Camper shells, also called caps or toppers, fit over the bed of a pickup truck to create an enclosed cabin in the bed area of the truck. This can provide space for camping, eliminating the need to carry a tent, or for keeping gear safe from the elements and theft as you travel. An added benefit to a camper shell, even when not camping, is that it makes the truck more aerodynamic, thus increasing fuel economy. Some companies custom make camper shells, or there are several standard types.
Fiberglass and Thermoplast
Fiberglass or thermoplast shells are usually contoured to fit the lines of your specific truck and painted to match. They give the look of being original equipment from the manufacturer, and the smoothest lines for aerodynamics. These camper shells are the most expensive, with prices starting in the $1,000 range. Also, if your trips frequently take you off-road, be aware that fiberglass may not last as long as other materials as it tends to develop stress cracks.
Aluminum shells are made from standard molds. While they will fit the bed of each truck exactly, the lines are not designed to be contoured to your truck, resulting in a bit of a sacrifice in the looks and aerodynamics. Aluminum shells also come only in standard colors, so the color may not match your vehicle exactly. That being said, aluminum toppers often come in larger sizes and are much more affordable. Prices for an aluminum shell start around $400. Aluminum is also more durable for off-road travel and will not crack like fiberglass.
Canvas shells, while not as sturdy as other models, offer the convenience of being quickly folded down, so you can still carry large items in your pickup bed when you need to without the hassle of removing a heavy camper shell. Collapsible canvas shells come in standard sizes and colors and offer most of the benefits of more rigid caps at a smaller price. Prices for canvas shells run in the $200 range. The one area where canvas shells fall short is protection from theft. These toppers often do not lock and can be easily cut through with a knife.
Article Written By Christopher Williams
Christopher Williams has spent over 11 years working in the information technology, health care and outdoor recreation fields. He has over seven years of technical and educational writing experience, and has brought strong skills and passion to the Demand Studios team in articles for eHow and Trails in 2009.