Getting the right canopy set up for your four-wheel-drive ute is essential for maximising productivity, practicality and usability when you’re onsite, off road or outback.
Whether you’re looking at aluminium canopies or canvas canopy solutions, don’t worry: it’s not as hard or as expensive as you might think!
Customisation is king
There are a lot of different options when it comes to canopies for four-wheel-drives and/or utes. There’s plenty of flexibility and a lot of opportunity to customise your particular vehicle set up to suit your particular application and requirements.
While this is exciting and beneficial for the experienced camper or 4WD enthusiast, the paradox of choice can be overwhelming for those just starting to dip their toes in all things canopies. Purchasing the wrong type of canopy for your particular needs or vehicle can be expensive, frustrating and a waste of time and energy. That’s why it’s important to consider the basics of 4WD canopies from the outset, so you can save yourself hassle and undue stress. After all, while you don’t necessarily have to break the bank decking out your ute, it’s still a significant investment. That’s why it’s worth doing your homework.
What to consider when buying a canopy
Understanding the different types of 4WD utes
The easiest place to start is by considering the type of 4WD ute that you’re looking to fit with a canopy. While many of the canopy types, such as aluminium, can be suitable for multiple types of utes, you’ll save money and time by making an informed choice from the get-go.
- Tub ute (also referred to as a well body)
- Tray utes
- Chassis-mounted utes
Take a moment to ask yourself what you’re going to be using your ute for mostly. Are you a camping enthusiast? Do you need it for work? Are you spending long summer afternoons on remote beaches? Your canopy needs to suit your particular intended usage.
This might seem like an obvious one from a legal requirements’ perspective, but it’s important to consider the balance and weight distribution as well. Especially if you’re planning on heading offroad.
Do you know the tow ball weight of your vehicle? This will also affect the type (think size and weight) of the particular canopy that’s suitable for your application.
Like a car, ultimately, if someone wants to break into your canopy and steal stuff, they will. However some canopies, like canvas or glass-windowed ones, are more susceptible to break-ins than others. Think about the contents you’re going to be storing. Work tools and camping gear can be quite valuable so make sure to factor all that in.
From the width and length of your tray (be wary of overloading, overhanging or bending your chassis) to your preference for height, there’s plenty of scope to customise the exact dimensions of your canopy to suit your needs.
Functionality and fit out
Do you know what else you’ll be incorporating? When it comes to canopies the opportunities are endless: drawers, fridges, battery systems, tools, camping gear… The list goes on. Make sure your chosen canopy has the space and accessory compatibility you’re looking for. Some are even particularly well designed to be modular and thus easily moved around when you need them.
Your offroad adventures are likely to see your canopy exposed to dust, high and low temperatures, water, moisture and more. If you need a particularly hard wearing and durable canopy, you might opt for steel over canvas for example.
Different canopies offer different utilities. If you’re planning on loading stuff onto the roof of your canopy, you need to take that into consideration when choosing the particular materials and design.
Whether you’re buying first hand or pre-used canopies, it’s worth doing that extra bit of due diligence to ensure you’re buying high quality and reliable equipment. Of course, ideally you’d go to a leading industry expert, like Dunn and Watson, where you can rest assured you’re getting a good deal.
Last but not least is the price. It can be helpful to work out a realistic budget beforehand and prioritise what’s most important for you and your needs down to what’s less important. While prices can vary, fitting out a 4WD ute can easily blow up into a very expensive project if you’re not careful.
Tub 4WD utes
The classic tub utes are designed for the side walls to blend into and look like the side panels of your utes. There are plenty of canopy options for you to choose from for your well body 4WD.
As the most common type, there are plenty of variations with windows, doors or even both available. One thing to note is that you’ll need additional weight support either internally or externally if you want the roof to be able to hold items on top.
There are pros and cons to both steel and aluminium canopies but ultimately they both offer strong (though heavier) alternatives to fibreglass.
Canvas canopies come either in a single solid sheet or in zipped sections offering increased accessibility. You’ll certainly need an internal frame for added support and it’s important you consider the security as well as canvas canopies are the least secure.
Tray 4WD utes
The tray ute features a flattened tray with no sides or sides that can be folded down. There are many different types with some being heavy duty and some being lighter in carrying capacity. So make sure you’re familiar with your vehicle’s capability.
Like tub utes, tray utes can be easily fitted with a custom fibreglass canopy though it’s less common for structural reasons.
Metal gull wing canopy
These are the most commonly fitted. From cage mesh to metal sheets of aluminium and steel, there are plenty of options to choose from.
Fitted over a metal frame, a canvas canopy can be an excellent option. If security is a concern, you can incorporate an internal metal cage as well.
Composite material canopy
Advances in technology have allowed manufacturers to create ever stronger yet lighter canopies from composite materials with enhanced insulation from noise, light and temperature as well!
Chassis mounted 4WD ute
4WD utes with a chassis mounted canopy offer the most fixed and strongest solutions. This also means they are the least flexible and easy to remove though as the canopy bolts directly on to the chassis.
Once again, there are different pros and cons to opting for aluminium or steel. Either way, a metal canopy is a robust and highly practical solution.
If for whatever reason metal isn’t the right choice of canopy for you, a composite material canopy is a great alternative. While it’s still not ideal to be removing them once installed, if necessary it can be done.
We’re here to help if you need us
Got some more questions about all things aluminium canopies or 4WD ute fit outs? We’d be more than happy to help! With both a range of high quality canopies and accessories in stock and our custom fabrication solutions available, the Dunn and Watson team can help find the perfect solution for your vehicle and needs. Some simple advice or guidance across a whole-vehicle fit out… Whatever it is, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us today!