Installing Bestop’s Supertop: The Camper Chronicle

Have you ever been guilty of envy? It’s okay – this isn’t a confession. I’m not going to tell you to say 10 Hail-Mary’s. I’m simply illustrating a point. After all, doesn’t it seem natural to see something cool and want it? If that item belongs to someone else…Well, you can do the math.

I found myself in that very situation just a few weeks ago. My buddy, Jai, was hunting around for a used camper. He owns a 2006 Silverado Extended Cab Z71 4×4 and takes it off-roading and camping quite a bit. Jai frequently takes his German Shepperd and his small, one-person tent wasn’t cutting it anymore.

Eventually, he scored a helluva deal on a used Bestop Supertop that fit perfectly on his short bed. The camper came off of a truck just like Jai’s, and the previous owner even included a raised platform with padding to make truck camping more comfortable.

So, while I was still relegated to fighting with tent-poles and plastic stakes, Jai was set up and cracking open cold-ones in less than 15-minutes. Suffice to say, I had to have one!

Luckily for me, the good people at Bestop were kind enough to send one out for a review. Below is my take on Bestop’s Supertop for my 2008 Silverado Crew Cab 1500.

First Impressions:

Bestop’s website is easy to navigate. I went online, punched in my year, make, model, and selected which bed length I have (5.5ft). Voila! New Supertop.

After going online and selecting the part number for the bed length I have (5.5ft), Bestop sent out the latest version of the Supertop. I had already seen an assembled top in-person, but I was eager to find out how difficult the install would be.

The Supertop arrived in a large, heavy box. Use a team-lift when moving it around.

Right out of the box, the quality of Bestop’s materials was immediately apparent. It’s one thing to see it installed on a truck, but it was nice to get our hands on the thick, durable, water-resistant Black Diamond material in raw form.

Installation:

Jai and I started around 3:00 pm thinking that would provide ample time to complete the install. According to Bestop’s instructions, it’s supposed to take 1.5-hours and be “moderately-easy.” I will concede that it is moderately easy, in theory. In practice, it was much more difficult.

We began the install by organizing the frame parts, top material, windows, and hardware. It’s always nice to have things organized at the start of a project rather than fumble around looking for things in the middle.

The installation began simply enough. The first step was to assemble the belt rails, tailgate brackets, and main bow. All of these components went together easily.

Once assembled, we were able to clamp the belt rails to the bedsides using the supplied clamps. It’s important to note, the Supertop kit includes a sheet of adhesive foam that attaches to the underside of the belt rails – lest we scratch the paint.

With the belt rails secured to the bedsides, we attached the main bow with the hardware provided. We made sure to pay close attention to the orientation and got the bow tie-down straps slipped on before we secured it.

The front bow attaches in an interesting way that allows it to pivot and fold down – more on that later. The rear bow assembly attaches the same way with pins, washers, and clips. As someone who’s used to cramming my hands into tight spaces and turning wrenches a 1/8th of an inch at a time, I appreciated the “no-brainer” approach to Bestop’s choice of fastener.

The next step is the first place we had to deviate from Bestop’s instructions. If I had a stock finish on my truck things could have gone according to plan, but since my entire truck is coated in a textured material, we had to get a little creative.

After draping the top cover over the main and rear bows, Bestop’s instructions called for us to secure the rearward-most portion of the top to the rear bedrail with a length of double-sided velcro adhesive. Unfortunately, the textured finish on the truck isn’t the best thing to adhere to. We ended up punching some eyelets through the material and securing the flap of fabric with self-tapping screws and washers. It’s not necessarily the prettiest solution, but I can tell you it’s damn secure!

The double-sided hook and loop velcro wouldn’t secure the rear flap to the bed rail, so we had to find another way to keep it in place.

We had to cut a small slit in the rear portion of the top’s fabric to slide the hold-down buckle straps through. It’s best to use a precision cutting instrument, and we used a utility knife. The embossing on the plastic made cutting easy as well.

The next part was exciting because we could finally see the top take shape. Unfortunately, it’s also where we were met with our first challenge. We had to stretch the fabric over the main and rear bows whilst simultaneously buttoning the fabric to snap fasteners. The thick fabric is rigid by nature – that’s what makes it so durable and weatherproof. However, it also makes it difficult to stretch.

We wrestled with the first part, but getting the rear portion of the top to snap down was what seemed like impossible. All the while, I was aware that this turgidity would benefit me in the long run by ensuring a weathertight, long-lasting, camper for my truck. Still, it was hard work.

We were able to secure all the snap fasteners which led to the next step. We had to slide the rigid plastic strips on the bottom of the fabric under the metal lip of the bed rails. Once that was done, we had assembled the skeleton of the Supertop.

The last and most difficult portion of the install was the side and rear windows. When I say difficult, I mean it! Once the top was snapped down the windows slid in on a plastic rail system. That was fairly straight-forward, but the zippers that secured them in place were the bane of my existence!

You can tell by the background lighting, the install took much longer than 1.5-hours. This was due to the amount of time spent getting the zippers to connect. Pushing, pulling, and stretching the Black Diamond fabric worked up a sweat.

That said, once they were zipped and installed, the Supertop looked fantastic! Our hard work was rewarded with the exact military-esque look I was after.

I should mention that I chose not to install the third brake light that’s included with Bestop’s Supertop. The reason being, I wanted to utilize the wiring as an internal light for overnight camping. I have yet to figure out just how I will accomplish that, but stay tuned.

Appearance/ Durability/ Fit & Finish:

One of the main reasons the Supertop stood out to me, to begin with, was the military-esque aesthetic. I wanted a camper, but I didn’t want a hardshell camper. The smooth lines and glossy finish just don’t blend well with the texture of my paint.

I love how the Supertop adds another utilitarian element of design to my build. I’ve been driving around with the Supertop for a few months now, and I’ve been stopped and asked several times about my paint and camper combination.

I’ve also put a few thousand miles on my truck with the Supertop. I’ve camped in the desert and mountains of California in varying climates. The Supertop is rugged and has the looks to match. I’ve taken it through thick brush and rocky terrain and never once did I worry about branches or rocks tearing through.

I haven’t experienced rain with the Supertop yet, but it is water-resistant. After a long weekend of off-roading, I took my truck through a carwash with the top up and it came out squeaky clean and the contents of the bed remained dry. There was some slight seepage, but that could easily be remedied with some type of sealant-tape and a skilled hand.

Use/ Camping/ Setup & Teardown:

The first camping trip I took with the Supertop was to Lake Hemet, and I was extremely pleased with how it went. In less than 20 minutes I had my sleeping situation taken care of and was already working on getting a fire started – beer in hand, I might add. That’s a far cry better than previous tent-camping trips.

It might not be the Ritz, but I sure slept like a baby.

I woke the next morning to a gorgeous view of Lake Hemet at the base of my tailgate. Little Thomas Trail was the reason for our trip. We had brought along a few dirt toys to rip around the trail. I also took this opportunity to see how the Supertop would fair off-road.

I’ll admit it wasn’t exactly easy to pack my Apollo 125cc, Honda CR50, lawn chairs, folding table, gas can, and full-size ice chest without folding the Supertop down, but I got it done.

We fit everything we needed and then some.

Road Feel/ Trail vs. Highway:

The Supertop was fantastic on the trail. It didn’t rattle, shake, or even move around in the clamps. The padded underside of the belt-rails and heavy-duty C-clamps made it very secure. We drove Little Thomas trail for about 15-miles of tight single track, and there were some areas with thick brush. Aside from being covered in dust, the Bestop looked fantastic – not a scratch on it!

On-road was great, too. Many campers don’t allow for much rearward visibility, but the Supertop wasn’t bad. I could see clearly through my back window. There was no noticeable wind noise either. The only advice I could give to a prospective buyer would be to secure the hold-down straps when you get on the highway, otherwise, you’ll be seeing them fly around in your side mirrors.

Value:

As an added value over other campers, the Supertop affords me the luxury of folding down when I need to haul something large, like my motorcycle. You can see in the pictures above, I had no problem loading up my race bike. In a matter of minutes, the Supertop went from covered-wagon to open bed.

Final Thoughts:

Bestop’s Supertop is a fantastic option for those looking for the functionality of a camper shell, but with superior looks and versatility. My truck looks more like a Deuce and a Half than grandpa’s old work truck, and I like that. Best of all, it didn’t require any drilling, cutting, or modification to my bed, and I can still use it to haul things! I give Bestop’s Supertop two big thumbs up, and I can’t wait to take it on more adventures. You can find out more information about all of Bestop’s products on its website, here.

Article Sources

About the author

Vinny Costa

Fast cars, motorcycles, and loud music are what get Vinny’s blood pumping. Catch him behind the wheel of his ’68 Firebird. Chances are, Black Sabbath will be playing in the background.
Read My Articles

Everything Off Road in your inbox.

Build your own custom newsletter with the content you love from Off Road Xtreme, directly to your inbox, absolutely FREE!

Free WordPress Themes
Off Road Xtreme NEWSLETTER - SIGN UP FREE!

We will safeguard your e-mail and only send content you request.

Off Road Xtreme - The Off Road Magazine

We'll send you the most exciting Off Road articles, news, truck features, and videos every week.

Off Road Xtreme - The Off Road Magazine

Off Road Xtreme NEWSLETTER - SIGN UP FREE!

We will safeguard your e-mail and only send content you request.

Off Road Xtreme - The Off Road Magazine

Thank you for your subscription.

Subscribe to more FREE Online Magazines!

We think you might like...



Diesel Army

Hot Rods & Muscle Cars

Engine Tech

Off Road Xtreme - The Off Road Magazine

Thank you for your subscription.

Subscribe to more FREE Online Magazines!

We think you might like...

  • Diesel Army
  • Hot Rods & Muscle Cars
  • Engine Tech

Off Road Xtreme - The Off Road Magazine

Thank you for your subscription.

Thank you for your subscription.

Off Road Xtreme - The Off Road Magazine

Thank you for your subscription.

Thank you for your subscription.

Loading