Features of
the Truck Bed
& Canopy
Last Update: August 21, 2006
Also, check out our
Anatomy of an Expedition 4x4 Page, Our Truck's Modifications.  
and the Toy Tech Homepage
This page covers the rear canopy, storage compartments, roof rack, tailgate modifications, water system,
solar panel system and parts of the auxiliary battery system.
The bed area of the truck has evolved just as dramatically as the rest of the truck over the last few years.  For the first
couple of years, I didn't have a canopy at all.  Instead, I built storage boxes to store items while on long trips and slept in a
tent.   Storage was very limited to what could fit in the water tight boxes, so a canopy seemed to make more sense.   I
purchased a used black aluminum canopy.   It's wasn't pretty, but it turned out to much better serve my purposes than a
nicer fiberglass canopy, by being lighter and easily able to bolt accessories both inside and outside the canopy.

Over the last few years, I've built several configurations inside this canopy to allow for my wife and I to sleep while still being
able to store gear for our trips.    The sleeping decks turned out to take up too much space, so they were removed in favor
of an open center cargo area from floor to roof with the wheel wells boxed in and designed to store the spare battery and
spare parts and tools.

An Engel refrigerator, which is easily removable for additional storage, and a narrow slide out tool box are located at the
rear of the bed for quick and easy access.  Up front, a 5 gallon water container is hooked up to an RV pump, which pumps
water at the flip of a switch to an outside connection.   Most gear is simply now stored in plastic bins which are easily
removable when not in use.

For camping trips, we have the option of using a ground tent, or a "
truck tent"  can be added which adds about 2 feet of
space by lengthening the usable enclosed space from 6 feet to 8 feet.

The spare tire is stored under the truck in the stock location.   Two 2.5 gallon jerry cans store reserve fuel and are stored on
the tailgate.    A larger roof rack and one or two low profile aluminum storage boxes are mounted on the roof to store
additional gear, shovels, axe and tools.
Overview of the Interior of the Canopy
These photos show the finished set up.   On the left, the Engel refrigerator is removed for added room.   On the right, it's reinstalled as it would
be for most typical trips.

The goal with this latest set up was mainly to regain the full six foot length of the floor of the bed.  (the old set up had a box that reduced the floor
to 5 feet long) and make things as simple and clean as possible, while still have practical storage for my tools and spare parts.   A sleeping
deck is now secondary as my wife and I have returned to a tent, but on occasion I can use this as a one man sleep deck or my wife and I can
use it in emergencies, although it's a bit cramped.
These photos show the features of the left side of the canopy.   The Engel refrigerator, a container for very small parts, such as fuses, electrical
connections, etc, a multi-drawer tool box, and the battery compartment.    A net allows light items, such as sleeping bags and mats to be stored
out of the way.
The auxiliary battery lives in the bed of the truck inside the boxed in wheel well.    Relays and fuses (not pictured) for the accessories are on the
passenger side wall of the canopy.   The main 200amp fuse inline to the main battery in the engine compartment and a 30amp breaker that
controls the main power to the accessories is located in a separate box (pictured) for easy access.
These photos show the features of the right side of the canopy.   They include the primary slide out drawer tool box, a first aid kit (green box), the
main rear switch panel, overhead storage containers and the main spares and large tool wood box constructed around the right wheel well.
The water system basically consists of an RV pump, a single 5 gallon water container (although a second or third can be carried on board for
long trips) and an outside water spigot.
This vent was installed by me and includes a fan to help ventilate the canopy, on very hot days.
Roof Rack & Solar Panels.  
I recently added a new roof rack and two solar panels to the roof of the canopy.  The Thule basket roof rack, which is larger that the prior unit was
originally purchased for my wife's Forester, but found itself gathering dust in the garage after a couple of trips.  With the higher lift and 35" tires, it
wouldn't fit on my truck and still allow me to park in the garage ( 7 foot height limit ).  But that changed with the
reduced lift and 33" tires.

The roof rack now more easily carries a storage box and tools such as a shovel and axe.   It now houses two solar panels as well.  With no
other space available, I was forced to locate the panels on top of the roof rack which does reduce its utility somewhat.

The solar panels produce a combined 30 watts of electricity at 15 volts under ideal conditions.  Or about 2 amps.   That's enough power to run a
standard headlight.    However, ideal conditions are rare, so I generally figured on getting about half that on a regular basis.   To purpose of the
solar panels is not to run any accessories stand alone, but rather to keep my auxiliary battery as charged as possible when the engine is off,
while accessories like my refrigerator, strobe light and ventilation fan are running off of the auxiliary battery.  It's also an emergency charger in
the fairly unlikely event that both of my batteries were to go dead.  In most cases, the battery will still be draining, but the drain will be significantly
reduced during the daytime, with the solar panels hooked up and the truck parked somewhere with the engine off.

The solar panels would be useful when parking the truck for long periods of time during day while out hiking, but allowing the refrigerator, which
draws between .9 and 3.0 amps, and the strobe light, which draws a minuscule .035 amps to run most of the day with minimal affect on the
battery.    It also allows the refrigerator to run all night long off of the battery, with the battery receiving its first charge at daylight, potentially hours
before the truck is started and the alternator can take over, preventing the battery from fully draining by the morning hours.
At first the solar panels were mounted to the canopy roof rack (left pic) but were relocated to the cab roof (center pic) to regain the storage space
of the roof rack.   A very simple charge controller (right pic)  prevents the solar panels from overcharging the battery.  The panels have diodes that
prevent the battery from discharging through the panels.   The charge controller allows the panels to charge the batteries when voltage reaches
13 or less, then disconnects the panels when voltage reaches 14.2.
The Tailgate
The rear tailgate is supplemented with a sheet of diamondplate bolted to the tailgate.   A  swing out tire/gas can rack can be bolted to the rear
bumper, however, recently I've gone to carrying two 2.5 gallon gas tanks in bolted bolted to the tailgate.   This reduces weight by not using the
heavy swing out rack and still allows me to carry about 5 extra gallons of fuel.  The tailgate can still be easily swung out.   Another advantage of
the 2.5 gallon cans is  they are easier to manipulate when trying to refuel than a larger, heavier 5 gallon can.
Truck Tent
This is the new "truck tent".  Check out my full article on this feature on my Truck Tent Page.

This tent essentially lengthens the usable sleeping space from 6 x 5 feet of enclosed space to 8 x 5 feet of enclosed space, to allow for
more room for my wife and I to camp and sleep in the back.   However, I've yet to actually put this to use in the field and my wife prefers the extra
room of a full size ground tent, so we've taken to use that instead, although this can be used as an emergency back up or for extreme conditions.
As I began to rip out the prior configuration, the problem of dust and dirt became very apparent.   Part of the problem was the many screw and
bolt holes from the prior set ups as well as some vent holes that were located under the bed railing.
After plugging the holes and adding a new coat of paint, I began to relay some sheets of plywood.   Plywood would eventually cover the entire
floor.  I also constructed the two side boxes that would contain the auxilery battery and the spare parts and tools.   The main drawer tool box was
also remounted.
I came up with this idea on a whim.   First, I bolted a sheet of plywood on the tailgate, to smooth it out and make it relatively even with the
plywood floor of the canopy.  Then I made a little flip down piece that covers the gap between the tailgate and the main bed floor.   This serves
two main purposes.  One is to smooth out the floor when camping, since my truck tent utilizes the tailgate to add 2 additional feet of floor
space.   It also makes sliding cargo and large heavy items into the truck much easier.  The strip easily flips up to allow the tailgate to close.
One problem that I had was how to haul water.   In the prior configuration, I mounted two 5 gallon water containers, and an electric RV pump,
which then pumped the water to a spiget accessible from the outside of the truck.   With this set up, I utilize just one 5 gallon container that is
removable, but easier to store and takes up less space.
Finishing up the project, I added the toolbox and painted the entire interior black.  Soon, the Engel refrigerator will be added along with
carpet to line the floor.
The final touch, adding carpet.
Prior Configerations
Some photos of my prior configurations.  I tried a number of different set ups.  Most were built with the intention of making
room for my wife and I to be able to comfortably sleep.  Unfortunately, there were usually disadvantages associated with
those set ups and I later modified or changed them.   
This is one of the first ways I organized the rear bed/cargo area.   Highlights include a wood floor, storage boxes and a little table that allowed
me to work on the laptop and study maps at night on our camping trips.
This was one of my first attempts to make some kind of a sleeping deck.   The idea was that stuff could be stored under the deck, while the
upper deck would be wide enough to sleep on.  The disadvantages to this set up were pretty obvious shortly after I built it.   Cargo space was
limited and the sleeping deck was far more cramped than I anticipated.
This was my attempt to fix the above set up and still maintain a sleeping deck.  Unfortunately, cargo space was still severely limited and this
proved to be far more complicated than it was worth.
Highlights of this set up was a sleeping deck that was designed to store gear under the deck and be accessible via hatches and a slide out
plastic drawer.    About 1/3 of the deck was removable and stored on the canopy ceiling to allow for more cargo storage.  This set up worked OK,
but robbed valuable cargo space for carrying large items around town.
These photos show some of the roof and tire rack set ups I had.   A small roof rack was used to store tools while a low profile cargo box was
bolted to the roof.   In the other pictures, I experimented with located this cargo box under the truck where the spare tire was located.   It's this
same box that is now relocated to the roof again.
Highlights of this set up included many features of my current set up, but an aluminum tool box and a plastic toolbox permanently mounted.
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