Truck Topper/Camper Shell Vs. Hard Tonneau Cover – Detailed Comparison

Lifted Barcelona Red 3rd Gen Tacoma Overland Build With GFC Topper & SuperLite RTT With Black Wheels & 35" Tires On Red Rocks/Sand

GFC Platform Topper Vs. Generic Brand Hard Tonneau Cover Detailed Bed Cover Comparison & Review After Long Term Use

Optimizing the provided space on your rig is undoubtedly a work of art and patience. You genuinely must finesse the limited amount of space you have to store all your gear. While there are many options out there to maximize the space, your organizational skills will only get you so far.

With as much money as we all spend on our rigs and gear, keeping it all secure is usually a top priority. Not just in the sense of being strapped down, but also from potential thieves. Many of our rigs are our daily driven vehicles, and it gets cumbersome to constantly load and unload your gear for every trip. So, it’s ideal to just keep everything loaded all of the time. Especially if you’re a weekend warrior like me!

In this article, I will be covering the differences between the GFC Platform Topper and a basic, hard trifold tonneau cover.

If you’re wondering about the validity of the comparison, in general, tonneau covers can get well above $3,000. Especially with new systems, that allow for bed rack integration and beyond. A potentially fully equipped tonneau cover setup can run well into the realm of $5,000.

3rd Gen Tacoma With GFC Platform Topper & RTT, Off-Roading On Chinaman Gulch In Colorado

I have run both on my 2016 Tacoma TRD Sport, and I’m here to weigh the benefits of both setups for you. Each has its own merits and provides you with different options to store gear and utilize the space as efficiently as possible.

At the end of this article, I will provide you with my opinion on which I think is the overall better choice. Again, that’s just my opinion based on what has worked best for me as my Tacoma has evolved over the years. Nevertheless, let’s jump into it!

Find It Online

Hard Tri-Fold Tonneau Cover

Lifted Off-Road Tacoma Build With Affordable/Cheap Tonneau Cover With A Spare Tire Hard Mounted To The Top

Before my truck evolved into its most current setup, I had a very different build. I utilized a generic trifold tonneau cover, and ground camped with a Gazelle T3 tent. Since my truck is a daily driver, I wanted a way to keep my gear secure and safe.

I got tired of constantly packing and unpacking all my camping gear every weekend. So, I opted for a hard, three piece tonneau because it allowed me to close off and secure the bed of my truck. This meant that I could leave a majority of my camping gear in my bed all the time!

Security

3rd Gen Tacoma On Top Of The World Trail In Moab

The biggest reason for the tonneau cover was to keep my gear secured. It utilized the bed rails to bolt down the aluminum latches and had levers for quick and easy access. With the tailgate closed and locked, the levers to release the tonneau were completely covered.

The hard-top rugged design ensured that no one could walk by and break through the tonneau either. All in all, it gave me peace of mind when parking my truck and leaving it unattended.

Weather Resistance

Tonneau Cover 3rd Gen Tacoma Review

With the bed sealed by the tonneau, my gear inside is protected from the elements. While it’s hard to keep the bed of any truck completely weatherproof, the tonneau did an excellent job! My gear always stayed perfectly dry in wet and rainy conditions. That was a huge bonus when setting up camp while all my buddies were sitting in wet camp chairs.

It’s worth noting that unless you take off the black trim on the top of your bedsides, and seal that area with a quality sealant, some dust and water will always make its way in.

Storage

3rd Gen Tacoma With Toyota 80 Series Camping In Utah

The tonneau worked well with storing items too as you had the whole bed at your disposal. The only downfall to the tonneau, when it came to storage, was that your gear couldn’t exceed the height of the cover. Anything taller than that prevents it from closing, thus leaving your gear exposed.

When it came to moving larger items, the trifold feature worked great. However, once I got a Decked system, it made storing things that much harder. The Decked system took up a ton of space leaving only inches from the tonneau to slide gear in and out.

At this point, the tonneau became pointless for me since the Decked system kept most of my gear secured. The tonneau also hindered me from storing larger items and basically became a spare tire carrier.

Accessibility

Tonneau Cover Security Latches - Budget Friendly Options

This section was really the Achille’s heel to owning a tonneau, for me at least. As I mentioned above, the trifold allowed you to open the tonneau to gain access to your entire bed. However, I mounted my spare tire on top of my tonneau. Because of this, I was only able to open the first flap of the tonneau since my spare tire blocked it from opening completely.

The spare was bolted down above the hinges of the second and third flaps, hindering me from opening them. If I needed something stored towards the back, I had to crawl into the bed to reach it. Sure, I could have gotten a spare tire carrier or a high-clearance rear bumper with a swingout, but that’s a significant added cost.

Mounting Options

Tonneau Cover On Tacoma With Custom Spare Tire Mount

When it comes to mounting things on top of the tonneau, there aren’t many options. Unless you have a Diamondback (which is extremely expensive), or some other high end tonneau cover, the only option I found was RCI’s tonneau cover bed rack mounts.

These allow you to mount cross bars and bed racks on top of the tonneau by adding a C-shaped base that bolts to the bed bars and extrudes around the tonneau. Even with those mounts, however, I believe they aren’t compatible with any other type of bed racks or bed bars other than RCI. Other than that, there is no other way to mount anything without a little ingenuity.

GFC Platform Topper

GFC Platform Topper Review

After running the tonneau for years, I was ready for something different. It was time to transition from the ground game to a rooftop tent. I outgrew the tonneau and wanted something with more ease of use and functionality. I looked into bed bars and an RTT, but a setup like this leaves the bed completely exposed.

Adamant about keeping the bed secured, I came across the GFC Platform Topper. It was the perfect solution for me!

Security

GFC Platform Topper Security

Just like the tonneau, the GFC Platform Topper provides excellent security! It is completely enclosed and comes with the option for front and rear windows. I opted for solid aluminum panels for extra security. Each panel has a latch that is lockable with a key. Like the tonneau, with the tailgate closed and locked, the bed was completely closed off and secured.

Big picture, since it’s made of aluminum, it’s likely to resist a break in better, and be able to take more damage.

Weather Resistance

GFC Platform Topper Weather Sealing/Proofing Truck Bed Before Installation

The GFC Platform Topper kept the bed sealed and weatherproof. It does a phenomenal job of minimizing the outside elements from getting in! Before placing the topper onto the bed, GFC lays down a very thick double-layered weather strip along the top of the bed. They even seal the cracks closest to the cab near the firewall that runs down the front of each side of the bed.

Once the topper is put in place, this seals the bed from the outside elements. The bed stays drier in wet and rainy conditions and I get much less dust and sand in the bed of the truck now compared to with the tonneau. They both do an excellent job all around, but the GFC shines a bit more in this aspect.

Storage

Camping With GFC Truck Toppers & Campers

Unlike the tonneau, the GFC keeps the full functionality of the bed. You aren’t limited to the height of the bed but rather the cab of the truck. This really is a game-changer when running all types of gear in the bed.

This is especially beneficial for those that like to put their portable fridges in the bed or have a drawer system. While I can store most items in my Decked system, there are still larger items that don’t fit. For instance, my full-sized 35” spare tire and Pro Eagle jack. Even with those two large items strapped to the top of my Decked system, I still have extra room to store other items.

On each side of the spare tire and jack, I store a 3-gallon Rotopax gas can and 1-gallon water can, a spare cv axle, the SuperLite ladder, and additional bottles of coolant and oil. There is truly no comparison here between the topper and the tonneau in terms of storage. Topper takes the cake all day!

Accessibility

Black GFC Platform Topper On Red 3rd Gen Tacoma At TRU Automotive In Denver, Colorado

Again, the GFC Platform Topper outshines the tonneau when it comes to accessibility. With the spare tire mounted on top of the tonneau, it hindered me from gaining access to the entire bed. With the GFC though, I can easily access the entire bed.

Each side of the topper has a panel that opens allowing for complete access. No more crawling underneath the tonneau to grab something stored way in the back. Now, I can pop open one or all panels and grab whatever I need. Cabana mode!

Mounting Options

GFC RTT Mounted On GFC Topper Camper Shell

In addition to the topper, you can mount GFC’s Beef Bars onto it. I currently use their Beef Bars to mount my SuperLite on top of my Platform Topper. You can mount any style RTT to the Beef Bars, or whatever gear you want. The options are endless! The T-track system is also available for adding gear and accessories to the entire outside.

And get this! They just released their Turbo Cubby system. It’s a bolt in storage/cabinet setup. Super rad.

Final Thoughts

GFC Platform Topper Install & Shipping At TRU Automotive

Both options are great in their own right, but side by side, there really is no comparison. The GFC Platform Topper outshines any tonneau on the market by miles (even the pricey options! Whatever features the basic tonneau has, the topper just simply does it better. After running both setups, I can honestly say that I am much happier with the performance of the topper.

The topper has better overall security due to its aluminum design, is sealed for better weatherproofing, has larger bed space, panels for easy access to the entire bed, and far better mounting options for additional gear. GFC’s Platform Topper is next level in its design and functionality, and for its price point, you’re getting an extremely durable product. Hands down, I’m choosing the topper all day in this mash-up!

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Darrin
Darrin
1 month ago

👍 Thanks for taking the time to do this write up 👍 I have went through this in my mind hundreds of times and my 2016 factory tri fold is dieing quickly. I love the tri fold for concealment and security. I long for the GFC…. Tuff to spend the money but I have been confenced it is the best way to go.

Joshy
Joshy
1 month ago

But it’s ugly af. So there’s that.

Scout
1 month ago
Reply to  Joshy

Lol. You’re welcome to have that opinion.

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