Tips, Tricks & Trends

A Camper Shell on a Pickup Truck Is the Most Practical Camping Option

Anyone who loves to go camping is likely familiar with the difficulties inherent in selecting the best gear. With so many options out there at a vast array of price points, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. If you’ve got a pickup, though, you’re in luck — truck campers offer a fun and easy way to spend a few nights out in nature. In fact, according to Bryan Rogala with Outside, camper shells might just be one of the most practical camping options out there.

What sets camper shells apart?

There are no shortage of choices when it comes to truck camping gear. From towable campers to pop-up and slide-in options, you can deck your truck out in a multitude of ways before heading out on an adventure. However, camper shells offer two major benefits: affordability and versatility.

Even with a whole host of upgrades, Rogala notes that his setup costs just $2,600. Expensive, yes — but drastically cheaper than many of the other truck camper options out there, which can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Camper shells are significantly more accessible, making them a much more practical choice.

You also have a great deal of room for customization when choosing your camper shell, both in its design and in how you choose to decorate it. Whether you’re a minimalist who just wants a sleeping bag, or you prefer to fill your camper with comfortable bedding and cozy decorations, you have the freedom to tailor the experience to your needs.

Different design options

There are three major suppliers of camper shells: ARE, LEER, and SnugTop. Whichever you choose to go with, you’ll have a number of things to consider before purchasing your camper.

First, you’ll need to decide on a roof height. Outside’s Rogala chose a mid-high roof for his setup, but your choice will depend on your truck and your own personal preference.

You can also choose between three siding options: fixed windows, slider windows, and “windoors.” Fixed windows are typically made of plexiglass, and will let in light but won’t open. Slider windows will open, although Rogala offers a word of warning that this option tends not to function particularly well.

Finally, you have the “windoor” siding option. Windoors open outwards, enabling you to reach into the camper to pull out your gear. Windoors are also available with venting capabilities, which will allow you to slide them open for fresh air if you so choose.

Recommended upgrades

Related: Five of 2020’s Best Vehicles Ideal for Camping

Since camper shells are so versatile, it should come as no surprise that there are a plethora of features available — and with such low prices, Rogala notes, it’s well worth spending a little extra for a few of the most useful upgrades.

The first thing Rogala recommends is adding roof rack tracks. This provides you with significantly more storage options and makes it easier for you to transport extra equipment with you when you head out into the wilderness.

Within the camper, it’s also a good idea for you to add a fabric headliner to the ceiling. This creates extra insulation, which is perfect for chilly nights. It also helps prevent condensation from building up within the camper while you’re sleeping.

Finally, Rogala recommends adding as much lighting as possible. LED light strips are a convenient lighting option, and will make your evenings much more comfortable. Since they use so little energy, LED light strips aren’t a major drain on your battery.

Whether you’ve been camping your whole life or you’re just getting started, the simple practicality of camper shells is likely to appeal to anyone with a pickup truck. If you’ve been searching for a convenient and versatile way to spend more time sleeping under the stars, this might be the perfect option for you.