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Discussion Starter #1
I was wanting information from anyone with a bed cap on their truck. I am building a truck camper and am considering drilling holes through the camper and bed rails to attach it. Due to its size I am wanting a better attachment than clamps. Anyone have a cap connected like this? Or any connection without clamps. Looking at thoughts, ideas, examples, etc before I drill through my bed rails. Also, if you were drilling through the bed rails, would you remove the plastic cap first?

Pictures to help you understand. The first is a model I built to help visualize it. It is with the top popped up. When driving, it will be down and the part over my cab will only be about 9" tall. From the picture of my truck you can see I am still building the frame out.

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My ARE commercial topper, and the many that have preceded it, were drilled and bolted. I believe there are 4 5/16" stainless bolts with nylon nuts each side, through the plastic bed caps. They also put a bunch of foam weatherstripping on the bottom of the topper prior to bolting it to seal it from the elements.

That said, you are basically building a slide-in camper. You're not only adding a bunch of weight, but you're doing it up high. Depending on what you intend to carry in that top "rack", you will, much faster than you realize, alter the vehicle's center of gravity. That's why Ford only puts slide-in camper certification on the Super Duties and, if you get that certification, they dramatically increase the normally-selected spring rates all around. Not saying you shouldn't do it, just something you need to be aware of, especially playing around with steel.

Finally, I don't know about your state, but Texas doesn't allow anything to extend more than 3 feet beyond the front or 4 feet beyond the rear of the vehicle. Your rear overhang probably isn't that long, but it's getting there. You may also want to give some consideration, as much as it sucks, into the liability of that rig in a crash (when some jackass on their phone ass-ends you and, rather than dissipating all that energy into all those crumple zones, they eat a bunch of steel... can you say lawsuit?). If you do choose to run it, I would give serious consideration to adding some additional red rear lighting, etc. to mark it.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Thanks for the info on how your topper is connected. I can't decide if I want to leave the plastic cap on or remove it before putting the camper on. I guess I should try removing it and see how hard/easy it is and let that make my decision for me.

The upper rack will be were I sleep. When driving it is closed and about 9" tall. With a 2" gap over the cabin it is 11" above the vehicle. The back section is about 2' past the bumper. I do plan to add brake lights down low and markers up top. Possible even reverse lights and side markers. The weight will only be about 600 pounds when finished. I am going to replace my bump stops with the timbre progressive rate bump stops. I hope I don't have to change the springs but if I do no big deal.

My primary purpose is camping and overlanding. I was towing a cargo trailer but I don't like how the turbo's were always spooled up. It really sucked the gas. I am hoping with the lower profile this won't be as hard on the truck. I am almost done with the frame and will start skinning it soon (hopefully).

Thanks again for your comments. It is always good to get others perspective/experience. It adds a lot of value.
 

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Man I LOVE where you are going with this.

And already admire the tenacity you (both) have shown.

Please please keep this thread alive as you continue. So cool!

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If you do take the cap off, I would suggest putting something in its place (thick or multiple coats of PPF?) otherwise your setup will grind the crap out of that paint, leading to more issues down the road. And you definitely want to add something to help with keeping the rain out... if you get rain in, into that closed space, it's gonna get moldy and funky in a real hurry.

Just for reference, the ARE DCU aluminum topper weighs about 190lbs. (a bit more if you add toolboxes). Mine, fully optioned, is in the 250lb. range. So you're definitely on the heavy side - just be wary of that, plus however much cargo you intend to carry (which will be somewhat significant if you're doing serious overlanding). If you start getting sway, you're already on the right path... you could also consider 10-ply tires if things get too bad. The typical P-rated tires will really contribute to sway.

I would definitely have a rear high-mount brake light, brake lights on the lower corners of the extended section, and perhaps even some small marker lights on the sides just so people know you're there - you don't want some moron to lane-change into you.
 

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My head tells me the paint will still be affected even with he rails left in place. Perhaps not to the same degree. Wondering if you could put some weather stripping between the rails and the paint to give a little cushion.
 

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If you're going through the trouble, you might as well make it a slide in. You gain more space on the sides and don't have to drill your truck. I could see making a slide in as a shell cap with no bottom, just use the bed for that.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
If you do take the cap off, I would suggest putting something in its place (thick or multiple coats of PPF?) otherwise your setup will grind the crap out of that paint, leading to more issues down the road. And you definitely want to add something to help with keeping the rain out... if you get rain in, into that closed space, it's gonna get moldy and funky in a real hurry.

Just for reference, the ARE DCU aluminum topper weighs about 190lbs. (a bit more if you add toolboxes). Mine, fully optioned, is in the 250lb. range. So you're definitely on the heavy side - just be wary of that, plus however much cargo you intend to carry (which will be somewhat significant if you're doing serious overlanding). If you start getting sway, you're already on the right path... you could also consider 10-ply tires if things get too bad. The typical P-rated tires will really contribute to sway.

I would definitely have a rear high-mount brake light, brake lights on the lower corners of the extended section, and perhaps even some small marker lights on the sides just so people know you're there - you don't want some moron to lane-change into you.
There will definitely be something between the camper and the bed rails. There has to be given the bed is aluminum and the camper is steel. I thought about getting a sheet of HDPE to put between the two but that probably isn't required if I have a thick gasket in there. Another reason to remove the rail caps is because it makes the side rails a 1/4" above the front rail. Removing the caps should make it even on all three sides. What is PPF?

What I am doing is nothing new except for the part that extends past the bed. Many company's build these and they weigh anywhere from 400 to 600 pounds depending on options. They even go in mid-size trucks so weight isn't, or at least shouldn't be a problem. If it is, then the F150's are pretty weak. But I have towed a 33' travel trailer with a tongue weight of about 600 pounds with about 2" of squat so I should be good. If not it is easy to level out.

I hadn't thought about a brake light up high but that does make sense given it would replace the light on the back of the cab. Good suggestion. Yes side markers will be installed.

My head tells me the paint will still be affected even with he rails left in place. Perhaps not to the same degree. Wondering if you could put some weather stripping between the rails and the paint to give a little cushion.
There will definitely be a weatherstrip regardless if the rail cap is left on or not. It needs to be water proof.

If you're going through the trouble, you might as well make it a slide in. You gain more space on the sides and don't have to drill your truck. I could see making a slide in as a shell cap with no bottom, just use the bed for that.
I don't want the extra weight of a slide in. I do not understand how I would gain more space? I also thought about using the cargo tie downs or the bolts holding the bed to the truck as alternative anchor spots.


Thanks everyone for the thoughts and questions.

My next challenge is determining what to skin it with. Leaning towards fiberglass or ACM (aluminum composite material which is polyethylene sandwiched by aluminum). I prefer no seams so the fiberglass would be best but that is a lot of messy work.
 

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Is there no supplier of the modern fiberglass-clad sandwich material used in RV's? You could just route openings out of it for windows, doors, through-hull fittings, etc?

I only ask from watching some YouTube videos of mass produced RV's and the entire side will be one continuous "sheet" of insulated wall, complete with exterior and interior skin, sandwiching the core insulation material.

Ignore me if I have revealed that I don't have a clue. Lol. But I'm subscribed, none the less

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Have you looked into how the “from-the-factory” overlanding caps are mounted? No sense reinventing the wheel.

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There will definitely be something between the camper and the bed rails. There has to be given the bed is aluminum and the camper is steel. I thought about getting a sheet of HDPE to put between the two but that probably isn't required if I have a thick gasket in there. Another reason to remove the rail caps is because it makes the side rails a 1/4" above the front rail. Removing the caps should make it even on all three sides. What is PPF?
Paint protection film.

There will definitely be a weatherstrip regardless if the rail cap is left on or not. It needs to be water proof.
Believe it or not, this is a bigger challenge than you might think. On the ARE toppers, of which I've owned or worked with quite a few, getting them truly waterproof is quite difficult. You'll want to do heavy weatherstripping at every contact point, then be prepared to use a flexible body filler to caulk/fill any small remaining gaps.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Is there no supplier of the modern fiberglass-clad sandwich material used in RV's? You could just route openings out of it for windows, doors, through-hull fittings, etc?

I only ask from watching some YouTube videos of mass produced RV's and the entire side will be one continuous "sheet" of insulated wall, complete with exterior and interior skin, sandwiching the core insulation material.

Ignore me if I have revealed that I don't have a clue. Lol. But I'm subscribed, none the less
I hadn't thought of pre-manufactured fiberglass panels like you mention. I have looked at some of the composite panels but most of them are thicker than I desire. If I do any insulation it would go within my metal frame instead of in the skin. I guess I could do both but not needed. Lets not forget my floor and part of my wall is the truck bed which doesn't have insulation. I have been camping for years in single digit weather in tents and a cargo trailer without insulation so not too concerned about insulation. My thickness preference is 1/2" or less but preferably 1/8" to 1/4". I will have to see if I can find pre-manufactured fiberglass panels. Good suggestion, thanks.

Have you looked into how the “from-the-factory” overlanding caps are mounted? No sense reinventing the wheel.

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Yes I have and most have the rail cap removed and bolts through the rail. But that doesn't mean it is right so I wanted to crowdsource options to ensure there isn't a better scenario. Plus, asking here, I get answers from people with a ton of experience with Fords. Not a lot of people overland with F150's, or even Fords for that matter. But that will change with the new Ranger. Two other reasons I ask, and not just go with that solution, is because the metal is thin and aluminum. To my knowledge no other truck has aluminum skin. In addition, a lot of the people buying these are leaving the camper on full time because they live in the west and have beautiful places to go that are just a few hours drive. That isn't the case for me. Most of the places I go are at least 4 hours away.

I also plan to have a two brackets in the front that will clamp on the front rail. This is primarily to help prevent horizontal front to back movement when driving. Probably not needed, but extra insurance is always good. The bolts on the side rails will be for up and down and side to side movement.
 

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All you have to do is frame the bottom a bit (RED), not much weight. I wouldn't even skin that part, just the upper part. But you could add a floor or piece of wood if you wanted to after it's on your truck. This would be completely removable, but you'd also have to figure out some different anchoring system. The advantage of doing this is you can overhang the side of the bed rail and add probably up to a 1 foot to each side. The easiest way to do this with what you have is to cut it directly in half lengthwise, then add a couple sections in the middle. You can then finish off the angles on the outside.(Yellow). Just some thoughts.

Regardless of what you do, I would bend that front top cap a little bit for wind deflection.

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Discussion Starter #15
All you have to do is frame the bottom a bit (RED), not much weight. I wouldn't even skin that part, just the upper part. But you could add a floor or piece of wood if you wanted to after it's on your truck. This would be completely removable, but you'd also have to figure out some different anchoring system. The advantage of doing this is you can overhang the side of the bed rail and add probably up to a 1 foot to each side. The easiest way to do this with what you have is to cut it directly in half lengthwise, then add a couple sections in the middle. You can then finish off the angles on the outside.(Yellow). Just some thoughts.

Regardless of what you do, I would bend that front top cap a little bit for wind deflection.
Now I understand. I don't feel I need anymore width but what you show with the red is one of my thoughts when suggesting I anchor it with the bed anchors or the bed bolts. Remember I mentioned that top part is up only while camping. When driving it collapses. So while driving it looks like this.

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What about just using the vertical pockets in the bed rail. You could lower a piece in there and pin it with a simple receiver pin and cotter pin? Looks like a fun project.
 
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What about just using the vertical pockets in the bed rail. You could lower a piece in there and pin it with a simple receiver pin and cotter pin? Looks like a fun project.
That is a brilliant idea. It never crossed my mind. Now I just need to see if my frame lines up with those holes. If it doesn't, can I simply bolt or weld a bracket on? I found weight ratings for the bed anchors so I will see if I can find weight ratings for these pockets. I would love this solution over drilling holes in the rail. It would be a lot easier to remove the caps over these columns than the entire cap. Thanks for the suggestion.
 

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You're welcome. Glad you like it! I would use a square channel that fits tight in there, not that 1" square stuff. Also rather than have 4 legs permanently welded on the cap (which makes it awkward to store off the truck.) You could make a pocket on the cap side to mirror the bed. Then to install you just stick a piece of square stock in there and pin it on both ends. This way the cap still retains the flatness to it.
 
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Discussion Starter #19
Paint protection film.


Believe it or not, this is a bigger challenge than you might think. On the ARE toppers, of which I've owned or worked with quite a few, getting them truly waterproof is quite difficult. You'll want to do heavy weatherstripping at every contact point, then be prepared to use a flexible body filler to caulk/fill any small remaining gaps.
Not sure how I missed this. Is your topper using a foam seal. I know those tend to leak. I am planning on using a rubber seal that others have reported do not leak. Either way I will watch it closely. But, one benefit of no floor is who cares if the bed of the truck gets wet.

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Yep, mine uses several layers of foam, backed up by body filler anywhere a leak could occur. I tend to carry some very expensive equipment in the bed of the truck (bags of bunker gear, technical rescue gear, 5-figure radio service monitors, etc.) and it has to be water tight. We've run several of these toppers over a number of years and, properly sealed, haven't had any issues with leaks.
 
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