Need to make the most of the ute tray or tub? Consider a ute canopy. Utes offer heaps of available space and endless ways to use that space. With a canopy fitted at the back, you get better cargo organisation, versatility and increased security. Canopies are good for quick access to your tools when at work, or outfitting your ute with all the essentials for a memorable off-roading adventure.
Canopies and toolboxes come in all shapes and sizes. Canopies are generally larger, and an all-around storage solution. They can take up all the space on the tray, or come as a part-tray canopy. This often sits across the tray and is usually positioned closer to the cabin. As a result, there’s more space at the back for different equipment and supplies. Compared to canopies, toolboxes tend to be smaller, and have more options as to how they fit on the tray. The differences may be subtle, but those in need of more space will gravitate towards a canopy.
Types of Canopies
Apart from fibreglass, cloth or composite canopies placed on top of factory-fitted tubs, most ute owners considering either a toolbox or canopy will have a tray at the back. Trays are just easier to work with and have more real estate.
The differences in metal canopies all boil down to overall size and whether they are permanent fixtures or can be lifted off the tray whenever the need arises. Smaller canopies are better suited to dual-cabs, while more work-orientated single cabs often have canopies covering the entire tray. Widths are the same for both, coming in at 1800mm, but height and length differ. Popular options are those that extend the width of the tray, also called cross deck or part-tray canopies. These range from 800mm to 1200mm in length and extend to the height of the cabin roof, roughly at 860mm. They leave adequate space behind for any other items you might need.
If you need the tray space for multiple uses then consider a lift-off canopy. These too can be optioned in different sizes. The biggest are single cab lift off canopies, which come in at 1800 mm in length, 1800mm width and the standard height of 860mm. The benefit of a lift-off canopy is versatility. Lifting it off only takes a few minutes with lift-off jacks, that let you store the canopy in a safe place, while allowing you to use the tray for other purposes.
What to Look for in a Canopy
With so many builders across Australia, not all canopies are created equal. Get the best balance between build quality, features and price.
Build and Materials
Canopies are built to a better standard than most toolboxes, and this is evident in the price. Builders pour more attention to added security, including the thickness of metal sheeting, choice of materials, quality of the welds, and overall appearance and finish. Most canopies are made of high-grade aluminium alloys that are resistant to corrosion while also having high tensile strength. Compared to steel, this lowers the overall weight significantly in larger variants. The aluminium can be untreated, but I’d recommend going for a sleeker option with powder coating in a colour of your choice. You can also go for a checker plate exterior.
Welds are well-executed inside and out. You’ll also find strengthened floors for those particularly heavy pieces of equipment and tools. Roofs can be upgraded with internal supports, so can support the weight of anything you place on top. Interior walls are well protected from moisture and dirt with weatherproof rubber seals. Locks are heavy-duty stainless steel, and recessed inside the shell. On the whole, this is a quality product that also looks the part.
Like toolboxes, you can add a personal touch. Numerous accessories make accessing anything inside just that much quicker. A part-tray canopy often comes in a gullwing design to the doors, so tools are accessible at either side. Those canopies that take up the whole tray will also have a standard door at the back. When opening, door lids are held in place by gas struts, and close effortlessly and smoothly.
There are also heaps of inside storage solutions. Drawers are offered in different configurations and sizes. They are heavy-duty metal, with quality latches and handles. Drawer and workbench combos will suit many professionals. Shelves in varying lengths help with larger items. Possibly the best accessory inside is a slide-out canopy pantry. This has several individual compartments, drawers and shelves and is great for tools, parts and supplies that you use regularly. Jerry can holders are another necessity, especially if you like off-roading.
Outside, there’s the choice of ladder and roof racks that let you carry extra-large items that don’t normally fit in the canopy. Racks are useful but need to be welded on. And to get to the canopy top, or access a rooftop tent, you’ll want a bolt-on ladder.
Prices largely depend on the size of the canopy, the exterior finish and the included extras. Part canopies are the most affordable, while larger lift off canopies are at the other end of the price scale. Consider what you’ll be using the canopy for, how much of the tray you’ll be sacrificing to fit it, and which boxes you need to tick when thinking of accessories.