Truck Cap Tips and Tricks

I recently added a truck cap to my Tacoma. I was conflicted about the cap, because an open bed is darn convenient. Regardless, the compromises pointed towards a cap, and now I seek tips in learning to live with the cap.

So cap owners, please share your tips and tricks. How do you “file” gear into the truck bed in a manner such that you don’t have to crawl in and get it?

So that it is not rolling around every time you take a curve?

How workable is sleeping in the bed? Do you layer the load and sleep on top of it?


I use a cap
that has side windows which open. You can reach everything through some window. Also I bought some rubber mats for Sams. The are about 3/4 inch thick and interlock like a puzzle. They keep things from sliding. They are now sold as exersize mats also.

As for sleeping I use a tent like thing that goes over the tailgate and the back window of the cap. Adds a few feet. As air matters is a must. The tent I bought from campmore.

You can put a shelf in the cap against the front resting on the flang at the bottom of the cap. Mine is about 2 ft. wide and you can put a lot of thing on the shelf to make enough room to sleep.

Hope this helps

truck caps
I have a Tacoma as well with a Leer cap. My cap does not extend up higher than the roof of the cab, as some do, so one is pretty much limited to crawling inside on all fours.

I have slept in it many times usually alone, sometimes with another person. There is room for 2 Thermarest pads to fit between the wheel wells, so that is what I use. I don’t have a fancy system so I usually have to stick gear bags in the cab of the truck when sleeping in the back.

I have friends who use low cots instead which allows one to have some less bulky items below the cot they are sleeping on, and I have known some who have caps with more headroom who have built rather clever wooden boxes that serve as sleeping surfaces that hold gear inside.

The caps with the long doors that open outward are very convenient for loading and unloading gear into the bed near the cab. I don’t have them but if I had it to do over again I would seriously consider them. My cap has sliding glass windows with screens that provides some protection against the more dim-witted biting insects. There is usually still some space for them to get in around the edges of the tail gate, however.

As for stowing gear up against the cab, I usually wind up crawling in, but some of those big Rubbermaid storage containers make it easier to stow and unstow stuff there quickly.

We use the large Rubbermaid
boxes to hold the equipment.

You can get various size ones.

I also keep a piece of old carpet on the truck bed which prevents a lot of slippage

Jack L

Boat Hook Pole
I don’t have a cap over the bed but do have a tonneau cover. Stuff that slides forward towards the cab is tough to access.

I’ve taken to using plastic storage boxes with handles and purchased a boat hook pole (marine stores have them) and you can reach the plastic box and pull it back to the tail gate. The boat hook pole lives in the bed.

Not fond of the caps, useful though they are. Hard to drop a yard of mulch in the bed, not to speak of hauling firewood.

20 Years Experience - Three Trucks

– Last Updated: Jun-24-11 7:50 PM EST –

Been driving a pickup with a cap for 20 years. A Jeep for a couple years, a Dodge Dakota long bed for a couple years, and my 1996 Tacoma for the last 15 years and 250,000 miles.

I spent a summer living in my truck up in the Sierra Nevadas. I really loved traveling in my truck when I was single. Camping a couple weekends a month, and a couple week long trips. For a while, I was spending 50-60 nights a year camping

First Tip:

A 5' long stick, like a broom handle, with a large hook on the end for pulling stuff out. Leave on the rail ledge where it is handy. Drill a hole in the end and screw the hook into it. A broom handle will work, but I prefer something heavy duty, like a shovel handle. Cheap at the hardware store. A good stick has lots of uses.

Second Tip:

A saddle blanket, blanket, or large beach towel as knee pad for climbing over tailgate. I have stacks of Mexican saddle blankets we buy on the side of the road out here in Cali, but a camping blanket or even large beach towel folded up into a square also work. Obviously, these are things that are handy to have for camping, anyway. You might have them already, just remember to leave them in back where you can get to them.

I have a rubber mat in the bed, with an indoor/outdoor rug on top of it. Just slice a couple slits for wheel wells. Padding for crawling on, insulation for sleeping, and if you make a mess hauling firewood, you can just pull it out and shake it off.

Absolutely need the Rubber maid boxes. They will not slide around when loaded up. The good ones, with black bottom and Grey top. You can pull them out and leave behind the truck, even in the rain. Also make good camp stools/tables. You can even use cables to lock them to the bumper or camp table while you are gone.

I have three big one. Two for firewood, and one with Lantern, stove, coffee pot, and whiskey. I carry very large bottles of whiskey.

Another smaller, light duty, one for paddle stuff. PFD, wet suit, booties, etc. Old surfer trick. Turn the lid upside and stand on it while changing on the beach. It cuts down on the sand in your shoes, and shorts. You can throw wet stuff into it. You can also fill up the box like a tub at the beach shower to rinse out your wet suit. Keeps the stink down.

Of course, you will also need a cooler, the size depends on your own preferences. I have a small one I can put in the seat in the cab and lock up in bear country. If you have an access cab, you can put lots of stuff in the back seat.

Take advantage of the extra storage to make yourself comfortable

A 4" trifold foam mattress. Folded up it is about by 2'X 2' and 18" high. One for sleeping in the truck by yourself, and two if you have company, and sleep in a tent. (sleeping two in back is a little crowded, have done it in a pinch)

Because I have space, I have a nice, large, deluxe directors chair instead of one of those folding ones that sags in the bottom

When I met Tsunami Chuck he had a very similar rig, so we each slept in our own truck. Not much camp to setup/take down for a quick weekend paddling trip.

Take advantage of the secure permanent storage and just leave the mattress, camp chair,, sleeping bag, and pillows. When I was camping every other weekend, it sure saved lots of time. Just don't leave anything valuable out in sight.

I had a whole life style built around my rig for years, especially the years I was single. Starting getting away from it when we bought the conversion van, but we needed a queen size bed for two.

My poor old '96 Tacoma is on its last legs. At 250,000 very hard miles, and many trips over Sonora Pass, it needs a new motor, and tranny.

We are mostly using Kathy's Chevy Silverado for camping lately

I bought a 2011 Scion xB as a daily driver while I rebuild the Tacoma. I still drive the Tacoma to work once a week to keep it running. I sneak it into shop next to the office to get work done on the sly.

Kathy would flip if she knew how much this rebuild is going to cost. Good thing she never sees my bank account. It would probably pay for about half the cost of new Tacoma.

Assessories in the back
A couple of assessories that I leave in the back of my truck cap are several lengths of rope, a hammer, and a good pair of leather gloves. A rag rug is in there to use as a “knee saver”.

With a little bit of inventiveness you can easily rig a cheap hammock for storing items overhead, inside the cap.


Sliders on tracks
If you have a system such as Nissan’s Utilitrack rails, you can install a tool box that slides and locks in place. There are probably other versions for other trucks.

I just get in and move the Rubbermaid bins around. They have shorter ones that stack. Then I keep them in place with either the stock load stoppers (attach to the floor Utilitrack rails) or with straps or ropes tied to the metal cleats that go in the Utilitrack rails.

You get the idea…box the stuff and lash it. You can also buy metal dividers that keep partial loads in a small area. Truck aftermarket stores and catalogs are filled with lots of useful add-ons.

I would love to have a trampoline-like fabric platform that is tensioned by cleats in the rails. Then I would put the boxes on the floor (strapped in) and sleep on the platform. But now I just stack the bins and put my sleeping pad on the bed floor.

Truck caps
Dear Chip,

I know almost nothing about canoes but I know a lot about trucks and caps since I have driven a truck for 30 years and never owned one without a cap.

How often do you plan to sleep in your truck?

If the answer is on occasion then just learn to organize your gear a bit and then you’ll always have a place to crawl in and sleep.

If you want to really use the truck as a camper you’d be better served with a sub floor and a flat floor on top for sleeping.

There are commercially available subfloor systems that offer slide out storage. You can also build one pretty easily if you are even modestly handy.

For years my brother and I traveled and fished in a regualr cab pick up with a cap. Fishing gear that was stowed in the bed while fishing or driving simply was stuffed in the cab section for sleeping. It worked great.


Tim Murphy :slight_smile:

Have a 2000 Tundra
with a Jeraco cap.

We made a plywood platform with legs… for a bed. Wet stuff goes under.

Had we thought better we would have added three slide out drawers under the platform. Its awkward to hook out stuff that slides way up front like canoe class bouys. Fortunately our house is filled with skylights and we have an extra skylight hook.

We would certainly consider a cap for our next truck … our truck currently has over a quarter million miles on it…And the cap still strong…its hauled many a boat back and forth cross country. We have all contact points for the rack on the cap.

What do you have
Tacoma…Regular,extended,or crew cab?

Bed Length?

Cap…glass aluminum or steel?

Cab height or taller?

Use the hitch if you have one
You can put a hitch-mounted gear platform on to hold stuff you can’t put or don’t want in the bed.

Toppers are great. I started using one in 1985 and would not consider owning a truck without one. The 4-month wait for one that fit my present truck (when it first came out) felt like forever, after being used to having solid waterproof, windowed, quiet, lockable sleeping space right in back. No wet tents!

If you put a roof rack on it, you can get more crossbar spread than is possible on most vehicles.

curious Chip , what’s your plan for …
… carrying the rear end of the boat ??

The answer is…
Since I wont be around all next week I will just give a few answers on assumptions.

Aluminum cap,get the ladder rack that screws on the main front and rear loop.

Fiberglass cap,Go back to where you got it and see if they can stiffen up the underside and install the tracks for the yakima or thule system.

Regular cab your good to go,Extended cab or crew cab get a yakima or thule bar with the appropriate feet for your Toyota.Otherwise your canoe will probably touch the roof of your truck.

Or you can just use the foam blocks on the front but then you will need two people to load the canoe.

Next thing to do is lay down your tailgate and mark a nice flat area on the top of your bumper and drill the holes for your eye bolts.

Up front you can use the tow hooks,assuming its a 4X4.

Or you can make the loops out of old webbing and screw them under the hood to tie the front down.



My father had a ford pickup. He towed his boat, and had a cap on his truck. He rigged up a shelf on the back next to the cab. The shelf was two pieces, one rectangular (full length and width), and the other a trapozoid. The irregular shaped piece he used to extend the shelf in such a way that he had a diagonal bed to sleep on.

His cap had screens and windows that cranked up. He often went on extended trips, with or without his boat and slept in his truck many times. In those days, he took along his siberian huskey. His longest trip was to see a childhood friend in Malartic, Quebec.

Between himself and the dog, he’d pull over and sleep just about anywhere with no fear of being disturbed. He often did that after having had too much to drink!

I miss him!


Look into a Bedrug
I have really enjoyed mine. Things stay put in the back, but I bought a nice box from Lowe’s that is lockable and I keep alot of stuff in there. Still have to use a camping pad, but it is very comfortable. The camper shell I have has carpet on it so it matches well.

Lots of experience in those replies
Waterbearer, it has been hard for me to give up the open bed. I don’t even like the tonneau idea, although it has its pros and cons. Loads of mulch, top soil and wood have ridden in my truck bed. That’s going to be way more difficult with a cap. But yours is so clean…you don’t let that refuse in your truck, do you?

Went paddlin on Saturday. Ralph drove his truck with yet another leer cap. Four or five tubs in the back, and he had a nice pad he installed to save his knees and it keeps stuff from sliding around. I definately think some sort of pad is in order. Ralph says the pad keeps the tub from sliding around, too.

Ice9’s shelf idea is a good one. And if it is in the way you can just drop it on or along the bed. Could be very convenient.

Pplanc, I got the cap that is 4" higher than the cab, expressly to allow for rocker in the canoe. The Thule’s I got on it are rated for 250lbs, and raise the boat up a little more. Great for canoes but a little higher reach to pop the sea kayak up there, and it looks weird because with the upsweep of the bow it seems to be soaring over the cab. I might have to adapt to rolling the kayak up from the rear of the truck.

'cuda - great ideas. thanks. And serveral recommended a grabber pole, which makes very much sense.

Anybody think there is merit to building a long box the length of the cab? I’m thinking about 16 or 20 inches high and wide. I was thinking the box can slide rearward until the front end is at the tailgate, and have a drop down support on the rear end, so that slide it in and out at the same level as the bed. This would allow easy access to whatever is in the box. The floor of my truck bed has 2"-wide channels in it. A stringer on the bottom of the box could glide rearward and hold the box from side-to-side sliding. Put a cover on it and sleep on it. I’m over-thinking this, aren’t I?

Thanks for sharing the great ideas!


couple more ideas
The Windoors (as they are called around here) on the sides that have hydraulic lifts like the rear door are the way to go to help save your knees- you just reach in and slide those rubbermaid boxes and stinky gear all over the place. I have also attached hooks to the rod and bolts that attach my Yakima racks to the topper and use them to hang mesh bags full of webbing straps and other small loose gear. I have rigged clotheslines off the hooks as well to hang my paddling gear on while driving to the next put in. If you have a plastic bedliner inside a lot of them have grooves to stick two by fours in so you can suspend a partial sheet of plywood for sleeping over the rest of your stuff- works great. Cheers---------------

Good on you for rebuilding
Lots of folk assume it’s all over at 250k and go out and buy another vehicle, which takes a lot of energy to build and costs a lot of money. Lets say you put 10k into a blue-printed engine, re-done gear box, driveline etc. You’d have a mechanically good as new truck! What would a new one cost? As you know, lots of low mileage Japanese engines out there. Old Dodge at over 500k is doing great on the local organic farm (donated it). Newer 06 is a nice rig but all the electronics are scary. So far not as reliable as the old 95. Case in point: Lift pump on old rig was $150 and two bolts. Changed every 200k for good measure. New rig: In tank lift pump that lasts about 120-150k and fails. Upgrade to a legit pump like a FASS = $750 installed! These newer vehicles are very costly to work on. And that’s true across the range of brands.

truck cap storage organizer
Check out the link below. i have one in my truck with a cap on and it works great. I throw a foam on top and sleep in the back with the gear in this storage system.