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What are Camper Shells?

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  • Written By: R. Kayne
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 28 August 2016
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Camper shells are enclosures made for truck beds that are at least cab-high. They commonly feature side windows and a rear window that meets the tailgate and locks down. Unlocked, the rear window lifts to access the truck bed or to drop the tailgate. Many camper shells also feature a crank-operated ceiling vent.

Camper shells are so-named because they turn a truck into a camper. The truck bed serves as a private space for sleeping or storing food and other camping supplies. It also provides shelter from bad weather.

There are several types of camper shells that range in price according to quality and materials. Camper shells are typically made from fiberglass, thermoplastic, aluminum, or steel. Some dealers warn against fiberglass camper shells for trucks that are used for 4-wheeling, as the fiberglass might develop stress cracks. Thermoplastic is extremely light and durable and is a popular choice. Others prefer steel or aluminum camper shells.

Fiberglass camper shells have the advantage of being able to be manufactured into stylish forms. Custom made camper shells are designed to follow the lines of the truck, then painted and gel-coated to match the truck’s paint job.

Camper shells might come with an optional carpet kit for the bed interior. Typically, these include storage cabinets in addition to foam padding and carpeting. While carpet kits are nice, they can add significant weight to the bed if made from wood. This may be undesirable to some, as weight impacts gas mileage.

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Many people opt for camper shells simply because they like the way a shell changes the look of a truck. Others enjoy the convenience of a shell to haul groceries, tools, or equipment. Note that camper shells are not considered highly secure, even when locked, and that is it may be unwise to leave valuables in the shell for extended periods.

Some states require a crawl-through or “boot” to be installed between the rear window of the truck and the front window of the shell if someone is to ride in the shell while the vehicle is moving. A boot is convenient for getting from the cab to the bed without going through the tailgate, but it also complicates removing the camper shell for those who only wish to use it occasionally.

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