Original Article Published here in FourWheeler.Com by Ben Battles.
Landing somewhere between glamping and rolling yourself up in a tarp on the ground like a burrito is living out of the bed of your bakkie. Doing it for a while forces you to make smart and minimal alternations to your everyday lifestyle. Needless to say, no flat screen TV, no fully loaded self-contained kitchen, and probably no room for that espresso machine. On the plus side, though, it’s not a tarp.
First and foremost, I’ve always found that (if feasible) sleeping in a vehicle beats pitching a tent any day, hands down. I say this for a few reasons. First, it’s much safer and more secure in predator (or dirtbag) country. Second, it’s night-and-day more impervious to inclement weather and cold temperatures. Finally, it’s mobile and ready to use at a moment’s notice. There are others advantages—like not having to set up a tent in the rain, noise levels, and so on—but those are the biggies.
My own unique requirements for bakkie-bed living? There are parallels in everyone’s needs here, but in a nutshell, it needs to be reasonably comfortable and completely self-contained for one or two adults for up to a week’s worth of backcountry hunting or, in a lot of cases, just plain camping. All hunting and camping gear, sleeping accommodations, clothing, and food has to be able to fit within the bed of the bakkie, securely, weather-tight, and well organized. Depending on your own comfort level requirements, mine is actually a very easy recipe to follow—with the right products.
If you need to keep gear safe, secure, and well organized in the bed of bakkies, we can’t think of many better solutions than the DECKED bed box. Made from super-tough HDPE polymer and stainless steel or coated steel components, the construction is both light-weight and highly durable. While not at all difficult, assembly is somewhat time consuming; we’d recommend setting aside half a day.
Years of camping out of bakkies and SUVs both big and small have allowed us to refine our essential ingredient list. We boil it down to the components we feel are the bare necessity to meet the aforementioned requirements and to allow us to call a 6 1/2-foot truck bed our digs for as long as we feel like living like a jobless vagabond. And speaking of jobs, if you happen to be living without one, you’ll likely have to get a bit more creative than this, as neither of these two main products are particularly inexpensive. Everything you see here, however, would be money well spent, is extremely durable, and does, at the end of the day, exactly what we need it to do time and time again without fail.
Assembly time aside, the good news is that no drilling or permanent modifications are needed to your bed in order to install the DECKED system. It is secured using hooked threaded rods that attach to the factory tie-down anchors at all for corners through the “ammo can” storage pockets. Once installed, it can be removed in about 15 minutes if you find yourself needing more bed depth or payload capacity.
Because the DECKED bed box runs over the top of the wheelwells, providing a flat surface across the entire width of the bed, it maximizes bed space and serves very well as a sleeping platform. It’s also lighter than competing all-steel products. With a 907kg payload rating on the top deck (paired with the optional Core Trax tie-down track shown here) you’re not giving up much in cargo-hauling ability. Further attesting to the genius of the design, a bottle opener can be found conveniently between the two drawers.
The drawers of the DECKED unit are bed-length and weatherproof, and roll out with amazingly little effort on hard rubber wheels that ride on steel tracks. Capacity per drawer is 90kg. The optional weatherproof D-Box storage boxes feature removable dividers, lock into place between molded-in stops to prevent shifting while underway, and proved very handy when additional gear organization or separation was needed.
Moving on to our bakkie camping shelter, the canopy's that fit our needs best was RSi Smart Canopy, Rhinoman Aluminium Canopies, and Bushteck Canopies models. Like all of the company’s canopies, you are able to custom-build to your own needs and specifications online and have your canopy shipped it directly to the area dealer of your choice.
RSi Smart Canopies—available in EVO Sport, EVOa Adventure, EVOc Commercial, LC (Land Cruiser) and Bed Replacement Systems — feature a designed into the top of the canopy, the integrated Roof Rails allow you to utilize other Smart Canopy Components for mounting roof-top tents, bikes, kayaks, ladders - you name it. Plus, if you already own a rack system, no problem Their universal design allows you to mount just about anything. The interior carpeting option makes it slightly more insulated from cold weather. The 5-piece design includes an innovative sealing method that, when properly installed, makes the Smart Canopy weatherproof. So, when Mother Nature descends with torrential rain and wind followed by snow and freezing temperatures - your cap will remain water - tight and your cargo dry as a bone. It helps keep the decibel level down when your buddies refuse to call it a night around the campfire.
Rhinoman Aluminium Canopies—available in Ford, Toyota, Isuzu, Nissan, Mahindra, Volkswagen and RhinoX - Rhinoman Canopies are designed to extend your vehicle's load bin capabilities, protect your cargo and provide increased transport versatility with RhinoCab or RhinoLite. Grade Aluminium Gullwingside doors on either side allows bed access along nearly the entire length of the canopy, making it much easier to reach gear closer to the cab. Like the rear hatch, they are also 3mm Automotive and lockable for security. To date, we’ve only tested per manufactures specification that they are 250kg.
Bushteck Canopies—available in Ford / Mazda, Toyota, Isuzu, Nissan, Landrover, Volkswagen and Mitsubishi / Fiat - Bushteck Canopies are a large range of cutting-edge accessories allowing the user to clip in and clip out all aluminium canopy in just minutes - transforming your everyday work vehicle into a ready-for-anything over-landing. All accessories can be added at a later stage. Aluminium accessories coated with a strong UV stabilized powder coating. Canopy have pre-laser cut holes to run wiring for lights or accessories no drilling or gluing necessary. Front and rear windows. Continuous dust proof and weather proof hinges. Sleek and strong designed can load tested up to 250kg. Roof rails to mount roof racks, cross bars and tents.
RLD Canopies— Modular design, giving you the freedom to choose more extras at any time. Carrying up to 5x it's own weight. Take the scenic route with a dynamic loading of 350kg. Keep Dust OUT. Explore more dirt roads with positive pressure air vent, keeping dust where it belongs. Features - Toughened glass, gull wing side doors, over-sized push locks, two gas struts per door, bonded recessed windows, stainless steel construction. Stainless steel art for everyday use.
The only downside to the height of the DECKED unit is that most adults will not be able to sit up straight without hitting their head on the interior of a cab-height bakkie canopy, but in our minds, that’s a small price to pay for the versatility that comes with this storage solution. Of course, a raised-profile canopy would likely fix that problem, but we also wanted to be able to reach anything on the rooftop without a stepladder. Using the optional power strip, we are able to run our ARB fridge-freezer, air mattress inflator, and anything else that comes to life at 12 volts.
Another huge benefit to RSi Smart Canopy, Rhinoman Aluminium Canopies, Bushteck and RLD Canopies - the fully lockable and windows to add security for anything you’re carrying in the bed. Sure, if someone wanted in bad enough, they’re getting in, but in the various seedy areas in which we’ve left the bakkie parked overnight, the peace of mind that the canopies provided compared to a vulnerable open bed helped everyone sleep a little better.