Few accessories offer the practicality and versatility for your ute as a canopy does. If you’re looking to buy a ute canopy, though, you’ll come across a wide range of types, each with its own distinct advantages and disadvantages. Understanding these advantages and disadvantages, and which setup fits what type of ute best will give you the confidence to make the right buying choice.
Utes are already flexible, and there are even more ways you can take advantage of the space they provide. The most important aspect is setting up the canopy to best suit how you use your ute. Many people underestimate the process, and don’t make the right choice the first time around, which ends up costing them a ton of time, money and nerves down the line. That being said, here’s what you need to pay mind to.
Choosing the Base
There are three types of canopies to choose from based on the base they’ll be placed on – tub, tray and chassis-mounted. The most suitable canopy for you will depend on your ute’s factory setup, and personal preference.
A large number of utes come with a tub stock setup. These generally blend with the ute panels, and you can attach a wide range of canopies on top of them. The tubs aren’t worth much, and you can usually find a second-hand one for a few hundred dollars. Many people remove them in favour of aluminium tubs, as they’re lighter and allow you to carry more items without going over your recommended gross vehicle weight mass. However, if you intend on removing yours, keep the rear and tailgate lights, as they can cost quite a bit, and sell them separately.
Another common stock setup is the flat tray base. These feature fold-down sides and are typically made of aluminium. However, there are also steel options if you want a heavy-duty one. You can attach a steel or aluminium canopy to them by removing the fold-down sides, and then bolting them through the tray. There are jack-off tray canopies that feature legs and can be easily installed, removed and stored whenever you don’t need them. Trays are available in a wide range of designs and strengths, and they’re categorised as light-duty, medium-duty and heavy-duty. Their construction should suit your application, otherwise, you can end up having to deal with unpleasant problems.
Canopies that go on the chassis are permanent additions, as they’re very tedious to remove. Rather than having a tray, the canopy is simply bolted directly onto your ute’s chassis. Canopies meant for these bases are stronger beneath to form the base.
Choosing the Material
A large number of canopies are made using metals, such as aluminium and steel. An aluminium canopy will be lighter than a steel canopy, but it will be generally less durable. Steel canopies, especially stainless steel ones, are extremely tough, and capable of handling all types of weather conditions. They’re resistant to corrosion and rust, and will typically last for a very long time.
Fibreglass canopies are also popular. These canopies generally feature four windows, and the rear one lifts up on gas struts. There are tons of variations, and you can get them with so-called “windoors” on the side, fixed doors, sliding windows or nothing at all. Fibreglass canopies are on the costlier side, but you can get second-hand models for cheaper.
Canvas canopies are typically the most affordable option, and many people find them quite useful. Most of them are frame-built, with the canvas attached to them. The roof can be a solid sheet, and the canvas zips on all three accessible sides. Some people get a mesh on the inside to enhance its safety.
Other Factors to Consider
The security the canopy offers is of utmost importance. Camping and 4×4 gear and accessories aren’t cheap, and they can be an easy target for low-life people. Some canopies can easily be broken into, while others will require the use of tools, so most people won’t even bother trying. Avoid glass canopies and canvas canopies that don’t have any safety features to boost their protection. Metal canopies are the most secure, as they have virtually no weak points. But at the end of the day, if someone decides to breach your canopy, they will.
You can spend a ton of money on canopy accessories, including tool boxes, roof racks, air tanks, lights, vents, legs for jack-off canopies and so on. What you can do with your canopy will depend on how much you want to spend. Some manufacturers that make custom canopies can include these accessories if you want them to, but most of the time you’ll have to buy aftermarket. When buying aftermarket accessories, pay attention to compatibility.
Last but not least, you have to consider the size of the canopy. This can be made easy if you buy a canopy meant for your specific ute. Otherwise, you’ll have to pay attention to things like length, width and height. The canopy should fit your tub, tray or chassis, without too much overhang.