As I get older I find myself repeating those same cliches that I always rolled my eyes at when I was a kid. My mom used to say all the time: “This is why we can’t have nice things.” Well, this story is why we really can’t have nice things. Damn it, I’m one “treat others how you want to be treated” away from fully becoming my parents.
Anyway, sometimes people just suck and you have to prepare for the worst, is my point. This realization came and hit me smack in the face after coming back to the truck we were taking camping, only to find someone had slashed the tonneau cover and made off with a decent amount of our gear. Knowing what know now, if we had really thought about what we were trusting to guard our stuff, we might have ponied up for something with a little more protection. But where to start?
First, let’s talk a little about security:
Security; in a perfect world, that word wouldn’t exist. Unfortunately, we don’t have a perfect world, we have planet Earth. However, we have solutions! The great thing with hard tonneau covers is that most of them require the tailgate to be down in order to open the tonneau cover, meaning that if your tailgate is locked, so is the bed cover. Others take this a step further and can be opened on their own, usually with a lock and key to make sure they are still secure while offering the convenience of anytime access.
From there, it really just comes down to what sort of material the cover is made out of and how it’s built. We’ll be taking a look at aluminum, fiberglass, and composite options here, all of which will offer more protection than the vinyl soft cover that lost me at least a paycheck’s worth of stuff. So while the initial investment for a hard panel cover is higher, it can save you money and a headache in the future. They are also immune to the wind buffeting issues that can plague some soft covers.
Let’s get into the options!
Probably the most popular category here, and the one with the most options. Just about anyone who makes tonneau covers of any sort will have at least one of these in their arsenal, if not several (I’m looking at you, BAK). These are a versatile option, as you still have access to more or less your entire truck bed if you need it.
- Tons of choice at the widest range of price points (including cheapest)
- Generally pretty high weight capacity
- Virtually no bed space wasted
- Some models can be paired with in-bed toolboxes
- Block your rear window when folded up all the way
- Can be more difficult than others to open and fold up, especially for the uh, “vertically challenged” among us
- Has more potential for leaks than hinged covers (though many are still rated to be waterproof)
Not to be confused with roll-up covers, these retract into a canister in the back of the bed. These can be a bit pricey, but they make up for that with being possibly the most convenient out of any of the options here, while retaining the same security and toughness as any here — the main downside being that the canister takes up valuable bed space. It’s all a give and take.
- Easiest and most convenient to open/close (some can even be opened remotely with a key fob)
- Do not obstruct visibility when open
- Can open separately from the tailgate
- Canister takes up bed space whether the cover is open or closed
- Higher cost/barrier to entry than others
- Same susceptibility to leaks as folding covers
These are just such a classic and classy look, aren’t they? Especially when painted to match the rest of the truck, it’s really the most OEM looking option of everything mentioned here as well. However, these are probably the least versatile of any others mentioned here — at least with the classic single hinge style, as these limit access to the bed, and need to be removed completely if you need to haul anything much taller than the side of the bed.
- Sleek look, can arrive at your door already painted to match your truck
- Best weather protection, as the cover overlaps the sides of the truck bed
- Some companies like Diamondback have multiple hinge points and integrate with built-in toolboxes for massive utility
- Limited bed access in most cases
- Need to be removed to haul particularly large loads
- The only one here that can’t be used with a 5th wheel or gooseneck hitch
Of the literally hundreds of tonneau covers we carry, we only have one hard roll-up tonneau cover, and that’s the BAK Revolver X2/X4. This combines all the security of the others, but also rolls up and out of the way without taking up any bed space, and doesn’t block your window in order to do it. Oh, and it’s the same price as BAK’s own MX4, so it’s not like you have to pay a premium for the convenience.
- All the benefits of a folding cover while taking up less space and being easier to roll up
- Tough protection with the aluminum slats
- Has vinyl cover, which looks nice, won’t stay looking nice as long as some other options here (the X4 solves this issue)
- Not much choice in the market, comparatively
If you need to keep your stuff not only away from prying eyes, but prying hands as well, now you know what to look out for. Hopefully these pros and cons helped narrow down your selection a little bit, but to be honest, there is still a dizzying amount of choice out there these days. A blessing and a curse, right?