Truck Camper Storage—you can never have enough. While it’s true that manufacturers have devised clever ways create more storage, the fact remains that the truck camper is pretty limited on what it can offer. Sure, you can buy a crew cab truck to provide additional storage in the backseat, but not every owner has that luxury. Sometimes the back seat is needed for passengers or the space simply isn’t big enough for larger items like spare tires and bikes. Fortunately, numerous companies are now selling aftermarket truck beds for truck camper use. One of the best aftermarket truck beds today is the one made by SherpTek. This is a review of the SherpTek aftermarket truck bed storage system.
In 2017, SherpTek was one of the first to produce an aftermarket truck bed made especially for truck campers. Designed by SherpTek owner and CEO, Ryan Goodwin, his modular approach to truck bed design was cutting edge when it was first released. Without a doubt, SherpTek produces one of the lightest, best looking beds in the industry. Perhaps the most distinguishing characteristic of the SherpTek bed are the two hinged flanks. These flanks, which are custom built according the length and height of truck and camper, enclose a tremendous amount of storage behind them (about 26 cubic feet per side for our short-bed model), and make terrific tables when left opened while camping. Below deck, the SherpTek system provides up to four hermetically sealed storage compartments for additional items. In total, our short-bed SherpTek truck bed provides a whopping 60 cubic feet of extra storage.
Another distinguishing feature of the SherpTek design are the proprietary aluminum channels found on both the inside and outside of the bed. Unique to SherpTek, these channels span the entire width of the truck bed and not only increase the bed’s strength, but also facilitate installation of SherpTek’s proprietary D-ring tie-downs and alignment brackets. Similar channels can also be found on the exterior side of SherpTek’s flanks where additional items can be mounted. For example, we use these exterior channels to mount our Maxtrax traction boards, which is one of many optional accessories that you can buy from SherpTek.
Constructed of aircraft-grade aluminum, using aerospace construction techniques, the SherpTek truck bed is strong enough to handle the largest campers being built today without negatively impacting the overall payload rating of the truck. SherpTek starts with thin gauge aluminum, which as Goodwin pointed out to us on YouTube is “pretty flimsy,” but the secret is in how the extrusions, channels, and the materials are put together. None of the structural components, except for the mounting brackets, are welded. None. The end result is a truck bed that is incredibly light and amazingly strong. As a matter of fact, at 422 pounds, our SherpTek truck bed weighs 3 pounds less than the OEM bed that came with our 2013 Ram 3500. Impressive!
But when it comes to the all-important payload rating of your truck, don’t expect miracles from SherpTek. Goodwin explains that each bed is over-engineered, yet the bed can’t increase the payload rating of your truck. What this means is that every SherpTek bed is built to the highest payload rating available for that truck, meaning SherpTek won’t derate the payload of its beds when ordering options. It’s the same SherpTek bed whether its for a truck with a diesel or a gasoline engine, a 4WD truck or 2WD truck, a crew cab or a regular cab truck.
Without a doubt, one of the most important features of the SherpTek system is the truck camper alignment system. Using the aforementioned aluminum channels, these alignment brackets keep the camper fixed and rock solid regardless of terrain and pitch. The alignment system consists of six brackets, which are tightened using a simple hex tool. Ours were installed at the factory 13 months ago and haven’t moved since. The confidence that the SherpTek alignment system provides when driving off-road cannot be overstated enough. Side-to-side and front-to-back movement of the camper are a thing of the past when you go with SherpTek.
Working in tandem with the alignment brackets, SherpTek’s tie-down system performs another important function—keeping your truck camper anchored to the bed. The beauty of the SherpTek system is that it uses hidden turnbuckles and D-rings which eliminate outriggers that can hamper off-road driving. Due to the short distance between the camper tie-down points and the D-rings, short turnbuckles are used rather than the standard long ones (we opted to get Torklift’s Short FastGuns for quick adjustments and connections). The only real negative with this approach is that the FastGuns can sometimes get in the way when storing larger items.
One feature that makes the SherpTek truck bed stand out from the competition is the above deck access. Depending on your camper, these storage areas can be accessed INSIDE your camper by using the truck bed access doors of your camper. Beds made by other companies don’t provide this type of access. SherpTek’s system makes getting shoes, water, and soda a breeze without having to get out of the camper. Nice!
Every SherpTek truck bed comes standard with a cab guard, DOT tail lights, a fuel fill, a secondary fluid fill, attractive edging on the rear and sides, and cab guard lighting. The standard SherpTek build is basically a flatbed, but truck camper owners usually opt for essentials like rubber marine decking (a surface that provides an excellent grip for your camper), the aforementioned folding flanks, truck camper alignment brackets, D-ring tie-downs, as well as front and rear under-bed storage boxes, removable wheel wells for more extreme off-roading, and SherpTek-branded mud flaps. For a SherpTek truck bed like ours, you can expect to pay around $21,000 in 2023 dollars.
Installation time at the SherpTek factory in Prineville, Oregon takes about two weeks. This means you’ll need to drop your truck and your camper off at the factory. We opted to stay for our installation. We unloaded our camper at an RV park in Prineville—a beautiful little town, by the way—and monitored the installation daily with one or two visits a day with a rental car. Not surprisingly, the bulk of the installation time involves mounting the SherpTek bed to the truck. In contrast, only a day or two is needed to fit the camper to the bed. During this final phase we stayed at a hotel in Prineville. It was pretty neat to watch the entire process from start to finish.
So what happens to the OEM bed after it’s removed from your truck? You have two choices. You can either haul it home yourself or list it for sale at the SherpTek boneyard. We did the latter, listing it in several outlets including Craigslist, Offer-Up, and Facebook Marketplace. When going this route proceeds from the sale are split 50-50 with SherpTek.
Unfortunately, the high demand for a SherpTek truck bed has created a backlog. The current waiting list is about 12 months out. SherpTek understands the frustration having to wait this long, which is why the company just relocated to a new manufacturing facility in Prineville (the second move in two years). Ryan Goodwin tells us the new facility will reduce lead times substantially with four installation bays. A year from now, he expects to reduce the backlog from 12 months to four to six months.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention our SherpTek rear bumper. We had this installed at the same time as the SherpTek bed, and as you’d expect, the rear bumper looks and works seamlessly with the bed. Aside from its striking good looks, the bumper comes with a pair of tow-hooks, each rated for 9,000 pounds, and restores use of the OEM backup camera that we lost when we originally removed the tailgate. Like we said, the rear bumper integrates nicely with the SherpTek bed itself, and as a matter of course, we highly recommend getting it as part of your SherpTek install. The current cost for a SherpTek rear bumper is about $3,500.
SherpTek Pros and Cons
So what kind of things do we store in our SherpTek truck bed? On the driver side flank, we store extras for the truck like coolant, a quart of oil, and spare oil and fuel filters. We like to use milk crates to keep things upright, tidy, and vented. We also store a pair of folding stools, our DragonFly Tarp, extension cords, and an extra cassette for our toilet should we ever need it. On the passenger side flank, we store collapsible chairs, tables, water, soda, fishing tackle, and an outdoor floor mat. In the four storage compartments below deck, we store leveling blocks, solar lights, and folding traction devices.
We particularly like the versatility that the SherpTek bed provides on our truck camper adventures. On the road, the SherpTek system keeps all of our items secure. At the campsite, the flanks can be lowered and used as tables for grilling. The length of the storage also means that we can store long items such as fishing poles, hiking sticks, and skis. Having the SherpTek bed also frees up a tremendous amount space in the back seat of our truck for larger items that won’t fit in the SherpTek bed. These include portable solar panels and totes and things we don’t want to get dirty like extra blankets and bedding. For those opting for the long-bed model, of course, SherpTek offers an optional “garage” capable of storing larger items like a spare tire or bicycles.
While we enjoy having the extra storage and a well-anchored truck camper, we do have a few complaints about the SherpTek system. For one, neither of the two flank compartments are sealed. Sealing these is the responsibility of the owner. If you like to explore remote locations—and most of us do, that’s why we all bought a truck camper in the first place—this means the contents behind the flanks will usually be covered with dust and dirt during an outing. Some kind solution to keep this dust and dirt out should should be a part of the design.
The next complaint relates to the left and right turn signal indicators in our truck. Each and every time we start the truck we get a computer prompt stating that both are inoperative when both work fine except for a faster clicking and flashing of the turn signal indicators. Annoying.
Our third and final complaint relates to security. As delivered, all SherpTek compartments are accessed using generic keys, which provide little security for valuables. Everybody, and I mean EVERYBODY, with an RV owns these keys. SherpTek should provide better security with unique keys built for each customer.
So what’s the final verdict? What’s our opinion of the SherpTek system? Minor quibbles aside, we love it. Our SherpTek bed has become what we now call the “Swiss Army Knife” of truck camper ownership. The amount of storage that the SherpTek bed provides and the way the SherpTek bed keeps our camper secure has transformed our basic truck and slide-in camper combo into a more capable overlander. And what’s great about the SherpTek system is that there is plenty of room for additional add-ons like an air compressor, more lithium batteries, an extra fresh water holding tank, and a grilling station. The possibilities are limited by only your imagination. Sure, the Sherptek system is expensive, but like we always say, you get what you pay for. Yes, there are less expensive options out there, but the majority of these utility beds are just plain “boxy” and ugly. The fact remains that nobody builds a lighter, better looking truck bed than SherpTek. Nobody. It’s a 5-star product.