The hottest trend in the car-camping and overland world right now is the lightweight pop-top truck camper. It combines a truck topper shell and a rooftop tent. These go-anywhere truck campers are ready for adventure!
The pop-top truck camper gives you interior standing room, a comfortable bed, and a large, locked storage area. It also offers up a solid platform to mount all your big adventure sports toys, like kayaks and bicycles, on the roof. The lightweight pop-top truck camper fills the void between the traditional truck topper and a full-featured, RV-style, slide-in truck camper.
The idea of an integrated tent in a truck bed topper or canopy isn’t new. Lately, though, there’s an all-new crop of this camper type sprouting up. And most of them incorporate wedge-shaped rooftop tents.
Let’s take a look at the current offerings in the lightweight pop-up truck camper space. I’ve personally been hands-on with every one of these products, so my thoughts are based on actual experiences, with additional information gathered from speaking directly with camper owners and company owners.
AT Overland Habitat
AT Overland Equipment has been making quality products for the North American overland community since before most people had ever heard the word “overland.” The company started with off-road-capable adventure trailers.
Over the past few years, AT has moved into rooftop and truckbed living systems. The first of this style available by the brand is the Habitat. In just the first 2 years on the market, over 100 Habitat flip-open truck campers were sold, with continued growth since then.
The AT Habitat is unique to the current market with its flip-over design, much like many rooftop tents. This design offers a huge amount of sleeping room in the tent for up to four people.
It also offers a dedicated sleeping area for two while still having the entire truck bed area as a standing-height living space. Outdoor gear manufacturer NEMO Equipment helped develop the tent on the Habitat.
A great feature of this design is that the tent system creates a covered area over the back of your truck. This is a great area to cook outside but out of the weather. It also helps you keep wet and muddy gear out of your living space by giving you a covered area to remove shoes and soggy clothes before entering the inside living area.
There are two drawbacks to the AT Habitat design over the other pop-up camper designs. The first and most important for outdoor adventurers is that gear on the roof needs to be removed before deploying the tent. The second is that the Habitat tent can be quite a bit louder in windy conditions, as there is more tent to catch the wind and less rigid structure to the tent.
While this design might look more fragile than the pop-up designs out there, the Habitat is built to take whatever you throw at it. As with the other AT truck topper designs, the roof, when closed, can support up to 350 pounds. The big trick with the Habitat is that the cantilevered bed area has a massive loading capacity of 600 pounds.
All AT Overland truck topper campers are made of one-inch lightweight honeycomb composite panels skinned with FRP and bonded to 5052 aluminum. This construction allows for impressive strength, low weight, and quality insulation, separating it from the competition.
AT Overland is also one of the only builders of this style of camper that currently has a full continent-wide dealer network. This allows you to buy any AT Overland truck camper and get product support much closer to home, or wherever your travels might take you.
AT Overland Summit
The second lightweight pop-top truck camper on offer from AT Overland is the wedge-style Summit. The AT Summit was introduced at Overland Expo West 2018 and was an instant hit.
This new camper builds on the same architecture as the proven Habitat. The big advantage over the Habitat is that you can leave up to 100 pounds of gear on the roof when you pop the top. No one wants to take down their adventure sports gear to make the bed!
The Summit’s bed is 48 x 80 inches, the length of a queen-size bed. It has a 2.5-inch-thick mattress and pivots upward out of the way when not in use, assisted by gas springs. And there’s enough room between the sleeping platform and closed roof to leave your bedding in place. Making your bed at camp was never so easy!
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My only real gripe with the AT Summit, after spending many nights sleeping in one, is the foot room. I’m tall, 6’3″, and have big feet, U.S. men’s size 13, and my feet hit the low part of the wedged roof when I roll over in the bed.
This is a bit annoying and wakes me up at night. It’s an issue with all wedge-style campers, but a nonissue for those who are shorter and have smaller feet than me.
Since I last spent time in a Summit, AT Overland has added an option to address the foot box issue for tall people. You can now order a Summit with the bed moved toward the back of the truck by 6 inches. This should greatly increase the vertical room for your feet in the wedge end of the camper while in bed.
AT Overland Atlas
The third and most recent addition to the AT Overland truck topper lineup is the Atlas. The AT Atlas is built on the same basic architecture of the Habitat and Summit but offers a full vertical pop-top design.
The AT Atlas can hold 50 pounds of gear on the roof when popped while still being able to open and close easily.
The tent on the Atlas and Summit is made of Sunbrella Firesist. This is a highly durable, fire-resistant, all-weather material typically used in commercial awning applications.
The bed in the Atlas is the same size as the Summit, 48 x 80 inches, but is made up of two panels instead of one big one. This two-panel design makes it easy to pop the tent from the middle and allows for stacking of the mattress in the cab-over area, optimizing truck bed living space.
The big win for the Atlas is the huge amount of sleeping area you get compared to the Summit while getting way more insulation in the roof over the Habitat. The Atlas design also means you can sleep easily with your head in either direction, versus the Summit where you will always want to have your head at the wider end of the wedge.
A great option to consider for both the Summit and Atlas is the insulated tent liner. AT Overland uses 3M Thinsulate FR insulation quilted into the fire-resistant fabric. This setup adds to the already built-in insulation in the walls and roof. All-season camping was never so comfortable!
Go Fast Campers (GFC) Platform/Platform XL
If you want a little bling, and by far the easiest access to gear in the truck bed, the GFC Platform Camper is for you. This extremely lightweight camping system is designed for go-fast camping adventures in remote off-road environments. The Platform is designed for midsize trucks whereas the Platform XL is designed for full-size trucks.
Low weight and immense strength are the ideas behind the Platform. GFC said, “We build these things to jump.”
The Platform frame is made of steel tubing similar to a roll cage. This allows the camper to be extremely rigid and for all the sides to open, as they aren’t part of the structure. The crazy-strong and very sexy roof latches and hinge mechanisms are all machined from aluminum.
The downsides to the GFC designs are that the tent is made of welded vinyl fabric snapped into place. This setup is super durable as well as super easy to clean and maintain. It’s also prone to condensation issues, however.
The relatively thin 2-inch mattress is also not comfortable enough for many. Owners of GFC campers have been known to supplement or replace the mattress with memory foam or self-inflating camp pad options.
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If the weather is nice, there’s no better camper to be in. The GFC Platform fully opens up like your own personal cabana. And GFC makes all this camper’s components in-house. This allows them to control, modify, and upgrade everything in the Platform Camper system as the company grows and receives more customer feedback.
Snap! Outfitters Treehouse
Snap! Outfitters was born out of necessity. No wedge-style pop-up truck topper was on the U.S. market back in 2017. After over a year of testing, the Treehouse finally hit the market in early 2018. This aluminum truck camper is feature-rich and built to order. That means it will fit your truck and your needs.
One of the coolest integrated features of the Treehouse is the three-step ladder from the truck bed to the sleeping platform. Everything on the Treehouse is designed for ease of use by nearly anyone.
The barn door-style rear entry and swing-open side hatches are also unique to Snap! Outfitters. These features make it incredibly easy to access gear in the truck bed while also keeping the elements out.
Snap! Outfitters is based in rural Pennsylvania, and each Treehouse is built to each customer’s individual needs. For example, if you want side windows instead of side hatches, the brand can do that.
Vagabond Outdoors: The Drifter/The Nomad
The owners of Vagabond Outdoors started the company with over 12 years of pop-top camper ownership under their belts from a variety of manufacturers. They have used that experience and knowledge to build what they think is a better product. The Drifter pop-up wedge-style truck camper was born in early 2017 and went into production in spring 2018.
The Drifter is designed for midsize trucks, where The Nomad camper is for full-size trucks.
One killer feature not currently being offered by competitors is a standard dropdown cab window. This allows for a crawl-through to the cab of the truck from the truck bed — if the truck is fitted with a rear window with a large enough opening to crawl through.
The bed in The Drifter/Nomad is a full 3 inches thick and sports a high-density mattress with a waterproof cover. The lid/bed design also keeps bedding in place when the camper is collapsed.
Besides focusing production of these camper toppers, Vagabond Outdoors is also striving to become the premier overland outfitter in the San Francisco Bay Area. It’s currently a dealer for top brands like Frontrunner, Goose Gear, Blueridge Overland Gear, Dometic, Total Chaos, and Baja Designs.
OVRLND Pop Top
The OVRLND Pop Top is a full pop-up design. This lightweight aluminum pop-top camper is custom-made to order. It can work with any truck and be fully customized to the buyer’s specifications.
Throughout the truck bed, the Pop Top offers a standing height of 6’5″ for midsize trucks and 7’3″ for full-size trucks. Vertical sidewalls also maximize interior space, which is unlike other designs that angle in to conform to the truck cab shape.
The Pop Top offers a 61″ W x 80″ L sleeping area in midsize trucks and a 68″ W x 80″ L in full-size trucks.
OVRLND is a one-man shop, so don’t expect mass production on the Pop Top. But what you can expect is one-on-one attention and a custom build that fits your needs exactly.
Four Wheel Campers Project M
With Four Wheel Campers offering truck campers for nearly half a century now, the brand knows a thing or two about building a quality product.
While it’s known for full-featured slide-in truck campers, it couldn’t ignore the large market demand for a more basic lightweight pop-up truck topper camper. The Project M was born from this hole in the brand’s camper lineup and market demand.
The things that really set the FWC Project M apart from the competition are the wide sleeping area and vertical sidewalls. The sleeping area is so wide that most people can actually sleep sideways in the camper. The bed measures 65 x 80 inches for the midsize truck camper and 73 x 80 inches for the full-size truck camper.
The design fits on most trucks, with very few camper models needed to cover the wide range of truck beds out there. This design can look a bit chunky and wide on some narrower and more curvy trucks. The vertical sidewalls and relatively wide camper offer up a ton of living space inside the truck bed.
There’s also a big lip inside the camper where it meets the top of the truck bed. This allows it to fit lots of trucks but also offers up great built-in benches inside the camper.
The outside look of the Project M can change drastically depending on the siding option you choose. The brand offers black diamond plate or smooth aluminum siding, with several color options if smooth is chosen.
One thing you get when buying an FWC is a wide, well-established, independent dealer network across the globe. The full one-piece roof, tent, and pop-top system on the Project M are well-proven components, as they come directly from the other FWC slide-in models.
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With a 5-year warranty on the roof, frame, and siding, along with the large dealer service network, it’s hard to go wrong with an FWC purchase.
Camp King Industries Outback Series
The Camp King Outback Series integrated tent truck topper is an all-aluminum unit from Australia, imported by Rhino Adventure Gear. The complete unit is CNC laser-cut, bent, and hand-TIG-welded before being powder-coated inside and out.
While it’s one of the most expensive units on the market, you get a lot for that money. It’s an incredibly feature-rich and durable unit. By releasing two lockable stainless steel latches, the tent basically sets itself up with the help of two heavy-duty gas struts.
The roof is a one-piece design for the best weather sealing possible. The roof also features a 3-inch-thick, closed-cell foam headliner for insulation and sound deadening.
Under that roof is an 85-inch-long by 51-inch-wide sleeping area with a two-piece, 3-inch-thick foam mattress. The two-piece bed design allows for access to the truck bed from the sleeping area as well as standing room in the truck bed.
Both the canvas tent and aluminum topper come standard with three doors each. The tent doors are also windows, with full mesh for optimal ventilation and as a bug barrier. The rear tent door features an integrated awning.
An included 8’5″ telescopic ladder allows for tent entry from outside through any of the three tent doors/windows. The topper itself also has three tightly sealed and lockable doors/access hatches for easy access to everything in the truck bed.
Two super-useful included features of the CK Outback Series Tent Topper are the roof extrusion rails and internal storage pouches. The aluminum extrusion rails on the roof allow for securing a wide range of gear, and for mounting things like crossbars and solar panels.
You get a total of six internal storage pouches in this camper topper. There are four shoe pockets at the back door and two general-use storage pockets on the side in the sleeping area.
Super Pacific Switchback X1
Super Pacific is the new kid on the block in the pop-up camper space, but they have a background in manufacturing and got going quickly in 2019. They have mostly flown under the radar, as they do little to no marketing and are still backlogged on orders for nearly a year.
I’ve been to its small manufacturing facility in Portland, Oregon. It is a no-nonsense industrial space where raw materials are riveted and stitched together to create the four-season Switchback X1 wedge-style pop-up camper.
The riveted-together aluminum structure and three big doors with CNC machined hinges are the main things that set the Super Pacific camper apart from the competition. In many ways, the Switchback X1 is a combo of a lot of ideas that were/are already on the market.
T-slot tracking is integrated into the design, as are threaded inserts, that allow a whole host of accessories to be added at any time. This includes roof racks, awnings, and even furniture and storage solutions on the interior.
Super Pacific includes an Exped Megamat Duo LW+ as the mattress of choice for the Switchback X1 camper. The bed platform under the mattress is made of removable panels that fill the entire space, providing 20 inches of extra storage than the mattress covers and allowing you to stow all the panels in the cab-over when the top is popped and you want lots of standing room in the truck bed.
One big downside of the Switchback X1 is that the mattress must be deflated in order to close the top. When deflated some basic summer bedding can be stowed in the bed area, along with the deflated mattress, when the top is down.
Another downside to this camper is that when open, it can only support a 75-pound load. This isn’t much when you consider how much kayaks, bikes, skis, etc. weigh.
The Switchback X1 is made in Portland, Oregon, with parts sourced exclusively from the USA. While I’ve talked to the owners, I’ve yet to talk to a Super Pacific owner or spend the night in one myself.
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