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The debate is heated: to shell or not to shell. If you’re planning on carrying anything that might not easily withstand rain or moisture, a camper shell is pretty much a necessity. But at times they’re constricting, too; you’ll never move anything that sticks up higher than the cab.

What’s your take on this classic question? Is you’re truck equipped with a shell, or do you drive it au natural? Let us know in comments.


25 Responses to Hot or Not? Camper Shells

  1. Fred says:

    A shell gets you a staion wagon for stuff too dirty for a station wagon.

  2. Ray says:

    Camper Shells must make excellent fire extinguishers because…

    Pickup = HOT!!!

    A shell gets you the joy of banging your head while simultaneously crawling on your hands and knees, as you retrieve the 5 bags of sack-crete that slid to the front of the bed.

  3. ned.ludd says:

    I enjoy driving too much to get excited about spending time in the truck, but because camping rocks, and a shell facilitates that, I endure it. Therefore I say HOT. Unless you need the bed access, or enjoy getting your stuff stolen, or enjoy sleeping in the open bed of a pickup during the winter while driving 500 or 600 miles to pick up a project on the cheap….

  4. SlowJoeCrow says:

    Having had trucks both ways, I prefer without since it’s easier to haul stuff like motorcycles and barkdust, plus rear visibility is better. On the other hand, dry covered space is nice to have and in New York the presence or absence of a cap determines where you can drive. If you have a shell on your truck you can register it as a car and drive on the parkways, otherwise you register as a truck, and if you have a business name on the doors you can park in loading zones in new York City.

  5. Ken says:

    Not Hot and ned.ludd has never heard of a tent or sleeping under the stars.If he doesn’t like sleeping in a tent in the winter,he should get a car and sleep in Motel-8.I have a truck and knock wood my stuff has never been stolen.A truck is for carrying stuff and yes sometimes there is so much stuff that it extends above the roof.
    Pickup is HOT!HOT!
    Pickup+Campershell=A BIG Laugh

  6. Eric says:

    I’m of the hard, removable tonneau cover school of thought. I’ve done it a bunch of different ways (open bed, soft cover, camper shell, fiberglass lift top, folding locking hard cover) and this seems to work the best for me. If I need to haul stuff that wont fit under the lid I leave the cover in the garage before I leave. Otherwise it gives me secure storage without obscuring my view. Fortunately this new cover is quite light while still being easy to handle and sturdy, mine is about 45 pounds and is load bearing.

  7. PutnamEco says:

    Utility bodies hot. Caps NOT. If you want a cover get a suburban or a bronco, or if thats not enough space for you, a van.


  8. ned.ludd says:

    @Ken: Yes, I have heard of a tent, actually own several, and I’ve backpacked through the Sierras with nothing more than a tarp for years. I just don’t feel like setting up in rest areas when I’m driving someplace and *camping* is not the ultimate destination. Try parking in a town like West Philly for a couple days. Your stuff WILL get messed with.

  9. I guess it depends on how you use the truck. I have a shell on my truck and I love it. I can put things in the back that won’t get stolen or wet. You might say well you can get a bed cover for that. Well, I could but since the dogs like to ride in the back, it would be a pain in the but to take it off or roll it up. I just open the side windows and the dogs can get their heads out and get air. When I stop in town, I don’t have to worry about them jumping out of the back the truck.

    I can say if it is hot or not, because I like it, but I also like trucks that have bed covers.

    BTW, get your bed sprayed and you don’t have to worry about things sliding to the front. Never had the bags of salt or anything else slide forward.

  10. FozzTexx says:

    I drive a long bed Ranger with a tall rack, a steel plate on the bed, and a Tommy Lift. No way I’d put a shell on that.

  11. Old Donn says:

    I’ve had both too, and while it has some advantages, no more shells for me thank you. If you want a van or SUV, buy one in the first place.

  12. Capped says:

    For me- Hot.
    For someone else- Up to them.

    I did an 8000 mile road trip with a bed, large cooler, mountain bike, clothes, food, camp stove, and even a groover (ask a river guide) all in the back under the cap, with a folding hitch rack modified to secure the tailgate and cap window with two padlocks. I could pull over anyplace that was mostly level (I had some wood to drive up on for leveling if needed), climb in the back on my comfy futon matress, attach my velcro curtains, and go to sleep. Then I’d wake up, make breakfast, maybe hit the groover, climb out, and get back on the road. I could do this just as easily in a parking lot in a city if needed, where tents aren’t welcome, and I’ve even convinced women to come along sometimes.

    Got home, pulled the stuff out, got back to work, no problem! Plus, if I ever decided I didn’t want the cap on it, I could take it off.

  13. Patrick says:

    Hot for me. Unless I’m moving my motorcycle (and if you ever see it on a truck, assume it’s being stolen) then the cap works best. I’m not a contractor, so I’ve never had any problem with “not enough space”. I can keep a small chest in the back for tools and gear, and then have plenty of storage for, well, anything. Cap off, and I can’t keep nothin’ in there, even if I lock it down. It just gets messed with. I have an open bed for one weekend where I lived, and I ended up with tossed beer cans in the back. Who the hell wants that aggravation Sunday morning?

  14. TL says:

    Not. I’ve had caps, but never liked them much. They have their uses, but they mostly seem to get in the way.

  15. Mel E. says:

    Have had cap, no cap, hard cover, soft cover, and now a spiffy rolling hard cover. If I didn’t have the rolbak cover I’d have a cap. Nothing worse than coming out to a empty truck bed that wasn’t that way when you left it. Frankly I think those fiberglass covers are the biggest joke ever, turns a perfectly useful bed into a nearly useless and hard to get at trunk.

  16. I use a Softopper, after years of having to get help to wrestle a standard shell off and on. The Softopper folds away in a minute or so and costs less as well. No real security of course, but that’s the case even with a fiberglass shell (just keeping stuff out of sight seems to be enough). Visibility is not as good as a topper with glass windows, but that’s the only negative I’ve found.

    (They’re at softopper.com – I’m just a happy customer)

  17. tmib_seattle says:

    Hmm. I posted in this thread but it never showed. Oh well.

    I put pictures of my red truck in the Flickr pool. I’ve got a Reading utility body like Putnam describes. It’s really handy in that I can haul big stuff in the bed (motorcycle, wood, big appliances), but I still have a whole bunch of sealed locking compartments to haul stuff in that needs to be kept dry and secure. The forward side comparments are huge, and the long ones in the middle have a ton of room as well.

  18. Ken says:

    @ned.lud:Why would anybody in their right mind want to park in west Philly for a couple of days.

  19. BC says:

    Aluminum camper shell = HOT. Goes on and comes off quickly and easily, cheap enough where if it gets beat up in storage you’re not out a whole lot of money. I use one in the winter only.

  20. Mike says:

    Used to have a roll-up vinyl/velcro tonneau cover which was pretty good, but limited tool space quite a bit, and was a nightmare on the jobsite when it rained and I needed something in or out of the bed. Bought a shell and made my own bedslide with wood and garage door bearings. Now I can pull the drawer out and access stuff with very little effort/time in all kinds of weather.

  21. Andrew says:

    cover improves gas mpg unless you have a vent tailgate, some have side access or tool boxes i them them but with the window up helps with visibility teaches you to use your mirrors.

  22. mike t says:


  23. CappedForever says:

    HOT, for me, and I don’t give a crap what somebody else thinks it “looks” like. It looks like a topper. I happen to prefer it be a different color from the truck itself, because then I have a light color for visibility in darkness and a medium-dark color for visibility in bright light or snow.

    I’ve put a topper on every truck I’ve owned, sometimes immediately and sometimes months later. Immediately is definitely better!

    No worries about getting things wet, stolen, messed with, trash thrown in bed (had it done to me, too), and I camp in mine whenever I’m not doing a true backcountry trip (i.e., wilderness–i.e., no vehicles allowed). The view from a toppered bed’s windows beats that of a tent any day, and it’s MUCH quieter than sleeping in a tent or a motel, not to mention you can’t just find a motel anywhere, let alone a decent inexpensive motel.

    Comments about “get an SUV or van” are ridiculous. I don’t even want to carry more than one passenger, nor do I want to waste weight on upholstery or DVD players or other SUV amenities. The topper’s windows have no-see-um screening, which vans and SUVs do not have. Where I live, a van would be useless almost half the year, so my 4WD truck fits the bill much better. Just gimme a big rectangular box to outfit as I please, not what marketeers say I should have. No carpet to vacuum, just sweep out with a brush. Wet spills, gravel/sand tracked in, etc.–no problem. Huge dog crates fit side-by-side, nicely secured with straps to cleat/rail system, and yes it is easy for me to put them in and out of a topper even though I am very small.

    There is no snow piling up in the bed like there would be without a topper.

    The only thing that doesn’t fit in there is so long (16 to 18 ft) that topper or not is not the issue…length is. For that, I use a trailer with long tongue or roofrack that’s always on the topper.

  24. hmmm says:

    I hunt big game but also have a family. I need a bed so I don’t put a bloody carcass in a van or suv, but need to haul kids stuff and suitcases for trips without stuffing every square inch in the cab. A topper/shell is a necessity for me to keep there stuff dry.

    Trucks aren’t made to look cute. If you want a pretty car go buy a VW Bug. I bought my Tacoma brand new and drove it through a swamp the same day I got it and scratced it all up. I will drive it into the ground and not worry about cosmetics.

    Metrosexuals shouldn’t buy trucks. They should be looking cute and going to clubs and salons and whatever other feminine things they do. Really the question on this board should never have been asked by a truck owner in the first place!

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