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This couple turned their truck into a “Rolling Yurt” to avoid crowds. It worked!

By Marla Pattison
The story of our “Rolling Yurt.”

Living in California’s Central Valley provides many opportunities for wonderful camping excursions. Within a couple of hours’ drive, we have wine country, beaches, and numerous alpine lakes. However, camping in these settings requires planning. Typically, to take our 29-foot Class C motorhome, reservations require a six-month lead time during the summer.

In 2021, many areas of the Central Valley had a record number of days exceeding 100° during the summer season. To escape the heat, many residents go camping at the beautiful nearby options that are often 20-25° cooler. But here’s the rub. As you watch the forecasted temperatures start to exceed 100°, if you don’t already have campsite reservations, finding an available site can be daunting.

The solution to booked-up campgrounds

My husband and I have found a solution. While perusing available campsites, it occurred to us that if we go tent camping during the middle of the week, for just a few days, we could find availability and escape the stifling heat. Having just retrofitted our 2013 Nissan Frontier Pro 4x pickup with a unique solid oak and steel flatbed, we had an option to do this.

With our creative juices flowing, we scoured the garage for materials to use, and so was born the “Rolling Yurt.” Our treasure hunt in the garage proved fruitful: a foam mattress from Grandpa’s cabin, a large unused sun-sail, a curtain rod, a torn sheet and some basic camping gear. We had also just acquired a solar generator and a small electric fridge/cooler, perfect for a yurt outing.

Putting our garage finds together, the mattresses fit perfectly on the oak flatbed. The sun-sail fit over the ladder rack and sideboards. Between the cab and truck bed, I utilized the torn sheet and curtain rod to fashion a curtain. After assembling all the components, we determined we had a cozy sleeping arrangement and a reasonable barrier from blood-thirsty mosquitos and other annoying critters. All that was left was to field-test our “Rolling Yurt.”

Testing out the “Rolling Yurt”

Fortuitously, my sister called just then to invite us up for a 4th of July outing at a nearby lake. Hmmm… perfect field test?? It took us a while to gather and plan what was needed for a quick getaway while having a few comforts of home. The 4th of July proved successful, and I slept well on our overnight escape.

On the next outing, my husband and son stayed two nights at a high elevation campground. Reservations were made at a small “tent only” campground next to a lake. This outing was also a success but came with some clear recommendations for upgrades and preparations for yurt excursions.

Needed upgrades

The recommended upgrades included storage options and a dedicated camping gear cabinet in the garage. For storage, I sewed some pockets on the sheet curtain, allowing us a spot for our phones, our pajamas and other items to be at arm’s length when in bed.

We had been ready to donate two small wall cabinets, which ended up being a perfect fit on top of the ladder rack of the flatbed and provided great storage. We also realized that to keep out any rain from a summer shower, which can happen in the Sierras, we needed some waterproof canvas. With some canvas and two seams, I was able to fashion a more robust cover for our Rolling Yurt.

Now we were ready for a two-night adventure on our own. First, we waited for the weather forecast to call for a round of excessively hot days, found a beautifully maintained campground at our desired lake, and found it easy to make reservations a week ahead if you tent camp for just one or two days. We were set.

We also added a small coffeemaker, electric griddle, market lights, and LED puck lights. This excursion was almost a complete success, failing only to make a fresh cup of coffee on the second morning due to the lack of juice from the solar generator. We need to add a longer cord for the solar panels so they can move to face the sun throughout the day!

We love our Rolling Yurt and get plenty of comments and compliments on it. It is clean and convenient and… IT WORKS!

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Bruce McDonald
2 months ago

We have run into tent camping sites that specifically prohibit sleeping in your vehicle. Even so, having a small camping vehicle such as this or a fancier Class B, does open up many opportunities. We have a 5th wheel and a Class B that we got a bit over a year ago. Now we are much more likely to take the Class B for short trips of a day or two or even a couple of weeks. But the 5th Wheel is still very useful for long trips – like wintering in Texas.

Brenda
2 months ago

Anyone who can camp during the week will have less hassle finding sites, unless it is a holiday week. When we are looking for campsites, it seems that even on weekends there are tenting sites available. Maybe this will encourage more folks to explore back-to-basics camping?

Steve
2 months ago

Forty years ago, we did much the same with a pickup camper shell. I built a 2×4 and plywood frame to get the bed frame just above the wheel wells. Two old foam twin bed mattresses fit the bed perfectly and there was storage below the bed frame. We took the old canvas tent along, with me and the two older boys sleeping in it, while my wife and our youngest son slept in the truck. With the truck having 4WD, we could get into some fairly remote camping areas in the Colorado Rockies. Our boys were in year-round schools with fall and spring vacations, so we could camp midweek. When the aspen were changing, we camped in some of the most beautiful campgrounds in the nation and were sometimes the only campers there!

Carlos
2 months ago

We too live in the Central Valley of California, we go to the coast regularly and dry camp with our 30 ft. Rv . We get there on Sunday afternoon and leave Saturday morning. We seldom have other campers there until Friday afternoon.

mimi
2 months ago

Although it looks good, with the waterproof canvas as a covering, wouldn’t it get hot in there? No screening, no “windows” ?
But you are right–there seems to always be tent sites available and midweek, especially.

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