Benefits of a Camper Shell on Your Toyota Tacoma
If you're an overlander or an outdoor enthusiast who loves to explore off-road destinations, you might be considering a camper shell for your Toyota Tacoma. Camper shells, also known as truck caps or toppers, can provide many benefits to your vehicle. However, there are also some downsides to consider. In this article, we'll take a closer look at the advantages and disadvantages of a camper shell for a Toyota Tacoma overland truck.
Extra Storage: Camper shells provide additional storage space to your truck bed, which can be extremely helpful when packing for an extended trip. You can easily store camping gear, cooking supplies, and other essentials without worrying about them getting wet or dirty.
Security: Camper shells are lockable, which means you can secure your belongings when you leave your vehicle unattended. This is especially important if you're traveling in areas with high crime rates or if you're carrying expensive equipment.
Weather Protection: A camper shell can provide protection from rain, wind, and sun, making your camping experience more comfortable. You can also install a roof rack on top of the camper shell to carry additional gear.
Improved Fuel Efficiency: With a camper shell installed, your Toyota Tacoma will be more aerodynamic, which can improve fuel efficiency. This means you can save money on gas while enjoying your outdoor adventures.
Reduced Accessibility: Camper shells can make it more difficult to access your truck bed, especially if you have larger items to load or unload. You may also need to climb into the truck bed to access your gear, which can be challenging for some people.
Limited Headroom: If you're planning to sleep inside your camper shell, you'll need to consider the limited headroom.
I've had an ARE Z-Series camper shell on my 2017 Tacoma since I bought the truck in 2016. Initially I had planned to buy some sort of drawer system, but at the time there were limited options, and the options available were PRICEY. Truck Vault was one of those, but the cost was way too expensive IMO ($3K+). Decked eventually released a nice unit for the Tacoma, but by then I had already made up my mind on a simple yet efficient DIY option.
My solution was as follows: 3'4" plywood resting on 2x6 cross beams. It's a 4-piece system that is lightweight and easy to add/remove from my truck. It also cost me less than a few hundred bucks! See below for the specific components:
2x6 lumber spans the width of the truck bed using the pre-existing notches in the bedliner
3/4" plywood was cut in mirror image pieces to sit on top of the 2x6 cross beams. The front/outside corners were cut at an angle to account for the angled bed design. I also added handles (for easy maneuvering), and aluminum angle to protect the front edges.
Many different items can be easily stored underneath the platform, including 6" tall plastic tubs from Home Depot. To prevent items from sliding all the way to the back, the rubber bed mat helps or you can add a ratchet bar between the wheel wells.
To fancy my truck bed up a bit, I also added LED lighting strips from Matt Gecko LED's (wired to the battery and rear passenger taillight), as well as custom shades that magnet to the metal screw heads in the camper shell window frames. For the bed I use a 3" thick tri-fold mattress and regular bed sheets.
If you are considering a camper shell, I hope this overview helps give you some inspiration for your own setup. A brand new shell is not cheap (about $4K for the ARE Z), but there are a lot of used shells on the market; and if you are willing to have a different color your options are even wider. Inside you can do a lot for under $500, giving yourself a great setup for your overlanding or weekend warrior camping adventures.