If you take the time out to notice the pickup trucks around you, you will most likely notice that quite a few ow them have a shell over their bed. There are some shells that are streamlined and smooth, while others appear poorly sized or hunchbacked for the pickups they stay on top.
It does not matter if you are looking for the SUV look, raw functionality, and efficiency or simply searching for some time different to a regular slide-in camper, a truck camper shell also referred to as a topper, cap or shell can be a wonderful addition to any pickup truck.
From things such as weatherproofing and load security to having a minimalist camping trip in the woods, almost any truck has a camper shell that can fit it without any modification, whilst using the existing hardware of the truck’s bed.
A truck camper shell can provide not just utility by convenience.
Truck camper shells can be used from one truck to another as long as the beds are in the same length class. However, this depends on the material used to make it. Read on to find out.
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. Read on to find out more.
Why should you use a truck camper shell?
Just about anyone that has an open bed truck has probably experienced an item fly out on the road, something sensitive get wet when they are caught out in the rain, losing something that is seemingly worthless to theft, or having other people throw garbage into the truck’s bed.
A camper shell can transform what is traditionally an exposed truck into a weatherproof, lockable space in which cargo can be stored or a bed can be made when you go on camping trips.
If you happen to live in an area that is prone to theft or sudden rain, having a shell can be a seemingly essential upgrade. Compared to a toolbox mounted on the bed, a camper shell does not force you to sacrifice the rest of your truck’s bed, which can be quite an issue for those that have trucks with short beds.
Additionally, the majority of shells tend to come with a locking mechanism on the back door which can also be used to ensure the tailgate cannot be opened.
What are the types of shells available?
A typical camper shell is one that is light, weighing around 300 pounds. This weight makes it quite ideal for midsized and half-ton trucks that have a limited payload. For the most part, camper shells tend to provide at least cab height cargo clearance.
There are also mid-sized and high-rise shells that add one or two feet of space vertically without making it awkward to move around with loads higher than the cab.
Additionally, there are certain camper shells that come with roof racks, ensuring that you are able to mount just about any type of oversized cargo that might not typically fit in the bed.
Apart from providing protection to your precious bed cargo, a truck camper shell as the name hints can also be used as a miniaturized truck camper.
Compared to regular slide-in campers, truck camper shells are relatively inexpensive. They also require less effort to stock, secure, drive with, and mount.
This makes them perfect for a weekend out in the woods. Additionally, their low profile and weight mean that just about any truck even a small one can have a camper shell without fuss. Whereas, a slide in might cause problems with insurance liability, efficiency or handling.
Setting up a camper shell can be quite simple as having a sleeping pad and bad. It can also be an elaborate creation with integrated heaters, drawers, and a futon mattress. An additional benefit of a truck camper shell that it can be easily dismounted when you no longer require it.
What should a truck camper shell be made of?
Typically truck camper shells are made from either fiberglass or aluminum. The material selected is typically down to budget and personal preference.
When it comes to costs, fiberglass shells are more expensive than aluminum ones, however, commercial, heavy-duty aluminum shells tend to be the priciest option numerous manufacturers offer.
A fiberglass truck camper shell is more streamlined, making it a better choice for high or mid-rise options. Fiberglass also offers more color options to ensure the camper shell matches the color of the truck.
With fiberglass, you get a little bit of insulation due to the insulating properties that fiberglass has.
If the choice was solely based on price, then a basic camper shell made from aluminum would be the choice, however, variables such as roof road limits, truck configurations, and accessory choices all have a role to play in the selection process.
Aluminum shells tend to vary from bare-bones, thin-walled basement price models to industrial-grade camper shells that can efficiently hold at least a quarter-ton on their roof.
The basic models might not be capable of holding a roof rack; however, they tend to be the lightest of camper shell selections.
If you are a midsized pickup truck owner, that will likely carry heavy loads in their trucks, weight savings, typically around 200 pounds, from a barebones aluminum model can increase your payload compared to heavier choices such as fiberglass or contractor grade aluminum shells.
If you are a truck owner that does not care if your truck camper influences your maximum payload capability, then you could get a heavier and sturdier aluminum shell which can support an increased amount of weight on its roof rack.
Not only is this useful for putting weight on the roof, but it can come in handy when you need to get up to the camper shell’s roof to secure the payload without a ladder. Lighter, thinner aluminum shells could fail or dent with the increased weight of gear and a person on top.
This is why numerous camper shell owners, private and commercial alike, tend to go for reinforced or thick-walled aluminum shells. These shells can typically integrate ladder or cargo racks to hold much more than the typical load of a traditional sports rack.
Fibreglass vs aluminium
Just about every camper shell made from fiberglass utilizes chopper gun construction. This makes the fiberglass cheap but it also makes it heavy.
There are also certain manufacturers that choose to reinforce their fiberglass camper shells to make them suitable for use commercially.
This can add more weight to the shell. Another benefit of a fiberglass truck camper shell is that it can be el coated to match the color on your truck for aesthetic reasons.
Furthermore, fiberglass shells get created from molds that have been specifically developed to fit certain truck generations and models. This causes them to not only be closer fits but also match the style of the trucks better than universal aluminum shells.
Given the information, the article has given above it can be seen that while truck camper shells can be universal, that universal feature is only suited to aluminum camper shells.
This is because camper shells created from fiberglass are made from molds of the trucks, they intend to be affixed to causing a much tighter fit to occur.