need it. So for those circumstances where you can’t power up the truck radio, a good weather radio can help you stay informed. Dual powered battery / crank radios are nice, but it should be a rare circumstance for you to run out the primary batteries as long as you keep up on battery replacement or pack extra batteries. And hey, you can listen to the ballgame if you need a little extra entertainment when camping. Better yet, a good pair of two-way radios can help you out of jams where you and your companion might have to separate. One can stay at the truck while the other goes out to perform whatever necessary task needed, and you don’t have to worry what’s going on in the meantime. Remember that when it comes to two-way radios, the longer the range the better, so don’t cheap out on the one mile range radios.
Similar to the emergency blanket, there are circumstances where you might get stranded out in the cold. The problem with an emergency blanket is that it is far more effective when you’re in the cab, but if you have to get out and work, it’s not as convenient. That’s why a good pair of winter gloves, a stocking cap, and an extra jacket can be a lifesaver in cold climates. One other recommendation to consider is a poncho or rain gear. If it’s pouring and you need to get out to address something, it can really suck if you’re getting soaking wet in the process. Even just a cheap poncho is better than nothing, and they pack down very tight.
These two materials can serve a variety of purposes from covering materials in the bed to creating an impromptu shelter, and the possibilities just start there.
These are far less important to keep in a truck vs. a backpack, but they still are well worth keeping in your truck, especially since they take up very little space but can save the day in emergency or even just casual camping circumstances. Here the ability to have a repeatable firestarter that doesn’t use fuel is less of a concern, and a good store of waterproof matches and a couple reliable lighters should be more than sufficient. Those who like to carry magnesium sticks or similar starters shouldn’t shy away from packing them in their truck though.
As we’ve said, one of the luxuries of keeping gear in your truck is that you have more space to work with. While hatchets and/or axes will likely get left behind on day hikes, you can comfortably store a small hatchet or a larger ax in the cab if you so desire. You never know when these might save the day like helping you to clear a fallen tree (as long as it’s not too large) or serving as an aid when gathering firewood for camping.
Similar to the hatchet or ax, a folding shovel is another luxury that can be added to your truck without too much concern of space. This is another one of those “you never know when it might come in handy” tools, and a good steel folding shovel can suffice in most jobs that require digging or moving earth.
Finally, camping chairs are certainly more of a luxury, but when the tailgate isn’t a suitable seat for whatever reason, you can break these chairs out around the fire or river bed. While they do take up more space than most of the other items on this list, they can still fit in the cab depending on your model of truck. Worse case, you can always throw them in the back when you’re heading out for a sizable drive.