Should You Buy a Camper Shell? Everything You Need to Know

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Two men lift cooler out of a truck camper shell

If you have a truck, you are likely keenly aware of its usefulness and dependability. But you also may know that all that space in the truck bed could be put to better use if it was covered and locked, at least temporarily. That’s where a truck cap or camper shell might come in handy.

Today’s covers for truck beds can be stylish and practical. You can also easily remove them when they’re not needed. Let’s look at the top camper shells and how they work! 

What Is a Camper Shell?

A camper shell, or a truck topper, is an addition to the back of a truck that covers its bed. These rigid covers can be fiberglass or aluminum and are usually the same height as the truck cab, although some are oversized.

They can include windows on the sides of the shell and on the front that correspond with a window in the back of the truck cab, giving the driver direct access to the truck bed from inside the truck.

The back of the camper shell has a window that acts as a hatch with hinges and a lock, allowing for cargo placed in the topper to be securely locked up. 

How Camper Shells Work

Most truck toppers are temporary attachments to truck beds. The most common way to securely attach them is with J hooks that you can screw tightly to the truck rails from inside the camper shell.

Once the cover is in place, it acts as a covering for the truck bed, which you can use as a camper or as a space for cargo because it protects the contents from the elements and theft.

Pro Tip: If your looking for a larger but temporary sleeping space, consider purchasing a truck tent.

There are four big names in the camper shell industry. These manufacturers have made toppers for dozens of years, and truck owners know they can place customized orders to match the paint colors of their vehicles and add windows and screens as needed.

Leer

Founded in the late 1960s, Leer has made truck caps and covers for more than 50 years. Truck Accessories Group owns the company, and as the largest supplier of truck caps and tonneaus in North America, they have some experience.

Popular models include cab-high toppers and mid to high-rise caps. They also produce commercial toppers with customizable sizes for a variety of uses.

Leer truck cap on a Tundra truck parked in a driveway
Source: Tundratalk/HwyChile

SnugTop

Another subsidiary of the Truck Accessories Group is SnugTop. They boast that SnugTop is the oldest truck cap manufacturer in the industry, beginning in 1965.

The company produces sports line toppers with more aerodynamic styling and Xtra vision models, along with the typical cab-high and high-rise caps. SnugTop makes nearly 400 different truck toppers and tonneaus, all from its home base in Long Beach, California.

Snugtop camper shell on a Ford F150 in a gas station
Source: f150forum/Tdowell65

Ranch 

Ranch Fiberglass specializes in what else? Fiberglass truck caps! They have become the experts in cab-high toppers, with five models that you can customize.

They also offer one mid-rise and one high-rise model. Ranch will design a unique topper from your specifications, as well.

High rise ranch fiberglass camper shell on a GMC Sierra 1500 truck
Source: Facebook/Andy Cap Truck Stuff

A.R.E.

A.R.E. offers a bunch of different options for camper shells. One cool option is a walk-in door in the rear. This is great for someone who is considering towing because it gives a better view behind you.

A.R.E. walk-in camper shell on a Ford at a campsite
Source: A.R.E

How Much Do Camper Shells Usually Cost?

Aluminum toppers are the least expensive camper shells, usually costing between $900 and $1,200. They can be more challenging to find and usually come in either white or black.

Fiberglass is the most popular material for truck toppers, but it is also the most expensive, starting at approximately $1,800 toward $3,000. They can come in virtually any color, as most manufacturers will match your vehicle’s paint color.

Keep in Mind: If you are looking for something to enclose the bed, you can also check out tonneau covers. These are the best options for a Ram.

How Heavy Is a Camper Shell?

The most popular camper shell is fiberglass, but it can weigh 200 lbs. This makes it rather difficult to attach it to a truck if you are alone.

There are ways to hitch the topper to a pulley and move it by yourself, but a second person can be helpful. Aluminum shells are lighter to lift on and off, weighing around 100 to 150 lbs.

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Other Frequently Asked Questions

Why Are They Called Camper Shells?

The purpose of these truck caps or toppers was initially to protect the truck bed for camping.

Over the years, they have morphed into covered storage space, inspiring the name.

How Do You Lift a Camper Shell?

Usually, two people can lift a camper shell and walk it to or away from the truck.

Sometimes rigging a pulley from a garage ceiling can make it easy for one person to lower or raise a cap.

Do Camper Shells Affect Gas Mileage?

Toppers can affect gas mileage in two different ways.

First, the added weight of the shell can cause mileage to drop.

Secondly, mid or high-rise toppers can put more drag on the truck because wind meets more resistance above the truck’s cab. This will drop gas mileage, as well.

Are Camper Shells Safe?

Camper shells are very safe if they are attached correctly to the bed of a truck.

However, if the items in the truck bed are not secured, they can fly around if you speed up or suddenly stop.

Upgrade Your Truck with a Camper Shell 

Most people purchase trucks for their ability to handle various jobs, from cargo carrier to camper to construction hauler.

They are dependable and beneficial. However, adding a camper shell can give a truck added importance. Not only will this truck topper shelter its contents, but because it locks and is more difficult to view from the outside, it can protect anything in its possession.

Maybe it’s time to double the valuable space in your truck by adding a camper shell. Have you used a topper for your vehicle? 

Last update on 2022-05-22 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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