Once you’ve decided that pickup truck camping is right for you, one of the first decisions you’ll have to make is choosing which truck canopy or truck shell is right for your build.
There are literally thousands of options, models, and designs out there, making this one of the harder decisions we made when building our ultimate DIY truck bed camper!
In this post we’ll walk you through all the various build types of truck shells, pros & cons of each, and point out the 5 most important things to consider when deciding which pickup truck canopy is best for your own truck camping adventure.
FOUR Main Truck Canopy Build Types to Consider
1. Aluminum Truck Canopy for Truck Topper Camping
Strength - As they’re primarily manufactured for trade work - such as construction, electrical, plumbing, etc - they are typically very sturdy.
Built-in Storage - Also because of their use in trade work, some aluminum truck canopies have storage built in by the manufacturer.
Good Used Selection - You can often find these used fairly easily, though in our experience second-hand prices seem to be higher on average than other options
Less Insulated - An aluminum truck canopy will generally be colder in the winter and hotter in the summer compared to other options
Difficult to Customize and Repair - The built-in storage may not suit your needs or build, and making repairs or modifications to aluminum is not as easy as other options.
Lack Ventilation - Most lack windows with ventilation or any windows at all, and while this may be helpful for stealth camping, it will seriously impact comfort level.
2. Wood DIY Truck Canopy for Truck Topper Camping
Completely Customizable - If you have the necessary skills (or can learn them), you can literally build your truck shell exactly how you want it. This is a great aspect of building a DIY wood truck canopy, because invariably any metal or fiberglass truck canopy will be a compromise in height, strength, or features.
Leaks - Fully sealing all the seams can be very difficult to achieve, which can then lead to water ingress, resulting in leaks, wood rot, and potentially mold.See AlsoLiveblog zum Ukraine-Krieg – alle Entwicklungen: Kreml: Kontakte zu USA auf „angemessenem Niveau“ – Verstöße bei Teil-Mobilmachung eingeräumtKei Rsos Maritime Limited - Company Information, Trademarks & DirectorsKei Kreutler, designer and developer — Are.naKei Nishikori, il ritorno agli allenamenti e i feedback su Twitter
Very Heavy - Wood is not light, and most custom builds are typically not very aerodynamic which is no bueno on your truck’s gas mileage.
Cost - While it may seem like a cheaper option, when factoring in your time and cost of materials, building one can quickly become just as expensive as the other truck canopy options. If not more so.
3. Fiberglass Truck Canopy for Truck Topper Camping
Options - There are hundreds of fiberglass truck canopy options out there, making it easier to find one that fits your specific truck shell camping build.
Aerodynamic - Fiberglass truck camping shells are built with aerodynamics in mind. We actually saw an improvement in gas mileage when we first installed ours (though mounting a cargo basket, solar panel, awning, etc quickly dissolved that improvement).
Easy To Find Used - Fiberglass truck shells are the most prevalent and there are some seriously good deals to be found on places like craigslist or FB marketplace. However, be prepared to invest some time in both searching for and rehabbing a used fiberglass truck canopy that fits your truck well.
Easy to Repair - A fiberglass pickup truck camping shell is much easier to repair than other build types, and the supplies needed to do so are generally available at most big-box hardware stores.
Strength - While not weak, a fiberglass truck canopy can be more susceptible to breaks/cracks than an aluminum truck canopy which often will only incur dents.
Weight - Though not nearly as heavy as wooden truck camping shells, a fiberglass model will be somewhat heavier than an aluminum truck canopy.
Cost - If bought new these can cost a significant amount.
A fiberglass canopy was ultimately the route we chose to start our truck bed camping adventures, and is also the route we recommend to others who are considering truck shell camping or travel for the first time.
4. Wedge Camper Truck Canopy for Truck Topper Camping
Space - With a built in pop-top in the camper and pass-through to the bed below, wedge campers offer significantly more space. This allows you to stand up and change clothing, or cook meals inside much more comfortably in inclement weather.
Weight - Wedge campers (like our new Go Fast Camper) are built with light-weight aluminum and composite materials, and are generally on par with fiberglass shells when it comes to weight. We actually saw a slight improvement in gas mileage over our fiberglass shell.
Ventilation - With the multiple window configurations, and especially with the GFC having all three sides of the camper shell able to fully open in what they refer to as “cabana mode,” you can have as much ventilation as you need to keep comfortable.
Accessibility - Because the the GFC has three sides that fully open you can much more easily access gear without having to climb inside the camper shell every time you need something.
Cost - Wedge Campers are significantly more expensive than other truck canopy options, and because Wedge Campers are relatively new in the camper shell and truck canopy industry your chances of finding one used are slim.
The Go Fast Camper we chose offered the best value on the market when we were considering upgrading. To put it in perspective, if you were considering purchasing a brand new fiberglass camper shell and a quality hard-shell roof-top-tent the cost would be comparable.
Less Stealthy - if you’re used to stealth camping while traveling (as we discuss in our free camping guide) using a wedge camper with its top opened up is definitely a dead giveaway that someone is sleeping in there.See AlsoThe Hottest Male Anime Characters42 classic kei cars | Classic & Sports Car757Teamz boys volleyball preview: Kellam begins season at No. 1 with Indian River and Kempsville close behindTop 20 Most Visited Countries In The World 2022
You can get around this by having a small or temporary sleeping platform in the bed of the truck to use when trying to stealth camp.
5 Things to Consider When Choosing a Truck Canopy for Truck Topper Camping
No matter the topper you lean towards for your truck shell camping setup, there are a handful of things you’ll want to take into consideration.
1. Budget: New vs Used Truck Canopy
New - Depending on the configuration, a new fiberglass truck camping topper can run anywhere from $1000 to $3000+, and a wedge camper can run $6500+.
The benefit to buying new is that it can be fairly customized to your needs and you won’t have to worry as much about leaks since there is generally a warranty offered, as well as installation. The dealer will ensure your canopy is exactly the right fit for your vehicle.
So if you have the disposable cash, this is a great place to spend it!
Used - You can find used fiberglass truck canopies anywhere from completely FREE up to $2000 depending on how new they are or how much work they need. During our search we found that most can be had for between $100-$500, and we inevitably found ours for a whopping $40!
But expect to reseal windows, replace gas window struts, and possibly repaint any used truck canopy as needed, especially if it’s old and cheap (like ours was). These are not difficult things to do but can be tedious.
Also, make sure to measure the dimensions of any used truck camping canopy you’re considering to ensure a good fit with your truck bed, and take into account the fact that the front pitch of the canopy can vary depending on whether it was made for a standard cab, extra cab, crew cab, etc. and may not be interchangeable.
Tom Zizzo maintains an incredible resource for determining the fitment of a used truck canopy or truck topper, which was invaluable during our search
2. Interior Height of the Truck Canopy
When truck topper camping, you want as much headroom as possible. The more interior height your truck canopy offers, the more room you’ll have for storage, changing clothes, eating, and even just sitting up inside.
It’ll also make things like building a sleeping platform or having a comfortable mattress easier because you’ll have more vertical space to work with and thus more options to choose from.
So when selecting a truck canopy for truck topper camping, we recommend steering clear of the cab-height models and looking for a topper that rises higher than cab-height.
Some popular models to consider that offer extra interior height are Leer’s Model 122, ARE’s MX Series, and SnugTop’s Hi-Liner
3. Truck Canopy Window Options
When truck topper camping, proper ventilation can make or break the experience. You’ll want at least one sliding window with a screen (preferably two to allow a cross breeze).
A side wing window that opens outward can also be really handy when needing to reach things at the front end of the truck bed from outside without having to climb all the way in from the back.
They now make combination sliding-wing windows that offer the best of both worlds.
We also recommend installing high-quality dark ceramic window tint. This will help reduce heat, increase privacy, improve your ability to stealth camp, and help to keep your gear hidden from prying eyes.
Another major upgrade to truck shell camping comfort level is to install a vent fan in the roof of the shell. Check out our post, How To Install a Vent Fan in Your Truck Camper.
4. Truck Canopy Headliner
Condensation is inevitable when pickup truck camping, especially in cold weather, and the more people you have the more it becomes an issue.
A felt headliner can alleviate the problem by preventing the condensation from pooling and dripping down onto you while you’re sleeping (a super unpleasant way to be woken up). It also adds a modicum of insulation to the shell.
The truck canopy we found did not have a headliner installed, so we installed one ourselves.
5. Truck Canopy Color
Though pretty obvious, color plays a big role in climate control while truck topper camping. A white or silver truck canopy will be cooler in the summer heat, and a darker colored truck canopy will be warmer in the winter.
Though for us, aesthetics won out and we chose to plasti-dip our previous fiberglass camper shell black despite the majority of our camping being 3-season. But it is worth considering before making a purchase.
Finding the perfect truck canopy to put the “shell” in your truck shell camping experience is a big job, and hopefully this post has helped guide you closer to making an informed decision.
If you have any tips, suggestions, or questions about selecting the right truck canopy for your truck shell camping adventures, please let us know in the comments section below!
And for more on our adventure as a truck camping family of three, click SUBSCRIBE!
As always, thanks for reading!
Upgrading to a Wedge Camper? 5 Reasons to go with Go Fast Campers
Everything You Need to Know About Truck Bed Camping
A Guide to Sleeping Platforms for Truck Shell Camping
Portable Camping Power Part 3: Selecting a Camping Power Supply
The Definitive Guide to Overland Vehicles
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How to Measure your Truck Bed - YouTube
Align the truck cap with clamps.
First, climb into the pickup bed and go as far to the front as possible. Align the clamps and hand tighten them with a socket wrench. Next, close the tailgate and make sure the truck cap stays aligned. Adjust and realign if needed.
Manufactured out of fiberglass with a reinforced steel structure, the RT Series™ is the tallest cap in the industry which complements the aerodynamic lines of your truck.
A truck cap (aka canopy, truck topper, bed cap, box cap, camper shell) is a pickup truck accessory that covers the tailgate of a pickup truck. You probably see truck toppers every single day on the road of all shapes, sizes and colors.
How to Measure a Truck Bed - YouTube
Place your measuring tape at the bulkhead of your truck bed. Moving along your bed rail, extend the measuring tape to the inside edge of the top of your tailgate. Record the measurement in inches.
Pickup topper load and unload all by yourself in less than 5 minutes
Remove Your Camper Shell Canopy by Yourself. DIY Easy Storage Rack
Having truck caps can protect the large cargo area and keeping it weatherproof. Giving it the perfect protection also protecting whatever you may be hauling in the bed of your truck. So if you are carrying tools or even groceries, the cap can also save those items.
Leer – $1,999.99 to $2,933.99.
Registered. Mine's 100r is just under 200lbs. Given all the different options you can order form Leer, I can understand how each one could be 10 to 15 pounds either way. If your lift is rated for 300Ilbs or more you should be good.
How heavy are camper shells, aka truck toppers? To start with the weight specifics, the standard size of camper shell or truck topper usually weighs around 300 pounds. This standard weight is considered light in the automobile industry.
Truck Camping: Locking Your Topper From The Inside - YouTube
Branded truck caps or toppers, whether canvas or fiberglass, can typically weigh anywhere between 170 to 200 lbs, but this can still depend on design as some are even lighter. The truck's bed size (short or long bed) is another factor to weigh in.
So, are truck camper shells universal? For the most part, no, they are not universal. Some models of truck campers are made to be universal, such as the Scout Campers Olympic.
How are Canopies Fitted? Ute canopies are mounted to the back of a dual cab with a unique bracket system and a design system that incorporates the sides into the body lines of the vehicle to minimise the dust issue.
Lay the canopy on its roof and organise the other parts. Adhesive – Applying the waterproof adhesive around the body of the ute where you will mount the canopy must be done carefully so there are no bubbles or weak areas. Keep the waterproofing adhesive close together to avoid leaks.
Start the boot at the bottom left corner and go up over the top and down the right side. Put the rest across the bottom. Put down sponge tape or another type of cushion to protect your truck rails. Once protected, you can place the sleeper onto the truck rails as close as possible to the cab.