Well, it finally happened. With over a year of planning and delays due to COVID-19, we finally got our new SherpTek truck bed. Without a doubt, having a SherpTek truck bed has been one of our most anticipated truck mods. We’ve wanted one for years. As you know storage is always at a premium in a truck camper. You can never have enough. The SherpTek truck bed solves this vexing problem by adding over 60 cubic feet of exterior storage to your rig. Yet the SherpTek truck bed not only adds a sizeable amount of storage, but it also looks good doing it. Nobody builds a better looking, more functional truck bed than SherpTek. Nobody.
Designed by SherpTek CEO, Ryan Goodwin, and made in Prineville, Oregon, every SherpTek truck bed is constructed of aircraft-grade aluminum, using aerospace construction techniques for the strongest and lightest support structure possible. Indeed, we’ve seen a cross section of Ryan’s proprietary system and it’s very impressive. Another thing that makes the truck bed great is SherpTek’s proprietary aluminum channel that spans the entire width of the bed. These channels—our short-bed model has five—facilitate the installation of SherpTek’s proprietary D-ring tie-downs and camper guides without the need for drilling any holes. All you need is a simple Allen wrench to install them. Similar channels can also be found on the exterior side of SherpTek’s flanks where additional items can be mounted.
Custom work is Ryan’s modus operandi, with continuous improvements being made to his product. “We did a number of tweaks to our design, especially for this short-bed build,” Ryan explained. “What we call the ‘hip’ is now attached to the flank, so it actually folds down with it. That’s a new feature. We also moved some latches around to make the flank opening a bit wider and added a new raised wheel well feature for off-roading. This was our first Ram short-bed build. We were thrilled with the way it turned out and with the overall weight. ”
Employing a modular approach to design and construction, the SherpTek truck bed is different in many ways from the truck beds, trays, and service bodies being made by other companies. Every SherpTek truck bed comes standard with a cab guard, DOT taillights, a fuel fill, a secondary fluid fill, attractive edging on the rear and sides, and cab guard lighting. But truck camper owners, like us, opt for additional goodies that transform a basic slide-in truck camper into a more capable overlanding rig. These options include marine decking, SherpTek’s hinged flanks, truck camper alignment brackets and D-ring tie-downs as well as front and rear under-bed storage boxes, removable wheel wells, and mud flaps. We also opted for a SherpTek rear bumper outfitted with tow hooks and the OEM rear camera. The rear bumper looks fantastic and integrates rather nicely with the truck bed.
The hauling capacity of the SherpTek system is another plus, but don’t expect miracles when it comes to payload. “Our beds are over-engineered,” Ryan explains, “but they can’t increase the payload rating of the truck. The way we allow our customers to carry heavier campers, is by keeping the weight of our system down because a heavier bed means less payload. I can tell you it will take anything you throw at it, but at the end of the day, you have to follow the rules and the payload rating of the truck. We engineer our beds to meet the highest payload rating of each truck.”
So what things, in particular, drew us to SherpTek and not some other truck bed company? First and foremost, we like the stylish flanks—which are a SherpTek trademark—and the amount of storage the above-bed flanks provides (about 26 cubic feet total each). This vented storage is great for water, fuel, additional batteries, food, collapsible furniture, and outdoor gear like fishing poles and awnings. There’s even enough room for a 12 volt refrigerator-freezer and/or an icebox to store fish. The fold-down flanks, of course, double as terrific tables while camping. We also like SherpTek’s alignment brackets, which prevent the truck camper from sliding and shifting around in the bed, the removable wheel wells that allow the wheels to fully articulate off-road, and the hidden tie-down system. These improvements will make future off-road excursions so much more enjoyable and trouble-free.
So how much does our SherpTek truck bed weigh? Only 422 pounds. What’s nice is that this is 3 pounds lighter than the 2013 Ram 3500 OEM bed, which weighs 365 pounds without the 60-pound tailgate and 425 with. Staying within the OEM bed weight was very important to us in order to preserve precious payload. Who would’ve thought we could get everything we wanted, including four under-body storage compartments, for only 422 pounds? We didn’t think Ryan and his crew could do it, but they did.
So what did our SherpTek truck bed cost? The price for a basic truck bed is only $8,900, but for all of the “truck camper” extras that makes the SherpTek truck bed great, you’ll need to tack on another $9,200 minimum. These extras include a pair of flanks, marine decking, four under-bed storage compartments, six camper guides, and four SherpTek tie-downs. If you’re planning on mounting a flatbed truck camper, however, these additional costs will be reduced considerably without the need for flanks and truck camper mounting hardware and alignment brackets. If you want a SherpTek truck bed similar to ours in pearlescent gray, without the turnbuckles, raised wheel wells, bumper, and ground lighting, you can expect to pay around $18,000
How long will you have to wait if you want a SherpTek truck bed today? The current backlog is about 14 months out. Yes, we know this will turn some potential customers off, but Ryan has assured us that hiring more people to get this backlog down is his highest priority. We can also assure you that the cost and wait for this modular truck bed is well worth it.
As you can probably tell by now, we’re thrilled with our new SherpTek truck bed. The good looks, functionality, and 60 cubic feet of storage has transformed the Truck Camper Adventure Rig into a more capable overlander. Plans are already in place to utilize all of the extra space and storage with accessories and other goodies, including an exterior MaxTrax mount.
Look for a full-length feature review of the product in 12 months. One thing, though, we can tell you up front is to go with the basic HappiJac turnbuckle to secure your camper to the bed. The short version of the Torklift FastGun is very difficult to tighten and use in the confined corners. With the HappiJac turnbuckle, all you need to do is twist it to tighten it. A set of four Happijac turnbuckles costs a lot less too, though you may need to take a hacksaw to the threaded hooks to shorten them up a bit.
If you’re interested in seeing our SherpTek truck bed in person, you can see it at the 2022 Overland Expo West in Flagstaff, May 20-22 (BundutecUSA booth Q31), and at the 2023 Truck Camper Adventure Rally in Quartzsite, February 9-12.