Let’s talk about the what, how, why, and where to find the best organizer for your truck bed
The bed of any pickup truck is, more often than not, cluttered and messy. That’s just the laws of physics coming to play. But, that doesn’t mean we should just leave it that way. There are many easy solutions to keep our truck beds as clean and organized as possible.
For instance, a truck bed organizer would be an excellent accessory not only to clean up your messy pickup, but also help you optimize your space and give you easy cargo and equipment access.
Here’s a list of the best truck bed organizer ideas you can try to keep your pickup, Jeep, or SUV clean and organized:
- What is a truck bed organizer?
- Benefits of using truck bed organizers
- Types of organizers for truck beds
- How to find the best truck bed organizer
- The best organizers for your truck bed
- Our top pick: The Cargo Bar
- Other truck bed organizers
- Bonus: fun dual-purpose truck bed organization ideas
- How to organize your truck bed
- How to install your truck bed organizer
- Final Thoughts
What is a truck bed organizer?
To put it simply, truck bed organizers are organizational solutions for pickup trucks and other similar vehicles. These devices allow users to optimize their existing vehicle space for various types of cargo.
As such, a truck bed organizer can be immensely beneficial for pickup drivers, since we often haul cargo that needs to be secured and protected. Not only will a truck bed organizer keep your cargo organized, they will also be safeguarded for the long, bumpy ride ahead.
There are also many different types of organizers for truck beds, each featuring a unique set of features to help you address your specific storage and organizational needs. Below, we’ll discuss more about truck bed organizers and everything you need to know about them.
Benefits of using truck bed organizers
The main reason drivers and car owners buy storage systems is to keep their vehicle cargo area organized, and the same applies to pickup bed organizers. These tools keep you from haphazardly stashing items on your truck bed, which makes it hard to find and access said items, and also creates the risk of accident and injury.
For instance, grocery items can easily get out of the bag and roll around or fly out of your truck. When it comes to your tools, meanwhile, these are more problematic since they can damage your paint finish or even cause rusting, and these tools getting out of the truck can spell serious, even fatal, disaster.
Using organizers, in this case, should be really helpful. Many of these organizers even have weatherproofing properties to keep your belongings dry when you’re driving under the rain with your truck bed exposed to the elements. Many truck bed organizers also feature various pockets and compartments, and most are collapsible or portable in some form.
Simply put, truck bed organizers…
- Organize and compartmentalize clutter
- Prevent items from coming loose and moving around
- Prevent your paint job from getting scratched/ damaged
- Protect your precious cargo against damage and getting soaked
- Allow you to easily transport your cargo from the truck bed to another location
Types of organizers for truck beds
As we mentioned earlier, there are many different types of storage systems for truck beds. Each type comes with its share of pros and cons, so it’s a must to take at least a cursory look at each one to be able to find the right storage solution that works for your needs.
For example, this organizer from Higher Gear Products may look like a standard bag, but it comes with a detachable and stackable lid, tie down straps, velcro fasteners, locking straps, and even light reflecting strips to help you see your belongings in the dark.
If you ever find your truck bed a little too short to haul the stuff you need to haul, like lumber, ladders, and metal poles, you will really appreciate what bed extenders can do for you. These devices give you secure extensions that keep your cargo stable, prevent it from sliding around and out the truck, and even make it easier to reach since you can place it by the tailgate.
A great example is the MaxxHaul 70231 Hitch Mount Truck Bed Extender, which you can use on any 2” hitch receiver. With its adjustable length, you won’t have any problem hauling even the longest piece of cargo. It’s also easy to assemble and unmount, and even features reflective strips for nighttime safety.
Now, while bed extenders are great for long items, large and bulky cargo like trash cans and luggage would do better with cargo bars. Such a contraption is designed to secure your belongings so they don’t slide around, which can dent and scratch your new paint job.
Essentially, cargo bars act like tension rods. As such, most cargo bars, like the Heininger 4016, are extendable and adjustable, and also feature rubber mounts that ensure non-slip gripping power that won’t damage your truck. However, unlike tension rods, cargo bars require a bit more effort to install.
Hard case or box
You’ll also see lots of storage boxes or hard case organizers if you look for organizer solutions for your truck bed. These are designed to fit most trucks, and typically feature tonneau covers and bed liners for added protection.
Hard case organizers like the Undercover SwingCase are great for heavy equipment. With such a storage system, you can optimize often unused space by the wheel well. You can also secure your items with locking mechanisms, and access them easily thanks to the 180-degree swing function that positions the case by the tailgate when accessing your tools.
Soft cargo bag
Alternatively, you can opt for a soft, foldable/ collapsible, and portable soft cargo bag if you’ll mostly be dealing with things that need to be moved around and carried from place to place, such as grocery items, worksite tools, and sports equipment. These bags are designed with multiple pockets to let you really organize your things rather than dump them in a sack.
The hitch cargo carrier bag by CZC Auto is a good example. It has a decent cargo capacity so you’ll be able to fit lots of stuff inside, but it’s versatile enough that you can also use it in your minivan, passenger car, or SUV. while soft cargo bags aren’t as durable as hard case boxes, they’re still designed to last long thanks to the use of abrasion and water-resistant materials.
Finally, there are also storage nets, which are essentially made to be tied down to the top of your truck bed in order to keep your cargo from flying out of the vehicle. They don’t exactly organize your items per se- at least unlike bags and boxes, but they do keep things in place.
Storage nets are great for both big and small objects, especially irregularly shaped ones. And, since they are highly adjustable, you can stretch and expand a storage net to completely cover the entire length of the truck bed, or use it on your sedan or SUV. Plus, when not in use, you can easily remove the net and store it without taking up too much space.
How to find the best truck bed organizer
Now, aside from picking out the right type of storage system that works for your truck bed organization needs, there are a few other things you must consider in order to really make sure that you’re buying the best possible organizer for your needs and budget. These include vehicle compatibility, construction quality, mounting permanence, and so on.
Bed extenders, cargo boxes, and cargo bars are usually made of aluminum, plastic, or steel, while accessory packs and cargo bags typically feature some plastic and fabric material with weatherproofing capabilities. Cargo nets are, of course, made with the usual netting material.
Among these materials, plastic is the most lightweight and easily portable, while aluminum and steel are heavier options. The weight is important not only in terms of portability and ease of use, but also when you’re hauling heavy cargo, since the organizer itself adds weight.
Aside from that, you also have to account for rigidity and service life. Plastic, for instance, is more likely to break or dent, and is also more susceptible to wear and tear, while metals are more capable of confidently carrying heavy items.
Portable vs mountable
Depending on the type of storage system you get, it can either be easily removable, or is designed to be mounted to the truck bed permanently or semi-permanently. What you need to keep in mind here is that mountable systems are more secure, stable, durable, and are more likely to last long, so the only downside is that they are quite difficult to install properly.
Meanwhile, portable organizers may not hold up as well as mountable ones, but they do allow you to transport your belongings easily from your truck to another location. You can also pack them up as needed. At the end of the day, it’s up to you to decide which option entices you better, and which one you think will work better for your storage and organization needs.
Another thing with the permanence of your storage system is that you might need to account for vehicle compatibility. This is usually more of an issue with mountable systems, since there’s an installation process included. Fortunately, most semi-permanent organizers are constructed for universal fit, so you shouldn’t have a problem with compatibility, but it doesn’t hurt to check.
An easy and foolproof way to do this is to measure your truck bed and compare the dimensions to the organizer’s size. You can also search for products that are specifically designed for your vehicle’s make and model. Or, just opt for the portable storage bags and nets that are designed to be used just about anywhere.
The best organizers for your truck bed
Below is a list of the best truck bed organizers we found. We included a wide variety of options to accommodate different storage and organization needs, some with dual functionalities to really let you maximize the use of your limited truck space.
Our top pick: The Cargo Bar
Among the various types of truck bed organizers we talked about earlier, our favorite is the cargo bar. It’s simple, easy to use, versatile, and also quite affordable. You can use cargo bars for a variety of storage needs, such as light to moderately heavy cargo. (Just keep in mind that too heavy cargo may put strain on the system, thereby affecting its structural integrity.)
And, while cargo bars are intended to be semi-permanent fixtures, it’s also easy to remove them if you don’t have use for them, and storing is easy and won’t take up any space, since you can just place the bar on the truck bed and leave it be.
Installation is relatively easy too, especially with this cargo bar by Keeper 05059 Ratcheting.That’s because you just need to crank the ratcheting system a few times, and you’ll get a snug fit that works for just about any truck. It’s even adjustable with a length of 40 to 70”.
- 40 to 70 inch adjustable length
- Easy installation and removal
- One-size-fits-all design
- Secure ratcheting system
- Ideal for trucks that come with tonneau covers
- Positions your items near the truck’s tailgate
- Not the most durable option
- No security mechanism
Other truck bed organizers
For item-specific storage, we highly recommend these options:
If you want to bring your road or mountain bike to your cross-country roadtrip or your upcoming vacation with your friends, a bike rack for pickup trucks is a good way to secure your bike, usually by clamping the fork to prevent the bicycle from moving around while you’re driving.
Bike racks are also designed with protective features to prevent scratches and damage on both the bike and your truck. And, some even let you haul multiple bikes on the road.
If you need to elevate certain equipment and maximize your truck bed’s storage capacity, using a ladder rack can give you dual storage from above and below. This type of truck bed storage is typically used for kayaks and other watercraft, rooftop tents, and other lightweight cargo.
Alternatively, if you want something that’s specifically designed to haul your kayak or canoe safely, you should opt for a kayak carrier. Such a device is designed to mount on your truck’s receiver hitch and offer a solid, stable surface for your kayak, paddle board, or canoe to rest on while you’re driving.
Those looking for a simple yet versatile solution to keep their cargo secure and organized will really appreciate ratchet straps that are designed to securely tie down big and bulky items like watercrafts, motorcycles, ATVs, and other cargo.
Ever fancy of installing a giant drawer on your truck bed? Slide-out storage systems let you do just that. With these, you can store all your tools, fishing gear, hunting equipment, and other things, and keep them protected against the elements, thanks to the waterproof sleeping platform on top.
Tie-down tracks aren’t technically storage systems themselves; rather, they give you a way to use your preferred storage solution like ratchet straps and storage nets by giving you spots to securely tie the straps and nets down.
If you like the idea of storage nets but would prefer something that can also keep your belongings dry, waterproof covers are a good idea. They’re much like tarpaulins and rain coats in that they’re waterproof, easy to use, and packs into a compact package.
Bonus: fun dual-purpose truck bed organization ideas
The bed of a truck is not just there for hauling items. They’re fun spots to hangout and enjoy the trip with your friends, too. And, what better way to really maximize that spot than by turning it into a mini-pool?
There are many ways to do this- buy a specialized pickup pool online, lay down some tarps on your truck bed, or use those inflatable kids’ pools. Either way, you get a good dose of water fun, and the pool can also double as a containment for wet, slimy, grimy, and dirty cargo like bike wheels, coolers containing live fish, construction soil and sand, and so on.
Slide-out mobile kitchen
What if we told you that you not only can bring your kitchen essentials with you so you can cook on your next tailgating or camping trip, but you can actually cook on your truck itself? With a slide-out mobile kitchen, it’s totally possible.
Truck bed hammock
Finally, after a long day of fun and excitement, sometimes all you want to do is relax and stare at the sunset. Truck bed hammocks are the perfect partner for that activity. These are just like storage nets, except for people (and pets). In fact, with a bit of creativity, you can use them like you would a storage net, too.
How to organize your truck bed
Buying a storage organizer is only half the battle- the more important thing is actually using it in such a way that your truck bed looks clean and, well, organized. To do that, there are a few things you must take into account:
- Store the bigger and less used items near the front of the truck, and the smaller things that you need to be able to grab and go towards the tailgate.
- Secure each piece of cargo properly to avoid rattling and sliding. Use bumpers and other protective materials whenever necessary.
- Make sure that your truck organizer has some waterproofing ability to protect your items, and cover said items completely so they don’t get drenched if and when it rains.
- Remember to properly and fully close the latch of the storage system, and whenever possible or needed, add a padlock or combination lock to really secure your belongings.
How to install your truck bed organizer
Each type of truck bed storage comes with a different installation process. Some are easier, such as with cargo bags, since you only need to drop it on the bed, fill it with your items, and zip it up, while others require following detailed step-by-step instructions.
A common denominator, however, is to make sure that (1) the organizer fits in your truck bed, (2) you secure it properly, tying and screwing and cranking wherever needed, and (3) don’t use the organizer for things it’s not supposed to be used for.
The best truck bed organizer is one that can safely secure and contain your cargo so it doesn’t move around or scratch and damage your vehicle- or worse, fly out of your vehicle while you’re on the road.
As you have seen with our list above, there are plenty of options you can choose from depending on your storage needs, your vehicle type and size, your spending budget, and your personal preferences.