All pickup truck beds are outfitted with stake pockets. They make it possible to add a number of different kinds of truck accessories to your bed. These truck accessories can be functional, aesthetic or both.

What are stake pockets? These are square-shaped, recessed areas within your bed's panels. Sometimes they're referred to as "anchor points." Most pickup beds have four of them.

Pickup owners can purchase after-market devices that are designed to fit inside the stake pockets. The top four truck accessories made for insertion into stake pockets include:

1) Tie downs: Tie downs are square truck accessories to which can be attached various types of ties. Tie downs can be popped into the stake pockets. They contain hooks or rings. Ropes or bungee cords can be tied or clipped onto the hooks and stretched over loads in the bed. This secures the load for transport.

All kinds of different hooks are available. They may be ring or square shaped. They can also be cleat or ratchet shaped.

Once inserted, tie downs are flush with the tops of the bed's panels, with only the hook protruding. However, retractable tie downs are also available for owners who prefer a sleeker look with no protruding parts.

Retractable tie downs can actually be pushed down inside the stake pocket when not in use. This makes them virtually disappear from sight. The owner needs only pop them up and lock them in place to use them.

Tie downs are easily installed and can often be done at home, by the owner. Installation generally takes under 15 minutes, depending on vehicle model. These simple, relatively inexpensive truck accessories are highly functional and cost effective.

2) Utility racks: Do you frequently haul large items? General-purpose utility racks are the ultimate truck accessories for the vehicle owner on-the-go.

Utility racks (sometimes called "stake pocket racks") are made from heavy-duty metal rails. They have four vertical rails and four horizontal rails. Additional horizontal rails can be added for owners that require extra stability or specialized use.

The bottoms of the vertical rails are inserted into the stake pockets. The horizontal rails are attached near the tops of the vertical rails.

Utility racks can be used to transport all kinds of large items. Handymen use them to haul ladders and other large pieces of equipment. Recreationists use them to transport canoes and other small boats.

Utility racks take one to two hours to install. It's recommended that an owner have them professionally installed to ensure safety and stability. However, very experienced do-it-yourselfers can install them at home.

3) Truck bed rails: These are both stylish as well as functional. Made from chrome or stainless steel, bed rails are horizontal bars that run the length of the bed's side panels.

Some bed rails are outfitted with lights at the rear. They can be wired into the vehicle's tail lights. They light in sync with the vehicle's brake/signal lights for added safety and visibility on the road.

Bed rails protect the vehicle's paint. They can be used as anchor points when tying down a load with ropes or cords. They can also be used to transport items.

Installation can typically be completed in an hour or so, depending on vehicle model. Handy do-it-yourselfers may be able to self-install. Otherwise, it's highly recommended to have these truck accessories professionally installed.

4) Stake pocket covers: Don't plan on using your stake pockets at all? You can just cover them up with stake pocket covers. These little truck accessories are made from heavy plastic or metal. They simply pop into the holes.

Overhangs on the tops of these truck accessories hold them in place. Once inserted, they appear flush with the tops of the bed panels. They improve the look and lines of your bed and protect the pockets from weather damage.