Soft vs. Hard Camper Shells – Which Will Reign Supreme?

Don’t we all like to draw comparisons on so many of the accessories that can be bought for trucks? I mean, a good quantity of posts i written on this website are exactly of this type!

But seriously though, this article proves why questions like these exist – the ‘dilemma’ i will be tackling today is the fierce battle between the soft and hard caps for pickup trucks.

What are the differences? Is one that much better than the other? The only way you can find that out is by reading on, frankly…

What makes the soft shells stand out

More economical

You can save a rather nice sum of money by buying a soft-type camper shell instead of the more traditional hard kind.

A well known in the industry Softopper can run close to 800 dollars; with that in mind, a hard cap without that many additional options will be at least 1200 dollars (the cost can be significantly higher if you will also equip the topper with additional accessories the manufacturer offers).

Weighs little

A soft truck cap on average weighs only around 40 pounds – the hard kind can easily be close to 200.

This means that a single person can install the thing on his or hers truck without much struggle at all, more so considering that it fully folds.

A hard cap, on the other hand, is a challenge in comparison. Two people, if not three would be needed just to lift the thing off a platform, and only then get on to the bed.

If you would only install the topper on and leave it be for a long time, sure this isn’t much of a disadvantage for you, unless you do indeed intend to remove it frequently.


The reason why i am so stoked about this fact is that it sure comes in handy.

Being able to compact the shell without needing to take it off is a life-saver – i mean, it works pretty much the same as the classic tonneau cover.

Need to transport a fridge in the bed, or other big and bulky items? Just flip the camper shell out and fold her like a convertible, that’s it. The needed space becomes available in seconds; i think owners with them short beds will appreciate this feature even more.

Very compact

Those who will be taking the cap on and off constantly, such as every weekend, will undoubtedly appreciate this.

Not only is the unit light, but also relatively small once stowed – in other words, you can find a place to put it for the time being with a lot less work.

A heavy fiberglass shell, well that’s a different story. Not only will you need multiple people to get it on and off, now you need to reserve a relatively large space so you could be able to stow it, and that only reduces the area of your potentially already small garage… (this can be better with a hoisting system, but still).

Great looks

I think a soft-type topper looks that much better on a truck than the hard kind.

It just has more of that rugged, unique aspect to it, considering so they rarely match the vehicle’s color. You don’t see that many pickup trucks with this kind of setup, do you?

Easy access

Many of these types of canopies on the market can be opened from multiple angles; that is, there is more to it than the traditional tailgate access.

You can roll both of the sides to reach or load items in the bed – you won’t need to climb from the back to reach a thing that is way beside the cab, etc.

Hard shell goods

Security at its finest

Don’t get me wrong – if some lawbreaker really does want to get the stuff that’s back in there, he will even if it is a hard shell; with that being said, that’s less likely to happen with this type of cap, as it takes more effort.

You can literally break into a soft camper shell without needing to break anything – just undo the buttons or the hook-and-loop fasteners and you’re in!

Not to mention, the soft kinds of toppers are also easy to steal (that does happen too), as normally they’re just secured using a clamp system.

Increased weather resistance

A solid, fiberglass topper on a truck is quite less likely to leak air, water, make wind noise or whatnot – there is no possibility that something will become undone, like for example, the tarp coming loose while you’re driving on the highway.

I mean, the construction is more sound and built of actual solid parts, not tarp that is draped over metal tubing. Obviously this is important for those who want to prevent the elements from getting to their stuff, hence ruining them.

Also, it holds heat better. If you consider sleeping back there frequently, a hard shell is the way to go, to be honest with you.

Another fact to note is that the windows on the soft version are able to literally crack in colder weather, therefore retracting one during those situations is not advisable. This just adds to the point that the former choice isn’t as reliable.

Bigger selection

Hard camper shells are more popular, period, therefore there is more to choose from out there.

Cab-high, extra head room, back door, aluminum, color matched, extra windows and accessories – the list goes on and on, the possibilities are endless when it comes to how well can you outfit a cap to your liking.

All of that certainly will increase the overall cost, though if you’re willing to buy used, you can get a great deal, especially so if you’re going to get one that doesn’t match your pickup’s color.

Roof racks!

Roof rack can be installed, more often than not at least, straight on top of the hard shell; the same definitely cannot be said about the soft competition.

There is certainly a possibility of getting a rack that goes over even the soft shells, but it will need to use up the bed rails. Even then, there’s not that much of them to choose from, not to mention the outstanding price for such a commodity.


Simply put, the windows these types of canopies have are of better quality.

Vinyl windows the soft toppers feature are hard to see through. It becomes particularly a problem when you need to back up to a parking spot or whatnot, especially so if the truck is a long bed.

Not to mention, not every soft camper even has side windows to begin with, making the chore even a bigger one.

The winner?

Are you the kind of person who is always in need of that extra bed space? A soft topper is probably the better choice for you.

Do you want the best for the gear inside? The hard cap is the winner here.

I will say this, a soft cap will always prove to be a more versatile piece of accessory when compared between the two.

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