By Mike Cote - November 24, 2018
While water is essential for your health, but your tools and all your gear in the back of your truck? Eh, not so much. If you need to keep your stuff out of the elements, then a well sealing truck bed cover is just what the doctor ordered. Not only will a good tonneau cover keep your gear dry and out of the weather, but it will keep your stuff away from prying eyes as well. With so many options these days, at every price point imaginable, however, it can be pretty difficult to narrow down which option is most worth your time and money. So let’s get into the options here.
Choosing the Right Tonneau Cover Brand
OK, so the goal is to keep your stuff safe and dry. You’d think it would be pretty easy from here, because we have an absolute ton of options available that can help you accomplish that goal — which is a blessing and a curse. There are so many different brands, materials, opening styles, and other miscellaneous features that narrowing down the selection and figuring out which you need can very quickly become a daunting task. But don’t worry! We live for this kinda stuff.
The first place to start is in what type of cover would best suit your needs. How much security do you need from the cover? Are you ever going to need to strap a payload down on top of it? Need it to be as lightweight as possible? Just need something and don’t want to break the bank? We’ll go through each case below.
It’s also good to establish who the big players are here, and who are the brands you can trust. TruXedo, Extang, BAK, and Truck Covers USA are a few notable examples that have all made a solid name for themselves in the tonneau cover industry. I’ll give you a little hint, though. At AT, we don’t do business with brands that put out sub-par products, and we have hundreds of thousands of product specific reviews to back that up.
Weatherproofing your truck bed:
One thing we need to tackle before we get into this list. No tonneau cover can completely seal off your bed, because your tailgate has gaps built into it from the factory in order to drain rain water. To fully weatherproof your truck bed, you’re going to need to invest in a tailgate seal in order to prevent water from getting in. Also, while the truck bed covers on this list will do an admirable job in keeping water out, some might require a little tweaking and finesse to get a reliable seal. Manufacturers such as BAK will include tips on how to get this done with the installation instructions. Such is the nature of the beast.
I figured this was as good as any place to start, given that vinyl covers tend to be some of the most affordable options, and can be very effective at keeping the weather out (that title goes to hard shell hinged covers, check those out below). These are also usually the lightest weight covers, and are offered in folding, roll-up, or even hinged configurations depending on your needs. Using tough, marine grade, and UV treated tarp, a good soft vinyl tonneau cover will last at least as long as say, a Jeep or convertible top would.
One of the most popular soft folding covers on the market is the Extang Trifecta 2.0 Tonneau Cover. The Trifecta boasts three aluminum folding frame sections, which make it easy to access your tools, camping equipment, or whatever you haul around in your truck bed. It’s custom crafted for your specific year/make/model and installs in five minutes or less. Seriously, it’ll probably take you longer to unbox the thing than put it on the truck. When you need to get to your stuff, just open the tailgate and pop the latch for the cover to fold it back. Easy as can be.
If you really need to save a buck, though, you can’t go wrong with the TruXedo TruXport roll-up tonneau cover. Coming in at under $300 for most applications, this isn’t the cheapest tonneau cover in the world, but it is one the most well liked with 4,300 reviews averaging 4.5 stars. Hard to argue with those numbers, huh?
The handy thing with these roll-up tonneau covers is that you get full, uncompromised use of your bed when you need it. With the TruXport, all you need to do is roll it up towards the cab of the truck, peeling up the velcro as you go, and then it buckles into place, allowing you to haul whatever you need, and then rolls back into place in 30 seconds once you’re done.
Here’s where we get into the real bread and butter of the industry. For instance, even though it’s no where near the cheapest truck bed cover we sell, the BAK MX4 is our best selling hard folding cover, and one of the top selling tonneau covers period. With tough aluminum panels, and a dense foam core, the MX4 gets the job done, and looks damn good in the process.
Sitting flush with your bed rails, and folding up completely out of the way of the truck bed, the MX4 is inconspicuously secure when you need it to be, and out of the way when you need the extra room.
Of course with all those hinges and different surfaces to seal, there are a lot more opportunities for water to get by the seals. That’s why those geniuses at BAK built in drains along the rails with drain tubes to allow the run off to drain away from your precious gear. This feature isn’t exclusive to BAK of course, they are just some of the best at nailing it. Oh, and did I mention that you can load up the cover with 400lbs of distributed weight? Beast.
Ah, yes. If the name of the game is weather resistance, then a hinged tonneau cover is about as good as you’re going to get short of welding the damn thing shut. That’s a little impractical for my taste, which is why I would recommend something like the Undercover Elite LX instead. Due to the way these covers clamshell over the entire bed, they tend to provide the best weather protection around.
The Elite is packed with features in a category where most of the options just have one function, and that’s it. My favorite thing here, which I’m surprised more companies haven’t done, is allow you to use your factory ignition key with the lock on the cover, so you only need to worry about one key for the entire truck. That along with getting it delivered factory paint matched to your truck makes this a top choice for the OEM+ look.
While traditionally constructed of fiberglass, hinged tonneau covers now come in a variety of new materials. Whether you want the classy look of fiberglass, the lightweight maneuverability of canvas and vinyl (shown) or the heavy-duty hauling capacity of aluminum, hinged truck bed covers have something for everyone.
When protecting your gear is equally as important as hauling flexibility, retractable tonneaus offer the ideal solution. They secure in multiple positions along your bed rails to make room for large cargo while still keeping smaller gear under cover. From completely closed to open, you can retract your cover in seconds to suit any situation.
The flush design of retractable covers allows them to boast the lowest profile of any tonneau type. Not only does the sleek style of a retractable cover add a nice touch to your exterior, while remaining as tough as anything out there. While these do take up a little bit of bed space with the canister that the cover rolls up into, it’s a worthy trade-off for the security and convenience — especially with the power retractable options.
Oh, and about that weather resistance. Covers like the Pace Edwards JackRabbit and the ProZ UltraTrack feature integrated channels and drain tubes to clear runoff and get that water away from your gear
Lund tonneau covers are also among the most popular truck bed covers on the market. They boast a number of soft and hard tonneau covers that keep your gear safe and secure. Choose from popular Lund tonneau covers, like the Lund Tri Fold Tonneau Cover. The Tri Fold Tonneau Cover rolls up and back quickly for quick access to your cargo. Plus, its clean, low-profile design improves your rig’s fuel economy.
Find out which tonneau covers are the favorites among our consumers by checking out the helpful tonneau cover reviews on our website. Find hundreds of reviews on all the popular styles and brands, making it easy to do comparison shopping. Plus, we have vehicle-specific reviews, so you can find out which F150 tonneau cover or which Tacoma tonneau cover looks and fits the best.
To achieve maximum dryness it’s best to go with hard tonneau covers, which actually block out and/or drain water rather than simply repelling it. While vinyl covers are water resistant, they’re not completely water proof. Hard pickup bed covers are made of solid fiberglass and block out any possible leakage. Don’t go wrong, go hard and stay dry with hard covers for trucks.
Choosing the right tonneau cover to keep your gear dry and secure is essential. Consider your specific needs, budget, and preferences when selecting the type of tonneau cover that suits you best. Whether you opt for a soft vinyl cover, a hard folding cover, a hinged cover, or a retractable cover, each type has its advantages. Be sure to also invest in additional weatherproofing measures like tailgate seals to ensure maximum protection for your truck bed and cargo.
With the wide range of options available, you can find the perfect tonneau cover to meet your requirements and enhance the functionality and style of your truck. Make an informed choice, and enjoy the benefits of a high-quality tonneau cover for years to come.