I’d reason to be optimistic a month ago. My tax guy had just run the numbers and I was set to receive a decent refund.
Not life-changing, of course. You first have to earn life-changing income to receive a life-changing refund. But it was good enough to start planning for a significant purchase: a bed topper for my pickup truck.
A few days later I broke my leg and realized my refund will instead be consumed by insurance deductibles, and then some. I’ll have to get a second, or maybe a third job if I hope to save up enough to put a roof over the bed of my Ford Ranger.
I’ve had the Ranger a little more than a year. I downsized from my previous and well-worn F-150. The downsizing itself has so far resulted in an inconclusive cost-benefit analysis for my primary recreational vehicle.
This might make for a decent column in its own right. “Minimalist Midsize or Half-Ton Behemoth: How Much Truck do You Really Need?”
So far I think the bennies are winning. A bed topper will neutralize one of the biggest advantages the F-150 had over my smaller midsize: I could fold up the rear seat and sleep in that yawning chasm of flat, carpeted space behind the F-150’s front seats. It wasn’t perfect and I couldn’t stretch out straight, but I made it work on short overnight hunting or fishing trips.
My Ranger isn’t big enough for that and the rear floor isn’t flat. But the 5 ½-foot bed is a different story. There’s room to stretch out if I sleep diagonally.
This isn’t a solution for long-term camping, but if I want to weekend somewhere and truck camp, it will do.
The long-term solution might be a trailer. Those ambitions are downsized with my smaller truck, however, as well as the upward spiral of trailer prices.
There are several small, lightweight trailers good for one or two on the go and just right for my smaller truck powered by a turbocharged four-cylinder engine, rather than the V-8 of my F-150.
These lighter trailers are attractive for folks with mid-sized trucks or SUVs and unfortunately, prices have risen to a level that may make the compromises small trailers demand too expensive. I’m beginning to think a teardrop trailer makes more sense for the way I’m likely to use it.
One option I eliminated long ago was the increasingly trendy camper van. They’re expensive, have a nasty tendency to imitate a sail in a crosswind and require you to pack up your stuff and take it with you when you drive somewhere to hunt for the day.
If I’m gonna lug a place to sleep around to all my favorite out-of-state hunting spots, I want to drop it and leave it at the campground once I’ve arrived.
Teardrop trailers aren’t exactly cheap these days, either. I just read a comparison review between a camper van and a teardrop. The fiberglass tiny trailer looks sharp but costs north of $20,000. That’s well into the r-pod/scamp price range for what’s essentially a bed on wheels.
A teardrop is minimal, but that surely makes DIYers happy. There are kits and plans available, and building your own is generally going to be less expensive than buying something new. But I do recall one piece of advice from when I built my drift boat — do not expect to save money. You might, but there’s no guarantee.
But I’m racing ahead of myself. Step No. 1 in my plan for getting together a serviceable overnight sleeping option is piecing back together the money I thought I was getting in my tax refund and putting a topper on that truck.
Step No. 2 is throwing a sleeping pad in the bed and heading someplace where the fish are dumb and plentiful while the people are sparse.
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