Truck Soft Toppers – Pros & Cons

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When off-roading with your truck, sometimes you want to camp in the wilderness without the hassle of pitching a tent or towing a trailer. A truck soft topper provides you with an enclosed area over your truck bed where you can stretch out and relax while protected from the elements.

Alternatively, you may simply require a weatherproof storage area in your truck. A truck soft topper protects your precious cargo from the sun, wind, rain, and snow.

What are truck soft tops?

Truck soft tops, sometimes called truck caps, are covers for your truck bed used to convert your truck bed into an area where you can sleep on long journeys or use for off-road camping trips.

Simply relegate all your equipment and luggage to a hitch cargo carrier and use your truck bed as accommodation.

Truck soft toppers can also be used to weatherproof your truck bed to protect cargo. Truck soft toppers are typically the same height as the truck’s cab, which retains your truck’s aerodynamics and minimizes vibrations.

Truck soft toppers function the same as truck hard tops, but they are much lighter and easier to install. While it takes two or more people to install a truck hard top, one person can install a truck soft top inside your home garage without drilling any holes.

Truck soft tops also have the advantage of being more affordable than hard-shell truck tops, and they can be much more flexible.

Truck soft tops are made using durable fabrics like PVC-coated sailcloth that maintain their shape and are UV and mildew-resistant. Soft top windows are often removable, tinted or clear heat-sealed vinyl.

While truck hard tops can only be on your truck bed or off your truck bed and stored in your garage, truck soft toppers can often be folded without removal. Some designs even feature multiple configurations, just like you get with the best quality Jeep soft tops.

On the negative side, truck soft tops can be noisier than truck hard tops on bumpy or fast rides. They are sometimes not as durable and long-lasting as hard camper shell tops.

Truck soft tops are arguably less secure than hard tops, though many high-quality truck soft tops are lockable and offer security features.

Truck soft tops prevent you from loading a truck bed bike rack when you want to go mountain biking, but you can always use a hitch bike rack on the rear of your truck.

What types of truck soft toppers are there?

Folding truck soft tops

One of the greatest advantages of a truck soft top over a hard top is the way it can provide access to your whole truck bed without removing it completely. What is the point of owning a truck if you can’t fully access and use the truck bed?

Folding truck soft tops are cleverly designed to allow you to collapse the soft top forward to get it out of your way. Alternatively, they can be removed completely when you have larger cargos to load.

Despite this flexibility, folding soft tops are simple to install and use. They are typically attached to your truck bed using clamps. Some designs allow you to remove the side panels to create something akin to a Jeep safari soft top.

Better designs allow you to open the tailgate without opening the soft topper window, like a two-part stable door. There are often options for tinted windows in a truck soft top, and some are compatible with a third brake light kit. High-quality truck soft toppers are available from brands like SoftTopper and BesTop.

Retractable truck soft tops

Retractable truck soft tops are a variation on folding truck soft tops. Instead of folding when they collapse, they retract like a concertina.

This design is typically lockable. It offers two major advantages over folding tops: quicker retraction and taking up less space when collapsed. Retractable truck soft tops are manufactured by Fast Kap.

Truck tents

If you want to sleep on your truck bed, a truck tent is the most affordable option. A truck tent is simply a tent that is designed to pitch inside your truck bed instead of on the ground.

Truck bed tents are simple to pitch, and they are superior to ground tents because they keep you off the ground. No moisture can seep up from the ground, and bugs and rodents are less likely to pay you a visit while you sleep.

Truck tents are typically made using polyester or other plastics. They are waterproof but not as durable as truck soft toppers. More expensive truck tent designs use canvas, which is a higher quality material allowing ventilation and providing better insulation than plastic.

Truck tents come with either no floor or a sewn-in floor. Tents that incorporate a floor offer better protection from bugs and the weather.

Depending upon where and when you want to camp, you can choose from one-season truck tents designed for summer use only, two-seasons for spring and summer, three-seasons for spring, summer, and fall, or four-seasons for year-round camping.

Pop-up truck tents are the easiest to pitch. You can get high-quality truck tents from Napier, GuideGear, Kodiak, and RightLine.

Tonneau cover

If you simply want to protect the cargo in your truck bed from the elements, a tonneau cover, sometimes called a truck lid, is a good option.

A truck lid is not the same as a truck soft topper because it does not extend up as high as the cab roof. Instead, a tonneau cover is level with the top of your truck bed.

Tonneau covers can be folded away without removing them from your truck bed. Common designs include retractable covers, roll-up covers, and tri-fold covers.

Much like a streamlined cargo carrier on a car, a tonneau cover also improves your gas mileage because it creates less drag for your truck than an uncovered truck bed.

Many manufacturers produce truck lids, including BesTop, EGR, and Truckman.

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Richard Moore

Richard is a co-founder of and major contributor to Outside Pursuits. He has trekking and survival experience throughout Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. Richard contributes his extensive travel and outdoor experience to the editorial topics and content on Outside Pursuits including outdoor gear, motorcycle accessories, auto/4x4 accessories, and tools. In 1998, he survived in the wilderness for over a week without food or specialist equipment. He was stranded on the northern coast of Honduras following Category 5 Hurricane Mitch.

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