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Tonneau Cover Buyer's Guide at Cabela's

Tonneau Cover Buyer's Guide

Author: Frank Ross

The main positive feature of a pickup truck is also its main negative feature. Lots of open space for hauling everything from gear to a load of firewood is wonderful to have until it rains or your destination is at the end of 20 miles of dusty country roads.

Sure, you can pick up a cheap tarp and secure it with bungee cords, rope and duct tape, but the reality is that at highway speeds the wind will pick and pull at every loose piece until it has flapped and slapped the ends to a tattered mess, and damaged the paint and perhaps your cargo as well. There is a better option, lots better!

While toppers have been around a long time, newer, low-profile tonneau covers have captured the heart of truck owners because they are a blend of benefits at a much more reasonable price than a topper. Tonneau is an archaic term for an open rear passenger compartment on an automobile, but it’s the latest and greatest option for pickup owners. With this type of cover you can protect your cargo from the elements as well as sticky fingers and dramatically reduce the amount of drag created by an open bed and closed tailgate.

The most secure tonneau is one that is made of metal, slides in a secure railing firmly attached to the truck bed, and has a quality lockTruck owners have always been confronted with the dilemma of wanting to cover their bed, but often needing the advantage of wide-open space for hauling items taller than a topper. While it is possible to remove a topper and store it when the need arises, it’s generally not a one-man job. They also take up a lot of space, and can become airborne very easily. Over the years I’ve seen jury-rigged storage space created with pulley systems in garages, but a lot more often, toppers end up setting on blocks beside a garage until they’ve deteriorated to the point they’re an eyesore both on and off the truck.

Many tonneau covers feature adjustable snap-down closures to make the on and off process quick and easy even for a mechanically challenged individual. You don’t have to do any drilling on snap-down models, even those that are top mounted. Top mounted units sit over the bed railing and have an exposed edge that must be clamped down securely to avoid water and dirt intrusion.

Rigid aluminum models take a little longer but still, no drilling to install. Once they’re in, the laminated interlocking panels roll out or retract into a box at the front of the bed. This model costs more than vinyl versions, but provides a higher level of security.

There’s an old saying that locks only keep honest people honest. It’s true. If someone wants to get into a locked vehicle or building, or safe for that matter, given enough unobserved time, it can be done. For that reason, the level of security available with tonneau covers varies. Anyone who has owned a convertible and had the top slit knows what I’m talking about. Certainly it’s a fairly rare problem, and depends an awful lot on where you park your vehicle. Obviously, the most secure tonneau is one that is made of metal, slides in a secure railing firmly attached to the truck bed, and has a quality lock.

An important benefit of the tonneau cover, regardless of the chosen model, is an unrestricted viewThe key differences between soft tonneau covers is the thickness of the material they are made of, the system that attaches them to the truck bed and the quality and quantity of the bows that support the cover. If your truck sits outdoors a lot in a region noted for heavy rain or snow, the latter would be a key issue to consider. Another important consideration is the seal. Most units manage the seal around the box pretty well, but when you install a tonneau cover, pay close attention to the closure at the tailgate. Dust will still be a problem if you don’t have a tight seal around the entire cover.

Another important benefit of the tonneau cover, regardless of the chosen model, is an unrestricted view. I’ve driven two different trucks with a topper and the limited view can be challenging, especially when trying to back a trailer or work in tight quarters.

When you add up all of the good things that a tonneau cover can do for your truck, I think you’ll see that the only problem with them is that you don’t have one yet. There are many different styles to choose from including: Roll-up, Tri-fold, Hinged, Snapless and Snap corners.