Touring requires a vehicle with storage. Fridges, electrical setups, drawer systems, storage for things like camp chairs, tents and all the other gear that we take along with us on our adventures is paramount. The amount of storage or storage capability should be a critical consideration in selecting the base for a build; the vehicle. Once the decision on the vehicle is made, thought then usually moves to configuration; full canopy or fibreglass on tub? Drawers? Fridge slide or drop slide? Spare battery in the bay or in the back? Cargo separator or not? Remove back row seats or not? These are some of the questions that go into designing what your touring rig is going to look like; there’s a lot of thought to be had in this process.
So we are building two vehicles at Club 4X4, our Ranger Raptor and an Everest, so we will go through the process for each. In this case, we will talk about the first mod to our Raptor; a HSP Electric Roll-Top cover for the tub. A gripe we had with the Raptor was that there was no cover for the tub; making even the most mundane tasks like shopping a little more difficult where all seats were occupied in the cabin. Safe storage was certainly missed in comparison to our #MobileHQGU which as a wagon, met these requirements (albeit nowhere near as much as the Raptor).
The overall build plan for the Raptor is to keep things simple – it needs to be adaptable and maintain the excellent on and off-road driving characteristics it possesses from the factory. It needs to be able to tow our Track Tvan and maintain all weight based legalities. It needs it to be self-sufficient enough for simple weekenders or day trips where a tent or swag might be the better option than dragging a trailer into more technical tracks. It needs to maintain ability to transport larger items for the business and finally, it needs to be able to go into underground carparks as my daily driver; Sydney City car parks are not very forgiving. With a tighter maximum rear axle weight than it’s leaf sprung brothers, weight needs to be considered at every step.
With the Tvan available, going for an all-out build in the storage space was not a requirement. Ultimately the tub will house a small fridge and possibly a small drawer setup, but we wanted the option as a business to use the Raptor to lug larger loads if required. As such, a fibreglass canopy or a flat cover wasn’t going to work. The options were a soft tonneau cover, or a roll top. With the tonneau not able to fulfill the requirement for security, we were left with a roll-top cover as the option to proceed with.
Looking through the various options, we landed with a company called HSP; who promised an Australian Manufacturing process that is ISO9001 compliant (meaning quality), and compatible with the barwork we are planning to add later on.
With some quick checks to ensure enough clearance to allow for a fridge, we decided to go with the electric variation of their roll-top. Initially I had some trepidation with going electric, the old adage of “one more thing to fail” seemed fitting. I have to say though, when coming to the rig with a handful of gear it was satisfying to be able to hit the button on one of two remotes provided and simply get the gear in without having to put everything down – a small but appreciated luxury.
I was keen to get the product installed and was running very tight to Christmas, so with the team sending a very well boxed bit of kit over to use, I was off to one of their recommended installers to get it all unpacked and fitted. I wasn’t kidding about the box – often you see things like this delivered in low gauge packaging with lots of tape and straps; it’s good to see some thought given to things like this and it was a sign of what was to come. Overall, the installation was relatively simple, consisting of attaching the two steel reinforced aluminium runners atop the outside edges of the tub and the canister housing the rolltop to the cab-side end; the latter necessitating some trimming of the tub-liner and a slight relocation of the factory 12-volt outlet to allow clearance. The canister housing the aluminium, interlocking slats is large but still allows for plenty of storage space for our requirements.
One thing that really impressed me was the fact that every accredited installer receives a bespoke rack to put together and build the cover before it’s ready to install – again, a sign of the thought put into the entire process, not just the end product. Details like drainage points at each corner to quickly route the water away and under the tub liner are welcomed and protect anything that’s stored within.
The process is finished off with detailed instructions around maintenance and a tin of lubricant to help keep the rails clean and operating at their peak. There’s a lot to this bit of kit, so I’m told that maintenance is important.
How did it go in use? Like I said earlier, the convenience of hitting a button was definitely welcomed and came in handy. The remote offers an open and close function, along with a pause function and a fourth button to control the nifty led light included, which came in handy more than once. During our Point Plomer Day Trip I did notice that everything within the tub got a fine layer of dust, which was not unexpected. It certainly wasn’t as much as I expected given the traffic and amount of dust we were driving through. Further to this, with recent rain in Sydney, I can confirm not a drop of water was able to make its way into the tub which was also very welcomed!
Earlier I mentioned the importance of weight. At 50kgs it’s not light, but importantly, the majority of the weight sits ahead of the axle line on the Raptor which I feel will have a lower impact on the axle weight than a one piece item such as a canopy or one piece lid.
All in all, a very worthwhile but simple addition to the project that’s made a tremendous difference to the Raptor’s usability.
The HSP Roll R Cover retails at $2700 including GST without barwork (which is a couple of hundred extra) for the Ford Ranger, with sight variation for more unique models. The Matt black finish comes at no extra cost. Check out this great Youtube video for a whole lot more detail!
Now we’re ready to get going with the rest of the tub fitout! Stay tuned!