If you’ve never seen a pick-up truck with a tarp in the back of it for a makeshift swimming pool, you haven’t spent much time out in the country. While there are so many types of pool out there, from stock tank pools to kiddie pools made in the shade, the truck bed pool always held a special place in our heart during the hot summer days and at a tailgate party or two. Now, you can actually buy a pick-up pool that was designed for your truck bed, whether you have a standard box or a short box, from Pick-up Pools. That’s right, no more slipping and sliding tarps here.
The liners come in two sizes: 6.5 feet for a standard box pool at $269, and 5.5 feet for a short box pool at $249. When you’re ready to close up for the night, simply drain the pool with the valve by the tailgate. Founder Tommy Prestella did some serious research to calculate how much water a truck could reasonably hold, so you can be sure each liner is made with safety in mind. How great would this be for a summer camping trip or a quick dip at home if you don’t have a pool?
I had the privilege of interviewing the team behind Pick-up Pools to learn more about this truck bed. Tommy Prestella is an Air Force pilot and runs the company with his sister, Diana Baima. Here’s everything you need to know about Pick-up Pools, including where to get your own!
How did the idea of Pick-up Pools as a business venture come to you?
TP: There wasn’t a product on the market and there was a market base for it. People in the South have been lining their truck beds with tarps and filling them with water for years. In the blazing hot Arkansas summer of 2014, I was looking for a fun way to cool off with my then two-year-old daughter. I had a truck and a tarp, so I thought to myself “why not?” and gave it a try. I quickly realized that is was not easy to do.
The one-dimensional flat sheet of tarp was very cumbersome inside the three-dimensional bed of my truck. It shifted and folded under the weight of the water and it kept wanting to collapse on itself in the corners, allowing water to spill out. I had to get creative with bungee cords and ropes in order to rig something usable. The final product was an ugly, wrinkled mess of tarp and a scratch on my paint job from one of the bungee cord hooks.
I thought to myself “surely there is a better way to do this” but a quick internet search revealed that there was not. That is when the idea for Pick-up Pools struck me.
Were there iterations different than what’s available now?
TP: Nope. The first prototype that I had manufactured, which also happens to be the one depicted in our website photos, was a grand slam.
To this day I haven’t changed a thing. Even the color of the vinyl is the same.
Since launching, what experience has been the most exciting part about sending the pool liners into the world?
TP: I have always been an entrepreneur at heart, so the most exciting thing for me is knowing that I made something that people want and being able to scratch that entrepreneurial itch. I have also thoroughly enjoyed observing the power of the internet and social media, and seeing how far the buzz travels.
How important was it to you that Pick-up Pools be both a family business and a fully American-made company?
TP: Family and [the idea of being] made in America are of utmost importance to me. I am a career Air Force pilot by day and have been for 11 years. To say I’m a patriot [would be] an understatement, so naturally I want to support American jobs. The vinyl for the pools is manufactured in Virginia and the pools are assembled in California.
More importantly I’m a husband and a father, and family always comes first. I run the company with help of my lovely sister and part owner, Diana. When I am deployed overseas for extended periods of time, she is the one that keeps the company running.
Where are the farthest places you’ve seen Pick-up Pools used outside of the U.S.?
TP: Afghanistan! In the summer of 2016 a group of US soldiers stationed in Afghanistan sent me an email practically begging for a pool so that they could cool off in the 130+ degree heat.
Having felt my fair share of summers in Iraq and Afghanistan, how could I say no? My one condition was that they send back photos of their PuP in action, and they did. These are my favorite Pup photos to date.
What were the safety precautions taken when testing out the pool liner before pushing to market?
TP: Well, it’s a pool, so all of the inherent dangers of swimming/water/drowning are always present and should always be observed. Small children should never be left unattended in a Pick-up Pool and never, never, never combine alcohol with water. Enough said.
And while driving with a bed full of water may seem like a good idea … IT IS NOT. Braking effectiveness is severely reduced with hundreds of pounds of water in the bed of truck, so never drive with a truck bed full of water and only use on a hard, flat, level surface, with the parking brake set and the engine off.
In addition to the inherent, obvious dangers, I had to research literally hundreds of makes and models of trucks to see how much water they were capable of holding. Water is extremely heavy (approx. 66 pounds per cubic foot) and not all trucks can handle the stress of a bed full of water.
Additionally, with all of the possible combinations of aftermarket suspensions, tires, and lift modifications, it becomes impossible to tell truck owners just how much water their truck can handle. As a rule of thumb, we suggest never going past full, which is plenty of water to have a good time.
When did the first order of Pick-up Pools launch? How quickly did they sell out?
TP: The first order of PuPs launched in the early summer of 2015. I bought 20 of them from my manufacturer and sold them exclusively through my website. I sold 18 of them that summer. The other two I used for promotional purposes at trade shows.
How durable are the pools? Extremely durable. We use the thickest vinyl that we can find. The only way to tear it is to deliberately try to with some sort of sharp edge, like a knife.
Is there an estimate on when the next batch will be up for sale?
TP: We have several hundred being manufactured at the present moment of this interview. We are optimistic they will available through our website and Amazon Prime by the end of July 2017.
We’re certainly adding these truck bed swimming pools to our list as the best camping accessory of the year. Check Pick-up Pools this summer to purchase your own when the next batch is available, and we’ll keep you up to date, as well!
This story was originally posted on Alt_driver sister site, Wide Open Eats, on May 19, 2017.