Toolboxes and canopies are one of the first aftermarket accessories any ute owner should consider. They provide a host of benefits over the bare vehicle, no matter if there’s a tray or tub at the back. You get increased storage for anything you need for either work or play, the peace of mind that everything is locked up and won’t bear the brunt of unpredictable Aussie weather and all items are neatly placed and in view. They’ll house all tools and parts needed for the worksite, and everything including the kitchen sink when venturing out in the bush.
What to Consider in Your Next Ute Canopy?
First, take into account the subtle but significant differences between tool boxes and canopies, and why’d you want a canopy. Canopies are often made to a higher standard, come in bigger sizes and are better equipped in and out. There’s more metal, better welds and seals, internal organization is on a higher level (with more shelving, drawers and compartments), and the exterior is often entirely enclosed. A canopy also looks better, as its purpose-built for your intentions.
This is where canopies offer more options, allowing you to use the tub, tray or chassis how you deem fit. A smaller, part-tray or mini canopy will fit on all cab types. These are placed horizontally across the deck (giving rise to the name cross-deck canopies) so there’s more space at the back for any odds and ends. This is more evident in single cabs, and the ute style most tradies choose. The tray positions itself within the entire width of the tray or tub (at around 1800mm), but can be of different heights or depths.
The size of the canopy will determine usage. Full canopies may be more suitable for anyone hitting the dirt, as the entire length and width of the tray or chassis can hold a custom-built canopy with all the additions you’ll need for longer trips in the bush. A part or mini canopy is geared more towards tradespeople as it combines a secured enclosure with leftover space for bulkier equipment at the back. These will fit most ute makes and models, which typically means much lower prices. Another advantage is that two smaller part canopies can be placed back to front, allowing for separate storage for tools and parts or building materials needed for the job.
Designs and Configurations
Canopies are more standardized in terms of shapes when compared to toolboxes. A cross deck canopy for instance will be tapered on either side and have one or two doors (at the driver and passenger side). Most canopies are fixed to the tray via bolts, but lift-off variants allow you to remove the canopy off the tray and use your ute for other purposes (say loading bulky building materials or transporting bikes and ATVs). Lift off jacks slot into built-in supports and lift the canopy off the tray. These are slightly more expensive due to the reinforced floors supporting the weight, and the versatility you get with the tray.
Build, Materials and Finish
Canopy builders put more time and effort into their products. Marine-grade aluminium at 25mm thickness is used in the external enclosure, roofs and floors are single-piece sheets for better overall strength (with additional sub-frame supports on floors) and internal bracing provides structural integrity and allows you to load heavier items in and on the canopy. Joints are seam welded and to a clean finish, connecting sheets are lined with rubber seals and locks are of the 3-point type for heightened security. Doors open and close smoothly with fitted gas struts. Exteriors are brought to a clean, milled finish and can have a coating of paint for additional weather and rust protection.
With ample internal space even in smaller mini canopies, buyers can option any accessories they need and to their desired layout. Shelves and drawers are standard fitments, either as fixed or sliding iterations, but there are also mesh dividers, load rails, parts bins and box holders, tailored spaces for tool boxes and secondary battery setups, electrical fit-outs for corded gear and lights, allotted areas for jerry cans and fire extinguishers and so much more. All this is for easier access to gear, which in turn improves workflow. Better organization and storage go hand in hand with security, and internal locking can be fitted to drawers and drawer chests, as well as other compartments.
Choosing the right canopy should be based on your needs – where you will be using the canopy and for what purpose. This will tell you which size is appropriate, as well as specifics like the number of doors or the features that you need. Also decide whether you need the full tray area for other uses, as this means the difference between a fixed or lift-off tray. At the end of the day, your budget may be the deciding factor. Get a canopy that’s well built, fits your vehicle, is from a respected builder, and ticks most if not all the boxes on your list.