Installing a camper shell on a Tacoma is a great way to build your own truck camper or give yourself more covered storage space. You’ve probably seen many trucks with covered bed solutions, but today we are going to highlight your choice for the best camper shell for Tacoma trucks.
Best Camper Shell For Tacoma
You’ve probably seen brands like Leer, SnugTop, and Bestop if you’ve been looking at camper shells for your pickup truck. But do they make options for your Tacoma and, if so, which models are best?
We’ll answer those questions, and more, so you can pick a company and one of the best truck topper models that meet all of your needs!
Also, be sure to check out our full guide to all things truck camping!
Four Wheel Campers Project M Topper For Tacomas
Four Wheel Campers is arguably one of the most trusted names in the market when it comes to both bed-mounted campers and truck toppers.
That’s why their Project M design is our first choice for the best camper shell for Tacoma trucks. It is one of their newest selections, but they also offer slide-in models and pop-up flatbed designs.
All of their designs provide for a heavy degree of customization.
The Project M bolts to the bed rails on your Tacoma and fit Tacomas from 2005-2021 in all bed sizes. It is a lightweight option that varies from 352 to 465 pounds depending on bed length.
Standard features include 13-inch wide shelves on both sides, insulated roof and sidewalls, a durable vinyl pop-up liner, and much more.
There are also lots of additional options such as interior and exterior gear tracks, a Dometic top-load refrigerator, a thermal pack for cold weather camping, and much more.
Go Fast Campers V2 Platform
They call it a “cabana-style camper shell” and it is also categorized as an ultralight truck topper. The original design was meant for long-distance off-road racing in rugged and remote areas.
The V2 platform offers an integrated rooftop tent and it can still support a rack with up to 500 pounds on top when it is closed. Just be aware that its weight capacity drops to just 75 pounds when you open the tent.
Most V2 units weigh less than 300 pounds and the standard sleeping area measures 90″ x 50″. You can upgrade to an extra-large 92″ x 56″ rooftop tent if you and your racing partner get tired of knocking elbows throughout the night.
Still, the key features of this design include flip-up side panels for improved gear accessibility and the ability to pass gear from the bed of the truck up into the tent.
The panels are also removable if you need to reduce the overall weight of your truck.
You’ll be able to install this topper on 1st, 2nd, and 3rd gen Tacomas with five or six-foot beds. The base model comes with the mattress and an anodized aluminum frame. Upgrades include tent side doors and front and/or rear windows.
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Leer Truck Cap For Toyota Tacomas
Leer is currently the leading manufacturer of fiberglass and aluminum truck caps in North America. Their headquarters is based in Indiana, but you can find their products at retailers throughout the United States and Canada.
The Leer collection of truck toppers is separated into three categories: cab-high, mid/high-rise, and commercial caps.
Leer cab-high models match the height of your truck cab while the mid/high-rise models extend to provide up to 15% more storage space.
On the commercial side, Leer offers lightweight aluminum designs that don’t add too much weight to your truck while still being able to handle the weight of a rack and other equipment. That helps you retain the ability to load the bed down with tools or recreation gear.
The Leer brand gives you various options to choose from once you have selected a topper.
The 100R model, for example, allows you to choose one of three option kits with things like 50/50 slider side windows, a framed back door, and T-handle locks.
Other standard stuff includes an insulated roof, fiberglass base rails, gas door props, and much more.
SnugTop Camper Shells
The SnugTop brand is based on the west coast in Long Beach and they are definitely a candidate for the best camper shell for Tacoma trucks. The company started more than 60 years ago, but they designed their first truck cap for an original Datsun mini truck in 1965.
Their full selection of shell campers features seven different categories for Tacoma owners. Here’s a quick list of all the SnugTop shell campers:
The availability chart that SnugTop provides makes it super easy to find the topper that fits your specific pickup. The SnugTop Cab-Hi is the only model that fits ALL Tacoma models regardless of year, bed size, cab length, and more.
SnugTop makes this topper available with several options for roof tracks and racks that allow you to carry cargo or secure a rooftop tent up there.
The Cab-Hi also features a half-inch honeycomb roof reinforcement and fiberglass cloth overlays in high-stress areas that provide additional support.
SnugTop also makes toppers that provide covered storage for full-size pickups and we highly encourage you to look through the rest of their shell campers.
Some SnugTop toppers offer more storage space and different upgrades that may be better suited to you than the Cab-Hi!
A.R.E. Truck Toppers For A Tacoma
The A.R.E. headquarters is based in Massillon, Ohio, but they have dealers located nationwide. The company originally stuck its foot in the proverbial door in 1969 with its first aluminum truck cap.
Today, they offer a wide variety of aluminum and fiberglass truck caps and solutions for commercial vehicles.
They also offer the ability to build your own truck topper with the precise features and the exact storage layout you prefer.
If you do choose a pre-designed model, the Overland Series topper is a great option for Tacomas. It features a half-slider side window and a heavy-duty, single T-lock rear door.
This system also features numerous optional equipment choices, such as an LED dome light, a Yakima roof rack, double T-locking handles, and a tilt-down front window for easier cleaning access.
In addition to the Overland Series, here is a full list of their options for a 3rd gen Tacoma:
If you have a first or second gen Tacoma, their availability tool makes it easy to check on the best camper shell for Tacoma that will fit your bed.
Bestop Soft Caps For Tacomas
Bestop’s selection of soft caps is best if you are looking for something that you can pop on and off a little easier.
It still provides waterproof protection over the bed of your truck and can be used if you want to set your bed up as a temporary truck camper.
Most people, however, use a Bestop for temporary covered storage. These toppers are arguably the most cost-effective alternative on the market if you can’t quite afford a fiberglass shell for the bed of your Tacoma. They require zero drilling because they mount to the rails with durable clamps.
Their Supertop model fits 2005-2020 Tacoma models.
It is made with heavy-duty Black Diamond fabric and features a retainer bar in the front that holds the roof tight to the cab. The corrosion-resistant frames provide the structure for the cap and the window panels fold up and down for easy access.
There are some pros and cons to these toppers that you won’t find with others, however.
On the negative side, you won’t be able to install a tent or roof racks on top of this soft cap because it won’t support much additional weight.
On the plus side, the entire top can be folded down and the clamps allow you to take the whole system off in minutes. Additionally, most other fiberglass models cost more than double the price of the Supertop!
Raider Truck Toppers For Toyota Tacomas
The Raider brand has been producing high-quality, innovative fiberglass truck caps for more than 30 years.
They work with a variety of dealers throughout the United States and Canada and they offer toppers for full-size and mid-size pickups.
Raider is another option for the best camper shell for Tacoma trucks and they offer several different topper designs for virtually all late-model pickups, including:
The Cobra model is a great choice if you are okay with a mid-rise topper and you need more headroom inside.
It offers roughly 20% more space than a cab-high design and the recessed doors on these toppers make it much easier if you’re constantly loading gear in and out of the bed.
While it isn’t a standard feature, you can add Thule tracks on the roof so that you can then add virtually any Thule roof rack solution for added gear hauling. That will also be ideal for those of you interested in installing a rooftop tent when outfitting your ideal truck camper.
Other optional features available on the Cobra (and more other Raider designs) include cargo hooks, pet screens, dome lighting (with headliner only), a fishing rod holder, and a removable front sliding window.
Century Truck Caps
At first glance, it looks like Century and Leer are two brands that are closely related. In fact, you will notice that their aluminum and fiberglass toppers are essentially the same models branded under a different name.
Because that is the case, we aren’t going to spend too much time detailing how their caps will work for your Toyota Tacoma truck.
We included Century, however, to note that you may have better luck finding a dealer with one of their cab-high, mid/high-rise, or commercial toppers in your area if you are struggling to find products directly from Leer.
From everything we’ve seen and read, their models are as durable and high-quality as Leer. They simply have a different name on the back!
What To Look For In The Best Camper Shell For Tacoma Trucks
We will discuss how to find the best camper shell for Tacoma that fits your truck bed in a later section.
Here, we are going to review the most important factors that separate the best truck camper shells from others.
Damage is an issue with new and used camper shells. You’ll clearly need to inspect a used topper more closely, but new models are also susceptible to dents and dings during the shipping process.
The side rails are the most common area that gets damaged whether the topper is made of aluminum or fiberglass. Damaged side rails will make it virtually impossible to install a topper over the bed of your truck without some serious McGyver-ing.
Plus, you don’t want to buy a new or used design with significant damage to the rails or anywhere else. Check the roof for dents or other damage that would prevent you from installing a rack. Check the side window seals. Check the lock on the rear doors.
Of course, this is more of an issue with used camper shells because new models often come with some sort of warranty. Still, it is worth checking because, if you don’t, you’ll already be camping when you notice these issues.
How do you know if you should choose a cab-high, mid/high-rise, or commercial topper?
That will be your next step in the selection process. If you really plan to create a truck camper for full-time living, go with a mid/high-rise design because it will give you the most headroom and interior sleeping space.
Cab-high designs can be used for camping out of your truck, but if you’re anything like me you’ll wind up bumping your head on the inside more often than you’d like.
These designs are really better for providing plenty of storage while making it easier to reach stuff on top of your vehicle, like a kayak rack or a rack-mounted pop-up tent.
Commercial toppers are designed for the working men and women out there. They tend to provide more options for optimizing tool storage. These designs also offer larger back doors or flip-up side panels that make it easier to grab anything you need out of the bed.
That being said, some truck campers actually prefer the door options on commercial toppers for their lifestyle.
The good news is that you can install steel or aluminum racks on all of these designs to store things up there if you want to use the interior for sleeping.
The materials used to produce these truck accessories dictate how durable they really are. In addition to durability, the material choice plays a role in the shell’s weight as well as how much weight it can support on a roof rack (if applicable).
Aluminum and fiberglass are two of the more common materials used in the commercial manufacturing of camper shells. They are both lightweight and relatively resistant to corrosion.
The hardware used to clamp or bolt the topper to your truck should also be corrosion-resistant if you want it to last. In terms of the interior, marine-grade carpet is generally the best thing you can find because it is water and mildew-resistant.
In this case, we are talking about side, front, and rear windows. The rear window provides the main access to your truck topper, but the front and side windows are also important for ventilation.
For the most part, the rear window is going to flip up on most models. Side windows and front windows often slide open, but some also flip up to provide easier access. You just need to look at the different options to choose a topper that provides the kind of ventilation and access that you are looking for.
Added Features And Accessories Of Tacoma Shells
Things like interior LED lighting and roof racks may or may not be important to you. Most camper shells offer some sort of add-ons to try to differentiate from the competition.
So once you’ve found several models that fit your Tacoma, these accessories may be the final factor in your decision.
For example, my 2014 TRD sport doesn’t include a locking tailgate. So if I didn’t have a locking rear window, I’d have no way to secure the belongings inside when I pop onto the trail for a long day hike or climb into my tent at the end of the day.
How To Make Sure Of A Correct Fit For A Tacoma Shell
Whether you have a short bed, first-gen Tacoma, a long bed third-gen Tacoma, or anything in between, you will need to ensure a proper fit so that your truck cap is properly sealed from the elements.
Here’s a quick guide to ensuring a correct fit for Toyota Tacoma camper shells:
Measure YOUR Truck Bed
While Toyota publishes the specifications for length, width, and height of the beds on all of their trucks, take the extra time to accurately measure the exact dimensions. Variation always exists in commercial manufacturing, but there is another reason we recommend this step.
Too many Toyota Tacoma owners have gotten burned by saving the dimensions for an incorrect truck model.
Because Toyota makes several variations of the Tacoma and things change from year to year, one of the most common causes of an incorrect camper shell fit is making a purchase based on incorrect dimensions.
So, just take the time to measure the bed of your truck before proceeding.
Match Topper Dimensions To Your Tacoma
Not all truck beds are perfectly rectangular, but you need to match the dimensions of your truck topper to your truck bed’s length and width as closely as possible. This will help you choose a model that can be easily installed without any aftermarket alterations.
We’ve seen many over or under-sized shells on trucks throughout our camping adventures. It is not impossible to rig your overland vehicle with a topper that doesn’t quite fit right.
But you also don’t want to simply crank the bolts down past the recommended foot-pounds rating to try to keep it secure.
A shell that actually matches the bed dimensions of your pickup truck will be most likely to remain sealed against the elements.
It will also give your truck camper a cleaner look so that other campers don’t make weird comments as you drive by!
Make Sure It Can Be Securely Installed On Your Toyota Tacoma
The system for installing your shell camper will also vary depending on the brand and model. Some models bolt through the rails of your truck bed and other brands design clamps to hold their toppers in place. There are pros and cons to these methods.
Bolt-on truck toppers are generally the most trusted designs because they are the most secure. Each brand will recommend that the bolts be torqued to a specific foot-pounds amount.
This amount should be met, but not exceeded, to secure your cap before you go camping.
On the other hand, clamps can make it easier to install and remove the cap from your vehicle. They generally don’t require that you tighten them to a specific foot-pounds measurement. This does mean that you need to be more mindful of avoiding overtightening that can cause damage to the topper.
Do You Really Need One Of The Best Camper Shell For Tacoma Trucks?
Tonneau covers are a great intermediate option if you don’t want to go for one of the best camper shell for Tacoma options at this time. Tonneau covers still provide a cover over the full length of your truck bed and most of them will lock to give you added security.
Conclusion On The Best Camper Shell For Tacoma Owners
We hope you like these options for the best camper shell for Tacoma owners. Feel free to drop your thoughts in the comments below if you have any questions, comments, or you already own one of these camper shells and want to share your experience with our readers!
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