Moonlander truck RV tightropes ingeniously between camper and cap
The truck cap (aka camper shell) has long provided a way of covering and securing a pickup bed, doubling as a light hard-wall camper for those who don't mind keeping it simple. More recently, these caps have given way to a new generation of pop-up pickup toppers, lightweight campers that attach like caps but offer more space and in-vehicle living potential. At least one company believes there's room for further differentiation. Denver's Radica Products has designed the Moonlander to split the difference between cap and pop-up topper, creating a fixed-roof shell that offers more camping elbow room than a cap without all the weight and fabric of a pop-top.
Truck caps are more commonly used purely for utility, helping to secure bed contents behind a locked door, protect those contents and the bed itself from rain and snow, and otherwise enhance the pickup truck, the automotive market's answer to the Swiss Army knife. But dig around social media platforms like Instagram, Pinterest or YouTube a little (or maybe just show up to a popular trail head or kayak park), and you can find some excellent examples of the humble shell serving as a roof over top some rather impressive tiny camper setups.
Of course, using a camper shell to actually camp isn't without some potential downsides. For one, assuming you're an average-size human, you'll likely want a longer 6-foot+ (1.8-m+) pickup bed rather than a short bed, which may or may not gel with your greater driving, off-roading or parking ambitions. And unless the interior build-out is super light and modular (read: not necessarily comfortable), it may just eat up a significant amount of the pickup bed – possibly the biggest reason you bought the truck to begin with.
The numerous pop-up toppers that have flooded the market over the past six or seven years solve many of these problems by increasing headroom and raising the sleeping platform high above the pickup bed so as to keep the bed floor open for storage. But they do so at a cost in terms of both price and weight. And, save for a select few, they invariably introduce a lot of fabric into the equation.
Long story short, Radica looks to solve those cap/pop-topper shortcomings while holding on to all their advantages with its first product. Essentially a wide-body aluminum truck cap, the Moonlander is purpose-built for camping in a way that the average truck camper shell is not. It looks a little oversized and goofy from many angles because its widened body adds space for the type of adult-size transverse bed that would not fit within the walls of a standard pickup bed or shell. Radica is able to drop a full-size bed sleeping platform over top the pickup bed sides, creating a comfortable sleeping area out of even the 5-foot-long (1.5-m) short bed of a midsize truck like the Toyota Tacoma, Ford Ranger or Jeep Gladiator. Buyers with a 6.5-foot (2-m) or 8-foot (2.4-m) bed can even upsize to a queen sleeper platform.
Specific sleeping platform dimensions vary by truck model, but a midsize truck will have at least 78 in (198 cm) of length along with 54 in (137 cm) of width, Radica founder Luke Bushek told us. Full-size trucks will support 84 in (213 cm) of length to go along with that 54 in of width (or 60 in/152 cm of width for the queen-size).
The other advantage of the Moonlander's high transverse bed layout is that it frees up the pickup bed below for storage. The modular multi-piece platform can store out of the way to clear space for tall items like bicycles or large camping boxes or it can set up over top gear like slide-out kitchens, water canisters and refrigerators. The panels can also be removed all together to free up the pickup bed entirely, using the Moonlander shell to simply secure cargo, just like a basic cap from the likes of Leer or A.R.E., only wider.
With its fixed hard-roof design, the Moonlander eliminates any need for fabric or moving roof components, giving travelers a simple roof and set of walls that require no setup beyond popping the hatch open and sliding in for a good night of sleep or midday nap. The hard-wall design also provides stouter protection in wind and weather versus fabric.
The Moonlander lands between a cap and pop-up camping topper in terms of weight, too. When built for a Tacoma with 6-foot bed, the shell itself has a base weight of 205 lb (93 kg), before calculating in the weight of the modular sleeper platform, windows or other available equipment. That figure slides quite comfortably between the ~120-to-200-lb (54-to-91-kg) range of truck caps and the 300-lb+ (136-kg+) weights common for pop-up toppers.
As far as construction, the Moonlander wears an aluminum skin over top an aluminum frame, featuring stainless steel hardware for the few moving bits and joints. Marine-grade sealants keep everything watertight. Bushek says that the roof can hold up to 300 lb (136 kg) of dynamic weight load and 500 lb (226 kg) of static weight, allowing owners to outfit it with a rack, rooftop tent or other accessories, or just throw a chair or two on top and use it as a lookout deck.
Though wider than the usual bed-width truck shell, the Moonlander is sized within the width of the truck's side mirrors and includes angled walls and corners to prevent catching of branches or brush while off-roading. Once open, the lockable lift-gate adds a little outdoor roof over top the truck tailgate. It can also be optionally swapped out for a swing-out barn door.
Moonlander pricing secures a place in the comfortable middle ground between low-four-figure camper shells and high four- to five-figure pop-toppers. It starts at US$5,400 for the midsize pickup version and $5,900 for the full-size. Radica offers a variety of options, including windows and skylights, an external propane tank mount, and a 175-W solar charging package with power pack. Those who want to protect the bare mill-finish aluminum skin from scratching and weather can add white paint or a clear or black anodized finish.
Source: Radica Products